Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas at Red Butte

By Lucy Maud Montgomery

"Of course Santa Claus will come," said Jimmy Martin confidently. Jimmy was ten, and at ten it is easy to be confident. "Why, he's got to come because it is Christmas Eve, and he always has come. You know that, twins."
Yes, the twins knew it and, cheered by Jimmy's superior wisdom, their doubts passed away. There had been one terrible moment when Theodora had sighed and told them they mustn't be too much disappointed if Santa Claus did not come this year because the crops had been poor, and he mightn't have had enough presents to go around.
"That doesn't make any difference to Santa Claus," scoffed Jimmy. "You know as well as I do, Theodora Prentice, that Santa Claus is rich whether the crops fail or not. They failed three years ago, before Father died, but Santa Claus came all the same. Prob'bly you don't remember it, twins, 'cause you were too little, but I do. Of course he'll come, so don't you worry a mite. And he'll bring my skates and your dolls. He knows we're expecting them, Theodora, 'cause we wrote him a letter last week, and threw it up the chimney. And there'll be candy and nuts, of course, and Mother's gone to town to buy a turkey. I tell you we're going to have a ripping Christmas."
"Well, don't use such slangy words about it, Jimmy-boy," sighed Theodora. She couldn't bear to dampen their hopes any further, and perhaps Aunt Elizabeth might manage it if the colt sold well. But Theodora had her painful doubts, and she sighed again as she looked out of the window far down the trail that wound across the prairie, red-lighted by the declining sun of the short wintry afternoon.
"Do people always sigh like that when they get to be sixteen?" asked Jimmy curiously. "You didn't sigh like that when you were only fifteen, Theodora. I wish you wouldn't. It makes me feel funny—and it's not a nice kind of funniness either."
"It's a bad habit I've got into lately," said Theodora, trying to laugh. "Old folks are dull sometimes, you know, Jimmy-boy."
"Sixteen is awful old, isn't it?" said Jimmy reflectively. "I'll tell you what I'm going to do when I'm sixteen, Theodora. I'm going to pay off the mortgage, and buy mother a silk dress, and a piano for the twins. Won't that be elegant? I'll be able to do that 'cause I'm a man. Of course if I was only a girl I couldn't."
"I hope you'll be a good kind brave man and a real help to your mother," said Theodora softly, sitting down before the cosy fire and lifting the fat little twins into her lap.
"Oh, I'll be good to her, never you fear," assured Jimmy, squatting comfortably down on the little fur rug before the stove—the skin of the coyote his father had killed four years ago. "I believe in being good to your mother when you've only got the one. Now tell us a story, Theodora—a real jolly story, you know, with lots of fighting in it. Only please don't kill anybody. I like to hear about fighting, but I like to have all the people come out alive."
Theodora laughed, and began a story about the Riel Rebellion of '85—a story which had the double merit of being true and exciting at the same time. It was quite dark when she finished, and the twins were nodding, but Jimmy's eyes were wide open and sparkling.
"That was great," he said, drawing a long breath. "Tell us another."
"No, it's bedtime for you all," said Theodora firmly. "One story at a time is my rule, you know."
"But I want to sit up till Mother comes home," objected Jimmy.
"You can't. She may be very late, for she would have to wait to see Mr. Porter. Besides, you don't know what time Santa Claus might come—if he comes at all. If he were to drive along and see you children up instead of being sound asleep in bed, he might go right on and never call at all."
This argument was too much for Jimmy.
"All right, we'll go. But we have to hang up our stockings first. Twins, get yours."
The twins toddled off in great excitement, and brought back their Sunday stockings, which Jimmy proceeded to hang along the edge of the mantel shelf. This done, they all trooped obediently off to bed. Theodora gave another sigh, and seated herself at the window, where she could watch the moonlit prairie for Mrs. Martin's homecoming and knit at the same time.
I am afraid that you will think from all the sighing Theodora was doing that she was a very melancholy and despondent young lady. You couldn't think anything more unlike the real Theodora. She was the jolliest, bravest girl of sixteen in all Saskatchewan, as her shining brown eyes and rosy, dimpled cheeks would have told you; and her sighs were not on her own account, but simply for fear the children were going to be disappointed. She knew that they would be almost heartbroken if Santa Claus did not come, and that this would hurt the patient hardworking little mother more than all else.
Five years before this, Theodora had come to live with Uncle George and Aunt Elizabeth in the little log house at Red Butte. Her own mother had just died, and Theodora had only her big brother Donald left, and Donald had Klondike fever. The Martins were poor, but they had gladly made room for their little niece, and Theodora had lived there ever since, her aunt's right-hand girl and the beloved playmate of the children. They had been very happy until Uncle George's death two years before this Christmas Eve; but since then there had been hard times in the little log house, and though Mrs. Martin and Theodora did their best, it was a woefully hard task to make both ends meet, especially this year when their crops had been poor. Theodora and her aunt had made every sacrifice possible for the children's sake, and at least Jimmy and the twins had not felt the pinch very severely yet.
At seven Mrs. Martins bells jingled at the door and Theodora flew out. "Go right in and get warm, Auntie," she said briskly. "I'll take Ned away and unharness him."
"It's a bitterly cold night," said Mrs. Martin wearily. There was a note of discouragement in her voice that struck dismay to Theodora's heart.
"I'm afraid it means no Christmas for the children tomorrow," she thought sadly, as she led Ned away to the stable. When she returned to the kitchen Mrs. Martin was sitting by the fire, her face in her chilled hand, sobbing convulsively.
"Auntie—oh, Auntie, don't!" exclaimed Theodora impulsively. It was such a rare thing to see her plucky, resolute little aunt in tears. "You're cold and tired—I'll have a nice cup of tea for you in a trice."
"No, it isn't that," said Mrs. Martin brokenly "It was seeing those stockings hanging there. Theodora, I couldn't get a thing for the children—not a single thing. Mr. Porter would only give forty dollars for the colt, and when all the bills were paid there was barely enough left for such necessaries as we must have. I suppose I ought to feel thankful I could get those. But the thought of the children's disappointment tomorrow is more than I can bear. It would have been better to have told them long ago, but I kept building on getting more for the colt. Well, it's weak and foolish to give way like this. We'd better both take a cup of tea and go to bed. It will save fuel."
When Theodora went up to her little room her face was very thoughtful. She took a small box from her table and carried it to the window. In it was a very pretty little gold locket hung on a narrow blue ribbon. Theodora held it tenderly in her fingers, and looked out over the moonlit prairie with a very sober face. Could she give up her dear locket—the locket Donald had given her just before he started for the Klondike? She had never thought she could do such a thing. It was almost the only thing she had to remind her of Donald—handsome, merry, impulsive, warmhearted Donald, who had gone away four years ago with a smile on his bonny face and splendid hope in his heart.
"Here's a locket for you, Gift o' God," he had said gaily—he had such a dear loving habit of calling her by the beautiful meaning of her name. A lump came into Theodora's throat as she remembered it. "I couldn't afford a chain too, but when I come back I'll bring you a rope of Klondike nuggets for it."
Then he had gone away. For two years letters had come from him regularly. Then he wrote that he had joined a prospecting party to a remote wilderness. After that was silence, deepening into anguish of suspense that finally ended in hopelessness. A rumour came that Donald Prentice was dead. None had returned from the expedition he had joined. Theodora had long ago given up all hope of ever seeing Donald again. Hence her locket was doubly dear to her.
But Aunt Elizabeth had always been so good and loving and kind to her. Could she not make the sacrifice for her sake? Yes, she could and would. Theodora flung up her head with a gesture that meant decision. She took out of the locket the bits of hair—her mother's and Donald's—which it contained (perhaps a tear or two fell as she did so) and then hastily donned her warmest cap and wraps. It was only three miles to Spencer; she could easily walk it in an hour and, as it was Christmas Eve, the shops would be open late. She muse walk, for Ned could not be taken out again, and the mare's foot was sore. Besides, Aunt Elizabeth must not know until it was done.
As stealthily as if she were bound on some nefarious errand, Theodora slipped downstairs and out of the house. The next minute she was hurrying along the trail in the moonlight. The great dazzling prairie was around her, the mystery and splendour of the northern night all about her. It was very calm and cold, but Theodora walked so briskly that she kept warm. The trail from Red Butte to Spencer was a lonely one. Mr. Lurgan's house, halfway to town, was the only dwelling on it.
When Theodora reached Spencer she made her way at once to the only jewellery store the little town contained. Mr. Benson, its owner, had been a friend of her uncle's, and Theodora felt sure that he would buy her locket. Nevertheless her heart beat quickly, and her breath came and went uncomfortably fast as she went in. Suppose he wouldn't buy it. Then there would be no Christmas for the children at Red Butte.
"Good evening, Miss Theodora," said Mr. Benson briskly. "What can I do for you?"
"I'm afraid I'm not a very welcome sort of customer, Mr. Benson," said Theodora, with an uncertain smile. "I want to sell, not buy. Could you—will you buy this locket?"
Mr. Benson pursed up his lips, took up the locket, and examined it. "Well, I don't often buy second-hand stuff," he said, after some reflection, "but I don't mind obliging you, Miss Theodora. I'll give you four dollars for this trinket."
Theodora knew the locket had cost a great deal more than that, but four dollars would get what she wanted, and she dared not ask for more. In a few minutes the locket was in Mr. Benson's possession, and Theodora, with four crisp new bills in her purse, was hurrying to the toy store. Half an hour later she was on her way back to Red Butte, with as many parcels as she could carry—Jimmy's skates, two lovely dolls for the twins, packages of nuts and candy, and a nice plump turkey. Theodora beguiled her lonely tramp by picturing the children's joy in the morning.
About a quarter of a mile past Mr. Lurgan's house the trail curved suddenly about a bluff of poplars. As Theodora rounded the turn she halted in amazement. Almost at her feet the body of a man was lying across the road. He was clad in a big fur coat, and had a fur cap pulled well down over his forehead and ears. Almost all of him that could be seen was a full bushy beard. Theodora had no idea who he was, or where he had come from. But she realized that he was unconscious, and that he would speedily freeze to death if help were not brought. The footprints of a horse galloping across the prairie suggested a fall and a runaway, but Theodora did not waste time in speculation. She ran back at full speed to Mr. Lurgan's, and roused the household. In a few minutes Mr. Lurgan and his son had hitched a horse to a wood-sleigh, and hurried down the trail to the unfortunate man.
Theodora, knowing that her assistance was not needed, and that she ought to get home as quickly as possible, went on her way as soon as she had seen the stranger in safe keeping. When she reached the little log house she crept in, cautiously put the children's gifts in their stockings, placed the turkey on the table where Aunt Elizabeth would see it the first thing in the morning, and then slipped off to bed, a very weary but very happy girl.
The joy that reigned in the little log house the next day more than repaid Theodora for her sacrifice.
"Whoopee, didn't I tell you that Santa Claus would come all right!" shouted the delighted Jimmy. "Oh, what splendid skates!"
The twins hugged their dolls in silent rapture, but Aunt Elizabeth's face was the best of all.
Then the dinner had to be prepared, and everybody had a hand in that. Just as Theodora, after a grave peep into the oven, had announced that the turkey was done, a sleigh dashed around the house. Theodora flew to answer the knock at the door, and there stood Mr. Lurgan and a big, bewhiskered, fur-coated fellow whom Theodora recognized as the stranger she had found on the trail. But—was he a stranger? There was something oddly familiar in those merry brown eyes. Theodora felt herself growing dizzy.
"Donald!" she gasped. "Oh, Donald!"
And then she was in the big fellow's arms, laughing and crying at the same time.
Donald it was indeed. And then followed half an hour during which everybody talked at once, and the turkey would have been burned to a crisp had it not been for the presence of mind of Mr. Lurgan who, being the least excited of them all, took it out of the oven, and set it on the back of the stove.
"To think that it was you last night, and that I never dreamed it," exclaimed Theodora. "Oh, Donald, if I hadn't gone to town!"
"I'd have frozen to death, I'm afraid," said Donald soberly. "I got into Spencer on the last train last night. I felt that I must come right out—I couldn't wait till morning. But there wasn't a team to be got for love or money—it was Christmas Eve and all the livery rigs were out. So I came on horseback. Just by that bluff something frightened my horse, and he shied violently. I was half asleep and thinking of my little sister, and I went off like a shot. I suppose I struck my head against a tree. Anyway, I knew nothing more until I came to in Mr. Lurgan's kitchen. I wasn't much hurt—feel none the worse of it except for a sore head and shoulder. But, oh, Gift o' God, how you have grown! I can't realize that you are the little sister I left four years ago. I suppose you have been thinking I was dead?"
"Yes, and, oh, Donald, where have you been?"
"Well, I went way up north with a prospecting party. We had a tough time the first year, I can tell you, and some of us never came back. We weren't in a country where post offices were lying round loose either, you see. Then at last, just as we were about giving up in despair, we struck it rich. I've brought a snug little pile home with me, and things are going to look up in this log house, Gift o' God. There'll be no more worrying for you dear people over mortgages."
"I'm so glad—for Auntie's sake," said Theodora, with shining eyes. "But, oh, Donald, it's best of all just to have you back. I'm so perfectly happy that I don't know what to do or say."
"Well, I think you might have dinner," said Jimmy in an injured tone. "The turkey's getting stone cold, and I'm most starving. I just can't stand it another minute."
So, with a laugh, they all sat down to the table and ate the merriest Christmas dinner the little log house had ever known.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bank Holiday

