Table of Contents

+ Add to Library

Previous Next

Chapter 12 Asleep

  • Mr. and Mrs. Belrose occupied a small bedroom at the top of their house. A_or her sister and his sister, they fitted their amplitudes into some vague
  • "somewhere else," and those of the curious who in the way of business o_therwise knew how nearly the entire house was devoted to "wholesale,"
  • wondered where the two sisters-in-law did in fact stow themselves. The servan_lept out.
  • In the middle of the night Mrs. Belrose raised her magnificent form out of th_verburdened bed and went to the window to look forth on the Steps.
  • "Charlie," said she, coming back to the bed and shaking her husband. He awok_nwillingly and grunted, and muttered that she was taking cold; an absur_uggestion, as he knew well, for she never took cold, and it was inconceivabl_hat she should take cold.
  • "That light's still burning at T. T.'s—in the shop. I don't like the look o_t."
  • She lit the room, and the fancies of night seemed to be dispelled by an onrus_f realism, dailiness and sagacity. Mr. and Mrs. Belrose considered themselve_o be two of the most sagacious and imperturbable persons that ever lived, an_hey probably were.
  • No circumstances were too much for their sagacity and their presence of mind.
  • Each had complete confidence in the kindly but unsentimental horse-sense o_he other. Mrs. Belrose, despite her youngishness, was the more impressive.
  • She it was who usually said the final word in shaping a policy; yet in he_tterances there was an implication that Charles had a super-wisdom which sh_lone could inspire, and also that he, being a man, could do certain thing_hat she, being a woman, was ever so slightly incapable of.
  • "I don't like the look of it at all," she said.
  • "Well, I don't see we can do anything till morning," said Charles. Not that h_as allowing his judgment to be warped by the desire to sleep. No; he wa_eing quite impartial.
  • "That girl's got too much on her hands, looking after that funny old man al_y herself, day and night. She isn't a fool, far from it; but it's too muc_or one girl."
  • "You'd better go over, perhaps, and have a look at things."
  • "I was thinking you'd go, Charlie."
  • "But I can't do anything if I do go. I can't help the girl."
  • "I'm afraid," said the authoritative and sagacious wife simply.
  • "What of?" asked the wizened slip of a husband.
  • "Well, I don't know; but I am. It'll be better for you to go—anyway first. _ould come afterwards. We can't leave the girl in the lurch."
  • Nevertheless Mrs. Belrose did know what she was afraid of and so did Mr.
  • Belrose. She helped him to put on some clothes; it was a gesture of sympath_ather than of aid. And she exhorted him not to waken "those girls," meanin_er sister and his.
  • He went out, shivering. A fine night with a harsh wind moving dust from on_art of the Steps to another. Nobody about. The church clock struck three. Mr.
  • Belrose peered through the slit between the edge of the door-blind and th_oor-frame, but could see nothing except that a light was burning somewhere i_he background. He rapped quietly and then loudly on the glass. No response.
  • The explanation of the scene doubtless was that Elsie had come down into th_hop on some errand and returned upstairs, having forgotten to extinguish th_ight. Mr. Belrose was very cold. He was about to leave the place and repor_o his wife when his hand discovered that the door was not fastened. (Elsie,
  • in the perturbation caused by doing a kindness to the boy Jerry, had forgotte_o secure it.) Mr. Belrose entered and saw Mr. Earlforward, wearing a smar_ew suit, moveless in a peculiar posture in his office-chair. He now knew mor_urely than before what his wife had been afraid of. But he had a very stou_nd stolid heart, and he advanced firmly into the office. A faint glow of re_howed in the ash-strewn grate. The electric light descended in almos_alpable rays on Mr. Earlforward's grizzled head. The safe was open and ther_as a bag of money on the floor. Mr. Earlforward's chair was tilted and ha_nly been saved from toppling over, with Mr. Earlforward in it, by the fac_hat its left arm had caught under the ledge of the desk. The electric ligh_as patient; so was Mr. Earlforward. He was leaning over the right arm of th_hair, his body at half a right angle to the perpendicular, and his fac_owards the floor.
  • "I've never seen anything like this before," thought Mr. Belrose. "This wil_pset the Steps, this will."
  • He was afraid. He had what he would have called the "creeps." Gingerly h_ouched Mr. Earlforward's left hand which lay on the desk. It was cold an_ather stiff. He bent down in order to look into Mr. Earlforward's averte_ace. What a dreadful face! White, blotched, hairy skin drawn tightly ove_ones and muscles—very tightly. An expression of torment in the tiny, unseein_yes! None of the proverbial repose of death in that face!
  • "Mustn't touch it! Mustn't disturb anything!" thought Mr. Belrose,
  • straightening his knees.
  • He left the office and peered up the dark stairs. No light. No sound. He fel_or his matches, but he had come away without them, and he suspected that h_as not sufficiently master of himself to look effectively for matches. Still,
  • the house must be searched. Although much averse from returning into th_ffice, he did return, on the chance of finding a box of matches, and th_irst thing he saw was a box on the mantelpiece. Striking matches, he stumble_p the stairs and came first to the bathroom. Empty. Nothing unusual therei_xcept thick strings stretched across it and an orange box in the bath. _edroom, well furnished, the bed unmade; a cup and saucer on the night-table;
  • one door of the wardrobe ajar. Everything still, expectant. Then he found th_iving-room similarly still and expectant. He went back to the landing. N_ound. The second flight of stairs dreadfully invited him to ascend. As h_eached and pushed against the door at the head of those stairs another of hi_atches died. He struck a fresh one, and when it slowly flamed he stepped int_he faintly fire-lit room and was amazed, astounded, thrilled, shocked, an_ery seriously shaken to descry a young man lying on the bed in the corner an_ young woman, Elsie, lying in abandonment across him, her head sunk in hi_reast. And he heard a regular sound of breathing. There was something in th_ituation of the pair which penetrated right through Mr. Belrose's horse-sens_nd profoundly touched his heart. Never had he had such a sensation at onc_ainful and ravishing (yes, ravishing to the awed cheesemonger) as he ha_hen. The young man raised his head an inch from the pillow and dropped i_gain.
  • "She's asleep," said the young man in a low, deep, tired voice. "Don't wak_er."