The Lifted Bandage by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews


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Page 1

The staring eyes moved with an effort and rested on the servant's face.
"Lunch?" he repeated, apparently trying to focus on the meaning of the
word. "Lunch? I don't know, Miller. But don't bring anything."

With a great anxiety in his face Miller regarded his master. "Would you
let me take your overcoat, Judge?--you'll be too warm," he said.

He spoke in a suppressed tone as if waiting for, fearing something, as
if longing to show sympathy, and the man stood and let himself be cared
for, and then sat down again in the same unrestful, fixed attitude,
gazing out again through the glittering panes into the stormy, tawny
west sky. Miller came back and stood quiet, patient; in a few minutes
the man seemed to become aware of him.

"I forgot, Miller. You'll want to know," he said in a tone which went to
show an old bond between the two. "You'll be sorry to hear, Miller," he
said--and the dull eyes moved difficultly to the anxious ones, and his
voice was uninflected--"you'll be sorry to know that the coroner's jury
decided that Master Jack was a murderer."

The word came more horribly because of an air of detachment from the
man's mind. It was like a soulless, evil mechanism, running unguided.
Miller caught at a chair.

"I don't believe it, sir," he gasped. "No lawyer shall make me. I've
known him since he was ten, Judge, and they're mistaken. It's not any
mere lawyers can make me believe that awful thing, sir, of our Master
Jack." The servant was shaking from head to foot with intense rejection,
and the man put up his hand as if to ward off his emotion.

"I wish I could agree with you," he said quietly, and then added, "Thank
you, Miller." And the old butler, walking as if struck with a sickness,
was gone.

The man sat on the edge of the divan staring out of the window, minute
after minute; the November wind tossed the clean, black lines of the
branches backward and forward against the copper sky, as if a giant hand
moved a fan of sea-weed before a fire. The man sat still and stared. The
sky dulled; the delicate, wild branches melted together; the diamond
lines in the window blurred; yet, unmoved, unseeing, the eyes stared
through them.

The burr of an electric bell sounded; some one came in at the front door
and came to the door of the library, but the fixed figure did not stir.
The newcomer stood silent a minute, two minutes; a young man in clerical
dress, boyish, with gray, serious eyes. At length he spoke.

"May I come in? It's Dick."

The man's head turned slowly and his look rested inquiringly on his
nephew. It was a minute before he said, as if recognizing him, "Dick.
Yes." And set himself as before to the persistent gazing through the
window.

"I lost you at the court-house," the younger man said. "I didn't mean to
let you come home alone."

"Thank you, Dick." It seemed as if neither joy nor sorrow would find a
way into the quiet voice again.

The wind roared; the boughs rustled against the glass; the fire, soberly
settled to work, steamed and crackled; the clock ticked indifferently;
there was no other sound in the room; the two men were silent, the one
staring always before him, the other sitting with a hand on the older
man's hand, waiting. Minutes they sat so, and the wintry sky outside
darkened and lay sullenly in bands of gray and orange against the
windows; the light of the logs was stronger than the daylight; it
flickered carelessly across the ashiness of the emotionless face. The
young man, watching the face, bent forward and gripped his other hand on
the unresponsive one in his clasp.

"Uncle," he asked, "will it make things worse if I talk to you?"

"No, Dick."

Nothing made a difference, it seemed. Silence or words must simply fall
without effect on the rock bottom of despair. The young man halted, as
if dismayed, before this overpowering inertia of hopelessness; he drew a
quick breath.

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Books | Photos | Paul Mutton | Fri 26th Apr 2019, 10:19