Katherine Mansfield

A stout man with a pink face wears dingy white flannel trousers, a blue coat with a pink handkerchief showing, and a straw hat much too small for him, perched at the back of his head. He plays the guitar. A little chap in white canvas shoes, his face hidden under a felt hat like a broken wing, breathes into a flute; and a tall thin fellow, with bursting over-ripe
button boots, draws ribbons - long, twisted, streaming ribbons - of tune out of a fiddle. They stand, unsmiling, but not serious, in the broad sunlight opposite the fruit- shop; the pink spider of a hand beats the guitar, the little squat hand, with a brass-and-turquoise ring, forces the reluctant flute, and the fiddler's arm tries to saw the fiddle in two.
A crowd collects, eating oranges and bananas, tearing off the skins, dividing, sharing. One young girl has even a basket of strawberries, but she does not eat them. "Aren't they dear!" She stares at the tiny pointed fruits as if she were afraid of them. The Australian soldier laughs. "Here, go on, there's not more than a mouthful." But he doesn't want her to eat them, either. He likes to watch her little frightened face, and her puzzled eyes lifted to his: "Aren't they a price!" He pushes out his chest and grins. Old fat women in velvet bodices - old dusty pin-cushions - lean old hags like worn umbrellas with a quivering bonnet on top; young women, in muslins, with hats that might have grown on hedges, and high pointed shoes; men in khaki, sailors, shabby clerks, young Jews in fine cloth suits with padded shoulders and wide trousers, "hospital boys" in blue - the sun discovers them - the loud, bold music holds them together in one big knot for a moment. The young ones are larking, pushing each other on and off the pavement, dodging, nudging; the old ones are talking: "So I said to 'im, if you wants the doctor to yourself, fetch 'im, says I."
"An' by the time they was cooked there wasn't so much as you could put in the palm of me 'and!"
The only ones who are quiet are the ragged children. They stand, as close up to the musicians as they can get, their hands behind their backs, their eyes big. Occasionally a leg hops, an arm wags. A tiny staggerer, overcome, turns round twice, sits down solemn, and then gets up again.
"Ain't it lovely?" whispers a small girl behind her hand.
And the music breaks into bright pieces, and joins together again, and again breaks, and is dissolved, and the crowd scatters, moving slowly up the hill.
At the corner of the road the stalls begin.
"Ticklers! Tuppence a tickler! 'Ool 'ave a tickler? Tickle 'em up, boys." Little soft brooms on wire handles. They are eagerly bought by the soldiers.
Starbucks"Buy a golliwog! Tuppence a golliwog!"
"Buy a jumping donkey! All alive-oh!"

"Su-perior chewing gum. Buy something to do, boys."
"Buy a rose. Give 'er a rose, boy. Roses, lady?"
"Fevvers! Fevvers!" They are hard to resist. Lovely, streaming feathers, emerald green, scarlet, bright blue, canary yellow. Even the babies wear feathers threaded through their bonnets.
And an old woman in a three-cornered paper hat cries as if it were her final parting advice, the only way of saving yourself or of bringing him to his senses: "Buy a three-cornered 'at, my dear, an' put it on!"
It is a flying day, half sun, half wind. When the sun goes in a shadow flies over; when it comes out again it is fiery. The men and women feel it burning their backs, their breasts and their arms; they feel their bodies expanding, coming alive ... so that they make large embracing gestures, lift up their arms, for nothing, swoop down on a girl, blurt into laughter.
Lemonade! A whole tank of it stands on a table covered with a cloth; and lemons like blunted fishes blob in the yellow water. It looks solid, like a jelly, in the thick glasses. Why can't they drink it without spilling it? Everybody spills it, and before the glass is handed back the last drops are thrown in a ring.
Round the ice-cream cart, with its striped awning and bright brass cover, the children cluster. Little tongues lick, lick round the cream trumpets, round the squares. The cover is lifted, the wooden spoon plunges in; one shuts one's eyes to feel it, silently scrunching.
"Let these little birds tell you your future!" She stands beside the cage, a shrivelled ageless Italian, clasping and unclasping her dark claws. Her face, a treasure of delicate carving, is tied in a green-and-gold scarf. And inside their prison the love-birds flutter towards the papers in the seed-tray.
"You have great strength of character. You will marry a red-haired man and have three children. Beware of a blonde woman." Look out! Look out! A motor-car driven by a fat chauffeur comes rushing down the hill. Inside there a blonde woman, pouting, leaning forward - rushing through your life - beware! beware!
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am an auctioneer by profession, and if what I tell you is not the truth I am liable to have my licence taken away from me and a heavy imprisonment." He holds the licence across his chest; the sweat pours down his face into his paper collar; his eyes look glazed. When he takes off his hat there is a deep pucker of angry flesh on his forehead. Nobody buys a watch.
Look out again! A huge barouche comes swinging down the hill with two old, old babies inside. She holds up a lace parasol; he sucks the knob of his cane, and the fat old bodies roll together as the cradle rocks, and the steaming horse leaves a trail of manure as it ambles down the hill.
Under a tree, Professor Leonard, in cap and gown, stands beside his banner. He is here "for one day," from the London, Paris and Brussels Exhibition, to tell your fortune from your face. And he stands, smiling encouragement, like a clumsy dentist. When the big men, romping and swearing a moment before, hand across their sixpence, and stand before him, they are suddenly serious, dumb, timid, almost blushing as the Professor's quick hand notches the printed card. They are like little children caught playing in a forbidden garden by the owner, stepping from behind a tree.
The top of the hill is reached. How hot it is! How fine it is! The public- house is open, and the crowd presses in. The mother sits on the pavement edge with her baby, and the father brings her out a glass of dark, brownish stuff, and then savagely elbows his way in again. A reek of beer floats from the public-house, and a loud clatter and rattle of voices.
The wind has dropped, and the sun burns more fiercely than ever. Outside the two swing-doors there is a thick mass of children like flies at the mouth of a sweet-jar.
And up, up the hill come the people, with ticklers and golliwogs, and roses and feathers. Up, up they thrust into the light and heat, shouting, laughing, squealing, as though they were being pushed by something, far below, and by the sun, far ahead of them - drawn up into the full, bright, dazzling radiance to ... what?



