Puslapio vaizdai

an hour, for I was going to turn on the lights, when I felt there was somebody in the room whom the short hairs at the back of my neck warned me I was not in the least anxious to face. There was a mirror

on the wall. As I lifted my eyes to it I saw the dog Harvey reflected near the shadow by the closed door. He had reared himself full-length on his hind legs, his head a little on one side to clear a sofa between us, and he was looking at me. The face,

[blocks in formation]
[graphic][merged small]


with its knitted brows and drawn lips, was the face of a dog, but the look, for the fraction of time that I caught it, was human-intently and desperately human. When the blood in my body went forward again he had dropped to the floor, and was merely studying me in his usual one-eyed fashion. Next morning I returned him to Miss Sichliffe. I would not have kept him another day for the wealth of Asia, or even Ella Godfrey's approval.

Miss Sichliffe's house I discovered to be a mid-Victorian mansion of peculiar villainy even for its period, surrounded by gardens of conflicting colors, all dazzling with glass and fresh paint on ironwork.

When I said I will sail to my love to-night On the other side of the world.

I have no music, but the voice drew. I waited till it had conscientiously reached the end:

Oh, maid most dear, I am not here,
I have no place apart-
No dwelling more on sea or shore,
But only in thy heart.

It seemed to me a poor life that had no more than that to do at eleven o'clock of a Tuesday forenoon. Then Miss Sichliffe suddenly lumbered through a French win

dow in clumsy haste, her brows contracted against the light.

"Well?" she said, delivering the word like a spear-thrust, with the full weight of the body behind it.

"I've brought Harvey back at last," I replied. "Here he is."

But it was at me she looked, not at the dog who had cast himself at her feetlooked as though she would have fished my soul out of my breast on the instant.

"Wha'-what did you think of him? What did you make of him?" she panted. I was too taken aback for the moment to reply. Her voice broke as she stooped to the dog at her knees. "O Harvey, Harvey! you utterly worthless old devil!" she cried, and the dog fawned and cringed and abased himself in servility that one. could scarcely bear to look upon. I made to go.

"Oh, but, please, you must n't!" She tugged at the car's side. "Would n't you like some flowers or some orchids? We 've really splendid orchids, and"-she clasped her hands-"there are Japanese goldfish-real Japanese goldfish, with four tails. If you don't care for 'em, perhaps your friends or somebody-oh, please!"

Harvey had recovered himself, and I realized that this woman beyond the decencies was fawning on me as the dog had fawned on her.

"Certainly," I said, ashamed to meet her eye. "I'm lunching at Mittleham, but-"

"There's plenty of time," she entreated. "What do you think of Harvey?"

"He's a queer beast," I said, getting out. "He does nothing but stare at me.' "Does he stare at you all the time he 's with you?"

"Always. He 's doing it now. Look!" We had halted. Harvey had sat down, and was staring from one to the other with a weaving motion of the head.

"He'll do that all day," I said. "What is it, Harvey?"

"Yes, what is it, Harvey?" she echoed. The dog's throat twitched, his body stiffened and shook as though he were going to have a fit. Then he came back with a visible wrench to his unwinking watch.

"Always so?" she whispered.

"Always," I replied, and told her something of his life with me. She nodded

once or twice, and in the end led me into the house.

There were unaging pitch-pine doors of Gothic design in it; there were inlaid marble mantelpieces and cut-steel fenders; there were stupendous wall-papers, and octagonal, medallioned Wedgwood what-nots, and black-and-gilt Austrian images holding candelabra, with every other refinement that art had achieved or wealth had bought between 1851 and 1878. And everything reeked of varnish.

"Now!" She opened a baize door, and pointed down a long corridor flanked with more Gothic doors. "This was where we used to-to patch 'em up. You 've heard of us. 've heard of us. Mrs. Godfrey told you in the garden the day I got Harvey given me. I"--she drew in her breath-"I live here, and I have five thousand seven hundred pounds a year. Come back, Harvey."

He had tiptoed down the corridor, as rigid as ever, and was sitting outside one of the shut doors. "Look here!" she said, and planted herself squarely in front of me. "I tell you this because of what you know about Harvey. Now, I want you to remember that my name is Moira. Mother calls me Marjorie because it 's more refined; but my real name is Moira, and I am in my thirty-fourth year."

