- Lost in the Post. A. Philips
- Success Story. J.G. Cozzens
- Hunting for a Job. S.S. McClure
- A Foul Play. R. Ruark
- Jimmy Valentine's Reformation. O. Henry
- Letter in the Mail. E. Caldwell
- The Brumble Bush. Ch. Mergendahl
- The Beard. G. Clark
- Lautisse Paints Again. H.A. Smith
- A Good Start
- The Filipino and The Drunkard. W. Saroyan
- The Dinner Party. N. Monsarrat
- Fair of Face. C. Hare
- Caged. L.E. Reeve
- The TV Blackout. Art Buchwald
- Then in Triumph. Frank L. Parke
- The Verger. W.S. Maugham
- A Lion's Skin. W.S. Maugham
- Footprints in the Jungle. W.S. Maugham
- The Ant and the Grasshopper. W.S. Maugham
- The Happy Man. W.S. Maugham
- The Escape. W.S. Maugham
- Mr. Know-All. W.S. Maugham
- Art for Heart's Sake. R. Goldberg
- Wager with Destiny. E.Z. Gatti
Lost in the Post
Ainsley, a post-office sorter, turned the envelope over and over in his hands. The letter was addressed to his vrife and had an Australian stamp.
Ainsley knew that the sender was Dicky Soames, his wife's cousin. It was the second letter Ainsley received after Dicky's departure. The first letter had come six months before, he did not read it and threw it into the fire. No man ever had less reason for jealousy than Ainsley. His wife was frank as the day, a splendid housekeeper, a very good mother to their two children. He knew that Dicky Soames had been fond of Adela and the fact that Dicky Soames had years back gone away to join his and Adela's uncle made no difference to him. He was afraid that some day Dicky would return and take Adela from him.
Ainsley did not take the letter when he was at work as his fellow-workers could see him do it. So when the working hours were over he went out of the post-office together with his fellow workers, then he returned to take the letter addressed to his wife. As the door of the post-office was locked, he had to get in through a window. When he was getting out of the window the postmaster saw him. He got angry and dismissed Ainsley. So another man was hired and Ainsley became unemployed. Their life became hard; they had to borrow money from their friends.
Several months had passed. One afternoon when Ainsley came home he saw the familiar face of Dicky Soames. "So he had turned up," Ainsley thought to himself.
Dicky Soames said he was delighted to see Ainsley. "I have missed all of you so much," he added with a friendly smile.
Ainsley looked at his wife. "Uncle Tom has died," she explained "and Dicky has come into his money".
"Congratulation," said Ainsley, "you are lucky."
Adela turned to Dicky. "Tell Arthur the rest," she said quietly. "Well, you see," said Dicky, "Uncle Tom had something over sixty thousand and he wished Adela to have half. But he got angry with you because Adela never answered the two letters I wrote to her for him. Then he changed his will and left her money to hospitals. I asked him not to do it, but he wouldn't listen to me!" Ainsley turned pale. "So those two letters were worth reading after all," he thought to himself. For some time everybody kept silence. Then Dicky Soames broke the silence, "It's strange about those two letters. I've often wondered why you didn't answer them?" Adela got up, came up to her husband and said, taking him by the hand. "The letters were evidently lost." At that moment Ansley realized that she knew everything.
J. G. Cozzens
I met Richards ten or more years ago when I first went down to Cuba. He was a short, sharp-faced, agreeable chap, then about 22. He introduced himself to me on the boat and I was surprised to find that Panamerica Steel was sending us both to the same
Richards was from some not very good state university engineering schooP. Being the same age myself, and just out of technical college I saw at once that his knowledge was rather poor. In fact I couldn't imagine how he had managed to get this job.
Richards was naturally likable, and I liked him a lot. The firm had a contract for the construction of a private railroad. For Richards and me it was mostly an easy job of inspections and routine paper work. At least it was easy for me. It was harder for Richards, because he didn't appear to have mastered the use of a slide rule. When he asked me to check his figures I found his calculations awful. "Boy," I was at last obliged to say, "you are undoubtedly the silliest white man in this province. Look, stupid, didn't you evertake arithmetic? How much are seven times thirteen?" "Work that out," Richards said, "and let me have a report tomorrow."
So when I had time I checked his figures for him, and the inspector only caught him in a bad mistake about twice. In January several directors of the United Sugar Company came down to us on business, but mostly pleasure; a good excuse to 'get south on a vacation. Richards and I were to accompany them around the place. One of the directors, Mr. Prosset was asking a number of questions. I knew the job well enough to answer every sensible question the sort of question that a trained engineer would be likely to ask. As it was Mr. Prosset was not an engineer and some of his questions put me at a loss. For the third time I was obliged to say, "I'm afraid I don't know, sir.
We haven't any calculations on that".
When suddenly Richards spoke up.
"I think, about nine million cubic feet, sir", he said. "I just happened to be working this out last night. Just for my own interest".
"Oh," said Mr. Prosset, turning in his seat and giving him a sharp look. "That's very interesting, Mr. -er- Richards, isn't it? Well, now, maybe you could tell me about".
Richards could. Richards knew everything. All the way up Mr. Prosset fired questions on him and he fired answers right back. When we reached the head of the rail, a motor was waiting for Mr. Prosset. He nodded absent-mindedly to me, shook hands with Richards. "Very interesting, indeed," he said. "Good-bye, Mr. Richards, and thank you."
"Not, at all, sir," Richards said. "Glad if I could be of service to you."
As soon as the car moved off, I exploded. "A little honest bluff doesn't hurt; but some of your figures...!"
"I like to please," said Richards grinning. "If a man like Prosset wants to know something, who am I to hold out on him?"
"What's he going to think when he looks up the figures or asks somebody who does know?"
"Listen, my son," said Richards kindly. "He wasn't asking for any information he was going to use. He doesn't want to know these figures. He won't remember them. I don't even remember them myself. What he is going to remember is you and me." "Yes," said Richards firmly. "He is going to remember that Panamerica Steel has a bright young man named Richards who could tell him everything, he wanted, just the sort of chap he can use; not like that other fellow who took no interest in his work, couldn't answer the simplest question and who is going to be doing small-time contracting all his life."
It is true. I am still working for the Company, still doing a little work for the construction line. And Richards? I happened to read in a newspaper a few weeks ago that Richards had been made a vice-resident and director of Panamerica Steel when the Prosset group bought the old firm.
Hunting for a Job
I reached Boston late that night and got out at the South Station. I knew no one in Boston except Miss Bennet. She lived in Somerville, and I immediately started out for Somerville. Miss Bennet and her family did all they could to make me comfortable and help me to get myself established' in some way. I had only six dollars and their hospitality was of utmost importance to me.
My first application for a job in Boston was made in accordance with an idea of my own. Every boy in the Western states knew the Pope Manufacturing Company, which produced bicycles. When I published my first work "History of Western College Journalism" the Pope Company had given me an advertisement, and that seemed to be a "connection" of some kind. So I decided to go to the offices of the Pope Manufacturing Company to ask for a job. I walked into the general office and said that I wanted the president of the company.
"Colonel Pope?" asked the clerk.
I answered, "Yes, Colonel Pope."
I was taken to Colonel Pope, who was then an alert energetic man of thirty-nine. I told Colonel Pope, by way of introduction, that he had once given me an advertisement for a little book I had published, that I had been a College editor and out of a job. What I wanted was work and I wanted it badly.
He said he was sorry, but they were laying of hands. I still hung on4. It seemed to me that everything would be all up with me', if I had to go out of that room without a job. I asked him if there wasn't anything at all that I could do. My earnestness made him look at me sharply.
"Willing to wash windows and scrub floors?" he asked.
I told him that I was, and he turned to one of his clerks.
"Has Wilmot got anybody yet to help him in the downtown' rink?" he asked.
The clerk said he thought not.
"Very well", said Colonel Pope. "You can go to the rink and help Wilmot out for tomorrow."
The next day I went to the bicycle rink and found that what Wilmot wanted was a man to teach beginners to ride. I had never been on a bicycle in my life nor even very c}ose to one, but in a couple of hours I had learnt to ride a bicycle myself and was teaching other people.
Next day Mr. Wilmot paid me a dollar. He didn't say anything about my coming back the next morning, but I came and went to work, very much afraid that I vrould be told I wasn't needed. After that Mr. Wilmot did not exactly engage me, but he forgot to discharge me, and I came back every day and went to work. At the end of the week Colonel Pope sent for me and placed me in charge of the uptown' rink.
Colonel Pope was a man who watched his workmen. I hadn't been mistaken when I felt that a young man would have a chance with him. He often used to say that "water would find its level", and he kept an eye on us. One day he called me into his office and asked me if I could edit a magazine.
"Yes, sir," I replied quickly. I remember it flashed through my mind that I could do anything I was put at '96 that if I were required to run an ocean steamer I could somehow manage to do it. I could learn to do it as I went along'. I answered as quickly as I could get the words out of my mouth, afraid that Colonel Pope would change his mind before I could get them out.
This is how I got my first job. And I have never doubted ever since that one of the reasons why I got it was that I had been "willing to wash windows and scrub floors". I had been ready for anything.
A Foul Play
In 1943 Lieutenant Alexander Barr was ordered into the Armed Guard aboard the merchant ship, like many other civillian officers with no real mechanical skills teachers, writers, lawyers.
His men were the rag-tag' of merchant service and knew very little of it. Lieutenant Alec Barr had his crew well in hand except one particularly unpleasant character, a youngster called Zabinski. Every ship has its problem child, and Zabinski was Alec's cross. If anybody was drunk and in trouble ashore, it was Zabinski. If anybody was smoking on watch, or asleep on watch, it always was Zabinski. Discipline on board was hard to keep and Zabinski made it worse.
Alec called the boy to his cabin. "I've tried to reason with you'," he said. "I've punished you with everything from confinement to ship' to extra duty. I've come to the conclusion that the only thing you may understand is force. I've got some boxing gloves. Navy Regulations say they should be used for recreation.
We are going to have some.
"That's all right", Zabinski said smiling.
Alec announced the exhibition of boxing skill. A lot of people gathered on deck to watch the match.
It didn't take Lieutenant Barr long to discover that he was in the ring with a semiprofessional. They were fighting two-minute rounds. But from the first five seconds of the first round Alec knew that Zabinski could knock him out with a single punch if he wanted to. But Zabinski didn't want to, he was toying with his commander, and the snickers' grew into laughter.
In the third round Alec held up a glove. "Time out!", he said. "I'm going to my cabin, I'll soon be back". He turned and ran up to his cabin. In the cabin there was a safe. Alec's duty was to pay wages to his personnel. Alec Barr opened the safe and took out a paper-wrapped roll of ten-cent coins. He put this roll of silver coins into his glove and returned on deck.
"Let's go!" he said and touched gloves with Zabinski. It had pleased Zabinski before to allow the officer to knock him from time to time because it gave him a chance for a short and painful punch. But now the silver-weighted glove crashed into the boy's chin and Zabinski was out. He was lying on the floor motionless.
Alec Barr looked briefly at the boy. "Somebody throw some water on him," he said coldly to the seamen. And he went up to his room to clean his cuts' and put the roll of coins back to the safe. After that Lieutenant Alexander Barr had no more personnel trouble aboard ship.
Jimmy Valentine's Reformation
Jimmy Valentine was released' that day.
"Now, Valentine," said the warden', "you'll go out today. Make a man of yourself. You are not a bad fellow really. Stop breaking open safes and be honest."
"Me?" said Jimmy in surprise. "Why, I've never broken a safe in my life." The warden laughed. "Better think over my advice, Valentine."
In the evening Valentine arrived in his native town, went directly to the cafe of his old friend Mike and shook hands with Mike. Then he took the key of hisroom and went upstairs. Everything was just as he had left it. Jimmy removed a panel in the wall and dragged out a dust-covered suitcase. He opened it and looked fondly at the finest set of burglar's' tools. It was a complete set made of special steel. The set consisted of various tools of the latest design. Over nine hundreddollars they had cost him.
A week after the release of Valentine there was a new safe-burglary in Richmond. Two weeks after that another safe was opened. That began to interest the detectives. Ben Price, a famous detective, got interested in these cases.
"That's all Jimmy Valentine's work. He has resumed business. He has got the only tools that can open any safe without leaving the slightest trace."
One afternoon Jimmy Valentine came to Elmore, a little town in Arkansas. A young lady crossed the street, passed him at the corner and entered a door over which was the sign "The Elmore Bank". Jimmy Valentine looked into her eyes, forgot what he was and became another man. She lowered her eyes and blushed slightly. Young men of Jimmy's style and looks were not of ten met in Elmore. Jimmy called a boy who was standing on the steps of the bank and began to ask him questions about the town and the people of the town. From this boy he learnt that this girl was Annabel Adams and that her father was the owner of the bank.
Jimmy went to a hotel and registered as Ralf Spencer. To the clerk he said that he had come to Elmore to start business. The clerk was impressed by the clothes and manner of Jimmyand he was ready to give Jimmy any information. Soon Jimmy opened a shoe-store and made large profits. In all other respects he was also a success. He was popular with many important people and had many friends. And he accomplished the wish of his heart. He met Miss Annabel Adams and she fell in love with him too. Annabel's father, whowas a typical country banker approved of Spencer. The young people were to be married in two weeks. Jimmy gave up safe-burglary for ever. He was an honest man now. He decided to get rid of his tools.
At that time a new saf e was put in Mr. Adams' bank. The old man was very proud of it and insisted that everyone should inspect it. So one day the whole family with the children went to the bank. Mr. Adams enthusiastically explained the workings of the safe to Spencer. The two children were delighted to see the shining metal and the funny clock. While they were thus engaged Ben Price, the detective, walked into the bank and stood at the counter watching the scene. He told the cashier that he was just waiting for the man he knew. Suddenly there was a loud scream from the women. Unseen by the elders, May, the smallest girl had shut herself in the vault.
"It's impossible to open the door now," said Mr. Adams in a trembling voice, "because the clock of the safe hasn't been wound. Oh, what shall we do? That child she can't stand it for long because there isn't enough air there!"
"Get away from the door, all of you," suddenly commanded Spencer. And it must be mentioned that Jimmy happened to have his suit-case with him because he was going to get rid of it that day. Very calmly he took out the tools and in ten minutes the vault was opened. The others watched him in amazement. The little girl, crying, rushed to her mother.
Jimmy took his suit-case and came up to Ben Price whom he had noticed long bef ore. "Hello, Ben", he said, "Let's go. I don't think it matters much now." And then suddenly Ben Price acted rather strangely. "I guess, you are mistaken Mr. Spencer," he said. "I don't seem to recognize you. I think your fiancee' is waiting for you, isn't she?" And Ben Price turned and walked out of the Bank.
Letters in the Mail
Almost everybody likes to receive letters. And perhaps nobody in Stillwater liked to get letters more than Ray Buffin. But unfortunately Ray received fewer letters in his box at the post-office than anybody else.
Guy Hodge and Ralph Barnhill were two young men in town who liked to play jokes on people. But they never meant anything bad. One afternoon they decided to play a joke on Ray Buffin. Their plan was to ask a girl in town to send Ray a love letter withoutsigning it, and then tell everybody in the post-office to watch Ray read the letter; then somebody was to ask Ray if he had received a love letter from a girl. After that somebody was to snatch the letter out of his hand and read it aloud.
They bought blue writing paper and went round the corner to the office of the telephone company where Grace Brooks worked as a night telephone operator. Grace was pretty though not very young. She had begun working for the company many years ago, after she had finished school. She had remained unmarried all those years, and because she worked at night and slept in the daytime it was very difficult for her to find a husband.
At first, after Guy and Ralf had explained to her what they wanted to do and had asked her to write the letter to Ray, Grace refused to do it.
"Now, be a good girl, Grace, do us a favour and writethe letter." Suddenly she turned away. She didn'twant the young men to see her crying. She remembered the time she had got acquainted with Ray. Ray wanted to marry her. But she had just finished school then and had started to work for the telephone company; she was very young then and did not want to marry anybody. Time passed. During all those years she had seen him a few times but only a polite word had passed between them, and each time he looked sadder and sadder.
Finally she agreed to write the letter for Guy and Ralph and said that she would send it in the morning.
After they left the telephone office Grace thought about Ray and cried. Late at night she wrote the letter.
The next day Guy and Ralph were in the post-of-fice at 4 o'clock. By that time there was a large crowd in the post-office. When Ray came in and saw a letter in his box he looked at it in surprise. He couldn't believe his eyes. He opened the box, took out the blue envelope and went to the corner of the room to read it. When he finished he behaved like mad. He smiled happily and ran out of the room before Guy and Ralph had time to say anything to stop him. Ray hurried round the corner to the telephone office.
When Guy and Ralph ran into the room where Grace worked they saw Ray Buffin standing near the girl with the widest and happiest smile they had ever seen on his face. It was clear they had not spoken a word yet. They just stood in silence, too happy to worry about Guy and Ralph watching them.
Find in the text English equivalents for the following words and expressions:
The Bramble Bush
As Fran Walker, one of the nurses of the Mills Memorial Hospital, was sitting between rounds behind her duty desk, she often recollected her childhood, which would return to her as it had existed in reality '96 bewildering, lonely, and frustrating.
Her father, Mr. Walker, had owned a small lumber business' in Sagamore, one of Indiana's numerous smaller towns, where Fran had lived in a large frame house on six acres of unused pasture land'. The first Mrs. Walker had died, when Fran was still a baby, so she did not remember her real mother at all. She remembered her stepmother, though small, tight-lipped, thin-faced, extremely possessive of her new husband and the new house which had suddenly become her own. Fran had adored her father, tried desperately to please him. And since he desired nothing more than a good relationship between his daughter and his second wife, she had made endless attempts to win over her new mother. But her displays of affection had not been returned. Her stepmother had remained constantly jealous, resentful, without the slightest understanding of the small girl's motives and emotions.
Fran felt herself losing out, slipping away into an inferior position. She began to exaggerate often lie about friends, feelings, grades at school, anything possible to keep herself high in her father's esteem, and at the same time gain some small bit of admiration from her mother. The exaggerations, though, had constantly turned back on her, until eventually a disgusted Mrs. Walker had insisted she be sent away to a nearby summer camp. "They award a badge of honour there," she had said, "and if you win it not a single untruth all summer then we'll know you've stopped lying and we'll do something very special for you."
"We'll give you a pony," her father had promised.
Fran wanted the pony. More than the pony, she vranted to prove herself. After two months of nearpainful honesty, she finally won the badge of honour, and brought it home clutched tight in her fist, hiddenin her pocket while she waited, waited, all the way from the station, all during the tea in the living-room for the exact proper moment to make her announcement of glorious victory.
"Well?" her mother had said finally. "Well, Fran?"
"Well ", Fran began, with the excitement building higher and higher as she drew in her breath and thought of exactly how to say it.
"You can't hide it any longer, Fran." Her mother had sighed in hopeless resignation. "We know you didn't win it, so there's simply no point in lying about it now."
Fran had closed her mouth. She'd stared at her mother, then stood and gone out to the yard and looked across the green meadow where the pony was going to graze. She had taken the green badge from her pocket, fingered it tenderly, then buried it beneath a rock in the garden. She had gone back into the house and said, "No, I didn't win it," and her mother had said, "Well, at least you didn't lie this time," and her father had held her while she'd cried and known f inally that there was no further use in trying.
Her father had bought her an Irish setter as a consolation prize.
I was going by train to London. I didn't have the trouble to take anything to eat with me and soon was very hungry. I decided to go to the dining-car to have a meal.
As I was about to seat myself, I saw that the gentleman I was to face wore a large beard. He was a young man. His beard was full, loose and very black. I glanced at him uneasily and noted that he was a big pleasant fellow with dark laughing eyes.
Indeed I could feel his eyes on me as I f umbled with the knives and forks. It was hard to pull myself together. It is not easy to face a beard. But when I could escape no longer, I raised my eyes and found the young man's on my face.
"Good evening," I said cheerily, "Good evening," he replied pleasantly, inserting a big buttered roll within the bush of his beard. Not even a crumb fell off. He ordered soup. It was a difficult soup for even the most barefaced of men to eat, but not a drop did he waste on his whiskers'. He kept his eyes on me in between bites. But I knew he knew that I was watching his every bite with acute fascination.
"I'm impressed," I said, "with your beard."
"I suspected as much," smiled the young man.
"Is it a wartime device?" I inquired.
"No," said he; "I'm too young to have been in the war. I grew this beard two years ago."
"It's magnificent," I informed him.
"Thank you," he replied. "As a matter of fact this beard is an experiment in psychology. I suffered horribly from shyness. I was so shy it amounted to a phobia. At university I took up psychology and began reading books on psychology'. And one day I came across a chapter on human defence mechanisms, explaining how so many of us resort to all kinds of tricks to escape from the world, or from conditions in the world which we f ind hatef ul. Well, I j ust turned a thing around. I decided to make other people shy of me. So I grew this beard.
The effect was astonishing. I found people, even tough, hard-boiled people, were shy of looking in the face. They were panicked by my whiskers. It made them uneasy. And my shyness vanished completely."
He pulled his fine black whiskers affectionately and said: "Psychology is a great thing. Unfortunately people don't know about it. Psychology should help people discover such most helpful tricks. Life is too short to be wasted in desperately striving to be normal."
"Tell me," I said finally. "How did you master eating the way you have? You never got a crumb or a drop on your beard, all through dinner."
"Nothing to it, sir," said he. "When you have a beard, you keep your eyes on those of your dinner partner. And whenever you note his eyes fixed in horror on your chin, you wipe it off."
Lautisse Paints Again
Everybody knows by this time that we met Lautisse on board a ship, but few people know that in the beginning, Betsy and I had no idea who he was.
At first he introduced himself as Monsieur Roland, but as we talked he asked me a lot of questions about myself and my business and finally he asked me if I could keep a secret and said: "I am Lautisse."
I had no idea who he was. I told Betsy and af ter lunch we went up and talked to the ship's librarian, asked him a few questions. And then we found out that my new friend was probably the world's best living painter. The librarian found a book with his biography and a photograph. Though the photograph was bad, we decided that our new acquaintance was Lautisse all right. The book said that he suddenly stopped painting at 53 and lived in a villa in Rivera. He hadn't painted anything in a dozen years and was heard to say he would never touch the brush again.
Well, we got to be real friends and Betsy invited him to come up to our place for a weekend.
Lautisse arrived on the noon train Saturday, and I met him at the station. We had promised him that wewouldn't have any people and that we wouldn't try to talk to him about art. It wasn't very difficult since we were not very keen on art.
I was up at seven-thirty the next morning and I remembered that I had a job to do. Our vegetable garden had a fence around it which needed a coat of paint. I took out a bucket half full of white paint and a brush and an old kitchen chair. I was sitting on the chair thinking, when I heard footsteps and there stood Lautisse. I said that I was getting ready to paint the garden fence but now that he was up, I would stop it. He protested, then took the brush from my hand and said, "First, I'll show you!" At that moment Betsy cried from the kitchen door that breakfast was ready. "No, no," he said. "No breakfast, I will paint the fence." I argued with him but he wouldn't even look up from his work. Betsy laughed and assured me that he was having a good time. He spent three hours at it and fin-
back to town on the 9. 10 that evening and at the station he shook my hand and said that he hadn't enjoyed himself so much in years.
