Friday, February 14, 2020
Thursday, February 13, 2020
THE EXTRAORDINARY ADVENTURES OF ARSÈNE LUPIN, GENTLEMAN-BURGLAR - by Maurice Leblanc - The Black Pearl
A violent ringing of the bell awakened the concierge of number nine, avenue Hoche. She pulled the doorstring, grumbling:
“I thought everybody was in. It must be three o’clock!”
“Perhaps it is some one for the doctor,” muttered her husband.
“Third floor, left. But the doctor won’t go out at night.”
“He must go tonight.”
The visitor entered the vestibule, ascended to the first floor, the second, the third, and, without stopping at the doctor’s door, he continued to the fifth floor. There, he tried two keys. One of them fitted the lock.
“Ah! good!” he murmured, “that simplifies the business wonderfully. But before I commence work I had better arrange for my retreat. Let me see.... have I had sufficient time to rouse the doctor and be dismissed by him? Not yet.... a few minutes more.”
At the end of ten minutes, he descended the stairs, grumbling noisily about the doctor. The concierge opened the door for him and heard it click behind him. But the door did not lock, as the man had quickly inserted a piece of iron in the lock in such a manner that the bolt could not enter. Then, quietly, he entered the house again, unknown to the concierge. In case of alarm, his retreat was assured. Noiselessly, he ascended to the fifth floor once more. In the antechamber, by the light of his electric lantern, he placed his hat and overcoat on one of the chairs, took a seat on another, and covered his heavy shoes with felt slippers.
“Ouf ! Here I am and how simple it was! I wonder why more people do not adopt the profitable and pleasant occupation of burglar. With a little care and reflection, it becomes a most delightful profession. Not too quiet and monotonous, of course, as it would then become wearisome.”
He unfolded a detailed plan of the apartment.
“Let me commence by locating myself. Here, I see the vestibule in which I am sitting. On the street front, the drawing-room, the boudoir and dining room. Useless to waste any time there, as it appears that the countess has a deplorable taste.... not a bibelot of any value!...Now, let’s get down to business!... Ah! here is a corridor; it must lead to the bed chambers. At a distance of three meters, I should come to the door of the wardrobe closet which connects with the chamber of the countess.” He folded his plan, extinguished his lantern, and proceeded down the corridor, counting his distance, thus:
“One metre.... two metres.... three metres....Here is the door....Mon Dieu, how easy it is! Only a small, simple bolt now separates me from the chamber, and I know that the bolt is located exactly one metre, forty-three centimeters, from the floor. So that, thanks to a small incision I am about to make, I can soon get rid of the bolt.”
He drew from his pocket the necessary instruments. Then the following idea occurred to him:
“Suppose, by chance, the door is not bolted. I will try it first.”
He turned the knob, and the door opened.
“My brave Lupin, surely fortune favors you....What’s to be done now? You know the situation of the rooms; you know the place in which the countess hides the black pearl. Therefore, in order to secure the black pearl, you have simply to be more silent than silence, more invisible than darkness itself.”
Arsène Lupin was employed fully a half-hour in opening the second door, a glass door that led to the countess’ bedchamber. But he accomplished it with so much skill and precaution, that even had had the countess been awake, she would not have heard the slightest sound. According to the plan of the rooms, that he holds, he has merely to pass around a reclining chair and, beyond that, a small table close to the bed. On the table, there was a box of letter-paper, and the black pearl was concealed in that box. He stooped and crept cautiously over the carpet, following the outlines of the reclining-chair. When he reached the extremity of it, he stopped in order to repress the throbbing of his heart. Although he was not moved by any sense of fear, he found it impossible to overcome the nervous anxiety that one usually feels in the midst of profound silence. That circumstance astonished him, because he had passed through many more solemn moments without the slightest trace of emotion. No danger threatened him. Then why did his heart throb like an alarm bell? Was it that sleeping woman who affected him? Was it the proximity of another pulsating heart?
