Wherein the Green Mouse Squeaks
A few minutes later the paper hanging
young man entered, swinging an empty dinner pail and
halted in polite surprise before a flushed young girl
in full fencing costume, who sat on his operating table,
feet crossed, convulsively hugging a book to the scarlet
heart embroidered on her plastron.
“I hope you don’t
mind my sitting here,” she managed to say.
“I wanted to watch the work.”
“By all means,” he said
pleasantly. “Let me get you a chair ”
“No, thank you. I had rather
sit th-this way. Please begin and don’t
mind if I watch you.”
The young man appeared to be perplexed.
“I’m afraid,” he
ventured, “that I may require that table for
cutting and ”
“Please if you don’t
mind begin to paste. I am in-intensely
interested in p-pasting I like to w-watch
p-paper p-pasted on a w-wall.”
Her small teeth chattered in spite
of her; she strove to control her voice strove
to collect her wits.
He stood irresolute, rather astonished, too.
“I’m sorry,” he said, “but ”
“Please paste; won’t you?”
“Why, I’ve got to have that table to paste
“Then d-don’t think of
pasting. D-do anything else; cut out some strips.
I am so interested in watching p-paper hangers cut
out things ”
“But I need the table for that, too ”
“No, you don’t. You
can’t be a a very skillful w-workman
if you’ve got to use your table for everything ”
He laughed. “You are quite
right; I’m not a skillful paper hanger.”
“Then,” she said, “I
am surprised that you came here to paper our library,
and I think you had better go back to your shop and
send a competent man.”
He laughed again. The paper hanger’s
youthful face was curiously attractive when he laughed and
otherwise, more or less.
He said: “I came to paper
this library because Mr. Carr was in a hurry, and
I was the only man in the shop. I didn’t
want to come. But they made me.... I think
they’re rather afraid of Mr. Carr in the shop....
And this work must be finished today.”
She did not know what to say; anything
to keep him away from the table until she could think
“W-why didn’t you want
to come?” she asked, fighting for time.
“You said you didn’t want to come, didn’t
“Because,” he said, smiling,
“I don’t like to hang wall paper.”
“But if you are a paper hanger by trade ”
“I suppose you think me a real paper hanger?”
She was cautiously endeavoring to
free one edge of her skirt; she nodded absently, then
subsided, crimsoning, as a faint tearing of cloth sounded.
“Go on,” she said hurriedly;
“the story of your career is so interesting.
You say you adore paper hanging ”
“No, I don’t,” he returned, chagrined.
“I say I hate it.”
“Why do you do it, then?”
“Because my father thinks that
every son of his who finishes college ought to be
disciplined by learning a trade before he enters a
profession. My oldest brother, De Courcy, learned
to be a blacksmith; my next brother, Algernon, ran
a bakery; and since I left Harvard I’ve been
slapping sheets of paper on people’s walls ”
“Harvard?” she repeated, bewildered.
“Yes; I was 1907.”
He looked down at his white overalls, smiling.
“Does that astonish you, Miss Carr? you
are Miss Carr, I suppose ”
“Sybilla yes we’re we’re
triplets,” she stammered.
“The beauti the the
Carr triplets! And you are one of them?”
he exclaimed, delighted.
“Yes.” Still bewildered,
she sat there, looking at him. How extraordinary!
How strange to find a Harvard man pasting paper!
Dire misgivings flashed up within her.
“Who are you?” she asked
tremulously. “Would you mind telling me
your name. It it isn’t George!”
He looked up in pleased surprise:
“So you know who I am?”
“N-no. But it isn’t George is
“Why, yes ”
“O-h!” she breathed.
A sense of swimming faintness enveloped her: she
swayed; but an unmistakable ripping noise brought her
suddenly to herself.
“I am afraid you are tearing
your skirt somehow,” he said anxiously.
“Let me ”
The desperation of the negative approached
violence, and he involuntarily stepped back.
For a moment they faced one another; the flush died
out on her cheeks.
“If,” she said, “your
name actually is George, this this is the
most the most terrible punishment ”
She closed her eyes with her fingers as though to
shut out some monstrous vision.
“What,” asked the amazed young man, “has
my name to do with ”
Her hands dropped from her eyes; with
horror she surveyed him, his paste-spattered overalls,
his dingy white cap, his dinner pail.
