Entire PG Edition of The Works of William Dean Howells
William Dean Howells
Part 77 out of 78
long, and am back so short a time, that I can't realize your luxuries
and conveniences. In Florence we ALWAYS walk up. They have
ascenseurs in a few great hotels, and they brag of it in immense
signs on the sides of the building."
LAWTON: "What pastoral simplicity! We are elevated here to a degree
that you can't conceive of, gentle shepherd. Has yours got an air-
cushion, Mrs. Roberts?"
MRS. ROBERTS: "An air-cushion? What's that?"
LAWTON: "The only thing that makes your life worth a moment's
purchase in an elevator. You get in with a glass of water, a basket
of eggs, and a file of the 'Daily Advertiser.' They cut the elevator
loose at the top, and you drop."
BOTH LADIES: "Oh!"
LAWTON: "In three seconds you arrive at the ground-floor, reading
your file of the 'Daily Advertiser;' not an egg broken nor a drop
spilled. I saw it done in a New York hotel. The air is compressed
under the elevator, and acts as a sort of ethereal buffer."
MRS. ROBERTS: "And why don't we always go down in that way?"
LAWTON: "Because sometimes the walls of the elevator shaft give
MRS. ROBERTS: "And what then?"
LAWTON: "Then the elevator stops more abruptly. I had a friend who
tried it when this happened."
MRS. ROBERTS: "And what did he do?"
LAWTON: "Stepped out of the elevator; laughed; cried; went home; got
into bed: and did not get up for six weeks. Nervous shock. He was
MRS. MILLER: "I shouldn't think you'd want an air-cushion on YOUR
elevator, Mrs. Roberts."
MRS. ROBERTS: "No, indeed! Horrid!" The bell rings. "Edward, YOU
go and see if that's Aunt Mary."
MRS. MILLER: "It's Mr. Miller, I know."
BEMIS: "Or my son."
LAWTON: "My voice is for Mrs. Roberts's brother. I've given up all
hopes of my daughter."
ROBERTS, without: "Oh, Curwen! Glad to see you! Thought you were
my wife's aunt."
LAWTON, at a suppressed sigh from MRS. ROBERTS: "It's one of his
jokes, Mrs. Roberts. Of course it's your aunt."
MRS. ROBERTS, through her set teeth, smilingly: "Oh, if it IS, I'll
make him suffer for it."
MR. CURWEN, without: "No, I hated to wait, so I walked up."
LAWTON: "It is Mr. Curwen, after all, Mrs. Roberts. Now let me see
how a lady transmutes a frown of threatened vengeance into a smile of
MRS. ROBERTS: "Well, look!" To MR. CURWEN, who enters, followed by
her husband: "Ah, Mr. Curwen! So glad to see you. You know all our
friends here--Mrs. Miller, Dr. Lawton, and Mr. Bemis?"
CURWEN, smiling and bowing, and shaking hands right and left: "Very
glad--very happy--pleased to know you."
MRS. ROBERTS, behind her fan to Dr. Lawton: "Didn't I do it
LAWTON, behind his hand: "Wonderfully! And so unconscious of the
fact that he hasn't his wife with him."
MRS. ROBERTS, in great astonishment, to Mr. Curwen: "Where in the
world is Mrs. Curwen?"
CURWEN: "Oh--oh--she'll be here. I thought she was here. She
started from home with two right-hand gloves, and I had to go back
for a left, and I--I suppose--Good heavens!" pulling the glove out
of his pocket. "I ought to have sent it to her in the ladies'
dressing-room." He remains with the glove held up before him, in
LAWTON: "Only imagine what Mrs. Curwen would be saying of you if she
were in the dressing-room."
ROBERTS: "Mr. Curwen felt so sure she was there that he wouldn't
wait to take the elevator, and walked up." Another ring is heard.
"Shall I go and meet your aunt NOW, my dear?"
MRS. ROBERTS: "No, indeed! She may come in now with all the
formality she chooses, and I will receive her excuses in state." She
waves her fan softly to and fro, concealing a murmur of trepidation
under an indignant air, till the portiere opens, and MR. WILLIS
CAMPBELL enters. Then MRS. ROBERTS breaks in nervous agitation "Why,
Willis! Where's Aunt Mary?"
MRS. MILLER: "And Mr. Miller?"
CURWEN: "And Mrs. Curwen?"
LAWTON: "And my daughter?"
BEMIS: "And my son?"
MR. CAMPBELL, looking tranquilly round on the faces of his
interrogators: "Is it a conundrum?"
MRS. ROBERTS, mingling a real distress with an effort of mock-heroic
solemnity: "It is a tragedy! O Willis dear! it's what you see--what
you hear; a niece without an aunt, a wife without a husband, a father
without a son, and another father without a daughter."
ROBERTS: "And a dinner getting cold, and a cook getting hot."
LAWTON: "And you are expected to account for the whole situation."
CAMPBELL: "Oh, I understand! I don't know what your little game is,
Agnes, but I can wait and see. I'M not hungry."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Willis, do you think I would try and play a trick on
you, if I could?"
CAMPBELL: "I think you can't. Come, now, Agnes! It's a failure.
Own up, and bring the rest of the company out of the next room. I
suppose almost anything is allowable at this festive season, but this
is pretty feeble."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Indeed, indeed, they are not there."
CAMPBELL: "Where are they, then?"
ALL: "That's what we don't know."
CAMPBELL: "Oh, come, now! that's a little too thin. You don't know
where ANY of all these blood-relations and connections by marriage
are? Well, search me!"
MRS. ROBERTS, in open distress: "Oh, I'm sure something must have
happened to Aunt Mary!"
MRS. MILLER: "I can't understand what Ellery C. Miller means."
LAWTON, with a simulated sternness: "I hope you haven't let that son
of yours run away with my daughter, Bemis?"
BEMIS: "I'm afraid he's come to a pass where he wouldn't ask MY
CURWEN, re-assuring himself: "Ah, she's all right, of course. I
know that" -
BEMIS: "Miss Lawton?"
CURWEN: "No, no--Mrs. Curwen."
CAMPBELL: "Is it a true bill, Agnes?"
MRS. ROBERTS: "Indeed it is, Willis. We've been expecting her for
an hour--of course she always comes early--and I'm afraid she's been
taken ill suddenly."
ROBERTS: "Oh, I don't think it's that, my dear."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, of course you never think anything's wrong,
Edward. My whole family might die, and"--MRS. ROBERTS restrains
herself, and turns to MR. CAMPBELL, with hysterical cheerfulness:
"Who came up in the elevator with you?"
CAMPBELL: "Me? _I_ didn't come in the elevator. I had my usual
luck. The elevator was up somewhere, and after I'd pressed the
annunciator button till my thumb ached, I watched my chance and
MRS. ROBERTS: "Where was the janitor?"
CAMPBELL: "Where the janitor always is--nowhere."
LAWTON: "Eating his Christmas dinner, probably."
MRS. ROBERTS, partially abandoning and then recovering herself:
"Yes, it's perfectly spoiled! Well, friends, I think we'd better go
to dinner--that's the only way to bring them. I'll go out and
interview the cook." Sotto voce to her husband: "If I don't go
somewhere and have a cry, I shall break down here before everybody.
Did you ever know anything so strange? It's perfectly--pokerish."
LAWTON: "Yes, there's nothing like serving dinner to bring the
belated guest. It's as infallible as going without an umbrella when
it won't rain."
CAMPBELL: "No, no! Wait a minute, Roberts. You might sit down
without one guest, but you can't sit down without five. It's the old
joke about the part of Hamlet. I'll just step round to Aunt Mary's
house--why, I'll be back in three minutes."
MRS. ROBERTS, with perfervid gratitude: "Oh, how GOOD you are,
Willis! You don't know how MUCH you're doing! What presence of mind
you have! Why couldn't we have thought of sending for her? O
Willis, I can never be grateful enough to you! But you always think
ROBERTS: "I accept my punishment meekly, Willis, since it's in your
LAWTON: "It's a simple and beautiful solution, Mrs. Roberts, as far
as your aunt's concerned; but I don't see how it helps the rest of
MRS. MILLER to MR. CAMPBELL: "If you meet Mr. Miller " -
CURWEN: "Or my wife" -
BEMIS: "Or my son" -
LAWTON: "Or my daughter" -
CAMPBELL: "I'll tell them they've just one chance in a hundred to
save their lives, and that one is open to them for just five
LAWTON: "Tell my daughter that I've been here half an hour, and
everybody knows I drove here with her."
BEMIS: "Tell my son that the next time I'll walk, and let him
MRS. MILLER: "Tell Mr. Miller I found I had my fan after all."
CURWEN: "And Mrs. Curwen that I've got her glove all right." He
holds it up.
MRS. ROBERTS, at a look of mystification and demand from her brother:
"Never mind explanations, Willis. They'll understand, and we'll
explain when you get back."
LAWTON, examining the glove which CURWEN holds up: "Why, so it IS
CURWEN: "What do you mean?"
LAWTON: "Were you sent back to get a LEFT glove?"
CURWEN: "Yes, yes; of course."
LAWTON: "Well, if you'll notice, this is a right one. The one at
home is left."