He listened, and thought he could discern the rhythmical breathing of a person asleep. It gave him confidence, like the presence of a friend. He sought and found the armchair; then, by slow, cautious movements, advanced toward the table, feeling ahead of him with outstretched arm. His right had touched one of the feet of the table. Ah! now, he had simply to rise, take the pearl, and escape. That was fortunate, as his heart was leaping in his breast like a wild beast, and made so much noise that he feared it would waken the countess. By a powerful effort of the will, he subdued the wild throbbing of his heart, and was about to rise from the floor when his left hand encountered, lying on the floor, an object which he recognized as a candlestick, an overturned candlestick. A moment later, his hand encountered another object: a clock, one of those small traveling clocks, covered with leather.
Well! What had happened? He could not understand. That candlestick, that clock; why were those articles not in their accustomed places? Ah! what had happened in the dread silence of the night?
Suddenly a cry escaped him. He had touched, oh! some strange, unutterable thing! “No! no!” he thought, “it cannot be. It is some fantasy of my excited brain.” For twenty seconds, thirty seconds, he remained motionless, terrified, his forehead bathed with perspiration, and his fingers still retained the sensation of that dreadful contact.
Making a desperate effort, he ventured to extend his arm again. Once more, his hand encountered that strange, unutterable thing. He felt it. He must feel it and find out what it is. He found that it was hair, human hair, and a human face; and that face was cold, almost icy.
However frightful the circumstances may be, a man like Arsène Lupin controls himself and commands the situation as soon as he learns what it is. So, Arsène Lupin quickly brought his lantern into use. A woman was lying before him, covered with blood. Her neck and shoulders were covered with gaping wounds. He leaned over her and made a closer examination. She was dead.
“Dead! Dead!” he repeated, with a bewildered air.
He stared at those fixed eyes, that grim mouth, that livid flesh, and that blood, all that blood which had flowed over the carpet and congealed there in thick, black spots. He arose and turned on the electric lights. Then he beheld all the marks of a desperate struggle. The bed was in a state of great disorder. On the floor, the candlestick, and the clock, with the hands pointing to twenty minutes after eleven; then, further away, an overturned chair; and, everywhere, there was blood, spots of blood and pools of blood.
“And the black pearl?” he murmured.
The box of letter-paper was in its place. He opened it, eagerly. The jewel-case was there, but it was empty.
“Fichtre!” he muttered. “You boasted of your good fortune much too soon, my friend Lupin. With the countess lying cold and dead, and the black pearl vanished, the situation is anything but pleasant. Get out of here as soon as you can, or you may get into serious trouble.”
Yet, he did not move.
“Get out of here? Yes, of course. Any person would, except Arsène Lupin. He has something better to do. Now, to proceed in an orderly way. At all events, you have a clear conscience. Let us suppose that you are the commissary of police and that you are proceeding to make an inquiry concerning this affair - Yes, but in order to do that, I require a clearer brain. Mine is muddled like a ragout.”
He tumbled into an armchair, with his clenched hands pressed against his burning forehead.
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The murder of the avenue Hoche is one of those which have recently surprised and puzzled the Parisian public, and, certainly, I should never have mentioned the affair if the veil of mystery had not been removed by Arsène Lupin himself. No one knew the exact truth of the case.
Who did not know from having met her in the Bois, the fair Léotine Zalti, the once-famous cantatrice, wife and widow of the Count d’Andillot; the Zalti, whose luxury dazzled all Paris some twenty years ago; the Zalti who acquired an European reputation for the magnificence of her diamonds and pearls? It was said that she wore upon her shoulders the capital of several banking houses and the gold mines of numerous Australian companies. Skilful jewelers worked for Zalti as they had formerly wrought for kings and queens. And who does not remember the catastrophe in which all that wealth was swallowed up? Of all that marvelous collection, nothing remained except the famous black pearl. The black pearl! That is to say a fortune, if she had wished to part with it.
But she preferred to keep it, to live in a commonplace apartment with her companion, her cook, and a man servant, rather than sell that inestimable jewel. There was a reason for it; a reason she was not afraid to disclose: the black pearl was the gift of an emperor! Almost ruined, and reduced to the most mediocre existence, she remained faithful to the companion of her happy and brilliant youth. The black pearl never left her possession. She wore it during the day, and, at night, concealed it in a place known to her alone.
