In Which the Remorseless and Inexorable
Results of Psychical Research Are Revealed to the
At intervals for the next ten minutes
her fresh, sweet, fascinating voice came to him where
he stood in the yard; then he heard it growing fainter,
more distant, receding; then silence.
Listening, he suddenly heard a far,
rushing sound from subterranean depths like
a load of coal being put in then a frightened
He sprang into the basement, ran through
laundry and kitchen. The cellar door swung wide
open above the stairs which ran down into darkness;
and as he halted to listen Clarence dashed up out
of the depths, scuttled around the stairs and fled
upward into the silent regions above.
“Betty!” he cried, forgetting
in his alarm the lesser conventions, “where
“Oh, dear oh, dear!”
she wailed. “I am in such a dreadful plight.
Could you help me, please?”
“Are you hurt?” he asked.
Fright made his voice almost inaudible. He struck
a match with shaking fingers and ran down the cellar
“Betty! Where are you?”
“Oh, I am here in the coal.”
“I I can’t
seem to get out; I stepped into the coal pit in the
dark and it all all slid with me and over
me and I’m in it up to the shoulders.”
Another match flamed; he saw a stump
of a candle, seized it, lighted it, and, holding it
aloft, gazed down upon the most heart rending spectacle
he had ever witnessed.
The next instant he grasped a shovel
and leaped to the rescue. She was quite calm
about it; the situation was too awful, the future too
hopeless for mere tears. What had happened contained
all the dignified elements of a catastrophe.
They both realized it, and when, madly shoveling, he
at last succeeded in releasing her she leaned her
full weight on his own, breathing rapidly, and suffered
him to support and guide her through the flame-shot
darkness to the culinary regions above.
Here she sank down on a chair for
one moment in utter collapse. Then she looked
up, resolutely steadying her voice:
“Could anything on earth more
awful have happened to a girl?” she asked, lips
quivering in spite of her. She stretched out what
had once been a pair of white gloves, she looked down
at what had been a delicate summer gown of white.
“How,” she asked with terrible calmness,
“am I to get to Oyster Bay?”
He dropped on to a kitchen chair opposite
her, clasping his coal-stained hands between his knees,
utterly incapable of speech.
She looked at her shoes once
snowy white; with a shudder she stripped the soiled
gloves from elbow to wrist and flung them aside.
Her arms and hands formed a starling contrast to the
remainder of the ensemble.
“What,” she asked, “am I to do?”
“The thing to do,” he
said, “is to telephone to your family at Oyster
“The telephone has been disconnected.
So has the water we can’t even w-wash
our hands!” she faltered.
He said: “I can go out
and telephone to your family to send a maid with some
clothes for you if you don’t mind
being left alone in an empty house for a little while.”
“No, I don’t; but,”
she gazed uncertainly at the black opening of the
cellar, “but, please, don’t be gone very
long, will you?”
He promised fervidly. She gave
him the number and her family’s name, and he
left by the basement door.
He was gone a long time, during which,
for a while, she paced the floor, unaffectedly wringing
her hands and contemplating herself and her garments
in the laundry looking-glass.
At intervals she tried to turn on
the water, hoping for a few drops at least; at intervals
she sat down to wait for him; then, the inaction becoming
unendurable, musing goaded her into motion, and she
ascended to the floor above, groping through the dimness
in futile search for Clarence. She heard him
somewhere in obscurity, scurrying under furniture
at her approach, evidently too thoroughly demoralized
to recognize her voice. So, after a while, she
gave it up and wandered down to the pantry, instinct
leading her, for she was hungry and thirsty; but she
knew there could be nothing eatable in a house closed
for the summer.
She lifted the pantry window and opened
the blinds; noon sunshine flooded the place, and she
began opening cupboards and refrigerators, growing
hungrier every moment.
Then her eyes fell upon dozens of
bottles of Apollinaris, and with a little cry of delight
she knelt down, gathered up all she could carry, and
ran upstairs to the bathroom adjoining her own bedchamber.
“At least,” she said to
herself, “I can cleanse myself of this dreadful
coal!” and in a few moments she was reveling,
elbow deep, in a marble basin brimming with Apollinaris.
