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   Chapter 7 IN WRONG

The Green Mouse By Robert W. Chambers Characters: 14045

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04


Wherein Sacharissa Remains In and a Young Man Can't Get Out

The snowstorm had ceased; across Fifth Avenue the Park resembled the mica-incrusted view on an expensive Christmas card. Every limb, branch, and twig was outlined in clinging snow; crystals of it glittered under the morning sun; brilliantly dressed children, with sleds, romped and played over the dazzling expanse. Overhead the characteristic deep blue arch of a New York sky spread untroubled by a cloud. Her family--that is, her father, brother-in-law, married sister, three unmarried sisters and herself--were expecting to leave for Tuxedo about noon. Why? Nobody knows why the wealthy are always going somewhere. However, they do, fortunately for story writers.

"It's quite as beautiful here," thought Sacharissa to herself, "as it is in the country. I'm sorry I'm going."

Idling there by the sunny window and gazing out into the white expanse, she had already dismissed all uneasiness in her mind concerning the psychical experiment upon herself. That is to say, she had not exactly dismissed it, she used no conscious effort, it had gone of itself--or, rather, it had been crowded out, dominated by a sudden and strong disinclination to go to Tuxedo.

As she stood there the feeling grew and persisted, and, presently, she found herself repeating aloud: "I don't want to go, I don't want to go. It's stupid to go. Why should I go when it's stupid to go and I'd rather stay here?"

Meanwhile, Ethelinda and Destyn were having a classical reconciliation in a distant section of the house, and the young wife had got as far as:

"Darling, I am so worried about Rissa. I do wish she were not going to Tuxedo. There are so many attractive men expected at the Courlands'."

"She can't escape men anywhere, can she?"

"N-no; but there will be a concentration of particularly good-looking and undesirable ones at Tuxedo this week. That idle, horrid, cynical crowd is coming from Long Island, and I don't want her to marry any of them."

"Well, then, make her stay at home."

"She wants to go."

"What's the good of an older sister if you can't make her mind you?" he asked.

"She won't. She's set her heart on going. All those boisterous winter sports appeal to her. Besides, how can one member of the family be absent on New Year's Day?"

Arm in arm they strolled out into the great living room, where a large, pompous, vividly colored gentleman was laying down the law to the triplets--three very attractive young girls, dressed precisely alike, who said, "Yes, pa-pah!" and "No pa-pah!" in a grave and silvery-voiced chorus whenever filial obligation required it.

"And another thing," continued the pudgy and vivid old gentleman, whose voice usually ended in a softly mellifluous shout when speaking emphatically: "that worthless Westbury--Cedarhurst--Jericho-- Meadowbrook set are going to be in evidence at this housewarming, and I caution you now against paying anything but the slightest, most superficial and most frivolous attention to anything that any of those young whip-snapping, fox-hunting cubs may say to you. Do you hear?" with a mellow shout like a French horn on a touring car.

"Yes, pa-pah!"

The old gentleman waved his single eyeglass in token of dismissal, and looked at his watch.

"The bus is here," he said fussily. "Come on, Will; come, Linda, and you, Flavilla, Drusilla, and Sybilla, get your furs on. Don't take the elevator. Go down by the stairs, and hurry! If there's one thing in this world I won't do it is to wait for anybody on earth!"

Flunkies and maids flew distractedly about with fur coats, muffs, and stoles. In solemn assemblage the family expedition filed past the elevator, descended the stairs to the lower hall, and there drew up for final inspection.

A mink-infested footman waited outside; valets, butlers, second-men and maids came to attention.

"Where's Sacharissa?" demanded Mr. Carr, sonorously.

"Here, dad," said his oldest daughter, strolling calmly into the hall, hands still linked loosely behind her.

"Why haven't you got your hat and furs on?" demanded her father.

"Because I'm not going, dad," she said sweetly.

The family eyed her in amazement.

"Not going?" shouted her father, in a mellow bellow. "Yes, you are! Not going! And why the dickens not?"

"I really don't know, dad," she said listlessly. "I don't want to go."

Her father waved both pudgy arms furiously. "Don't you feel well? You look well. You are well. Don't you feel well?"

"Perfectly."

"No, you don't! You're pale! You're pallid! You're peaked! Take a tonic and lie down. Send your maid for some doctors--all kinds of doctors--and have them fix you up. Then come to Tuxedo with your maid to-morrow morning. Do you hear?"

"Very well, dad."

"And keep out of that elevator until it's fixed. It's likely to do anything. Ferdinand," to the man at the door, "have it fixed at once. Sacharissa, send that maid of yours for a doctor!"

"Very well, dad!"

She presented her cheek to her emphatic parent; he saluted it explosively, wheeled, marshaled the family at a glance, started them forward, and closed the rear with his own impressive person. The iron gates clanged, the door of the opera bus snapped, and Sacharissa strolled back into the rococo reception room not quite certain why she had not gone, not quite convinced that she was feeling perfectly well.

For the first few minutes her face had been going hot and cold, alternately flushed and pallid. Her heart, too, was acting in an unusual manner--making sufficient stir for her to become uneasily aware of it.

"Probably," she thought to herself, "I've eaten too many chocolates." She looked into the large gilded box, took another and ate it reflectively.

A curious languor possessed her. To combat it she rang for her maid, intending to go for a brisk walk, but the weight of the furs seemed to distress her. It was absurd. She threw them off and sat down in the library.

A little while later her maid found her lying there, feet crossed, arms stretched backward to form a cradle for her head.

"Are you ill, Miss Carr?"

"No," said Sacharissa.

The maid cast an alarmed glance at her mistress' pallid face.

"Would you see Dr. Blimmer, miss?"

"No."

The maid hesitated:

"Beg pardon, but Mr. Carr said you was to see some doctors."

"Very well," she said indifferently. "And please hand me those chocolates. I don't care for any luncheon."

"No luncheon, miss?" in consternation.

Sacharissa had never been known to shun sustenance.

The symptom thoroughly frightened her maid, and in a few minutes she had Dr. Blimmer's office on the telephone; but that eminent practitioner was out. Then she found in succession the offices of Doctors White, Black, and Gray. Two had gone away over New Year's, the other was out.

The maid, who was clever and resourceful, went out to hunt up a doctor. There are, in the cross streets, plenty of doctors between the Seventies

and Eighties. She found one without difficulty--that is, she found the sign in the window, but the doctor was out on his visits.

She made two more attempts with similar results, then, discovering a doctor's sign in a window across the street, started for it regardless of snowdrifts, and at the same moment the doctor's front door opened and a young man, with a black leather case in his hand, hastily descended the icy steps and hurried away up the street.

The maid ran after him and arrived at his side breathless, excited:

"Oh, could you come--just for a moment, if you please, sir! Miss Carr won't eat her luncheon!"

"What!" said the young man, surprised.

"Miss Carr wishes to see you--just for a----"

"Miss Carr?"

"Miss Sacharissa!"

"Sacharissa?"

"Y-yes, sir--she----"

"But I don't know any Miss Sacharissa!"

"I understand that, sir."

"Look here, young woman, do you know my name?"

"No, sir, but that doesn't make any difference to Miss Carr."

"She wishes to see me!"

"Oh, yes, sir."

"I--I'm in a hurry to catch a train." He looked hard at the maid, at his watch, at the maid again.

"Are you perfectly sure you're not mistaken?" he demanded.

"No, sir, I----"

"A certain Miss Sacharissa Carr desires to see me? Are you certain of that?"

"Oh, yes, sir--she----"

"Where does she live?"

"One thousand eight and a half Fifth Avenue, sir."

"I've got just three minutes. Can you run?"

"I--yes!"

"Come on, then!"

And away they galloped, his overcoat streaming out behind, the maid's skirts flapping and her narrow apron flickering in the wind. Wayfarers stopped to watch their pace--a pace which brought them to the house in something under a minute. Ferdinand, the second man, let them in.

"Now, then," panted the young man, "which way? I'm in a hurry, remember!" And he started on a run for the stairs.

"Please follow me, sir; the elevator is quicker!" gasped the maid, opening the barred doors.

The young man sprang into the lighted car, the maid turned to fling off hat and jacket before entering; something went fizz-bang! snap! clink! and the lights in the car were extinguished.

"Oh!" shrieked the maid, "it's running away again! Jump, sir!"

The ornate, rococo elevator, as a matter of fact, was running away, upward, slowly at first. Its astonished occupant turned to jump out--too late.

