The Indiscreet Letter by Eleanor Hallowell Abbott


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Page 1

Out from the servient shoulders of some smooth-tongued Waiter it
stares, into the scared dilating pupils of the White Satin Bride with
her pledged hand clutching her Bridegroom's sleeve. Up from the
gravelly, pick-and-shovel labor of the new-made grave it lifts its
weirdly magnetic eyes to the Widow's tears. Down from some petted
Princeling's silver-trimmed saddle horse it smiles its electrifying,
wistful smile into the Peasant's sodden weariness. Across the slender
white rail of an always _out-going_ steamer it stings back into your
gray, land-locked consciousness like the tang of a scarlet spray. And
the secret of the face, of course, is "Lure"; but to save your soul
you could not decide in any specific case whether the lure is the lure
of personality, or the lure of physiognomy--a mere accidental,
coincidental, haphazard harmony of forehead and cheek-bone and
twittering facial muscles.

Something, indeed, in the peculiar set of the Young Electrician's jaw
warned you quite definitely that if you should ever even so much as
hint the small, sentimental word "lure" to him he would most certainly
"swat" you on first impulse for a maniac, and on second impulse for a
liar--smiling at you all the while in the strange little wrinkly
tissue round his eyes.

The voice of the Railroad Journey was a dull, vague, conglomerate,
cinder-scented babble of grinding wheels and shuddering window frames;
but the voices of the Traveling Salesman and the Young Electrician
were shrill, gruff, poignant, inert, eternally variant, after the
manner of human voices which are discussing the affairs of the
universe.

"Every man," affirmed the Traveling Salesman sententiously--"every man
has written one indiscreet letter during his lifetime!"

"Only one?" scoffed the Young Electrician with startling distinctness
above even the loudest roar and rumble of the train.

With a rather faint, rather gaspy chuckle of amusement the Youngish
Girl in the seat just behind the Traveling Salesman reached forward
then and touched him very gently on the shoulder.

"Oh, please, may I listen?" she asked quite frankly.

With a smile as benevolent as it was surprised, the Traveling Salesman
turned half-way around in his seat and eyed her quizzically across the
gold rim of his spectacles.

"Why, sure you can listen!" he said.

The Traveling Salesman was no fool. People as well as lisle thread
were a specialty of his. Even in his very first smiling estimate of
the Youngish Girl's face, neither vivid blond hair nor luxuriantly
ornate furs misled him for an instant. Just as a Preacher's high
waistcoat passes him, like an official badge of dignity and honor,
into any conceivable kind of a situation, so also does a woman's high
forehead usher her with delicious impunity into many conversational
experiences that would hardly be wise for her lower-browed sister.

With an extra touch of manners the Salesman took off his neat brown
derby hat and placed it carefully on the vacant seat in front of him.
Then, shifting his sample-case adroitly to suit his new twisted
position, he began to stick cruel little prickly price marks through
alternate meshes of pink and blue lisle.

"Why, sure you can listen!" he repeated benignly. "Traveling alone's
awful stupid, ain't it? I reckon you were glad when the busted heating
apparatus in the sleeper gave you a chance to come in here and size up
a few new faces. Sure you can listen! Though, bless your heart, we
weren't talking about anything so very specially interesting," he
explained conscientiously. "You see, I was merely arguing with my
young friend here that if a woman really loves you, she'll follow you
through any kind of blame or disgrace--follow you anywheres, I
said--anywheres!"

"Not anywheres," protested the Young Electrician with a grin. "'Not up
a telegraph pole!'" he requoted sheepishly.

"Y-e-s--I heard that," acknowledged the Youngish Girl with blithe
shamelessness.

"Follow you '_anywheres_,' was what I said," persisted the Traveling
Salesman almost irritably. "Follow you '_anywheres_'! Run! Walk! Crawl
on her hands and knees if it's really necessary. And yet--" Like a
shaggy brown line drawn across the bottom of a column of figures, his
eyebrows narrowed to their final calculation. "And yet--" he estimated
cautiously, "and yet--there's times when I ain't so almighty sure
that her following you is any more specially flattering to you than if
you was a burglar. She don't follow you so much, I reckon, because you
_are_ her love as because you've _got_ her love. God knows it ain't
just you, yourself, she's afraid of losing. It's what she's already
invested in you that's worrying her! All her pinky-posy, cunning
kid-dreams about loving and marrying, maybe; and the pretty-much
grown-up winter she fought out the whisky question with you, perhaps;
and the summer you had the typhoid, likelier than not; and the spring
the youngster was born--oh, sure, the spring the youngster was born!
Gee! If by swallowing just one more yarn you tell her, she can only
keep on holding down all the old yarns you ever told her--if, by
forgiving you just one more forgive-you, she can only hang on, as it
were, to the original worth-whileness of the whole darned
business--if by--"

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Wed 17th Jul 2019, 0:58