CURWEN, staring helplessly at it: "Gracious Powers! what shall I
LAWTON: "Pray that Mrs. Curwen may NEVER come."
MR. CURWEN, dashing through the door: "I'll be back by the time Mr.
MRS. MILLER, with tokens of breaking down visible to MRS. ROBERTS:
"I wonder what could have kept Mr. Miller. It's so very mysterious,
MRS. ROBERTS, suddenly seizing her by the arm, and hurrying her from
the room: "Now, Mrs. Miller, you've just got time to see my baby."
MR. ROBERTS, winking at his remaining guests: "A little cry will do
them good. I saw as soon as Willis came in instead of her aunt, that
my wife couldn't get through without it. They'll come back as bright
LAWTON: "Bemis, should you mind a bereaved father falling upon your
BEMIS: "Yes, Lawton, I think I should."
LAWTON: "Well, it IS rather odd about all those people. You can say
of one or two that they've been delayed, but five people can't have
been delayed. It's too much. It amounts to a coincidence. Hello!
ROBERTS: "What's what?"
LAWTON: "I thought I heard a cry."
ROBERTS: "Very likely you did. They profess to deaden these floors
so that you can't hear from one apartment to another. But I know
pretty well when my neighbor overhead is trying to wheel his baby to
sleep in a perambulator at three o'clock in the morning; and I guess
our young lady lets the people below understand when she's wakeful.
But it's the only way to live, after all. I wouldn't go back to the
old up-and-down-stairs, house-in-a-block system on any account. Here
we all live on the ground-floor practically. The elevator equalizes
BEMIS: "Yes, when it happens to be where you are. I believe I
prefer the good old Florentine fashion of walking upstairs, after
LAWTON: "Roberts, I DID hear something. Hark! It sounded like a
cry for help. There!"
ROBERTS: "You're nervous, doctor. It's nothing. However, it's easy
enough to go out and see." He goes out to the door of the apartment,
and immediately returns. He beckons to DR. LAWTON and MR. BEMIS,
with a mysterious whisper: "Come here both of you. Don't alarm the
In the interior of the elevator are seated MRS. ROBERTS'S AUNT MARY
(MRS. CRASHAW), MRS. CURWEN, and MISS LAWTON; MR. MILLER and MR.
ALFRED BEMIS are standing with their hats in their hands. They are
in dinner costume, with their overcoats on their arms, and the
ladies' draperies and ribbons show from under their outer wraps,
where they are caught up, and held with that caution which
characterizes ladies in sitting attitudes which they have not been
able to choose deliberately. As they talk together, the elevator
rises very slowly, and they continue talking for some time before
they observe that it has stopped.
MRS. CRASHAW: "It's very fortunate that we are all here together. I
ought to have been here half an hour ago, but I was kept at home by
an accident to my finery, and before I could be put in repair I heard
it striking the quarter past. I don't know what my niece will say to
me. I hope you good people will all stand by me if she should be
MILLER: "In what a poor man may with his wife's fan, you shall
command me, Mrs. Crashaw." He takes the fan out, and unfurls it.
MRS. CRASHAW: "Did she send you back for it?"
MILLER: "I shouldn't have had the pleasure of arriving with you if
MRS. CRASHAW, laughing, to MRS. CURWEN: "What did you send YOURS
back for, my dear?"
MRS. CURWEN, thrusting out one hand gloved, and the other ungloved:
"I didn't want two rights."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Not even women's rights?"
MRS. CURWEN: "Oh, so young and so depraved! Are all the young men
in Florence so bad?" Surveying her extended arms, which she turns
over: "I don't know that I need have sent him for the other glove.
I could have explained to Mrs. Roberts. Perhaps she would have
forgiven my coming in one glove."
MILLER, looking down at the pretty arms: "If she had seen you
MRS. CURWEN: "Oh, you were looking!" She rapidly involves her arms
in her wrap. Then she suddenly unwraps them, and regards them
thoughtfully. "What if he should bring a ten-button instead of an
eight! And he's quite capable of doing it."
MILLER: "Are there such things as ten-button gloves?"
MRS. CURWEN: "You would think there were ten-thousand button gloves
if you had them to button."
MILLER: "It would depend upon whom I had to button them for."
MRS. CURWEN: "For Mrs. Miller, for example."
MRS. CRASHAW: "We women are too bad, always sending people back for
something. It's well the men don't know HOW bad."
MRS. CURWEN: "'Sh! Mr. Miller is listening. And he thought we were
perfect. He asks nothing better than to be sent back for his wife's
fan. And he doesn't say anything even under his breath when she
finds she's forgotten it, and begins, 'Oh, dearest, my fan'--Mr.
Curwen does. But he goes all the same. I hope you have your father
in good training, Miss Lawton. You must commence with your father,
if you expect your husband to be 'good.'"
MISS LAWTON: "Then mine will never behave, for papa is perfectly
MRS. CURWEN: "I'm sorry to hear such a bad report of him. Shouldn't
YOU think he would be 'good,' Mr. Bemis?"
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "I should think he would try."
MRS. CURWEN: "A diplomat, as well as a punster already! I must warn
MRS. CRASHAW, interposing to spare the young people: "What an
amusing thing elevator etiquette is! Why should the gentlemen take
their hats off? Why don't you take your hats off in a horse-car?"
MILLER: "The theory is that the elevator is a room."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "We were at a hotel in London where they called it
the Ascending Room."
MISS LAWTON: "Oh, how amusing!"
MILLER, looking about: "This is a regular drawing-room for size and
luxury. They're usually such cribs in these hotels."
MRS. CRASHAW: "Yes, it's very nice, though I say it that shouldn't
of my niece's elevator. The worst about it is, it's so slow."
MILLER: "Let's hope it's sure."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Some of these elevators in America go up like
MRS. CURWEN, drawing her shawl about her shoulders, as if to be ready
to step out: "Well, I never get into one without taking my life in
my hand, and my heart in my mouth. I suppose every one really
expects an elevator to drop with them, some day, just as everybody
really expects to see a ghost some time."
MRS. CRASHAW: "Oh, my dear! what an extremely disagreeable subject
MRS. CURWEN: "I can't help it, Mrs. Crashaw. When I reflect that
there are two thousand elevators in Boston, and that the inspectors
have just pronounced a hundred and seventy of them unsafe, I'm so
desperate when I get into one that I could--flirt!"
MILLER, guarding himself with the fan: "Not with me?"
MISS LAWTON, to young MR. BEMIS: "How it DOES creep!"
YOUNG MR. BEMIS, looking down fondly at her: "Oh, does it?"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Why, it doesn't go at all! It's stopped. Let us get
out." They all rise.
THE ELEVATOR BOY, pulling at the rope: "We're not there, yet."
MRS. CRASHAW, with mingled trepidation and severity: "Not there?
What are you stopping, then, for?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "I don't know. It seems to be caught."
MRS. CRASHAW: "Caught?"
MISS LAWTON: "Oh, dear!"
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Don't mind."
MILLER: "Caught? Nonsense!"
MRS. CURWEN: "WE'RE caught, I should say." She sinks back on the
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "Seemed to be going kind of funny all day!" He
keeps tugging at the rope.
MILLER, arresting the boy's efforts: "Well, hold on--stop! What are
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "Trying to make it go."
MILLER: "Well, don't be so--violent about it. You might break
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "Break a wire rope like that!"
MILLER: "Well, well, be quiet now. Ladies, I think you'd better sit
down--and as gently as possible. I wouldn't move about much."
MRS. CURWEN: "Move! We're stone. And I wish for my part I were a
MILLER, to the boy: "Er--a--er--where do you suppose we are?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "We're in the shaft between the fourth and fifth
floors." He attempts a fresh demonstration on the rope, but is
MILLER: "Hold on! Er--er" -
MRS. CRASHAW, as if the boy had to be communicated with through an
interpreter: "Ask him if it's ever happened before."
MILLER: "Yes. Were you ever caught before?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "No."
MILLER: "He says no."
MRS. CRASHAW: "Ask him if the elevator has a safety device."
MILLER: "Has it got a safety device?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "How should I know?"
MILLER: "He says he don't know."
MRS. CURWEN, in a shriek of hysterical laughter: "Why, he
MRS. CRASHAW, sternly ignoring the insinuation: "Ask him if there's
any means of calling the janitor."
MILLER: "Could you call the janitor?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY, ironically: "Well, there ain't any telephone
MILLER, solemnly: "No, he says there isn't."
MRS. CRASHAW, sinking back on the seat with resignation: "Well, I
don't know what my niece will say."
MISS LAWTON: "Poor papa!"
YOUNG MR. BEMIS, gathering one of her wandering hands into his:
"Don't be frightened. I'm sure there's no danger."
THE ELEVATOR BOY, indignantly: "Why, she can't drop. The cogs in
the runs won't let her!"
MILLER, with a sigh of relief: "I knew there must be something of
the kind. Well, I wish my wife had her fan."
MRS. CURWEN: "And if I had my left glove I should be perfectly
happy. Not that I know what the cogs in the runs are!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Then we're merely caught here?"
MILLER: "That's all."