"Very good," I said. "I'll remember all that."

[ocr errors]

"Thank you."- Then with a sudden swoop into the humility of an abashed boy-"Sorry if I have n't said the proper things. You see-there 's Harvey looking at us again. Oh, I want to sayif ever you want anything in the way of orchids or goldfish or or anything else that would be useful to you, you 've only to come to me for it. Under the will I'm perfectly independent, and we 're a longlived family, worse luck!" She looked at me, and her face worked like glass behind driven flame. "I may reasonably expect to live another fifty years," she said.

"Thank you, Miss Sichliffe," I replied. "If I want anything, you may be sure I'll come to you for it." She nodded. "Now I must get over to Mittleham," I said.

"Mr. Attley will ask you all about this." For the first time she laughed aloud. "I'm afraid I frightened him nearly out of the county. I did n't think, of course. But I dare say he knows by this time he was wrong. Say good-by to Harvey."

[graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small][merged small]

"Good-by, old man," I said. "Give me a farewell stare, so we shall know each other when we meet again."

The dog looked up, then moved slowly toward me, and stood between my feet, head bowed to the floor, shaking in every muscle as I patted him; and when I turned, I saw him crawl back to her side.

That was not a good preparation for the rampant boy-and-girl-dominated lunch at Mittleham, which, as usual, I found in the possession of everybody except the


"But what did the dromedary say when you brought her beast back?" Attley demanded.

"The usual polite things," I replied. "I'm posing as the nice doggy friend nowadays."

"I don't envy you. She's never darkened my doors, thank goodness! since I left Harvey at your place. I suppose she 'll run about the county now swearing you cured him. That's a woman's idea of gratitude."

Attley snapped impatiently, and Mrs. Godfrey laughed.

"That proves that you were right about Miss Sichliffe, Ella," I said. "She had no designs on anybody."

"I'm always right in these matters. But did n't she even offer you a goldfish?"

"Not a thing," said I. "You know what an old maid 's like where her precious dog's concerned." And though I have tried vainly to lie to Ella Godfrey for many years, I believe that in this case I succeeded.

When I turned into our drive that evening, Leggatt said half aloud:

"I'm glad Zvengali 's back where he belongs. It's time our Mike had a look in."

Sure enough, there was Malachi back again in spirit as well as flesh, but still with that odd air of expectation he had picked up from Harvey.

It was in January that Attley wrote me that Mrs. Godfrey, wintering in Madeira with Milly, her unmarried daughter, had been attacked with something like enteric; that the hotel, anxious for its good name, had thrust them both out into a cottage annex; that he was off with a nurse, and that I was not to leave England till I heard from him again. In a week he wired. that Milly was down as well, and that I must bring out two more nurses, with suitable delicacies.

[graphic][merged small]


Within seventeen hours I had got them all aboard the Cape boat, and had seen the women safely collapsed into seasickness. The next few weeks were for me, as for the invalids, a low delirium, clouded with fantastic memories of Portuguese officials trying to tax calves'-foot jelly; voluble doctors insisting that true typhoid was unknown in the island; nurses who had to be exercised, taken out of themselves, and returned on the tick of change of guard; night slides down glassy, cobbled streets, smelling of sewage and flowers, between walls whose every stone and patch Attley and I knew; vigils in stucco verandas, watching the curve and descent of great stars or drawing auguries from the break of dawn; insane interludes of gambling at the local casino, where we won heaps of unconsoling silver; blasts of steamers arriving and departing in the roads; help offered by total strangers, grabbed at or thrust aside; the long nightmare crumbling back into sanity one forenoon under a vine-covered trellis, where Attley sat hugging a nurse, while the others danced a noiseless, neat-footed breakdown never learned at the Middlesex Hospital. last, as the tension came out all over us in


aches and tingles that we put down to the country wine, a vision of Mrs. Godfrey, her gray hair turned to spun-glass, but her eyes triumphant over the shadow of retreating death beneath them, with Milly, enormously grown, and clutching life back to her young breast, both stretched out on cane chairs, clamoring for food.

