Clasics in Ñspel: THE TURN OF THE SCREW, by Henry James

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ÑSPEL

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INTRODUCTION
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Ɖ  stori hd hld s, rnd ɖ fîr, sfiśntli breʈlis, bt xpt ɖ obvịs rmarc ɖt it wz grūsm, az, on Crisṃs Īv in an old hǎs, a strenj têl śd isnṣ́li b, I rmembr no coment utrd tl smbdi hapnd t se ɖt it wz ɖ onli ces h hd met in ẃć sć a viẓteśn hd fōḷn on a ćîld. Ɖ ces, I me mnśn, wz ɖt v an aṗriśn in jst sć an old hǎs az hd gaɖrd s fr ɖ oceźn – an apiṛns, v a dredfl cnd, t a litl bô slīpñ in ɖ rūm wɖ hiz muɖr n wecñ hr p in ɖ terr v it; wecñ hr nt t diṣpet hiz dred n suɖ him t slīp agn, bt t incǎntr olso, hrslf, bfr ś hd s’xidd in dwñ so, ɖ sem sît ɖt hd śecn him. It wz ɖs obẓveśn ɖt drù fṛm Dugḷs – nt imīɉtli, bt lêtr in ɖ īvnñ – a rplî ɖt hd ɖ inṭrestñ consiqns t ẃć I cōl atnśn. Smwn els tld a stori nt ptiklrli ifctiv, ẃć I sw h wz nt folowñ. Ɖs I tc fr a sîn ɖt h hd himslf smʈñ t pṛdys n ɖt w śd onli hv t wêt. W wêtd in fact tl tū nîts lêtr; bt ɖt sem īvnñ, bfr w scatrd, h bròt ǎt ẃt wz in hiz mînd.

“I qt agri – in rgard t Grifin’z gost, or ẃtvr it wz – ɖt its apirñ frst t ɖ litl bô, at so tndr an ej, adz a ptiklr tuć. Bt it’s nt ɖ frst ocuṛns v its ćarmñ cnd ɖt I nǒ t hv involvd a ćîld. F ɖ ćîld gvz ɖ ifct anɖr trn v ɖ scru, ẃt d y se t ćildṛn – ?”“W se, v cors,” smbdi xclemd, “ɖt ɖe gv tū trnz! Olso ɖt w wont t hír abt ɖm.”

I cn si Dugḷs ɖr bfr ɖ fîr, t ẃć h hd got p t priznt hiz bac, lcñ dǎn at hiz inṭloktr wɖ hiz handz in hiz pocits. “Nbdi bt m, tl nǎ, hz evr hŕd. It’s qt tù hoṛbl.” Ɖs, naćṛli, wz dclerd bî sevṛl vôsz t gv ɖ ʈñ ɖ utmost prîs, n ǎr frend, wɖ qayt art, priperd hiz trîumf bî trnñ hiz îz ovr ɖ rest v s n gwñ on: “It’s bynd evrʈñ. Nʈñ at ol ɖt I nǒ tućz it.”

“Fr śir terr?” I rmembr ascñ.

H sīmd t se it wz nt so simpl az ɖt; t b riyli at a los hǎ t qoḷfî it. H pást hiz hand ovr hiz îz, md a litl winsñ grimis. “Fr dredfl – dredflnis!”

“Ǒ, hǎ dliśs!” craid wn v ɖ wimin.

H tc no notis v hr; h lct at m, bt az f, instd v m, h sw ẃt h spouc v. “Fr jenṛl uncani uglinis n horr n pen.”

“Wel ɖen,” I sd, “jst sit rît dǎn n bgin.”

H trnd rnd t ɖ fîr, gev a cic t a log, woćt it an instnt. Ɖen az h fest s agn: “I c’nt bgin. I śl hv t snd t tǎn.” Ɖr wz a ynaniṃs gron at ɖs, n mć rproć; aftr ẃć, in hiz priokpaid we, h xplend. “Ɖ stori’z ritn. It’s in a loct dror – it hz nt bn ǎt fr yirz. I cd rait t mî man n incloz ɖ ci; h cd snd dǎn ɖ pacit az h fîndz it.” It wz t m in ptiklr ɖt h apird t pṛpǎnd ɖs – apird olmst t apil fr ed nt t heẓtet. H hd brocn a ʈicnis v îs, ɖ formeśn v mni a wintr; hd hd hiz rīznz fr a loñ sîḷns. Ɖ uɖrz rzntd psponmnt, bt it wz jst hiz scrūplz ɖt ćarmd m. I ajurd him t rait bî ɖ frst post n t agri wɖ s fr an rli hírñ; ɖen I asct him f ɖ xpirịns in qsćn hd bn hiz ǒn. T ɖs hiz ansr wz promt. “Ǒ, ʈanc God, no!”

“N z ɖ record yrz? Y tc ɖ ʈñ dǎn?”

“Nʈñ bt ɖ impreśn. I tc ɖt hir” – h tapt hiz hart. “I’v nvr lost it.”

“Ɖen yr mańscript – ?”

“Z in old, fedd ñc, n in ɖ most bytifl hand.” H huñ fîr agn. “A wmn’z. Ś hz bn ded ɖz twenti yirz. Ś snt m ɖ pejz in qsćn bfr ś daid.” Ɖe wr ol liṣnñ nǎ, n v cors ɖr wz smbdi t b arć, or at eni ret t drw ɖ infṛns. Bt f h pt ɖ infṛns bî wɖt a smîl it wz olso wɖt iṛteśn. “Ś wz a most ćarmñ prsn, bt ś wz ten yirz oldr ɖn I. Ś wz mî sistr’z guṿnes,” h qaytli sd. “Ś wz ɖ most agriybl wmn I’v evr noun in hr pziśn; ś wd hv bn wrɖi v eni ẃtvr. It wz loñ ago, n ɖs eṗsod wz loñ bfr. I wz at Triṇti, n I faund hr at hom on mî cmñ dǎn ɖ secnd sumr. I wz mć ɖr ɖt yir – it wz a bytifl wn; n w hd, in hr of-aurz, sm strolz n tōcs in ɖ gardn – tōcs in ẃć ś struc m az ōf̣li clevr n nîs. Ǒ yes; d’nt grin: I lîct hr xtrimli n am glad t ɖs de t ʈnc ś lîct m, tù. F ś hd’nt ś wd’nt hv tld m. Ś hd nvr tld enwn. It wz’nt simpli ɖt ś sd so, bt ɖt I ń ś hd’nt. I wz śr; I cd si. Y’l īẓli juj ẃ ẃn y hír.”

“Bcz ɖ ʈñ hd bn sć a scer?”

H cntinyd t fix m. “Y’l īẓli juj,” h rpitd: “y wl.”

I fixt him, tù. “I si. Ś wz in luv.”

H laft fr ɖ frst tîm. “Y r akt. Yes, ś wz in luv. Ɖt z, ś hd bn. Ɖt cem ǎt – ś cd’nt tel hr stori wɖt its cmñ ǎt. I sw it, n ś sw I sw it; bt nɖr v s spouc v it. I rmembr ɖ tîm n ɖ ples – ɖ cornr v ɖ lōn, ɖ śêd v ɖ gret bìćz n ɖ loñ, hot sumr-afṭnun. It wz’nt a sīn fr a śudr; bt ǒ – !” H qitd ɖ fîr n dropt bac intu hiz ćer.

“Y’l rsiv ɖ pacit Ʈrzde mornñ?” I inqîrd.

“Probbli nt tl ɖ secnd post.”

“Wel ɖen; aftr dinr – ”

“Y’l ol mīt m hir?” H lct s rnd agn. “Z’nt enbdi gwñ?” It wz olmst ɖ ton v hop.

“Evrbdi wl ste!”

I wl” – n “I wl!” craid ɖ lediz huz dparćr hd bn fixt. Msz. Grifin, hvr, xprest ɖ nīd fr a litl mor lît. “Hu wz it ś wz in luv wɖ?”

“Ɖ stori wl tel,” I tc upn mslf t rplî.

“Ǒ, I c’nt wêt fr ɖ stori!”

“Ɖ stori w’nt tel,” sd Dugḷs; “nt in eni litṛl, vulgr we.”

“Mor’z ɖ piti, ɖen. Ɖt’s ɖ onli we I evr unḍstand.”

“W’nt y tel, Dugḷs?” smbdi els inqîrd.

H sprañ t hiz fīt agn. “Yes – tmoro. Nǎ I mst g t bed. Gd nît.” N qcli caćñ p a candlstic, h left s slîtli bwildrd. Fṛm ǎr end v ɖ gret brǎn hōl w hŕd hiz step on ɖ ster; ẃr’pn Msz. Grifin spouc. “Wel, f I d’nt nǒ hu ś wz in luv wɖ, I nǒ hu h wz.”

“Ś wz ten yirz oldr,” sd hr huzbnd.

Raison de plus – at ɖt ej! Bt it’s rɖr nîs, hiz loñ retisns.”

“Forti yirz!” Grifin pt in.

“Wɖ ɖs ǎtbrec at last.”

“Ɖ ǎtbrec,” I rtrnd, “wl mc a tṛmnḍs oceźn v Ʈrzde nît;” n evrwn so agrìd wɖ m ɖt, in ɖ lît v it, w lost ol atnśn fr evrʈñ els. Ɖ last stori, hvr incmplit n lîc ɖ mir oṗnñ v a sirịl, hd bn tld; w hand-śc n “candlstuc,” az smbdi sd, n wnt t bed.

I ń ɖ nxt de ɖt a letr cntenñ ɖ ci hd, bî ɖ frst post, gn of t hiz Lundn apartmnts; bt in spît v – or phps jst on acǎnt v – ɖ ivnćl dfyźn v ɖs nolij w qt let him alon tl aftr dinr, tl sć an aur v ɖ īvnñ, in fact, az mt bst acord wɖ ɖ cnd v imośn on ẃć ǎr hops wr fixt. Ɖen h bcem az cḿnic̣tiv az w cd dzîr n indd gev s hiz bst rīzn fr biyñ so. W hd it fṛm him agn bfr ɖ fîr in ɖ hōl, az w hd hd ǎr mîld wundrz v ɖ prīvịs nît. It apird ɖt ɖ naṛtiv h hd promist t rīd s riyli rqîrd fr a propr intelijns a fy wrdz v prolog. Let m se hir dstñtli, t hv dn wɖ it, ɖt ɖs naṛtiv, fṛm an xact transcript v mî ǒn md mć lêtr, z ẃt I śl prezntli gv. Pur Dugḷs, bfr hiz deʈ – ẃn it wz in sît – cmitd t m ɖ mańscript ɖt rīćt him on ɖ ʈrd v ɖz dez n ɖt, on ɖ sem spot, wɖ imns ifct, h bgan t rīd t ǎr huśt litl srcl on ɖ nît v ɖ forʈ. Ɖ dpartñ lediz hu hd sd ɖe wd ste dd’nt, v cors, ʈanc hevn, ste: ɖe dpartd, in consiqns v arenjmnts md, in a rej v krioṣti, az ɖe pṛfest, pṛdyst bî ɖ tućz wɖ ẃć h hd olrdi wrct s p. Bt ɖt onli md hiz litl fînl ōditri mor cmpact n s’lect, cept it, rnd ɖ harʈ, subjict t a comn ʈril.

Ɖ frst v ɖz tućz cnveid ɖt ɖ ritn stetmnt tc p ɖ têl at a pônt aftr it hd, in a manr, bgun. Ɖ fact t b in pześn v wz ɖrfr ɖt hiz old frend, ɖ yungist v sevṛl dōtrz v a pur cuntri parsn, hd, at ɖ ej v twenti, on tecñ srvis fr ɖ frst tîm in ɖ scūlrūm, cm p t Lundn, in treṗdeśn, t ansr in prsn an advrtismnt ɖt hd olrdi plest hr in brīf corispondns wɖ ɖ advtîzr. Ɖs prsn pruvd, on hr prizntñ hrslf, fr jujmnt, at a hǎs in Harli Strīt, ɖt imprest hr az vast n impozñ – ɖs pṛspctiv petṛn pruvd a jntlmn, a bać̣lr in ɖ prîm v lîf, sć a figr az hd nvr rizn, sev in a drīm or an old novl, bfr a flutrd, añśs grl ǎt v a Hampśr vic̣rij. Wn cd īẓli fix hiz tîp; it nvr, haṗli, dîz ǎt. H wz hansm n bold n pleznt, of-hand n ge n cînd. H struc hr, inevitbli, az gaḷnt n splendid, bt ẃt tc hr most v ol n gev hr ɖ curij ś afṭwd śoud wz ɖt h pt ɖ hol ʈñ t hr az a cnd v fevr, an obḷgeśn h śd gretf̣li incŕ. Ś cnsivd him az rić, bt az firf̣li xtraṿgnt – sw him ol in a glo v hî faśn, v gd lcs, v xpnsiv habits, v ćarmñ wez wɖ wimin. H hd fr hiz ǒn tǎnrezidns a big hǎs fild wɖ ɖ spôlz v travl n ɖ trofiz v ɖ ćes; bt it wz t hiz cuntrihom, an old faṃliples in Esix, ɖt h wśt hr imīɉtli t pṛsid.