MRS. CURWEN: "It's quite enough for the purpose. Couldn't you put
on a life-preserver, Mr. Miller, and go ashore and get help from the
MISS LAWTON, putting her handkerchief to her eyes: "Oh, dear!"
MRS. CRASHAW, putting her arm around her: "Don't be frightened, my
child. There's no danger."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS, caressing the hand which he holds: "Don't be
MISS LAWTON: "Don't leave me."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "No, no; I won't. Keep fast hold of my hand."
MISS LAWTON: "Oh, yes, I will! I'm ashamed to cry."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS, fervently: "Oh, you needn't be! It is perfectly
natural you should."
MRS. CURWEN: "I'm too badly scared for tears. Mr. Miller, you seem
to be in charge of this expedition--couldn't you do something? Throw
out ballast, or let the boy down in a parachute? Or I've read of a
shipwreck where the survivors, in an open boat, joined in a cry, and
attracted the notice of a vessel that was going to pass them. We
might join in a cry."
MILLER: "Oh, it's all very well joking, Mrs. Curwen" -
MRS. CURWEN: "You call it joking!"
MILLER: "But it's not so amusing, being cooped up here indefinitely.
I don't know how we're to get out. We can't join in a cry, and rouse
the whole house. It would be ridiculous."
MRS. CURWEN: "And our present attitude is so eminently dignified!
Well, I suppose we shall have to cast lots pretty soon to see which
of us shall be sacrificed to nourish the survivors. It's long past
MISS LAWTON, breaking down: "Oh, DON'T say such terrible things."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS, indignantly comforting her: "Don't, don't cry.
There's no danger. It's perfectly safe."
MILLER to THE ELEVATOR BOY: "Couldn't you climb up the cable, and
get on to the landing, and--ah!--get somebody?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "I could, maybe, if there was a hole in the roof."
MILLER, glancing up: "Ah! true."
MRS. CRASHAW, with an old lady's serious kindness: "My boy, can't
you think of anything to do for us?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY yielding to the touch of humanity, and bursting into
tears: "No, ma'am, I can't. And everybody's blamin' me, as if I
done it. What's my poor mother goin' to do?"
MRS. CRASHAW, soothingly: "But you said the runs in the cogs" -
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "How can I tell! That's what they say. They
hain't never been tried."
MRS. CURWEN, springing to her feet: "There! I knew I should. Oh"--
She sinks fainting to the floor.
MRS. CRASHAW, abandoning Miss Lawton to the ministrations of young
Mr. Bemis, while she kneels beside Mrs. Curwen. and chafes her hand:
"Oh, poor thing! I knew she was overwrought by the way she was
keeping up. Give her air, Mr. Miller. Open a--Oh, there isn't any
MILLER, dropping on his knees, and fanning Mrs. Curwen: "There!
there! Wake up, Mrs. Curwen. I didn't mean to scold you for joking.
I didn't, indeed. I--I--I don't know what the deuce I'm up to." He
gathers Mrs. Curwen's inanimate form in his arms, and fans her face
where it lies on his shoulder. "I don't know what my wife would say
MRS. CRASHAW: "She would say that you were doing your duty."
MILLER, a little consoled: "Oh, do you think so? Well, perhaps."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Do you feel faint at all, Miss Lawton?"
MISS LAWTON: "No, I think not. No, not if you say it's safe."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Oh, I'm sure it is!"
MISS LAWTON, renewing her hold upon his hand: "Well, then! Perhaps
I hurt you?"
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "No, no! You couldn't!'
MISS LAWTON: "How kind you are!"
MRS. CURWEN, opening her eyes: "Where" -
MILLER, rapidly transferring her to Mrs. Crashaw: "Still in the
elevator, Mrs. Curwen." Rising to his feet: "Something must be
done. Perhaps we HAD better unite in a cry. It's ridiculous, of
course. But it's the only thing we can do. Now, then! Hello!"
MISS LAWTON: "Papa!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Agne-e-e-s!"
MRS. CURWEN, faintly: "Walter!"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "Say!"
MILLER: "Oh, that won't do. All join in 'Hello!'"
MILLER: "Once more!"
MILLER: "ONCE more!"
MILLER: "Now wait a while." After an interval: "No, nobody
coming." He takes out his watch. "We must repeat this cry at
intervals of a half-minute. Now, then!" They all join in the cry,
repeating it as MR. MILLER makes the signal with his lifted hand.
MISS LAWTON: "Oh, it's no use!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "They don't hear."
MRS. CURWEN: "They WON'T hear."
MILLER: "Now, then, three times!"
ALL: "Hello! hello! hello!"
ROBERTS appears at the outer door of his apartment on the fifth
floor. It opens upon a spacious landing, to which a wide staircase
ascends at one side. At the other is seen the grated door to the
shaft of the elevator. He peers about on all sides, and listens for
a moment before he speaks.
ROBERTS: "Hello yourself."
MILLER, invisibly from the shaft: "Is that you, Roberts?"
ROBERTS: "Yes; where in the world are you?"
MILLER: "In the elevator."
MRS. CRASHAW: "We're ALL here, Edward."
ROBERTS: "What! You, Aunt Mary!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Yes. Didn't I say so?"
ROBERTS: "Why don't you come up?"
MILLER: "We can't. The elevator has got stuck somehow."
ROBERTS: "Got stuck? Bless my soul! How did it happen? How long
have you been there?"
MRS. CURWEN: "Since the world began!"
MILLER: "What's the use asking how it happened? We don't know, and
we don't care. What we want to do is to get out."
ROBERTS: "Yes, yes! Be careful!" He rises from his frog-like
posture at the grating, and walks the landing in agitation. "Just
hold on a minute!"
MILLER: "Oh, WE sha'n't stir."
ROBERTS: "I'll see what can be done."
MILLER: "Well, see quick, please. We have plenty of time, but we
don't want to lose any. Don't alarm Mrs. Miller, if you can help
ROBERTS: "No, no."
MRS. CURWEN: "You MAY alarm Mr. Curwen."
ROBERTS: "What! Are YOU there?"
MRS. CURWEN: "Here? I've been here all my life!"
ROBERTS: "Ha! ha! ha! That's right. We'll soon have you out. Keep
up your spirits."
MRS. CURWEN: "But I'm NOT keeping them up."
MISS LAWTON: "Tell papa I'm here too."
ROBERTS: "What! You too, Miss Lawton?"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Yes, and young Mr. Bemis. Didn't I TELL you we were
ROBERTS: "I couldn't realize it. Well, wait a moment."
MRS. CURWEN: "Oh, you can trust us to wait."
ROBERTS, returning with DR. LAWTON, and MR. BEMIS, who join him in
stooping around the grated door of the shaft: "They're just under
here in the well of the elevator, midway between the two stories."
LAWTON: "Ha! ha! ha! You don't say so."
BEMIS: "Bless my heart! What are they doing there?"
MILLER: "We're not doing anything."
MRS. CURWEN: "We're waiting for you to do something."
MISS LAWTON: "Oh, papa!"
LAWTON: "Don't be troubled, Lou, we'll soon have you out."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Don't be alarmed, sir, Miss Lawton is all right."
MISS LAWTON: "Yes, I'm not frightened, papa."
LAWTON: "Well, that's a great thing in cases of this kind. How did
you happen to get there?"
MILLER, indignantly: "How do you suppose? We came up in the
LAWTON: "Well, why didn't you come the rest of the way?"
MILLER: "The elevator wouldn't."
LAWTON: "What seems to be the matter?"
MILLER: "We don't know."
LAWTON: "Have you tried to start it?"
MILLER: "Well, I'll leave that to your imagination."
LAWTON: "Well, be careful what you do. You might" -
MILLER, interrupting: "Roberts, who's that talking?"
ROBERTS, coming forward politely: "Oh, excuse me! I forgot that you
didn't know each other. Dr. Lawton, Mr. Miller." Introducing them.
LAWTON: "Glad to know you."
MILLER: "Very happy to make your acquaintance, and hope some day to
see you. And now, if you have completed your diagnosis"
MRS. CURWEN: "None of us have ever had it before, doctor; nor any of
our families, so far as we know."
LAWTON: "Ha! ha! ha! Very good! Well, just keep quiet. We'll have
you all out of there presently."
BEMIS: "Yes, remain perfectly still."
ROBERTS: "Yes, we'll have you out. Just wait."
MILLER: "You seem to think we're going to run away. Why shouldn't
we keep quiet? Do you suppose we're going to be very boisterous,
shut up here like rats in a trap?"
MRS. CURWEN: "Or birds in a cage, if you want a more pleasing
MRS. CRASHAW: "How are you going to get us out, Edward?"
ROBERTS: "We don't know yet. But keep quiet" -
MILLER: "Keep quiet! Great heavens! we're afraid to stir a finger.
Now don't say 'keep quiet' any more, for we can't stand it."
LAWTON: "He's in open rebellion. What are you going to do,
ROBERTS, rising and scratching his head: "Well, I don't know yet.
We might break a hole in the roof."