All these facts, being republished in the columns of the public press, served to stimulate curiosity; and, strange to say, but quite obvious to those who have the key to the mystery, the arrest of the presumed assassin only complicated the question and prolonged the excitement. Two days later, the newspapers published the following item:
“Information has reached us of the arrest of Victor Danègre, the servant of the Countess d’Andillot. The evidence against him is clear and convincing. On the silken sleeve of his liveried waistcoat, which chief detective Dudouis found in his garret between the mattresses of his bed, several spots of blood were discovered. In addition, a cloth-covered button was missing from that garment, and this button was found beneath the bed of the victim.
“It is supposed that, after dinner, in place of going to his own room, Danègre slipped into the wardrobe-closet, and, through the glass door, had seen the countess hide the precious black pearl. This is simply a theory, as yet unverified by any evidence. There is, also, another obscure point. At seven o’clock in the morning, Danègre went to the tobacco shop on the Boulevard de Courcelles; the concierge and the shopkeeper both affirm this fact. On the other hand, the countess’ companion and cook, who sleep at the end of the hall, both declare that, when they arose at eight o’clock, the door of the antechamber and the door of the kitchen were locked. These two persons have been in the service of the countess for twenty years, and are above suspicion. The question is: How did Danègre leave the apartment? Did he have another key? These are matters that the police will investigate.”
As a matter of fact, the police investigation threw no light on the mystery. It was learned that Victor Danègre was a dangerous criminal, a drunkard and a debauchee. But, as they proceeded with the investigation, the mystery deepened and new complications arose. In the first place, a young woman, Mlle. De Sinclèves, the cousin and sole heiress of the countess, declared that the countess, a month before her death, had written a letter to her and in it described the manner in which the black pearl was concealed. The letter disappeared the day after she received it. Who had stolen it?
Again, the concierge related how she had opened the door for a person who had inquired for Doctor Harel. On being questioned, the doctor testified that no one had rung his bell. Then who was that person? And accomplice?
The theory of an accomplice was thereupon adopted by the press and public, and also by Ganimard, the famous detective.
“Lupin is at the bottom of this affair,” he said to the judge.
“Bah!” exclaimed the judge, “you have Lupin on the brain. You see him everywhere.”
“I see him everywhere, because he is everywhere.”
“Say rather that you see him every time you encounter something you cannot explain. Besides, you overlook the fact that the crime was committed at twenty minutes past eleven in the evening, as is shown by the clock, while the nocturnal visit, mentioned by the concierge, occurred at three o’clock in the morning.”
Officers of the law frequently form a hasty conviction as to the guilt of a suspected person, and then distort all subsequent discoveries to conform to their established theory. The deplorable antecedents of Victor Danègre, habitual criminal, drunkard and rake, influenced the judge, and despite the fact that nothing new was discovered in corroboration of the early clues, his official opinion remained firm and unshaken. He closed his investigation, and, a few weeks later, the trial commenced. It proved to be slow and tedious. The judge was listless, and the public prosecutor presented the case in a careless manner. Under those circumstances, Danègre’s counsel had an easy task. He pointed out the defects and inconsistencies of the case for the prosecution, and argued that the evidence was quite insufficient to convict the accused. Who had made the key, the indispensable key without which Danègre, on leaving the apartment, could not have locked the door behind him? Who had ever seen such a key, and what had become of it? Who had seen the assassin’s knife, and where is it now?
“In any event,” argued the prisoner’s counsel, “the prosecution must prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the prisoner committed the murder. The prosecution must show that the mysterious individual who entered the house at three o’clock in the morning is not the guilty party. To be sure, the clock indicated eleven o’clock. But what of that? I contend, that proves nothing. The assassin could turn the hands of the clock to any hour he pleased, and thus deceive us in regard to the exact hour of the crime.”
Victor Danègre was acquitted.
He left the prison on Friday about dusk in the evening, weak and depressed by his six months’ imprisonment. The inquisition, the solitude, the trial, the deliberations of the jury, combined to fill him with a nervous fear. At night, he had been afflicted with terrible nightmares and haunted by weird visions of the scaffold. He was a mental and physical wreck.