H hd bn left, bî ɖ deʈ v ɖer peṛnts in India, gardịn t a smōl nefy n a smōl nīs, ćildṛn v a yungr, a militri bruɖr, hūm h hd lost tū yirz bfr. Ɖz ćildṛn wr, bî ɖ strenjist v ćansz fr a man in hiz pziśn – a lon man wɖt ɖ rît sort v xpirịns or a gren v peśns – vri heṿli on hiz handz. It hd ol bn a gret wuri n, on hiz ǒn part dǎtlis, a siriz v blundrz, bt h imnsli pitid ɖ pur ćics n hd dn ol h cd; hd in ptiklr snt ɖm dǎn t hiz uɖr hǎs, ɖ propr ples fr ɖm biyñ v cors ɖ cuntri, n cept ɖm ɖr, fṛm ɖ frst, wɖ ɖ bst ppl h cd fînd t lc aftr ɖm, partñ īvn wɖ hiz ǒn srvnts t wêt on ɖm n gwñ dǎn himslf, ẃnvr h mt, t si hǎ ɖe wr dwñ. Ɖ ōcẉd ʈñ wz ɖt ɖe hd practicli no uɖr rleśnz n ɖt hiz ǒn aferz tc p ol hiz tîm. H hd pt ɖm in pześn v Blai, ẃć wz hlʈi n s’kr, n hd plest at ɖ hed v ɖer litl istabliśmnt – bt b’lo sterz onli – an xḷnt wmn, Msz. Grǒs, hūm h wz śr hiz vizitr wd lîc n hu hd formrli bn meid t hiz muɖr. Ś wz nǎ hǎscīpr n wz olso actñ fr ɖ tîm az sūpr-intndnt t ɖ litl grl, v hūm, wɖt ćildṛn v hr ǒn, ś wz, bî gd luc, xtrimli fond. Ɖr wr plenti v ppl t hlp, bt v cors ɖ yuñ ledi hu śd g dǎn az guṿnes wd b in s’prīm oʈoṛti. Ś wd olso hv, in hoḷdez, t lc aftr ɖ smōl bô, hu hd bn fr a trm at scūl – yuñ az h wz t b snt, bt ẃt els cd b dn? – n hu, az ɖ hoḷdez wr abt t bgin, wd b bac fṛm wn de t ɖ uɖr. Ɖr hd bn fr ɖ tū ćildṛn at frst a yuñ ledi hūm ɖe hd hd ɖ msfortyn t lūz. Ś hd dn fr ɖm qt bytifli – ś wz a most rspctbl prsn – tl hr deʈ, ɖ gret ōcẉdnis v ẃć hd, prisîsli, left no oltrṇtiv bt ɖ scūl fr litl Mîlz. Msz. Grǒs, sins ɖen, in ɖ we v manrz n ʈñz, hd dn az ś cd fr Flora; n ɖr wr, frɖr, a cc, a hǎsmeid, a dẹriwmn, an old poni, an old grūm, n an old gardnr, ol lîcwz ʈuṛli rspctbl.

So far hd Dugḷs prizntd hiz picćr ẃn smwn pt a qsćn. “N ẃt dd ɖ formr guṿnes dî v? – v so mć rspctbiḷti?”

Ǎr frend’z ansr wz promt. “Ɖt wl cm ǎt. I d’nt antiṣpet.”

“Xkz m – I ʈt ɖt wz jst ẃt y r dwñ.”

“In hr s’xesr’z ples,” I sjstd, “I śd hv wśt t lrn f ɖ ofis bròt wɖ it – ”

“Nesṣri denjr t lîf?” Dugḷs cmplitd mî ʈt. “Ś dd wś t lrn, n ś dd lrn. Y śl hír tmoro ẃt ś lrnt. Mnẃl, v cors, ɖ prospect struc hr az slîtli grim. Ś wz yuñ, untraid, nrṿs: it wz a viźn v sirịs dytiz n litl cumṗni, v riyli gret lonlinis. Ś heztetd – tc a cupl v dez t cnsult n cnsidr. Bt ɖ saḷri ofrd mć xidd hr modist meźr, n on a secnd inṭvy ś fest ɖ ḿzic, ś ingejd.” N Dugḷs, wɖ ɖs, md a pōz ɖt, fr ɖ beṇfit v ɖ cumṗni, muvd m t ʈro in –

“Ɖ moṛl v ẃć wz v cors ɖ sdux́n x’sîzd bî ɖ splendid yuñ man. Ś s’cumd t it.”

H got p n, az h hd dn ɖ nît bfr, wnt t ɖ fîr, gev a str t a log wɖ hiz ft, ɖen std a momnt wɖ hiz bac t s. “Ś sw him onli twîs.”

“Yes, bt ɖt’s jst ɖ byti v hr paśn.”

A litl t mî s’prîz, on ɖs, Dugḷs trnd rnd t m. “It wz ɖ byti v it. Ɖr wr uɖrz,” h wnt on, “hu hd’nt s’cumd. H tld hr francli ol hiz dificlti – ɖt fr sevṛl aplic̣nts ɖ cndiśnz hd bn pṛhibtiv. Ɖe wr, smhǎ, simpli afreid. It sǎndd dul – it sǎndd strenj; n ol ɖ mor so bcz v hiz mn cndiśn.”

“Ẃć wz – ?”

“Ɖt ś śd nvr trubl him – bt nvr, nvr: nɖr apil nr cmplen nr rait abt enʈñ; onli mīt ol qsćnz hrslf, rsiv ol muniz fṛm hiz s’lisitr, tec ɖ hol ʈñ ovr n let him alon. Ś promist t d ɖs, n ś mnśnd t m ɖt ẃn, fr a momnt, dsbrdnd, dlîtd, h hld hr hand, ʈancñ hr fr ɖ sacṛfîs, ś olrdi flt rwordd.”

“Bt wz ɖt ol hr rword?” wn v ɖ lediz asct.

“Ś nvr sw him agn.”

“Ǒ!” sd ɖ ledi; ẃć, az ǎr frend imīɉtli left s agn, wz ɖ onli uɖr wrd v importns cntribytd t ɖ subjict tl, ɖ nxt nît, bî ɖ cornr v ɖ harʈ, in ɖ bst ćer, h opnd ɖ fedd red cuvr v a ʈin old-faśnd gílt-éjd albm. Ɖ hol ʈñ tc indd mor nîts ɖn wn, bt on ɖ frst oceźn ɖ sem ledi pt anɖr qsćn. “Ẃt z yr tîtl?”

“I hv’nt wn.”

“Ǒ, I hv!” I sd. Bt Dugḷs, wɖt hīdñ m, hd bgun t rīd wɖ a fîn clirnis ɖt wz lîc a renḍrñ t ɖ ir v ɖ byti v hiz oʈr’z hand.

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I

I  rmembr ɖ hol bginñ az a s’xeśn v flîts n drops, a litl si-sw v ɖ rît ʈrobz n ɖ roñ. Aftr rîzñ, in tǎn, t mīt hiz apil, I hd at ol ivnts a cupl v vri bad dez – faund mslf dǎtfl agn, flt indd śr I hd md a mstec. In ɖs stet v mînd I spent ɖ loñ aurz v bumpñ, swññ coć ɖt carid m t ɖ stopñples at ẃć I wz t b met bî a viycl fṛm ɖ hǎs. Ɖs cnvińns, I wz tld, hd bn ordrd, n I faund, twd ɖ cloz v ɖ Jūn afṭnun, a cmodịs flai in wêtñ fr m. Drîvñ at ɖt aur, on a luvli de, ʈru a cuntri t ẃć ɖ sumrswītnis sīmd t ofr m a frendli welcm, mî forttyd mǎntd afreś n, az w trnd intu ɖ aṿny, incǎntrd a rpriv ɖt wz probbli bt a prūf v ɖ pônt t ẃć it hd sunc. I s’poz I hd xpctd, or hd dredd, smʈñ so meḷnc̣li ɖt ẃt grītd m wz a gd s’prîz. I rmembr az a most pleznt impreśn ɖ brōd, clir frunt, its opn windoz n freś crtnz n ɖ per v meidz lcñ ǎt; I rmembr ɖ lōn n ɖ brît flǎrz n ɖ crunć v mî ẃīlz on ɖ gravl n ɖ clustrd trītóps ovr ẃć ɖ rŭcs srcld n cwd in ɖ goldn scî. Ɖ sīn hd a gretnis ɖt md it a difṛnt afer fṛm mî ǒn scant hom, n ɖr imīɉtli apird at ɖ dor, wɖ a litl grl in hr hand, a sivl prsn hu dropt m az dīsnt a crtsi az f I hd bn ɖ mistris or a dstnḡśt vizitr. I hd rsivd in Harli Strīt a narowr nośn v ɖ ples, n ɖt, az I rcōld it, md m ʈnc ɖ pṛpraytr stl mor v a jntlmn, sjstd ɖt ẃt I wz t injô mt b smʈñ bynd hiz promis.

I hd no drop agn tl ɖ nxt de, fr I wz carid trîumfntli ʈru ɖ folowñ aurz bî mî intṛdux́n t ɖ yungr v mî pyplz. Ɖ litl grl hu acumṗnid Msz. Grǒs apird t m on ɖ spot a crīćr so ćarmñ az t mc it a gret fortyn t hv t d wɖ hr. Ś wz ɖ most bytifl ćîld I hd evr sìn, n I afṭwd wundrd ɖt mî imployr hd nt tld m mor v hr. I slept litl ɖt nît – I wz tù mć xîtd; n ɖs astoniśt m, tù, I rec̣lect, rmend wɖ m, adñ t mî sns v ɖ liḅraḷti wɖ ẃć I wz trītd. Ɖ larj, impresiv rūm, wn v ɖ bst in ɖ hǎs, ɖ gret stetbed, az I olmst flt it, ɖ fl, figrd dreṗriz, ɖ loñ glasz in ẃć, fr ɖ frst tîm, I cd si mslf fṛm hed t ft, ol struc m – lîc ɖ xtrordnri ćarm v mî smōl ćarj – az so mni ʈñz ʈroun in. It wz ʈroun in az wel, fṛm ɖ frst momnt, ɖt I śd gt on wɖ Msz. Grǒs in a rleśn ovr ẃć, on mî we, in ɖ coć, I fir I hd rɖr brūdd. Ɖ onli ʈñ indd ɖt in ɖs rli ǎtlŭc mt hv md m śrinc agn wz ɖ clir srcmstans v hr biyñ so glad t si m. I psivd wɖn haf an aur ɖt ś wz so glad – stǎt, simpl, plen, clīn, holsm wmn – az t b poztivli on hr gard agnst śowñ it tù mć. I wundrd īvn ɖen a litl ẃ ś śd wś nt t śo it, n ɖt, wɖ rflex́n, wɖ sspiśn, mt v cors hv md m unīzi.Bt it wz a cumf̣t ɖt ɖr cd b no unīzinis in a cnx́n wɖ enʈñ so bịtific az ɖ redịnt imij v mî litl grl, ɖ viźn v huz anjelic byti hd probbli mor ɖn enʈñ els t d wɖ ɖ restlisnis ɖt, bfr mornñ, md m sevṛl tîmz rîz n wondr abt mî rūm t tec in ɖ hol picćr n prospect; t woć, fṛm mî opn windo, ɖ fent sumrdōn, t lc at sć porśnz v ɖ rest v ɖ hǎs az I cd cać, n t lisn, ẃl, in ɖ fedñ dusc, ɖ frst brdz bgan t twitr, fr ɖ poṣbl rcuṛns v a sǎnd or tū, les naćṛl n nt wɖt, bt wɖn, ɖt I hd fansid I hŕd. Ɖr hd bn a momnt ẃn I b’livd I rec̣gnîzd, fent n far, ɖ crî v a ćîld; ɖr hd bn anɖr ẃn I faund mslf jst conśsli startñ az at ɖ pasij, bfr mî dor, v a lît ftstep. Bt ɖz fansiz wr nt marct inuf nt t b ʈroun of, n it z onli in ɖ lît, or ɖ glūm, I śd rɖr se, v uɖr n subsiqnt matrz ɖt ɖe nǎ cm bac t m. T woć, tīć, “form” litl Flora wd tù evidntli b ɖ mcñ v a hapi n ysfl lîf. It hd bn agrìd btwn s dǎnsterz ɖt aftr ɖs frst oceźn I śd hv hr az a matr v cors at nît, hr smōl ẃît bed biyñ olrdi arenjd, t ɖt end, in mî rūm. Ẃt I hd unḍtecn wz ɖ hol cer v hr, n ś hd rmend, jst ɖs last tîm, wɖ Msz. Grǒs onli az an ifct v ǎr cnsiḍreśn fr mî inevitbl strenjnis n hr naćṛl tmidti. In spît v ɖs tmidti – ẃć ɖ ćîld hrslf, in ɖ odist we in ɖ wrld, hd bn prf̣cli franc n brev abt, alawñ it, wɖt a sîn v uncumftbl conśsnis, wɖ ɖ dīp, swīt sreṇti indd v wn v Rafel’z holi infnts, t b dscust, t b impytd t hr, n t dtrmin s – I fīl qt śr ś wd prezntli lîc m. It wz part v ẃt I olrdi lîct Msz. Grǒs hrslf fr, ɖ pleźr I cd si hr fīl in mî adṃreśn n wundr az I sat at supr wɖ for tōl candlz n wɖ mî pypl, in a hî ćer n a bib, brîtli fesñ m, btwn ɖm, ovr bred n milc. Ɖr wr naćṛli ʈñz ɖt in Flora’z prezns cd pas btwn s onli az pṛdijs n graṭfaid lcs, obskr n rnd’bt aluźnz.

“N ɖ litl bô – dz h lc lîc hr? Z h tù so vri rmarcbl?”

Wn wd’nt flatr a ćîld. “Ǒ, mis, most rmarcbl. F y ʈnc wel v ɖs wn!” – n ś std ɖr wɖ a plet in hr hand, bīmñ at ǎr cmpańn, hu lct fṛm wn v s t ɖ uɖr wɖ plasid hevnli îz ɖt cntend nʈñ t ćec s.

“Yes; f I d – ?”

“Y wl b carid awe bî ɖ litl jntlmn!”

“Wel, ɖt, I ʈnc, z ẃt I cem fr – t b carid awe. I’m afreid, hvr,” I rmembr fīlñ ɖ impuls t ad, “I’m rɖr īẓli carid awe. I wz carid awe in Lundn!”

I cn stl si Msz. Grǒs’z brōd fes az ś tc ɖs in. “In Harli Strīt?”

“In Harli Strīt.”

“Wel, mis, y’r nt ɖ frst – n y w’nt b ɖ last.”

“Ǒ, I’v no pritnśn,” I cd laf, “t biyñ ɖ onli wn. Mî uɖr pypl, at eni ret, az I unḍstand, cmz bac tmoro?”

“Nt tmoro – Frîde, mis. H arîvz, az y dd, bî ɖ coć, undr cer v ɖ gard, n z t b met bî ɖ sem carij.”

I fʈwʈ xprest ɖt ɖ propr az wel az ɖ pleznt n frendli ʈñ wd b ɖrfr ɖt on ɖ arîvl v ɖ public cnveyns I śd b in wêtñ fr him wɖ hiz litl sistr; an îdīa in ẃć Msz. Grǒs cncŕd so harṭli ɖt I smhǎ tc hr manr az a cnd v cumf̣tñ plej – nvr fōlṣfaid, ʈanc hevn! – ɖt w śd on evri qsćn b qt at wn. Ǒ, ś wz glad I wz ɖr!

Ẃt I flt ɖ nxt de wz, I s’poz, nʈñ ɖt cd b ferli cōld a riax́n fṛm ɖ ćir v mî arîvl; it wz probbli at ɖ most onli a slît opreśn pṛdyst bî a fŭlr meźr v ɖ scel, az I wōct rnd ɖm, gezd p at ɖm, tc ɖm in, v mî ny srcmstansz. Ɖe hd, az it wr, an xtnt n mas fr ẃć I hd nt bn priperd n in ɖ prezns v ẃć I faund mslf, freśli, a litl scerd az wel az a litl prǎd. Lésnz, in ɖs ajteśn, srtnli sufrd sm dle; I rflectd ɖt mî frst dyti wz, bî ɖ jntlist arts I cd cntrîv, t win ɖ ćîld intu ɖ sns v nwñ m. I spent ɖ de wɖ hr ǎt-v-dorz; I arenjd wɖ hr, t hr gret saṭsfax́n, ɖt it śd b ś, ś onli, hu mt śo m ɖ ples. Ś śoud it step bî step n rūm bî rūm n sīcrit bî sīcrit, wɖ drol, dlîtfl, ćîldiś tōc abt it n wɖ ɖ rzult, in haf an aur, v ǎr bcmñ imns frendz. Yuñ az ś wz, I wz struc, ʈrt ǎr litl tur, wɖ hr confidns n curij wɖ ɖ we, in emti ćembrz n dul coṛdorz, on crŭcid stercesz ɖt md m pōz n īvn on ɖ sumit v an old mćic̣letd sqer tǎr ɖt md m dizi, hr mornñ ḿzic, hr dispziśn t tel m so mni mor ʈñz ɖn ś asct, rañ ǎt n léd m on. I hv nt sìn Blai sins ɖ de I left it, n I der se ɖt t mî oldr n mor informd îz it wd nǎ apir sfiśntli cntractd. Bt az mî litl cnductris, wɖ hr her v gold n hr froc v blu, danst bfr m rnd cornrz n patrd dǎn paṣjz, I hd ɖ vy v a casl v romans inhaḅtd bî a rozi sprît, sć a ples az wd smhǎ, fr dvrśn v ɖ yuñ îdīa, tec ol culr ǎt v stori-bcs n fẹritêlz. Wz’nt it jst a stori-bc ovr ẃć I hd fōḷn adoz n adrīm? No; it wz a big, ugli, antīc, bt cnvińnt hǎs, imbodiyñ a fy fīćrz v a bildñ stl oldr, haf-rplest n haf-yṭlîzd, in ẃć I hd ɖ fansi v ǎr biyñ olmst az lost az a hanfl v pasinjrz in a gret driftñ śip. Wel, I wz, strenjli, at ɖ hlm!

___

II

Ɖs cem hom t m ẃn, tū dez lêtr, I drouv ovr wɖ Flora t mīt, az Msz. Grǒs sd, ɖ litl jntlmn; n ol ɖ mor fr an insidnt ɖt, prizntñ itslf ɖ secnd īvnñ, hd dīpli discnsrtd m. Ɖ frst de hd bn, on ɖ hol, az I hv xprest, ri’śurñ; bt I wz t si it wînd p in cīn aprihnśn. Ɖ postbag, ɖt īvnñ – it cem lêt – cntend a letr fr m, ẃć, hvr, in ɖ hand v mî imployr, I faund t b cmpozd bt v a fy wrdz inclozñ anɖr, adrest t himslf, wɖ a sìl stl unbrocn. “Ɖs, I rec̣gnîz, z fṛm ɖ hedmastr, n ɖ hedmastr’z an ōfl bòr. Rīd him, plīz; dīl wɖ him; bt mînd y d’nt rport. Nt a wrd. I’m of!” I brouc ɖ sìl wɖ a gret ef̣t – so gret a wn ɖt I wz a loñ tîm cmñ t it; tc ɖ unopnd misiv at last p t mî rūm n onli atact it jst bfr gwñ t bed. I hd betr hv let it wêt tl mornñ, fr it gev m a secnd slīplis nît. Wɖ no cǎnsl t tec, ɖ nxt de, I wz fl v dstres; n it fîṇli got so ɖ betr v m ɖt I dtrmind t opn mslf at līst t Msz. Grǒs.

“Ẃt dz it mīn? Ɖ ćîld’z dsmist hiz scūl.”Ś gev m a lc ɖt I rmarct at ɖ momnt; ɖen, viẓbli, wɖ a qc blancnis, sīmd t trî t tec it bac. “Bt r’nt ɖe ol – ?”

“Snt hom – yes. Bt onli fr ɖ hoḷdez. Mîlz me nvr g bac at ol.”

Conśsli, undr mî atnśn, ś rednd. “Ɖe w’nt tec him?”

“Ɖe abṣlutli dclîn.”

At ɖs ś rezd hr îz, ẃć ś hd trnd fṛm m; I sw ɖm fil wɖ gd tirz. “Ẃt hz h dn?”

I heztetd; ɖen I jujd bst simpli t hand hr mî letr – ẃć, hvr, hd ɖ ifct v mcñ hr, wɖt tecñ it, simpli pt hr handz bhnd hr. Ś śc hr hed sadli. “Sć ʈñz r nt fr m, mis.”

Mî cǎnṣlr cd’nt rīd! I winst at mî mstec, ẃć I ateńuetd az I cd, n opnd mî letr agn t rpit it t hr; ɖen, fōlṭrñ in ɖ act n foldñ it p wns mor, I pt it bac in mî pocit. “Z h riyli bad?”

Ɖ tirz wr stl in hr îz. “D ɖ jntlṃn se so?”

“Ɖe g intu no ptiklrz. Ɖe simpli xpres ɖer rgret ɖt it śd b imposbl t cīp him. Ɖt cn hv onli wn mīnñ.” Msz. Grǒs lisnd wɖ dum imośn; ś forbòr t asc m ẃt ɖs mīnñ mt b; so ɖt, prezntli, t pt ɖ ʈñ wɖ sm chiṛns n wɖ ɖ mir ed v hr prezns t mî ǒn mînd, I wnt on: “Ɖt h’z an inɉri t ɖ uɖrz.”

At ɖs, wɖ wn v ɖ qc trnz v simpl foc, ś sudnli flemd p. “Mastr Mîlz! him an inɉri?”

Ɖr wz sć a flud v gd feʈ in it ɖt, ɖo I hd nt yt sìn ɖ ćîld, mî vri firz md m jump t ɖ absrdti v ɖ îdīa. I faund mslf, t mīt mî frend ɖ betr, of̣rñ it, on ɖ spot, sarcasticli. “T hiz pur litl iṇsnt mêts!”

“It’s tù dredfl,” craid Msz. Grǒs, “t se sć cruwl ʈñz! Ẃ, h’z scers ten yirz old.”

“Yes, yes; it wd b increḍbl.”

Ś wz evidntli gretfl fr sć a pṛfeśn. “Si him, mis, frst. Ɖen b’liv it!” I flt fʈwʈ a ny impeśns t si him; it wz ɖ bginñ v a krioṣti ɖt, fr ol ɖ nxt aurz, wz t dīpn olmst t pen. Msz. Grǒs wz awer, I cd juj, v ẃt ś hd pṛdyst in m, n ś foloud it p wɖ aśuṛns. “Y mt az wel b’liv it v ɖ litl ledi. Bles hr,” ś add ɖ nxt momnt – “lc at hr!”

I trnd n sw ɖt Flora, hūm, ten minits bfr, I hd istabliśt in ɖ scūlrūm wɖ a śīt v ẃît pepr, a pensl, n a copi v nîs “rǎnd O’z,” nǎ prizntd hrslf t vy at ɖ opn dor. Ś xprest in hr litl we an xtrordnri dtaćmnt fṛm dis’griybl dytiz, lcñ t m, hvr, wɖ a gret ćîldiś lît ɖt sīmd t ofr it az a mir rzult v ɖ afx́n ś hd cnsivd fr mî prsn, ẃć hd rendrd nesṣri ɖt ś śd folo m. I nīdd nʈñ mor ɖn ɖs t fīl ɖ fl fors v Msz. Grǒs’z cmparisn, n, caćñ mî pypl in mî armz, cuvrd hr wɖ cisz in ẃć ɖr wz a sob v atonmnt.

Nnɖles, ɖ rest v ɖ de I woćt fr frɖr oceźn t aproć mî colīg, ispeṣ́li az, twd īvnñ, I bgan t fansi ś rɖr sòt t avôd m. I oṿtc hr, I rmembr, on ɖ sterces; w wnt dǎn tgɖr, n at ɖ botm I dtend hr, holdñ hr ɖr wɖ a hand on hr arm. “I tec ẃt y sd t m at nūn az a decḷreśn ɖt y’v nvr noun him t b bad.”

Ś ʈrù bac hr hed; ś hd clirli, bî ɖs tîm, n vri oṇstli, adoptd an attyd. “Ǒ, nvr noun him – I d’nt pritnd ɖt!

I wz upset agn. “Ɖen y hv noun him – ?”

“Yes indd, mis, ʈanc God!”