As the stain of the coal disappeared
she remembered a rose-colored morning gown reposing
in her bedroom clothespress; and she found more than
that there rose stockings and slippers and
a fragrant pile of exquisitely fine and more intimate
garments, so tempting in their freshness that she
hurried with them into the dressing room; then began
to make rapid journeys up and downstairs, carrying
dozens of quarts of Apollinaris to the big porcelain
tub, into which she emptied them, talking happily
to herself all the time.
“If he returns I can talk to
him over the banisters!... He’s a nice
boy.... Such a funny boy not to remember me....
And I’ve thought of him quite often....
I wonder if I’ve time for just one, delicious
plunge?” She listened; ran to the front windows
and looked out through the blinds. He was nowhere
Ten minutes later, delightfully refreshed,
she stood regarding herself in her lovely rose-tinted
morning gown, patting her bright hair into discipline
with slim, deft fingers, a half-smile on her lips,
lids closing a trifle over the pensive violet eyes.
“Now,” she said aloud,
“I’ll talk to him over the banisters when
he returns; it’s a little ungracious, I suppose,
after all he has done, but it’s more conventional....
And I’ll sit here and read until they send somebody
from Sandcrest with a gown I can travel in....
And then we’ll catch Clarence and call a cab ”
A distant tinkling from the area bell interrupted
“Oh, dear,” she exclaimed, “I quite
forgot that I had to let him in!”
Another tinkle. She cast a hurried
and doubtful glance over her attire. It was designed
for the intimacy of her boudoir.
“I I couldn’t
talk to him out of the window! I’ve been
shocking enough as it is!” she thought; and,
finger tips on the banisters, she ran down the three
stairs and appeared at the basement grille, breathless,
radiant, forgetting, as usual, her self-consciousness
in thinking of him, a habit of this somewhat harebrained
and headlong girl which had its root in perfect health
of body and wholesomeness of mind.
“I found some clothes not
the sort I can go out in!” she said, laughing
at his astonishment, as she unlocked the grille.
“So, please, overlook my attire; I was so
full of coal dust! and I found sufficient Apollinaris
for my necessities.... What did they say at
He said very soberly: “We’ve
got to discuss this situation. Perhaps I had
better come in for a few minutes if you
“No, I don’t mind....
Shall we sit in the drying room?” leading the
way. “Now tell me what is the matter?
You rather frighten me, you know. Is is
anything wrong at Sandcrest?”
“No, I suppose not.”
He touched his flushed face with his handkerchief;
“I couldn’t get Oyster Bay on the ’phone.”
“The wires are out of commission
as far as Huntington; there’s no use I
tried everything! Telegraph and telephone wires
were knocked out in this morning’s electric
storm, it seems.”
She gazed at him, hands folded on
her knee, left leg crossed over, foot swinging.
“This,” she said calmly,
“is becoming serious. Will you tell me what
I am to do?”
“Haven’t you anything to travel in?”
“Not one solitary rag.”
have to stay here to-night and send for some of your
friends you surely know somebody who is
still in town, don’t you?”
“I really don’t.
This is the middle of July. I don’t know
a woman in town.”
He was silent.
“Besides,” she said, “we
have no light, no water, nothing to eat in the house,
no telephone to order anything ”
He said: “I foresaw that
you would probably be obliged to remain here, so when
I left the telephone office I took the liberty of calling
a taxi and visiting the electric light people, the
telephone people and the nearest plumber. It
seems he is your own plumber Quinn, I believe
his name is; and he’s coming in half an hour
to turn on the water.”
“Did you think of doing all that?” she
“Oh, that wasn’t anything.
And I ventured to telephone the Plaza to serve luncheon
and dinner here for you ”
“And I wired to Dooley’s Agency to send
you a maid for to-day ”
“That was perfectly splendid of you!”
“They promised to send one as
soon as possible.... And I think that may be
the plumber now,” as a tinkle came from the area
It was not the plumber; it was waiters
bearing baskets full of silver, china, table linen,
ice, fruits, confections, cut flowers, and, in warmers,
a most delectable luncheon.
Four impressive individuals commanded
by a butler formed the processional, filing solemnly
up the basement stairs to the dining room, where they
instantly began to lay the table with dexterous celerity.
In the drying room below Betty and
Beekman Brown stood confronting each other.
“I suppose,” began Brown
with an effort, “that I had better go now.”