We didn't hear anything from him for about 10 days but the newspapers learnt about the visit and came to our place. I was out but Betsy told the reporters everything and about the fence too. The next day the papers had quite a story and the headlines said: LAUTISSE PAINTS AGAIN. On the same day three men came to my place from different art galleries and offered 4.000 dollars for the fence. I refused. The next day I was of f ered 25.000 and then 50.000. On the fourth day a sculptor named Gerston came to my place. He was a friend of Lautisse. He advised me to allow the Palmer Museum in New York to exhibit it for a few weeks. He said that the gallery people were interested in the fence because Lautisse had never before used a bit of white paint. I agreed. So the f ence was put in the Palmer Museum. I went down myself to have a look at it. Hundreds of people came to see the fence, and I couldn't help laughing when I saw my fence because it had a fence around it.
A week later Gerston telephoned me and asked to come to him. He had something important to tell me. It turned out that Lautisse visited the exhibition and signed all the thirty sections of my fence. "Now," said Gerston, "you have really got something to sell." And indeed with Gerston's help, 29 of the 30 sections were sold within a month's time and the price was 10.000 each section. I didn't want to sell the 30th section and it's hanging now in our living-room.
A Good Start
Bill liked painting more than anything in life. He started painting when he was 15 and people said that as a painter he had quite a lot of talent and had mastered most of the technical requirements. At 22 he had his first one-man show when he was discovered by the critics and his pictures were all sold out, With the money he could afford to marry Leila, rent a studio and stop being a student. To complete his education he went to Italy but after 5 months all the money was spent and he had to return.
Bill never had another show like the first one, though he became a better painter. The critics did not think him modern enough and said he was too academic. From time to time he managed to sell some of his paintings but eventually things had got very tight and he was obliged to look for a job.
The day before he went for an interview with his uncle Bill was especially gloomy. In the morning he went up to one of his unfinished pictures in the studio but he felt he couldn't paint. He threw down his brush and a bright red spot appeared on the board already covered with black and yellow paint from his previous work. The board had been used to protect the floor and was at that moment a mixture of bright colours.
When Bill left, Leila got down to cleaning the studio. She took up the board and put it against the wall to clean the floor. At that moment Garrad, Bill's dealer, came in. Bill had asked him to come, look at his work and arrange a show but the dealer had for some time been uncertain on the matter. So he was looking around the studio, explaining how the gallery was booked up for a year and how he could not really promise Bill a show yet for two years or so.
Suddenly the board against the wall attracted his attention.
"Leila, my dear," he exclaimed. "I felt that there must be something like this. Tell me, why is he keeping it away from us?"
Leila was too shocked to answer. But Garrad went on: "I think it's wonderful. I never doubted Bill would catch up with the modern trends. Now Leila, are there more pictures for a full show? I must go now but I'll be ringing him up. I'm going to change the whole plan and show his new work in the autumn. Tell him not to waste time. As to this one if he wants to sell it, I'll buy it myself."
Leila stayed in the studio till Bill came back. She was too excited to tell him the story clearly and Bill could not understand anything at first. When he realised what had happened he shook with laughter. "You didn't explain the whole thing about the board to him, did you?" he managed to say at last.
"No, I didn't. I couldn't really, I believe I should have, but it would have made him look too silly. I just said I didn't think you'd sell it".
What was Bill to do?
Think of your own ending.
(What was Bill to do? What a thing, he thought, to find waiting for you on your return from taking a job at two pounds a week. He could paint more for an exhibition that very evening and show them to Garrad the next day. After all, why not use it as a start for a good painter's career?)
The Filipino and the Drunkard
This loud-mouthed guy in the brown coat was not really mean', he was drunk. He took a sudden dislike to the small well-dressed Filipino and began to order him around the waiting-room, telling him to get back, not to crowd among the white people. They were waiting to get on the boat and cross the bay to Oakland. He was making a commotion in the waiting-room, and while everyone seemed to be in sympathy with the Filipino, no one seemed to want to come to his rescue, and the poor boy became very frightened.
He stood among the people, and this drunkard kept pushing up against him and saying: "I told you to get back. Now get back. I fought twenty-four months inFrance. I'm a real American. I don't want you standing up here among white people."
The boy kept squeezing politely out of the drunkard's way, hurrying through the crowd, not saying anything and trying his best to be as decent as possible. But the drunkard didn't leave him alone. He didn't like the fact that the Filipino was wearing good clothes.
When the big door opened to let everybody to the boat, the young Filipino moved quickly among the people, running from the drunkard. He sat down in a corner, but soon got up and began to look for a more hidden place. At the other end of the boat was the drunkard. He could hear the man swearing. The boy looked for a place to hide, and rushed into the lavatory. He went into one of the open compartments and bolted the door. The drunkard entered the lavatory and began asking others in the room if they had seen the boy. Finally he found the compartment where the boy was standing, and he began swearing and demanding that the boy come out.
"Go away," the boy said.
The drunkard began pounding on the door. "You got to come out some time," he said. "I'll wait here till
"Go away," said the boy. "I've done you nothing."
Behind the door the boy's bitterness grew to rage.
He began to tremble, not fearing the man but fearing the rage growing in himself. He brought the knife from his pocket.
"Go away," he said again. "I have a knif e. I don't want any trouble."
The drunkard said he was a real American, wounded twice. He wouldn't go away. He was afraid of no dirty little yellow-faced Filipino with a knife.
"I will kill you," said the boy. "I don't want any trouble. Go away. Please, don't make any trouble," he said earnestly.
He threw the door open and tried to rush beyond the man, the knife in his fist, but the drunkard caught him by the sleeve and drew him back. The sleeve of the boy's coat ripped, and the boy turned and thrust the knife into the side of the drunkard, feeling it scrape against the ribbone'. The drunkard shouted and screamed at once, then caught the boy by the throat, and the boy began to thrust the knife into the side of the man many times. When the drunkard could hold him no more and fell to the floor, the boy rushed from the room, the knife still in his hand.
Everyone knew what he had done, yet no one moved. The boy ran to the front of the boat, seeking some place to go, but there was no place to go, and before the officers of the boat arrived he stopped suddenly and began to shout at the people.
"I didn't want to hurt him, why didn't you stop him? Is it right to chase a man like a rat? You knew he was drunk. I didn't want to hurt him, but he wouldn't let me go. He tore my coat and tried to choke me. I told him I would kill him if he wouldn't go away. It is not my fault. I must go to Oakland to see my brother. He is sick. Do you thirik I'm looking for trouble when my brother is sick. Why didn't you stop him?"
The Dinner Party
There are still some rich people in the world. Many of them lead lives of particular pleasure. But rich people do have their problems. They are seldom problems of finance, since most rich people have enough sense to hire other people to take care of their worries. But there are other, more genuine problems. They are the problems of behaviour.
Let me tell you a story which happened to my uncle Octavian a full thirty years ago. At that time I myself was fifteen. My uncle Octavian was then a rich man. He was a charming and accomplished host whose villa was an accepted rendezvous of the great. He was a hospitable and most amiable man until January 3, 1925.
There was nothing special about that day in the life of my uncle Octavian, except that it was his fifty-fifth birthday. As usual on such a day he was giving a party, a party for twelve people. All of them were old friends.
I, myself, aged fifteen, was deeply privileged. I was staying with my uncle at his exquisite villa, on holiday from school, and as a special concession on this happy day, I was allowed to come down to dinner. It was exciting for me to be admitted to such company, which included a newspaper proprietor of exceptional intelligence and his fabulous' American wife, a recent prime-minister of France and a distinguished German prince and princess.
At that age, you will guess, I was dazzled. Even today, 30 years later, one may fairly admit that the company was distinguished. But I should also stress that they were all old and intimate friends of my uncle Octavian.
Towards the end of a wonderful dinner, when dessert had been brought in and the servants had left, my uncle leant forward to admire a magnificent diamond ring on the princess's hand. She was a handsome woman. She turned her hand gracefully towards my uncle. Across the table, the newspaper proprietor leant across and said: "May I also have a look?" She smiled and nodded. Then she took off the ring and held it out to him. "It was my grandmother's the old empress," she said. "I have not worn it for many years. It is said to have once belonged to Genghis Khan."
There were exclamations of delight and admiration. The ring was passed from hand to hand. For a moment it rested on my own palm, gleaming splendidly. Then I passed it on to my neighbour. As I turned away again, I saw her pass it on.
It was some 20 minutes later when the princess stood up and said: "Before we leave you, may I have my ring back?" ... There was a pause, while each of us looked expectantly at his neighbour. Then there was silence.
The princess was still smiling, though less easily. She was unused to asking for things twice. The silence continued, I still thought that it could only be a practical joke, and that one of us probably the prince himself would produce the ring with a laugh. But when nothing happened at all, I knew that the rest of the night would be dreadful.
I am sure that you can guess the sort of scene that followed. There was the embarrassment of the guests all of them old and valued friends. There was a nervous search of the whole room. But it did not bring the princess's ring back again. It had vanished an irreplaceable thing, worth possibly two hundred thousand pounds in a roomful of twelve people, all known to each other.
No servants had entered the room. No one had left it for a moment. The thief (for now it could only be theft) was one of us, one of my uncle Octavian's cherished friends.
I remember it was the French cabinet minister who was most insistent on being searched, indeed, in his excitement he had already started to turn out his pockets, before my uncle held up his hand and stopped him. "There will be no search in my house," he commanded. "You are all my friends. The ring can only be lost. If it is not found" he bowed towards the princess "I will naturally make amends myself."
The ring was never found, it never appeared, either then or later.
To our family's surprise, uncle Octavian was a comparatively poor man, when he died (which happened, in fact, a few weeks ago). And I should say that he died with the special sadness of a hospitable host who never gave a single lunch or dinner party for the last thirty years of his life.
Fair of Face
John Franklin, with whom I was at Oxford, invited me to stay with his people at Markhampton for the Markshire Hunt Ball'. He and his sister were arranging a small party for it, he said.
"I've never met your sister," I remarked. "What is she like?"
"She is a beauty," said John, seriously and simply.
I thought at the time that it was an odd, old-fashioned phrase, but it turned out to be strictly and literally true. Deborah Franklin was beautiful in the grand, classic manner. She didn't look in the least like a film star or a model. But looking at her you forgot everything. It was the sheer beauty of her face that took your breath away.
With looks like that, it would be asking too much to expect anything startling in the way of brains, and I found Deborah, a trifle dull. She was of course well aware of her extraordinary good looks, and was perfectly prepared to discuss them, just as a man seven feet high might talk about the advantages and inconveniences of being tall.
Most of our party were old friends of the Franklins, who took Deborah for granted as a local phenomenon, but among them was a newcomer a young man with a beard named Aubrey Melcombe, who had latelytaken charge of the local museum. As soon as he set eyes on Deborah he said:
"We have never met before, but your face, of course, is perfectly familiar."
Deborah had evidently heard that one before.
"I never give sitting to photographers," she said, "but people will snap me in the street. It's such a nuisance."
"Photographs!" said Aubrey. "I mean your portrait the one that was painted four hundred years ago. Has nobody ever told you that you are the living image of the Warbeck Titian?"
"I've never heard of the Warbeck Titian," said Deborah, "You shall judge for yourself," said Aubrey. "I'll send you a ticket for the opening of the exhibition."
Then he went off to dance with Rosamund Clegg, his assistant at the museum, who was said to be his fiance'e.
I did not care much' for Aubrey, or for his young woman, but I had to admit that they knew, their job when I came to the opening of the exhibition a few months later. They had gathered in treasures of every sort from all over the county and arranged them admirably. The jewel of the show was, of course, the great Titian. It had a wall to itself at the end of the room and I was looking at it when Deborah came in.
The likeness was fantastic. Lord Warbeck had never had his paintings cleaned, so that Titian's flesh tints were golden and carmine, in vivid contrast to Deborah's pink and white. But the face behind the glass might have been hev mirror image. By a happy chance she had chosen to wear a very plain black dress, which matched up well to the portrait's dark clothes. She stood there still and silent, staring at her centuries-old likeness. I wondered what she felt.
A pressman's camera flashed and clicked. First one visitor and then another noticed the resemblance and presently the rest of the gallery was deserted. Everyone was crowding round the Titian to stare from the painted face to the real one and back again. The only clear space was round Deborah herself. People were moving to get a good view of her profile, without losing sight of the Titian, which fortunately was in profile also. It must have been horribly embarrassing for Deborah, but she never seemed to notice them. She went on peering into the picture, for a very long time. Then she turned round and walked quickly out of the building. As she passed me I saw that she was crying a surprising display of emotion in one so calm.
About ten minutes later Aubrey discovered that a pair of Degas' statuettes was missing from a stand opposite the Titian. They were small objects and very valuable. The police were sent for and there was a considerable fuss, but nothing was found. I left as soon as I could and went to the Franklins. Deborah was in.
"Have you got the statuettes?" I asked.
She took them out of her handbag.
"How did you guess?"
"It seemed to me that your reception in front of the Titian was a performance," I explained. "It distracted attention from everything else in the room while the theft took place."
"Yes," said Deborah, "Aubrey arranged it very cleverly, didn't he? He thought of everything. He even helped me choose this dress to go with the one in the picture, you know."
"And the press photographer? Had he been laid on too?"
"Oh, yes. Aubrey arranged for someone to be there to photograph me. He thought it would help to collect a crowd."
Her coolness was astonishing. Even with the evidence of the statuettes in front of me I found it hard to believe that I was talking to a thief.
"It was a very clever scheme altogether," I said. "You and Aubrey must have put a lot of work into it. Ihad no idea that you were such friends."
There was a flush on her cheeks as she replied:
"Oh yes, I've been seeing a good deal of him lately.
Ever since the Hunt Ball, in fact."
After that there didn't seem to be much more to say.
"There's one thing I don't quite understand," I said finally. "People were surroundin'g you and staring at you up to the moment you left the gallery. How did Aubrey manage to pass the statuettes to you without anyone seeing?"
She rounded on me in a fury of surprise and indignation.
"Pass the statuettes to me?" she repeated. "Good God! Are you suggesting that I helped Aubrey to steal them?"
She looked like an angry goddess, and was about as charming.
"But but " I stammered. "But if you didn't who will?
"Rosamund, of course. Aubrey gave them to her while all was going on in front of the Titian. She simply put them in her bag and walked out. I'd only just gotthem back from her when you came in."
"Rosamund!" It was my turn to be surprised. "Then the whole thing was a put-up job between them?"
"Yes. They wanted to get married and hadn't any money, and she knew a dealer who would give a price for things like these with no questions asked and and there you are."
"Then how did you come into it?" I asked.
"Aubrey said that if I posed in front of the Titian it would be wonderful publicity for the exhibition and,of course, I fell for it." She laughed. "I've only just remembered. When Aubrey wanted to make fun of me he used to say I'd make a wonderful cover girl. That's just what I was a cover girl for him and Rosamund."
She stood up and picked up the statuettes.
"These will have to go back to the gallery, I suppose," she said, "Can it be done without too much fuss? It's silly of me, I know, but I'd rather they didn't prosecute Aubrey."
I made sympathetic noises.
"It was Rosamund's idea in the first place," she went on. "I'm sure of that. Aubrey hasn't the wits to think of anything so clever."
"It was clever enough," I said. "But you saw through it at once. How was that?"
"I'm not clever," she said. "But that old dark picture with the glass on it made a perfect mirror. Aubrey told me to stand in front of it, so I did. But I'm not interested in art, you know. I was looking at myself.And of course I couldn't help seeing what was happening just behind me..."
Purcell was a small, fussy' man; red cheeks and a tight melonlike stomach. Large glasses so magnified his eyes as to give him the appearance of a wise and kind owl.
He owned a pet shop. He sold cats and dogs and monkeys; he dealt in fish food and bird seed, prescribed remedies for ailing canaries, on his shelves there were long rows of cages. He considered himself something of a professional man.
There was a constant stir of life in his shop. The customers who came in said:
"Aren't they cute'! Look at that little monkey! They're sweet."
And Mr. Purcell himself would smile and rub his hands and nod his head.
Each morning, when the routine of opening his shop was completed, it was the proprietor's custom to perch on a high stool, behind the counter, unfold his morning paper, and digest the day's news.
It was a raw, wintry day. Wind gusted against the high, plateglass windows. Having completed his usual tasks, Mr. Purceil again mounted the high stool and unfolded his morning paper. He adjusted his glasses, aad glanced at the day's headlines.
There was a bell over the door that rang whenever a customer entered. This morning, however, for the first time Mr. Purcell could recall, it failed to ring. Simply he glanced up, and there was the stranger, standing just inside the door, as if he had materialized out of thin air.
The storekeeper slid off his stool. From the first instant he knew instinctively, that the man hated him; but out of habit he rubbed his hands, smiled and nodded.
"Good morning," he beamed. "What can I do for you?"
The man's shiny shoes squeaked forward. His suit was cheap, ill-fitting, but obviously new. Ignoring Purcell for the moment, he looked around the shadowy shop.
"A nasty morning," volunteered the shopkeeper. He clasped both hands across his melonlike stomach, and smiled importantly. Now what was it you wanted?"
The man stared closely at Purcell, as though just now aware of his presence. He said, "I want something in a cage."
"Something in a cage?" Mr. Purcell was a bit confused. "You mean some sort of pet?"
"I mean what I said!" snapped' the man. "Something in a cage. Something alive that's in a cage."
"I see," hastened the storekeeper, not at all certain that he did. "Now let me think. A white rat, perhaps? I have some very nice white rats."
"No!" said the xnan. "Not rats. Something with wings. Something that flies."
"A bird!" exclaimed Mr. Purcell.
"A bird's all right." The customer pointed suddenly to a cage which contained two snowy birds. "Doves? How much for those?"
"Five-fifty," came the prompt answer. "And a very reasonable price. They are a fine pair."
"Five-fifty?" The man was obviously disappointed. He produced a five-dollar bill. "I'1 like to have those birds. But this is all I've got. Just five dollars."
Mentally, Mr. Purcell made a quick calculation, which told him that at a fifty cent reduction he could still reap a tidy profit. He smiled kindly "My dear man, if you want them that badly, you can certainly have them for five dollars."
"I'll take them." He laid his five dollars on the counter. Mr. Purcell unhooked the cage, and handed it to his customer. "That noise!" The man said suddenly. "Doesn't it get on your nerves?"
"Noise? What noise?" Mr. Purcell looked surprised. He could hear nothing unusual.
"Listen." The staring eyes came closer. "How long d'you think it took me to make that five dollars?"
The merchant wanted to order him out of the shop. But oddly enough, he couldn't. He heard himself asking, "Why why, how long did it take you?"
The other laughed. "Ten years! At hard labour. Ten years to earn five dollars. Fifty cents a year."
It was best, Purcell decided, to humor him. "My, my! Ten years. That's certainly a long time. Now"
"They give you five dollars," laughed the man, "and a cheap suit, and tell you not to get caught again."
The man swung around, and stalked abruptly from the store.
Purcell sighed with sudden relief. He walked to the window and stared out. Just outside, his peculiar customer had stopped. He was holding the cage shoulder-high, staring at his purchase. Then, opening the cage, he reached inside and drew out one of the doves.He tossed it into the air. He drew out the second and tossed it after the first. They rose like balls and were lost in the smoky gray of the wintry city. For an instant the liberator's silent gaze watched them. Then he dropped the cage and walked away.
The merchant was perplexed. So desperately had the man desired the doves that he had let him have them at a reduced price. And immediately he had turned them loose. "Now why," Mr. Purcell muttered, "did he do that?" He felt vaguely insulted.
The TV Blackout
A week ago Sunday New York city had a blackout and all nine television stations in the area went out for several hours. This created tremendous crises in families all over New York and proved that TV plays a much greater role in people's lives than anyone can imagine.
For example, when the TV went off in the Bufkins's house panic set in. First Bufkins thought it was his set in the living-room, so he rushed into his bedroom and turned on that set. Nothing. The phone rang, and Mrs. Bufkins heard her sister in Manhattan tell her that there was a blackout.
She hung up and said to her husband, "It isn't your set. Something's happened to the top of the Empire State Building."
Bufkins looked at her and said, "Who are you?"
"I'm your wife, Edith."
"Oh," Bufkins said. "Then I suppose those kids' in there are mine."
"That's right," Mrs. Bufkins said. "If you ever got out of that armchair in front of the TV set you'd know who we are."
"Oh! they've really grown," Bufkins said, looking at his son and daughter. "How old are they now?"
"Thirteen and fourteen," Mrs. Bufkins replied.
"Who's he?' Bufkins's son, Henry, asked.
"It's your father," Mrs. Bufkins said.
"I'm pleased to meet you," Bufkins's daughter,Mary, said shyly.
There was silence all around.
"Look," said Bufkins finally. "I know I haven't been
a good f ather but now that the TV's out I'd like to know you better."
"How?" asked Henry.
"Well, let's just talk," Bufkins said. "That's the best
way to get to know each other."
"What do you want to talk about?" Mary asked.
"Well, to begin with, what school do you go to?"
"We go to High School," Henry said.
"So you're both in high school!" There was a dead silence.
"What do you do?" Mary asked.
'abI m an accountant, ' Bufkins said.
"I thought you were a car salesman," Mrs. Bufkins said in surprise.
"That was two years ago. Didn't I tell you I changed jobs?" Bufkins said.
"No, you didn't. You haven't told me anything for two years."
"I'm doing quite well too," Bufkins said.
"Then why am I working in a department store?"
Mrs. Bufkins demanded.
"Oh, are you still working in a department store? If I had known that, I would have told you could quit last year. You should have mentioned it," Bufkins said.
There was more dead silence.
Finally Henry said, "Hey, you want to hear me play the guitar?"
"You know how to play the guitar? Say, didn't I have a daughter who played the guitar?"
"That was Susie," Mrs. Bufkins said.
"Where is she?"
"She got married a year ago, just about the time you were watching the World Series."
"You know," Bufkins said, very pleased. "I hope they don't fix the antenna for another couple hours.There's nothing better than a blackout for a man who really wants to know his family."
Then in Triumph
Frank L. Parke
There were cars in front of the house. Four of them. Clifford Oslow cut across the lawn and headed for the back steps. But not soon enough. The door of a big red car opened and a woman came rushing after him. She was a little person, smaller even than Clifford himself. But she was fast. She reached him just as he was getting through the hedge.
"You're Mr. Oslow, aren't you?" she said. She pulled out a little book and a pencil and held them under his nose. "I've been trying to get her autograph all week," she explained. "I want you to get it f or me. Just drop the book in a mail-box. It's stamped and the address is on it."
And then she was gone and Clifford was standing there holding the book and pencil in his hand.
He put the autographbook in his pocket and hurried up the steps.
There was a lot of noise coming f rom the living-room. Several male voices, a strange woman's voice breaking through now and then, rising above the noise. And Julia's voice, rising above the noise, clear and kindly and very sure.
"Yes," she was saying. And, "I'm very glad." And, "People have been very generous to me."
She sounded tired.
Clif f ord leaned against the wall while he finished the sandwich and the beer. He left the empty bottle on the table, turned off the kitchen light and pushed easily on the hall door.
A man grabbed him by the arm and pushed him along the hall and into the parlor . «Here he is,» somebody shouted. "Here's Mr. Oslow!"
There were a half-a-dozen people there, all with notebooks and busy pens. Julia was in the big chair by the fireplace, looking plumper than usual in her new green dress.
She smiled at him affectionately but, it seemed to him, a little distantly. He'd noticed that breach in herglance many times lately. He hoped that it wasn't superiority, but he was afraid that it was.
"Hello, Clifford," she said.
"Hello, Julia," he answered.
He didn't get a chance to go over and kiss her. A reporter had him right against the wall. How did itseem to go to bed a teller' at the Gas Company and to wake up the husband of a best-selling novelist? Excellent, he told them. Was he going to give up his job?No, he wasn't. Had he heard the news that "Welcome Tomorrow" was going to be translated into Turkish? No, he hadn't.