One day in autumn on my way back from a remote part of the country I caught cold and fell ill. Fortunately the fever attacked me in the district town at the inn; I sent for the doctor. In half-an-hour the district doctor appeared, a thin, dark-haired man of middle height. He prescribed me the usual sudorific, ordered a mustard-plaster to be put on, very deftly slid a five-ruble note up his sleeve, coughing drily and looking away as he did so, and then was getting up to go home, but somehow fell into talk and remained. I was exhausted with feverishness; I foresaw a sleepless night, and was glad of a little chat with a pleasant companion. Tea was served. My doctor began to converse freely. He was a sensible fellow, and expressed himself with vigour and some humour. Queer things happen in the world: you may live a long while with some people, and be on friendly terms with them, and never once speak openly with them from your soul; with others you have scarcely time to get acquainted, and all at once you are pouring out to him—or he to you—all your secrets, as though you were at confession. I don't know how I gained the confidence of my new friend—anyway, with nothing to lead up to it, he told me a rather curious incident; and here I will report his tale for the information of the indulgent reader. I will try to tell it in the doctor's own words. USA, LLC"You don't happen to know," he began in a weak and quavering voice (the common result of the use of unmixed Berezov snuff); "you don't happen to know the judge here, Mylov, Pavel Lukich?… You don't know him?… Well, it's all the same." (He cleared his throat and rubbed his eyes.) "Well, you see, the thing happened, to tell you exactly without mistake, in Lent, at the very time of the thaws. I was sitting at his house—our judge's, you know—playing preference. Our judge is a good fellow, and fond of playing preference. Suddenly" (the doctor made frequent use of this word, suddenly) "they tell me, 'There's a servant asking for you.' I say, 'What does he want?' They say, He has brought a note—it must be from a patient.' 'Give me the note,' I say. So it is from a patient—well and good—you understand—it's our bread and butter… But this is how it was: a lady, a widow, writes to me; she says, 'My daughter is dying. Come, for God's sake!' she says, 'and the horses have been sent for you.'… Well, that's all right. But she was twenty miles from the town, and it was midnight out of doors, and the roads in such a state, my word! And as she was poor herself, one could not expect more than two silver rubles, and even that problematic; and perhaps it might only be a matter of a roll of linen and a sack of oatmeal in payment. However, duty, you know, before everything: a fellow-creature may be dying. I hand over my cards at once to Kalliopin, the member of the provincial commission, and return home. I look; a wretched little trap was standing at the steps, with peasant's horses, fat—too fat—and their coat as shaggy as felt; and the coachman sitting with his cap off out of respect. Well, I think to myself, 'It's clear, my friend, these patients aren't rolling in riches.'… You smile; but I tell you, a poor man like me has to take everything into consideration… If the coachman sits like a prince, and doesn't touch his cap, and even sneers at you behind his beard, and flicks his whip—then you may bet on six rubles. But this case, I saw, had a very different air. However, I think there's no help for it; duty before everything. I snatch up the most necessary drugs, and set off. Will you believe it? I only just managed to get there at all. The road was infernal: streams, snow, watercourses, and the dyke had suddenly burst there—that was the worst of it! However, I arrived at last. It was a little thatched house. There was a light in the windows; that meant they expected me. I was met by an old lady, very venerable, in a cap. 'Save her!' she says; 'she is dying.' I say, 'Pray don't distress yourself—Where is the invalid?' 'Come this way.' I see a clean little room, a lamp in the corner; on the bed a girl of twenty, unconscious. She was in a burning heat, and breathing heavily—it was fever. There were two other girls, her sisters, scared and in tears. 'Yesterday,' they tell me, 'she was perfectly well and had a good appetite; this morning she complained of her head, and this evening, suddenly, you see, like this.' I say again: 'Pray don't be uneasy.' It's a doctor's duty, you know—and I went up to her and bled her, told them to put on a mustard-plaster, and prescribed a mixture. Meantime I looked at her; I looked at her, you know—there, by God! I had never seen such a face!—she was a beauty, in a word! I felt quite shaken with pity. Such lovely features; such eyes!… But, thank God! she became easier; she fell into a perspiration, seemed to come to her senses, looked round, smiled, and passed her hand over her face… Her sisters bent over her. They ask, 'How are you?' 'All right,' she says, and turns away. I looked at her; she had fallen asleep. 'Well,' I say, 'now the patient should be left alone.' So we all went out on tiptoe; only a maid remained, in case she was wanted. In the parlour there was a samovar standing on the table, and a bottle of rum; in our profession one can't get on without it. They gave me tea; asked me to stop the night… I consented: where could I go, indeed, at that time of night? The old lady kept groaning. 'What is it?' I say; 'she will live; don't worry yourself; you had better take a little rest yourself; it is about two o'clock.' 'But will you send to wake me if anything happens?' 'Yes, yes.' The old lady went away, and the girls too went to their own room; they made up a bed for me in the parlour. Well, I went to bed—but I could not get to sleep, for a wonder! for in reality I was very tired. I could not get my patient out of my head. At last I could not put up with it any longer; I got up suddenly; I think to myself, 'I will go and see how the patient is getting on.' Her bedroom was next to the parlour. Well, I got up, and gently opened the door—how my heart beat! I looked in: the servant was asleep, her mouth wide open, and even snoring, the wretch! but the patient lay with her face towards me and her arms flung wide apart, poor girl! I went up to her … when suddenly she opened her eyes and stared at me! 'Who is it? who is it?' I was in confusion. 'Don't be alarmed, madam,' I say; 'I am the doctor; I have come to see how you feel.' 'You the doctor?' 'Yes, the doctor; your mother sent for me from the town; we have bled you, madam; now pray go to sleep, and in a day or two, please God! we will set you on your feet again.' 'Ah, yes, yes, doctor, don't let me die… please, please.' 'Why do you talk like that? God bless you!' She is in a fever again, I think to myself; I felt her pulse; yes, she was feverish. She looked at me, and then took me by the hand. 'I will tell you why I don't want to die: I will tell you… Now we are alone; and only, please don't you … not to any one … Listen…' I bent down; she moved her lips quite to my ear; she touched my cheek with her hair—I confess my head went round—and began to whisper… I could make out nothing of it… Ah, she was delirious! … She whispered and whispered, but so quickly, and as if it were not in Russian; at last she finished, and shivering dropped her head on the pillow, and threatened me with her finger: 'Remember, doctor, to no one.' I calmed her somehow, gave her something to drink, waked the servant, and went away."