Betty said thoughtfully: “I suppose you
“Unless,” continued Brown,
“you think I had better remain somewhere
on the premises until your maid arrives.”
“That might be safer,” said Betty, more
“Your maid will probably be here in a few minutes.”
“Probably,” said Betty,
head bent, slim, ringless fingers busy with the sparkling
drop that glimmered pendant from her neckchain.
Silence the ironing board
between them she standing, bright head
lowered, worrying the jewel with childish fingers;
he following every movement, fascinated, spellbound.
After a moment, without looking up:
“You have been very, very nice to me
in the nicest possible way,” she said....
“I am not going to forget it easily even
if I might wish to.”
“I can never forget you!... I d-don’t
The sparkling pendant escaped her
fingers; she picked it up again and spoke as though
gravely addressing it:
“Some day somewhere,”
she said, looking at the jewel, “perhaps chance
the hazard of life may bring us to togeth to
acquaintance a more formal acquaintance
than this.... I hope so. This has been a
little irregular, and perhaps you had
better not wait for my maid.... I hope we may
“I hope so, too,” he managed
to say, with so little fervor and so successful an
imitation of her politely detached interest in convention
that she raised her eyes. They dropped immediately,
because his quiet voice and speech scarcely conformed
to the uncontrolled protest in his eyes.
For a moment she stood, passing the
golden links through her white fingers like a young
novice with a rosary. Steps on the stairs disturbed
them; the recessional had begun; four solemn persons
filed out the area gate. At the same moment,
suave and respectful, her butler pro tem. presented
himself at the doorway:
“Luncheon is served, madam.”
“Thank you.” She
looked uncertainly at Brown, hesitated, flushed a
“I will stay here and admit
the plumber and then then I’ll
g-go,” he said with a heartbroken smile.
“I suppose you took the opportunity
to lunch when you went out?” she said.
Her inflection made it a question.
Without answering he stepped back
to allow her to pass. She moved forward, turned,
“Have you lunched?”
“Please don’t feel that
you ought to ask me,” he began, and checked
himself as the vivid pink deepened in her cheeks.
Then she freed herself of embarrassment with a little
“Considering,” she said,
“that we have been chasing cats on the back
fences together and that, subsequently, you dug me
out of the coal in my own cellar, I can’t believe
it is very dreadful if I ask you to luncheon with
me.... Is it?”
“It is ador it
is,” he corrected himself firmly, “exceedingly
civil of you to ask me!”
“Then will you?” almost timidly.
“I will. I shall not pretend
any more. I’d rather lunch with you than
be President of this Republic.”
The butler pro tem. seated her.
“You see,” she said, “a
place had already been laid for you.” And
with the faintest trace of malice in her voice:
“Perhaps your butler had his orders to lay two
covers. Had he?”
“From me?” he protested, reddening.
“You don’t suspect me,
do you?” she asked, adorably mischievous.
Then glancing over the masses of flowers in the center
and at the corners of the lace cloth: “This
is deliciously pretty. But you are either dreadfully
and habitually extravagant or you believe I am.
Which is it?”
“I think both are true,” he said, laughing.
And a little while later when he returned
from the basement after admitting Mr. Quinn, the plumber:
“Do you know that this is a
most heavenly luncheon?” she said, greeting
his return with delightfully fearless eyes. “Such
Astrakan caviar! Such salad! Everything
I care for most. And how on earth you guessed
I can’t imagine.... I’m beginning
to think you are rather wonderful.”
They lifted the long, slender glasses
of iced Ceylon tea and regarded one another over the
frosty rims a long, curious glance from
her; a straight gaze from him, which she decided not
to sustain too long.
Later, when she gave the signal, they
rose as though they had often dined together, and
moved leisurely out through the dim, shrouded drawing-rooms
where, in the golden dusk, the odor of camphor hung.
She had taken a great cluster of dewy
Bride’s roses from the centerpiece, and as she
walked forward, sedately youthful, beside him, her
fresh, young face brooded over the fragrance of the
“Sweet how sweet!”
she murmured to herself, and as they reached the end
of the vista she half turned to face him, dreamily,
They looked at one another, she with
chin brushing the roses.
“The strangest of all,”
she said, “is that it seems all right and and
we know that it is all quite wrong....
Had you better go?”