And then the woman came over. The one whose voice he'd heard back in the kitchen where he wished he'd stayed.
"How", she inquired briskly, "did you like the story?"
Clifford didn't answer immediately. He just looked at the woman. Everyone became very quiet. And everyone looked at him. The woman repeated the question. Clifford knew what he wanted to say. "I liked it very much," he wanted to say and then run. But theywouldn't let him run. They'd make him stay. And ask him more questions. Which he couldn't answer.
"I haven't," he mumbled, "had an opportunity to read it yet. But I'm going to," he promised. And then came a sudden inspiration. "I'm going to read it now!" There was a copy on the desk by the door. Clifford grabbed it and raced for the front stairs.
Before he reached the second flight, though, he could hear the woman's voice on the hall phone. "At last", she was saying, "we have discovered aї adult American who has not read "Welcome Tomorrow". He is, of all people, Clifford Oslow, white, 43, a native ,of this city and the husband of..."
On the second floor Clifford reached his study, turned on the light over the table and dropped into the chair before it. He put Julia's book right in front of him, but he didn't immediately open it.
Instead he sat back in the chair and looked about him. The room was familiar enough. It had been hisfor over eighteen years. The table was the same. And the old typewriter was the one he had bought before Julia and he were married.
There hadn't been many changes. All along the bookcase were the manuscripts of his novels. His rejected novels. On top was his latest one, the one that had stopped going the rou'nds six months before.
On the bottom was his earliest one. The one he wrote when Julia and he vrere first married.
Yes, Clifford was a writer then. Large W. And he kept on thinking of himself as one for many years after, despite the indifference of the publishers. Finally, of course, his writing had become merely a gestvre. A stubborn unwillingness to admit defeat. Now, to be sure, the defeat was definite. Now that Julia, who before a year ago hadn't put pen to paper, had written a book, had it accepted and now was looking at advertisements that said, "over four hundred thousand copies."
He picked up "Welcome Tomorrow" and opened it, as he opened every book, in the middle. He read a paragraph. And then another. He had just started a third when suddenly he stopped. He put down Julia's book, reached over to the shelf and pulled out the dusty manuscript of his own first effort. Rapidly he turned over the crisp pages. Then he began to read aloud.
Clifford put the manuscript on the table on top of the book. For a long time he sat quietly. Then he put the book in his lap and left the manuscript on the table and began to read them, page against page. He had hisanswer in ten minutes.
And then he went back downstairs. A couple of reporters were still in the living-room. "But, Mrs. Oslow, naturally our readers are interested," one was insisting. "When," he demanded, "will you finish your next book?"
"I don't know," she answered uneasily.
Clifford came across the room to her, smiling. He put his arm around her and pressed her shoulder firmly but gently. "Now, now, Julia," he protested. "Let's tell the young man at once."
The reporter looked up.
"Mrs. Oslow's new novel," Cliford announced proudly, "will be ready in another month."
Julia turned around and stared at him, quite terrified.
But Clifford kept on smiling. Then he reached into his pocket and brought out the autograph book and pencil that had been forced on him on his way home.
"Sign here," he instructed.
W. S. Maugham
There had been a wedding that afternoon at St. Peter's Church, and Edward Foreman still wore his verger's gown. He had been verger for 16 years and liked his job. The verger was waiting for the vicar. The vicar had just been appointed. He was a red-faced energetic man and the verger disliked him. Soon the vicar came in and said: "Foreman, I've got something unpleasant to say to you. You have been here a great many years and I think you've fulfilled your duties quite satisfactorily here; but I found out a most striking thing the other day. I discovered to my astonishment that you could neither read nor write. I think you must learn, Foreman."
"I'm afraid I can't now, sir. I'm too old a dog to learn new tricks."
"In that case, Foreman, I'm afraid you must go."
"Yes, sir, I quite understand. I shall be happy to hand in my resignation as soon as you have found somebody to take my place."
Up to now Edward's face hadn't shown any signs of emotion. But when he had closed the door of the church behind him his lips trembled. He walked slowly with a heavy heart. He didn't know what to do with himself. True, he had saved a small sum of money butit was not enough to live on without doing something, and life cost more and more every year.
It occurred to him now that a cigarette would comfort him and since he was not a smoker and never had any in his pockets he looked for a shop where he could buy a packet of good cigarettes. It was a long street with all sorts of. shops in it but there was not a single one where you could buy cigarettes.
"That's strange," said Edward. "I can't be the only man who walks along the street and wants to have a smoke," he thought. An idea struck him. Why shouldn't he open a little shop there? "Tobacco and Sweets." "That's an idea," he said. "It is strange how things come to you when you least expect it."
He turned, walked home and had his tea.
"You are very silent this afternoon, Edward," his wif e remarked.
"I'm thinking," he said. He thought the matter over from every point of view and the next day he went to look for a suitable shop. And within a week the shop was opened and Edward was behind the counter selling cigarettes.
Edward Foreman did very well. Soon he decided that he might open another shop and employ a manager. He looked for another long street that didn't have a tobacconist's in it and opened another shop. This was a success too. In the course of ten years he acquired no less than ten shops and was making a lot of money. Every Monday he went to all his shops, collected the week's takings and took them to the bank.
One morning the bank manager said that he wanted to talk to him.
"Mr. Foreman, do you know how much money you have got in the bank?"
"Well, I have a rough idea."
"You have 30 thousand dollars and it's a large sum. You should invest it." We shall make you out a list of securities' which will bring you a better rate of interest' than the bank can give you."
There was a troubled look on Mr. Foreman's face. "And what will I have to do?"
"Oh, you needn't worry," the banker smiled. "All you have to do is to read and to sign the papers."
"That's the trouble, sir. I can signmyname but I can't read." The manager was so surprised that he jumped up from his seat. He couldn't believe his ears.
"Good God, man, what would you be if you had been able to read?!"
"I can tell you that, sir," said Mr. Foreman. "I would be verger of St. Peter's church."
A Lion's Skin
A good many people were shocked when they read that Captain Forestier had met his death in a fire trying to save his wife's dog, which had been accidentally shut up in the house. Some said they never knew he had it in him; others said it was exactly what they would have expected him to do. After the tragic occurrence Mrs. Forestier found shelter in the villa of some people called Hardy, their neighbours.
Mrs. Forestier was a very nice woman. But she was neither charming, beautiful nor intelligent; on the contrary she was absurd and foolish; yet the more you knew her, the more you liked her. She was a tender, romantic and idealistic soul. But it took you some time to discover it. During the war she in 1916 joined a hospital unit. There she met her future husband Captain Forestier. This is what she told me about their courtship'. "It was a case of love at first sight. He was the most handsome man I'd ever seen in my life. But he wasn't wounded. You know, it's a most extraordinary thing, he went all through the war, he risked his life twenty times a day, but he never even got a scrateh. It was because of carbuncles' that he was put into hospital."
It seemed quite an unromantic thing on which to start a passionate attachment, but after 16 years of marriage Mrs. Forestier still adored her husband. When they were married Mrs. Forestier's relations, hard-bitten Western people, had suggested that her husband should go to work rather than live on her money (and she had a nice sum of money on her account before the marriage), and Captain Forestier was all for it. The only stipulation he made was this: "There are some things a gentleman can't do, Eleanor. If one is a sahib one can't help it, one does owe something to his class."
Eleanor was too proud of him to let it be said that he was a fortune-hunter who had married her for her money and she made up her mind not to object if he found a job worth his while. Unfortunately, the only jobs that offered were not very important and gradually the idea of his working was dropped.
The Forestiers lived most of the year in their villa and shortly before the accident they made acquaintance of the people called Hardy who lived next door. It turned out that Mr. Hardy had met Mr. Forestier before, in India. But Mr. Forestier was not a gentle- man then, he was a car-washer in a garage. He was young then and full of hopes. He saw rich people in a smart club with their ease, their casual manner and it filled him with admiration and envy. He wanted to be like them. He wanted it was grotesque and pathetic he wanted to be a GENTLEMAN. The war gavehim a chance. Eleanor's money provided the means'. They got married and he became a "sahib".
But everything ended very tragically.
Once the Forestiers' villa caught fire. The Forestiers were out. When they arrived it was already too late to do anything about it. Their neighbours, the Hardies saved whatever they could, but it wasn't much. They had nothing left to do but stand and look at the roaring flames. Suddenly Eleanor cried: "God! My little dog, it's there in the fire!"
Forestier turned round and started to run to the house. Hardy caught him by the arm. "What are you doing? The house is on fire!" Forestier shook him off. "Let me go. I'll show you how a gentleman behaves!"
It was more than an hour later that they were able to get at him. They found him lying on the landing, dead, with the dead dog in his arms. Hardy looked at him for a long time before speaking. "You fool," he muttered between his teeth, angrily. "You damnedf ool!"
Bob Forestier had pretended for so many years to be a gentleman that in the end, forgetting that it was all a fake, he found himself driven to act as in that stupid, conventional brain of his he thought a gentle- man must act.
Mrs. Forestier was convinced to her dying day that her husband had been a very gallant' gentleman.
Footprints in the Jungle
It was in Malaya that I met the Cartwrights. I was staying with a man called Gaze who was head of the police and he came into the billiard-room, where I was sitting, and asked if I would play bridge with them. The Cartwrights were planters and they came to Malaya because it gave their daughter a chance of a little fun. They were very nice people and played a very pleasant game of bridge. I followed Gaze into the cardroom and was introduced to them.
Mrs. Cartwright was a woman somewhere in the fifties. I thought her a very agreeable person. I liked her frankness, her quick wit, her plain face. As for Mr. Cartwright, he looked tired and old. He talked little, but it was plain that he enjoyed his wife's humour. They were evidently very good friends. It was pleasing to see so solid and tolerant affection between two people who were almost elderly and must have lived together for so many years.
When we separated, Gaze and I set out to walk to his house.
"What did you think of the Cartwrights?" he asked me.
"I liked them and their daughter who is just the image of her father."
To my surprise Gaze told me that Cartwright wasn't her father. Mrs. Cartwright was a widow when he married her. Olive was born after her father's death.
And when we came to Gaze's house he told me the Cartwrights' story.
"I've known Mrs. Cartwright for over twenty years," he said slowly. "She was married to a man called Bronson. He was a planter in Selantan. It was a much smaller place than it is now, but they had a jolly little club, and we used to have a very good time. Bronson was a handsome chap. He hadn't much to talk about but tennis, golf and shooting; and I don't suppose he read a book from year's end to year's end. He was about thirty-five when I first knew him, but he had the mind of a boy of eighteen. But he was no fool. He knew his work from A to Z. He was generous with his money and always ready to do anybody a good turn.
One day Mrs. Bronson told us that she was expecting a friend to stay with them and a few days later they brought Cartwright along. Cartwright was an old friend of Bronson's. He had been out of work for a long time and when he wrote to Bronson asking him whether he could do anything for him, Bronson wrote back inviting him to come and stay till things got better. When Cartwright came Mrs. Bronson told him that he was to look upon the place as his home and stay as long as he liked. Cartwright was very pleasant and unassuming; he fell into our little company very naturally and the Bronsons, like everyone else, liked him."
"Hadn't the Bronsons any children at that time?" I asked Gaze.
"No," Gaze answered. "I don't know why, they could have af f orded it. Bronson was murdered," he said suddenly. "Killed?"
"Yes, murdered. That night we had been playing tennis without Cartwright who had gone shooting to the jungle and without Bronson who had cycled to Kabulong to get the money to pay his coolies' their wages and he was to come along to the club when he got back. Cartwright came back when we started playing bridge. Suddenly I was called to police sergeant outside. I went out. He told me that the Malays had come to the police station and said that there was a white man with red hair lying dead on the path that led through the jungle to Kabulong. I understood that it was Bronson.
For a moment I didn't know what to do and how to break the news to Mrs. Bronson. I came up to her and said that there had been an accident and her husband had been wounded. She leapt to her feet and stared at Cartwright who went as pale as death. Then I said that he was dead after which she collapsed into her chair and burst into tears.
When the sergeant, the doctor and I arrived at the scene of the accident we saw that he had been shot through the head and there was no money about him. From the footprints I saw that he had stopped to talk to someone before he was shot. Whoever had murdered Bronson hadn't done it for money. It was obvious that he had stopped to talk with a friend.
Meanwhile Cartwright took up the management of Bronson's estate. He moved in at once. Four months later Olive, the daughter, was born. And soon Mrs. Bronson and Cartwright were married. The murderer was never found. Suspicion fell on the coolies, of course. We examined them all pretty carefully but there was not a scrap of evidence to connect them with the crime. I knew who the murderer was..."
"Who?" "Don't you guess?"
The Ant and the Grasshopper
When I was a small boy I was made to learn by heart some fables of La Fontaine and the moral of each was carefully explained to me. Among them was "The Ant and the Grasshopper". In spite of the moral of this f able my sympathies were with the grasshopper and for some time I never saw an ant without putting my foot on it.
I couldn't help thinking of this fable when the other day I saw George Ramsay lunching in a restaurant. I never saw an expressien of such deep gloom. He vras staring into space. I was sorry for him: I suspected at once that his unfortunate brother had been causing trouble again.
I went up to him. "How are you?" I asked. "Is it Tom again?" He sighed. "Yes, it's Tom again."
I suppose every f amily has a black sheep. In this family it had been Tom. He had begun life decently enough: he went into business, married and had two children. The Ramsays were respectable people and everybody supposed that Tom would have a good carrier. But one day he announced that he didn't like work and that he wasn't suited for marriage. He wanted to enjoy himself.
He left his wife and his office. He spent two happy years in the various capitals of Europe. His relations were shocked and wondered what would happen when his money was spent. They soon found out: he borrowed. He was so charming that nobody could refuse him. Very often he turned to George. Once or twice he gave Tom considerable sums so that he could make a fresh start. On these Tom bought a motor-car and some jewellery. But when George washed his hands of him, Tom began to blackmail him. It was not nice for a respectable lawyer to find his brother shaking cocktails behind the bar of his favourite restaurant or driving a taxi. So George paid again.
For twenty years Tom gambled, danced, ate in the most expensive restaurants and dressed beautifully. Though he was forty-six he looked not more than thirty-five. He had high spirits and incredible charm.Tom Ramsay knew everyone and everyone knew him. You couldn't help liking him.
Poor George, only a year older than his brother, looked sixty. He had never taken more than a fortnight's holiday in the year. He was in his office every morning at nine-thirty and never left it till six. He was honest and industrious. He had a good wife and four daughters to whom he was the best of fathers. His plan was to retire at fifty-five to a little house in the country. His life was blameless. He was glad that he was growing old because Tom was growing old, too. He used to say: "It was all well when Tom was young and good-looking. In four years he'll be fifty. He won't find life so easy then. I shall have thirty thousand pounds by the time I'm fifty. We shall see what is really best to work or to be idle."
Poor George! I sympathized with him. I wondered now what else Tom had done. George was very much upset. I was prepared for the worst. George could hardly speak. "A few weeks ago," he said, "Tom became engaged to a woman old enough to be his mother. And now she has died and left him everything she had: half a million pounds, a yacht, a house in London and a house in the country. It is not fair, I tell you, it isn't fair!"
I couldn't help it. I burst into laughter as I looked at George's face, I nearly fell on the floor. George never forgave me. But Tom often asks me to dinners in his charming house and if he sometimes borrows money from me, it is simply from force of habit.
The Happy Man
It is a dangerous thing to order the lives of others and I have often wondered at the self-confidence of politicians, reformers and such like who are prepared to force upon their f ellows measures that must alter their manners, habits and points of view. I have always hesitated to give advice, for how can one advise another how to act unless one knows that other as well as one knows oneself? Heaven knows, I know little enough of myself: I know nothing of others. We can only guess at the thoughts and emotions of our neighbours. And life, unfortunately, is something that you can lead but once; and who am I that I should tell this one and that how he should lead it?
But once I knew that I advised well.
I was a young man and I lived in a modest apartment in London near Victoria Station. Late one afternoon, when I was beginning to think that I had worked enough for that day, I heard a ring at the bell. I opened the door to a total stranger. He asked me my name; I told him. He asked if he might come in.
I led him into my sitting-room and begged to sit down. He seemed a trifle embarrassed. I offered him a cigarette and he had some difficulty in lighting it.
“I hope you don't mind my coming to see you like this”, he said, “My name is Stephens and I am a doctor. You're in the medical, I believe?”
“Yes, but I don't practise”.
“No, I know. I've just read a book of yours about Spain and I wanted to ask you about it”.
“It's not a very good book, I'm afraid”.
“The fact remains that you know something about Spain and there's no one else I know who does. And I thought perhaps you wouldn't mind giving me some inf ormation”.
“I shall be very glad”.
He was silent for a moment. He reached out for his hat and holding it in one hand absent-mindedly stroked it with the other.
“I hope you won't think it very odd for a perfect stranger to talk to you like this”. He gave an apologetic laugh. “I'm not going to tell you the story of my life”.
When people say this to me I always know that it is precisely what they are going to do. I do not mind. In fact I rather like it.
“I was brought up by two old aunts. I've never been anywhere. I've never done anything. I've been married for six years. I have no children. I'm a medical officer at the Camberwell Infirmary. I can't bear it anymore”.
There was something very striking in the short, sharp sentences he used. I looked at him with curiosity. He was a little man, thickset and stout, of thirty perhaps, with a round red face from which shone small, dark and very bright eyes. His black hair was cropped close to a bullet-shaped head. He was dressed in a blue suit a good deal the worse for wear. It was baggy at the knees and the pockets bulged untidily.
“You know what the duties are of a medical officer in an infirmary. One day is pretty much like another. And that's all I've got to look forward to for the rest of my life. Do you think it's worth it?”
“It's a means of livelihood”, I answered.
“Yes, I know. The money's pretty good”.
“I don't exactly know why you've come to me”.
“Well, I wanted to know whether you thought there would be any chance for an English doctor in Spain?”
“I don't know, I just have a fancy for it”.
“It's not like Carmen, you know”, I smiled.
“But there's sunshine there, and there's good wine, and there's colour, and there's air you can breathe. Let me say what I have to say straight out. I heard by accident that there was no English doctor in Seville. Do you think I could earn a living there? Is it madness to give up a good safe job for an uncertainty?”
“What does your wife think about it?”
“It's a great risk”.
“I know. But if you say take it, I will: if you say stay where you are, I'll stay”.
He was looking at me with those bright dark eyes of his and I knew that he meant what he said. I reflected for a moment.
“Your whole future is concerned: you must decide for yourself. But this I can tell you: if you don't want money but are content to earn just enough to keep body and soul together, then go. For you will lead a wonderful life”.
He left me, I thought about him for a day or two, and then forgot. The episode passed completely from my memory.
Many years later, fifteen at least, I happened to be in Seville and having some trifling indisposition asked the hotel porter whether there was an English doctor in the town. He said there was and gave me the address. I took a cab and as I drove up to the house a little fat man came out of it. He hesitated, when he caught sight of me.
“Have you come to see me?” he said. “I'm the English doctor”.
I explained my matter and he asked me to come in. He lived in an ordinary Spanish house, and his consulting room was littered with papers, books, medical appliances and lumber. We did our business and then I asked the doctor what his fee was. He shook his head and smiled.
“There's no fee”.
“Why on earth not?”
“Don't you remember me? Why, I'm here because of something you said to me. You changed my whole life for me. I'm Stephens”.
I had not the least notion what he was talking about. He reminded me of our interview, he repeated to me what we had said, and gradually, out of the night, a dim recollection of the incident came back to me.
“I was wondering if I'd ever see you again”, he said, “I was wondering if ever I'd have a chance of thanking you for all you've done for me”.
“It's been a success then?”
I looked at him. He was very fat now and bald, but his eyes twinkled gaily and his fleshy, red face bore an expression of perfect good humour. The clothes he wore, terribly shabby they were, had been made obviously by a Spanish tailor and his hat was the wide brimmed sombrero of the Spaniard. He looked to me as though he knew a good bottle of wine when he saw it. He had an entirely sympathetic appearance. “You might have hesitated to let him remove your appendix”, but you could not have imagined a more delightful creature to drink a glass of wine with.
“Surely you were married?” I said.
“Yes. My wife didn't like Spain, she went back to Camberwell, she was more at home there”.
“Oh, I'm sorry for that”.
His black eyes flashed a smile.
“Life is full of compensations”, he murmured.
The words were hardly out of his mouth when a Spanish woman, no longer in her first youth, but still beautiful, appeared at the door. She spoke to him in Spanish, and I could not fail to feel that she was the mistress of the house.
As he stood at the door to let me out he said to me:
“You told me when last I saw you that if I came here I should earn just enough money to keep body and soul together, but that I should lead a wonderful life. Well, I want to tell you that you were right. Poor I have been and poor I shall always be, but by heaven I've enjoyed myself. I wouldn't exchange the life I've had with that of any king in the world”.
I have always believed that if a woman made up her mind to marry a man nothing could save him. I have only once known a man who in such circumstances managed to save himself. His name was Roger Charing. He was no longer young when he f ell in love with Ruth Barlow and he had had enough experience to make him careful; but Ruth Barlow had a gift that makes most men def enceless. This was the gif t of pathos. Mrs. Barlow was twice a widow'. She had splendid dark eyes and they were the most moving I ever saw. They seemed to be always on the point of filling with tears and you felt that her sufferings had been impossible to bear. If you were a strong fellow with plenty of money, like Roger Charing, you should say to yourself: I must stand between the troubles of lif e and this helpless little thing. Mrs. Barlow was one of those unfortunate persons with whom nothing goes right. If she married the husband beat her; if she employed a broker he cheated her; if she took a cook she drank.
When Roger told me that he was going to marry her, I wished him joy. As for me I thought she was stupid and as hard as nails.
Roger introduced her to his friends. He gave her lovely jewels. He took her everywhere. Their marriage was announced for the nearest future. Roger was very pleased with himself, he was committing a good action.
Then suddenly he fell out of love. I don't know why. Perhaps that pathetic look of hers ceased to touch his heart-strings. He realized that Ruth Barlow had made up her mind to marry him and he swore that nothing would make him marry her. Roger knew it wouldn't be easy. Roger didn't show that his feelings to Ruth Barlow had changed. He remained attentive to all her wishes, he took her to dine at restaurants, he sent her flowers, he was charming.
They were to get married as soon as they found a house that suited them; and they started looking for residences. The agents sent Roger orders to view' and he took Ruth to see some houses. It was very difficult to find anything satisfactory. They visited house after house. Sometimes they were too large and sometimes they were too small; sometimes they were too far from the centre and sometimes they were too close; sometimes they were too expensive and sometimes they wanted too many repairs; sometimes they were too stuffy and sometimes they were too airy. Roger always found a fault that made the house unsuitable. He couldn't let his dear Ruth to live in a bad house.
Ruth began to grow peevish. Roger asked her to have patience. They looked at hundreds of houses; they climbed thousands of stairs. Ruth was exhausted and often lost her temper. For two years they looked for houses. Ruth grew silent, her eyes no longer looked beautiful and pathetic. There are limits to human patience.
"Do you want to marry me or do you not?" she asked him one day.
"Of course I do. We'll be married the very moment we find a house."
"I don't f eel well enough to look at any more houses."
Ruth Barlow took to her bed. Roger remained gallant as ever. Every day he wrote her and told her that he had heard of another house for them to look at, A week later he received the following letter:
'Roger I do not think you really love me. I've found someone who really wants to take care of me and I am going to be married to him today.
He sent back his reply:
'Ruth I'll never get over this blow. But your happiness must be my first concern. I send you seven addresses. I am sure you'll find among them a house that will exactly suit you. Roger.
Once I was going by ship from San-Francisco to Yokohama. I shared my cabin with a man called Mr. Kelada. He was short and of a sturdy build, cleanshaven and dark-skinned, with a hooked nose and very large liquid eyes. His long black hair was curly. And though he introduced himself as an Englishman I felt sure that he was born under a bluer sky than is generally seen in England. Mr. Kelada was chatty. He talked of New York and of San Francisco. He discussed plays, pictures and politics. He was familiar. Though I was a total stranger to him he used no such formality as to put mister before my name when he addressed me. I didn't like Mr. Kelada. I not only shared a cabin with him and ate three meals a day at the same table, but I couldn't walk round the deck without his joining me. It was impossible to snub him. It never occurred to him that he was not wanted. He was certain that you were as glad to see him as he was glad to see you. In your own house you might have kicked him downstairs and slammed the door in his face.
Mr. Kelada was a good mixer, and in three days knew everyone on board. He ran everything. He conducted the auctions, collected money for prizes at the sports, organized the concert and arranged the fancy-dress ball. He was everywhere and always. He was certainly the best-hated man in the ship. We called him Mr. Know-A11, even to his face. He took it as a compliment. But it was at meal times that he was most intolerable. He knew everything better than anybody else and you couldn't disagree with him. He would not drop a subject till he had brought you round to his way of thinking. The possibility that he could be mistaken never occurred to him.
We were four at the table: the doctor, I, Mr. Kelada and Mr. Ramsay.
Ramsay was in the American Consular Service, and was stationed at Kobe. He was a great heavy fellow. He was on his way back to resume his post, having been on a flying visit to New York to fetch his wife, who had been spending a year at home. Mrs. Ramsay was a, very pretty little thing with pleasant manners and a sense of humour. She was dressed always very simply, but she knew how to wear her clothes.
One evening at dinner the conversation by chancedrifted to the subject of pearls. There was some argu- ment between Mr. Kelada and Ramsay about the value of culture and real pearls. I did not believe Ramsay knew anything about the subject at all. At last Mr. Kelada got furious and shouted: "Well, I know what I am talking about. I'm going to Japan just to look into this Japanese pearl business. I'm in the trade. I know the best pearls in the world, and what l don't know about pearls isn't worth knowing."
Here was news for us, for Mr. Kelada had never told anyone what his business was.
Ramsay leaned forward.
"That's a pretty chain, isn't it?" he asked pointing to the chain that Mrs. Ramsay wore.
"I noticed it at once," answered Mr. Kelada. "Those are pearls all right."
"I didn't buy it myself, of course," said Ramsay. "I wonder how much you think it cost."
"Oh, in the trade somewhere round fifteen thousand dollars. But if it was bought on Fif th Avenue anything up to thirty thousand was paid for it."
Ramsay smiled. "You'll be surprised to hear that Mrs. Ramsay bought that string the day bef ore we left New York for eighteen dollars. I'll bet you a hundred dollars it's imitation."
"But how can it be proved?" Mrs. Ramsay asked.
"Let me look at the chain and if it's imitation I'll tell you quickly enough. I can afford to lose a hundred dollars," said Mr. Kelada.
The chain was handed to Mr. Kelada. He took a magnifying glass from his pocket and closely examined it. A smile of triumph spread over his face. He was about to speak. Suddenly he saw Mrs. Ramsay's face. It was so white that she looked as if she were about to faint'. She was staring at him with wide and terrified eyes. Mr. Kelada stopped with his mouth open. He flushed deeply. You could almost see the effort he was making over himself. "I was mistaken," he said. "It's a very good imitation." He took a hundred-dollar note out of his pocket and handed it to Ramsay without a word. "Perhaps that'll teach you a lesson," said Ramsay as he took the note. I noticed that Mr. Kelada's hands were trembling.
The story spread over the ship. It was a fine joke that Mr. Know-All had been caught out. But Mrs. Ramsay went to her cabin with a headache.
Next morning I got up and began to shave. Suddenly I saw a letter pushed under the door. I opened the door and looked out. There was nobody there. I picked up the letter and saw that it was addressed to Mr. Kelada. I handed it to him. He took out of the envelope a hundred-dollar note. He looked at me and reddened.
"Were the pearls real?" I asked.
"If I had a pretty little wif e I shouldn't let her spend a year in New York while I stayed at Kobe," said he.
Art for Heart's Sake'
"Here, take your juice," said Koppel, Mr. Ellsworth's servant and nurse.
"No," said Collis P. Ellsworth.
"But it's good for you, sir!"
"The doctor insists on it."
Koppel heard the front door bell and was glad to leave the room. He found Doctor Caswell in the hall downstairs.
"I can't do a thing with him," he told the doctor." He doesn't want to take his juice. I can't persuade him to take his medicine. He doesn't want me to read to him. He hates TV. He doesn't like anything!"
Doctor Caswell took the information with his usual professional calm. This was not an ordinary case. The old gentleman was in pretty good health for a man of seventy. But it was necessary to keep him from buying things. His financial transactions always ended in failure, which was bad for his health.
"How are you this morning? Feeling better?" asked the doctor. "I hear you haven't been obeying my orders."
The doctor drew up a chair and sat down close to the old man. He had to do his duty. "I'd like to make a suggestion," he said quietly. He didn't want to argue with the old man.
Old Ellsworth looked at him over his glasses. The way Doctor Caswell said it made him suspicions. "What is it, more medicine, more automobile rides to keep me away from the office?" the old man asked with suspicion. "Not at all," said the doctor. "I've been thinking of something different. As a matter of fact I'd like to suggest that you should take up art. I don't mean seriously of course," said the doctor, "just try. You'll like it."
Much to his surprise the old man agreed. He only asked who was going to teach him drawing. "I've thought of that too," said the doctor. "I know a student from an art school who can come round once a week. If you don't like it, after a little while you can throw him out." The person he had in mind and promised to bring over was a certain Frank Swain, eighteen years old and a capable student. Like most students he needed money. Doctor Caswell kept his promise.
He got in touch with Frank Swain and the lessons began. The old man liked it so much that when at the end of the f irst lesson Koppel came in and apologised to him for interrupting the lesson, as the old man needed a rest, Ellsworth looked disappointed.
When the art student came the following week, he saw a drawing on the table. It was a vase. But something was definitely wrong with it.
"Well, what do you think of it?" asked the old man stepping aside.
"I don't mean to hurt you, sir...", began Swain.
"I see," the old man interrupted, "the halves don't match. I can't say I am good at drawing. Listen, young man," he whispered. "I want to ask you something before Old Juice comes again. I don't want to speak in his presence."
"Yes, sir," said Swain with respect.
"I've been thinking... Could you come twice a week or perhaps three times?"
"Sure, Mr. Ellsworth," the student said respectfully.
"When shall I come?"
They arranged to meet on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
As the weeks went by, Swain's visits grew more frequent. The old man drank his juice obediently. Doctor Caswell hoped that business had been forgotten forever.
When spring came, Ellsworth painted a picture which he called "Trees Dressed in White." The picture was awful. The trees in it looked like salad thrown up against the wall. Then he announced that he was going to display it at the Summer Show at the Lathrop Gallery. Doctor Caswell and Swain didn't believe it. They thought the old man was joking.
The summer show at the Lathrop Gallery was the biggest exhibition of the year. All outstanding artists in the United States dreamt of winning a Lathrop prize.
To the astonishment of all "Trees Dressed in White" was accepted for the Show.
Young Swain went to the exhibition one af ternoon and blushed when he saw "Trees Dressed in White"
gi l 'B0 ii di of the strange picture, Swain rushed out. He was ashamed that a picture like that had been accepted for the show.
However Swain did not give up teaching the old man. Every time Koppel entered the room he found the old man painting something. Koppel even thought of hiding the brush from him. The old man seldom mentioned his picture and was usually cheerful.
Two days before the close of the exhibition Ellsworth received a letter. Koppel brought it when Swain and the doctor were in the room. "Read it to me," asked the old man putting aside the brush he was holding in his hand. "My eyes are tired from painting."
The letter said: "It gives the Lathrop Gallery pleasure to announce that Collis P. Kllsworth has been awarded the First Landscape Prize of ten thousand dollars for his painting "Trees Dressed in White".
Smain became dumb with astonishment. Koppel dropped the glass with juice he was about to give Ellsworth. Doctor Caswell managed to keep calm. "Congratulations, Mr. Ellsworth," said the doctor. "Fine, fine... Frankly, I didn't expect that your picture would win the prize. Anyway I've proved to you that art is more satisfying than business."
"Art is nothing. I bought the Lathrop Gallery," said the old man highly pleased with the effect of his deception.
Wager with Destiny
Anderson was alone in camp when the native boy brought him Barton's book.
"The boss has dropped it on the trail," the boy said. Anderson knew the book well, a cheap, shabby little notebook. He had heard Barton say a dozen times that he'd bought it with the first dime he'd earned, and every financial transaction he'd made since was entered in that book.
The camp was inside a mountain jungle in the Kuvi region of the Congo. And the heavy clouds overhead made Anderson feel gloomy. He was not well, and he was nervous. And he was unreasonably disturbed about the cage.
He had come on this hunting safari as Barton's guest. Barton, now, was one of the richest men in America; a hard man, who was proud of his power. It was surprising, therefore, to Anderson, that after fifteen years of silence, Barton had looked him up, renewed their boyhood friendship and made him this invitation. Anderson was grateful for it; for he, himself, was penniless and a failure.
Barton had made a bet at his club that he could capture alive a full-grown gorilla and bring it back to America. Hence the safari. And hence the portable steel cage with its automatic door.
Anderson couldn't bear to think of a great gorilla, unable to use his magnificent strength, shut up in the cage. But Anderson, of course, was sensitive about steel bars.
He did not mean to look in Barton's book. It had fallen into the mud, and Anderson only wanted to clean it.
But as he turned the pages shaking out the dried mud, his eyes fell upon a date April 20, 1923. That was the date that had been seared into Anderson's mind with a red-hot iron, and mechanically he read the entry. Then he opened his mouth and the air swam around him.
“April 20, 1923, received $50,000” the book stated. Nothing more than that. And on April 20, 1923, he, Anderson, an innocent man, a young accountant in the same firm where Barton was just beginning his career, had been sentenced to fifteen years in prison for embezzlement' of $50,000.
Anderson was as shaken as if the very ground had opened under his feet. Memories rushed back to him. The books' had been tampered' with, all right. But they had never been able to locate the money.
And all the time it was Barton who had stolen the money; had used it as the cornerstone4 of his vast suc- cess; had noted it down, laconically, in his little book!
"But why did he bring me here?" Anderson asked himself. His body was burning with heat, and his head was heavy; he felt the first sign of malaria. And his heart was filled with the terrible, bitter rage of one betrayed. "Does he think I suspect him? Does he plan to kill me now?"
And then the reason came, cold and clear. There was a power of justice in life, and that power had made Barton bring him, so that he, Anderson, could take the law in his own hands, and the guilty would be punished instead of the innocent.
At once his mind was made up, and he had never known his thinking to be so clear and direct. He would kill Barton while he slept they shared the same tent. And he would go to bed now and pretend sleeping, so that he would not have to speak to Barton.
It was already late in the afternoon. Anderson uneasily walked into the tent. But he did not have to play a role, for as soon as he touched the bed he fell into the heavy sleep of increasing malaria.
It was bright moonlight outside the tent when he awoke. He could hear Barton's regular, rhythmic breathing in the darkness near him. He dressed quickly and noiselessly, turned the safety catch of his revolver and bent above Barton. But a sudden shock of revulsion came over him.
He put the revolver down carefully on the table near his bed. Then he was outside the tent and trying to run, to get away from that accusing voice that cried within him, again and again, "Murderer!"
He did not know where he was until his hand touched something cold and hard a steel bar of the cage. God, it knew steel bars, that hand. He closed his eyes against the thought, and took a few steps forward. Then a noise behind him made him turn around. The steel door of the cage had dropped! He had walked into the cage, closing the automatic door!
"Where you should be," cried the accusing voice, “where murderers ought to be, in a cage!”
Anderson sobbed hysterically. Then he fell and the flames of his fever licked him.
Anderson opened his eyes with great effort, and saw above him the face of the friendly planter who lived some miles from the camp.
"You'll be all right now," the man said, "the fever's over. But how did you get into the cage?"
Anderson tried to explain, but he didn't have strength enough to speak. He knew where he was, in a bed in the planter's house. And gradually he became aware that there was another white man in the room, one he had never seen before.
"He was lucky," the planter was saying to this strange man. "If he hadn't been safe in that cage, the gorillas would have got him as they did Barton and those pygmies."
"Do you feel able to talk now?" the stranger asked "I expect you're wondering who I am. I am Barton's lawyer, I flew down from New York to take charge of Barton's affairs as soon as I got the news. You've been delirious three weeks, you know."
The lawyer sat down beside Anderson's bed. “As you know, my late client was a superstitious man, and a great gambler”, he said. “You two, as young men, started your careers together. And on the very day that he received the capital that gave him his chance, you were sentenced to prison on a charge of embezzling the identical' sum fifty thousand dollars. Barton took the coincidence as an act of fate”.
“He made a kind of bet with fate," the lawyer went on. "If he were allowed to succeed, he promised to do something good for you. And he kept the bet, he remembered you in his will'. I thought you'd like to know why”.
"I know why all right," said Anderson. A little word called "conscience'", he thought.
"I happened to know all about it," the lawyer added, "Because I was the executor of the will of Barton's aunt. She hadn't liked hi'm, and he'd expected nothing from her. So that fifty thousand was like money falling from the skies."
- Rikki-Tikki-Tavi. R. Kipling
- The Fisherman and His Soul. O. Wilde
- The Flock of Geryon. A. Christie
- Blue Lenses. D. du Maurier
- The Last Inch. J. Aldridge
Rikki- Tikki- Tavi
This is the story of the great war that Rikki-tikki-tavi fought all alone. Darzee, the tailor-bird, helped him, and Chuchundra, the muskrat, who never comes out into the middle of the room, but always creeps round by the walls, gave him advice, but Rikki-tikki-tavi did the real fighting.
He was a mongoose, but in his fur and tail he was like a little cat, and like a weasel in his head and habits. His eyes and the end of his restless nose were pink; he could scratch himself anywhere he liked, with any leg, front or back; he could fluff up his tail till it looked like a bottle brush, and his war-cry as he ran through the long grass, was: "Rikk-tikk-tikki-tikki-tchk!"
One day, a hard summer rain washed him out of the hole where he lived with his father and mother, and carried him down a roadside ditch. There he found some grass, and clung to it till he lost his senses. When he came to himself, he was lying in the hot sun in the middle of a garden path, and a small boy was saying: "Here's a dead mongoose. Let's have a funeral."
"No," said his mother; "let's take him home and dry him. Perhaps he isn't really dead."
They took him into the house, and a big man picked him up and said he was not dead but half choked," so they wrapped him in cotton-wool, and warmed him, and he opened his eyes and sneezed.
"Now," said the big man (he was an Englishman who had just moved into the bungalow); "don't frighten him, and we'll see what he'll do."
It is the hardest thing in the world to frighten a mongoose, because he is full of curiosity from nose to tail. The motto of all the mongoose family is, "Run and find out"; and Rikki-tikki was a true mongoose. He looked at the cotton-wool, decided that it was not good to eat, ran all round the table, sat up and put his fur in order, scratched himself, and jumped on the small boy's shoulder.
"Don't be frightened, Teddy," said his father. "That's how he makes friends."
Rikki-tikki looked down at the boy's neck, sniffed at his ear, and climbed dovrn to the floor, where he sat rubbing his nose.
"And that is a wild creature!" said Teddy's mother. "I suppose he is so tame because we have been kind to him."
"All mongooses are like that," said her husband. "If Teddy doesn't pull him by the tail, or try to put him in a cage, he'll run in and out of the house all day long. Let's give him something to eat."
They gave him a little piece of raw meat. Rikki-tikki liked it very much, and when he finished he went out into the veranda and sat in the sunshine and fluffed up his fur to make it dry to the roots. Then he felt better.
"I can find out about more things in this house," he said to himself, "than all my family could find out in all their lives. I shall certainly stay and find out."
He spent all that day running over the house. He nearly drowned himself in the bath-tubs, put his nose into the ink on a writing-table, and burned it on the end of the big man's cigar, for he climbed up in the big man's lap to see how he was writing. In the evening he ran into Teddy's room to watch how kerosene lamps were lighted, and when Teddy went to bed Rikki-tikki climbed up too, but he was a restless companion, because he had to get up and find out about every noise all the night long. When Teddy's mother and father came in to look at their boy, Rikki-tikki was sitting on the pillow. "I don't like that," said Teddy's mother; "he may bite the child." "He'll not do such a thing," said the father. "Teddy is safe with that little beast. If a snake comes into the room now"
But Teddy's mother didn't even want to hear of such a terrible thing.
Early in the morning Rikki-tikki came to breakfast in the veranda riding on Teddy's shoulder, and they gave him banana and some boiled egg; and he sat on all their laps one after the other, because Rikki-tikki's mother (she used to live in a general's house) had told him what to do if ever he came to the house of Man.
Rikki-tikki went out into the garden. It was a large garden with bushes, fruit trees, bamboos and high grass. Rikki-tikki licked his lips. "This is a splendid hunting-ground," he said and he ran up and down the garden, sniffing here and there till he heard very sorrowful voices in a bush.
It was Darzee, the tailor-bird, and his wife. They had made a beautiful nest of two big leaves, cotton and fluff. The nest swayed to and fro, as they sat in it and cried.
"What is the matter?" asked Rikki-tikki.
"We are very unhappy," said Darzee. "One of our babies fell out of the nest yesterday and Nag ate him."
"H'm!" said Rikki-tikki, "that is very sad but I am a stranger here. Who is Nag?"
Darzee and his wife only bent down in the nest without answering, for from the thick grass at the foot of the bush there came a low hiss a terrible sound that made Rikki-tikki jump back almost two feet. Then out of the grass rose up the head and hood of Nag, the big black cobra, and he was five feet long from tongue to tail. When he had lifted one-third of himself from the ground, he looked at Rikki-tikki with the wicked snake's eyes that never change their expression.
"Who is Nag?" he said. "I am Nag. The great god Brahm put his mark upon all our people when the first cobra' spread his hood to keep the sun off Brahm as he slept. Look, and be afraid!"
He spread out his hood, and Rikki-tikki saw the spectacle-mark' on the back of it and at that moment he was afraid; but it is impossible for a mongoose to be afraid for a long time, and though Rikki-tikki had never met alive cobra before, his mother had given him dead ones to eat, and he knew that a grown mongoose's business in life was to fight and eat snakes. Nag knew that too, and at the bottom of his cold heart he was afraid.
"Well," said Rikki-tikki, and his tail began to fluff up again, "marks or no marks, do you think it is right for ii you to eat babies out of a nest?"
Nag was thinking to himself, and watching each little movement in the grass behind Rikki-tikki. He knew that mongooses in the garden meant death sooner or later for him and his family; but he wanted to get Rikki-tikki off his guard.' So he dropped his head a little, and put it on one side.
"Let us talk," he said. "You eat eggs. Why should not I eat birds?"
"Behind you! Look behind you!" sang Darzee.
Rikki-tikki jumped up in the air as high as he could, and just under him whizzed by the head of Nagaina, Nag's wicked wife. She crept up behind him as he was talking, to make an end of him; and he heard her savage hiss as the stroke missed.' He came down almost on her back, and then was the time to break her back with one bite but he was a young mongoose and did not know it and he was afraid of the terrible return-stroke of the cobra. He bit, indeed, but did not bite long enough, and he jumped off her tail, leaving Nagaina wounded and angry.
"Wicked, wicked Darzee!" said Nag, lifting up his head as high as he could toward the nest; but Darzee had built it out of reach' of snakes, and it only swayed to and fro. Rikki-tikki felt that his eyes were growing red and hot (when a mongoose's eyes grow red, he is angry), and he sat back on his tail and hind legs like a little kangaroo, and looked all around him angrily, but Nag and Nagaina had disappeared into the grass. When a snake misses its stroke, it never says anything or gives any sign of what it is going to do next. Rikki-tikki did not want to follow them, for he was not sure that he could manage two snakes at once. So he trotted of to the path near the house, and sat down to think. It was a serious matter for him.
The victory is only a matter of quickness of eye and quickness of foot, snake's blow against mongoose's jump, and no eye can follow the turn of a snake's head when it strikes. Rikki-tikki knew he was a young mongoose, and it made him very glad to think that he had managed to escape a blow from behind. It made him believe in himself, and when Teddy came running down the path, Rikki-tikki was ready to play with him.
But as Teddy was stooping, something moved in the dust, and a faint voice said: "Be careful. I am Death!" It was Karait, the dusty brown Snakeling that lies on the dusty earth; and his bite is as dangerous as the Cobra's. But he is so small that nobody thinks of him, and so he does much harm to people.
Rikki-tikki's eyes grew red again, and he danced up to Karait rocking and swaying like all the mongooses of his family. Rikki-tikki did not know that he was doing a much more dangerous thing than fighting Nag, for Karait is so small, and can turn so quickly, that if Rikki does not bite him close to the back of the head, he may get the return stroke in his eye or lip. But Rikki did not know it and his eyes were all red, and he rocked back and forth, looking for a good place to bite. Karait struck out. Rikki jumped aside, but the wicked little dusty gray head struck almost at his shoulder, and Rikki had to jump over him.
Teddy shouted to the house: "Oh, look here! Our mongoose is killing a snake"; and Rikki-tikki heard a scream from Teddy's mother. His father ran out with a stick, but by the time he came up, Karait ran away too far, and Rikki-tikki had jumped on the snake's back, bit as high up the back as he could, and rolled away. That bite paralyzed Karait, and Rikki-tikki was just going to eat him up from the tail, after the custom of his family, when he remembered that a full meal makes a slow mongoose, and if he wanted to be strong and quick his stomach must be empty.
He went away for a dust-bath under the bushes, while Teddy's father beat the dead Karait. "What is the use of that?" thought Rikki-tikki. "I have put an end to him"; and then Teddy's mother picked him up from the dust and hugged him, cryinj that he had saved Teddy from Death, and Teddy's father said that he brought luck, and Teddy looked on with big frightened eyes. Rikki-tikki did not understand all this but he was enjoying himself very much.
Teddy carried him off to bed, and wanted Rikki-tikki to sleep under his chin. Rikki-tikki did not bite or scratch he was too well-bred but as soon as Teddy was asleep he went off to walk round the house, and in the dark he ran up against Chuchundra, the muskrat, creeping round by the wall. Chuchundra is a frightened little beast. He creeps all night, trying to make up his mind to run into the middle of the room, but he never gets there. "Don't kill me," said Chuchundra, almost weeping. "Rikki-tikki, don't kill me."
"Do you think a snake-killer kills muskrats?" said Rikki-tikki scornfully.
"Those who kill snakes are killed by snakes," said Chuchundra very sorrowfully. "And how can I be sure that Nag won't mistake me for you one dark night?"
"There's not the least danger," said Rikki-tikki; "but Nag is in the garden, and I know you don't go there."
"My cousin Chua, the rat, told me " said Chuchundra, and then he stopped.
"Told you what?"
"H'sh! Nag is everywhere, Rikki-tikki. Why didn't you talk to Chua in the garden?"
"I did not so you must tell me. Quick, Chuchundra, or I'll bite you!"
