Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

I heard Keen sit down in the room, and his rocking-chair squeaked through five minutes of the bitterest darkness I ever knew. I could stand it no longer, so I rose and felt my way towards the rocking-chair,-I wanted to touch him-I was terrified. Well, it only lasted a few moments— most men pass through crises-I was glad he did not attempt to pity me.

It was Miss- -" he began. "Hush!" I whispered.

Keen?"

"Who told you,

"She did," he replied. "Of course, she need never know you are

"Blind," I said, "No, she need not know

it."

I heard him feeling for the door.

"Turn your back," he said.

I did so.

"Three weeks?" I enquired over my shoulder. Yes-don't smoke."

"What the devil shall I do?" I said, savagely.

Think on your sins, old chap," we had studied together in the Latin Quarter-" think of Pepita

"I won't," I cried. Keen hummed in a mischievous voice,

"Quand le sommeil sur ta famille
Autour de toi s'est repondu,

O Pépita, charmante fille,

Mon amour, à quoi penses-tu ?”

"Keen," I said, "I'll break your head, if I am one-eyed."

and I

"I'm a married man," he replied, refuse your offer; that 's better, I like to hear the old ring in your voice, Bobby-keep a stiff upper lip. Surgery and painting are not the only things. we learned in the Quarter."

I heard the door close behind him, then turned and groped my way toward the bed.

[blocks in formation]

How I ever lived through those three weeks !— Well, I did, and every fresh pipe of Bird's-eye tasted sweeter for my disobedience.

"Write him," I dictated through the closed door to Ysonde,-" write him that I am smoking six pipes a day as he directed." After all, if I was going to be blind in one eye, I did not care whether tobacco hastened the blow, and I was glad to poke a little fun at Keen.

Ysonde could not imagine why the doctor had recommended smoking-she had heard that it weakened the sight, but she wrote as I directed, merely expressing her distrust in Keen, which amused me, for he is now one of the most famous oculists in the world.

Yes," said I, through the key-hole, "Keen is young, and has much to learn, but I dare not disobey orders. How is your aunt?"

"My aunt is well, thank you, Bobby; did you like the sherbet she made?"

"Yes-that's six times you have asked me."

I was wearying of lying. The sherbet reposed among the soapsuds of my toilet jar..

Ysonde's aunt, a tall aristocratic beauty, whose perfectly arched eye-brows betrayed the complacent vacancy of her mind, had actually prepared, with her own fair hands, a sherbet for me. I cannot bear sweets of any kind.

[ocr errors]

Aunt Lynda will make another to-morrow," cooed Ysonde through the key-hole.

"Thank her for me," said I faintly; "Ysonde, I am coming out to-night."

"It is not yet three weeks!" cried Ysonde. "It will be three weeks to-morrow at I p.m. My eyes won't suffer at night. I should like to smell the woods a little. Will you walk with me this evening?"

"If Aunt Lynda will allow me," said Ysonde. After a moment she added: "I will ask her now"; and I heard her rise from her chair outside my door.

When she came back, I was lying face downwards on my bed, miserable, dreading the hour when I should first face my own reflection in a mirror. I heard her step on the stairs, and I jumped up and groped my way toward the door.

"Bobby," she called softly.

"Ysonde," I answered, with my mouth close to the key-hole. She started-I heard her-for she did not know I was so near. I bent my head to listen.

"Aunt Lynda says you are foolish to go out before to-morrow

[ocr errors]

"The evening won't hurt me."

"But suppose-only suppose your disobedience should cost you the sight of your eye?"

"It won't," said I.

"Think how I should feel?"

"It won't," I repeated. The perspiration suddenly dampened my forehead, and I wiped it

away.

"Can't you wait?" she pleaded.

"No.

Have you your aunt's permission to walk with me this evening?"

"Yes," she said. "Shall I read to you a little while?"

For an hour I listened to her voice, and if it was Lovelace or Herrick or Isaac Walton, I do not know upon my soul, but I do know that my dark room was filled with the delicious murmur; and I heard the trees moving in the evening wind and the twitter of sleepy birds from the hedge. It might have been the perfume from the roses under my window-perhaps it was the fragrance of her hair-she bent so close to my door outside -but a sweet smell tinctured the darkness about me, stealing into my senses; and I rose and opened my blinds a little way.

It was night. I heard the rocky river rushing through the alders and the pines swaying on the ridge. The ray from the moon which silvered the windows caused my eyes no pain.

I listened. Through the low music of her voice crept the song of a night-thrush. A breeze stirred the roses under my window; the music of voice and thrush was stilled. Then, in the silence, some wild creature cried out from the mountain side.

Âme damnée!" I muttered; for my soul was heavy with the dread of the coming morning. "What are you murmuring in there by yourself?" whispered Ysonde, through the door. "Nothing-was it a lynx on Noon Peak?" "I heard nothing," she said.

"Nor I," said I, opening the door.

The light from the lamp dazzled but did not hurt me. She laid down the book and came

swiftly toward me.

Now," said I, we will walk under the stars —with your aunt's permission."

I heard her sigh as she took my arm; "Bobby, I am so glad your eye is well. What could you have done if you had lost the sight of an eye?"

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »