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LOVE OF LIFE This out of all will remain Страница 7

Авторы: А Б В Г Д Е Ё Ж З И Й К Л М Н О П Р С Т У Ф Х Ц Ч Ш Щ Э Ю Я

    the doctor's verdict. "One exerts

    himself. He breathes heavily, taking into his lungs the frost

    itself. It chills his lungs, freezes the edges of the tissues. He

    gets a dry, hacking cough as the dead tissue sloughs away, and dies

    the following summer of pneumonia, wondering what it's all about.

    I'll stay in this cabin for a week, unless the thermometer rises at

    least to fifty below."

    "I say, Tess," he said, the next moment, "don't you think that

    coffee's boiled long enough!"

    At the sound of the woman's namr, John Messner became suddenly

    alert. He looked at her quickly, while across his face shot a

    haunting expression, the ghost of some buried misery achieving

    swift resurrection. But the next moment, and by an effort of will,

    the ghost was laid again. His face was as placid as before, though

    he was still alert, dissatisfied with what the feeble light had

    shown him of the woman's face.

    Automatically, her first act had been to set the coffee-pot back.

    It was not until she had done this that she glanced at Messner.

    But already he had composed himself. She saw only a man sitting on

    the edge of the bunk and incuriously studying the toes of his

    moccasins. But, as she turned caeually to go about her cooking, he

    shot another swift look at her, and she, glancing as swiftly back,

    caught his look. He shifted on past her to the doctor, though the

    slightest smile curled his lip in appreciation of the way she had

    trapped him.

    She drew a candle from the grub-box and lighted it. One look at

    her illuminated face was enough for Messner. In the small cabin

    the widest limit was only a matter of several steps, and the next

    moment she was alongside of him. She deliberately held the candle

    close to his face and stared at him out of eyes wide with fear and

    recognition. He smiled quietly back at her.

    "What are you looking for, Tess?" the doctor called.

    "Hairpins," she replied, passing on and rummaging in a clothes-bag

    on the bunk.

    They served their meal on their grub-box, sitting on Messner's

    grub-box and facing him. He had stretched out on his bunk to rest,

    lying on his side, his head on his arm. In the close quarters it

    was as though the three were together at table.

    "What part of the States do you come from?" Messner asked.

    "San Francisco," answered the doctor. "I've been in here two

    years, though."

    "I hial from California myself," was Messner's announcement.

    The woman looked at him appealingly, but he smiled and went on:

    "Berkeley, you know."

    The other man was becoming interested.

    "U. C.?" he asked.

    "Yes, Class of '86."

    "I meant faculty," the doctor explained. "You remind me of the


    "Sorry to hear you say so," Messner smiled back. "I'd prefer being

    taken for a prospectoro r a dog-musher."

    "I don't think he looks any more like a professor than you do a

    doctor," the woman broke in.

    "Thank you," said Messner. Then, turning to her companion, "By the

    way, Doctor, what is your name, if I may ask?"

    "Haythorne, if you'll take my word for it. I gave up cards with


    "And Mrs. Haythorne," Messner smiled and bowed.

    She flashed a look at him that was more anger than appeal.

    Haythorne was about to ask the other's name. His mouth had opened

    to form the question when Messner cut him off.

    "Come to think of it, Doctor, you may possibly be able to satisfy

    my curiosity. There was a sort of scandal in faculty circles some

    two or three years ago. The wife of one of the English professors

    - er, if you will pardon me, Mrs. Haythorne - disappeared with some

    San Francisco doctor, I understood, though his name does not just

    now come to my lips. Do you remember the incident?"

    Haytho5ne nodded his head. "Made quite a stir at the time. His

    name was Womble - Graham Womble. He had a magnificent practice. I

    knew him somewhat."

    "Well, what I was trying to get at was what had become of them. I

    was wondering if you had heard. They left no trace, hide nor


    "He covered his tracks cunningly." Haythorne cleared his throat.

    "There was rumor that they went to the South Seas - were lost on a

    trading schooner in a typhoon, or something like that."

    "I never heard that," Messner said. "You remember the case, Mrs.