At this point the doctor again took snuff with exasperated energy, and for a moment seemed stupefied by its effects.
"However," he continued, "the next day, contrary to my expectations, the patient was no better. I thought and thought, and suddenly decided to remain there, even though my other patients were expecting me… And you know one can't afford to disregard that; one's practice suffers if one does. But, in the first place, the patient was really in danger; and secondly, to tell the truth, I felt strongly drawn to her. Besides, I liked the whole family. Though they were really badly off, they were singularly, I may say, cultivated people… Their father had been a learned man, an author; he died, of course, in poverty, but he had managed before he died to give his children an excellent education; he left a lot of books too. Either because I looked after the invalid very carefully, or for some other reason; anyway, I can venture to say all the household loved me as if I were one of the family… Meantime the roads were in a worse state than ever; all communications, so to say, were cut off completely; even medicine could with difficulty be got from the town… The sick girl was not getting better… Day after day, and day after day … but … here…" (The doctor made a brief pause.) "I declare I don't know how to tell you."… (He again took snuff, coughed, and swallowed a little tea.) "I will tell you without beating about the bush. My patient … how should I say?… Well she had fallen in love with me … or, no, it was not that she was in love … however … really, how should one say?" (The doctor looked down and grew red.) "No," he went on quickly, "in love, indeed! A man should not over-estimate himself. She was an educated girl, clever and well-read, and I had even forgotten my Latin, one may say, completely. As to appearance" (the doctor looked himself over with a smile) "I am nothing to boast of there either. But God Almighty did not make me a fool; I don't take black for white; I know a thing or two; I could see very clearly, for instance that Aleksandra Andreyevna—that was her name—did not feel love for me, but had a friendly, so to say, inclination—a respect or something for me. Though she herself perhaps mistook this sentiment, anyway this was her attitude; you may form your own judgment of it. But," added the doctor, who had brought out all these disconnected sentences without taking breath, and with obvious embarrassment, "I seem to be wandering rather—you won't understand anything like this … There, with your leave, I will relate it all in order."
He drank off a glass of tea, and began in a calmer voice.
"Well, then. My patient kept getting worse and worse. You are not a doctor, my good sir; you cannot understand what passes in a poor fellow's heart, especially at first, when he begins to suspect that the disease is getting the upper hand of him. What becomes of his belief in himself? You suddenly grow so timid; it's indescribable. You fancy then that you have forgotten everything you knew, and that the patient has no faith in you, and that other people begin to notice how distracted you are, and tell you the symptoms with reluctance; that they are looking at you suspiciously, whispering… Ah! it's horrid! There must be a remedy, you think, for this disease, if one could find it. Isn't this it? You try—no, that's not it! You don't allow the medicine the necessary time to do good… You clutch at one thing, then at another. Sometimes you take up a book of medical prescriptions—here it is, you think! Sometimes, by Jove, you pick one out by chance, thinking to leave it to fate… But meantime a fellow-creature's dying, and another doctor would have saved him. 'We must have a consultation,' you say; 'I will not take the responsibility on myself.' And what a fool you look at such times! Well, in time you learn to bear it; it's nothing to you. A man has died—but it's not your fault; you treated him by the rules. But what's still more torture to you is to see blind faith in you, and to feel yourself that you are not able to be of use. Well, it was just this blind faith that the whole of Aleksandra Andreyevna's family had in me; they had forgotten to think that their daughter was in danger. I, too, on my side assure them that it's nothing, but meantime my heart sinks into my boots. To add to our troubles, the roads were in such a state that the coachman was gone for whole days together to get medicine. And I never left the patient's room; I could not tear myself away; I tell her amusing stories, you know, and play cards with her. I watch by her side at night. The old mother thanks me with tears in her eyes; but I think to myself, 'I don't deserve your gratitude.' I frankly confess to you—there is no object in concealing it now—I was in love with my patient. And Aleksandra Andreyevna had grown fond of me; she would not sometimes let any one be in her room but me. She began to talk to me, to ask me questions; where I had studied, how I lived, who are my people, whom I go to see. I feel that she ought not to talk; but to forbid her to—to forbid her resolutely, you know—I could not. Sometimes I held my head in my hands, and asked myself, "What are you doing, villain?"… And she would take my hand and hold it, give me a long, long look, and turn away, sigh, and say, 'How good you are!' Her hands were so feverish, her eyes so large and languid… 'Yes,' she says, 'you are a good, kind man; you are not like our neighbours… No, you are not like that… Why did I not know you till now!' 'Aleksandra Andreyevna, calm yourself,' I say… 'I feel, believe me, I don't know how I have gained … but there, calm yourself… All will be right; you will be well again.' And meanwhile I must tell you," continued the doctor, bending forward and raising his eyebrows, "that they associated very little with the neighbours, because the smaller people were not on their level, and pride hindered them from being friendly with the rich. I tell you, they were an exceptionally cultivated family; so you know it was gratifying for me. She would only take her medicine from my hands … she would lift herself up, poor girl, with my aid, take it, and gaze at me… My heart felt as if it were bursting. And meanwhile she was growing worse and worse, worse and worse, all the time; she will die, I think to myself; she must die. Believe me, I would sooner have gone to the grave myself; and here were her mother and sisters watching me, looking into my eyes … and their faith in me was wearing away. 'Well? how is she?' 'Oh, all right, all right!' All right, indeed! My mind was failing me. Well, I was sitting one night alone again by my patient. The maid was sitting there too, and snoring away in full swing; I can't find fault with the poor girl, though; she was worn out too. Aleksandra Andreyevna had felt very unwell all the evening; she was very feverish. Until midnight she kept tossing about; at last she seemed to fall asleep; at least, she lay still without stirring. The lamp was burning in the corner before the holy image. I sat there, you know, with my head bent; I even dozed a little. Suddenly it seemed as though some one touched me in the side; I turned round… Good God! Aleksandra Andreyevna was gazing with intent eyes at me … her lips parted, her cheeks seemed burning. 'What is it?' 'Doctor, shall I die?' 'Merciful Heavens!' 'No, doctor, no; please don't tell me I shall live … don't say so… If you knew… Listen! for God's sake don't conceal my real position,' and her breath came so fast. 'If I can know for certain that I must die … then I will tell you all— all!' 'Aleksandra Andreyevna, I beg!' 'Listen; I have not been asleep at all … I have been looking at you a long while… For God's sake!… I believe in you; you are a good man, an honest man; I entreat you by all that is sacred in the world—tell me the truth! If you knew how important it is for me… Doctor, for God's sake tell me… Am I in danger?' 'What can I tell you, Aleksandra Andreyevna, pray?' 'For God's sake, I beseech you!' 'I can't disguise from you,' I say, 'Aleksandra Andreyevna; you are certainly in danger; but God is merciful.' 'I shall die, I shall die.' And it seemed as though she were pleased; her face grew so bright; I was alarmed. 'Don't be afraid, don't be afraid! I am not frightened of death at all.' She suddenly sat up and leaned on her elbow. 'Now … yes, now I can tell you that I thank you with my whole heart … that you are kind and good—that I love you!' I stare at her, like one possessed; it was terrible for me, you know. 'Do you hear, I love you!' 'Aleksandra Andreyevna, how have I deserved—' 'No, no, you don't—you don't understand me.'… And suddenly she stretched out her arms, and taking my head in her hands, she kissed it… Believe me, I almost screamed aloud… I threw myself on my knees, and buried my head in the pillow. She did not speak; her fingers trembled in my hair; I listen; she is weeping. I began to soothe her, to assure her… I really don't know what I did say to her. 'You will wake up the girl,' I say to her; 'Aleksandra Andreyevna, I thank you … believe me … calm yourself.' 'Enough, enough!' she persisted; 'never mind all of them; let them wake, then; let them come in—it does not matter; I am dying, you see… And what do you fear? why are you afraid? Lift up your head… Or, perhaps, you don't love me; perhaps I am wrong… In that case, forgive me.' 'Aleksandra Andreyevna, what are you saying!… I love you, Aleksandra Andreyevna.' She looked straight into my eyes, and opened her arms wide. 'Then take me in your arms.' I tell you frankly, I don't know how it was I did not go mad that night. I feel that my patient is killing herself; I see that she is not fully herself; I understand, too, that if she did not consider herself on the point of death, she would never have thought of me; and, indeed, say what you will, it's hard to die at twenty without having known love; this was what was torturing her; this was why, in, despair, she caught at me—do you understand now? But she held me in her arms, and would not let me go. 'Have pity on me, Aleksandra Andreyevna, and have pity on yourself,' I say. 'Why,' she says; 'what is there to think of? You know I must die.' … This she repeated incessantly … 'If I knew that I should return to life, and be a proper young lady again, I should be ashamed … of course, ashamed … but why now?' 'But who has said you will die?' 'Oh, no, leave off! you will not deceive me; you don't know how to lie—look at your face.' … 'You shall live, Aleksandra Andreyevna; I will cure you; we will ask your mother's blessing … we will be united—we will be happy.' 'No, no, I have your word; I must die … you have promised me … you have told me.' … It was cruel for me—cruel for many reasons. And see what trifling things can do sometimes; it seems nothing at all, but it's painful. It occurred to her to ask me, what is my name; not my surname, but my first name. I must needs be so unlucky as to be called Trifon. Yes, indeed; Trifon Ivanich. Every one in the house called me doctor. However, there's no help for it. I say, 'Trifon, madam.' She frowned, shook her head, and muttered something in French—ah, something unpleasant, of course!—and then she laughed—disagreeably too. Well, I spent the whole night with her in this way. Before morning I went away, feeling as though I were mad. When I went again into her room it was daytime, after morning tea. Good God! I could scarcely recognise her; people are laid in their grave looking better than that. I swear to you, on my honour, I don't understand—I absolutely don't understand—now, how I lived through that experience. Three days and nights my patient still lingered on. And what nights! What things she said to me! And on the last night—only imagine to yourself—I was sitting near her, and kept praying to God for one thing only: 'Take her,' I said, 'quickly, and me with her.' Suddenly the old mother comes unexpectedly into the room. I had already the evening before told her—-the mother—there was little hope, and it would be well to send for a priest. When the sick girl saw her mother she said: 'It's very well you have come; look at us, we love one another—we have given each other our word.' 'What does she say, doctor? what does she say?' I turned livid. 'She is wandering,' I say; 'the fever.' But she: 'Hush, hush; you told me something quite different just now, and have taken my ring. Why do you pretend? My mother is good—she will forgive—she will understand—and I am dying. … I have no need to tell lies; give me your hand.' I jumped up and ran out of the room. The old lady, of course, guessed how it was.
"I will not, however, weary you any longer, and to me too, of course, it's painful to recall all this. My patient passed away the next day. God rest her soul!" the doctor added, speaking quickly and with a sigh. "Before her death she asked her family to go out and leave me alone with her."
"'Forgive me,' she said; 'I am perhaps to blame towards you … my illness … but believe me, I have loved no one more than you … do not forget me … keep my ring.'"
The doctor turned away; I took his hand.
"Ah!" he said, "let us talk of something else, or would you care to play preference for a small stake? It is not for people like me to give way to exalted emotions. There's only one thing for me to think of; how to keep the children from crying and the wife from scolding. Since then, you know, I have had time to enter into lawful wedlock, as they say… Oh … I took a merchant's daughter—seven thousand for her dowry. Her name's Akulina; it goes well with Trifon. She is an ill-tempered woman, I must tell you, but luckily she's asleep all day… Well, shall it be preference?"
We sat down to preference for halfpenny points. Trifon Ivanich won two rubles and a half from me, and went home late, well pleased with his success.