Chuchundra sat down and cried till the tears rolled off his whiskers. "I am a very poor man," he sobbed. "I was never brave enough to run into the middle of the room. Hsh! I mustn't tell you anything. Can't you hear, Rikki-tikki?"
Rikki-tikki listened. The house was still, but he thought he could just hear the faintest scratch-scratch in the world.
"That's Nag or Nagaina," he said to himself; "and he is crawling into the bathroom. Chuchundra, you are right, I am sorry I did not talk to Chua."
He stole off to Teddy's bathroom; but there was nothing there, and as Rikki-tikki stole to Teddy's mother's bathroom, he heard Nag and Nagaina whispering together outside in the moonlight.
"When there are no people in the house," said Nagaina to her husband, "he will have to go away, and then the garden will be our own again. Go in quietly, and first bite the big man who killed Karait. Then come out and tell me, and we will hunt for Rikki-tikki together."
"But are you sure that we shall gain anything if we kill the people?" said Nag.
"Everything. When there were no people in the bungalow, did we have any mongoose in the garden? So long as the bungalow is empty, we are king and queen of the garden; and remember that as soon as our eggs in the melon-bed hatch (and they may hatch to-morrow), our children will need room and quiet."
"I had not though of that," said Nag. "I will go, but there is no need for us to hunt for Rikki-tikki afterward. I will kill the big man and his wife, and the child if I can, and come away quietly. Then the bungalow will be empty, and Rikki-tikki will go."
Rikki-tikki shook all over with rage when he heard this, and then Nag's head came into the bath-room, and his five feet of cold body followed it. Rikki-tikki was angry but he got very frightened when he saw the size of the big cobra. Nag coiled himself up, raised his head, and looked into the bathroom in the dark, and Rikki could see his eyes glitter.
"Now, if I kill him here, Nagaina will know; and if I fight him on the open floor, the odds are in his favour.' What shall I do?" said Rikki-tikki-tavi.
Nag waved to and fro, and then Rikki-tikki heard him drinking from the biggest water-jar that was used to fill the bath. "That is good," said the snake. "Now, when Karait was killed, the big man had a stick. He may have that stick still, but when he comes into the bathroom in the morning he will not have a stick. I shall wait here till he comes. Nagaina do you hear me? I shall wait heretill daytime."
There was no answer from outside, so Rikki-tikki knew that Nagaina had gone away. Nag coiled himself down, round the bottorn of the water-jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still as death. After an hour he began to move toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big back, wondering which would be the best place for a good bite. "If I don't' break his back at the first jump," said Rikki, "he can still fight; and if he fights Oh, Rikki!" He looked at the thick neck below the hood, but that was too much for him; and a bite near the tail would only make Nag wild.
"I must bite the head," he said at last; "the head above the hood; and when I am there I must not let go."
Then he jumped and caught the snake by the head and held fast. Then he was shaken to and fro as a rat is shaken by a dog to and fro on the floor, up and down, and round in great circles. His eyes were red, and he held fast as the body rolled over the floor, upsetting the basins and jars and banging against the side of the bath. As he held he closed his jaws tighter and tighter, for he was ready to be shaken to death, and for the honour of his family, he preferred to be found with his teeth locked. He was dizzy, and he felt that he was shaken to pieces when somethingwent off like a thunder-clap just behind him; he lost his senses in the hot wind and the red fire burned his fur.
The big man had been wakened by the noise, and had fired a gun into Nag just behind the hood.
Rikki-tikki still held fast with his eyes shut, for now he was quite sure he was dead; but the head did not move, and the big man picked him up and said: "It's the mongoose again, Alice; the little fellow has saved our lives now." Then Teddy's mother came in with a very white face, and saw what was left of Nag, and Rikki-tikki dragged himself to Teddy's bedroom and spent the rest of the night shaking himself to find out whether he really was broken into forty pieces, as he thought.
When morning came he was very stiff, but very much pleased with himself. "Now I have to put an end to Nagaina, and she will be worse than five Nags, and who knows when the eggs she spoke about will hatch. I must go and see Darzee," he said.
Without waiting for breakfast, Rikki-tikki ran to the bush where Darzee was singing a song of triumph at the top of his voice. The news of Nag's death was all over the garden, for the sweeper had thrown the body on the rubbish-heap.
"Oh, you stupid bird!" said Rikki-tikki, angrily; "Is this the time to sing?"
"Nag is dead is dead is dead!" sang Darzee. "The brave Rikki-tikki caught him by the head and held fast. The big man brought the bang-stick' and Nag fell in two pieces! He will never eat my babies again."
"All that is true; but where is Nagaina?" said Rikki-tikki, looking carefully around him.
"On the rubbish-heap, mourning for Nag. Great is Rikki-tikki with the white teeth."
"Bother my white teeth! Have you ever heard where she keeps her eggs?"
"In the melon-bed, on the end nearest the wall, where the sun is hot almost all day. She had them there many weeks ago."
"Why didn't you tell me about it before? The end nearest the wall, you said?"
"Rikki-tikki, are you going to eat her eggs?"
"Not eat exactly; no, Darzee, if you have some sense you will fly to the rubbish-heap and pretend that your wing is broken, and let Nagaina follow you away to this bush; I must go to the melon-bed, and if I go there now she will see me."
Darzee was a silly little fellow who could never hold more than one idea at a time in his head; and just because he knew that Nagaina's children were born in eggs like his own, he thought that it was bad to kill them. But his wife was a sensible bird, and she knew that cobra's eggs meant young cobras later on; so she flew out of the nest, and left Darzee to keep the babies warm, and continue his song about the death of Nag. Darzee was verylike a man in some ways.
She flem in front of Nagaina by the rubbish-heap, and cried out: "Oh, my wing is broken! The boy in the house threw a stone at me and broke it," and she fluttered desperately.
Nagaina lifted up her head and hissed, "You warned Rikki-tikki and that's why I could not kill him. But indeed, you have chosen the bad place to be lame in." And she moved toward Darzee's wife, slipping along over the dust.
"The boy broke it with a stone!" cried Darzee's wife.
"Well! When you are dead you may be glad to know that I shall settle accounts' with the boy. My husband lies on the rubbish-heap this morning, but before night the boy in the house will lie very still. What is the use of running away? I am sure that I shall catch you. Little fool, look at me!"
Darzee's wife was clever enough not to do that, for a bird who looks at a snake's eyes gets so frightened that she cannot move. Darzee's wife fluttered on, crying sorrowfully, and never leaving the ground, and Nagaina followed her.
Rikki-tikki heard them going up the path from the rubbish-heap, and he ran to the end of the melon-bed nearest the wall. There cunningly hidden, he found twenty-five eggs about the size of a hen's egg, but with white skin instead of shell.
"I was just in time," he said; for he could see the baby cobras curled up inside the eggs, and he knew that as soon as they were hatched they could each kill a man or a mongoose. He bit off the tops of the eggs as fast as he could, crushing the young cobras. At last there were only three eggs left, and Rikki-tikki began to smile to himself, when he heard Darzee's wife crying: “Rikki-tikki, I led Nagaina toward the house, and she has gone into the veranda, and oh, come quickly she is going to kill”.
Rikki-tikki crushed two eggs, and with the third egg in his mouth, he ran to the veranda as fast as he could. Teddy and his mother and father were there at breakfast; but Rikki-tikki saw that they were not eating. They sat still, and their faces were mhite. Nagaina had curled up by Teddy's chair, and she was swaying to and fro singing a song of triumph.
"Son of the big man that killed Nag," she hissed, "stay still. I am not ready yet. Wait a little. Keep very still, all you three. If you move I strike, and if you do not move I strike. Oh, foolish people, who killed my Nag!"
Teddy's eyes were fixed on his father, and all his father could do was to whisper, "Sit still, Teddy. You mustn't move. Teddy, keep still."
Then Rikki-tikki came up and cried: "Turn round, Nagaina; turn and fight!"
"All in good time," said she without moving her eyes. "I will settle accounts with you very soon. Look at your friends, Rikki-tikki. They are still and white; they are afraid. They dare not move, and if you come a step nearer I strike."
"Look at your eggs," said Rikki-tikki, "in the melon bed near the wall. Go and look, Nagaina."
The big snake turned half round, and saw the egg on the veranda. "Ah-h! Give it to me," she said.
Rikki-tikki put his paws on each side of the egg, and his eyes were blood-red. "What price for a snake's egg? For a young cobra? For the last the very last of all the eggs? The ants are eating all the others near the melon- bed."
Nagaina turned around, forgetting everything but her one egg; and Rikki-tikki saw Teddy's father catch Teddy by the shoulder and drag him across the table out of reach of Nagaina.
"Tricked!' Tricked! Tricked! Rikk-tck-tck!" laughed Rikki-tikki. "The boy is safe, and it was I I I that caught Nag by the hood last night in the bathroom." Then he began to jump up and down, all four feet together. "He threw me to and fro, but he could not shake me off. He was dead before the big man fired the gun. I did it Rikki-tikki-tck-tck! Come then, Nagaina. Come and fight with me. You shall not be a widow long."
Nagaina saw that now she could not kill Teddy, and the egg lay between Rikki-tikki's paws. "Give me the egg, Rikki-tikki. Give me the last of my eggs, and I will go away and never come back," she said, lowering her heod.
"Yes, you will go away, and you will never come back; for. you will go to the rubbish-heap with Nag. Flght, widow! The big man has gone for his gun! Fight!"
Rikki-tikki was jumping all round Nagaina, keeping out of reach of her stroke, his little eyes were like hot coals. Nagaina gathered herself together, and flung herself at him. Rikki-tikki jumped up and backward. Again and again she struck, but each time she missed her strokes.
Rikki-tikki had forgotten the egg. It still lay on the ve-randa, and Nagaina came nearer and nearer to it, till at last, while Rikki-tikki was drawing his breath, she caught
it in her mouth, turned to the veranda steps, and flew like an arrow down the path and Rikki-tikki flew behind her.
Rikki-tikki knew that he must catch her, or all the trouble would begin again. She ran straight for the long grass by Darzee's bush, and as he was running Rikki-tikki heard Darzee still singiqg his foolish little song of triumph. But Darzee's wife was wiser. She flew out of her nest as Nagaina came along, and fluttered about Nagaina's head. Nagaina only lowered her head and went on; but when she stopped for a second Rikki-tikki jumped on her, and as she plunged into the hole where she and Nag used to live, his little white teeth hit her tail, and he went down with her and very few mongooses, even wise and old ones, follow a cobra into its hole. It was dark in the hole; and Rikki-tikki didn't know when Nagaina would turn and strike at him, but he held on fast.
Then the grass by the mouth of the hole stopped waving, and Darzee said: "It is all over with Rikki-tikki! We must sing his death-song. Brave Rikki-tikki is dead! For Nagaina will surely kill him in the hole underground."
So he sang a very sorrowful song that he made up on the spur of the minute, and just as he got to the most sorrowful part the grass waved again, and Rikki-tikki, covered with dirt, dragged himself out of the hole leg by leg, licking his whiskers. Darzee stopped with a little shout. Rikki-tikki shook some of the dust out of his fur and sneezed. "It is all over," he said. "The widow vrill never come out again."
Rikki-tikki curled himself up in the grass and slept where he was slept and slept till it was late in the afternoon, for he had worked hard that day.
"Now," he said, when he awoke, "I will go back to the house. Tell the Coppersmith, Darzee, and he will tell the garden that Nagaina is dead."
When Rikki came to the house, Teddy and Teddy's mother and Teddy's father came out and almost cried over him; and that night he ate all that was given to him till he could eat no more; and went to bed on Teddy's shoulder, where Teddy's mother saw him when she came to look late at night.
"He saved our lives and Teddy's life," she said to her husband. "Just think, he saved all our lives."
Rikki-tikki had a right to be proud of himself; but he did not grow too proud, and he guarded the house and the garden with tooth and jump and spring and bite, till no cobra dared to show its head inside the walls.
The Fisherman and His Soul
Every evening the young Fisherman went to sea and threw his nets into the water.
Every evening he went to sea, and one evening the net was so heavy that he could not draw it into the boat. And he laughed, and said to himself, "Surely I have caught all the fish of the sea, or some monster," and he put forth all his strength and drew the net to the surface of the water.
But there were no fish at all in it, nor any monster, but only a little Mermaid, who was fast asleep.
Her wet hair was like gold, her body was as white as ivory, and her tail was of silver and pearl, and like seashells were her ears, and her lips were like sea-coral.
She was so beautiful that the young Fisherman drew the net close to him, and embraced her. And when he touched her, she gave a cry, and awoke, and looked at him in terror and tried to escape. But he held her so tight that she could not free herself.
And when she saw that she could in no way' escape from him, she began to weep, and said, "I ask you to let me go, for I am the only daughter of a King, and my father is very old and all alone."
But the young Fisherman answered, "I shall let you go if you promise that whenever I call you, you will come and sing to me, for the fish like to listen to the songs of the Sea-folk, and so my nets will be full."
"Will you indeed let me go if I promise you this?" asked the Mermaid.
"Indeed I will let you go," said the young Fisherman.
So she promised him, and swore it by the oath of the Sea-folk' and he loosened his arms, and let her go, and she sank down into the water, trembling with a strange fear.
Every evening the young Fisherman went to sea, and called to the Mermaid, and she rose out of the water and sang a marve1lous song to him.
And as she sang, all the fish came from the depth to listen to her, and the young Fisherman threw his nets and caught them. And when his boat was full, the Mermaid smiled at him and sank down into the sea.
Yet, she never came so near to him that he could touch her. He often called to her and begged her, but she did not come near him, and when he tried to seize her she sank down into the water, and he did not see her again that day. And each day the sound of her voice became sweeter to his ears. So sweet was her voice that he forgot his nets and his boat. With eyes dim with wonder, he sat idly in his boat and listened, and listened, till night came.
And one evening he called to her, and said: "Little Mermaid, little Mermaid, I love you. Let me be your bridegroom, for I love you."
But the Mermaid shook her head. "You have a human soul," she answered. "Send away your soul and I shall nothing, and he hardly knew whether to be relieved or disappointed.
The following morning was wet so wet that even the most ardent golfer might have his enthusiasm damped.
Jack rose at the last possible moment, ate his breakfast, ran for the train and again eagerly looked through the papers. Still no mention of any tragic discovery having been made. The evening papers told the same tale.
"Queer," said Jack to himself, "but there it is. Probably some little boys having a game together up in the woods."
He was out early the following morning. As he passed the cottage, he noted out of the tail of his eye that the girj was out in the garden again weeding. Evidently a habit of hers. He did a particularly good shot, and hoped that she had noticed it.
"Just five and twenty past seven," he murmured. "I wonder "
The words were frozen on his lips. From behind him came the same cry which had so startled him before. A woman's voice, in distress.
"Murder help! murder!"
Jack raced back. The pansy girl was standing by the gate. She looked startled, and Jack ran up to her triumphantly, crying out: "You heard it this time, anyway."
Her eyes were wide with some emotion and he noticed that she shrank back from him as he approached, and even glanced back at the house, as though she was about to run for shelter.
She shook her head, staring at him.
"I heard nothing at all," she said wonderingly.
It was as though she had struck him a blow betweenthe eyes. Her sincerity was so evident that he could not disbelieve her. Yet he couldn't have imagined it he couldn't he couldn't …
He heard her voice speaking gently almost with sympathy. "You have had the shell-shock', yes?"
In a flash he understood her look of fear, her glance back at the house. She thought that he suffered from delusions...
And then, like a douche of cold water, came the horrible thought, was she right? Did he suffer from delusions?In horror of the thought he turned and stumbled away without saying a word. The girl watched him go, sighed, shook her head, and bent down to her weeding again.
Jack tried to reason matters out with himself.
"If I hear the damned thing again at twenty-five minutes past seven," he said to himself, "it's clear that I've got hold of a hallucination of some sort. But I won't hear it."
He was nervous all that day, and went to bed early determined to put the matter to the proof the following morning.
As was perhaps natural in such a case, he remained awake half the night, and finally overslept himself. It was twenty past seven by the time he was clear of the hotel and running towards the links. He realised that he would not be able to get to the fatal spot by twenty-five past, but surely, if the voice were a hallucination pure and simple, he would hear it anywhere. He ran on, his eyes fixed on the hands of his watch.
Twenty-five past. From far off came the echo of a woman's voice, calling. The words could not be distinguished, but he was convinced that it was the same cry he had heard before, and that it came from the same spot, somewhere in the neighbourhood of the cottage.
Strangely enough, that fact reassured him. It might, after all, be a hoax'. Unlikely as it seemed, the girl herself might be playing a trick on him.
The girl was in the garden as usual. She looked up this morning, and when he raised his cap to her, said good morning rather shyly... She looked, he thought, lovelier than ever.
"Nice day, isn't it?" Jack called out cheerily.
"Yes, indeed, it is lovely."
"Good for the garden, I expect?"
The girl smiled a little.
"Alas, no! For my flowers the rain is needed. See, they are all dried up. Monsieur is much better today, I can see."
Her encouraging tone annoyed Jack intensely.
"I'm perfectly well," he said irritably.
"That is good then," returned the girl quickly and soothingly.
Jack had the irritating feeling that she didn't believe him.
He played a few more holes and hurried back to breakfast.
As he ate it, he was conscious, not for the first time, of the close scrutiny of a man who sat at the table next to him. He was a man of middle-age, with a powerful forceful face. He had a small dark beard and very piercing grey eyes. His name, Jack knew, was Lavington, and he had heard vague rumours' as to his being a well-known medical specialist, but as Jack was not a frequenter of Harley Street, the name had told little or nothing to him.
But this morning he was very conscious of the quiet observation under which he was being kept, and it frightened him a little. Was his secret written plainly in his face for all to see?
Jack shivered at the thought. Was it true? Was he really going mad? Was the whole thing a hallucination, or was it a gigantic hoax?
And suddenly a very simple way of testing the solution occurred to him He had hitherto been alone on the course. Supposing someone else was with him? Then ane out of three things might happen. The voice might be silent. They might both hear it. Or he only.might hear it.
That evening he proceeded to carry his plan into effect. Lavington was the man he wanted with him. They fell into conversation easily enough the older man might have been waiting for such an opening. It was clear that for some reason or other Jack interested him. The latter was able to come quite easily and naturally to the suggestion that they might play a few holes together before breakfast. The arrangement was made for the following morning.
They started out a little before seven. It was a perfect day, still and cloudless, but not too warm. The doctor was playing well, Jack awfully. He kept glancing at his watch.
The girl, as usual, was in the garden as they passed. She did not look up as they passed.
It was exactly twenty-five minutes past seven.
"If you didn't mind waiting a minute," he said, "I think I'll have a smoke."
They paused a little while. Jack filled and lit the pipe with fingers that trembled a little in spite of himself. An enormous weight seemed to have lifted from his mind.
"Lord, what a good day it is," he remarked. "Go on, Lavington, your shot."
And then it came. Just at the very instant the doctor was hitting. A woman's voice, high and agonised.
"Murder Help! Murder!"
The pipe fell from Jack's nerveless hand, as he turned round in the direction of the sound, and then, remembering, gazed breathlessly at his companion.
Lavington was looking down the course, shading his eyes.
He had heard nothing.
The world seemed to spin round with Jack. He took a step or two and fell. When he recovered himself, he was lying on the ground, and Lavington was bending over him.
"There, take it easy now, take it easy."
"What did I do?"
"You fainted, young man or gave a very good try at it."
"My God!" said Jack, and groaned.
"What's the trouble? Something on your mind?"
"I'll tell you in one minute, but I'd like to ask you something first."
The doctor lit his own pipe and settled himself on the bank. "Ask anything you like," he said comfortably.
"You've been watching me for the last day or two.
Lavington's eyes twinkled a little.
"That's rather an awkward question. A cat can look at a king, you know."
"Don't put me off. I'm earnest. Why was it? I've a vital reason for asking."
Lavington's face grew serious.
"I'll answer you quite honestly. I recognised in you all
the signs of a man who is under acute strain', and it intrigued me what that strain could be."
"I can tell you that easily enough," said Jack bitterly.
"I'm going mad."
He stopped dramatically, but as his statement did not seem to arouse the interest he expected, he repeated it.
"I tell you I'm going mad."
"Very curious," murmured Lavington. "Very curious indeed."
“I suppose that's all it does seem to you. Doctors are so damned callous”.
“To begin with, although I have taken my degree, I do not practise medicine. Strictly speaking, I am not a doctor not a doctor of the body, that it”.
Jack looked at him keenly.
"Of the mind?"
"Yes, in a sense, but more truly I call myself a doctor of the soul.""O}1!"
"I see you do not quite believe me, and yet you've got to come to terms with the soul, you know, young man. I can assure you that it really did strike me as very curious that such a well-balanced and perfectly normal young man as yourself should suffer from the delusion that he was going out of his mind."
"I'm out of my mind, all right. Absolutely mad."
"You will forgive me for saying so, but I don't believe it."
"I suffer from delusions."
"No, in the morning."
"Can't be done," said the doctor.
"I tell you I hear things that no one else hears."
"It's quite possible that the delusions of to-day may be the proved scientific facts of to-morrow."
In spite of himself, Lavington's matter-of-fact manner was having its effect upon Jack. He felt awfully cheered. The doctor looked at him attentively for a minute or two and then nodded.
"That's better," he said. "The trouble with you young fellows is that you're so sure nothing can exist outside your own philosophy that you get the wind up when something occurs that may change your opinion. Let's hear your grounds for believing that you're going mad, and we'll decide whether or not to lock you up afterwards."
As faithfully as he could, Jack told the whole series of occurrences.
"But what I can't understand," he ended, "is why this morning it should come at half past seven five minutes late."
Lavington thought for a minute or two.
"What's the time now by your watch?" he asked.
"Quarter to eight," replied Jack, consulting it.
"That's simple enough, then. Mine says twenty to eight.
Your watch is five minutes fast. That's a very interesting and important point to me. in fact, it's invaluable."
"In what way?"
Jack was beginning to get interested.
"Well, the obvious explanation is that on the first morning you did hear some such cry may have been a joke, may not. On the following mornings, you suggestioned yourself to hear it at exactly the same time."
"I'm sure I didn't."
"Not consciously", of course, but the subconscious plays us some funny tricks, you know. If it were a case of suggestion, you would have heard the cry at twenty-five minutes past seven by yourw atch,a ndy ouc ouldn ever have heard it when the time, as you thought, was past."
"Well it's obvious, isn't it? This cry for help occupies a perfectly definite place and time in space."
"Yes, but why should I be the one to hear it? I don't believe in ghosts, spirits", and all the rest of it. Why should I hear the damned thing?"
"Ah! that we can't tell at present. Some people see and hear things that other people don't we don't know why. Some day, no doubt, we shall know why you hear this thing and I and the girl don't."
"But what am I going to do?" asked Jack.
"Well, my young friend, you are going to have a good breakfast and get off to the city without worrying your head further about things you don't understand. I, on the other hand, am going to look about, and see what I can find out about that cottage back there. That's where the mystery centres."
Jack rose to his feet.
"Right, sir, I'm on, but I say "
Jack flushed awkwardly.
"I'm sure the girl's all right," he muttered.
Lavington looked amused.
"You didn't tell me she was a pretty girl! Well, cheer up, I think the mystery started before her time."
Jack arrived home. Now he believed Lavington completely.
He found his new friend waiting for him in the hall when he came down for dinner, and the doctor suggested that they should dine together at the same table.
"Any news, sir?" asked Jack anxiously.
"I've collected the life history of Heather Cottage all right. It was tenanted first by an old gardener and his wife. The old man died, and the old woman went to her daughter. Then a builder got it, and modernised it with great success, selling it to a city gentleman who used it for week-ends. About a year ago, he sold it to some people called Turner Mr. and Mrs. Turner. They seem to have been rather a curious couple from all I can make out". They lived very quietly, seeing no one, and hardly ever going outside the cottage garden. The local rumour goes that they were afraid of something. And then suddenly one day they departed and never came back. The agents here got a letter from Mr. Turner, written from London, instructing him to sell up the place as quickly as possible. The furniture was sold off, and the house itself was sold. The people who have it now are a French professor and his daughter. They have been there just ten days."
Jack digested this in silence.
"I don't see that that gets us anywhere," he said at last.
"I rather want to know more about the Turners," said Lavington quietly. "They left very early in the morning, you remember. As far as I can make out, nobody actually saw them go. Mr. Turner has been seen since but I can't find anybody who has seen Mrs. Turner."
"It can't be you don't mean."
"Don't excite yourself, young man. Let us drop the subject for to-night at least," he suggested.
Jack agreed readily enough, but did not find it so easyto vanish the subject from his own mind.
During the week-end, he made inquiries" of his own,but succeeded in getting little more than the doctor had done. He had definitely given up playing golf before breakfast.
On getting back one day, Jack was informed that a young lady was waiting to see him. To his surprise it proved to be the girl of the garden the pansy girl, as he always called her in his own mind. She was very nervous and confused.
"You will forgive me, Monsieur, for coming to see you like this? But there is something I want to tell you."
She looked round uncertainly.
"Come in here," said Jack.
"Now, sit down, Miss, Miss…"
"Marchaud, Monsieur. Felise Marchaud."
"Sit down, Mademoiselle Marchaud, and tell me all about it."
Felise sat down obediently. She was dressed in dark green to-day, and the beauty and charm of the proud little face was more evident than ever. Jack's heart beat faster as he sat down beside her.
"It is like this," explained Felise. "We have been here but a short time, and from the beginning we hear the house our so sweet little house is haunted". No servant will stay in it.
This talk of ghosts, I think it is all folly" that is until four days ago. Monsieur, four nights running, I have had the same dream. A lady stands there she is beautiful, tall and very f air. In her hands she holds a blue china jar. She is distressed very distressed, and continually she holds out her jar to me, as though asking me to do something with it. But alas!" She cannot speak, and I I do not know what she asks. That was the dream for the first two nights but the night before last, there was more of it. She and the blue jar faded away", and suddenly I heard her voice crying out I know it is her voice, you understand and, oh! Monsieur, the words she says are those you spoke to me that morning. "Murder Help! Murder!" I awoke in terror. I say to myself it is a nightmare", the words you heard are an accident. But last night the dream came again. Monsieur, what is it? You too have heard. What shall we do?"
Felise's face was terrified. Her small hands clasped themselves together, and she gazed at Jack. The latter pretended to look calm.
"That's all right, Mademoiselle Marchaud. You mustn't worry. I tell you what I'd like you to do, if you don't mind, repeat the whole story to a friend of mine who is staying here, a Dr. Lavington."
Felise showed her willingness; and Jack went off in search of Lavington. He returned with him a few minutes later.
Lavington gave the girl a keen scrutiny as he acknowledged Jack's hurried introductions. With a few reassuring words, he soon put the girl at her ease, and he, in his turn, listened attentively to her story.
"Very curious," he said, when she had finished. "You have told your father of this?"
Felise shook her head.
"I have not liked to worry him. He is very ill still" her eyes filled with tears "I keep from him anything that might excite or agitate him."
"I understand," said Lavington kindly. "And I am glad you came to us, Mademoiselle Marchaud. Hartington here, as you know, had an experience something similar to yours. I think I may say that we are well on the track now. There is nothing else that you can think of?"
Felise gave a quick movement.
"Of course! How stupid I am. It is the point of the whole story. Look, Monsieur, at what I found at the back of one of the cupboards where it had slipped behind the shelf."
She held out to them a dirty piece of drawing-paper on which was made in water colours a sketch of a woman. It was a mere sketch, but the likeness was probably good enough. She was standing by a table on which was standing a blue china jar.
"I only found it this morning," explained Felise. "Monsieur le docteur, that is the face of the moman I saw in my dream, and that is the identical blue jar."
"Extraordinary," commented Lavington. "The key to the mystery is evidently the blue jar. It looks like a Chinese jar to me, probably an old one. It seems to have a curious raised pattern over it."
"It is Chinese," declared Jack. "I have seen an exactly similar one in my uncle's collection he is a great collector of Chinese porcelain, you know, and I remember noticing a jar just like this a short time ago."
"The Chinese jar," mused Lavington. He remained a minute or two lost in thought, then raised his head suddenly, a curious light shining in his eyes. "Hartington, how long has your uncle had that jar?"
"How long? I really don't know."
"Think. Did he buy it lately?"
"I don't know yes, I believe he did."
"Less than two months ago? The Turners left Heather Cottage just two months ago."
"Yes, I believe it was."
"Your uncle attends country sales sometimes?"
"He always goes to sales."
"Then there is a probability that he bought this particular piece of porcelain at the sale of the Turners things. A curious coincidence. Hartington, you must find out from your uncle at once where he bought this jar."
Jack's face fell.
"I'm afraid that's impossible. Uncle George is away on the Continent. I don't even know where to write to him."
"How long will he be away?"
"Three weeks to a month at least."
There was a silence. Felise sat looking anxiously from one man to the other.
"Is there nothing that we can do?" she asked.
"Yes, there is one thing," said Lavington. "It is unusual, perhaps, but I believe that it will succeed. Hartington, you must get hold of that jar. Bring it down here, and, if Mademoiselle permits, we will spend a night in Heather Cottage, taking the blue jar with us."
"What do you think will happen?" Jack asked uneasily.
"I have not the slightest idea but I honestly believe that the mystery will be solved.
Felise clasped her hands. "It is a wonderful idea," she exclaimed.
Her eyes were alight with enthusiasm. Jack did not feel nearly so enthusiastic in fact, he was afraid of it, but nothing would have forced him to admit the fact before Felise. The doctor acted as though his suggestion were the most natural one in the world.
"When can you get the jar?" asked Felise, turning to Jack.
"To-morrow," said the latter, unwillingly.
Re went to his uncle's house the following evening and took away the jar in question. He was more than ever convinced when he saw it again that it was the identical one pictured in the water colour sketch.
It wase leveno 'clockw henh ea ndL avingtona rrived at Heather Cottage. Felise was on the look-out for them, and opened the door softly before they had time to knock.
"Come in," she whispered. "My father is asleep upstairs, and we must not wake him. I have made coffee for you in here."
She led the way into a small cosy sitting-room.
Jack unwrapped the Chinese jar. Felise gasped as her eyes fell on it.
"But yes, but yes," she cried eagerly. "That is it I would know it anywhere."
Meanwhile Lavington was making his own preparations. He removed all the things from a small table and set it in the middle of the room. Round it he placed three chairs. Then, taking the blue jar from Jack, he placed it in the centre of the table.
"Now," he said, "we are ready. Turn off the lights, and let us sit round the table in the darkness."
The others obeyed him. Lavington's voice spoke again out fo the darkness.
"Think of nothing or of everything. Do not force the mind. It is possible that one of us has mediumistic powers. If so, that person will go into a trance. Remember, there is nothing to fear. Cast out fear" from your hearts, and drift-drift."
It was not fear that Jack felt it was panic. And he was almost certain that Felise felt the same way. Suddenly he heard her voice, low and terrified.
"Something terrible is going to happen. I feel it."
"Cast out fear," said Lavington. "Do not fight against the influence."
The darkness seemed to get darker and the silence more acute. And nearer and nearer came that indefinable sense of menace.
Jack felt himself choking stifling the evil thing was very near.
And then the moment of conflict passed. He was drifting, drifting down stream his lids closed peace darkness…
Jack stirred slightly"-'-. His head was heavy heavy as lead. Where was he?
Sunshine ... birds ... He lay staring up at the sky.
Then it all came back to him. The little sitting-room. Felise and the doctor. What had happened?
He sat up and looked round him. He was lying not far from the cottage. No one else was near him. He took out his watch. To his surprise it registered half past twelve.
Jack struggled to his feet", and ran as fast as he could in the direction of the cottage. They must have been alarmed by his failure to come out of the trance, and carried him out into the open air.
Arrived at the cottage, he knocked loudly on the door. But there was no answer, and no signs of life about it. They must have gone off to get help. Or else Jack felt an indefinable fear invade him. What had happened last night?
He made his way back to the hotel as quickly as possible. He was about to make some inquiries at the office, when he got a colossal punch in the ribs which nearly knocked him off his feet. Turning in some indignation, he saw a whitehaired old gentleman merrily laughing.
"Didn't expect me, my boy. Didn't expect me, hey?" said this individual.
"Why, Uncle George, I thought you were miles away it Italy somewhere."
"Ah! but I wasn't. Landed at Dover last night. Thought I'd motor up to town and stop here to see you on the way. And what did I find. Out all night, hey? Nice goings on" "Uncle George," Jack checked him firmly. "I've got the most extraordinary story to tell you. I dare say you won't believe it."
"I dare say I shan't," laughed the old man. "But do your best, my boy."
"But I must have something to eat," continued Jack. "I'm hungry."
He led the way to the dining-room, and over a substantial meal, he told the whole story.
"And God knows what's become of them," he ended.
His uncle seemed on the verge of apoplexy.
"The jar," he managed to cry out at last. “THE BLUE JAR!” What's become of that?"
Jack stared at him without understanding, but under the torrent of words that followed he began to-understand.
It came with a rush: "Worth ten thousand pounds at least offer from Hoggenheimer, the American millionaire only one of its kind in the world what have you done with my BLUE JAR?"
Jack rushed from the room. He must find Lavington. The young lady at the office eyed him coldly.
"Dr. Lavington left late last night by motor. He left a note for you."
Jack tore it open. It was short and to the point.
'My Dear Young Friend, Is the day of the supernatural over? Kindest regards from Felise, invalid father, and myself. We have twelve hours start, which is quite enough.
Yours ever, Ambrose Lavington, Doctor of the Soul'
The Flock of Geryon
"I really apologize for bothering you, M. Poirot."
Miss Carnaby leaned forward, looking anxiously into Poirot's face. She said: "You do remember me, don't you?"
Hercule Poirot smiled. He said: "I remember you as one of the most successful criminals that I have ever met."
"Oh dear me, M. Poirot, must you really say such things? You were so kind to me. Emily and I often talk about you, and if we see anything about you in the paper we cut it out at once. As for Augustus, we have taught him a new trick. We say, “Die for M. Hercule Poirot”, and he goes down and lies like a log."
"I'm gratified," said Poirot. "He is so clever. But what has brought you here, Miss Carnaby?"
Miss Carnaby's nice round face grew worried and sad. She said: "Oh M. Poirot, I was going to consult you. I have been anxious lately about a friend of mine. Of course, you may say it is all an old maid's fancy just imagination."
"I do not think you would imagine things, Miss Carnaby. Tell me what worries you."
"Well, I have a friend, a very dear friend, though I have not seen very much of her lately. Her name is Emmeline Clegg. She married a man and he died a few years ago leaving her a big sum of money. She was unhappy and lonely after his death and I am afraid she is in some ways a rather foolish woman. Religion, M. Poirot, can be a great help and consolation but not these odd sects there are so many around. They have a kind of emotional appeal but sometimes I have very grave doubts as to whether there are any true religious feelings behind them at all."
"You think your friend has become a victim of a sect of this kind?"
"I do. Oh! I certainly do. The Flock of the Shepherd,'
they call themselves. Their headquarters is in Devonshire a very love}y estate by the sea. The whole sect centres round the head of the movement, the Great Shepherd, he is called. A Dr. Andersen. A very handsome man, I believe."
"Which is attractive to the women, yes?"
"I am afraid so," Miss Carnaby sighed.
"Are the members of the sect mostly women?"
"At least three quarters of them, I think. It is upon the women that the success of the movement depends and and on the funds they supply."
"Ah," said Poirot. "Now I see. Frankly, you think the whole thing is a ramp?"
"Frankly, M. Poirot, I do. And another thing worries me. I know that my poor friend is so devoted to this reli- gion that she has recently made a will leaving all her property to the movement. What really worries me is."
"Yes, go on”.
"Several very rich women have been among the devotees. In the last year three of them have died."
"Leaving all their money to this sect?"
Poirot nodded thoughtfully. Miss Carnaby hurried on: "Of course I've no right to suggest anything at all. From what I have been able to find out, there was nothing wrong about any of these deaths. One, I believe, was pneumonia following influenza and another was attributed to gastric ulcer. There were absolutely no suspicious circumstances and the deaths did not take place in Devonshire, but at their own homes. I've no doubt it is quite all right, but all the same I well I shouldn't like anything to happen to Emmie."
Poirot was silent for some minutes. Then he said:
"Will you give me, or will you find out for me, the names and addresses of these members of the sect who have recently died?"
"Yes indeed, M. Poirot."
Poirot said slowly: "Mademoiselle, I think you are a woman of great courage and determination. Will you be able to do a piece of work that may be associated with considerable danger?"
"I should like nothing better," said the adventurous Miss Carnaby.
Poirot said warningly:
"If there is a risk at all, it will be a great one. You understand either this is all a mare's nest' or it is serious.To find out which it is, it will be necessary for you yourself to become a member of the Great Flock. You'll pretend to be a rich woman with no definite aim in life. You'll allow your friend Emmeline to persuade you to go down to Devonshire. And there you will fall a victim to the magnetic power of Dr. Andersen. I think I can leave that to you?"
Miss Carnaby smiled modestly. She murmured:
"I think I can manage that all right."
"Well, my friend, what have you got for me? Have you learned anything about this Dr. Andersen?"
Chief Inspector Japp looked thoughtfully at Poirot. Hesaid:"I've looked up Dr. Andersen's past history. He was a promising chemist but was expelled from some German University. He was always keen on the study of Oriental Myths and Religions and has written various aricles on the subject some of the articles sound pretty crazy to me."
"So it is possible that he is a genuine fanatic?"
"It seems quite likely."
"What about those names and addresses I gave you?"
"Nothing suspicious there. Miss Everitte died of ulcerative colitis. Mrs. Lloyd died of pneumonia. Lady Western died of tuberculosis. Had suffered from it many years ago. Miss Lee died of typhoid somewhere in the north of England. There is nothing to connect these deaths withthe Great Flock or with Andersen's place down in Devonshire. Must be no more than coincidence."
Hercule Poirot sighed. He said: "And yet, mon cher, I have a feeling that this Dr. Andersen is the Monster Geryon whom it is my mission to destroy."
Hercule Poirot said: "You must obey my instructions very carefully, Miss Carnaby. You understand?"
"Oh yes, Mr. Poirot. You may rely on me.
"You have spoken of your intention to benefit the sect?"
"Yes, Mr. Poirot, I spoke to the Master excuse me, to Dr. Andersen, myself. I told him very emotionally how I had come to Flock and remained to believe. Really it seemed quite natural to say all these things. Dr. Andersen, you know, has a lot of magnetic charm."
"So I think," said Hercule Poirot dryly.
"His manner was most convincing. One really feels he doesn't care about money at all. "Give what you can," he said smiling. "It does not matter. You are one of the Flock just the same." "Oh, Dr. Andersen," I said, "I am not poor at all." And then I explained that I had inherited a considerable amount of money from a distant relative and that I wanted to leave in my will all I had to the Brotherhood. I explained that I had no near relatives."
"And he accepted the gift?"
"He was very indifferent about it. Said it would be many long years before I died, that he could tell I had a long life of joy in front of me. He really speaks most movingly."
"So it seems."
Poirot's tone was dry. He went on: "You mentioned your health?"
"Yes, Mr. Poirot, I told him I had lung trouble, though why it is necessary for me to say that I am ill when my lungs are as sound as a bell I really cannot see."
"Be sure it is necessary. You mentioned your friend?"
"Yes. I told him strictly confidentially that dear Emmeline, besides the fortune she had inherited from her husband, would inherit an even larger sum shortly from an aunt who was deeply attached to her."
"Good. That must keep Mrs. Clegg safe for some time."
"Oh, Mr. Poirot, do you really think there is anything wrong?"
"That is what I am going to find out. Have you met a Mr. Cole at the Sanctuary?"
"There was a Mr. Cole there last time I went down to Devonshire. A most extraordinary man. He wears grass-green shorts and eats nothing but cabbage. He is a very ardent believer."
"All progresses well I make you my compliments on the work you have done all is now set for the Autumn Festival."
On the afternoon preceding the Festival Miss Carnaby met Hercule Poirot in a small restaurant. Miss Carnaby was flushed and even more breathless than usual.
Poirot asked several questions to which she replied only "yes" or "no". Then he said: "Good. You know what you have to do?"
There was a moment's pause before Miss Carnaby said in a rather odd voice:
"I know what you told me, Mr. Poirot."
Then Amy Carnaby said clearly and distinctly:
"But I am not going to do it."
Hercule Poirot stared at her. Miss Carnaby rose to her feet. Her voice was fast and hysterical.
"You sent me here to spy on Dr. Andersen. You suspected him of all sorts of things. But he is a wonderful man a great Teacher. I believe in him heart and soul. And I am not going to do your spying work any more, M. Poirot. I am one of the Sheep of the Shepherd. And I'll pay for my tea myself."
With these words Miss Carnaby threw down one shilling and rushed out of the restaurant.
The waitress had to ask him twice before Poirot realised that she was giving him the bill. He met the curious stare of an unfriendly looking man at the next table, flushed, paid the bill and went out.
The Sheep were assembled for the traditional festival.
The Festival took place in the white concrete building called by the Sheep the Sacred Fold. Here the devotees assembled just before the setting of the sun. They wore sheep-skin cloaks and had sandals on their feet. Their arms were bare. In the centre of the Fold on a raised platform stood Dr. Andersen. The big man, golden-haired and blue-eyed, with his fair beard and handsome profile had never seemed more magnificent. He was dressed in a green robe and carried a shepherd's crook of gold.
The ritual questions and answers had been chanted.
Then the Great Shepherd said: "Are you prepared for the Sacrament?"
“Shut your eyes and hold out your right arm”.
The crowd obediently shut their eyes. Miss Carnaby like the rest held her arm out in front of her. The Great Shepherd, magnificent in his green robe, moved along the waiting lines... He stood by Miss Carnaby. His hands touched her arm…
"No, you won't do it!"
Mr. Cole aided by another devotee grasped the hand of the Great Shepherd who was struggling to get himself free. In rapid professional tones, the former Mr. Cole was saying: "Dr. Andersen, I have here a warrant for your arrest."
There were other figures now at the door of the Sheep Fold blue uniformed figures.
Someone cried, "It's the police. They're taking the Master away. They're taking the Master..."
Everyone was shocked horrified... To them the Great Shepherd was a martyr, suffering, as all great teachers, from the ignorance and persecution of the outside world.
Meanwhile Detective Inspector Cole was carefully packing up the syringe that had fallen from the Great Shepherd's hand.
"My brave colleague!"
Poirot shook Miss Carnaby warmly by the hand and introduced her to Chief Inspector Japp.
"First class work, Miss Carnaby," said Chief Inspector Japp. "We couldn't have done it without you."
"Oh dear!" Miss Carnaby was flattered. "It's so kind of you to say so. And I'm afraid, that I've really enjoyed it all. The excitement, you knovr, and playing my part. I really felt I was one of those foolish women."
"That's where your success lay," said Japp. "You were very genuine. Otherwise you wouldn't have been hypnotised by that gentleman. He's a pretty smart scoundrel."
Miss Carnaby turned to Poirot.
"That was a terrible moment in the restaurant. I didn't know what to do. It was such a shock. Just when we had been talking confidentially I saw in the glass that Lipscomb, who keeps the Lodge of the Sanctuary, was sitting at the table behind me. I don't know now if it was an accident or if he had actually followed me. I had to do the best I could in this situation and hope that you would understand."
"I did understand. There was only one person sitting near enough to overhear anything we said and as soon as I left the restaurantI followed him. He went straight back to the Sanctuary. So I understood that I could rely on you and that you would not let me down but I was afraid because it increased the danger for you."
"Was was there really danger? What was there in the syringe?"
Japp said: "Will you explain or shall I?"
Poirot said gravely:
"Mademoiselle, this Dr. Andersen devised a scheme of exploitation and murder scientific murder. Most of his life has been spent in bacteriological research. Under a dif ferent name he has a chemical laboratory in Shef field. There he makes cultures of various bacilli. It was his practice at the Festivals to inject into his followers a small but sufficient dose of Cannabis Indica which is also known by the name of Hashish. It gives the sensation of great and pleasurable enjoyment. It bound his devotees to him. These were the Spiritual Joys that he promised them."
"Most remarkable," said Miss Carnaby. "Really a most remarkable sensation."
Hercule Poirot nodded.
"That was the secret of his popularity a dominating personality, the power of creating mass hysteria and the reactions produced by this drug. But he had a second aim in view."
"Lonely women made wills leaving their money to the Cult. One by one, these women died. Without being too technical I will try to explain. It is possible to make intensified cultures of certain bacteria. The bacillus coli communis, for instance, is the cause of ulcerative colitis. Typhoid bacilli can be introduced into the system. So can the Pneumococcus. You realize the cleverness of the man? These deaths would occur in different parts of the country, with different doctors attending them and without any risk of arousing suspicion.
"He's a devil, if there ever was one," said Chief Inspector Japp.
Poirot went on.
"By my orders, you told him that you suffered from tuberculosis. There was a tuberculin in the syringe when Cole arrested him. It is harmless to a healthy person but stimulates any old tubercular lesion into activity. Since you were a healthy person it would not have harmed you, that is why I asked you to tell him you had suffered from a tubercular trouble. I was afraid that even now he might choose some other germ, but I respected your courage and I had to let you take the risk."
"Oh, that's all right," said Miss Carnaby brightly. "I don't mind taking risks. I'm only frightened of bulls in fields and things like that. But have you enough evidence to convict this dreadful person?"
Japp grinned. "Plenty of evidence," he said. "We've got his laboratory and his cultures and the whole equipment."
Poirot said: "It is possible, I think, that he has committed a long line of murders."
Miss Carnaby sighed.
"I was thinking," she said, "of a marvellous dream I had. I arranged the whole world so beautifully! No wars, no poverty, no diseases, no cruelty…"
"It must have been a fine dream," said Japp enviously.
Miss Carnaby jumped up. She said: "I must get home. Emily has been so anxious. And dear Augustus has been missing me terribly, I hear."
Hercule Poirot said with a smile:
"He was afraid, perhaps, that like him, you were going to 'die for Hercule Poirot'!"
D. du Maurier
This was the day for the bandages' to be removed and the blue lenses fitted'. Marda West put her hand up to her eyes and felt the bandage. The days had passed into weeks since her operation, and she had lain there suffering no physical discomfort, but only the darkness, a feeling that the world and the life around was passing her by. As for the operation itself, it had been successful.
"You will see," the surgeon' told her, "more clearly than ever before."
But always during these days of waiting, she had the fear that everybody at the hospital was being too kind. Therefore, when at last it happened, when at his evening visit the surgeon said, "Your lenses will be fitted tomorrow," surprise was greater than joy. She could not say anything, and he had lef t the room before she could thank him. "You won't know you've got them, Mrs West" the day-nurse assured her, leaving.
Such a calm, comfortable voice, and the way she held the glass to the patient's lips. These things gave confidence that she could not lie.
"Tomorrow I shall see you", said Marda West, and the nurse, with the cheerful laugh answered, "Yes, I'll give you your first shock."
"Aren't you feeling excited?" This was the low, soft voice of her night-nurse, who, more than the rest of them, understood what she had endured4. Nurse Brand was a person of sunlight, of bearing in fresh flowers, of admitting visitors.
Meals, too, even the dullest of lunches were made to appear delicacies through her method of introduction.
The night brought consolation and Nurse Ansel. She did not expect courage. It was she who had smoothed the pillows and held the glass to the lips. At night the patient had only to touch the bell, and in a moment Nurse Ansel was by the bed. "Can't sleep? I know, it's bad for you. I'll give you just two and a half grains, and the night won't seem so long".
All she did was faultless. She never annoyed. And when she went off duty, at five minutes to eight in the morning, she would whisper, "Until this evening."
It was with a special secret sympathy that Nurse Ansel would announce the evening visitor. "Here is someone you want to see, a little earlier than usual," the tone suggesting that Jim was not the husband of ten years but a troubadour, a lover, someone whose bouquet of flowers had been plucked in an enchanted garden and now brought to a balcony. Then shyly, the voice would murmur, "Good evening, Mr. West. Mrs. West is waiting foryou." She would hear the gentle closing of the door, the tip-toeing out with the flowers and the almost soundless return, the scent of the flowers filling the room.
It must have been during the fifth week that Marda West had suggested, first to Nurse Ansel and then to her husband, that perhaps when she returned home the night-nurse might go with them for the first week. Just a week. Just so that Marda West could settle to home again.
"Aren't you feeling excited?", asked Nurse Ansel.
"In a way", said Marda West. "It's like being born again. I've forgotten how the world looks."
"Such a wonderful world," murmured Nurse Ansel, "and you've been patient for so long."
"It's strange," said Marda West, "tomorrow you won't be a voice to me any more. You'll be a person."
"Aren't I a person now?"
"Yes, of course, but it will be different."
"Sleep, then. Tomorrow will come too soon. Good night, Mrs West. Ring if you want me."
"Thank you. Good night."
"Well, we can't complain of the weather!" Now it was the day itself, and Nurse Brand coming in like the first breeze of morning.
"All ready for the great event?" she asked.
Then the surgeon removed the bandages and did something to her eyelids.
"Now, don't be disappointed," he said. "You won't know any difference for about half an hour. Then it will gradually clear. I want you to lie quietly during that time."
The dark lenses, fitted inside her lids, were temporary' for the first few days. Then they would be removed and others fitted.
"How much shall I see?" she asked at last.
"Everything. But not immediately in colour. Just like wearing sunglasses on a bright day. Rather pleasant."
His cheerful laugh gave confidence, and when he and Nurse Brand had left the room she lay back again, waiting for the fog to clear.
Little by little the mist dissolved.
All was in focus now. Flowers, the wash-basin, the glass with the thermometer in it, her dressing-gown. Wonder and relief were so great that they excluded thought.
"They weren't lying to me," she thought. "It's happened, It's true."
Colour was not important. To see, to feel. It was indeed rebirth, the discovery of a world long lost to her.
She heard Nurse Brand's voice outside, and turned her head to watch the opening door.
"Well... are we happy once more?"
Smiling, she saw the figure dressed in uniform come into the room, bearing a tray, her glass of milk upon it. Yet, absurd, the head with the uniformed cap was not a woman's head at all. The thing bearing down upon her was a cow … a cow on a woman's body. The frilled cap was upon wide horns. The eyes were large and gentle,but cow's eyes, the nostrils broad and humid, and the way she stood there, breathing, was the way a cow stood placidly in pasture”.
"Feeling a bit strange?"
The laugh was a woman's laugh, a nurse's laugh, Nurse Brand's laugh, and she put the tray down on the cupboard beside the bed. The patient said nothing. She shut her eyes, then opened them again. The cow in the nurse's uniform was with her still. It was important to gain time. The patient stretched out her hand carefully for the glass of milk. She sipped the milk slowly. The mask must be worn on purpose'. Perhaps it was some kind of experiment connected with the fitting of the lenses though how it was supposed to work she could not imagine.
"I see very plainly," she said at last. "At least, I think I Cio."
Nurse Brand stood watching her. The broad uniformed figure was much as Marda West had imagiaed it, but that cow's head tilted, the ridiculous frill of the horns... where did the head join the body, if mask it in fact was?
"Is it a trick?" Marda West asked.
"Is what a trick?"
"The way you look ... your ... face?"
The cow's jaw distinctly dropped.
"Really, Mrs West. I'm as the good God made me."
"I didn't mean- to offend you," she said, "but it is just a little strange. You see..."
She was spared explanation because the door opened and the surgeon came into the room. At least, the surgeon's voice was recognizable as he called. "Hullo! How goes it?" and his figure in the dark coat was all that an eminent surgeon's should be, but... that terrier's head, ears pricked, the inquisitive, searching glance?
This time the patient laughed.
"Mrs. West thinks us a bit of a joke," the nurse said. But her voice was not over-'pleased.
The surgeon came and put his hand out to his patient, and bent close to observe her eyes. She lay very still. He wore no mask either. He was even marked, one ear black,the other white.
"I'll be in on Thursday," he said, "to change the lenses." Marda West could not demand an explanation. Instinct warned her that he would not understand. The terrier was saying something to the cow, giving instructions.
As they moved to the door the patient made a last attempt.
"Will the permanent lenses," she asked, "be the same as these?"
"Exactly the same." said the surgeon, "except that they won't be tinted. You'll see the natural colour. Until Thursday, then."
He was gone, and the nurse with him. She could hear the murmur of voice outside the door. What happened now? If it was really some kind of test, did they remove their masks instantly? She slipped out of bed and went to the door. She could hear the surgeon say, "One and a half grains. She's a little tired. It's the reaction, of course".
Bravely, she flung open the door. They were standing there in the passage, wearing the masks still.
"Do you want anything, Mrs West?" asked Nurse Band.
Marda West stared beyond them down the corridor. The whole floor was in the deception". A maid, carrying dustpan and brush, coming from the room next door, had a weasel's" head upon her small body, and the nurse advancing from the other side was a little kitten, her cap coquettish on her furry curls, the doctor beside her a proud lion.
Fear came to Marda West. How could they have known she would open the door at that minute? Something of her fear must have shown in her face, for Nurse Brand, the cow, took hold of her and led her back into her room.
"I'm rather tired," Marda West said. "I'd like to sleep."
"That's right," said Nurse Brand and gave her a sedative".
The sedative acted swiftly.
Soon peaceful darkness came, but she awoke, to lunch brought in by the kitten. Nurse Brand was off duty.
"How long must it go on for?" asked Marda West. She had adjusted herself" to the trick.
"How do you mean, Mrs. West?" asked the kitten, smiling. Such a flighty little thing, with its pursed-up mouth, and even as it spoke it put a hand to its cap.
"This test on my eyes," said the patient, uncovering the boiled chicken on her plate. "I don't see the point of it."
"I'm sorry, Mrs. West," the kitten said, "I don't follow you. Did you tell Nurse Brand you couldn't see properly yet?"
"It's not that I can't see," replied Marda West. "I see perfectly well. The chair is a chair. The table is a table. I'm about to eat boiled chicken. But why do you look like a kitten?" 'I see what I see,' said the patient. "You are a cat, if you like, and Nurse Brand's a cow."
This time the insult must sound deliberate. Nurse Sweeting, that was the cat's name, had fine whiskers to her mouth. The whiskers bristled.
"If you please, Mrs. West," she said, "will you eat your chicken, and ring the bell when you are ready for the next course?"
She left the room.
No, they could not be wearing masks. And the staff of the hospital could not possibly put on such an act for one patient, for Marda West alone the expense would be too great. The fault must lie in the lenses, then.
A sudden thought stuck her, and pushing the trolley table aside she climbed out of bed and went over the dressing-table. Her own face stared back at her from the looking-glass. The dark lenses concealed the eyes, but the face was at least her own.
"Thank heaven for that," she said to herself, but it swung her back to thoughts of trickery". Her first idea of masks had been the right one. But why?
She would try one further proof. She stood by the window, the curtain concealing her, and watched for passersby. For the moment there was no one in the street. It was the lunch-hour, and traffic was slack. Then, at the other end of the street, a taxi crossed, too far away for her to see the driver's head. She waited. A van drew near, but she could not see the driver... yes, he slowed as he wentby the nursing-home and she saw the frog's head.
Sick at heart, she left the window and climbed back into bed. She had no further appetite and pushed away her plate, the rest of the chicken untasted. She did not ring her bell, and after a while the door opened. The kitten, put the coffee down without a word, and Marda West irritated for surely, if anyone was to show annoyance, it should be herself? said sharply, "Shall I pour you some milk in the saucer?"
The kitten turned. "A joke's a joke, Mrs. West," she said, "and I can take a laugh with anyone. But I c an't s tand rudeness."
"Miaow," said Marda West.
The patient was in disgrace. She did not care. If the staf f of the nursing-home thought they could win this battle, they were mistaken. Marda went to the telephone and asked the exchange to put her through to her husband's office. She remembered a moment afterwards that he would still be at lunch. Nevertheless, she got the number, and as luck had it he was there.
"Jim... Jim, darling,"
The relief to hear the loved familiar voice. She lay back on the bed, the receiver to her ear.
"Darling, when can you get here?"
"Not before this evening, I'm afraid. Well, how did it go? Is everything O.K.?"
"What do you mean? Can't you see?"
How was she to explain what had happened to her? It sounded so foolish over the telephone.
"Yes, I can see. I can see perfectly. It's just that ... that all the nurses look like animals. And the surgeon too. He's a fox terrier."
"What on earth are you talking about?"
He was saying something to his secretary at the same time, something about another appointment, and she knew from the tone of his voice that he was very busy, very busy, and she had chosen the worst time to ring him up.
Marda West knew it was no use. She must wait till he came. Then she would try to explain everything, and he would be able to find out for himself what lay behind it.
"Oh, never mind," she said. "I'll tell you later."
"I'm sorry," he told her, "but I really am in a hurry."
Then she rang off. She put down the telephone.
It was much later in the afternoon that Matron called in to have a word with her. She knew it was Matron because of her clothes. But inevitably now, without surprise, she observed the sheep's head.
"I hope you're quite comfortable, Mrs. West?"
"Yes, thank you."
Marda West spoke guardedly". It would not do to anger the Matron.
"The lenses fit well?"
"I'm so glad. It was a nasty operation, and you've stood the period of waiting so very well. Mrs. West…" The Matron seemed uncomfortable, and turned her sheep's head away from the woman in the bed, "Mrs. West, I hope you won't mind what I'm going to say, but our nurses do a fine job here and we are all very proud of them. They work long hours, as you know, and it is not really very kind to mock" them, although I am sure you intend it in f un."
"Is it because I called Nurse Sweeting a kitten?"
"I don't know what you called her, Mrs. West, but she was quite distressed". She came to me in the of fice nearly crying."
"It won't happen again. But Matron," said Marda West, "What is the object of it all?"
"The object of what, Mrs. West?"
"This dressing up."
There was silence. The Matron moved slowly to the .
"I hope," she said, "when you leave us in a few days, Mrs. West, that you will look back on us with greater tolerance than you appear to have now."
She left the room. Marda West closed her eyes. She opened them again. Why was it only people had changed? What was so wrong with people? She kept her eyes shut when her tea was brought to her, and when the voice said pleasantly. "Some flowers for you, Mrs. West," she did not even open them, but waited for the owner of the voice to leave the room. The flowers were carnations".The card was Jim's. And the message on it said, "Cheer up. We're not as bad as we seem."
She smiled, and buried her face in the flowers. Nothing false about them. Nothing strange about the scent. Carnations were carnations, fragrant, graceful. Even the nurse on duty who came to put them in water could not irritate her with her pony's head. Af ter all, it was a trim little pony, with a white star on its forehead. "Thank you,"smiled Marda West.
The curious day dragged on, and she waited restlessly for eight o'clock. She realized, so strange had been the day, that she had not once thought about Nurse Ansel. Dear, comforting Nurse Ansel. Nurse Ansel, who was due to come on duty at eight. was she also in the conspiracy?" If she was, then Marda West would have a showdown".Nurse Ansel would never lie. She would go up to her, and put her hands on her shoulders, and take the mask in her two hands, and say to her, "There, now take it off.You won't deceive me."
At that moment the door opened and a long snake's head came into view.
"How does it feel to see yourself again?"
Nurse Ansel's voice coming from the head seemed grotesque and horrible. Marda West felt sick at the sight ofher.
"Poor dear, they should have kept you quiet, the first day," Nurse Ansel said.
"Tell me," she continued, "do I look as you expected me to look?"
She must be careful, Marda West thought. The question might be a trap".
"I think you do," she said slowly.
"When I go home with you," said Nurse Ansel, "I needn't wear uniform that is, if you don't want me to. You see, you'll be a private patient then, and I your personal nurse for the week I'm with you."
Marda West felt suddenly cold. In the rush of the day she had forgotten the plans. Nurse Ansel was to be with them for a week. It was all arranged. The vital thing was not to show fear. Nothing must seem chanted. And then, when Jim arrived, she would tell him everything. If he could not see the snake's head as she did and indeed, it was possible that he would not, if her hypervision was caused by the lenses he must just understand that for reasons too deep to explain she no longer trusted Nurse Ansel, could not, in fact, bear her to come home. The plan must be altered. She wanted no one to look after her. She only wanted to be home again, with him.
The telephone rang on the bedside-table and Marda West seized it. It was her husband.
"Sorry to be late," he said. "I'll jump into a taxi and be with you right away."
He rang off, and looking up she saw the snake's head watching her. No doubt, thought Marda West, no doubt you would like to know what we were saying to one another.
"You must promise not to get too excited when Mr. West comes." Nurse Ansel stood with her hand upon the .
"I'm not excited. I just long to see him, that's all."
"You're looking very flushed".
"It's warm in here."
"I'll open the window just a trifle at the top."
Then the neck settled in the collar, the tongue darted rapidly in and out, and with a gliding motion Nurse Ansel left the room.
Marda West waited for the sound of the taxi in the street outside. She wondered if she could persuade Jim to stay the night in the nursing-home. If she explained her fear, her terror, surely he would understand.
The taxi came at last. She heard it slow down, and then the door slammed and, Jim's voice rang out in the street below. The taxi went away. Her heart began to beat fast, and she watched the door. She heard his footstep outside, and then his voice again he must be saying something to the snake.
The door opened, the familiar umbrella und bowler hat the Xirst objects to appear round the corner, then the comforting burly figure, but God … no … please God, not Jim too, not Jim, forced into a mask, forced into an organisation of devils, of liars … Jim had a vultures” head. She could not mistake it. As she lay in sick and speechless horror, he stood the umbrella in a corner and put down the bowler hat and the folder overcoat.
"I gather you're not too well," he said, turning his vulture's head and staring at her, "feeling a bit sick and out of sorts. I won't stay long. A good night's rest will put you right."
She was too numb to answer. She lay quite still as he approached the bed and bent to kiss her. The vulture's beak was sharp.
"It's reaction, Nurse Ansel says," he went on, "the sudden shock of being able to see again. It works differently with different people. She says it will be much better when we get you home."
We ... Nurse Ansel and Jim. The plan still held-", then.
"I don't know," she said faintly, "that I want Nurse Ansel to come home."
"Not want Nurse Ansel?" He sounded startled. "But it was you who suggested it. You can't suddenly change."
There was no time to reply. She had not rung the bell, but Nurse Ansel herself came into the room. "Cup of coffee, Mr. West?" she said. It was the evening routine. Yet tonight it sounded strange, as though it had been arranged outside the door.
"Thanks, Nurse, I'd love some. What's this nonsense about not coming home with us?" The vulture turned to the snake, the snake's head wriggled, and Marda West knew, as she watched them, the snake with darting tongue, the vulture with his head hunched between his man's shoulders, that the plan for Nurse Ansel to come home had not been her own after all; she remembered now that the first suggestion had come from Nurse Ansel herself. It had been Nurse Ansel who had said that Marda West needed care. The suggestion had come after Jim had spent the evening laughing and joking and his wife had listened, her eyes bandaged, happy to hear him. Now, watching the smooth snake she knew why Nurse Ansel wanted to return with her, and she knew too why Jim had not opposed it, why in fact he had accepted the plan at once, had declared it a good one.
The vulture opened its blood-stained beak. "Don't say you two have fallen out?"
"Impossible." The snake twisted its neck, looked sideways at the vulture, and added, "Mrs. West is just a little bit tired tonight. She's had a trying day, haven't you, dear?"
How best to answer? Neither must know. Neithei the vulture, nor the snake.
"I'm all right," she said. "A bit mixed-up. As Nurse Ansel says, I'll be better in the morning."
"Did you really mean that," Jim asked, "about Nurse Ansel?"
A vulture needed sharp claws for tearing its victim.
"I don't know," she said. "It seemed to me rather silly to go home with a nurse, now that I can see again."
"I think she's treasure," he said. "I vote we stick to the plan. After all, if it doesn't work we can always send her away."
"Perhaps," said his wife.
"What will you do this evening?" she asked quietly."Have dinner at the club, I suppose," he answered. "It's becoming rather monotonous. Only two more days of it, thank goodness. Then you'll be home again."
Yes, but once at home, once back there, with a vulture and a snake, would she not be more completely at their mercy than she was here?
"You look unwell," he said suddenly. "Shall I call Nurse Ansel?"
"No..." It broke from her, almost a cry.
"I think I'd better go. She said not to stay long."
He got up from the chair, a heavy, hooded figure, and she closed her eyes as he came to kiss her good night. "Sleep well, my poor pet, and take it easy."
When he had gone she began to moan, turning her head upon the pillow.
"What am I to do?" she said. "What am I to do?"
The door opened again and she put her hand to her mouth. They must not hear her cry. They must not see her cry. She pulled herself together with a tremendous effort.
"How are you feeling, Mrs. West?"
The snake stood at the bottom of the bed, and by her side the house physician. She had always liked him, a young pleasant man, and although like the others he had an animal's head it did not frighten her. It was a dog's head, an Aberdeen's and the brown eyes seemed to quiz her.
"Could I speak to you alone?" she asked.
"Of course. Do you mind, nurse?" He jerked his head at the door, and she had gone. Marda West sat up in bed and clasped her hands.
"You'll think me very foolish," she began, "but it's the lenses. They make everyone look strange."
"They're supposed to do that, you know. They don't show colour." His voice was cheerful, friendly.
"Yes," she said. His voice, even his head, gave her confidence. "Have you known people who've had this operation before?"
"Yes, scores of them". In a couple of days you'll be as right as rain". You'll actually see more clearly in every way. One patient told me that it was as though she had been wearing spectacles all her life, and then, because of the operation, she realized she saw all her friends and her family as they really were."
"As they really were?" She repeated his words after him.
"Exactly. Her sight had always been poor, you see. She had thought her husband's hair was brown, but in reality it was red, bright red. A bit of a shock at first. But she was delighted."
The Aberdeen moved from the bed and nodded his head.
She repeated the words he had used himself. Marda West could see people as they really were. And those whom she had loved and trusted most were in truth a vulture and a snake…
The door opened and Nurse Ansel, with the sedative,entered the room.
"Ready to settle down, Mrs. West?" she asked.
"Yes, thank you."
The voice that had once seemed tender was oversmooth and false. How deceptive'-' are ears, thought Marda West, what traitors to truth. And for the first time she became aware of her own new power, the power to tell truth from falsehood, good from evil.
"Good night, Mrs. West."
Lying awake, Marda West decided upon her plan. She got out of bed. She took her clothes from the wardrobe and began to dress. She put on her coat and shoes andtied a scarf over her head. When she was ready she went to the door and softly turned the handle. All was quiet in the corridor. She stood there motionless. Then she took one step across the threshold and looked to the left, where the nurse on duty sat. The snake was there. The snake was sitting bent over a book.
Marda West waited. She was prepared to wait for hours. Presently the sound she hoped for came, the bell from a patient. The snake lifted its head from the book and checked the red light on the wall. Then, she glided down the corridor to the patient's room. She knocked and entered. Directly she had disappeared Marda West left her own room and went downstairs and into the street.
Marda West was walking down the street. She turned right, and left, and right again, and in the distance she saw the lights of Oxford Street. She began to hurry. The friendly traffic drew her like a magnet, the distant lights, the distant men and women. When she came to Oxford Street she paused, wondering of a sudden where she should go, whom she could ask for refuge. And it came to her once again that there was no one, no one at all; because the couple passing her now, a toad's"-' head on a short black body clutching a panther's" arm, could give her no protection, and the policeman standing at the corner was a baboon", the woman talking to him a little pig. No one was human, no one was safe, the man a pace or two behind her was like Jim, another vulture. There were vultures on the pavement opposite. Coming towards her, laughing, was a jackal.
She turned and ran. She ran, bumping into them, jackals, hyenas'"-, vultures, dogs. The world was theirs, there was no human left. Seeing her run they turned and looked at her, they pointed, they screamed and yapped, they gave chase, their footsteps followed her. Down Oxford Street she ran, pursued by them, the night all darkness and shadow, the light no longer with her, alone in an animal world.
"Lie quite still, Mrs. West, just a small prick", I'm not going to hurt you."
She recognized the voice of Mr. Greaves, the surgeon, and dimly she told herself that they had got hold of her again.
They had replaced the bandages over her eyes, and for this she was thankful.
"Now, Mrs. West, I think your troubles are over. No pain and no confusion with these lenses. The world's in colour again."
The bandages were removed after all. And suddenly everything was clear, as day, and the face of Mr. Greaves smiled down at her. At his side was a rounded, cheerful nurse.
"Where are your masks?" asked the patient.
"We didn't need masks for this little job," said the sur geon. "We were only taking out the temporary lenses.
That's better, isn't it?"
She looked around. She was back again all right. All was in natural qolour.
"Something happened to me, didn't it?" she said. "I tried to get away."
The nurse glanced at the surgeon. He nodded his head.
"Yes," he said, "you did. And, frankly, I don't blame you. I blame myself. Those lenses I inserted yesterday were pressing upon a tiny nerve, and the pressure threw out your balance. That's all over now."
His smile was reassuring. And the large eyes of Nurse Brand it must surely be Nurse Brand gazed down at her in sympathy.
"It was very terrible," said the patient. "I can never explain how terrible."
"Don't try," said Mr Greaves. "I can promise you it won't happen again."
The door opened and the young physician entered. He too was smiling. "Patient fully restored?" he asked.
"I think so," said the surgeon. "What about it, Mrs. West?"
"I thought you were dogs," she said. "I thought you were a hunt terrier, Mr. Greaves, and that you were an Aberdeen."
She turned to Nurse Brand. "I thought you were a cow," she said, "a kind cow. But you had sharp horns."
Everybody took it in good part.
The doctors were moving towards the door, laughing,
and Marda West, sensing the normal atmosphere, the absence of all strain, asked Nurse Brand, "Who found me, then? What happened? Who brought me back?"
Mr. Greaves glanced back at her from the door. "You didn't get very far, Mrs. West. The porter followed you. The person who really had the full shock was poor Nurse Ansel when she found you weren't in your bed."
"Nurse Ansel is here now," said Nurse Brand. "She was so upset when she went off duty that she wouldn't go back to the hostel to sleep. Would you care to have a word with her?"
Before she could answer the house doctor opened the door and called down the passage.
"Mrs. West wants to say good morning to you," she said. Marda West stared, then began to smile, and held out her hand.
"I'm sorry," she said, "you must forgive me."
How could she have seen Nurse Ansel as a snake! The hazel eyes, the clear olive skin, the dark hair trim under the frilled cap. And that smile, that slow, understandingsmile.