“I I won’t
marry you!” she stammered in white desperation.
“I won’t! If you’re not a
paper hanger you look like one! I don’t
care whether you’re a Harvard man or not whether
you’re playing at paper hanging or not whether
your name is George or not I won’t
marry you I won’t! I won’t!”
With the feeling that his senses were
rapidly evaporating the young man sat down dizzily,
and passed a paste-spattered but well-shaped hand
across his eyes.
Sybilla set her lips and looked at him.
“I don’t suppose,”
she said, “that you understand what I am talking
about, but I’ve got to tell you at once; I can’t
stand this sort of thing.”
“W-what sort of thing?” asked the young
“Your being here in this house with
“I’ll be very glad to go ”
“Wait! That won’t do any good!
You’ll come back!”
“N-no, I won’t ”
“Yes, you will. Or I I’ll
f-follow you ”
“One or the other! We can’t
help it, I tell you. You don’t understand,
but I do. And the moment I knew your name was
“What the deuce has that got
to do with anything?” he demanded, turning red
in spite of his amazement.
“Waves!” she said passionately,
“psychic waves! I somehow knew
that he’d be named George ”
“Who’d be named George?”
“He! The man...
And if I ever if you ever expect me to to
c-care for a man all over overalls ”
“But I don’t Good
Heavens! I don’t expect you to care
for for overalls ”
“Then why do you wear them?”
she asked in tremulous indignation.
The young man, galvanized, sprang
from his chair and began running about, taking little,
short, distracted steps. “Either,”
he said, “I need mental treatment immediately,
or I’ll wake up toward morning.... I don’t
know what you’re trying to say to me. I
came here to to p-paste ”
“That machine sent you!”
she said. “The minute I got a spark you
“Do you think I’m a motor? Spark!
Do you think I ”
“Yes, I do. You couldn’t
help it; I know it was my own fault, and this
this is the dreadful punishment g-glued
to a t-table top with a man named George ”
“Yes,” she said passionately,
“everything disobedient I have done has brought
lightning retribution. I was forbidden to go into
the laboratory; I disobeyed and you came
to hang wall paper! I I took a b-book which
I had no business to take, and F-fate glues me to
your horrid table and holds me fast till a man named
George comes in....”
Flushed, trembling, excited, she made
a quick and dramatic gesture of despair; and a ripping
sound rent the silence.
“Are you pasted to that table?”
faltered the young man, aghast.
“Yes, I am. And it’s
utterly impossible for you to aid me in the slightest,
except by pretending to ignore it.”
“But you you can’t remain there!”
“I can’t help remaining here,” she
said hotly, “until you go.”
“Then I’d better ”
“No! You shall not
go! I I won’t have you go away disappear
somewhere in the city. Certainty is dreadful
enough, but it’s better than the awful suspense
of knowing you are somewhere in the world, and are
sure to come back sometime ”
“But I don’t want to come
back!” he exclaimed indignantly. “Why
should I wish to come back? Have I said acted done looked Why
should you imagine that I have the slightest interest
in anything or in in anybody
in this house?”
“No!... And I cannot ignore
your your amazing and intensely
f-flattering fear that I have d-designs that
I desire in other words, that I er have
dared to cherish impossible aspirations in connection
with a futile and absurd hope that one day you might
possibly be induced to listen to any tentative suggestion
of mine concerning a matrimonial alliance ”
He choked and turned a dull red.
She reddened, too, but said calmly:
“Thank you for putting it so
nicely. But it is no use. Sooner or later
you and I will be obliged to consider a situation too
hopeless to admit of discussion.”
“I can’t see any situation except
your being glued I beg your pardon! but
I must speak truthfully.”
“So must I. Our case is too
desperate for anything but plain and terrible truths.
And the truths are these: I touched the
forbidden machine and got a spark; your name is George;
I’m glued here, unable to escape; you
are not rude enough to go when I ask you not to....
And now here in this room,
you and I must face these facts and make up our minds....
For I simply must know what I am to expect;
I can’t endure I couldn’t live
with this hanging over me ”
“What hanging over you?”
He sprang to his feet, waving his dinner pail around
in frantic circles:
“What is it, in Heaven’s name, that is
hanging over you?”