On rflex́n I axptd ɖs. “Y mīn ɖt a bô hu nvr z – ?”

“Z no bô fr m!

I hld hr tîtr. “Y lîc ɖm wɖ ɖ spirit t b nōti?” Ɖen, cīpñ pes wɖ hr ansr, “So d I!” I īgrli bròt ǎt. “Bt nt t ɖ dgri t cntaṃnet – ”

“T cntaṃnet?” – mî big wrd left hr at a los. I xplend it. “T c’rupt.”

Ś stérd, tecñ mî mīnñ in; bt it pṛdyst in hr an od laf. “R y afreid h’l c’rupt y?” Ś pt ɖ qsćn wɖ sć a fîn bold hymr ɖt, wɖ a laf, a litl sili dǎtlis, t mać hr ǒn, I gev we fr ɖ tîm t ɖ aprihnśn v riḍkl.

Bt ɖ nxt de, az ɖ aur fr mî drîv aproćt, I cropt p in anɖr ples. “Ẃt wz ɖ ledi hu wz hir bfr?”

“Ɖ last guṿnes? Ś wz olso yuñ n priti – olmst az yuñ n olmst az priti, mis, īvn az y.”

“Ā, ɖen, I hop hr yʈ n hr byti hlpt hr!” I rec̣lect ʈrowñ of. “H sīmz t lîc s yuñ n priti!”

“Ǒ, h dd,” Msz. Grǒs asntd: “it wz ɖ we h lîct evrwn!” Ś hd no snr spocn indd ɖn ś còt hrslf p. “I mīn ɖt’s hiz we – ɖ mastr’z.”

I wz struc. “Bt v hūm dd y spīc frst?”

Ś lct blanc, bt ś culrd. “Ẃ, v him.”

“V ɖ mastr?”

“V hu els?”

Ɖr wz so obvịsli nwn els ɖt ɖ nxt momnt I hd lost mî impreśn v hr hvñ axdnṭli sd mor ɖn ś mnt; n I mirli asct ẃt I wontd t nǒ. “Dd ś si enʈñ in ɖ bô – ?”

“Ɖt wz’nt rît? Ś nvr tld m.”

I hd a scrūpl, bt I oṿcem it. “Wz ś cerfl – ptiklr?”

Msz. Grǒs apird t trî t b conśienśs. “Abt sm ʈñz – yes.”

“Bt nt abt ol?”

Agn ś cnsidrd. “Wel, mis – ś’z gn. I w’nt tel têlz.”

“I qt unḍstand yr fīlñ,” I hesnd t rplî; bt I ʈt it, aftr an instnt, nt opozd t ɖs cnseśn t psy: “Dd ś dî hir?”

“No – ś wnt of.”

I d’nt nǒ ẃt ɖr wz in ɖs breṿti v Msz. Grǒs’z ɖt struc m az ambigẏs. “Wnt of t dî?” Msz. Grǒs lct stret ǎt v ɖ windo, bt I flt ɖt, hîṗʈeticli, I hd a rît t nǒ ẃt yuñ prsnz ingejd fr Blai wr xpctd t d. “Ś wz tecn il, y mīn, n wnt hom?”

“Ś wz nt tecn il, so far az apird, in ɖs hǎs. Ś left it, at ɖ end v ɖ yir, t g hom, az ś sd, fr a śort hoḷde, t ẃć ɖ tîm ś hd pt in hd srtnli gvn hr a rît. W hd ɖen a yuñ wmn – a nrsmeid hu hd steid on n hu wz a gd grl n clevr; n ś tc ɖ ćildṛn oltgɖr fr ɖ inṭvl. Bt ǎr yuñ ledi nvr cem bac, n at ɖ vri momnt I wz xpctñ hr I hŕd fṛm ɖ mastr ɖt ś wz ded.”

I trnd ɖs ovr. “Bt v ẃt?”

“H nvr tld m! Bt plīz, mis,” sd Msz. Grǒs, “I mst gt t mî wrc.”

___

III

Hr ɖus trnñ hr bac on m wz forćṇtli nt, fr mî just priokpeśnz, a snub ɖt cd ćec ɖ groʈ v ǎr ḿćl istim. W met, aftr I hd bròt hom litl Mîlz, mor intiṃtli ɖn evr on ɖ grǎnd v mî styṗfax́n, mî jenṛl imośn: so monstṛs wz I ɖen redi t pṛnǎns it ɖt sć a ćîld az hd nǎ bn rvild t m śd b undr an inṭdict. I wz a litl lêt on ɖ sīn, n I flt, az h std wistf̣li lcñ ǎt fr m bfr ɖ dor v ɖ ín at ẃć ɖ coć hd pt him dǎn, ɖt I hd sìn him, on ɖ instnt, wɖt n wɖn, in ɖ gret glo v freśnis, ɖ sem poẓtiv fregṛns v pyṛti, in ẃć I hd, fṛm ɖ frst momnt, sìn hiz litl sistr. H wz increḍbli bytifl, n Msz. Grǒs hd pt hr fngr on it: evrʈñ bt a sort v paśn v tndrnis fr him wz swept awe bî hiz prezns. Ẃt I ɖen n ɖr tc him t mî hart fr wz smʈñ dvîn ɖt I hv nvr faund t ɖ sem dgri in eni ćîld – hiz indiscrîbbl litl er v nwñ nʈñ in ɖ wrld bt luv. It wd hv bn imposbl t cari a bad nem wɖ a gretr swītnis v iṇsns, n bî ɖ tîm I hd got bac t Blai wɖ him I rmend mirli bwildrd – so far, ɖt z, az I wz nt ǎtrejd – bî ɖ sns v ɖ hoṛbl letr loct p in mî rūm, in a dror. Az sn az I cd cumṗs a prîṿt wrd wɖ Msz. Grǒs I dclerd t hr ɖt it wz gṛtesc.

Ś promtli unḍstd m. “Y mīn ɖ cruwl ćarj – ?”“It dz’nt liv an instnt. Mî dir wmn, lc at him!”

Ś smîld at mî pritnśn t hv dscuvrd hiz ćarm. “I aśur y, mis, I d nʈñ els! Ẃt wl y se, ɖen?” ś imīɉtli add.

“In ansr t ɖ letr?” I hd md p mî mînd. “Nʈñ.”

“N t hiz uncl?”

I wz insîsiv. “Nʈñ.”

“N t ɖ bô himslf?”

I wz wundrfl. “Nʈñ.”

Ś gev wɖ hr epṛn a gret wîp t hr mǎʈ. “Ɖen I’l stand bî y. W’l si it ǎt.”

“W’l si it ǎt!” I ardntli ecoud, gvñ hr mî hand t mc it a vǎ.

Ś hld m ɖr a momnt, ɖen ẃisct p hr epṛn agn wɖ hr dtaćt hand. “Wd y mînd, mis, f I yzd ɖ frīdm – ”

“T cis m? No!” I tc ɖ gd crīćr in mî armz n, aftr w hd imbrest lîc sistrz, flt stl mor forṭfaid n indignnt.

Ɖs, at ol ivnts, wz fr ɖ tîm: a tîm so fl ɖt, az I rcōl ɖ we it wnt, it rmîndz m v ol ɖ art I nǎ nīd t mc it a litl dstñt. Ẃt I lc bac at wɖ amezmnt z ɖ sićueśn I axptd. I hd unḍtecn, wɖ mî cmpańn, t si it ǎt, n I wz undr a ćarm, apaṛntli, ɖt cd smuɖ awe ɖ xtnt n ɖ far n dificlt cnx́nz v sć an ef̣t. I wz liftd aloft on a gret wev v infaćueśn n piti. I faund it simpl, in mî ignṛns, mî cnfyźn, n phps mî cnsit, t asym ɖt I cd dīl wɖ a bô huz edyceśn fr ɖ wrld wz ol on ɖ pônt v bginñ. I am unebl īvn t rmembr at ɖs de ẃt pṛpozl I fremd fr ɖ end v hiz hoḷdez n ɖ rzumśn v hiz studiz. Lésnz wɖ m, indd, ɖt ćarmñ sumr, w ol hd a ʈiyri ɖt h wz t hv; bt I nǎ fīl ɖt, fr wīcs, ɖ lésnz mst hv bn rɖr mî ǒn. I lrnt smʈñ – at frst, srtnli – ɖt hd nt bn wn v ɖ tīćñz v mî smōl, smuɖrd lîf; lrnt t b aḿzd, n īvn aḿzñ, n nt t ʈnc fr ɖ moro. It wz ɖ frst tîm, in a manr, ɖt I hd noun spes n er n frīdm, ol ɖ ḿzic v sumr n ol ɖ misṭri v nećr. N ɖen ɖr wz cnsiḍreśn – n cnsiḍreśn wz swīt. Ǒ, it wz a trap – nt dzînd, bt dīp – t mî imaɉneśn, t mî delic̣si, phps t mî vaṇti; t ẃtvr, in m, wz most xîṭbl. Ɖ bst we t picćr it ol z t se ɖt I wz of mî gard. Ɖe gev m so litl trubl – ɖe wr v a jntlnis so xtrordnri. I yst t speklet – bt īvn ɖs wɖ a dim disc̣nctidnis – az t hǎ ɖ ruf fyćr (fr ol fyćrz r ruf!) wd handl ɖm n mt brūz ɖm. Ɖe hd ɖ blūm v hlʈ n hapinis; n yt, az f I hd bn in ćarj v a per v litl grandīz, v prinsz v ɖ blud, fr hūm evrʈñ, t b rît, wd hv t b inclozd n pṛtctd, ɖ onli form ɖt, in mî fansi, ɖ afṭyirz cd tec fr ɖm wz ɖt v a r’mantic, a riyli royl xtnśn v ɖ gardn n ɖ parc. It me b, v cors, abv ol, ɖt ẃt sudnli brouc intu ɖs gvz ɖ prīvịs tîm a ćarm v stilnis – ɖt huś in ẃć smʈñ gaɖrz or crǎćz. Ɖ ćenj wz acć̣li lîc ɖ sprñ v a bīst.

In ɖ frst wīcs ɖ dez wr loñ; ɖe ofn, at ɖer fînist, gev m ẃt I yst t cōl mî ǒn aur, ɖ aur ẃn, fr mî pyplz, tītîm n bedtîm hvñ cm n gn, I hd, bfr mî fînl rtîrmnt, a smōl inṭvl alon. Mć az I lîct mî cmpańnz, ɖs aur wz ɖ ʈñ in ɖ de I lîct most; n I lîct it bst v ol ẃn, az ɖ lît fedd – or rɖr, I śd se, ɖ de lingrd n ɖ last cōlz v ɖ last brdz sǎndd, in a fluśt scî, fṛm ɖ old triz – I cd tec a trn intu ɖ grǎndz n injô, olmst wɖ a sns v proṗti ɖt aḿzd n flatrd m, ɖ byti n digṇti v ɖ ples. It wz a pleźr at ɖz momnts t fīl mslf tranqil n jusṭfaid; dǎtlis, phps, olso t rflect ɖt bî mî dscreśn, mî qayt gd sns n jenṛl hî pṛprayti, I wz gvñ pleźr – f h evr ʈt v it! – t ɖ prsn t huz preśr I hd rspondd. Ẃt I wz dwñ wz ẃt h hd rṇstli hopt n d’recli asct v m, n ɖt I cd, aftr ol, d it pruvd īvn a gretr jô ɖn I hd xpctd. I der se I fansid mslf, in śort, a rmarcbl yuñ wmn n tc cumf̣t in ɖ feʈ ɖt ɖs wd mor pubḷcli apir. Wel, I nīdd t b rmarcbl t ofr a frunt t ɖ rmarcbl ʈñz ɖt prezntli gev ɖer frst sîn.