"Forgive you, Mrs. West?" said Nurse Ansel. "What have I to forgive you for? You've been through a terrible thing."
Patient and nurse held hands. They smiled at one another. Nurse Ansel was so pretty, so gentle. "Don't think about it," she said, "You're going to be happy from now on. Promise me?"
"I promise," said Marda West.
The telephone rang, and Nurse Ansel let go her patient's hand and reached for the receiver. "You know who this is going to be," she said. "Your poor husband." She gave the receiver to Marda West.
"Jim... Jim, is that you?"
The loved voice sounding so anxious at the other end."Are you all right?" he said. "I've been through to Matron twice, she said she would let me know. What the devil has been happening?"
Marda West smiled and handed the receiver to the nurse.
"You tell him," she said.
Nurse Ansel held the receiver to her ear. The skin of her hand was olive smooth, the nails gleaming with a soft pink polish.
"Is that you, Mr. West" she said. "Our patient gave us a fright, didn't she?" She smiled and nodded at the woman in the bed. "Well, you don't have to worry any more. Mr. Greaves changed the lenses. They were pressing on a nerve, and everything is now all right. She can see perfectly. Yes, Mr. Greaves said we could come home tomorrow."
Marda West reached once more for the receiver.
"Jim, I had a hideous'4 night," she said. "I'm only just beginning to understand it now. A nerve in the brain…"
"So, I understand," he said. "Don't excite yourself. I'll be along later."
His voice went. Marda West gave the receiver to Nurse Ansel, who replaced it on the stand.
"Did Mr. Greaves really say I could go home tomorrow?" she asked.
"Yes, if you're good." Nurse Ansel smiled and patted her patient's hand. "Are you sure you still want me to come with you? she asked.
"Why, yes," said Marda West. "Why, it's all arranged."
"The most precious thing in the world," she said to Nurse Ansel, "is sight. I know now. I know what I might have lost."
Nurse Ansel nodded her head in sympathy. "You've got your sight back," she said, "that's the miracle. You won't ever lose it now."
She moved to the door. "I'll slip back to the hostel and get some rest," she said. "Now I know everything is well with you I'll be able to sleep. Is there anything you want before I go?"
"Give me my face-cream and my powder," said the patient, "and the lipstick and the brush and comb."
Nurse Ansel fetched the things from the dressing-table and put them within reach upon the bed. She brought the hand-mirror, too, and the bottle of scent.
Already, thought Marda West, Nurse Ansel fitted in. She saw herself putting flowers in the small guest-room, choosing the right books, fitting a portable wireless in case Nurse Ansel should be bored in the evenings.
"I'll be with you at eight o'clock."
The door closed. Nurse Ansel had gone.
Marda West lifted the hand-mirror and looked into it. Nothing changed in the room, the street noises came from outside, and presently the little maid who had seemed a weasel yesterday came in to dust the room. She said, "Good morning," but the patient did not answer. Perhaps she was tired. The maid dusted, and went her way.
Then Marda West took up the mirror and looked into it once more. No, she had not been mistaken. The eyes that stared back at her were doe's" eyes, weary before sacrifice", and the timid deer's" head was meek, already bowed"
The Last Inch
At forty you were lucky if you still enjoyed flying after twenty years of it, and you were lucky if you could still feel that artistic pleasure of a beginner when you brought the plane down well.
It was all gone; and he was forty-three and his wife had gone back to Linnean Street, Cambridge, Mass., and was leading the life she liked to lead, taking the streetcar to Harvard Square, shopping at the market, living in her old man's decent old farm house which made a decent life for a decent woman.
He had promised to join her before the summer but he knew he would never do it. He also knew he would never get another flying job at his age, not for his sort of flying, even in Canada.
That left him with an apathetic wife who didn't want him, and a ten-year-old boy who had come too late and was, Ben knew in his heart, not part of either of them: a very lonely boy lost between them, who understood, at ten, that his mother had no interest in him, and that his father was a stranger who couldn't talk to him and was too sharp with him in the rare moments when they were together.
This particular moment was no better than the others. Ben had the boy with him in an Auster bumping violently down the 2,000 feet corridor over the Red Sea coast, waiting for the boy to be airsick.
"If you want to be sick," he said to the boy, "put your head well down on the floor so that you don't make the plane dirty."
"Yes," the boy said miserably.
"Are you afraid?"
"A little," the boy answered: a rather pale, shy and serious voice for a North-American boy. "Can these bumps smash the plane?"
Ben had no way of comforting him, excepting the truth. "Only if the plane has not been looked after and periodically checked."
"Is this..." the boy began, but he was too sick to go on.
"It's all right," his father said irritably. "It's a good enough plane."
The boy had his head down and was beginning to cry quietly.
"Don't cry!" Ben ordered him now. "There's no need to cry. Get your head up, Davy! Get it up!"
"How do you know where the wind is?" the boy asked.
"The waves, the odd cloud, the feel," Ben shouted back.
But he no longer knew what.directed his flying. Without thinking about it he knew to a foot where he would put the plane down. He had to know here, because there were no feet to spare-' on this piece of natural sand, which was impossible to approach in anything but a small plane. It was a hundred miles from the nearest native village. It was dead desert country.
"This is what is important," Ben said. "When you level off it's got to be' six inches. Not one foot, or three feet. Six inches! If it's too high and you come down hard, you'll wreck the plane. If it's too low, you hit a bump and go over. It's the last inch that's important."
Davy nodded. He knew. He had seen an Auster like this one go over at Embaba. The student flying it had been killed.
"See!" his father shouted. "Six inches. When she begins to sink, I ease back the stick. I ease it back. Now!" he said and the plane touched down like a snowflake. The last inch! He cut off the engine instantly and put on the heel brakes4 which stopped them short of the sudden drop into the water by six or seven feet.
The two pilots who had discovered this bay had called it Shark Bay, not for its shape but for its population. It was always well filled with good-sized Red Sea sharks who came into it after the big shoals of herring and mullet which looked for a safe place in here from time to time.
It was sharks Ben was here for; and now that he was here he forgot the boy, except to instruct him how to help unload, how to pack the food bag in wet sand, how to keep the sand wet with buckets of sea water, and to bring the tools and the small things necessary for his aqualung and cameras.
"Does anybody ever come here?" Davy asked him.
Ben was too busy to hear him now, but he shook his head. “Nobody! Nobody could get here, except in a light plane. Bring me the two green bags from the floor”, he said, “and keep your head covered against the sun. I don't want you to get sunstroke”.
It was Davy's last question. He had asked his questions seriously trying in that way to soften his father's hard answers. But he gave up the attempt and simply did as he was told. He watched carefully while his father prepared his aqualung eqvipment and underwater cameras to go into the perfect clear coral water to film sharks.
"Don't go near the water!" his father ordered.
Davy said nothing.
"These sharks," his father warned, "will be glad to take a bite at you,' especially on the surface; so don't even put your feet in."
Davy shook his head.
Ben wished he could do more for the boy, but it was too late by many years. When he was away flying (which had been most of the time since Davy was born and since he was a baby, and now when he was growing into his teens) he had never had contact with him. In Colorado, in Florida, in Canada, in Iraq, in Bahrein, and here in Egypt: it should have been his wife's work, Joannie's work, to keep the boy lively and happy.
In the early days he had tried himself to make friends with the boy. But he was very rarely at home, and the "home" was some outlandish place of Arabia which Joannie had hated and had continually compared with the clear summer evenings and cold sparkling winters and quiet college streets of that New England town. She had found nothing interesting in the mud houses of Bahrein at 110 degrees with 100 degrees humidity; nor in the iron encampments of oilfields, nor even in the dusty streets of Cairo. But all that apathy, (which had increased until it had beaten her) should be disappearing, now when she was at home. He would take the boy back to her, and hope that she would begin to take some interest in him now when she was where she wanted to be. Butshe hadn't shown much interest yet, and she'd left three months ago.
"Fix that strap between my legs," he told Davy.
He had the heavy aqualung on his back. Its two cylinders of compressed air, 56 lbs in weight, would give him the possibility to be thirty feet below for more than an hour. There was no need to go deeper. The sharks didn't.
"And don't throw any stones in the water," his father said, picking up the cylindrical watertight camera box.
"It frightens everything in sight. Even the sharks. Give me the mask."
Davy handed him the glass-fronted mask for his face. "I'll be down there about twenty minutes," Ben told him. “Then I'll come up and have lunch because the sun is already too high. You can put some stones on each side of the plane's wheels, and then sit under the wing out of the sun. Do you get that?”
"Yes," Davy said.
Davy watched the sea swallow his father and sat down to watch for a moment, as if there was something to see.But there was nothing at all, except the air-bubble breaking the surface from time to time.
There was nothing on the surface of the sea, which disappeared in the far horizon; and when he climbed up the hot sand-hill to the highest side of the sand bay, he could see nothing but the bare desert behind him.
Below, there was only the aeroplane, the little silver Auster. He felt free enough now, with no one in sight for a hundred miles, to sit inside the plane and study it. But the smell of it began to make him sick again, so he got out and poured a bucket of water around the sand where the lunch was, and then sat down to see if he could watch the sharks his father was photographing. He could see nothing below surface at all; and in the hot silence and loneliness he wondered what would happen if his father didn't come up again.
Ben was having trouble with the valve' that gave the right amount of air. He wasn't deep, only twenty feet, but the valve worked irregularly.
The sharks were there, but at a distance, just out of camera range.
"This time," he told himself, "I'm going to get three thousand dollars."
He was paid by the Commercial Television Stock Company; a thousand dollars for every five hundred feet of shark film, and a special'thousand dollars for any shot of a hammerhead.
While they ate their silent lunch he changed the film in the French camera and fixed the valve of his aqualung, and it was only when he began to open one of the bottles of lager that he remembered that he had brought nothing lighter to drink for his son.
"Did you find something to drink?" he asked Davy.
"No," Davy told him. "There is no water…"
"You'll have to drink some of this," he told Davy. "Open a bottle and try it, but don't drink too much of it."
He did not like the idea of a ten-year-old drinking beer but there was nothing else. Davy opened a bottle, took a quick drink, but swallowed it with difficulty. He shook his head and gave the bottle back to his father.
"You had better open a can of peaches," Ben said.
A can of peaches was no good in this dry noonday heat, but there was nothing else to give him. Ben lay back when he had finished eating, covered the equipment carefully with a wet towel, looked at Davy to see that he was not ill or in the sun, and went to sleep.
"Does anyone know we are here?" Davy was asking him when he was getting into the water again after his sweaty rest.
"Why do you ask that? What's the matter?"
"I don't know. I just thought…"
"Nobody knows we're here," Ben said. "We get permission from the Egyptians to fly to Hurgada; but they don't know that we come down this far. They must not know either. Remember that!"
"Could they find us?"
Ben thought the boy was afraid that they would be caught for doing something wrong. "No, no one could ever reach us either by sea or by land."
"Doesn't anyone know?" the boy asked, still worried.
"I told you," Ben said irritably. But suddenly he realised and too late that Davy was afraid not of being caught, but of being left alone. "Don't worry about it," Ben said. "You'll be all right."
"It's getting windy," Davy said in his quiet way.
"I know that. I'll be under water about half an hour. Then I'll come up and put in a new film and go down for another ten minutes. So find something to do while I'mgone. You should have brought a fishing line with you."
There were five of them now in the silver space where the coral joined the sand. He was right; The sharks came in almost immediately, smelling the blood of the meat, or feeling it somehow. He kept very still.
"Come on! Come on!" he said quietly.
They came straight for the piece of horsemeat, first the familiar tiger and then two or three smaller sharks of the same shape. They did not swim nor even propel their bodies. They simply moved forward like grey rockets. As they came to the meat they moved a little on one side and took passing bites at it.
He took films of all of it: the approach, the opening of their jaws as if they had tooth-ache, and the grabbing, messy bites that were as ugly a sight as he had seen in his life.
Like every underwater man, he hated and admired them on sight and was afraid of them.
They came back again, and his hundred feet of film was almost finished so he would have to leave all this, go up, reload, and return as quickly as he could. He looked down at the camera for a moment. When he looked up again he saw the unfriendly tiger coming at him.
"Git! Git! Git!"" he shouted through his mouthpiece.
The tiger simply rolled over in his approach, and Ben knew that he was being attacked.
The side-gashing teeth caught Ben's right arm in one sweep and passed across the other arm like a razor. Ben panicked, and in ten seconds he felt rather than saw the next attack. He felt the shark hit him along the legs, and even as he saw one of the smaller sharks come at him, he kicked out at in and rolled over backwards.
He had come to the surface ledge.
He rolled out of the water in a bleeding mess.
When he came to" he remembered at once what had happened, and he wondered how long he had been out and what happened next.
"Davy!" he shouted.
He could hear his son's voice, but he could hardly see. He knew the physical shock had come upon him. But he saw the boy then, his terrified face looking down at him, and he realised he had only been out for a second, but he could hardly move.
"What shall I do?" Davy was crying. "Look what happened to you!"
Ben closed his eyes to think clearly for a moment. He knew he could never fly that plane; his arms were like fire and lead, and his legs could not move, and he was not entirely conscious.
"Davy," he said carefully with his eyes closed. "How are my legs?"
"It's not your legs," he heard from Davy's sick-sounding voice. "It's your arms. They're all cut up, they're horrible."
"I know that," he said angrily through his teeth. "What about my legs?"
"They're covered in blood and they're cut up too."
"Yes, but not like your arms. What do I do?"
Ben looked at his arms then, and saw that the right one seemed almost cut off, and he could see muscle and sinew and not much blood. The left one looked like a chewed-up piece of meat and it was bleeding greatly, and he bent it up, wrist to shoulder, to stop the blood and groaned with pain.
He knew there wasn't much hope.
But then he knew there had to be; because if he died now the boy would be left here and that was a bad prospect. That was a worse prospect than his own condition. They would never find the boy in time if they could, in fact, find him at all.
"Davy," he said. "Listen to me. Get my shirt and tear it up and wrap up my right arm. Are you listening?"
"Tie up my left arm tight above all those cuts to stop the blood. Then tie my wrist up to my shoulder so me how, as hard as you can. Do you understand? Tie up both my arms."
"Yes, I understand."
"Tie them tight. Do my right arm first, but close up the wound. Do you understand? Is it clear…"
Ben did not hear the answer because he felt himself losing consciousness again, and this time it was longer, and he came to himself and saw the boy working on his left arm with his serious pale face expressing fear and terror and desperation.
“Is that you, Davy?” Ben said and heard his own indistinct speech, and went on. "Listen, boy," he said with dif ficulty. "I'm going to tell it all to you, in case I lose consciousness again. Bandage my arms, so that I don't lose more blood. Fix my legs, and then get me out of this aqualung. It's killing me."
"I've tried to get you out of it," Davy said in his hopeless voice. "But I can't. I don't know how to get you out."
"You'll have to get me out!" Ben said sharply in his old way, but he knew then that the only hope he had for the boy, as well as for himself, was to make Davy think for himself, make him believe that he could do what he had to do.
"I'm going to tell it to you, Davy, so that you understand. Do you hear me?" Ben could hardly hear himself and he didn't' feel the pain for a moment. "You will have to do all this, I'm sorry but you'll have to do it. Don't be upset if I shout at you. That's not important. That's never important. Do you understand me?"
"Yes." He was lying up the left arm and he wasn't listening.
"Good boy!" Ben tried to get a little encouragement into his words, but he couldn't do it. He did not know yet how to get to the boy," but he would find the way somehow.This ten-year-old boy had a super-human job before him if he was to remain alive.
"Get my knife out of my belt," Ben said, "and cut off all the straps of the aqualung." That was the knife he had had no time to use. "Don't cut yourself."
"I'll be all right," Davy said, standing up and looking sick at the sight of his own bloody hands. "If you could lif t your head a little I could pull one of the straps off, theone I undid."
"All right. I'll lift my head!"
Ben lifted his head and wondered why he felt so paralysed. With t hism ovement h ep assedo ut a gain, and this time into the terrible black pain that seemed to last too long, although he only half-felt it. He came to slowly and felt a little rested and not so paralysed.
"Hello, Davy," he said from his far distance.
"I got you off the aqualung," he heard the boy's frightened voice say. "You're still bleeding down the legs…"
"Never mind my legs," he said and opened his eyes and tried to rise up a little to see what shape he was in, but he was afraid of passing out, and he knew he could not sit up or stand up; and now when the boy had tied his arms back he was helpless from the waist up.'4 The worst had yet to come, and he had to think about it for a moment.
The only chance for the boy now was the plane, and Davy would have to fly it. There was no other chance, no other way. But now he had to think. He must not frighten the boy off. If he told Davy he would have to fly the plane, it would frighten him. He had to think carefully about how to do this; about how to think this into the boy" and persuade him to do it without knowing it. He had to feel his way into his son's frightened, childish mind. He looked closely at Davy then and he realised that it was a long time since he had really seen the boy.
He looks educated, Ben thought, and knew it was a strange idea. But his serious-faced boy was like him himself: a stern surface over something harder and wilder within. But the pale, rather square face did not look like a happy face, not now or ever, and when Davy saw his father look so closely at him he turned away and began to cry.
"Never mind, kid," Ben said slowly.
"Are you going to die?" Davy asked him.
"Do I look that bad?" Ben said without thinking about it.
"Yes," Davy said into his tears.
Ben knew that he had made a mistake, and he must never speak to the boy again without thinking carefully of what he was saying.
"Don't let all this blood and mess fool you. I have been smashed up like this before, two or three times. I don't think you remember when I was in hospital up in Saskatoon…"
Davy nodded. "I remember, but you were in hospital."
"Sure! Sure! That's right," he was trying to overcome his wish to faint of f again. "I'll tell you what we'll do. You get that big towel and put it near me and I'll roll on it somehow, and I'll get up to the plane. How about that, eh?"
"I won't be able to pull you up," the boy said, in defeat. "Ahhh," Ben said with a special gentleness. "You don't know what you can do until you try, kid. I suppose you're thirsty. There's no water, is there?"
"No, I'm not thirsty..." Davy had gone off to get the towel, and Ben said into the air with especial care:
"Next time we'll bring a dozen Coca-Cola. Ice too."
Davy brought the towel and lay it down near him, and by a sideways movement that seemed to tear his arm and chest and legs apart he got his back on to the towel and felt his heels dig into the sand, but he did not pass out.
"Now get me up to the plane," Ben said faintly.
"You pull, and I'll push with my heels. Never mind the bumps, just get me there!"
"How can you fly the plane?" Davy asked from in front of him.
Ben closed his eyes to think of how this boy felt. Ben was thinking, He must not know he has to fly it, the thought will frighten him terribly.
"These little Austers fly themselves," he said. "You just have to set the course, that's easy…"
"But you can't use your arms and hands. And you don't open your eyes."
"Don't give it a thought, Davy. I can fly blindfold with my knees. Start pulling!"
"How are you?" he said to the boy who was breathing heavily, all tired out. "You look all in."
"No, I'm not," Davy said angrily. "I'm all right."
That surprised Ben because he had never heard the tone of revolt or anger in his son's voice before; but still it must be there with a face like that. He wondered how a man could have lived with a son so long and never seenhis face clearly. The shock was wearing off. But he was physically too weak, and he could feel the blood gently flowing out of his left arm, and he couldn't raise a limb, even a finger (if he had one) to help himself. Davy would have to get the plane off and fly it, and land it.
It would be enough if he could survive long enough to talk this boy down with the plane" at Cairo. That would be absolutely enough. That was the only chance.
That thought was what helped him get into the plane. Then he was trying to tell the boy what to do, but he could not get it out. The boy was going to panic, Ben turned his head and felt it, and he said, "Did I bring up the camera, Davy? Or did I leave it on the bottom?"
"It's down near the water."
"Go and get it."
"It's going to be you, Davy. You will have to do it. So listen. Are the wheels clear?"
"Yes, I pulled all the stones away." Davy was sitting there with his teeth clenched.
"What's that shaking us?"
He had forgotten that. "Now this is what you do, Davy," he said, and thought it out slowly. "Give the throttle an inch, not too much. Do it now. Put your whole foot on the brakes, Davy. Good! You've done that! Now switch her on; the black switch on my side. That's fine, Davy. Now you have to push the button; and when the plane starts you open up the throttle a little."
"I can do it," the boy said, and Ben thought he heard the sharp note of his own voice in it, but not quite. "There's so much wind now," the boy said. "It's too strong and I don't like it."
"Are we facing into wind, Davy? Did you get us down wind? Don't be afraid of the wind."
He'll do it, though, Ben decided wearily and happily. Then he passed out into the depths he had tried to keep out of for the boy's sake. And even as he went out, deep, he thought he would be lucky this time if he came out of it at all. He was going too far. And the boy would be lucky if he came out of it. That was all he could think of before he lost contact with himself.
At three thousand feet on his own Davy did not think he could cry again in his lifetime. He had dried himself out of tears. He had boasted only once in his ten years that his father was a pilot. He had remembered everything his father had told him about this plane, and he guessed a lot more which his father had not told him.
It was clam and almost white up here. The sea was green. The desert was very dirty-looking with the high wind blowing a sheet of dust over it. In front the horizon was not clear any more, and the dust was coming up higher, but he could see the sea very clearly.
He understood maps. They were not difficult to understand. He knew where the chart was and he pulled it out of the door pocket and wondered what he must do at Suez. He knew that too. There was a toad to Cairo which went west across the desert. West would be easy. The road would be easy to see, and he would know Suez because that was where the sea ended and the canal began. There, you turned left.
He was afraid of his father, or he had been. But now he couldn't look at his father because he was asleep with his mouth open, and was horribly covered with blood and half-naked and tied up. He did not want his father to die; and he did not want his mother to die; or anyone; and yet that was what happened. People did die."
He did not like to be so high. It was unpleasant, and the plane moved so slowly over the earth. He had noticed that. But he would be afraid to go down into the wind again when he had to land. He did not know what he would do. He would not have control of the plane when it began to bump and lurch. He wouldn't keep it straight," and he wouldn't be able to level it off when it came near the ground.
His father might be dead. He looked and saw the quick breaths that came not very often. The tears that Davy thought had dried up in him were on the lower lids of his dark eyes and he felt them run over and come down his cheeks. He licked them in and watched the sea.
It was at the last inch from the ground that Davy lost his nerve at last; and he was lost in his own fears and in his own death, and he could not speak nor shout nor cry nor sob. He was trying to shout Now! Now! Now! but the fear was too great and in that last moment he felt the lift of the nose, and heard the hard roar of the engine still rotating and felt the bump as the plane hit the ground with its wheels, and the sickening rise and the long wait for the next touch-down; and then he left the touch- down on the tail and the wheels, the last inch of it. The plane turned as the wind threw it around in a ground circle, and when it stopped dead he heard the stillness.[...]
When they brought Davy in, it seemed to Ben that this was the same boy, with the same face he had discovered not long ago. What he had discovered was one thing. But the boy had probably not made any such discoveries about his father.
"Well, Davy?" he said shyly to the boy. "That was pretty good, wasn't it!""
Davy nodded. Ben knew he didn't think it pretty good at all; but some day he would. Some day the boy would understand how good it was. That was worth working on.
Ben smiled. Well, at least it was the truth. This would take time. It would t,ake all the time the boy had given him. But it seemed to Ben, looking at those pale eyes and non-American face, that it would be such valuable time. It would be time so valuably spent that nothing else would be so important. He would get to the boy. Sooner or later he would get to him. That last inch, which parted all things, was never easy to overcome, until you knew how. But knowing how'-' was the flyer's business, and at heart Ben remained a very good flyer.