Saturday, November 9, 2013



From Harper’s Magazine

At least once in my life I have had the good fortune to board a deserted vessel at sea. I say “good fortune” because it has left me the memory of a singular impression. I have felt a ghost of the same thing two or three times since then, when peeping through the doorway of an abandoned house.
Now that vessel was not dead. She was a good vessel, a sound vessel, even a handsome vessel, in her blunt-bowed, coastwise way. She sailed under four lowers across as blue and glittering a sea as I have ever known, and there was not a point in her sailing that one could lay a finger upon as wrong. And yet, passing that schooner at two miles, one knew, somehow, that no hand was on her wheel. Sometimes I can imagine a vessel, stricken like that, moving over the empty spaces of the sea, carrying it off quite well were it not for that indefinable suggestion of a stagger; and I can think of all those ocean gods, in whom no landsman will ever believe, looking at one another and tapping their foreheads with just the shadow of a smile.
I wonder if they all scream—these ships that have lost their souls? Mine screamed. We heard her voice, like nothing I have ever heard before, when we rowed under her counter to read her name—the Marionnette it was, of Halifax. I remember how it made me shiver, there in the full blaze of the sun, to hear her going on so, railing and screaming in that stark fashion. And I remember, too, how our footsteps, pattering through the vacant internals in search of that haggard utterance, made me think of the footsteps of hurrying warders roused in the night.
And we found a parrot in a cage; that was all. It wanted water. We gave it water and went away to look things over, keeping pretty close together, all of us. In the quarters the table was set for four. Two men had begun to eat, by the evidence of the plates. Nowhere in the vessel was there any sign of disorder, except one sea-chest broken out, evidently in haste. Her papers were gone and the stern davits were empty. That is how the case stood that day, and that is how it has stood to this. I saw this same Marionnette a week later, tied up to a Hoboken dock, where she awaited news from her owners; but even there, in the midst of all the water-front bustle, I could not get rid of the feeling that she was still very far away—in a sort of shippish other-world.
The thing happens now and then. Sometimes half a dozen years will go by without a solitary wanderer of this sort crossing the ocean paths, and then in a single season perhaps several of them will turn up: vacant waifs, impassive and mysterious—a quarter-column of tidings tucked away on the second page of the evening paper.
That is where I read the story about the Abbie Rose. I recollect how painfully awkward and out-of-place it looked there, cramped between ruled black edges and smelling of landsman’s ink—this thing that had to do essentially with air and vast colored spaces. I forget the exact words of the heading—something like “Abandoned Craft Picked Up At Sea”—but I still have the clipping itself, couched in the formal patter of the marine-news writer:
“The first hint of another mystery of the sea came in to-day when the schooner Abbie Rose dropped anchor in the upper river, manned only by a crew of one. It appears that the out-bound freighter Mercury sighted the Abbie Rose off Block Island on Thursday last, acting in a suspicious manner. A boat-party sent aboard found the schooner in perfect order and condition, sailing under four lower sails, the topsails being pursed up to the mastheads but not stowed. With the exception of a yellow cat, the vessel was found to be utterly deserted, though her small boat still hung in the davits. No evidences of disorder were visible in any part of the craft. The dishes were washed up, the stove in the galley was still slightly warm to the touch, everything in its proper place with the exception of the vessel’s papers, which were not to be found.
“All indications being for fair weather, Captain Rohmer of the Mercury detailed two of his company to bring the find back to this port, a distance of one hundred and fifteen miles. The only man available with a knowledge of the fore-and-aft rig was Stewart McCord, the second engineer. A seaman by the name of Björnsen was sent with him. McCord arrived this noon, after a very heavy voyage of five days, reporting that Björnsen had fallen overboard while shaking out the foretopsail. McCord himself showed evidences of the hardships he has passed through, being almost a nervous wreck.”
Stewart McCord! Yes, Stewart McCord would have a knowledge of the fore-and-aft rig, or of almost anything else connected with the affairs of the sea. It happened that I used to know this fellow. I had even been quite chummy with him in the old days—that is, to the extent of drinking too many beers with him in certain hot-country ports. I remembered him as a stolid and deliberate sort of a person, with an amazing hodge-podge of learning, a stamp collection, and a theory about the effects of tropical sunshine on the Caucasian race, to which I have listened half of more than one night, stretched out naked on a freighter’s deck. He had not impressed me as a fellow who would be bothered by his nerves.
And there was another thing about the story which struck me as rather queer. Perhaps it is a relic of my seafaring days, but I have always been a conscientious reader of the weather reports; and I could remember no weather in the past week sufficient to shake a man out of a top, especially a man by the name of Björnsen—a thorough-going seafaring name.
I was destined to hear more of this in the evening from the ancient boatman who rowed me out on the upper river. He had been to sea in his day. He knew enough to wonder about this thing, even to indulge in a little superstitious awe about it.
“No sir-ee. Something happened to them four chaps. And another thing—”
I fancied I heard a sea-bird whining in the darkness overhead. A shape moved out of the gloom ahead, passed to the left, lofty and silent, and merged once more with the gloom behind—a barge at anchor, with the sea-grass clinging around her water-line.
“Funny about that other chap,” the old fellow speculated. “Björnsen—I b’lieve he called ’im. Now that story sounds to me kind of—” He feathered his oars with a suspicious jerk and peered at me. “This McCord a friend of yourn?” he inquired.
“In a way,” I said.
“Hm-m—well—” He turned on his thwart to squint ahead. “There she is,” he announced, with something of relief, I thought.
It was hard at that time of night to make anything but a black blotch out of the Abbie Rose. Of course I could see that she was pot-bellied, like the rest of the coastwise sisterhood. And that McCord had not stowed his topsails. I could make them out, pursed at the mastheads and hanging down as far as the cross-trees, like huge, over-ripe pears. Then I recollected that he had found them so—probably had not touched them since; a queer way to leave tops, it seemed to me. I could see also the glowing tip of a cigar floating restlessly along the farther rail. I called: “McCord! Oh, McCord!”
The spark came swimming across the deck. “Hello! Hello there—ah—” There was a note of querulous uneasiness there that somehow jarred with my remembrance of this man.
“Ridgeway,” I explained.
He echoed the name uncertainly, still with that suggestion of peevishness, hanging over the rail and peering down at us. “Oh! By gracious!” he exclaimed, abruptly. “I’m glad to see you, Ridgeway. I had a boatman coming out before this, but I guess—well, I guess he’ll be along. By gracious! I’m glad—”
“I’ll not keep you,” I told the gnome, putting the money in his palm and reaching for the rail. McCord lent me a hand on my wrist. Then when I stood squarely on the deck beside him he appeared to forget my presence, leaned forward heavily on the rail, and squinted after my waning boatman.
“Ahoy—boat!” he called out, sharply, shielding his lips with his hands. His violence seemed to bring him out of the blank, for he fell immediately to puffing strongly at his cigar and explaining in rather a shame-voiced way that he was beginning to think his own boatman had “passed him up.”
“Come in and have a nip,” he urged with an abrupt heartiness, clapping me on the shoulder.
“So you’ve—” I did not say what I had intended. I was thinking that in the old days McCord had made rather a fetish of touching nothing stronger than beer. Neither had he been of the shoulder-clapping sort. “So you’ve got something aboard?” I shifted.
“Dead men’s liquor,” he chuckled. It gave me a queer feeling in the pit of my stomach to hear him. I began to wish I had not come, but there was nothing for it now but to follow him into the afterhouse. The cabin itself might have been nine feet square, with three bunks occupying the port side. To the right opened the master’s stateroom, and a door in the forward bulkhead led to the galley.
I took in these features at a casual glance. Then, hardly knowing why I did it, I began to examine them with greater care.
“Have you a match?” I asked. My voice sounded very small, as though something unheard of had happened to all the air.
“Smoke?” he asked. “I’ll get you a cigar.”
“No.” I took the proffered match, scratched it on the side of the galley door, and passed out. There seemed to be a thousand pans there, throwing my match back at me from every wall of the box-like compartment. Even McCord’s eyes, in the doorway, were large and round and shining. He probably thought me crazy. Perhaps I was, a little. I ran the match along close to the ceiling and came upon a rusty hook a little aport of the center.
“There,” I said. “Was there anything hanging from this—er—say a parrot—or something, McCord?” The match burned my fingers and went out.
“What do you mean?” McCord demanded from the doorway. I got myself back into the comfortable yellow glow of the cabin before I answered, and then it was a question.
“Do you happen to know anything about this craft’s personal history?”
“No. What are you talking about! Why?”
“Well, I do,” I offered. “For one thing, she’s changed her name. And it happens this isn’t the first time she’s—well, damn it all, fourteen years ago I helped pick up this whatever-she-is off the Virginia Capes—in the same sort of condition. There you are!” I was yapping like a nerve-strung puppy.
McCord leaned forward with his hands on the table, bringing his face beneath the fan of the hanging-lamp. For the first time I could mark how shockingly it had changed. It was almost colorless. The jaw had somehow lost its old-time security and the eyes seemed to be loose in their sockets. I had expected him to start at my announcement; he only blinked at the light.
“I am not surprised,” he remarked at length. “After what I’ve seen and heard—”. He lifted his fist and brought it down with a sudden crash on the table. “Man—let’s have a nip!”
He was off before I could say a word, fumbling out of sight in the narrow state-room. Presently he reappeared, holding a glass in either hand and a dark bottle hugged between his elbows. Putting the glasses down, he held up the bottle between his eyes and the lamp, and its shadow, falling across his face, green and luminous at the core, gave him a ghastly look—like a mutilation or an unspeakable birth-mark. He shook the bottle gently and chuckled his “Dead men’s liquor” again. Then he poured two half-glasses of the clear gin, swallowed his portion, and sat down.
“A parrot,” he mused, a little of the liquor’s color creeping into his cheeks. “No, this time it was a cat, Ridgeway. A yellow cat. She was—”
Was?” I caught him up. “What’s happened—what’s become of her?”
“Vanished. Evaporated. I haven’t seen her since night before last, when I caught her trying to lower the boat—”
Stop it!” It was I who banged the table now, without any of the reserve of decency. “McCord, you’re drunk—drunk, I tell you. A cat! Let a cat throw you off your head like this! She’s probably hiding out below this minute, on affairs of her own.”
“Hiding?” He regarded me for a moment with the queer superiority of the damned. “I guess you don’t realize how many times I’ve been over this hulk, from decks to keelson, with a mallet and a foot-rule.”
“Or fallen overboard,” I shifted, with less assurance. “Like this fellow Björnsen. By the way, McCord—”. I stopped there on account of the look in his eyes.
He reached out, poured himself a shot, swallowed it, and got up to shuffle about the confined quarters. I watched their restless circuit—my friend and his jumping shadow. He stopped and bent forward to examine a Sunday-supplement chromo tacked on the wall, and the two heads drew together, as though there were something to whisper. Of a sudden I seemed to hear the old gnome croaking, “Now that story sounds to me kind of—”
McCord straightened up and turned to face me.
“What do you know about Björnsen?” he demanded.
“Well—only what they had you saying in the papers,” I told him.
“Pshaw!” He snapped his fingers, tossing the affair aside. “I found her log,” he announced in quite another voice.
“You did, eh? I judged, from what I read in the paper, that there was’t a sign.”