In this ungirt hour there imported himself into our life a youngish-looking middle-aged man of the name of Shend, with a blurred face and deprecating eyes. He said that he had gambled with me at the casino, which was no recommendation, and I remember that he gave me a basket of champagne and liqueur brandy for the invalids, which a sailor in a red-tasseled cap carried up to the cottage for me at 3 A.M. He turned out to be the son of some merchant prince in the oil and color line, and the owner of a four-hundred-ton steam yacht, into which, at his gentle insistence, we later shifted our camp, staff, and equipage, Milly weeping with delight to escape from the horrible cottage. There we lay off Funchal for weeks, while Shend did miracles of luxury and attendance through deputies, and never once asked how his guests were enjoying themselves. Indeed,

for several days at a time we would see nothing of him. He was, he said, subject to malaria. Giving as they do with both hands, I knew that Attley and Mrs. Godfrey could take nobly; but I never met a man who so nobly gave and so nobly received thanks as Shend did.

"Tell us why you have been so unbelievably kind to us Gipsies," Mrs. Godfrey said to him one day on deck.

He looked up from a diagram of some Thames-mouth shoals which he was explaining to me, and answered with his gentle smile:

"I will. It 's because it makes me happy-it makes me more than happy to be with you.

It makes me comfortable.

You know how selfish men are? If a man feels comfortable all over with certain people, he 'll bore them to death, just like a dog. You always make me feel as if pleasant things were going to happen to me."

"Have n't any ever happened before?" Milly asked.

"This is the most pleasant thing that has happened to me in ever so many years," he replied. "I feel like the man in the Bible, 'It 's good for me to be here.' As a rule I don't feel that it's good for me to be anywhere in particular." Then, as one begging a favor: "You'll let me come home with you-in the same boat I mean? I'd take you back in this thing of mine, and that would save you packing your trunks, but she 's too lively for winter work across the bay."

We booked our berths, and when the time came, he wafted us and ours aboard the Southampton mail-boat with the pomp of plenipotentiaries and the precision of the navy. Then he dismissed his yacht, and became an inconspicuous passenger in a cabin opposite to mine, on the port side. We ran at once into early British spring weather, followed by sou'west gales. Mrs. Godfrey, Milly, and the nurses disappeared. Attley stood it out, visibly yellowing, till the next meal, and followed suit, and Shend and I had the little table all to ourselves. I found him even more attractive when the women were away. The natural sweetness of the man, his voice, and bearing all fascinated me, and his knowledge of practical seamanship (he held an extra master's certificate) was a real joy. We sat long in the empty sa

loon and longer in the smoking-room, making dashes down-stairs over slippery decks at the eleventh hour.

It was on Friday night, just as I was going to bed, that he came into my cabin, after cleaning his teeth, which he did half a dozen times a day.

"I say," he began hurriedly, "do you mind if I come in here for a little? I'm a bit edgy." I must have shown surprise. "I'm ever so much better about liquor than I used to be, but-it 's the whisky in the suitcase that throws me. For God's sake! old man, don't go back on me tonight! Look at my hands!"

They were fairly jumping at the wrists. He sat down on a trunk that had slid out with the roll. We had reduced speed, and were surging in confused seas that pounded on the black port-glasses. The night promised to be a pleasant one!

"You understand, of course, don't you?" he chattered.

"Oh, yes," I said cheerfully; "but how about-"

"No, no; on no account the doctor. Tell a doctor, tell the whole ship. Besides, I've only got a touch of 'em. You'd never have guessed it, would you? The tooth-wash does the trick. I'll give you the prescription."

"I'll send a note to the doctor for a prescription, shall I?" I suggested.


"Right! I put myself unreservedly in your hands. Fact is, I always did. said to myself-sure I don't bore you?the minute I saw you, I said, 'Thou art the man.'" He repeated the phrase as he picked at his knees. "All the same, you can take it from me that the ewe-lamb business is a rotten bad one. I don't care how unfaithful the shepherd may be. Drunk or sober, 't is n't cricket."

A surge of the trunk threw him across the cabin as the steward answered my bell. I wrote my requisition to the doctor while Shend was struggling to his feet.

"What's wrong?" he began. "Oh, I know. We 're slowing for soundings off Ushant; it's about time, too. You'd better ship the dead-lights when you come back, Matchem. It'll save you waking us later. This sea 's going to get up when the tide turns. That 'll show you,' he said as the man left, "that I am to be trusted. You-you'll stop me if I say anything I should n't, won't you?"

[ocr errors]
« AnkstesnisTęsti »