Under the assumed name of Anatole Dufour, he rented a small room on the heights of Montmartre, and lived by doing odd jobs wherever he could find them. He led a pitiful existence. Three times, he obtained regular employment, only to be recognized and then discharged. Sometimes, he had an idea that men were following him, detectives, no doubt, who were seeking to trap and denounce him. He could almost feel the strong hand of the law clutching him by the collar.
One evening, as he was eating his dinner at a neighboring restaurant, a man entered and took a seat at the same table. He was a person about forty years of age, and wore a frock coat of doubtful cleanliness. He ordered soup, vegetables, and a bottle of wine. After he had finished his soup, he turned his eyes on Danègre, and gazed at him intently. Danègre winced. He was certain that this was one of the men who had been following him for several weeks. What did he want? Danègre tried to rise, but failed. His limbs refused to support him. The man poured himself a glass of wine, and then filled Danègre’s glass. The man raised his glass, and said:
“To your health, Victor Danègre.”
Victor started in alarm, and stammered:
“I!....I!.... no, no....I swear to you....”
“You will swear what? That you are not yourself? The servant of the countess?”
“What servant? My name is Dufour. Ask the proprietor.”
“Yes, Anatole Dufour to the proprietor of this restaurant, but Victor Danègre to the officers of the law.”
“That’s not true! Some one has lied to you.”
The new-comer took a card from his pocket and handed it to Victor, who read on it: “Grimaudan, ex-inspector of the detective force. Private business transacted.” Victor shuddered as he said:
“You are connected with the police?”
“No, not now, but I have a liking for the business and I continue to work at it in a manner more...profitable. From time to time I strike upon a golden opportunity such as your case presents.”
“Yes, yours. I assure you it is a most promising affair, provided you are inclined to be reasonable.”
“But if I am not reasonable?”
“Oh! my good fellow, you are not in a position to refuse me anything I may ask.”
“What is it.... you want?” stammered Victor, fearfully.
“Well, I will inform you in a few words. I am sent by Mademoiselle de Sinclèves, the heiress of the Countess d’Andillot.”
“To recover the black pearl.”
“That you stole.”
“But I haven’t got it.”
“You have it.”
“If I had, then I would be the assassin.”
“You are the assassin.”
Danègre showed a forced smile.
“Fortunately for me, monsieur, the Assizecourt was not of your opinion. The jury returned an unanimous verdict of acquittal. And when a man has a clear conscience and twelve good men in his favor ”
The ex-inspector seized him by the arm and said:
“No fine phrases, my boy. Now, listen to me and weigh my words carefully. You will find they are worthy of your consideration. Now, Danègre, three weeks before the murder, you abstracted the cook’s key to the servants’ door, and had a duplicate key made by a locksmith named Outard, 244 rue Oberkampf.”
“It’s a lie, it’s a lie!” growled Victor. “No person has seen that key. There is no such key.”
“Here it is.”
After a silence, Grimaudan continued:
“You killed the countess with a knife purchased by you at the Bazar de la Republique on the same day as you ordered the duplicate key. It has a triangular blade with a groove running from end to end.”
“That is all nonsense. You are simply guessing at something you don’t know. No one ever saw the knife.”
“Here it is.”
Victor Danègre recoiled. The ex-inspector continued:
“There are some spots of rust upon it. Shall I tell you how they came there?”
“Well!.... you have a key and a knife. Who can prove that they belong to me?”
“The locksmith, and the clerk from whom you bought the knife. I have already refreshed their memories, and, when you confront them, they cannot fail to recognize you.”
His speech was dry and hard, with a tone of firmness and precision. Danègre was trembling with fear, and yet he struggled desperately to maintain an air of indifference.
“Is that all the evidence you have?”
“Oh! no, not at all. I have plenty more. For instance, after the crime, you went out the same way you had entered. But, in the centre of the wardrobe room, being seized by some sudden fear, you leaned against the wall for support.”
“How do you know that? No one could know such a thing,” argued the desperate man.