LAWTON: "Ah, I don't think that would do. Besides you'd have to get
ROBERTS: "That's true. And it would make a racket, and alarm the
house"--staring desperately at the grated doorway of the shaft. "If
I could only find an elevator man--an elevator builder! But of
course they all live in the suburbs, and they're keeping Christmas,
and it would take too long, anyway."
BEMIS: "Hadn't you better send for the police? It seems to me it's
a case for the authorities."
LAWTON: "Ah, there speaks the Europeanized mind! They always leave
the initiative to the authorities. Go out and sound the fire-alarm,
Roberts. It's a case for the Fire Department."
ROBERTS: "Oh, it's all very well to joke, Dr. Lawton. Why don't you
LAWTON: "Surgical treatment seems to be indicated, and I'm merely a
ROBERTS: "If Willis were only here, he'd find some way out of it.
Well, I'll have to go for help somewhere" -
MRS. ROBERTS and MRS. MILLER, bursting upon the scene: "Oh, what is
LAWTON: "Ah, you needn't go for help, my dear fellow. It's come!"
MRS. ROBERTS: "What are you all doing here, Edward?"
MRS. MILLER: "Oh, have you had any bad news of Mr. Miller?"
MRS. ROBERTS: "Or Aunt Mary?"
MILLER, calling up: "Well, are you going to keep us here all night?
Why don't you do something?"
MRS. MILLER: "Oh, what's that? Oh, it's Mr. Miller! Oh, where are
MILLER: "In the elevator."
MRS. MILLER: "Oh! and where is the elevator? Why don't you get out?
MILLER: "It's caught, and we can't."
MRS. MILLER: "Caught? Oh, then you will be killed--killed--killed!
And it's all my fault, sending you back after my fan, and I had it
all the time in my own pocket; and it comes from my habit of giving
it to you to carry in your overcoat pocket, because it's deep, and
the fan can't break. And of course I never thought of my own pocket,
and I never SHOULD have thought of it at all if Mr. Curwen hadn't
been going back to get Mrs. Curwen's glove, for he'd brought another
right after she'd sent him for a left, and we were all having such a
laugh about it, and I just happened to put my hand on my pocket, and
there I felt the fan. And oh, WHAT shall I do?" Mrs. Miller utters
these explanations and self-reproaches in a lamentable voice, while
crouching close to the grated door to the elevator shaft, and
clinging to its meshes.
MILLER: "Well, well, it's all right. I've got you another fan,
here. Don't be frightened."
MRS. ROBERTS, wildly: "Where's Aunt Mary, Edward? Has Willis got
back?" At a guilty look from her husband: "Edward! DON'T tell me
that SHE'S in that elevator! Don't do it, Edward! For your own sake
don't. Don't tell me that your own child's mother's aunt is down
there, suspended between heaven and earth like--like" -
LAWTON: "The coffin of the Prophet."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Yes. DON'T tell me, Edward! Spare your child's
mother, if you won't spare your wife!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Agnes! don't be ridiculous. I'm here, and I never
was more comfortable in my life."
MRS. ROBERTS, calling down the grating "Oh! Is it you, Aunt Mary?"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Of course it is!"
MRS. ROBERTS: "You recognize my voice?"
MRS. CRASHAW: "I should hope so, indeed! Why shouldn't I?"
MRS. ROBERTS: "And you know me? Agnes? Oh!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "Don't be a goose, Agnes."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, it IS you, aunty. It IS! Oh, I'm SO glad! I'm
SO happy! But keep perfectly still, aunty dear, and we'll soon have
you out. Think of baby, and don't give way."
MRS. CRASHAW: "I shall not, if the elevator doesn't, you may depend
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, what courage you DO have! But keep up your
spirits! Mrs. Miller and I have just come from seeing baby. She's
gone to sleep with all her little presents in her arms. The children
did want to see you so much before they went to bed. But never mind
that now, Aunt Mary. I'm only too thankful to have you at all!"
MRS. CRASHAW: "I wish you did have me! And if you will all stop
talking and try some of you to do something, I shall be greatly
obliged to you. It's worse than it was in the sleeping car that
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, do you remember it, Aunt Mary? Oh, how funny you
are!" Turning heroically to her husband: "Now, Edward, dear, get
them out. If it's necessary, get them out over my dead body.
Anything! Only hurry. I will be calm; I will be patient. But you
must act instantly. Oh, here comes Mr. Curwen!" MR. CURWEN mounts
the stairs to the landing with every sign of exhaustion, as if he had
made a very quick run to and from his house. "Oh, HE will help--I
know he will! Oh, Mr. Curwen, the elevator is caught just below here
with my aunt in it and Mrs. Miller's husband" -
LAWTON: "And my girl."
BEMIS: "And my boy."
MRS. CURWEN, calling up: "And your wife!"
CURWEN, horror-struck: "And my wife! Oh, heavenly powers! what are
we going to do? How shall we get them out? Why don't they come up?"
ALL: "They can't."
CURWEN: "Can't? Oh, my goodness!" He flies at the grating, and
kicks and beats it.
ROBERTS: "Hold on! What's the use of that?"
LAWTON: "You couldn't get at them if you beat the door down."
BEMIS: "Certainly not." They lay hands upon him and restrain him.
CURWEN, struggling: "Let me speak to my wife! Will you prevent a
husband from speaking to his own wife?"
MRS. MILLER, in blind admiration of his frenzy: "Yes, that's just
what I said. If some one had beaten the door in at once" -
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, Edward, dear, let him speak to his wife."
Tearfully: "Think if _I_ were there!"
ROBERTS, releasing him: "He may speak to his wife all night. But he
mustn't knock the house down."
CURWEN, rushing at the grating: "Caroline! Can you hear me? Are
MRS. CURWEN: "Perfectly. I had a little faint when we first stuck"
CURWEN: "Faint? Oh!"
MRS. CURWEN: "But I am all right now."
CURWEN: "Well, that's right. Don't be frightened! There's no
occasion for excitement. Keep perfectly calm and collected. It's
the only way--What's that ringing?" The sound of an electric bell is
heard within the elevator. It increases in fury.
MRS. ROBERTS and MRS. MILLER: "Oh, isn't it dreadful?"
THE ELEVATOR BOY: "It's somebody on the ground-floor callin' the
CURWEN: "Well, never mind him. Don't pay the slightest attention to
him. Let him go to the deuce! And, Caroline!"
MRS. CURWEN: "Yes?"
CURWEN: "I--I--I've got your glove all right."
MRS. CURWEN: "Left, you mean, I hope?"
CURWEN: "Yes, left, dearest! I MEAN left."
MRS. CURWEN: "Eight-button?"
MRS. CURWEN: "Light drab?"
CURWEN, pulling a light yellow glove from his pocket: "Oh!" He
staggers away from the grating and stays himself against the wall,
the mistaken glove dangling limply from his hand.
ROBERTS, LAWTON, and BEMIS: "Ah! ha! ha! ha!"
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, for shame! to laugh at such a time!"
MRS. MILLER: "When it's a question of life and death. There! The
ringing's stopped. What's that?" Steps are heard mounting the
stairway rapidly, several treads at a time. Mr. Campbell suddenly
bursts into the group on the landing with a final bound from the
CAMPBELL: "I can't find Aunt Mary, Agnes. I can't find anything--
not even the elevator. Where's the elevator? I rang for it down
there till I was black in the face."
MRS. ROBERTS: "No wonder! It's here."
MRS. MILLER: "Between this floor and the floor below. With my
husband in it."
CURWEN: "And my wife!"
LAWTON: "And my daughter!"
BEMIS: "And my son!"
MRS. ROBERTS: "And aunty!"
ALL: "And it's stuck fast."
ROBERTS: "And the long and short of it is, Willis, that we don't
know how to get them out, and we wish you would suggest some way."
LAWTON: "There's been a great tacit confidence among us in your
executive ability and your inventive genius."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Oh, yes, we know you can do it."
MRS. MILLER: "If you can't, nothing can save them."
CAMPBELL, going to the grating: "Miller!"
CAMPBELL: "Start her up!"
MILLER: "Now, look here, Campbell, we are not going to stand that;
we've had enough of it. I speak for the whole elevator. Don't you
suppose that if it had been possible to start her up we" -
MRS. CURWEN: "We shouldn't have been at the moon by this time."
CAMPBELL: "Well, then, start her DOWN!"
MILLER: "I never thought of that." To the ELEVATOR BOY: "Start her
down." To the people on the landing above: "Hurrah! She's off!"
CAMPBELL: "Well, NOW start her up!"
A joint cry from the elevator: "Thank you! we'll walk up this time."
MILLER: "Here! let us out at this landing!" They are heard
precipitately emerging, with sighs and groans of relief, on the floor
MRS. ROBERTS, devoutly: "O Willis, it seems like an interposition of
Providence, your coming just at this moment."
CAMPBELL: "Interposition of common sense! These hydraulic elevators
weaken sometimes, and can't go any farther."
ROBERTS, to the shipwrecked guests, who arrive at the top of the
stairs, crestfallen, spent, and clinging to one another for support:
"Why didn't you think of starting her down, some of you?"
MRS. ROBERTS, welcoming them with kisses and hand-shakes: "I should
have thought it would occur to you at once."
MILLER, goaded to exasperation: "Did it occur to any of YOU?"