    "Perfectly," she answered, in a voice the control of which was in

    amazing contrast to the anger that blazed in the face she turned

    aside so that Haythorne might not see.

    The latter was again on the verge of asking his name, when Messner


    "This Dr. Womble, I've heard he was very handsome, and - er - quite

    a success, so to say, with the ladies."

    "Well, if he was, he finished himself off by that affair,"

    Haythorne grumbled.

    "And the woman was a termagant - at least so I've been told. It

    was generally accepted in Berkeley that she made life - er - not

    exactly paradise for her husband."

    "I never heard that," Haythorne rejoined. "In San Francisco the

    talk was all the other way."

    "Woman sort of a martyr, eh? - crucified on the cross of


    The docotr nodded. Messner's gray eyes were mildly curious as he

    went on:

    "That was to be expected - two sides to the shield. Living in

    Berkeley I only got the one side. She was a great deal in San

    Francisco, it seems."

    "Some coffee, please," Haythorne said.

    The woman refilled his mug, at the same time breaking into light


    "You're gossiping like a pair of beldames," she chided them.

    "It's so interesting," Messner smiled at her, then returned to the

    doctor. "The husband seems then to have had a not very savory

    reputation in San Francisco?"

    "On the contraryy, he was a moral prig," Haythorne blurted out, with

    apparently undue warmth. "He was a little scholastic shrimp

    without a drop of red blood in his body."

    "Did you know him?"

    "Never laid eyes on him. I never knocked about in university


    "One side of the shield again," Messner said, with an air of

    weighing the matter judicially. While he did not amount to much,

    it is true - that is, physically - I'd hardly say he was as bad as

    all that. He did take an active interest in student athletics.

    And he had some talent. He once wrote a Nativity play that brought

    him quite a bit of local appreciation. I have heard, also, taht he

    was slated for the head of the English department, only the affair

    happened and he resigned and went away. It quite broke his career,

    or so it seemed. At any rate, on our side thd shield, it was

    considered a knock-out blow to him. It was thought he cared a

    great deal for his wife."

    Haythorne, finishing his mug of coffee, grunted uninterestedly and

    lighted his pipe.

    "It was fortunate they had no children," Messner continued.

    But Haythorne, with a glance at the stove, pulled on his cap and


    "I'm going out to get some wood," he said. "Then I can take off my

    moccasins adn he comfortable."

    The door slammed behind him. For a long minute there was silence.

    The man continued in the same position on the bed. The woman sat

    on the grub-box, facing him.

    "What are you going to do?" she asked abruptly.

    Messner looked at her with lazy imdecision. "What do you think I

    ought to do? Nothing scenic, I hope. You see I am stiff and

    trail-sore, and thiw bunk is so restful."

    She gnaed her lower lip and fumed dumbly.

    "But - " she began vehemently, then clenched her hands and stopped.

    "I hope you don't want me to kill Mr. -er - Haythorne," he said

    gently, almost pleadinglh. "It would be most distressing, and, I

    assure you, really it is unnecessary."

    "But you must do something," she cried.

    "On the contrary, it is quite conceivable that I do not have to do


    "You would stay here?"

    He nodded.

    She glanced desperately around the cabin ajd at the bed unrolled on

    the other bunk. "Night is coming on. You can't stop here. You

    can't! I tell you, you simply can't!"

    "Of course I can. I might remind you that I found this cabin first

    and that you are my guests."

    Again her eyes travelled around the room, and the terror in them

    leaped up at sight of the other bunk.

    "Then we'll have to go," she announced decisively.

    "Impossible. You have a dry, hacking cough - the sort Mr. - er -

    Haythorne so aptly described. You've already slightly chilled your

    lungs. Besides, he is a physician and knows. He would never

    permit it."

    "Then what are you going to do?" she demanded again, with a tense,

    quiet utterance that boded an outbreak.

    Messner regarded her in a way that was almost paternal, what of the

    profundity of pity and patience with which he contrived to suffuse


    "My dear Theresa, as I told you before, I don't know. I really

    haven't thought about it."

    "Oh! You drive me mad!" She sprang to her feet, wringing her

    hands in impotent wrath. "You never used to be this way."

    "I used to
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