“No, no; I happened on this the other night, under the mattress in there.” He jerked his head toward the state-room. “Wait!” I heard him knocking things over in the dark and mumbling at them. After a moment he came out and threw on the table a long, cloth-covered ledger, of the common commercial sort. It lay open at about the middle, showing close script running indiscriminately across the column ruling.
“When I said ‘log,’” he went on, “I guess I was going it a little strong. At least, I wouldn’t want that sort of log found around my vessel. Let’s call it a personal record. Here’s his picture, somewhere—”. He shook the book by its back and a common kodak blueprint fluttered to the table. It was the likeness of a solid man with a paunch, a huge square beard, small squinting eyes, and a bald head. “What do you make of him—a writing chap?”
“From the nose down, yes,” I estimated. “From the nose up, he will ’tend to his own business if you will ’tend to yours, strictly.”
McCord slapped his thigh. “By gracious! that’s the fellow! He hates the Chinaman. He knows as well as anything he ought not to put down in black and white how intolerably he hates the Chinaman, and yet he must sneak off to his cubby-hole and suck his pencil, and—and how is it Stevenson has it?—the ‘agony of composition,’ you remember. Can you imagine the fellow, Ridgeway, bundling down here with the fever on him—”
“About the Chinaman,” I broke in. “I think you said something about a Chinaman?”
“Yes. The cook, he must have been. I gather he wasn’t the master’s pick, by the reading-matter here. Probably clapped on to him by the owners—shifted from one of their others at the last moment; a queer trick. Listen.” He picked up the book and, running over the pages with a selective thumb, read:
“‘August second. First part, moderate southwesterly breeze—’ and so forth—er—but here he comes to it:
“‘Anything can happen to a man at sea, even a funeral. In special to a Chinyman, who is of no account to social welfare, being a barbarian as I look at it.’
“Something of a philosopher, you see. And did you get the reserve in that ‘even a funeral?’ An artist, I tell you. But wait; let me catch him a bit wilder. Here:
“‘I’ll get that mustard-colored —— [This is back a couple of days.] Never can hear the —— coming, in them carpet slippers. Turned round and found him standing right to my back this morning. Could have stuck a knife into me easy. “Look here!” says I, and fetched him a tap on the ear that will make him walk louder next time, I warrant. He could have stuck a knife into me easy.’
“A clear case of moral funk, I should say. Can you imagine the fellow, Ridgeway—”
“Yes; oh, yes.” I was ready with a phrase of my own. “A man handicapped with an imagination. You see he can’t quite understand this ‘barbarian,’ who has him beaten by about thirty centuries of civilization—and his imagination has to have something to chew on, something to hit—a ‘tap on the ear,’ you know.”
“By gracious! that’s the ticket!” McCord pounded his knee. “And now we’ve got another chap going to pieces—Peters, he calls him. Refuses to eat dinner on August the third, claiming he caught the Chink making passes over the chowder-pot with his thumb. Can you believe it, Ridgeway—in this very cabin here?” Then he went on with a suggestion of haste, as though he had somehow made a slip. “Well, at any rate, the disease seems to be catching. Next day it’s Bach, the second seaman, who begins to feel the gaff. Listen:
“‘Back he comes to me to-night, complaining he’s being watched. He claims the —— has got the evil eye. Says he can see you through a two-inch bulkhead, and the like. The Chink’s laying in his bunk, turned the other way. “Why don’t you go aboard of him,” says I. The Dutcher says nothing, but goes over to his own bunk and feels under the straw. When he comes back he’s looking queer. “By God!” says he, “the devil has swiped my gun!”... Now if that’s true there is going to be hell to pay in this vessel very quick I figure I’m still master of this vessel.’”
“The evil eye,” I grunted. “Consciences gone wrong there somewhere.”
“Not altogether, Ridgeway. I can see that yellow man peeking. Now just figure yourself, say, eight thousand miles from home, out on the water alone with a crowd of heathen fanatics crazy from fright, looking around for guns and so on. Don’t you believe you’d keep an eye around the corners, kind of—eh? I’ll bet a hat he was taking it all in, lying there in his bunk, ‘turned the other way.’ Eh? I pity the poor cuss—Well, there’s only one more entry after that. He’s good and mad. Here:
“‘Now, by God! this is the end. My gun’s gone, too right out from under lock and key, by God! I been talking with Bach this morning. Not to let on, I had him in to clean my lamp. There’s more ways than one, he says, and so do I.’”
McCord closed the book and dropped it on the table.
“Finis,” he said. “The rest is blank paper.”
“Well!” I will confess I felt much better than I had for some time past. “There’s one ‘mystery of the sea’ gone to pot, at any rate. And now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll have another of your nips, McCord.”
He pushed my glass across the table and got up, and behind his back his shoulder rose to scour the corners of the room, like an incorruptible sentinel. I forgot to take up my gin, watching him. After an uneasy minute or so he came back to the table and pressed the tip of a forefinger on the book.
“Ridgeway,” he said, “you don’t seem to understand. This particular ‘mystery of the sea’ hasn’t been scratched yet—not even scratched, Ridgeway.” He sat down and leaned forward, fixing me with a didactic finger. “What happened?”
“Well, I have an idea the ‘barbarian’ got them, when it came to the pinch.”
“And let the—remains over the side?”
“I should say.”
“And then they came back and got the ‘barbarian’ and let him over the side, eh? There were none left, you remember.”
“Oh, good Lord, I don’t know!” I flared with a childish resentment at this catechising of his. But his finger remained there, challenging.
“I do,” he announced. “The Chinaman put them over the side, as we have said. And then, after that, he died—of wounds about the head.”
“So?” I had still sarcasm.
“You will remember,” he went on, “that the skipper did not happen to mention a cat, a yellow cat, in his confessions.”
“McCord,” I begged him, “please drop it. Why in thunder should he mention a cat?”
“True. Why should he mention a cat? I think one of the reasons why he should not mention a cat is because there did not happen to be a cat aboard at that time.”
“Oh, all right!” I reached out and pulled the bottle to my side of the table. Then I took out my watch. “If you don’t mind,” I suggested, “I think we’d better be going ashore. I’ve got to get to my office rather early in the morning. What do you say?”
He said nothing for the moment, but his finger had dropped. He leaned back and stared straight into the core of the light above, his eyes squinting.
“He would have been from the south of China, probably.” He seemed to be talking to himself. “There’s a considerable sprinkling of the belief down there, I’ve heard. It’s an uncanny business—this transmigration of souls—”
Personally, I had had enough of it. McCord’s fingers came groping across the table for the bottle. I picked it up hastily and let it go through the open companionway, where it died with a faint gurgle, out somewhere on the river.
“Now,” I said to him, shaking the vagrant wrist, “either you come ashore with me or you go in there and get under the blankets. You’re drunk, McCord—drunk. Do you hear me?”
“Ridgeway,” he pronounced, bringing his eyes down to me and speaking very slowly. “You’re a fool, if you can’t see better than that. I’m not drunk. I’m sick. I haven’t slept for three nights—and now I can’t. And you say—you—” He went to pieces very suddenly, jumped up, pounded the legs of his chair on the decking, and shouted at me: “And you say that, you—you landlubber, you office coddler! You’re so comfortably sure that everything in the world is cut and dried. Come back to the water again and learn how to wonder—and stop talking like a damn fool. Do you know where—. Is there anything in your municipal budget to tell me where Björnsen went? Listen!” He sat down, waving me to do the same, and went on with a sort of desperate repression.
“It happened on the first night after we took this hellion. I’d stood the wheel most of the afternoon—off and on, that is, because she sails herself uncommonly well. Just put her on a reach, you know, and she carries it off pretty well—”
“I know,” I nodded.
“Well, we mugged up about seven o’clock. There was a good deal of canned stuff in the galley, and Björnsen wasn’t a bad hand with a kettle—a thoroughgoing Square-head he was—tall and lean and yellow-haired, with little fat, round cheeks and a white mustache. Not a bad chap at all. He took the wheel to stand till midnight, and I turned in, but I didn’t drop off for quite a spell. I could hear his boots wandering around over my head, padding off forward, coming back again. I heard him whistling now and then—an outlandish air. Occasionally I could see the shadow of his head waving in a block of moonlight that lay on the decking right down there in front of the state-room door. It came from the companion; the cabin was dark because we were going easy on the oil. They hadn’t left a great deal, for some reason or other.”
McCord leaned back and described with his finger where the illumination had cut the decking.
“There! I could see it from my bunk, as I lay, you understand. I must have almost dropped off once when I heard him fiddling around out here in the cabin, and then he said something in a whisper, just to find out if I was still awake, I suppose. I asked him what the matter was. He came and poked his head in the door.”
“‘The breeze is going out,’ says he. ‘I was wondering if we couldn’t get a little more sail on her.’ Only I can’t give you his fierce Square-head tang. ‘How about the tops?’ he suggested.
“I was so sleepy I didn’t care, and I told him so. ‘All right,’ he says, ‘but I thought I might shake out one of them tops.’ Then I heard him blow at something outside. ‘Scat, you—!’ Then: ‘This cat’s going to set me crazy, Mr. McCord,’ he says, ‘following me around everywhere.’ He gave a kick, and I saw something yellow floating across the moonlight. It never made a sound—just floated. You wouldn’t have known it ever lit anywhere, just like—”
McCord stopped and drummed a few beats on the table with his fist, as though to bring himself back to the straight narrative.
“I went to sleep,” he began again. “I dreamed about a lot of things. I woke up sweating. You know how glad you are to wake up after a dream like that and find none of it is so? Well, I turned over and settled to go off again, and then I got a little more awake and thought to myself it must be pretty near time for me to go on deck. I scratched a match and looked at my watch. ‘That fellow must be either a good chap or asleep,’ I said to myself. And I rolled out quick and went above-decks. He wasn’t at the wheel. I called him: ‘Björnsen! Björnsen!’ No answer.”
McCord was really telling a story now. He paused for a long moment, one hand shielding an ear and his eyeballs turned far up.
“That was the first time I really went over the hulk,” he ran on. “I got out a lantern and started at the forward end of the hold, and I worked aft, and there was nothing there. Not a sign, or a stain, or a scrap of clothing, or anything. You may believe that I began to feel funny inside. I went over the decks and the rails and the house itself—inch by inch. Not a trace. I went out aft again. The cat sat on the wheel-box, washing her face. I hadn’t noticed the scar on her head before, running down between her ears—rather a new scar—three or four days old, I should say. It looked ghastly and blue-white in the flat moonlight. I ran over and grabbed her up to heave her over the side—you understand how upset I was. Now you know a cat will squirm around and grab something when you hold it like that, generally speaking. This one didn’t. She just drooped and began to purr and looked up at me out of her moonlit eyes under that scar. I dropped her on the deck and backed off. You remember Björnsen had kicked her—and I didn’t want anything like that happening to—”
The narrator turned upon me with a sudden heat, leaned over and shook his finger before my face.
“There you go!” he cried. “You, with your stout stone buildings and your policemen and your neighborhood church—you’re so damn sure. But I’d just like to see you out there, alone, with the moon setting, and all the lights gone tall and queer, and a shipmate—” He lifted his hand overhead, the finger-tips pressed together and then suddenly separated as though he had released an impalpable something into the air.
“Go on,” I told him.
“I felt more like you do, when it got light again, and warm and sunshiny. I said ‘Bah!’ to the whole business. I even fed the cat, and I slept awhile on the roof of the house—I was so sure. We lay dead most of the day, without a streak of air. But that night—! Well, that night I hadn’t got over being sure yet. It takes quite a jolt, you know, to shake loose several dozen generations. A fair, steady breeze had come along, the glass was high, she was staying herself like a doll, and so I figured I could get a little rest lying below in the bunk, even if I didn’t sleep.