“The police know nothing about it, of course. They never think of lighting a candle and examining the walls. But if they had done so, they would have found on the white plaster a faint red spot, quite distinct, however, to trace in it the imprint of your thumb which you had pressed against the wall while it was wet with blood. Now, as you are well aware, under the Bertillon system, thumb-marks are one of the principal means of identification.”
Victor Danègre was livid; great drops of perspiration rolled down his face and fell upon the table. He gazed, with a wild look, at the strange man who had narrated the story of his crime as faithfully as if he had been an invisible witness to it. Overcome and powerless, Victor bowed his head. He felt that it was useless to struggle against this marvelous man. So he said:
“How much will you give me, if I give you the pearl?”
“Oh! you are joking! Or do you mean that I should give you an article worth thousands and hundreds of thousands and get nothing in return?”
“You will get your life. Is that nothing?”
The unfortunate man shuddered. Then Grimaudan added, in a milder tone:
“Come, Danègre, that pearl has no value in your hands. It is quite impossible for you to sell it; so what is the use of your keeping it?”
“There are pawnbrokers.... and, some day, I will be able to get something for it.”
“But that day may be too late.”
“Because by that time you may be in the hands of the police, and, with the evidence that I can furnish, the knife, the key, the thumb mark, what will become of you?”
Victor rested his head on his hands and reflected. He felt that he was lost, irremediably lost, and, at the same time, a sense of weariness and depression overcame him. He murmured, faintly:
“When must I give it to you?”
“Tonight, within an hour.”
“If I refuse?”
“If you refuse, I shall post this letter to the Procureur of the Republic; in which letter Mademoiselle de Sinclèves denounces you as the assassin.”
Danègre poured out two glasses of wine which he drank in rapid succession, then, rising, said:
“Pay the bill, and let us go. I have had enough of the cursed affair.”
Night had fallen. The two men walked down the rue Lepic and followed the exterior boulevards in the direction of the Place de l’Etoile. They pursued their way in silence; Victor had a stooping carriage and a dejected face. When they reached the Parc Monceau, he said:
“We are near the house.”
“Parbleu! You only left the house once, before your arrest, and that was to go to the tobacco shop.”
“Here it is,” said Danègre, in a dull voice.
They passed along the garden wall of the countess’ house, and crossed a street on a corner of which stood the tobacco shop. A few steps further on, Danègre stopped; his limbs shook beneath him, and he sank to a bench.
“Well! what now?” demanded his companion.
“It is there.”
“Where? Come, now, no nonsense!”
“There in front of us.”
“Between two paving-stones.”
“Look for it.”
Victor made no reply.
“Ah; I see!” exclaimed Grimaudan, “you want me to pay for the information.”
“No.... but....I am afraid I will starve to death.”
“So! that is why you hesitate. Well, I’ll not be hard on you. How much do you want?”
“Enough to buy a steerage pass to America.”
“And a hundred francs to keep me until I get work there.”
“You shall have two hundred. Now, speak.”
“Count the paving stones to the right from the sewer-hole. The pearl is between the twelfth and thirteenth.”
“In the gutter?”
“Yes, close to the sidewalk.”
Grimaudan glanced around to see if anyone were looking. Some tram-cars and pedestrians were passing. But, bah, they will not suspect anything. He opened his pocketknife and thrust it between the twelfth and thirteenth stones.
“And if it is not there?” he said to Victor.
“It must be there, unless someone saw me stoop down and hide it.”
Could it be possible that the back pearl had been cast into the mud and filth of the gutter to be picked up by the first comer? The black pearl, a fortune!
“How far down?” he asked.
“About ten centimetres.”
He dug up the wet earth. The point of his knife struck something. He enlarged the hole with his finger. Then he abstracted the black pearl from its filthy hiding place.
“Good! Here are your two hundred francs. I will send you the ticket for America.”
On the following day, this article was published in the ‘Echo de France,’ and was copied by the leading newspapers throughout the world:
“Yesterday, the famous black pearl came into the possession of
Arsène Lupin, who recovered it from the murderer of the Countess
d’Andillot. In a short time, fac-similes of that precious jewel
will be exhibited in London, St. Petersburg, Calcutta, Buenos Ayres
and New York.
“Arsène Lupin will be pleased to consider all propositions
submitted to him through his agents.”
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“And that is how crime is always punished and virtue rewarded,” said Arsène Lupin, after he had told me the foregoing history of the black pearl.
“And that is how you, under the assumed name of Grimaudan, ex-inspector of detectives, were chosen by fate to deprive the criminal of the benefit of his crime.”
“Exactly. And I confess that the affair gives me infinite satisfaction and pride. The forty minutes that I passed in the apartment of the Countess d’Andillot, after learning of her death, were the most thrilling and absorbing moments of my life. In those forty minutes, involved as I was in a most dangerous plight, I calmly studied the scene of the murder and reached the conclusion that the crime must have been committed by one of the house servants. I also decided that, in order to get the pearl, that servant must be arrested, and so I left the wainscoat button; it was necessary, also, for me to hold some convincing evidence of his guilt, so I carried away the knife which I found upon the floor, and the key which I found in the lock. I closed and locked the door, and erased the finger-marks from the plaster in the wardrobe closet. In my opinion, that was one of those flashes ”
“Of genius,” I said, interrupting.
“Of genius, if you wish. But, I flatter myself, it would not have occurred to the average mortal. To frame, instantly, the two elements of the problem, an arrest and an acquittal; to make use of the formidable machinery of the law to crush and humble my victim, and reduce him to a condition in which, when free, he would be certain to fall into the trap I was laying for him!”
“Poor devil ”
“Poor devil, do you say? Victor Danègre, the assassin! He might have descended to the lowest depths of vice and crime, if he had retained the black pearl. Now, he lives! Think of that: Victor Danègre is alive!”
“And you have the black pearl.”
He took it out of one of the secret pockets of his wallet, examined it, gazed at it tenderly, and caressed it with loving fingers, and sighed, as he said:
“What cold Russian prince, what vain and foolish rajah may some day possess this priceless treasure! Or, perhaps, some American millionaire is destined to become the owner of this morsel of exquisite beauty that once adorned the fair bosom of Leontine Zalti, the Countess d’Andillot.”
Marie Émile Maurice Leblanc 1864 - 1941
Wednesday, February 12, 2020
Simla, India: roads winding down from the telegraph office.
Photograph, ca. 1900.
If your mirror be broken, look into still water; but have a care
that you do not fall in. - Hindu Proverb.
Next to a requited attachment, one of the most convenient things that a young man can carry about with him at the beginning of his career, is an unrequited attachment. It makes him feel important and business-like, and blase, and cynical; and whenever he has a touch of liver, or suffers from want of exercise, he can mourn over his lost love, and be very happy in a tender, twilight fashion.
Hannasyde's affair of the heart had been a Godsend to him. It was four years old, and the girl had long since given up thinking of it.
She had married and had many cares of her own. In the beginning, she had told Hannasyde that, “while she could never be anything more than a sister to him, she would always take the deepest interest in his welfare.” This startlingly new and original remark gave Hannasyde something to think over for two years; and his own vanity filled in the other twenty-four months. Hannasyde was quite different from Phil Garron, but, none the less, had several points in common with that far too lucky man.
He kept his unrequited attachment by him as men keep a well smoked pipe, for comfort's sake, and because it had grown dear in the using. It brought him happily through the Simla season. Hannasyde was not lovely. There was a crudity in his manners, and a roughness in the way in which he helped a lady on to her horse, that did not attract the other sex to him. Even if he had cast about for their favor, which he did not. He kept his wounded heart all to himself for a while.
Then trouble came to him. All who go to Simla, know the slope from the Telegraph to the Public Works Office. Hannasyde was loafing up the hill, one September morning between calling hours, when a 'rickshaw came down in a hurry, and in the 'rickshaw sat the living, breathing image of the girl who had made him so happily unhappy.
Hannasyde leaned against the railing and gasped. He wanted to run downhill after the 'rickshaw, but that was impossible; so he went forward with most of his blood in his temples. It was impossible, for many reasons, that the woman in the 'rickshaw could be the girl he had known. She was, he discovered later, the wife of a man from Dindigul, or Coimbatore, or some out-of-the-way place, and she had come up to Simla early in the season for the good of her health.