It wz plump, wn afṭnun, in ɖ midl v mî vri aur: ɖ ćildṛn wr tuct awe, n I hd cm ǎt fr mî strol. Wn v ɖ ʈts ɖt, az I d’nt in ɖ līst śrinc nǎ fṛm notñ, yst t b wɖ m in ɖz wonḍrñz wz ɖt it wd b az ćarmñ az a ćarmñ stori sudnli t mīt smwn. Smwn wd apir ɖr at ɖ trn v a paʈ n wd stand bfr m n smîl n apruv. I dd’nt asc mor ɖn ɖt – I onli asct ɖt h śd nǒ; n ɖ onli we t b śr h ń wd b t si it, n ɖ cînd lît v it, in hiz hansm fes. Ɖt wz xacli preznt t m – bî ẃć I mīn ɖ fes wz – ẃn, on ɖ frst v ɖz oceźnz, at ɖ end v a loñ Jūn de, I stopt śort on imrjñ fṛm wn v ɖ planteśnz n cmñ intu vy v ɖ hǎs. Ẃt arestd m on ɖ spot – n wɖ a śoc mć gretr ɖn eni viźn hd alaud fr – wz ɖ sns ɖt mî imaɉneśn hd, in a flaś, trnd riyl. H dd stand ɖr! – bt hî p, bynd ɖ lōn n at ɖ vri top v ɖ tǎr t ẃć, on ɖt frst mornñ, litl Flora hd cnductd m. Ɖs tǎr wz wn v a per – sqer, incongrụs, creṇletd strucćrz – ɖt wr dstnḡśt, fr sm rīzn, ɖo I cd si litl difṛns, az ɖ ny n ɖ old. Ɖe flanct oṗzit endz v ɖ hǎs n wr probbli arc̣tecćṛl absrdtiz, rdimd in a meźr indd bî nt biyñ hoļi disingejd nr v a hît tù pritnśs, detñ, in ɖer jinjrbred antiqti, fṛm a r’mantic rvîvl ɖt wz olrdi a rspctbl past. I admîrd ɖm, hd fansiz abt ɖm, fr w cd ol profit in a dgri, ispeṣ́li ẃn ɖe lūmd ʈru ɖ dusc, bî ɖ granjr v ɖer acćl batlmnts; yt it wz nt at sć an eḷveśn ɖt ɖ figr I hd so ofn invoct sīmd most in ples.

It pṛdyst in m, ɖs figr, in ɖ clir twîlît, I rmembr, tū dstñt gasps v imośn, ẃć wr, śarpli, ɖ śoc v mî frst n ɖt v mî secnd s’prîz. Mî secnd wz a vayḷnt pspśn v ɖ mstec v mî frst: ɖ man hu met mî îz wz nt ɖ prsn I hd prisipittli s’pozd. Ɖr cem t m ɖus a bwildrmnt v viźn v ẃć, aftr ɖz yirz, ɖr z no livñ vy ɖt I cn hop t gv. An uņoun man in a lonli ples z a pmitd objict v fir t a yuñ wmn prîṿtli bréd; n ɖ figr ɖt fest m wz – a fy mor secndz aśurd m – az litl enwn els I ń az it wz ɖ imij ɖt hd bn in mî mînd. I hd nt sìn it in Harli Strīt – I hd nt sìn it enẃr. Ɖ ples, morovr, in ɖ strenjist we in ɖ wrld, hd, on ɖ instnt, n bî ɖ vri fact v its apiṛns, bcm a soḷtyd. T m at līst, mcñ mî stetmnt hir wɖ a dliḅreśn wɖ ẃć I hv nvr md it, ɖ hol fīlñ v ɖ momnt rtrnz. It wz az f, ẃl I tc in – ẃt I dd tec in – ol ɖ rest v ɖ sīn hd bn stricn wɖ deʈ. I cn hír agn, az I rait, ɖ intns huś in ẃć ɖ sǎndz v īvnñ dropt. Ɖ rŭcs stopt cw̃ in ɖ goldn scî, n ɖ frendli aur lost, fr ɖ minit, ol its vôs. Bt ɖr wz no uɖr ćenj in nećr, unls indd it wr a ćenj ɖt I sw wɖ a strenjr śarpnis. Ɖ gold wz stl in ɖ scî, ɖ clirnis in ɖ er, n ɖ man hu lct at m ovr ɖ batlmnts wz az defiṇt az a picćr in a frem. Ɖt’s hǎ I ʈt, wɖ xtrordnri qcnis, v ć prsn ɖt h mt hv bn n ɖt h wz nt. W wr cnfruntd acrs ǎr distns qt loñ inuf fr m t asc mslf wɖ intnṣti hu ɖen h wz n t fīl, az an ifct v mî in’biḷti t se, a wundr ɖt in a fy instnts mor bcem intns.

Ɖ gret qsćn, or wn v ɖz, z, afṭwd, I nǒ, wɖ rgard t srtn matrz, ɖ qsćn v hǎ loñ ɖe hv lastd. Wel, ɖs matr v mîn, ʈnc ẃt y wl v it, lastd ẃl I còt at a duzn posbiḷtiz, nn v ẃć md a difṛns fr ɖ betr, ɖt I cd si, in ɖr hvñ bn in ɖ hǎs – n fr hǎ loñ, abv ol? – a prsn v hūm I wz in ignṛns. It lastd ẃl I jst braidld a litl wɖ ɖ sns ɖt mî ofis dmandd ɖt ɖr śd b no sć ignṛns n no sć prsn. It lastd ẃl ɖs vizitnt, at ol ivnts – n ɖr wz a tuć v ɖ strenj frīdm, az I rmembr, in ɖ sîn v fmiliaṛti v hiz wẹrñ no hat – sīmd t fix m, fṛm hiz pziśn, wɖ jst ɖ qsćn, jst ɖ scrūṭni ʈru ɖ fedñ lît, ɖt hiz ǒn prezns pṛvoct. W wr tù far apart t cōl t ć uɖr, bt ɖr wz a momnt at ẃć, at śortr renj, sm ćalinj btwn s, brecñ ɖ huś, wd hv bn ɖ rît rzult v ǎr stret ḿćl stér. H wz in wn v ɖ anglz, ɖ wn awe fṛm ɖ hǎs, vri irect, az it struc m, n wɖ bʈ handz on ɖ lej. So I sw him az I si ɖ letrz I form on ɖs pej; ɖen, xacli, aftr a minit, az f t ad t ɖ specṭcl, h slǒli ćenjd hiz ples – pást, lcñ at m hard ol ɖ ẃl, t ɖ oṗzit cornr v ɖ platform. Yes, I hd ɖ śarpist sns ɖt jrñ ɖs transit h nvr tc hiz îz fṛm m, n I cn si at ɖs momnt ɖ we hiz hand, az h wnt, pást fṛm wn v ɖ creṇleśnz t ɖ nxt. H stopt at ɖ uɖr cornr, bt les loñ, n īvn az h trnd awe stl marcidli fixt m. H trnd awe; ɖt wz ol I ń.

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IV

It wz nt ɖt I dd’nt wêt, on ɖs oceźn, fr mor, fr I wz rūtd az dīpli az I wz śecn. Wz ɖr a “sīcrit” at Blai – a misṭri v Ūdolfo or an insen, an unmnśṇbl reḷtiv cept in unsspctd cnfînmnt? I c’nt se hǎ loñ I trnd it ovr, or hǎ loñ, in a cnfyźn v krioṣti n dred, I rmend ẃr I hd hd mî c’liźn; I onli rcōl ɖt ẃn I ri-entrd ɖ hǎs darcnis hd qt clozd in. Ajteśn, in ɖ inṭvl, srtnli hd hld m n drivn m, fr I mst, in src̣lñ abt ɖ ples, hv wōct ʈri mîlz; bt I wz t b, lêtr on, so mć mor oṿẃlmd ɖt ɖs mir dōn v alarm wz a cmpaṛtivli hymn ćil. Ɖ most snğlr part v it, in fact – snğlr az ɖ rest hd bn – wz ɖ part I bcem, in ɖ hōl, awer v in mītñ Msz. Grǒs. Ɖs picćr cmz bac t m in ɖ jenṛl tren – ɖ impreśn, az I rsivd it on mî rtrn, v ɖ wîd ẃît panld spes, brît in ɖ lamplît n wɖ its portrits n red carpit, n v ɖ gd s’prîzd lc v mî frend, ẃć imīɉtli tld m ś hd míst m. It cem t m stretwe, undr hr contact, ɖt, wɖ plen hartinis, mir rlivd añzayti at mî apiṛns, ś ń nʈñ ẃtvr ɖt cd ber upn ɖ insidnt I hd ɖr redi fr hr. I hd nt sspctd in advans ɖt hr cumftbl fes wd pl m p, n I smhǎ meźrd ɖ importns v ẃt I hd sìn bî mî ɖus fîndñ mslf heẓtet t mnśn it. Scers enʈñ in ɖ hol hisṭri sīmz t m so od az ɖs fact ɖt mî riyl bginñ v fir wz wn, az I me se, wɖ ɖ instñt v spẹrñ mî cmpańn. On ɖ spot, acordñli, in ɖ pleznt hōl n wɖ hr îz on m, I, fr a rīzn ɖt I cd’nt ɖen hv frezd, aćivd an inwd reẓluśn – ofrd a veg prītxt fr mî lêtnis n, wɖ ɖ pli v ɖ byti v ɖ nît n v ɖ hevi dȳ n wet fīt, wnt az sn az poṣbl t mî rūm.

Hir it wz anɖr afer; hir, fr mni dez aftr, it wz a qir afer inuf. Ɖr wr aurz, fṛm de t de – or at līst ɖr wr momnts, snaćt īvn fṛm clir dytiz – ẃn I hd t śut mslf p t ʈnc. It wz nt so mć yt ɖt I wz mor nrṿs ɖn I cd ber t b az ɖt I wz rmarcbli afreid v bcmñ so; fr ɖ truʈ I hd nǎ t trn ovr wz, simpli n clirli, ɖ truʈ ɖt I cd arîv at no acǎnt ẃtvr v ɖ vizitr wɖ hūm I hd bn so inixplicbli n yt, az it sīmd t m, so intiṃtli cnsrnd. It tc litl tîm t si ɖt I cd sǎnd wɖt formz v inqîri n wɖt xîtñ rmarc eni dmestic compḷceśnz. Ɖ śoc I hd sufrd mst hv śarpnd ol mî snsz; I flt śr, at ɖ end v ʈri dez n az ɖ rzult v mir closr atnśn, ɖt I hd nt bn practist upn bî ɖ srvnts nr md ɖ objict v eni “gem.” V ẃtvr it wz ɖt I ń, nʈñ wz noun arnd m. Ɖr wz bt wn sen infṛns: smwn hd tecn a liḅti rɖr gros. Ɖt wz ẃt, rpitidli, I dipt intu mî rūm n loct ɖ dor t se t mslf. W hd bn, c’lectivli, subjict t an intruźn; sm unscrūpyḷs travlr, krịs in old hǎzz, hd md hiz we in un’bzrvd, injoid ɖ prospect fṛm ɖ bst pônt v vy, n ɖen stoḷn ǎt az h cem. F h hd gvn m sć a bold hard stér, ɖt wz bt a part v hiz indiscreśn. Ɖ gd ʈñ, aftr ol, wz ɖt w śd śrli si no mor v him.Ɖs wz nt so gd a ʈñ, I admit, az nt t līv m t juj ɖt ẃt, isnṣ́li, md nʈñ els mć sigṇfî wz simpli mî ćarmñ wrc. Mî ćarmñ wrc wz jst mî lîf wɖ Mîlz n Flora, n ʈru nʈñ cd I so lîc it az ʈru fīlñ ɖt I cd ʈro mslf intu it in trubl. Ɖ atrax́n v mî smōl ćarjz wz a constnt jô, līdñ m t wundr afreś at ɖ vaṇti v mî orijinl firz, ɖ dstest I hd bgun bî enttenñ fr ɖ probbl gre prǒz v mî ofis. Ɖr wz t b no gre prǒz, it apird, n no loñ grînd; so hǎ cd wrc nt b ćarmñ ɖt prizntd itslf az dêli byti? It wz ol ɖ romans v ɖ nrṣri n ɖ powtri v ɖ scūlrūm. I d’nt mīn bî ɖs, v cors, ɖt w studid onli fix́n n vrs; I mīn I cn xpres no uɖ̇wz ɖ sort v inṭrest mî cmpańnz inspîrd. Hǎ cn I dscrîb ɖt xpt bî seyñ ɖt instd v growñ yst t ɖm – n it’s a marvl fr a guṿnes: I cōl ɖ sistrhd t witnis! – I md constnt freś dscuṿriz. Ɖr wz wn d’rex́n, aśuridli, in ẃć ɖz dscuṿriz stopt: dīp obskṛti cntinyd t cuvr ɖ rījn v ɖ bô’z conduct at scūl. It hd bn promtli gvn m, I hv notd, t fes ɖt misṭri wɖt a pañ. Phps īvn it wd b nirr ɖ truʈ t se ɖt – wɖt a wrd – h himslf hd clird it p. H hd md ɖ hol ćarj absrd. Mî cncluźn blūmd ɖr wɖ ɖ riyl rôz fluś v hiz iṇsns: h wz onli tù fîn n fer fr ɖ litl horid, unclīn scūlwrld, n h hd peid a prîs fr it. I rflectd aktli ɖt ɖ sns v sć difṛnsz, sć s’pirioṛtiz v qoḷti, olwz, on ɖ part v ɖ mjoṛti – ẃć cd includ īvn stypid, sordid hedmastrz – trn infaḷbli t ɖ vndictiv.

Bʈ ɖ ćildṛn hd a jntlnis (it wz ɖer onli fōlt, n it nvr md Mîlz a muf) ɖt cept ɖm – hǎ śl I xpres it? – olmst imprsnl n srtnli qt unpuniṣbl. Ɖe wr lîc ɖ ćeṛbz v ɖ aṇcdot, hu hd – moṛli, at eni ret – nʈñ t ẃac! I rmembr fīlñ wɖ Mîlz in ispeśl az f h hd hd, az it wr, no hisṭri. W xpct v a smōl ćîld a scant wn, bt ɖr wz in ɖs bytifl litl bô smʈñ xtrordnṛli snṣtiv, yt xtrordnṛli hapi, ɖt, mor ɖn in eni crīćr v hiz ej I hv sìn, struc m az bginñ any ć de. H hd nvr fr a secnd sufrd. I tc ɖs az a d’rect dsprūf v hiz hvñ riyli bn ćastîzd. F h hd bn wicid h wd hv “còt” it, n I śd hv còt it bî ɖ rbaund – I śd hv faund ɖ tres. I faund nʈñ at ol, n h wz ɖrfr an enjl. H nvr spouc v hiz scūl, nvr mnśnd a comred or a mastr; n I, fr mî part, wz qt tù mć dsgustd t alud t ɖm. V cors I wz undr ɖ spel, n ɖ wundrfl part z ɖt, īvn at ɖ tîm, I prf̣cli ń I wz. Bt I gev mslf p t it; it wz an antidot t eni pen, n I hd mor penz ɖn wn. I wz in rsit in ɖz dez v dstrbñ letrz fṛm hom, ẃr ʈñz wr nt gwñ wel. Bt wɖ mî ćildṛn, ẃt ʈñz in ɖ wrld matrd? Ɖt wz ɖ qsćn I yst t pt t mî scrapi rtîrmnts. I wz dazld bî ɖer luvlinis.

Ɖr wz a Súnde – t gt on – ẃn it rênd wɖ sć fors n fr so mni aurz ɖt ɖr cd b no pṛseśn t ćrć; in consiqns v ẃć, az ɖ de dclînd, I hd arenjd wɖ Msz. Grǒs ɖt, śd ɖ īvnñ śo impruvmnt, w wd atnd tgɖr ɖ lêt srvis. Ɖ ren haṗli stopt, n I priperd fr ǎr wōc, ẃć, ʈru ɖ parc n bî ɖ gd rod t ɖ vilij, wd b a matr v twenti minits. Cmñ dǎnsterz t mīt mî colīg in ɖ hōl, I rmembrd a per v gluvz ɖt hd rqîrd ʈri stićz n ɖt hd rsivd ɖm – wɖ a pbliṣti phps nt edfayñ – ẃl I sat wɖ ɖ ćildṛn at ɖer ti, srvd on Súndez, bî xpśn, in ɖt cold, clīn tmpl v mhoġni n bras, ɖ “groun-up” dînñrūm. Ɖ gluvz hd bn dropt ɖr, n I trnd in t rcuvr ɖm. Ɖ de wz gre inuf, bt ɖ afṭnun lît stl lingrd, n it inebld m, on crosñ ɖ ʈreśhold, nt onli t rec̣gnîz, on a ćer nir ɖ wîd windo, ɖen clozd, ɖ articlz I wontd, bt t bcm awer v a prsn on ɖ uɖr sîd v ɖ windo n lcñ stret in. Wn step intu ɖ rūm hd s’fîst; mî viźn wz instnteńs; it wz ol ɖr. Ɖ prsn lcñ stret in wz ɖ prsn hu hd olrdi apird t m. H apird ɖus agn wɖ I w’nt se gretr dstñtnis, fr ɖt wz imposbl, bt wɖ a nirnis ɖt reprizntd a fwd strîd in ǎr inṭcors n md m, az I met him, cać mî breʈ n trn cold. H wz ɖ sem – h wz ɖ sem, n sìn, ɖs tîm, az h hd bn sìn bfr, fṛm ɖ weist p, ɖ windo, ɖo ɖ dînñrūm wz on ɖ grǎndflor, nt gwñ dǎn t ɖ teris on ẃć h std. Hiz fes wz clos t ɖ glas, yt ɖ ifct v ɖs betr vy wz, strenjli, onli t śo m hǎ intns ɖ formr hd bn. H rmend bt a fy secndz – loñ inuf t cnvins m h olso sw n rec̣gnîzd; bt it wz az f I hd bn lcñ at him fr yirz n hd noun him olwz. Smʈñ, hvr, hapnd ɖs tîm ɖt hd nt hapnd bfr; hiz stér intu mî fes, ʈru ɖ glas n acrs ɖ rūm, wz az dīp n hard az ɖen, bt it qitd m fr a momnt jrñ ẃć I cd stl woć it, si it fix s’xesivli sevṛl uɖr ʈñz. On ɖ spot ɖr cem t m ɖ add śoc v a srttyd ɖt it wz nt fr m h hd cm ɖr. H hd cm fr smwn els.

Ɖ flaś v ɖs nolij – fr it wz nolij in ɖ mdst v dred – pṛdyst in m ɖ most xtrordnri ifct, startd az I std ɖr, a sudn vîbreśn v dyti n curij. I se curij bcz I wz bynd ol dǎt olrdi far gn. I bǎndd stret ǎt v ɖ dor agn, rīćt ɖt v ɖ hǎs, got, in an instnt, upn ɖ drîv, n, pasñ alñ ɖ teris az fast az I cd ruś, trnd a cornr n cem fl in sît. Bt it wz in sît v nʈñ nǎ – mî vizitr hd vaniśt. I stopt, I olmst dropt, wɖ ɖ riyl rlif v ɖs; bt I tc in ɖ hol sīn – I gev him tîm t ri’pir. I cōl it tîm, bt hǎ loñ wz it? I c’nt spīc t ɖ prṗs tde v ɖ jreśn v ɖz ʈñz. Ɖt cnd v meźr mst hv left m: ɖe cd’nt hv lastd az ɖe acć̣li apird t m t last. Ɖ teris n ɖ hol ples, ɖ lōn n ɖ gardn bynd it, ol I cd si v ɖ parc, wr emti wɖ a gret emtinis. Ɖr wr śruḅriz n big triz, bt I rmembr ɖ clir aśuṛns I flt ɖt nn v ɖm cnsild him. H wz ɖr or wz nt ɖr: nt ɖr f I dd’nt si him. I got hold v ɖs; ɖen, instñtivli, instd v rtrnñ az I hd cm, wnt t ɖ windo. It wz cnfyzidli preznt t m ɖt I òt t ples mslf ẃr h hd std. I dd so; I aplaid mî fes t ɖ pein n lct, az h hd lct, intu ɖ rūm. Az f, at ɖs momnt, t śo m xacli ẃt hiz renj hd bn, Msz. Grǒs, az I hd dn fr himslf jst bfr, cem in fṛm ɖ hōl. Wɖ ɖs I hd ɖ fl imij v a reṗtiśn v ẃt hd olrdi ocŕd. Ś sw m az I hd sìn mî ǒn vizitnt; ś pld p śort az I hd dn; I gev hr smʈñ v ɖ śoc ɖt I hd rsivd. Ś trnd ẃît, n ɖs md m asc mslf f I hd blanćt az mć. Ś stérd, in śort, n rtritd on jst lînz, n I ń ś hd ɖen pást ǎt n cm rnd t m n ɖt I śd prezntli mīt hr. I rmend ẃr I wz, n ẃl I wêtd I ʈt v mor ʈñz ɖn wn. Bt ɖr’z onli wn I tec spes t mnśn. I wundrd ẃ ś śd b scerd.

___

V

Ǒ, ś let m nǒ az sn az, rnd ɖ cornr v ɖ hǎs, ś lūmd agn intu vy. “Ẃt in ɖ nem v gdnis z ɖ matr – ?” Ś wz nǎ fluśt n ǎt v breʈ.

I sd nʈñ tl ś cem qt nir. “Wɖ m?” I mst hv md a wundrfl fes. “D I śo it?”“Y’r az ẃît az a śīt. Y lc ōfl.”

I cnsidrd; I cd mīt on ɖs, wɖt scrūpl, eni iṇsns. Mî nīd t rspct ɖ blūm v Msz. Grǒs’z hd dropt, wɖt a rusl, fṛm mî śoldrz, n f I wevrd fr ɖ instnt it wz nt wɖ ẃt I cept bac. I pt ǎt mî hand t hr n ś tc it; I hld hr hard a litl, lîcñ t fīl hr clos t m. Ɖr wz a cnd v s’port in ɖ śî hīv v hr s’prîz. “Y cem fr m fr ćrć, v cors, bt I c’nt g.”

“Hz enʈñ hapnd?”

“Yes. Y mst nǒ nǎ. Dd I lc vri qir?”

“Ʈru ɖs windo? Dredfl!”

“Wel,” I sd, “I’v bn frîtnd.” Msz. Grǒs’z îz xprest plenli ɖt ś hd no wś t b, yt olso ɖt ś ń tù wel hr ples nt t b redi t śer wɖ m eni marct incnvińns. Ǒ, it wz qt setld ɖt ś mst śer! “Jst ẃt y sw fṛm ɖ dînñrūm a minit ago wz ɖ ifct v ɖt. Ẃt I sw – jst bfr – wz mć wrs.”

Hr hand tîtnd. “Ẃt wz it?”

“An xtrordnri man. Lcñ in.”

“Ẃt xtrordnri man?”

“I hv’nt ɖ līst îdīa.”

Msz. Grǒs gezd rnd s in ven. “Ɖen ẃr z h gn?”

“I nǒ stl les.”

“Hv y sìn him bfr?”

“Yes – wns. On ɖ old tǎr.”

Ś cd onli lc at m hardr. “D y mīn h’z a strenjr?”

“Ǒ, vri mć!”

“Yt y dd’nt tel m?”

“No – fr rīznz. Bt nǎ ɖt y’v gest – ”

Msz. Grǒs’z rǎnd îz incǎntrd ɖs ćarj. “Ā, I hv’nt gest!” ś sd vri simpli. “Hǎ cn I f y d’nt imajin?”

“I d’nt in ɖ vri līst.”

“Y’v sìn him nẃr bt on ɖ tǎr?”

“N on ɖs spot jst nǎ.”

Msz. Grǒs lct rnd agn. “Ẃt wz h dwñ on ɖ tǎr?”

“Onli standñ ɖr n lcñ dǎn at m.”

Ś ʈt a minit. “Wz h a jntlmn?”

I faund I hd no nīd t ʈnc. “No.” Ś gezd in dīpr wundr. “No.”

“Ɖen nbdi abt ɖ ples? Nbdi fṛm ɖ vilij?”

“Nbdi – nbdi. I dd’nt tel y, bt I md śr.”

Ś briɖd a veg rlif: ɖs wz, odli, so mć t ɖ gd. It onli wnt indd a litl we. “Bt f h z’nt a jntlmn – ”

“Ẃt z h? H’z a horr.”

“A horr?”

“H’z – God hlp m f I nǒ ẃt h z!”

Msz. Grǒs lct rnd wns mor; ś fixt hr îz on ɖ duscịr distns, ɖen, pŭlñ hrslf tgɖr, trnd t m wɖ abrupt inconsiqns. “It’s tîm w śd b at ćrć.”

“Ǒ, I’m nt fit fr ćrć!”

“W’nt it d y gd?”

“It w’nt d ɖm! –  I nodd at ɖ hǎs.

“Ɖ ćildṛn?”

“I c’nt līv ɖm nǎ.”

“Y’r afreid – ?”

I spouc boldli. “I’m afreid v him.”

Msz. Grǒs’z larj fes śoud m, at ɖs, fr ɖ frst tîm, ɖ far-awe fent glimr v a conśsnis mor akt: I smhǎ md ǎt in it ɖ dleid dōn v an îdīa I mslf hd nt gvn hr n ɖt wz az yt qt obskr t m. It cmz bac t m ɖt I ʈt instntli v ɖs az smʈñ I cd gt fṛm hr; n I flt it t b cnctd wɖ ɖ dzîr ś prezntli śoud t nǒ mor. “Ẃn wz it – on ɖ tǎr?”

“Abt ɖ midl v ɖ munʈ. At ɖs sem aur.”

“Olmst at darc,” sd Msz. Grǒs.

“Ǒ, no, nt nirli. I sw him az I si y.”

“Ɖen hǎ dd h gt in?”

“N hǎ dd h gt ǎt?” I laft. “I hd no oṗtyṇti t asc him! Ɖs īvnñ, y si,” I psyd, “h hz nt bn ebl t gt in.”

“H onli pīps?”

“I hop it wl b cnfînd t ɖt!” Ś hd nǎ let g mî hand; ś trnd awe a litl. I wêtd an instnt; ɖen I bròt ǎt: “G t ćrć. Gdbî. I mst woć.”

Slǒli ś fest m agn. “D y fir fr ɖm?”

W met in anɖr loñ lc. “D’nt y?” Instd v anṣrñ ś cem nirr t ɖ windo n, fr a minit, aplaid hr fes t ɖ glas. “Y si hǎ h cd si,” I mnẃl wnt on.

Ś dd’nt muv. “Hǎ loñ wz h hir?”

“Tl I cem ǎt. I cem t mīt him.”

Msz. Grǒs at last trnd rnd, n ɖr wz stl mor in hr fes. “I cd’nt hv cm ǎt.”

“Nɖr cd I!” I laft agn. “Bt I dd cm. I hv mî dyti.”

“So hv I mîn,” ś rplaid; aftr ẃć ś add: “Ẃt z h lîc?”

“I’v bn dayñ t tel y. Bt h’z lîc nbdi.”

“Nbdi?” ś ecoud.

“H hz no hat.” Ɖen siyñ in hr fes ɖt ś olrdi, in ɖs, wɖ a dīpr dsme, faund a tuć v picćr, I qcli add stroc t stroc. “H hz red her, vri red, clos-crlñ, n a pel fes, loñ in śep, wɖ stret, gd fīćrz n litl, rɖr qir ẃiscrz ɖt r az red az hiz her. Hiz îbrǎz r, smhǎ, darcr; ɖe lc ptiklrli arćt n az f ɖe mt muv a gd dīl. Hiz îz r śarp, strenj – ōf̣li; bt I onli nǒ clirli ɖt ɖ’r rɖr smōl n vri fixt. Hiz mǎʈ’z wîd, n hiz lips r ʈin, n xpt fr hiz litl ẃiscrz h’z qt clīn-śevn. H gvz m a sort v sns v lcñ lîc an actr.”

“An actr!” It wz imposbl t rzmbl wn les, at līst, ɖn Msz. Grǒs at ɖt momnt.

“I’v nvr sìn wn, bt so I s’poz ɖm. H’z tōl, activ, irect,” I cntinyd, “bt nvr – no, nvr! – a jntlmn.”

Mî cmpańn’z fes hd blanćt az I wnt on; hr rǎnd îz startd n hr mîld mǎʈ gept. “A jntlmn?” ś gaspt, cnfǎndd, styṗfaid: “a jntlmn h?

“Y nǒ him ɖen?”

Ś viẓbli traid t hold hrslf. “Bt h z hansm?”

I sw ɖ we t hlp hr. “Rmarcbli!”

“N drest – ?”

“In smbdi’z cloɖz.” “Ɖ’r smart, bt ɖ’r nt hiz ǒn.”

Ś brouc intu a breʈlis afrṃtiv gron: “Ɖ’r ɖ mastr’z!”

I còt it p. “Y d nǒ him?”

Ś fōltrd bt a secnd. “Qint!” ś craid.

“Qint?”

“Pītr Qint – hiz ǒn man, hiz vale, ẃn h wz hir!”

“Ẃn ɖ mastr wz?”

Gepñ stl, bt mītñ m, ś pìst it ol tgɖr. “H nvr wòr hiz hat, bt h dd wer – wel, ɖr wr weistcots míst. Ɖe wr bʈ hir – last yir. Ɖen ɖ mastr wnt, n Qint wz alon.”

I foloud, bt hōltñ a litl. “Alon?”

“Alon wɖ s.” Ɖen, az fṛm a dīpr depʈ, “In ćarj,” ś add.

“N ẃt bcem v him?”

Ś huñ fîr so loñ ɖt I wz stl mor misṭfaid. “H wnt, tù,” ś bròt ǎt at last.

“Wnt ẃr?”

Hr xpreśn, at ɖs, bcem xtrordnri. “God nz ẃr! H daid.”

“Daid?” I olmst śrīct.

Ś sīmd ferli t sqer hrslf, plant hrslf mor frmli t utr ɖ wundr v it. “Yes. Mr. Qint z ded.”

___

VI

It tc v cors mor ɖn ɖt ptiklr pasij t ples s tgɖr in prezns v ẃt w hd nǎ t liv wɖ az w cd – mî dredfl lạbiḷti t impreśnz v ɖ ordr so vividli xmpḷfaid, n mî cmpańn’z nolij, hnsfʈ – a nolij haf consṭneśn n haf cmpaśn – v ɖt lạbiḷti. Ɖr hd bn, ɖs īvnñ, aftr ɖ reṿleśn left m, fr an aur, so pṛstret – ɖr hd bn, fr îɖr v s, no atndns on eni srvis bt a litl srvis v tirz n vǎz, v prerz n proṃsz, a clîmax t ɖ siriz v ḿćl ćaḷnjz n plejz ɖt hd stretwe insyd on ǎr rtritñ tgɖr t ɖ scūlrūm n śutñ ǎrslvz p ɖr t hv evrʈñ ǎt. Ɖ rzult v ǎr hvñ evrʈñ ǎt wz simpli t rdys ǎr sićueśn t ɖ last rigr v its elimnts. Ś hrslf hd sìn nʈñ, nt ɖ śado v a śado, n nbdi in ɖ hǎs bt ɖ guṿnes wz in ɖ guṿnes’z plît; yt ś axptd wɖt d’recli impynñ mî saṇti ɖ truʈ az I gev it t hr, n endd bî śowñ m, on ɖs grǎnd, an ōstricn tndrnis, an xpreśn v ɖ sns v mî mor ɖn qsćṇbl priṿlij, v ẃć ɖ vri breʈ hz rmend wɖ m az ɖt v ɖ swītist v hymn ćaṛtiz.

Ẃt wz setld btwn s, acordñli, ɖt nît, wz ɖt w ʈt w mt ber ʈñz tgɖr; n I wz nt īvn śr ɖt, in spît v hr xmśn, it wz ś hu hd ɖ bst v ɖ brdn. I ń at ɖs aur, I ʈnc, az wel az I ń lêtr, ẃt I wz ceṗbl v mītñ t śltr mî pyplz; bt it tc m sm tîm t b hoļi śr v ẃt mî onist alî wz priperd fr t cīp trmz wɖ so compṛmîzñ a contract. I wz qir cumṗni inuf – qt az qir az ɖ cumṗni I rsivd; bt az I tres ovr ẃt w wnt ʈru I si hǎ mć comn grǎnd w mst hv faund in ɖ wn îdīa ɖt, bî gd fortyn, cd stedi s. It wz ɖ îdīa, ɖ secnd muvmnt, ɖt léd m stret ǎt, az I me se, v ɖ inr ćembr v mî dred. I cd tec ɖ er in ɖ cort, at līst, n ɖr Msz. Grǒs cd jôn m. Prf̣cli cn I rcōl nǎ ɖ ptiklr we streñʈ cem t m bfr w seṗretd fr ɖ nît. W hd gn ovr n ovr evri fīćr v ẃt I hd sìn.“H wz lcñ fr smwn els, y se – smwn hu wz nt y?”

“H wz lcñ fr litl Mîlz.” A portnṭs clirnis nǎ pzest m. “Ɖt’s hūm h wz lcñ fr.”

“Bt hǎ d y nǒ?”

“I nǒ, I nǒ, I nǒ!” Mî xlteśn grù. “N y nǒ, mî dir!”

Ś dd’nt dnî ɖs, bt I rqîrd, I flt, nt īvn so mć telñ az ɖt. Ś rzymd in a momnt, at eni ret: “Ẃt f h śd si him?”

“Litl Mîlz? Ɖt’s ẃt h wonts!”

Ś lct imnsli scerd agn. “Ɖ ćîld?”

“Hevn fbid! Ɖ man. H wonts t apir t ɖm.” Ɖt h mt wz an ōfl cnspśn, n yt, smhǎ, I cd cīp it at be; ẃć, morovr, az w lingrd ɖr, wz ẃt I s’xidd in practicli pruvñ. I hd an abṣlut srtnti ɖt I śd si agn ẃt I hd olrdi sìn, bt smʈñ wɖn m sd ɖt bî of̣rñ mslf brevli az ɖ sol subjict v sć xpirịns, bî axptñ, bî invîtñ, bî smǎntñ it ol, I śd srv az an xpietri victim n gard ɖ tranqiḷti v mî cmpańnz. Ɖ ćildṛn, in ispeśl, I śd ɖus fns abt n abṣlutli sev. I rcōl wn v ɖ last ʈñz I sd ɖt nît t Msz. Grǒs.

“It dz strîc m ɖt mî pyplz hv nvr mnśnd – ”

Ś lct at m hard az I ḿzñli pld p. “Hiz hvñ bn hir n ɖ tîm ɖe wr wɖ him?”

“Ɖ tîm ɖe wr wɖ him, n hiz nem, hiz prezns, hiz hisṭri, in eni we.”

“Ǒ, ɖ litl ledi dz’nt rmembr. Ś nvr hŕd or ń.”

“Ɖ srcmstansz v hiz deʈ?” I ʈt wɖ sm intnṣti. “Phps nt. Bt Mîlz wd rmembr – Mîlz wd nǒ.”

“Ā, d’nt trî him!” brouc fṛm Msz. Grǒs.

I rtrnd hr ɖ lc ś hd gvn m. “D’nt b afreid.” I cntinyd t ʈnc. “It z rɖr od.”

“Ɖt h hz nvr spocn v him?”

“Nvr bî ɖ līst aluźn. N y tel m ɖe wr ‘gret frendz’?”

“Ǒ, it wz’nt him!” Msz. Grǒs wɖ emf̣sis dclerd. “It wz Qint’s ǒn fansi. T ple wɖ him, I mīn – t spôl him.” Ś pōzd a momnt; ɖen ś add: “Qint wz mć tù fri.”

Ɖs gev m, stret fṛm mî viźn v hiz fes – a fes! – a sudn sicnis v dsgust. “Tù fri wɖ bô?”

“Tù fri wɖ evrwn!”

I forbòr, fr ɖ momnt, t aṇlîz ɖs dscripśn frɖr ɖn bî ɖ rflex́n ɖt a part v it aplaid t sevṛl v ɖ membrz v ɖ hǎshold, v ɖ haf-duzn meidz n men hu wr stl v ǎr smōl coḷni. Bt ɖr wz evrʈñ, fr ǎr aprihnśn, in ɖ luci fact ɖt no dscumf̣tbl lejnd, no prtbeśn v scułnz, hd evr, wɖn enwn’z meṃri ataćt t ɖ cînd old ples. It hd nɖr bad nem nr il fem, n Msz. Grǒs, most apaṛntli, onli dzîrd t clñ t m n t qec in sîḷns. I īvn pt hr, ɖ vri last ʈñ v ol, t ɖ tst. It wz ẃn, at midnît, ś hd hr hand on ɖ scūlrūm dor t tec līv. “I hv it fṛm y ɖen – fr it’s v gret importns – ɖt h wz defiṇtli n admitidli bad?”

“Ǒ, nt admitidli. I ń it – bt ɖ mastr dd’nt.”

“N y nvr tld him?”

“Wel, h dd’nt lîc têlbẹrñ – h hetd cmplents. H wz teṛbli śort wɖ enʈñ v ɖt cnd, n f ppl wr ol rît t him – ”

“H wd’nt b boɖrd wɖ mor?” Ɖs sqerd wel inuf wɖ mî impreśnz v him: h wz nt a trubl-luvñ jntlmn, nr so vri ptiklr phps abt sm v ɖ cumṗni h cept. Ol ɖ sem, I prest mî inṭloktris. “I promis y I wd hv tld!”

Ś flt mî dscriṃneśn. “I der se I wz roñ. Bt, riyli, I wz afreid.”

“Afreid v ẃt?”

“V ʈñz ɖt man cd d. Qint wz so clevr – h wz so dīp.”

I tc ɖs in stl mor ɖn, probbli, I śoud. “Y wr’nt afreid v enʈñ els? Nt v hiz ifct – ?”

“Hiz ifct?” ś rpitd wɖ a fes v anḡś n wêtñ ẃl I fōltrd.

“On iṇsnt litl preśs lîvz. Ɖe wr in yr ćarj.”