“Unless I ought to wait and
make sure your maid does not fail you.... Shall
I?” he asked evenly.
She did not answer. He drew a
linen-swathed armchair toward her; she absently seated
herself and lay back, caressing the roses with delicate
lips and chin.
Twice she looked up at him, standing
there by the boarded windows. Sunshine filtered
through the latticework at the top enough
for them to see each other as in a dull afterglow.
“I wonder how soon my maid will
come,” she mused, dropping the loose roses on
her knees. “If she is going to be very long
about it perhaps perhaps you might care
to find a chair if you have decided to wait.”
He drew one from a corner and seated
himself, pulses hammering his throat.
Through the stillness of the house
sounded at intervals the clink of glass from the pantry.
Other sounds from above indicated the plumber’s
progress from floor to floor.
“Do you realize,” she
said impulsively, “how very nice you have
been to me? What a perfectly horrid position
I might have been in, with poor Clarence on the back
fence! And suppose I had dared follow him alone
to the cellar? I I might have been
there yet up to my neck in coal?”
She gazed into space with considerable emotion.
“And now,” she said, “I
am safe here in my own home. I have lunched divinely,
a maid is on the way to me, Clarence remains somewhere
safe indoors, Mr. Quinn is flitting from faucet to
faucet, the electric light and the telephone will
be in working order before very long and
it is all due to you!”
“I I did a few things
I almost w-wish I hadn’t,” stammered Brown,
“b-because I can’t, somehow, decently t-tell
you how tremendously I I ”
He stuck fast.
“It would look as though I were
presuming on a t-trifling service rendered, and oh,
I can’t say it; I want to, but I can’t.”
“Say what? Please, I don’t
mind what you are are going to say.”
“It’s it’s that I ”
“Y-es?” in soft encouragement.
“W-want to know you most tremendously
now. I don’t want to wait several years
for chance and hazard.”
“O-h!” as though the information
conveyed a gentle shock to her. Her low-breathed
exclamation nearly finished Brown.
“I knew you’d think it
unpardonable for me at such a time to
venture to to ask say express convey ”
“Why do you how can
I where could we ” She
recovered herself resolutely. “I do not
think we ought to take advantage of an accident like
this.... Do you? Besides, probably, in the
natural course of social events ”
“But it may be years! months!
weeks!” insisted Brown, losing control of himself.
“I should hope it would at least
be a decently reasonable interval of several weeks ”
“But I don’t know what
to do if I never see you again for weeks! I c-care
so much for you.”
She shrank back in her chair, and
in her altered face he read that he had disgraced
“I knew I was going to,”
he said in despair. “I couldn’t keep
it I couldn’t stop it. And now
that you see what sort of a man I am I’m going
to tell you more.”
“You need not,” she said faintly.
“I must. Listen! I I
don’t even know your full name all
I know is that it is Betty, and that your cat’s
name is Clarence and your plumber’s name is
Quinn. But if I didn’t know anything at
all concerning you it would have been the same.
I suppose you will think me insane if I tell you that
before the car, on which you rode, came into sight
I knew you were on it. And I cared for you before
I ever saw you.”
“I don’t understand ”
“I know you don’t. I
don’t. All I understand is that what you
and I have done has been done by us before, sometime,
somewhere part only down to down
to where you changed cars. Up to that moment,
before you took the Lexington Avenue car, I recognized
each incident as it occurred.... But when all
this happened to us before I must have lost courage for
I did not recognize anything after that except that
I cared for you.... Do you understand one single
word of what I have been saying?”
The burning color in her face had
faded slowly while he was speaking; her lifted eyes
grew softer, serious, as he ended impetuously.
She looked at him in retrospective
silence. There was no mistaking his astonishing
sincerity, his painfully earnest endeavor to impart
to her some rather unusual ideas in which he certainly
believed. No man who looked that way at a woman
could mean impertinence; her own intelligence satisfied
her that he had not meant and could never mean offense
to any woman.
“Tell me,” she said quietly,
“just what you mean. It is not possible
for you to care for me....
He disclosed to her, beginning briefly
with his own name, material and social circumstances,
a pocket edition of his hitherto uneventful career,
the advent that morning of the emissary from The Green
Mouse, his discussion with Smith, the strange sensation
which crept over him as he emerged from the tunnel
at Forty-second Street, his subsequent altercation
with Smith, and the events that ensued up to the eruption
He spoke in his most careful attorney’s
manner, frank, concise, convincing, free from any
exaggeration of excitement or emotion. And she
listened, alternately fascinated and appalled as, step
by step, his story unfolded the links in an apparently
inexorable sequence involving this young man and herself
in a predestined string of episodes not yet ended
if she permitted herself to credit this astounding
Sensitively intelligent, there was
no escaping the significance of the only possible
deduction. She drew it and blushed furiously.
For a moment, as the truth clamored in her brain,
the self-evidence of it stunned her. But she
was young, and the shamed recoil came automatically.
Incredulous, almost exasperated, she raised her head
to confront him; the red lips parted in outraged protest parted
and remained so, wordless, silent the soundless,
virginal cry dying unuttered on a mouth that had imperceptibly
begun to tremble.
Her head sank slowly; she laid her
white hands above the roses heaped in her lap.
For a long while she remained so. And he did
First the butler went away. Then
Mr. Quinn followed. The maid had not yet arrived.
The house was very still.
And after the silence had worn his
self-control to the breaking point he rose and walked
to the dining room and stood looking down into the
yard. The grass out there was long and unkempt;
roses bloomed on the fence; wistaria, in its deeper
green of midsummer, ran riot over the trellis where
Clarence had basely dodged his lovely mistress, and,
after making a furry pin wheel of himself, had fled
through the airhole into Stygian depths.
Somewhere above, in the silent house,
Clarence was sulkily dissembling.
“I suppose,” said Brown,
quietly coming back to where the girl was sitting
in the golden dusk, “that I might as well find
Clarence while we are waiting for your maid.
May I go up and look about?”
And taking her silence as assent, he started upstairs.
He hunted carefully, thoroughly, opening
doors, peeping under furniture, investigating clothespresses,
listening at intervals, at intervals calling with
misleading mildness. But, like him who died in
malmsey, Clarence remained perjured and false to all
sentiments of decency so often protested purringly
to his fair young mistress.
Mechanically Brown opened doors of
closets, knowing, if he had stopped to think, that
cats don’t usually turn knobs and let themselves
into tightly closed places.
In one big closet on the fifth floor,
however, as soon as he opened the door there came
a rustle, and he sprang forward to intercept the perfidious
one; but it was only the air stirring the folds of
garments hanging on the wall.
As he turned to step forth again the
door gently closed with an ominous click, shutting
him inside. And after five minutes’ frantic
fussing he realized that he was imprisoned by a spring
lock at the top of a strange house, inhabited only
by a cat and a bewildered young girl, who might, at
any moment now that the telephone was in order, call
a cab and flee from a man who had tried to explain
to her that they were irrevocably predestined for
Calling and knocking were dignified
and permissible, but they did no good. To kick
violently at the door was not dignified, but he was
obliged to do it. Evidently the closet was too
remote for the sound to penetrate down four flights
He tried to break down the door they
do it in all novels. He only rebounded painfully,
ineffectively, which served him right for reading
It irked him to shout; he hesitated
for a long while; then sudden misgiving lest she might
flee the house seized him and he bellowed. It
was no use.
The pitchy quality of the blackness
in the closet aided him in bruising himself; he ran
into a thousand things of all kinds of shapes and
textures every time he moved. And at each fresh
bruise he grew madder and madder, and, holding the
cat responsible, applied language to Clarence of which
he had never dreamed himself capable.
Then he sat down. He remained
perfectly still for a long while, listening and delicately
feeling his hurts. A curious drowsiness began
to irritate him; later the irritation subsided and
he felt a little sleepy.
His heart, however, thumped like an
inexpensive clock; the cedar-tainted air in the closet
grew heavier; he felt stupid, swaying as he rose.
No wonder, for the closet was as near air-tight as
it could be made. Fortunately he did not realize
And, meanwhile, downstairs, Betty
was preparing for flight.
She did not know where she was going how
far away she could get in a rose-silk morning gown.
But she had discovered, in a clothespress, an automobile
duster, cap, and goggles; on the strength of these
she tried the telephone, found it working, summoned
a coupe, and was now awaiting its advent. But
the maid from Dooley’s must first arrive to take
charge of the house and Clarence until she, Betty,
could summon her family to her assistance and defy
The Green Mouse, Beekman Brown, and Destiny behind
her mother’s skirts.