“Over you, too!”
“Certainly. Over us both. We are headed
straight for m-marriage.”
“T-to each other?”
“Of course,” she said
faintly. “Do you think I’d care whom
you are going to marry if it wasn’t I?
Do you think I’d discuss my own marital intentions
with you if you did not happen to be vitally concerned?”
“Do you expect to marry me?”
“I I don’t want to:
but I’ve got to.”
He stood petrified for an instant,
then with a wild look began to gather up his tools.
She watched him with the sickening
certainty that if he got away she could never survive
the years of suspense until his inevitable return.
A mad longing to get the worst over seized her.
She knew the worst, knew what Fate held for her.
And she desired to get it over have the
worst happen and be left to live out the
shattered remains of her life in solitude and peace.
“If if we’ve
got to marry,” she began unsteadily, “why
not g-get it over quickly and then I don’t
mind if you go away.”
She was quite mad: that was certain.
He hastily flung some brushes into his tool kit, then
straightened up and gazed at her with deep compassion.
“Would you mind,” she
asked timidly, “getting somebody to come in and
marry us, and then the worst will be over, you see,
and we need never, never see each other again.”
He muttered something soothing and
began tying up some rolls of wall paper.
“Won’t you do what I ask?”
she said pitifully. “I-I am almost afraid
that if you go away without marrying me
I could not live and endure the the certainty
of your return.”
He raised his head and surveyed her
with deepest pity. Mad quite mad!
And so young so exquisite... so perfectly
charming in body! And the mind darkened forever....
How terrible! How strange, too; for in the pure-lidded
eyes he seemed to see the soft light of reason not
Their eyes encountered, lingered;
and the beauty of her gaze seemed to stir him to the
very wellspring of compassion.
“Would it make you any happier
to believe to know,” he added hastily,
“that you and I were married?”
“Y-yes, I think so.”
“Would you be quite happy to believe it?”
“Yes if you call that happiness.”
“And you would not be unhappy if I never returned?”
“Oh, no, no! I that would make
me comparatively happy!”
“To be married to me, and to know you would
never again see me?”
“Yes. Will you?”
“Yes,” he said soothingly.
And yet a curious little throb of pain flickered in
his heart for a moment, that, mad as she undoubtedly
was, she should be so happy to be rid of him forever.
He came slowly across the room to
the table on which she was sitting. She drew
back instinctively, but an ominous ripping held her.
“Are you going for a license and a a
clergyman?” she asked.
“Oh, no,” he said gently,
“that is not necessary. All we have to do
is to take each other’s hands so ”
She shrank back.
“You will have to let me take your hand,”
She hesitated, looked at him fearfully,
then, crimson, laid her slim fingers in his.
The contact sent a quiver straight
through him; he squared his shoulders and looked at
her.... Very, very far away it seemed as though
he heard his heart awaking heavily.
What an uncanny situation! Strange strange his
standing here to humor the mad whim of this stricken
maid this wonderfully sweet young stranger,
looking out of eyes so lovely that he almost believed
the dead intelligence behind them was quickening into
“What must we do to be married?” she whispered.
“Say so; that is all,”
he answered gently. “Do you take me for
“Yes.... Do you t-take me for your wife?”
“Yes, dear ”
“Don’t say that!... Is it over?”
“All over,” he said, forcing
a gayety that rang hollow in the pathos of the mockery
and farce.... But he smiled to be kind to her;
and, to make the poor, clouded mind a little happier
still, he took her hand again and said very gently:
“Will it surprise you to know that you are now
“A what?” she asked
“A princess.” He
smiled benignly on her, and, still beaming, struck
a not ungraceful attitude.
“I,” he said, “am the Crown Prince
She stared at him without a word;
gradually he lost countenance; a vague misgiving stirred
within him that he had rather overdone the thing.
“Of course,” he began
cheerfully, “I am an exile in disguise er
disinherited and all that, you know.”
She continued to stare at him.
“Matters of state er revolution and
that sort of thing,” he mumbled, eying her;
“but I thought it might gratify you to know that
I am Prince George of Rumtifoo ”
The silence was deadly.
“Do you know,” she said
deliberately, “that I believe you think I am
mentally unsound. Do you?”