"P-push the third button, sir! Quick!" cried the maid, wringing her hands.

"W-where is it!" stammered the young man, groping nervously in the dark car. "I can't see any."

"Cr-rack!" went something.

"It's stopped! It's going to fall!" screamed the maid. "Run, Ferdinand!"

The man at the door ran upstairs for a few steps, then distractedly slid to the bottom, shouting:

"Are you hurt, sir?"

"No," came a disgusted voice from somewhere up the shaft.

Every landing was now noisy with servants, maids sped upstairs, flunkeys sped down, a butler waddled in a circle.

"Is anybody going to get me out of this?" demanded the voice in the shaft. "I've a train to catch."

The perspiring butler poked his head into the shaft from below:

"'Ow far hup, sir, might you be?"

"How the devil do I know?"

"Can't you see nothink, sir?"

"Yes, I can see a landing and a red room."

"'E's stuck hunder the library!" exclaimed the butler, and there was a rush for the upper floors.

The rush was met and checked by a tall, young girl who came leisurely along the landing, nibbling a chocolate.

"What is all this noise about?" she asked. "Has the elevator gone wrong again?"

Glancing across the landing at the grille which screened the shaft she saw the gilded car--part of it--and half of a perfectly strange young man looking earnestly out.

"It's the doctor!" wailed her maid.

"That isn't Dr. Blimmer!" said her mistress.

"No, miss, it's a perfectly strange doctor."

"I am not a doctor," observed the young man, coldly.

Sacharissa drew nearer.

"If that maid of yours had asked me," he went on, "I'd have told her. She saw me coming down the steps of a physician's house--I suppose she mistook my camera case for a case of medicines."

"I did--oh, I did!" moaned the maid, and covered her head with her apron.

"The thing to do," said Sacharissa, calmly, "is to send for the nearest plumber. Ferdinand, go immediately!"

"Meanwhile," said the imprisoned young man, "I shall miss my train. Can't somebody break that grille? I could climb out that way."

"Sparks," said Miss Carr, "can you break that grille?"

Sparks tried. A kitchen maid brought a small tackhammer--the only "'ammer in the 'ouse," according to Sparks, who pounded at the foliated steel grille and broke the hammer off short.

"Did it 'it you in the 'ead, sir?" he asked, panting.

"Exactly," replied the young man, grinding his teeth.

Sparks 'oped as 'ow it didn't 'urt the gentleman. The gentleman stanched his wound in terrible silence.

Presently Ferdinand came back to report upon the availability of the family plumber. It appeared that all plumbers, locksmiths, and similar indispensable and free-born artisans had closed shop at noon and would not reopen until after New Year's, subject to the Constitution of the United States.

"But this gentleman cannot remain here until after New Year's," said Sacharissa. "He says he is in a hurry. Do you hear, Sparks?"

The servants stood in a helpless row.

"Ferdinand," she said, "Mr. Carr told you to have that elevator fixed before it was used again!"

Ferdinand stared wildly at the grille and ran his thumb over the bars.

"And Clark"--to her maid--"I am astonished that you permitted this gentleman to risk the elevator."

"He was in a hurry--I thought he was a doctor." The maid dissolved into tears.

"It is now," broke in the voice from the shaft, "an utter impossibility for me to catch any train in the United States."

"I am dreadfully sorry," said Sacharissa.

"Isn't there an ax in the house?"

The butler mournfully denied it.

"Then get the furnace bar."

It was fetched; nerve-racking blows rained on the grille; puffing servants applied it as a lever, as a battering-ram, as a club. The house rang like a boiler factory.

"I can't stand any more of that!" shouted the young man. "Stop it!"

Sacharissa looked about her, hands closing both ears.

"Send them away," said the young man, wearily. "If I've got to stay here I want a chance to think."

After she had dismissed the servants Sacharissa drew up a chair and seated herself a few feet from the grille. She could see half the car and half the man--plainer, now that she had come nearer.

He was a young and rather attractive looking fellow, cheek tied up in his handkerchief, where the head of the hammer had knocked off the skin.

"Let me get some witch-hazel," said Sacharissa, rising.

"I want to write a telegram first," he said.

So she brought some blanks, passed them and a pencil down to him through the grille, and reseated herself.

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