LAWTON, with sublime impudence: "It occurred to ALL of us. But we
naturally supposed you had tried it."
MRS. MILLER, taking possession of her husband: "Oh, what a fright
you have given us!"
MILLER: "_I_ given you! Do you suppose I did it out of a joke, or
MRS. ROBERTS: "Aunty, I don't know what to say to you. YOU ought to
have been here long ago, before anything happened."
MRS. CRASHAW: "Oh, I can explain everything in due season. What I
wish you to do now is to let me get at Willis, and kiss him." As
CAMPBELL submits to her embrace: "You dear, good fellow! If it
hadn't been for your presence of mind, I don't know how we should
ever have got out of that horrid pen."
MRS. CURWEN, giving him her hand: "As it isn't proper for ME to kiss
CAMPBELL: "Well, I don't know. I don't wish to be TOO modest."
MRS. CURWEN: "I think I shall have to vote you a service of plate."
MRS. ROBERTS: "Come and look at the pattern of mine. And, Willis,
as you are the true hero of the occasion, you shall take me in to
dinner. And I am not going to let anybody go before you." She
seizes his arm, and leads the way from the landing into the
apartment. ROBERTS, LAWTON, and BEMIS follow stragglingly.
MRS. MILLER, getting her husband to one side: "When she fainted, she
fainted AT you, of course! What did you do?"
MILLER: "Who? I! Oh!" After a moment's reflection: "She came
CURWEN, getting his wife aside: "When you fainted, Caroline, who
MRS. CURWEN: "Who? ME? Oh! How should I know? I was insensible."
They wheel arm in arm, and meet MR. and MRS. MILLER in the middle.
MRS. CURWEN yields precedence with an ironical courtesy: "After you,
MRS. MILLER, in a nervous, inimical twitter: "Oh, before the heroine
of the lost elevator?"
MRS. CURWEN, dropping her husband's arm, and taking MRS. MILLER'S:
"Let us split the difference."
MRS. MILLER: "Delightful! I shall never forget the honor."
MRS. CURWEN: "Oh, don't speak of honors! Mr. Miller was SO kind
through all those terrible scenes in the elevator."
MRS. MILLER: "I've no doubt you showed yourself duly grateful."
They pass in, followed by their husbands.
YOUNG MR. BEMIS, timidly: "Miss Lawton, in the elevator you asked me
not to leave you. Did you--ah--mean--I MUST ask you; it may be my
only chance; if you meant--never?"
MISS LAWTON, dropping her head: "I--I--don't--know."
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "But if I WISHED never to leave you, should you
send me away?"
MISS LAWTON, with a shy, sly upward glance at him: "Not in the
YOUNG MR. BEMIS: "Oh!"
MRS. ROBERTS, re-appearing at the door: "Why, you good-for-nothing
young things, why don't you come to--Oh! excuse me!" She re-enters
precipitately, followed by her tardy guests, on whom she casts a
backward glance of sympathy. "Oh, you NEEDN'T hurry!"
by William D. Howells
This etext was produced from the 1911 Houghton Mifflin Company
edition by David Price, email email@example.com
SCENE: A Parlor-Car on the New York Central Railroad. It is late
afternoon in the early autumn, with a cloudy sunset threatening rain.
The car is unoccupied save by a gentleman, who sits fronting one of
the windows, with his feet in another chair; a newspaper lies across
his lap; his hat is drawn down over his eyes, and he is apparently
asleep. The rear door of the car opens, and the conductor enters
with a young lady, heavily veiled, the porter coming after with her
wraps and travelling-bags. The lady's air is of mingled anxiety and
desperation, with a certain fierceness of movement. She casts a
careless glance over the empty chairs.
CONDUCTOR: "Here's your ticket, madam. You can have any of the
places you like here,--glancing at the unconscious gentleman, and
then at the young lady,--"if you prefer, you can go and take that
seat in the forward car."
MISS LUCY GALBRAITH: "Oh, I can't ride backwards. I'll stay here,
please. Thank you." The porter places her things in a chair by a
window, across the car from the sleeping gentleman, and she throws
herself wearily into the next seat, wheels round in it, and lifting
her veil gazes absently out at the landscape. Her face, which is
very pretty, with a low forehead shadowed by thick blond hair, shows
the traces of tears. She makes search in her pocket for her
handkerchief, which she presses to her eyes. The conductor,
lingering a moment, goes out.
PORTER: "I'll be right here, at de end of de cah, if you should
happen to want anything, miss,"--making a feint of arranging the
shawls and satchels. "Should you like some dese things hung up?
Well, dey'll be jus' as well in de chair. We's pretty late dis
afternoon; more'n four hours behin' time. Ought to been into Albany
'fore dis. Freight train off de track jus' dis side o' Rochester,
an' had to wait. Was you going to stop at Schenectady, miss?"
MISS GALBRAITH, absently: "At Schenectady?" After a pause, "Yes."
PORTER: "Well, that's de next station, and den de cahs don't stop
ag'in till dey git to Albany. Anything else I can do for you now,
MISS GALBRAITH: "No, no, thank you, nothing." The Porter hesitates,
takes off his cap, and scratches his head with a murmur of
embarrassment. Miss Galbraith looks up at him inquiringly and then
suddenly takes out her porte-monnaie, and fees him.
PORTER: "Thank you, miss, thank you. If you want anything at all,
miss, I'm right dere at de end of de cah." He goes out by the narrow
passage-way beside the smaller enclosed parlor. Miss Galbraith looks
askance at the sleeping gentleman, and then, rising, goes to the
large mirror, to pin her veil, which has become loosened from her
hat. She gives a little start at sight of the gentleman in the
mirror, but arranges her head-gear, and returning to her place looks
out of the window again. After a little while she moves about
uneasily in her chair, then leans forward, and tries to raise her
window; she lifts it partly up, when the catch slips from her
fingers, and the window falls shut again with a crash.
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, DEAR, how provoking! I suppose I must call the
porter." She rises from her seat, but on attempting to move away she
finds that the skirt of her polonaise has been caught in the falling
window. She pulls at it, and then tries to lift the window again,
but the cloth has wedged it in, and she cannot stir it. "Well, I
certainly think this is beyond endurance! Porter! Ah,--Porter! Oh,
he'll never hear me in the racket that these wheels are making! I
wish they'd stop,--I"--The gentleman stirs in his chair, lifts his
head, listens, takes his feet down from the other seat, rises
abruptly, and comes to Miss Galbraith's side.
MR. ALLEN RICHARDS: "Will you allow me to open the window for you?"
Starting back, "Miss Galbraith!"
MISS GALBRAITH: "Al--Mr. Richards!" There is a silence for some
moments, in which they remain looking at each other; then, -
MR. RICHARDS: "Lucy" -
MISS GALBRAITH: "I forbid you to address me in that way, Mr.
MR. RICHARDS: "Why, you were just going to call me Allen!"
MISS GALBRAITH: "That was an accident, you know very well,--an
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, so is this."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Of which you ought to be ashamed to take advantage.
I wonder at your presumption in speaking to me at all. It's quite
idle, I can assure you. Everything is at an end between us. It
seems that I bore with you too long; but I'm thankful that I had the
spirit to not at last, and to act in time. And now that chance has
thrown us together, I trust that you will not force your conversation
upon me. No gentleman would, and I have always given you credit for
thinking yourself a gentleman. I request that you will not speak to
MR. RICHARDS: "You've spoken ten words to me for every one of mine
to you. But I won't annoy you. I can't believe it, Lucy; I can NOT
believe it. It seems like some rascally dream, and if I had had any
sleep since it happened, I should think I--"
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh! You were sleeping soundly enough when I got
into the car!"
MR. RICHARDS: "I own it; I was perfectly used up, and I HAD dropped
MISS GALBRAITH, scornfully: "Then perhaps you HAVE dreamed it."
MR. RICHARDS: "I'll think so till you tell me again that our
engagement is broken; that the faithful love of years is to go for
nothing; that you dismiss me with cruel insult, without one word of
explanation, without a word of intelligible accusation, even. It's
too much! I've been thinking it all over and over, and I can't make
head or tail of it. I meant to see you again as soon as we got to
town, and implore you to hear me. Come, it's a mighty serious
matter, Lucy. I'm not a man to put on heroics and that; but _I_
believe it'll play the very deuce with me, Lucy,--that is to say,
Miss Galbraith,--I do indeed. It'll give me a low opinion of woman."
MISS GALBRAITH, averting her face: "Oh, a very high opinion of woman
you have had!"
MR. RICHARDS, with sentiment: "Well, there was one woman whom I
thought a perfect angel."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Indeed! May I ask her name?"
MR. RICHARDS, with a forlorn smile. "I shall be obliged to describe
her somewhat formally as--Miss Galbraith."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Mr. Richards!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Why, you've just forbidden me to say LUCY! You must
tell me, dearest, what I have done to offend you. The worst
criminals are not condemned unheard, and I've always thought you were
merciful if not just. And now I only ask you to be just."
MISS GALBRAITH, looking out of the window: "You know very well what
you've done. You can't expect me to humiliate myself by putting your
offence into words."