Flight was, therefore, imperative it
was absolutely indispensable that she put a number
of miles between herself and this young man who had
just informed her that Fate had designed them for
She was no longer considering whether
she owed this amazing young man any gratitude, or
what sort of a man he might be, agreeable, well-bred,
attractive; all she understood was that this man had
suddenly stepped into her life, politely expressing
his conviction that they could not, ultimately, hope
to escape from each other. And, beginning to realize
the awful import of his words, the only thing that
restrained her from instant flight on foot was the
hidden Clarence. She could not abandon her cat.
She must wait for that maid. She waited.
Meanwhile she hunted up Dooley’s Agency in the
telephone book and called them up. They told her
the maid was on the way as though Dooley’s
Agency could thwart Destiny with a whole regiment
of its employees!
She had discarded her roses with a
shudder; cap, goggles, duster, lay in her lap.
If the maid came before Brown returned she’d
flee. If Brown came back before the maid arrived
she’d tell him plainly what she had decided
on, thank him, tell him kindly but with decision that,
considering the incredible circumstances of their
encounter, she must decline to encourage any hope
he might entertain of ever again seeing her.
At this stern resolve her heart, being
an automatic and independent affair, refused to approve,
and began an unpleasantly irregular series of beats
which annoyed her.
“It is true,” she admitted
to herself, “that he is a gentleman, and I can
scarcely be rude enough, after what he has done for
me, to leave him without any explanation at all....
His clothes are ruined. I must remember that.”
Her heart seemed to approve such sentiments,
and it beat more regularly as she seated herself at
a desk, found in it a sheet of notepaper and a pencil,
and wrote rapidly:
“Dear Mr. Brown:
“If my maid comes before you
do I am going. I can’t help it. The
maid will stay to look after Clarence until I can
return with some of the family. I don’t
mean to be rude, but I simply cannot stand what you
told me about our about what you told me....
I’m sorry you tore your clothes.
“Please believe my flight has
nothing to do with you personally or your conduct,
which was perfectly (’charming’ scratched
out) proper. It is only that to be suddenly told
that one is predestined to (’marry’ scratched
out) become intimately acquainted (all this scratched
out and a new line begun).
“It is unendurable for a girl
to think that there is no freedom of choice in life
left her to be forced, by what you say are
occult currents, into friendship with
a perfectly strange man at the other end. So I
don’t think we had better ever again attempt
to find anybody to present us to each other.
This doesn’t sound right, but you will surely
“Please do not misjudge me.
I must appear to you uncivil, ungrateful, and childish but
I am, somehow, a little frightened. I know you
are perfectly nice but all that has happened
is almost, in a way, terrifying to me. Not that
I am cowardly; but you must understand. You will won’t
you?.... But what is the use of my asking you,
as I shall never see you again.
“So I am only going to thank
you, and say (’with all my heart’ crossed
out) very cordially, that you have been most kind,
most generous and considerate most most ”
Her pencil faltered; she looked into
space, and the image of Beekman Brown, pleasant-eyed,
attractive, floated unbidden out of vacancy and looked
She stared back at the vision curiously,
more curiously as her mind evoked the agreeable details
of his features, resting there, chin on the back of
her hand, from which, presently, the pencil fell unheeded.
What could he be doing upstairs all
this while. She had not heard him for many minutes
now. Why was he so still?
She straightened up at her desk and
glanced uneasily across her shoulder, listening.
Not a sound from above; she rose and
walked to the foot of the stairs.
Why was he so still? Had he found
Clarence? Had anything gone wrong? Had Clarence
become suddenly rabid and attacked him. Cats can’t
annihilate big, strong young men. But where
was he? Had he, pursuing his quest, emerged through
the scuttle on to the roof and and fallen
Scarcely knowing what she did she
mounted on tiptoe to the second floor, listening.
The silence troubled her; she went from room to room,
opening doors and clothespresses. Then she mounted
to the third floor, searching more quickly. On
the fourth floor she called to him in a voice not quite
steady. There was no reply.
Alarmed now, she hurriedly flung open
doors everywhere, then, picking up her rose-silk skirts,
she ran to the top floor and called tremulously.