“I tried not to sleep, in case something should come up—a squall or the like. But I think I must have dropped off once or twice. I remember I heard something fiddling around in the galley, and I hollered ‘Scat!’ and everything was quiet again. I rolled over and lay on my left side, staring at that square of moonlight outside my door for a long time. You’ll think it was a dream—what I saw there.”
“Go on,” I said.
“Call this table-top the spot of light, roughly,” he said. He placed a finger-tip at about the middle of the forward edge and drew it slowly toward the center. “Here, what would correspond with the upper side of the companion-way, there came down very gradually the shadow of a tail. I watched it streaking out there across the deck, wiggling the slightest bit now and then. When it had come down about half-way across the light, the solid part of the animal—its shadow, you understand—began to appear, quite big and round. But how could she hang there, done up in a ball, from the hatch?”
He shifted his finger back to the edge of the table and puddled it around to signify the shadowed body.
“I fished my gun out from behind my back. You see I was feeling funny again. Then I started to slide one foot over the edge of the bunk, always with my eyes on that shadow. Now I swear I didn’t make the sound of a pin dropping, but I had no more than moved a muscle when that shadowed thing twisted itself around in a flash—and there on the floor before me was the profile of a man’s head, upside down, listening—a man’s head with a tail of hair.”
McCord got up hastily and stepped in front of the state-room door, where he bent down and scratched a match.
“See,” he said, holding the tiny flame above a splintered scar on the boards. “You wouldn’t think a man would be fool enough to shoot at a shadow?”
He came back and sat down.
“It seemed to me all hell had shaken loose. You’ve no idea, Ridgeway, the rumpus a gun raises in a box like this. I found out afterward the slug ricochetted into the galley, bringing down a couple of pans—and that helped. Oh yes, I got out of here quick enough. I stood there, half out of the companion, with my hands on the hatch and the gun between them, and my shadow running off across the top of the house shivering before my eyes like a dry leaf. There wasn’t a whisper of sound in the world—just the pale water floating past and the sails towering up like a pair of twittering ghosts. And everything that crazy color—
“Well, in a minute I saw it, just abreast of the mainmast, crouched down in the shadow of the weather rail, sneaking off forward very slowly. This time I took a good long sight before I let go. Did you ever happen to see black-powder smoke in the moonlight? It puffed out perfectly round, like a big, pale balloon, this did, and for a second something was bounding through it—without a sound, you understand—something a shade solider than the smoke and big as a cow, it looked to me. It passed from the weather side to the lee and ducked behind the sweep of the mainsail like that—” McCord snapped his thumb and forefinger under the light.
“Go on,” I said. “What did you do then?”
McCord regarded me for an instant from beneath his lids, uncertain. His fist hung above the table. “You’re—” He hesitated, his lips working vacantly. A forefinger came out of the fist and gesticulated before my face. “If you’re laughing, why, damn me, I’ll—”
“Go on,” I repeated. “What did you do then?”
“I followed the thing.” He was still watching me sullenly. “I got up and went forward along the roof of the house, so as to have an eye on either rail. You understand, this business had to be done with. I kept straight along. Every shadow I wasn’t absolutely sure of I made sure of—point-blank. And I rounded the thing up at the very stem—sitting on the butt of the bowsprit, Ridgeway, washing her yellow face under the moon. I didn’t make any bones about it this time. I put the bad end of that gun against the scar on her head and squeezed the trigger. It snicked on an empty shell. I tell you a fact; I was almost deafened by the report that didn’t come.
“She followed me aft. I couldn’t get away from her. I went and sat on the wheel-box and she came and sat on the edge of the house, facing me. And there we stayed for upwards of an hour, without moving. Finally she went over and stuck her paw in the water-pan I’d set out for her; then she raised her head and looked at me and yawled. At sun-down there’d been two quarts of water in that pan. You wouldn’t think a cat could get away with two quarts of water in—”
He broke off again and considered me with a sort of weary defiance.
“What’s the use?” He spread out his hands in a gesture of hopelessness. “I knew you wouldn’t believe it when I started. You couldn’t. It would be a kind of blasphemy against the sacred institution of pavements. You’re too damn smug, Ridgeway. I can’t shake you. You haven’t sat two days and two nights, keeping your eyes open by sheer teeth-gritting, until they got used to it and wouldn’t shut any more. When I tell you I found that yellow thing snooping around the davits, and three bights of the boat-fall loosened out, plain on deck—you grin behind your collar. When I tell you she padded off forward and evaporated—flickered back to hell and hasn’t been seen since, then—why, you explain to yourself that I’m drunk. I tell you—” He jerked his head back abruptly and turned to face the companionway, his lips still apart. He listened so for a moment, then he shook himself out of it and went on:
“I tell you, Ridgeway, I’ve been over this hulk with a foot-rule. There’s not a cubic inch I haven’t accounted for, not a plank I—”
This time he got up and moved a step toward the companion, where he stood with his head bent forward and slightly to the side. After what might have been twenty seconds of this he whispered, “Do you hear?”
Far and far away down the reach a ferry-boat lifted its infinitesimal wail, and then the silence of the night river came down once more, profound and inscrutable A corner of the wick above my head sputtered a little—that was all.
“Hear what?” I whispered back. He lifted a cautious finger toward the opening.
“Somebody. Listen.”
The man’s faculties must have been keyed up to the pitch of his nerves, for to me the night remained as voiceless as a subterranean cavern. I became intensely irritated with him; within my mind I cried out against this infatuated pantomime of his. And then, of a sudden, there was a sound—the dying rumor of a ripple, somewhere in the outside darkness, as though an object had been let into the water with extreme care.
“You heard?”
I nodded. The ticking of the watch in my vest pocket came to my ears, shucking off the leisurely seconds, while McCord’s fingernails gnawed at the palms of his hands. The man was really sick. He wheeled on me and cried out, “My God! Ridgeway—why don’t we go out?”
I, for one, refused to be a fool. I passed him and climbed out of the opening; he followed far enough to lean his elbows on the hatch, his feet and legs still within the secure glow of the cabin.
“You see, there’s nothing.” My wave of assurance was possibly a little over-done.
“Over there,” he muttered, jerking his head toward the shore lights. “Something swimming.”
I moved to the corner of the house and listened.
“River thieves,” I argued. “The place is full of—”
Ridgeway. Look behind you!
Perhaps it is the pavements—but no matter; I am not ordinarily a jumping sort. And yet there was something in the quality of that voice beyond my shoulder that brought the sweat stinging through the pores of my scalp even while I was in the act of turning.
A cat sat there on the hatch, expressionless and immobile in the gloom.
I did not say anything. I turned and went below. McCord was there already, standing on the farther side of the table. After a moment or so the cat followed and sat on her haunches at the foot of the ladder and stared at us without winking.
“I think she wants something to eat,” I said to McCord.
He lit a lantern and went into the galley. Returning with a chunk of salt beef, he threw it into the farther corner. The cat went over and began to tear at it, her muscles playing with convulsive shadow-lines under the sagging yellow hide.
And now it was she who listened, to something beyond the reach of even McCord’s faculties, her neck stiff and her ears flattened. I looked at McCord and found him brooding at the animal with a sort of listless malevolence. “Quick! She has kittens somewhere about.” I shook his elbow sharply. “When she starts, now—”
“You don’t seem to understand,” he mumbled. “It wouldn’t be any use.”
She had turned now and was making for the ladder with the soundless agility of her race. I grasped McCord’s wrist and dragged him after me, the lantern banging against his knees. When we came up the cat was already amidships, a scarcely discernible shadow at the margin of our lantern’s ring. She stopped and looked back at us with her luminous eyes, appeared to hesitate, uneasy at our pursuit of her, shifted here and there with quick, soft bounds, and stopped to fawn with her back arched at the foot of the mast. Then she was off with an amazing suddenness into the shadows forward.
“Lively now!” I yelled at McCord. He came pounding along behind me, still protesting that it was of no use. Abreast of the foremast I took the lantern from him to hold above my head.
“You see,” he complained, peering here and there over the illuminated deck. “I tell you, Ridgeway, this thing—” But my eyes were in another quarter, and I slapped him on the shoulder.
“An engineer—an engineer to the core,” I cried at him. “Look aloft, man.”
Our quarry was almost to the cross-trees, clambering the shrouds with a smartness no sailor has ever come to, her yellow body, cut by the moving shadows of the ratlines, a queer sight against the mat of the night. McCord closed his mouth and opened it again for two words: “By gracious!” The following instant he had the lantern and was after her. I watched him go up above my head—a ponderous, swaying climber into the sky—come to the cross-trees, and squat there with his knees clamped around the mast. The clear star of the lantern shot this way and that for a moment, then it disappeared and in its place there sprang out a bag of yellow light, like a fire-balloon at anchor in the heavens. I could see the shadows of his head and hands moving monstrously over the inner surface of the sail, and muffled exclamations without meaning came down to me. After a moment he drew out his head and called: “All right—they’re here. Heads! there below!”
I ducked at his warning, and something spanked on the planking a yard from my feet. I stepped over to the vague blur on the deck and picked up a slipper—a slipper covered with some woven straw stuff and soled with a matted felt, perhaps a half-inch thick. Another struck somewhere abaft the mast, and then McCord reappeared above and began to stagger down the shrouds. Under his left arm he hugged a curious assortment of litter, a sheaf of papers, a brace of revolvers, a gray kimono, and a soiled apron.
“Well,” he said when he had come to deck, “I feel like a man who has gone to hell and come back again. You know I’d come to the place where I really believed that about the cat. When you think of it—By gracious! we haven’t come so far from the jungle, after all.”
We went aft and below and sat down at the table as we had been. McCord broke a prolonged silence.
“I’m sort of glad he got away—poor cuss! He’s probably climbing up a wharf this minute, shivering and scared to death. Over toward the gas-tanks, by the way he was swimming. By gracious! now that the world’s turned over straight again, I feel I could sleep a solid week. Poor cuss! can you imagine him, Ridgeway—”
“Yes,” I broke in. “I think I can. He must have lost his nerve when he made out your smoke and shinnied up there to stow away, taking the ship’s papers with him He would have attached some profound importance to them—remember, the ‘barbarian,’ eight thousand miles from home. Probably couldn’t read a word. I suppose the cat followed him—the traditional source of food He must have wanted water badly.”
“I should say! He wouldn’t have taken the chances he did.”
“Well,” I announced, “at any rate, I can say it now—there’s another ‘mystery of the sea’ gone to pot.”
McCord lifted his heavy lids.
“No,” he mumbled. “The mystery is that a man who has been to sea all his life could sail around for three days with a man bundled up in his top and not know it. When I think of him peeking down at me—and playing off that damn cat—probably without realizing it—scared to death—by gracious! Ridgeway, there was a pair of funks aboard this craft, eh? Wow—yow—I could sleep—”
“I should think you could.”
McCord did not answer.
“By the way,” I speculated. “I guess you were right about Björnsen, McCord—that is, his fooling with the foretop. He must have been caught all of a bunch, eh?”
Again McCord failed to answer. I looked up, mildly surprised, and found his head hanging back over his chair and his mouth opened wide. He was asleep.