She was going back to Dindigul, or wherever it was, at the end of the season; and in all likelihood would never return to Simla again, her proper Hill-station being Ootacamund. That night, Hannasyde, raw and savage from the raking up of all old feelings, took counsel with himself for one measured hour. What he decided upon was this; and you must decide for yourself how much genuine affection for the old love, and how much a very natural inclination to go abroad and enjoy himself, affected the decision. Mrs. Landys-Haggert would never in all human likelihood cross his path again. So whatever he did didn't much matter. She was marvellously like the girl who “took a deep interest” and the rest of the formula. All things considered, it would be pleasant to make the acquaintance of Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and for a little time, only a very little time, to make believe that he was with Alice Chisane again. Every one is more or less mad on one point. Hannasyde's particular monomania was his old love, Alice Chisane.
He made it his business to get introduced to Mrs. Haggert, and the introduction prospered. He also made it his business to see as much as he could of that lady. When a man is in earnest as to interviews, the facilities which Simla offers are startling. There are garden-parties, and tennis-parties, and picnics, and luncheons at Annandale, and rifle-matches, and dinners and balls; besides rides and walks, which are matters of private arrangement.
Hannasyde had started with the intention of seeing a likeness, and he ended by doing much more. He wanted to be deceived, he meant to be deceived, and he deceived himself very thoroughly. Not only were the face and figure, the face and figure of Alice Chisane, but the voice and lower tones were exactly the same, and so were the turns of speech; and the little mannerisms, that every woman has, of gait and gesticulation, were absolutely and identically the same. The turn of the head was the same; the tired look in the eyes at the end of a long walk was the same; the sloop and wrench over the saddle to hold in a pulling horse was the same; and once, most marvellous of all, Mrs. Landys-Haggert singing to herself in the next room, while Hannasyde was waiting to take her for a ride, hummed, note for note, with a throaty quiver of the voice in the second line: “Poor Wandering One!” exactly as Alice Chisane had hummed it for Hannasyde in the dusk of an English drawing-room. In the actual woman herself, in the soul of her, there was not the least likeness; she and Alice Chisane being cast in different moulds. But all that Hannasyde wanted to know and see and think about, was this maddening and perplexing likeness of face and voice and manner. He was bent on making a fool of himself that way; and he was in no sort disappointed.
Open and obvious devotion from any sort of man is always pleasant to any sort of woman; but Mrs. Landys-Haggert, being a woman of the world, could make nothing of Hannasyde's admiration.
He would take any amount of trouble, he was a selfish man habitually, to meet and forestall, if possible, her wishes.
Anything she told him to do was law; and he was, there could be no doubting it, fond of her company so long as she talked to him, and kept on talking about trivialities. But when she launched into expression of her personal views and her wrongs, those small social differences that make the spice of Simla life, Hannasyde was neither pleased nor interested. He didn't want to know anything about Mrs. Landys-Haggert, or her experiences in the past, she had travelled nearly all over the world, and could talk cleverly, he wanted the likeness of Alice Chisane before his eyes and her voice in his ears.
Anything outside that, reminding him of another personality jarred, and he showed that it did.
Under the new Post Office, one evening, Mrs. Landys-Haggert turned on him, and spoke her mind shortly and without warning. “Mr. Hannasyde,” said she, “will you be good enough to explain why you have appointed yourself my special cavalier servente ? I don't understand it. But I am perfectly certain, somehow or other, that you don't care the least little bit in the world for ME.” This seems to support, by the way, the theory that no man can act or tell lies to a woman without being found out. Hannasyde was taken off his guard. His defence never was a strong one, because he was always thinking of himself, and he blurted out, before he knew what he was saying, this inexpedient answer: - “No more I do.”
The queerness of the situation and the reply, made Mrs. Haggert laugh. Then it all came out; and at the end of Hannasyde's lucid explanation, Mrs. Haggert said, with the least little touch of scorn in her voice: - “So I'm to act as the lay figure for you to hang the rags of your tattered affections on, am I ?”