MR. RICHARDS: "Upon my soul, I don't know what you mean! I DON'T
know what I've done. When you came at me, last night, with my ring
and presents and other little traps, you might have knocked me down
with the lightest of the lot. I was perfectly dazed; I couldn't say
anything before you were off, and all I could do was to hope that
you'd be more like yourself in the morning. And in the morning, when
I came round to Mrs. Philips's, I found you were gone, and I came
after you by the next train."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Mr. Richards, your personal history for the last
twenty-four hours is a matter of perfect indifference to me, as it
shall be for the next twenty-four hundred years. I see that you are
resolved to annoy me, and since you will not leave the car, I must do
so." She rises haughtily from her seat, but the imprisoned skirt of
her polonaise twitches her abruptly back into her chair. She bursts
into tears. "Oh, what SHALL I do?"
MR. RICHARDS, dryly: "You shall do whatever you like, Miss
Galbraith, when I've set you free; for I see your dress is caught in
the window. When it's once out, I'll shut the window, and you can
call the porter to raise it." He leans forward over her chair, and
while she shrinks back the length of her tether, he tugs at the
window-fastening. "I can't get at it. Would you be so good as to
stand up,--all you can?" Miss Galbraith stands up, droopingly, and
Mr. Richards makes a movement towards her, and then falls back. "No,
that won't do. Please sit down again." He goes round her chair and
tries to get at the window from that side. "I can't get any purchase
on it. Why don't you cut out that piece?" Miss Galbraith stares at
him in dumb amazement. "Well, I don't see what we're to do: I'll go
and get the porter." He goes to the end of the car, and returns. "I
can't find the porter,--he must be in one of the other cars. But"--
brightening with the fortunate conception--"I've just thought of
something. Will it unbutton?"
MISS GALBRAITH: "Unbutton?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Yes; this garment of yours."
MISS GALBRAITH: "My polonaise?" Inquiringly, "Yes."
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, then, it's a very simple matter. If you will
just take it off I can easily" -
MISS GALBRAITH, faintly: "I can't. A polonaise isn't like an
MR. RICHARDS, with dismay: "Oh! Well, then"--He remains thinking a
moment in hopeless perplexity.
MISS GALBRAITH, with polite ceremony: "The porter will be back soon.
Don't trouble yourself any further about it, please. I shall do very
MR. RICHARDS, without heeding her: "If you could kneel on that foot-
cushion, and face the window" -
MISS GALBRAITH, kneeling promptly: "So?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Yes, and now"--kneeling beside her--"if you'll allow
me to--to get at the window-catch,"--he stretches both arms forward;
she shrinks from his right into his left, and then back again,--"and
pull while I raise the window" -
MISS GALBRAITH: "Yes, yes; but do hurry, please. If any one saw us,
I don't know what they would think. It's perfectly ridiculous!"--
pulling. "It's caught in the corner of the window, between the frame
and the sash, and it won't come! Is my hair troubling you? Is it in
MR. RICHARDS: "It's in my eyes, but it isn't troubling me. Am I
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, not at all."
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, now then, pull hard!" He lifts the window with
a great effort; the polonaise comes free with a start, and she
strikes violently against him. In supporting the shock he cannot
forbear catching her for an instant to his heart. She frees herself,
and starts indignantly to her feet.
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, what a cowardly--subterfuge!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Cowardly? You've no idea how much courage it took."
Miss Galbraith puts her handkerchief to her face, and sobs. "Oh,
don't cry! Bless my heart,--I'm sorry I did it! But you know how
dearly I love you, Lucy, though I do think you've been cruelly
unjust. I told you I never should love any one else, and I never
shall. I couldn't help it; upon my soul, I couldn't. Nobody could.
Don't let it vex you, my"--He approaches her.
MISS GALBRAITH: "Please not touch me, sir! You have no longer any
right whatever to do so."
MR. RICHARDS: "You misinterpret a very inoffensive gesture. I have
no idea of touching you, but I hope I may be allowed, as a special
favor, to--pick up my hat, which you are in the act of stepping on."
Miss Galbraith hastily turns, and strikes the hat with her whirling
skirts; it rolls to the other side of the parlor, and Mr. Richards,
who goes after it, utters an ironical "Thanks!" He brushes it, and
puts it on, looking at her where she has again seated herself at the
window with her back to him, and continues, "As for any further
molestation from me" -
MISS GALBRAITH: "If you WILL talk to me" -
MR. RICHARDS: "Excuse me, I am not talking to you."
MISS GALBRAITH: "What were you doing?"
MR. RICHARDS: "I was beginning to think aloud. I--I was
soliloquizing. I suppose I may be allowed to soliloquize?"
MISS GALBRAITH, very coldly: "You can do what you like."
MR. RICHARDS: "Unfortunately that's just what I can't do. If I
could do as I liked, I should ask you a single question."
MISS GALBRAITH, after a moment: "Well, sir, you may ask your
question." She remains as before, with her chin in her hand, looking
tearfully out of the window; her face is turned from Mr. Richards,
who hesitates a moment before he speaks.
MR. RICHARDS: "I wish to ask you just this, Miss Galbraith: if you
couldn't ride backwards in the other car, why do you ride backwards
MISS GALBRAITH, burying her face in her handkerchief, and sobbing:
"Oh, oh, oh! This is too bad!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Oh, come now, Lucy. It breaks my heart to hear you
going on so, and all for nothing. Be a little merciful to both of
us, and listen to me. I've no doubt I can explain everything if I
once understand it, but it's pretty hard explaining a thing if you
don't understand it yourself. Do turn round. I know it makes you
sick to ride in that way, and if you don't want to face me--there!"--
wheeling in his chair so as to turn his back upon her--"you needn't.
Though it's rather trying to a fellow's politeness, not to mention
his other feelings. Now, what in the name" -
PORTER, who at this moment enters with his step-ladder, and begins to
light the lamps: "Going pretty slow ag'in, sah."
MR. RICHARDS: "Yes; what's the trouble?"
PORTER: "Well, I don't know exactly, sah. Something de matter with
de locomotive. We sha'n't be into Albany much 'fore eight o'clock."
MR. RICHARDS: "What's the next station?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Is the whole train as empty as this car?"
PORTER, laughing: "Well, no, sah. Fact is, dis cah don't belong on
dis train. It's a Pullman that we hitched on when you got in, and
we's taking it along for one of de Eastern roads. We let you in
'cause de Drawing-rooms was all full. Same with de lady,"--looking
sympathetically at her, as he takes his steps to go out. "Can I do
anything for you now, miss?"
MISS GALBRAITH, plaintively: "No, thank you; nothing whatever." She
has turned while Mr. Richards and The Porter have been speaking, and
now faces the back of the former, but her veil is drawn closely. The
Porter goes out.
MR. RICHARDS, wheeling round so as to confront her: "I wish you
would speak to me half as kindly as you do to that darky, Lucy."
MISS GALBRAITH: "HE is a GENTLEMAN!"
MR. RICHARDS: "He is an urbane and well-informed nobleman. At any
rate, he's a man and a brother. But so am I." Miss Galbraith does
not reply, and after a pause Mr. Richards resumes. "Talking of
gentlemen, I recollect, once, coming up on the day-boat to
Poughkeepsie, there was a poor devil of a tipsy man kept following a
young fellow about, and annoying him to death--trying to fight him,
as a tipsy man will, and insisting that the young fellow had insulted
him. By and by he lost his balance and went overboard, and the other
jumped after him and fished him out." Sensation on the part of Miss
Galbraith, who stirs uneasily in her chair, looks out of the window,
then looks at Mr. Richards, and drops her head. "There was a young
lady on board, who had seen the whole thing--a very charming young
lady indeed, with pale blond hair growing very thick over her
forehead, and dark eyelashes to the sweetest blue eyes in the world.
Well, this young lady's papa was amongst those who came up to say
civil things to the young fellow when he got aboard again, and to ask
the honor--he said the HONOR--of his acquaintance. And when he came
out of his stateroom in dry clothes, this infatuated old gentleman
was waiting for him, and took him and introduced him to his wife and
daughter; and the daughter said, with tears in her eyes, and a
perfectly intoxicating impulsiveness, that it was the grandest and
the most heroic and the noblest thing that she had ever seen, and she
should always be a better girl for having seen it. Excuse me, Miss
Galbraith, for troubling you with these facts of a personal history,
which, as you say, is a matter of perfect indifference to you. The
young fellow didn't think at the time he had done anything
extraordinary; but I don't suppose he DID expect to live to have the
same girl tell him he was no gentleman."
MISS GALBRAITH, wildly: "O Allen, Allen! You KNOW I think you are a
gentleman, and I always did!"
MR. RICHARDS, languidly: "Oh, I merely had your word for it, just
now, that you didn't." Tenderly, "Will you hear me, Lucy?"
MISS GALBRAITH, faintly: "Yes."
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, what is it I've done? Will you tell me if I
MISS GALBRAITH, with dignity: "I am in no humor for jesting, Allen.