The Price of Vanity

The Worthington Advance.
January 07, 1897

In an exquisite boudoir Cecile Chetwynde was sitting, one stormy winter

night, languidly watching her rich cousin's toilet.

It was just such a place and scene as Cecile loved; yet she was only hereon sufferance—a poor relation, tolerated
with a sort of grudging hospitality.

And Mis. Framley, their wealthy cousin, was a short, vulgar-looking woman —cross, ill-bred, ill-tempered and gaudily
arrayed in. ruby velvet.

"How strangely things are ordered!"

Cecile could not "help saying to herself, as she caught a reflection of her own cameo-like profile and aristocratic figure in an opposite mirror. "I should have been the child of wealth; she the toiler. But, never mind! I will yet compel Fortune to empty her golden coffers at my feet!"

"How do you like the red camellias in my hair, Cecile?" Mrs. Framley demanded.

"No, Fanclicra, not the diamonds, you goose! The rubies, tonight."

The trim little French maid tripped airily to the jewel casket to get out the great crimson rubies, that flashed in the gaslight like drops of blood; and Cecile, leaning back in her shell-shaped chair, thought secretly that her Cousin Barbara would look like a scarlet flamingo in her intensely-colored velvet and jewels, and complexion to match.

And so Mm. Framley rolled away to the ball in her softly-cushioned carriage, well content with herself, and Cecile  started out of her reverie.

"You may go, now, Fanchon," she said, "and you needn't sit up. I have letters to write, and I will attend to Mrs. Framley's toilet when she returns."

Fanchon lifted her dovelike eyes to Miss Chetwynde's imperially beautiful face.

"Shall I not remain to arrange the room, mademoiselle?" she inquired.

"No, no, no!" Cecile answered, impatiently.

"The room is well enough, and I would rather be alone."

And not until Fanchon had vanished did she lift the scarlet Indian scarf which had fallen over the. casket of diamonds,
with a. smile of triumph mantling her exquisite coral lips.

"I will wear them this once," she murmured, to herself. "Harold Disart shall see that I can grace his wealth like any princess. How they glitter! How they sparkle! Oh, will the time ever come when I, too, shall wear diamonds of my own ?"

Swiftly and silently she hurried to her own room, carrying the precious casket of white velvet, lined with snowpure satin, in her hands, and dressed herself  tarlatan and clematis blossoms.
And while Mrs. Framley fondly imagined her young cousin was sleeping
peacefully at home, and poor Fanchon supposed her to be writing letters, Cecile Chetwynde was. gliding through
the mazes of the redowa at a stately mansion In Belgravia, with Harold Bisart's admiring eyes drinking in her Hebe-like loveliness, while on heir brow and throat and marble-molded arms the diamonds shone and scintillated like threads and lines of fire.

"But, Fanehon, It must have been you? Who else shouldn't it be? Confess quickly and tell me what you hare done with it? Why, child; the stone in that eardrop were worth. £ 200."

Poor little Fanchon stood pale and trembling before her indignant mistress.

"Oh, madame, madame! Pray believe that I never beheld them!" she faltered, wringing her hands and looking
wildly around her, as if apprehensive that the emissaries of the law might already be upon her.

"What nonsense!'* cried Mrs. Framley, angrily. "Here's Cecile, who can bear -witness that they were all here
last night, when you brought them in, and no one but yourself has had access to them since! Of course it is you, and you only, who has stolen my diamond ring. I was a fool eves to employ a French maid
—I've always heard that they are dishonest! Cecile, ring the bell! Send James for a policeman at once!"

Cecile Chetwynde, herself very pale, yet languidly self-possessed, pulled the silken rope.

Fanchont de Lisle clasped her hands and fell at the portly lady's feet.
"Oh, madame, spare me! Do not bring this disgrace—this unmerited shame—on me and mine. Oh, madame, I am as innocent as yourself!" she! cried.

Mrs. Framley jerked her skirts from the French girl's clasp.

"You shall prove that in a court of justice," she said, harshly. "A policeman! Why does not some one bring a

The words had scarcely passed her lips when Fanchon de Lisle fell, white and lifeless, to the floor, her luxurious
jet black hair escaping from its bands; and falling, like a veil, over her ashen-pale face.

"She is fainting," said Cecile, with a quiver in her voice.

"She is dead, ma'am," said Mrs. Hoyle, the motherly old housekeeper. "It's the heart—she was always complaining of pains round the heart. You've frightened her to death, ma'am!"

"Don't be a fool, Hoyle!" cried Mrs. Framley, clutching nervously at her throat. "It's only a swoon. Get some
camphor, somebody. Oh, here comes the officer!"

But it was no gruff-voiced policeman! who was ushered into Mrs. Framley's boudoir—only Harold Disart, who
looked around him with a puzzled countenance.

"Pray pardon me," he said, with a courteous bow in Mrs. Framley's direction.
"I fear I am intruding; but I will detain you only for an instant. I have come to return the diamond earring
Miss Chetwynde lost last night at Mrs. Fontaine's party. It was found in the conservatory, close to the big palm
where I brought you that last ice, Miss Chetwynde."

Cecile grew scarlet, then pale, as Mr. Disart laid the glittering ornament beside her on the table. She shrank from her cousin's eye even while she strove to mutter some faint formula of thanks.

"The diamond that Cecile Chetwynde lost!" Mrs. Framley shrilly ejaculated, beginning to comprehend the true situation
of affairs. "Cecile Chetwynde at Mrs. Fontaine's party last night! Base girl! How dared you deceive me thus ?
You have been flaunting in my diamonds! You have been systematically acting a false part! Wretch, viper! I will no longer have you in my house!"

Mr. Disart looked from the infuriated matron to the shrinking girl, in surprise and perplexity; but there were half a
score of voices ready to enlighten him on the matter.

Cecile buried her face in her hands. "I—I meant no harm," she faltered.

"It was only for once."'

"And you would have let this poor child suffer for your fault?" Harold Disart exclaimed, reproachfully. "Oil,

Miss Chetwynde! how completely you have blinded me up to this time!"

And he turned away, in cold anger and ill-concealed disgust. At that instant the experienced old physician whom the servants had summoned glanced up from his examination.

"It will matter little to this girl," he said, quietly, "what the world may say of her henceforth. She has gone to a
greater tribunal to plead her poor little cause!"

He spoke truly. Fanchon de Lisle was dead.

The burial certificate called it "heart disease," and they buried her in a lonely cemetery in a strange land, where no
tender hand could hang garlands on her tombstone. But Cecile Chetwynde, albeit she bears a brave front before the
world, feels that she walks ever with the crimson stain of murder on her slender white hand!

And sometimes she wishes it were she lying under the daisies where Fanchon sleeps