Hannasyde didn't see what answer was required, and he devoted himself generally and vaguely to the praise of Alice Chisane, which was unsatisfactory. Now it is to be thoroughly made clear that Mrs. Haggert had not the shadow of a ghost of an interest in Hannasyde.
Only, only no woman likes being made love through instead of to, specially on behalf of a musty divinity of four years' standing.
Hannasyde did not see that he had made any very particular exhibition of himself. He was glad to find a sympathetic soul in the arid wastes of Simla.
When the season ended, Hannasyde went down to his own place and Mrs. Haggert to hers. “It was like making love to a ghost,” said Hannasyde to himself, “and it doesn't matter; and now I'll get to my work.” But he found himself thinking steadily of the Haggert-Chisane ghost; and he could not be certain whether it was Haggert or Chisane that made up the greater part of the pretty phantom...
He got understanding a month later.
A peculiar point of this peculiar country is the way in which a heartless Government transfers men from one end of the Empire to the other. You can never be sure of getting rid of a friend or an enemy till he or she dies. There was a case once, but that's another story.
Haggert's Department ordered him up from Dindigul to the Frontier at two days' notice, and he went through, losing money at every step, from Dindigul to his station. He dropped Mrs. Haggert at Lucknow, to stay with some friends there, to take part in a big ball at the Chutter Munzil, and to come on when he had made the new home a little comfortable. Lucknow was Hannasyde's station, and Mrs. Haggert stayed a week there. Hannasyde went to meet her. And the train came in, he discovered which he had been thinking of for the past month. The unwisdom of his conduct also struck him. The Lucknow week, with two dances, and an unlimited quantity of rides together, clinched matters; and Hannasyde found himself pacing this circle of thought: - He adored Alice Chisane, at least he HAD adored her. And he admired Mrs. Landys-Haggert because she was like Alice Chisane. BUT Mrs. Landys-Haggert was not in the least like Alice Chisane, being a thousand times more adorable. NOW Alice Chisane was “the bride of another,” and so was Mrs. Landys-Haggert, and a good and honest wife too. THEREFORE, he, Hannasyde, was.... here he called himself several hard names, and wished that he had been wise in the beginning.
Whether Mrs. Landys-Haggert saw what was going on in his mind, she alone knows. He seemed to take an unqualified interest in everything connected with herself, as distinguished from the Alice-Chisane likeness, and he said one or two things which, if Alice Chisane had been still betrothed to him, could scarcely have been excused, even on the grounds of the likeness. But Mrs. Haggert turned the remarks aside, and spent a long time in making Hannasyde see what a comfort and a pleasure she had been to him because of her strange resemblance to his old love. Hannasyde groaned in his saddle and said, “Yes, indeed,” and busied himself with preparations for her departure to the Frontier, feeling very small and miserable.
The last day of her stay at Lucknow came, and Hannasyde saw her off at the Railway Station. She was very grateful for his kindness and the trouble he had taken, and smiled pleasantly and sympathetically as one who knew the Alice-Chisane reason of that kindness. And Hannasyde abused the coolies with the luggage, and hustled the people on the platform, and prayed that the roof might fall in and slay him.
As the train went out slowly, Mrs. Landys-Haggert leaned out of the window to say goodbye: - “On second thoughts au revoir, Mr. Hannasyde. I go Home in the Spring, and perhaps I may meet you in Town.”
Hannasyde shook hands, and said very earnestly and adoringly: - “I hope to Heaven I shall never see your face again !”
And Mrs. Haggert understood.
MY GREEN FEATHERED FRIEND
by Debbie Bongiovanni-Sharp
When I come home and open the door,
I see my bird sitting in her cage,
And I see her talking up a storm,
It looks as if she performing on stage.
I then go up and say hello,
She answers me in a voice that is so sweet,
I am always so amazed at her,
And it is always such a welcome treat.
She knows how to make people laugh,
They tell me they don't want to go,
And the reason that they give me,
Is because she puts on such a good show.
Then when it's time to go to bed,
And there is no more light,
I go up to her cage and cover her,
And she then says good night.
Monday, February 10, 2020