And I can assure you that though I consent to hear what you have to
say, or ask, NOTHING will change my determination. All is over
MR. RICHARDS: "Yes, I understand that, perfectly. I am now asking
merely for general information. I do not expect you to relent, and,
in fact, I should consider it rather frivolous if you did. No. What
I have always admired in your character, Lucy, is a firm, logical
consistency; a clearness of mental vision that leaves no side of a
subject unsearched; and an unwavering constancy of purpose. You may
say that these traits are characteristic of ALL women; but they are
pre-eminently characteristic of you, Lucy." Miss Galbraith looks
askance at him, to make out whether he is in earnest or not; he
continues, with a perfectly serious air. "And I know now that if
you're offended with me, it's for no trivial cause." She stirs
uncomfortably in her chair. What I have done I can't imagine, but
it must be something monstrous, since it has made life with me appear
so impossible that you are ready to fling away your own happiness--
for I know you DID love me, Lucy--and destroy mine. I will begin
with the worst thing I can think of. Was it because I danced so much
with Fanny Watervliet?"
MISS GALBRAITH, indignantly: "How can you insult me by supposing
that I could be jealous of such a perfect little goose as that? No,
Allen! Whatever I think of you, I still respect you too much for
MR. RICHARDS: "I'm glad to hear that there are yet depths to which
you think me incapable of descending, and that Miss Watervliet is one
of them. I will now take a little higher ground. Perhaps you think
I flirted with Mrs. Dawes. I thought, myself, that the thing might
begin to have that appearance, but I give you my word of honor that
as soon as the idea occurred to me, I dropped her--rather rudely,
too. The trouble was, don't you know, that I felt so perfectly safe
with a MARRIED friend of yours. I couldn't be hanging about you all
the time, and I was afraid I might vex you if I went with the other
girls; and I didn't know what to do."
MISS GALBRAITH: "I think you behaved rather silly, giggling so much
with her. But" -
MR. RICHARDS: "I own it, I know it was silly. But" -
MISS GALBRAITH: "It wasn't that; it wasn't that!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Was it my forgetting to bring you those things from
MISS GALBRAITH: "No!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Was it because I hadn't given up smoking yet?"
MISS GALBRAITH: "You KNOW I never asked you to give up smoking. It
was entirely your own proposition."
MR. RICHARDS: "That's true. That's what made me so easy about it.
I knew I could leave it off ANY time. Well, I will not disturb you
any longer, Miss Galbraith." He throws his overcoat across his arm,
and takes up his travelling-bag. "I have failed to guess your fatal-
-conundrum; and I have no longer any excuse for remaining. I am
going into the smoking-car. Shall I send the porter to you for
MISS GALBRAITH: "No, thanks." She puts up her handkerchief to her
MR. RICHARDS: "Lucy, do you send me away?"
MISS GALBRAITH, behind her handkerchief: "You were going, yourself."
MR. RICHARDS, over his shoulder: "Shall I come back?"
MISS GALBRAITH: "I have no right to drive you from the car."
MR. RICHARDS, coming back, and sitting down in the chair nearest her:
"Lucy, dearest, tell me what's the matter."
MISS GALBRAITH: "O Allen! your not KNOWING makes it all the more
hopeless and killing. It shows me that we MUST part; that you would
go on, breaking my heart, and grinding me into the dust as long as we
lived." She sobs. "It shows me that you never understood me, and
you never will. I know you're good and kind and all that, but that
only makes your not understanding me so much the worse. I do it
quite as much for your sake as my own, Allen."
MR. RICHARDS: "I'd much rather you wouldn't put yourself out on my
MISS GALBRAITH, without regarding him: "If you could mortify me
before a whole roomful of people, as you did last night, what could I
expect after marriage but continual insult?"
MR. RICHARDS, in amazement: "HOW did I mortify you? I thought that
I treated you with all the tenderness and affection that a decent
regard for the feelings of others would allow. I was ashamed to find
I couldn't keep away from you."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, you were ATTENTIVE enough, Allen; nobody denies
that. Attentive enough in non-essentials. Oh, yes!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, what vital matters did I fail in? I'm sure I
MISS GALBRAITH: "I dare say! I dare say they won't appear vital to
you, Allen. Nothing does. And if I had told you, I should have been
met with ridicule, I suppose. But I knew BETTER than to tell; I
respected myself too MUCH."
MR. RICHARDS: "But now you mustn't respect yourself QUITE so much,
dearest. And I promise you I won't laugh at the most serious thing.
I'm in no humor for it. If it were a matter of life and death, even,
I can assure you that it wouldn't bring a smile to my countenance.
No, indeed! If you expect me to laugh, now, you must say something
MISS GALBRAITH: "I was not going to say anything funny, as you call
it, and I will say nothing at all, if you talk in that way."
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, I won't, then. But do you know what I suspect,
Lucy? I wouldn't mention it to everybody, but I will to you--in
strict confidence: I suspect that you're rather ashamed of your
grievance, if you have any. I suspect it's nothing at all."
MISS GALBRAITH, very sternly at first, with a rising hysterical
inflection: "Nothing, Allen! Do you call it NOTHING, to have Mrs.
Dawes come out with all that about your accident on your way up the
river, and ask me if it didn't frighten me terribly to hear of it,
even after it was all over; and I had to say you hadn't told me a
word of it? 'Why, Lucy!'"--angrily mimicking Mrs. Dawes, "'you must
teach him better than that. I make Mr. Dawes tell me everything.'
Little simpleton! And then to have them all laugh--Oh, dear, it's
MR. RICHARDS: "Why, my dear Lucy" -
MISS GALBRAITH, interrupting him: "I saw just how it was going to
be, and I'm thankful, THANKFUL that it happened. I saw that you
didn't care enough for me to take me into your whole life; that you
despised and distrusted me, and that it would get worse and worse to
the end of our days; that we should grow farther and farther apart,
and I should be left moping at home, while you ran about making
confidantes of other women whom you considered WORTHY of your
confidence. It all FLASHED upon me in an INSTANT; and I resolved to
break with you, then and there; and I did, just as soon as ever I
could go to my room for your things, and I'm glad,--yes,--Oh, hu, hu,
hu, hu, hu!--SO glad I did it!"
MR. RICHARDS, grimly: "Your joy is obvious. May I ask" -
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, it wasn't the FIRST proof you had given me how
little you really cared for me, but I was determined it should be the
last. I dare say you've forgotten them! I dare say you don't
remember telling Mamie Morris that you didn't like embroidered cigar-
cases, when you'd just TOLD me that you did, and let me be such a
fool as to commence one for you; but I'm thankful to say THAT went
into the fire,--oh, yes, INSTANTLY! And I dare say you've forgotten
that you didn't tell me your brother's engagement was to be kept, and
let me come out with it that night at the Rudges', and then looked
perfectly aghast, so that everybody thought I had been blabbing!
Time and again, Allen, you have made me suffer agonies, yes, AGONIES;
but your power to do so is at an end. I am free and happy at last."
She weeps bitterly.
MR. RICHARDS, quietly: "Yes, I HAD forgotten those crimes, and I
suppose many similar atrocities. I own it, I AM forgetful and
careless. I was wrong about those things. I ought to have told you
why I said that to Miss Morris: I was afraid she was going to work
me one. As to that accident I told Mrs. Dawes of, it wasn't worth
mentioning. Our boat simply walked over a sloop in the night, and
nobody was hurt. I shouldn't have thought twice about it, if she
hadn't happened to brag of their passing close to an iceberg on their
way home from Europe; then I trotted out MY pretty-near disaster as a
match for hers,--confound her! I wish the iceberg had sunk them!
Only it wouldn't have sunk her,--she's so light; she'd have gone
bobbing about all over the Atlantic Ocean, like a cork; she's got a
perfect life-preserver in that mind of hers." Miss Galbraith gives a
little laugh, and then a little moan. "But since you are happy, I
will not repine, Miss Galbraith. I don't pretend to be very happy
myself, but then, I don't deserve it. Since you are ready to let an
absolutely unconscious offence on my part cancel all the past; since
you let my devoted love weigh as nothing against the momentary pique
that a malicious little rattle-pate--she was vexed at my leaving her-
-could make you feel, and choose to gratify a wicked resentment at
the cost of any suffering to me, why, I can be glad and happy too."
With rising anger, "Yes, Miss Galbraith. All IS over between us.
You can go! I renounce you!"
MISS GALBRAITH, springing fiercely to her feet: "Go, indeed!
Renounce me! Be so good as to remember that you haven't got me TO
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, it's all the same thing. I'd renounce you if I
had. Good-evening, Miss Galbraith. I will send back your presents
as soon as I get to town; it won't be necessary to acknowledge them.
I hope we may never meet again." He goes out of the door towards the
front of the ear, but returns directly, and glances uneasily at Miss
Galbraith, who remains with her handkerchief pressed to her eyes.
"Ah--a--that is--I shall be obliged to intrude upon you again. The
fact is" -
MISS GALBRAITH, anxiously: "Why, the cars have stopped! Are we at
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, no; not EXACTLY; not stopped exactly at
MISS GALBRAITH: "Then what station is this? Have they carried me
by?" Observing his embarrassment, "Allen, what is the matter? What
has happened? Tell me instantly! Are we off the track? Have we run
into another train? Have we broken through a bridge? Shall we be
burnt alive? Tell me, Allen, tell me,--I can bear it!--are we
telescoped?" She wrings her hands in terror.