“I you ” he began
to stutter fearfully.
“W-well, either you or I ”
“Nonsense! I thought
that marriage ceremony was a miserably inadequate
affair!... And I am hurt grieved amazed
that you should do such a a cowardly ”
“What!” he exclaimed, stung to the quick.
“Yes, it is cowardly to deceive a woman.”
“I meant it kindly supposing ”
“That I am mentally unsound? Why do you
“Because Good Heavens because
in this century, and in this city, people who never
before saw one another don’t begin to talk of
“I explained to you” she
was half crying now, and her voice broke deliciously “I
told you what I’d done, didn’t I?”
“You said you had got a spark,”
he admitted, utterly bewildered by her tears.
“Don’t cry please don’t.
Something is all wrong here there is some
terrible misunderstanding. If you will only explain
it to me ”
She dried her eyes mechanically:
“Come here,” she said. “I don’t
believe I did explain it clearly.”
And, very carefully, very minutely,
she began to tell him about the psychic waves, and
the instrument, and the new company formed to exploit
it on a commercial basis.
She told him what had happened that
morning to her; how her disobedience had cost her
so much misery. She informed him about her father,
and that florid and rotund gentleman’s choleric
“If you are here when I tell
him I’m married,” she said, “he will
probably frighten you to death; and that’s one
of the reasons why I wish to get it over and get you
safely away before he returns. As for me, now
that I know the worst, I want to get the worst over
and and live out my life quietly somewhere....
So now you see why I am in such a hurry, don’t
He nodded as though stunned, leaning
there on the table, hands folded, head bent.
“I am so very sorry for
you,” she said. “I know how you must
feel about it. But if we are obliged to marry
some time had we not better get it over and then never see one
He lifted his head, then stood upright.
Her soft lips were mute, but the question still remained
in her eyes.
So, for a long while, they looked
at each other; and the color under his cheekbones
deepened, and the pink in her cheeks slowly became
“Suppose,” he said, under his breath,
“that I wish to return to
“I do not wish it ”
“Try to to wish for ”
“For my return. Try to wish that you also
desire it. Will you?”
“If you are going to to talk that
way ” she stammered.
“Yes, I am.”
“Then then ”
“Is there any reason why I should
not, if we are engaged?” he asked. “We
are engaged, are we not?”
“Yes. Are we?”
“I yes if you call it ”
“I do.... And we are to
be married?” He could scarcely now
speak the word which but a few moments since he pronounced
so easily; for a totally new significance attached
itself to every word he uttered.
“Are we?” he repeated.
“Then if I if I find that
“Don’t say it,” she whispered.
She had turned quite white.
“Will you listen ”
“No. It it isn’t true it
“It is coming truer every moment....
It is very, very true even now....
It is almost true.... And now it has come true.
White, dismayed, she gazed at him,
her hands instinctively closing her ears. But
she dropped them as he stepped forward.
“I love you, Sybilla. I
wish to marry you.... Will you try to care for
me a little ”
“I couldn’t I can’t even
He had her hands now; she twisted
them free; he caught them again. Over their interlocked
hands she bowed her head, breathless, cheeks aflame,
seeking to cover her eyes.
“Will you love me, Sybilla?”
She struggled silently, desperately.
“No.... Let me go ”
“Don’t cry please,
dear ” His head, bowed beside hers
over their clasped hands, was more than she could
endure; but her upflung face, seeking escape, encountered
his. There was a deep, indrawn breath, a sob,
and she lay, crying her heart out, in his arms.
It is curious how quickly one recognizes unfamiliar
forms of address.
“You won’t cry any more, will you?”
“N-n-o,” sighed Sybilla.
“Because we do love each other, don’t
Then, radiant, yet sweetly shamed, confident, yet
fearful, she lifted her adorable head from his shoulder.
“George,” she said, “I
am beginning to think that I’d like to get off
“You poor darling!”
“And,” she continued,
“if you will go home and change your overalls
for something more conventional, you shall come and
dine with us this evening, and I will be waiting for
you in the drawing-room.... And, George, although
some of your troubles are now over ”
“All of them, dearest!” he cried with
“No,” she said tenderly, “you are
yet to meet Pa-pah.”