A faint sound answered; bewildered,
she turned to the first closet at hand, and her cheeks
suddenly blanched as she sprang to the door of the
cedar press and tore it wide open.
He was lying on his face amid a heap
of rolled rugs, clothes hangers and furs, quite motionless.
She knew enough to run into the servants’
rooms, fling open the windows and, with all the strength
in her young body, drag the inanimate youth across
the floor and into the fresh air.
“O-h!” she said, and said
it only once. Then, ashy of lip and cheek, she
took hold of Brown and, lashing her memory to help
her in the emergency, performed for that inanimate
gentleman the rudiments of an exercise which, if done
properly, is supposed to induce artificial respiration.
It certainly induced something resembling
it in Brown. After a while he made unlovely and
inarticulate sounds; after a while the sounds became
articulate. He said: “Betty!”
several times, more or less distinctly. He opened
one eye, then the other; then his hands closed on the
hands that were holding his wrists; he looked up at
her from where he lay on the floor. She, crouched
beside him, eyes still dilated with the awful fear
of death, looked back, breathless, trembling.
“That is a devil of a place,
that closet,” he said faintly.
She tried to smile, tried wearily
to free her hands, watched them, dazed, being drawn
toward him, drawn tight against his lips felt
his lips on them.
Then, without warning, an incredible
thrill shot through her to the heart, stilling it silencing
pulse and breath nay, thought itself.
She heard him speaking; his words came to her like
distant sounds in a dream:
“I cared for you. You give
me life and I adore you.... Let me.
It will not harm you. The problem of life is
solved for me; I have solved it; but unless some day
you will prove it for me Betty the
problem of life is but a sorry sum a total
of ciphers without end.... No other two people
in all the world could be what we are and what we have
been to each other. No other two people could
dare to face what we dare face.” He paused:
“Dare we, Betty?”
Her eyes turned from his. He
rose unsteadily, supported on one arm; she sprang
to her feet, looked at him, and, as he made an awkward
effort to rise, suddenly bent forward and gave him
both hands in aid.
she said; “let me try to think, if I can.
Don’t speak to me again not yet not
But, at intervals, as they descended
the flights of stairs, she turned instinctively to
watch his progress, for he still moved with difficulty.
In the drawing-room they halted, he
leaning heavily on the back of a chair, she, distrait,
restless, pacing the polished parquet, treading her
roses under foot, turning from time to time to look
at him a strange, direct, pure-lidded gaze
that seemed to freshen his very soul.
Once he stooped and picked up one
of the trodden roses bruised by her slim foot; once,
as she passed him, pacing absently the space between
the door and him, he spoke her name.
But: “Wait!” she
breathed. “You have said everything.
It is for me to reply if I speak at all.
C-can’t you wait for me?”
“Have I angered you?”
She halted, head high, superb in her slim, young beauty.
“Do I look it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Nor I. Let me find out.”
The room had become dimmer; the light
on her hair and face and hands glimmered dully as
she passed and re-passed him in her restless progress
restless, dismayed, frightened progress toward a goal
she already saw ahead close ahead of her every
time she turned to look at him. She already knew
That man! And she knew
that already he must be, for her, something that she
could never again forget something she must
reckon with forever and ever while life endured.
She paused and inspected him almost
insolently. Suddenly the rush of the last revolt
overwhelmed her; her eyes blazed, her white hands tightened
into two small clenched fists and then tumult
died in her ringing ears, the brightness of the eyes
was quenched, her hands relaxed, her head sank low,
lower, never again to look on this man undismayed,
heart free, unafraid never again to look
into this man’s eyes with the unthinking, unbelieving
tranquillity born of the most harmless skepticism in
She stood there in silence, heard
his step beside her, raised her head with an effort.
Her hands quivered, refusing surrender.
He bent and lifted them, pressing them to his eyes,
his forehead. Then lowered them to the level of
his lips, holding them suspended, eyes looking into
Suddenly her eyes closed, a convulsive
little tremor swept her, she pressed both clasped
hands against his lips, her own moved, but no words
came only a long, sweet, soundless sigh,
soft as the breeze that stirs the crimson maple buds
when the snows of spring at last begin to melt.
From a dark corner under the piano
Clarence watched them furtively.