MR. RICHARDS, unsympathetically: "Nothing of the kind has happened.
This car has simply come uncoupled, and the rest of the train has
gone on ahead, and left us standing on the track, nowhere in
particular." He leans back in his chair, and wheels it round from
MISS GALBRAITH, mortified, yet anxious: "Well?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Well, until they miss us, and run back to pick us up,
I shall be obliged to ask your indulgence. I will try not to disturb
you; I would go out and stand on the platform, but it's raining."
MISS GALBRAITH, listening to the rain-fall on the roof: "Why, so it
is!" Timidly, "Did you notice when the car stopped?"
MR. RICHARDS: "No." He rises and goes out at the rear door, comes
back, and sits down again
MISS GALBRAITH, rises, and goes to the large mirror to wipe away her
tears. She glances at Mr. Richards, who does not move. She sits
down in a seat nearer him than the chair she has left. After some
faint murmurs and hesitations, she asks, "Will you please tell me why
you went out just now?"
MR. RICHARDS, with indifference: "Yes. I went to see if the rear
signal was out."
MISS GALBRAITH, after another hesitation: "Why?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Because, if it wasn't out, some train might run into
us from that direction."
MISS GALBRAITH, tremulously: "Oh! And was it?"
MR. RICHARDS, dryly: "Yes."
MISS GALBRAITH returns to her former place, with a wounded air, and
for a moment neither speaks. Finally she asks very meekly, "And
there's no danger from the front?"
MR. RICHARDS, coldly: "No."
MISS GALBRAITH, after some little noises and movements meant to catch
Mr. Richards's attention: "Of course, I never meant to imply that
you were intentionally careless or forgetful."
MR. RICHARDS, still very coldly: "Thank you."
MISS GALBRAITH: "I always did justice to your good-heartedness,
Allen; you're perfectly lovely that way; and I know that you would be
sorry if you knew you had wounded my feelings, however accidentally."
She droops her head so as to catch a sidelong glimpse of his face,
and sighs, while she nervously pinches the top of her parasol,
resting the point on the floor. Mr. Richards makes no answer. "That
about the cigar-case might have been a mistake; I saw that myself,
and, as you explain it, why, it was certainly very kind and very
creditable to--to your thoughtfulness. It WAS thoughtful!"
MR. RICHARDS: "I am grateful for your good opinion."
MISS GALBRAITH: "But do you think it was exactly--it was quite--
nice, not to tell me that your brother's engagement was to be kept,
when you know, Allen, I can't bear to blunder in such things?"
Tenderly, "DO you? You CAN'T say it was?"
MR. RICHARDS: "I never said it was."
MISS GALBRAITH, plaintively: "No, Allen. That's what I always
admired in your character. You always owned up. Don't you think
it's easier for men to own up than it is for women?"
MR. RICHARDS: "I don't know. I never knew any woman to do it."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, yes, Allen! You know I OFTEN own up."
MR. RICHARDS: "No, I don't."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh, how can you bear to say so? When I'm rash, or
anything of that kind, you know I acknowledge it."
MR. RICHARDS: "Do you acknowledge it now?"
MISS GALBRAITH: "Why, how can I, when I haven't BEEN rash? WHAT
have I been rash" -
MR. RICHARDS: "About the cigar-case, for example."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Oh! THAT! That was a great while ago! I thought
you meant something quite recent." A sound as of the approaching
tram is heard in the distance. She gives a start, and then leaves
her chair again for one a little nearer his. "I thought perhaps you
meant about--last night."
MR. RICHARDS: "Well."
MISS GALBRAITH, very judicially: "I don't think it was RASH,
exactly. No, not RASH. It might not have been very KIND not to--to-
-trust you more, when I knew that you didn't mean anything; but--No,
I took the only course I could. Nobody could have done differently
under the circumstances. But if I caused you any pain, I'm very
sorry; oh, yes, very sorry indeed. But I was not precipitate, and I
know I did right. At least I TRIED to act for the best. Don't you
believe I did?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Why, if you have no doubt upon the subject, my
opinion is of no consequence."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Yes. But what do you think? If you think
differently, and can make me see it differently, oughtn't you to do
MR. RICHARDS: "I don't see why. As you say, all is over between
MISS GALBRAITH: "Yes." After a pause, "I should suppose you would
care enough for yourself to wish me to look at the matter from the
right point of view."
MR. RICHARDS: "I don't."
MISS GALBRAITH, becoming more and more uneasy as the noise of the
approaching train grows louder: "I think you have been very quick
with me at times, quite as quick as I could have been with you last
night." The noise is more distinctly heard. "I'm sure that if I
could once see it as you do, no one would be more willing to do
anything in their power to atone for their rashness. Of course I
know that everything is over."
MR. RICHARDS: "As to that, I have your word; and, in view of the
fact, perhaps this analysis of motive, of character, however
interesting on general grounds, is a little" -
MISS GALBRAITH, with sudden violence: "Say it, and take your
revenge! I have put myself at your feet, and you do right to trample
on me! Oh, this is what women may expect when they trust to men's
generosity! Well, it IS over now, and I'm thankful, thankful!
Cruel, suspicious, vindictive, you're all alike, and I'm glad that
I'm no longer subject to your heartless caprices. And I don't care
what happens after this, I shall always--Oh! You're sure it's from
the front, Allen? Are you sure the rear signal is out?"
MR. RICHARDS, relenting: "Yes, but if it will ease your mind, I'll
go and look again." He rises, and starts towards the rear door.
MISS GALBRAITH, quickly: "Oh, no! Don't go! I can't bear to be
left alone!" The sound of the approaching train continually
increases in volume. "Oh, isn't it coming very, very, VERY fast?"
MR. RICHARDS: "No, no! Don't be frightened."
MISS GALBRAITH, running towards the rear door. "Oh, I MUST get out!
It will kill me, I know it will. Come with me! Do, do!" He runs
after her, and her voice is heard at the rear of the car. "Oh, the
outside door is locked, and we are trapped, trapped, trapped! Oh,
quick! Let's try the door at the other end." They re-enter the
parlor, and the roar of the train announces that it is upon them.
"No, no! It's too late, it's too late! I'm a wicked, wicked girl,
and this is all to punish me! Oh, it's coming, it's coming at full
speed!" He remains bewildered, confronting her. She utters a wild
cry, and as the train strikes the car with a violent concussion, she
flings herself into his arms. "There, there! Forgive me, Allen!
Let us die together, my own, own love!" She hangs fainting on his
breast. Voices are heard without, and after a little delay The
Porter comes in with a lantern.
PORTER: "Rather more of a jah than we meant to give you, sah! We
had to run down pretty quick after we missed you, and the rain made
the track a little slippery. Lady much frightened?"
MISS GALBRAITH, disengaging herself: "Oh, not at all! Not in the
least. We thought it was a train coming from behind, and going to
run into us, and so--we--I" -
PORTER: "Not quite so bad as that. We'll be into Schenectady in a
few minutes, miss. I'll come for your things." He goes out at the
MISS GALBRAITH, in a fearful whisper: "Allen! What will he ever
think of us? I'm sure he saw us!"
MR. RICHARDS: "I don't know what he'll think NOW. He DID think you
were frightened; but you told him you were not. However, it isn't
important what he thinks. Probably he thinks I'm your long-lost
brother. It had a kind of family look."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Ridiculous!"
MR. RICHARDS: "Why, he'd never suppose that I was a jilted lover of
MISS GALBRAITH, ruefully: "No."
MR. RICHARDS: "Come, Lucy,"--taking her hand,--"you wished to die
with me, a moment ago. Don't you think you can make one more effort
to live with me? I won't take advantage of words spoken in mortal
peril, but I suppose you were in earnest when you called me your own-
-own"--Her head droops; he folds her in his arms a moment, then she
starts away from him, as if something had suddenly occurred to her.
MISS GALBRAITH: "Allen, where are you going?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Going? Upon my soul, I haven't the least idea."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Where WERE you going?"
MR. RICHARDS: "Oh, I WAS going to Albany."
MISS GALBRAITH: "Well, don't! Aunt Mary is expecting me here at
Schenectady,--I telegraphed her,--and I want you to stop here, too,
and we'll refer the whole matter to her. She's such a wise old head.
I'm not sure" -
MR. RICHARDS: "What?"
MISS GALBRAITH, demurely: "That I'm good enough for you."
MR. RICHARDS, starting, in burlesque of her movement, as if a thought
had struck HIM: "Lucy! how came you on this train when you left
Syracuse on the morning express?"
MISS GALBRAITH, faintly: "I waited over a train at Utica." She
sinks into a chair, and averts her face.
MR. RICHARDS: "May I ask why?"
MISS GALBRAITH, more faintly still: "I don't like to tell. I" -
MR. RICHARDS, coming and standing in front of her, with his hands in
his pockets: "Look me in the eye, Lucy!" She drops her veil over
her face, and looks up at him. "Did you--did you expect to find ME
on this train?"
MISS GALBRAITH: "I was afraid it never WOULD get along,--it was so
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