“No, ɖe wr nt in mîn!” ś rǎndli n dstresf̣li rtrnd. “Ɖ mastr b’livd in him n plest him hir bcz h wz s’pozd nt t b wel n ɖ cuntri er so gd fr him. So h hd evrʈñ t se. Yes” – ś let m hv it – “īvn abt ɖm.”

“Ɖm – ɖt crīćr?” I hd t smuɖr a cnd v hǎl. “N y cd ber it!”

“No. I cd’nt – n I c’nt nǎ!” N ɖ pur wmn brst intu tirz.

A rijid cntrol, fṛm ɖ nxt de, wz, az I hv sd, t folo ɖm; yt hǎ ofn n hǎ paśṇtli, fr a wīc, w cem bac tgɖr t ɖ subjict! Mć az w hd dscust it ɖt Súnde nît, I wz, in ɖ imīɉt lêtr aurz in ispeśl – fr it me b imajind ẃɖr I slept – stl hōntd wɖ ɖ śado v smʈñ ś hd nt tld m. I mslf hd cept bac nʈñ, bt ɖr wz a wrd Msz. Grǒs hd cept bac. I wz śr, morovr, bî mornñ, ɖt ɖs wz nt fṛm a fełr v francnis, bt bcz on evri sîd ɖr wr firz. It sīmz t m indd, in retṛspect, ɖt bî ɖ tîm ɖ moro’z sún wz hî I hd restlisli réd intu ɖ fact bfr s olmst ol ɖ mīnñ ɖe wr t rsiv fṛm subsiqnt n mor cruwl ocuṛnsiz. Ẃt ɖe gev m abv ol wz jst ɖ sinistr figr v ɖ livñ man – ɖ ded wn wd cīp aẃl! – n v ɖ munʈs h hd cntinẏsli pást at Blai, ẃć, add p, md a formiḍbl streć. Ɖ limit v ɖs īvl tîm hd arîvd onli ẃn, on ɖ dōn v a wintr’z mornñ, Pītr Qint wz faund, bî a lebrr gwñ t rli wrc, ston ded on ɖ rod fṛm ɖ vilij: a ctastṛfi xplend – sūṗfiṣ́li at līst – bî a viẓbl wūnd t hiz hed; sć a wūnd az mt hv bn pṛdyst – n az, on ɖ fînl evidns, hd bn – bî a fetl slip, in ɖ darc n aftr līvñ ɖ public hǎs, on ɖ stīpiś îsi slǒp, a roñ paʈ oltgɖr, at ɖ botm v ẃć h le. Ɖ îsi slǒp, ɖ trn mstecn at nît n in lícr, acǎntd fr mć – practicli, in ɖ end n aftr ɖ inqest n bǎndlis ćatr, fr evrʈñ; bt ɖr hd bn matrz in hiz lîf – strenj paṣjz n perilz, sīcrit dsordrz, vîsz mor ɖn sspctd – ɖt wd hv acǎntd fr a gd dīl mor.

I scers nǒ hǎ t pt mî stori intu wrdz ɖt śl b a creḍbl picćr v mî stet v mînd; bt I wz in ɖz dez litṛli ebl t fînd a jô in ɖ xtrordnri flît v herǒizm ɖ oceźn dmandd v m. I nǎ sw ɖt I hd bn asct fr a srvis admṛbl n dificlt; n ɖr wd b a gretnis in letñ it b sìn – ǒ, in ɖ rît qortr! – ɖt I cd s’xid ẃr mni anɖr grl mt hv feld. It wz an imns hlp t m – I cnfes I rɖr aplōd mslf az I lc bac! – ɖt I sw mî srvis so stroñli n so simpli. I wz ɖr t pṛtct n dfnd ɖ litl crīćrz in ɖ wrld ɖ most b’rivd n ɖ most luṿbl, ɖ apil v huz hlplisnis hd sudnli bcm onli tù xplisit, a dīp, constnt ec v wn’z ǒn cmitd hart. W wr cut of, riyli, tgɖr; w wr ynîtd in ǎr denjr. Ɖe hd nʈñ bt m, n I – wel, I hd ɖm. It wz in śort a mgnifisnt ćans. Ɖs ćans prizntd itslf t m in an imij rićli mtirịl. I wz a scrīn – I wz t stand bfr ɖm. Ɖ mor I sw, ɖ les ɖe wd. I bgan t woć ɖm in a stîfld sspns, a dsgîzd xîtmnt ɖt mt wel, hd it cntinyd tù loñ, hv trnd t smʈñ lîc madnis. Ẃt sevd m, az I nǎ si, wz ɖt it trnd t smʈñ els oltgɖr. It dd’nt last az sspns – it wz sūṗsidd bî hoṛbl prūfs. Prūfs, I se, yes – fṛm ɖ momnt I riyli tc hold.

Ɖs momnt detd fṛm an afṭnun-aur ɖt I hapnd t spend in ɖ grǎndz wɖ ɖ yungr v mî pyplz alon. W hd left Mîlz indorz, on ɖ red cŭśn v a dīp windosīt; h hd wśt t finiś a bc, n I hd bn glad t incurij a prṗs so lōdbl in a yuñ man huz onli dīfect wz an oceźnl xes v ɖ restlis. Hiz sistr, on ɖ contrri, hd bn alrt t cm ǎt, n I strold wɖ hr haf an aur, sīcñ ɖ śêd, fr ɖ sún wz stl hî n ɖ de xpśṇli worm. I wz awer afreś, wɖ hr, az w wnt, v hǎ, lîc hr bruɖr, ś cntrîvd – it wz ɖ ćarmñ ʈñ in bʈ ćildṛn – t let m alon wɖt apirñ t drop m n t acumṗni m wɖt apirñ t srǎnd. Ɖe wr nvr imporćṇt n yt nvr listlis. Mî atnśn t ɖm ol riyli wnt t siyñ ɖm aḿz ɖmslvz imnsli wɖt m: ɖs wz a specṭcl ɖe sīmd activli t priper n ɖt ingejd m az an activ admîrr. I wōct in a wrld v ɖer invnśn – ɖe hd no oceźn ẃtvr t drw upn mîn; so ɖt mî tîm wz tecn onli wɖ biyñ, fr ɖm, sm rmarcbl prsn or ʈñ ɖt ɖ gem v ɖ momnt rqîrd n ɖt wz mirli, ʈancs t mî s’pirịr, mî xōltd stamp, a hapi n hîli dstnḡśt siṇkr. I fget ẃt I wz on ɖ preznt oceźn; I onli rmembr ɖt I wz smʈñ vri importnt n vri qayt n ɖt Flora wz pleyñ vri hard. W wr on ɖ éj v ɖ lec, n, az w hd lêtli bgun jiogṛfi, ɖ lec wz ɖ Sì v Azof.

Sudnli, in ɖz srcmstansz, I bcem awer ɖt, on ɖ uɖr sîd v ɖ Sì v Azof, w hd an inṭrestd spectetr. Ɖ we ɖs nolij gaɖrd in m wz ɖ strenjist ʈñ in ɖ wrld – ɖ strenjist, ɖt z, xpt ɖ vri mć strenjr in ẃć it qcli mrjd itslf. I hd sat dǎn wɖ a pìs v wrc – fr I wz smʈñ or uɖr ɖt cd sit – on ɖ old ston bnć ẃć oṿlct ɖ pond; n in ɖs pziśn I bgan t tec in wɖ srttyd, n yt wɖt d’rect viźn, ɖ prezns, at a distns, v a ʈrd prsn. Ɖ old triz, ɖ ʈic śruḅri, md a gret n pleznt śêd, bt it wz ol s’fyzd wɖ ɖ brîtnis v ɖ hot, stil aur. Ɖr wz no amḅgywti in enʈñ; nn ẃtvr, at līst, in ɖ cnvix́n I fṛm wn momnt t anɖr faund mslf formñ az t ẃt I śd si stret bfr m n acrs ɖ lec az a consiqns v rezñ mî îz. Ɖe wr ataćt at ɖs juñćr t ɖ stićñ in ẃć I wz ingejd, n I cn fīl wns mor ɖ spazm v mî ef̣t nt t muv ɖm tl I śd so hv stedid mslf az t b ebl t mc p mî mînd ẃt t d. Ɖr wz an ełn objict in vy – a figr huz rît v prezns I instntli, paśṇtli qsćnd. I rec̣lect cǎntñ ovr prf̣cli ɖ posbiḷtiz, rmîndñ mslf ɖt nʈñ wz mor naćṛl, fr instns, ɖen ɖ apiṛns v wn v ɖ men abt ɖ ples, or īvn v a mesinjr, a postmn, or a tredzmn’z bô, fṛm ɖ vilij. Ɖt rmîndr hd az litl ifct on mî practicl srttyd az I wz conśs – stl īvn wɖt lcñ – v its hvñ upn ɖ caṛctr n attyd v ǎr vizitr. Nʈñ wz mor naćṛl ɖn ɖt ɖz ʈñz śd b ɖ uɖr ʈñz ɖt ɖe abṣlutli wr nt.

V ɖ poẓtiv îdntti v ɖ aṗriśn I wd aśur mslf az sn az ɖ smōl cloc v mî curij śd hv tict ǎt ɖ rît secnd; mnẃl, wɖ an ef̣t ɖt wz olrdi śarp inuf, I trnsfŕd mî îz stret t litl Flora, hu, at ɖ momnt, wz abt ten yardz awe. Mî hart hd std stil fr an instnt wɖ ɖ wundr n terr v ɖ qsćn ẃɖr ś tù wd si; n I hld mî breʈ ẃl I wêtd fr ẃt a crî fṛm hr, ẃt sm sudn iṇsnt sîn îɖr v inṭrest or v alarm, wd tel m. I wêtd, bt nʈñ cem; ɖen, in ɖ frst ples – n ɖr z smʈñ mor dîr in ɖs, I fīl, ɖn in enʈñ I hv t rlet – I wz dtrmind bî a sns ɖt, wɖn a minit, ol sǎndz fṛm hr hd prīvịsli dropt; n, in ɖ secnd, bî ɖ srcmstans ɖt, olso wɖn ɖ minit, ś hd, in hr ple, trnd hr bac t ɖ wōtr. Ɖs wz hr attyd ẃn I at last lct at hr – lct wɖ ɖ cnfrmd cnvix́n ɖt w wr stl, tgɖr, undr d’rect prsnl notis. Ś hd pict p a smōl flat pìs v wŭd, ẃć hapnd t hv in it a litl houl ɖt hd evidntli sjstd t hr ɖ îdīa v sticñ in anɖr fragmnt ɖt mt figr az a māst n mc ɖ ʈñ a bot. Ɖs secnd morsl, az I woćt hr, ś wz vri marcidli n intntli atmtñ t tîtn in its ples. Mî aprihnśn v ẃt ś wz dwñ sstend m so ɖt aftr sm secndz I flt I wz redi fr mor. Ɖen I agn śiftd mî îz – I fest ẃt I hd t fes.

___

VII

I  got hold v Msz. Grǒs az sn aftr ɖs az I cd; n I cn gv no inteliɉbl acǎnt v hǎ I fòt ǎt ɖ inṭvl. Yt I stl hír mslf crî az I ferli ʈrù mslf intu hr armz: “Ɖe – it’s tù monstṛs: ɖe nǒ, ɖe nǒ!”

“N ẃt on rʈ – ?” I flt hr incṛdyḷti az ś hld m.“Ẃ, ol ɖt w nǒ – n hevn nz ẃt els bsdz!” Ɖen, az ś rlist m, I md it ǎt t hr, md it ǎt phps onli nǎ wɖ fl chiṛnsi īvn t mslf. “Tū aurz ago, in ɖ gardn” – I cd scers artikḷt – “Flora sw!

Msz. Grǒs tc it az ś mt hv tecn a blo in ɖ stuṃc. “Ś hz tld y?” ś pantd.

“Nt a wrd – ɖt’s ɖ horr. Ś cept it t hrslf! Ɖ ćîld v et, ɖt ćîld!” Unutṛbl stl, fr m, wz ɖ styṗfax́n v it.

Msz. Grǒs, v cors, cd onli gep ɖ wîdr. “Ɖen hǎ d y nǒ?”

“I wz ɖr – I sw wɖ mî îz: sw ɖt ś wz prf̣cli awer.”

“D y mīn awer v him?

“No – v hr.” I wz conśs az I spouc ɖt I lct pṛdijs ʈñz, fr I got ɖ slo rflex́n v ɖm in mî cmpańn’z fes. “Anɖr prsn – ɖs tîm; bt a figr v qt az unmistecbl horr n īvl: a wmn in blac, pel n dredfl – wɖ sć an er olso, n sć a fes! – on ɖ uɖr sîd v ɖ lec. I wz ɖr wɖ ɖ ćîld – qayt fr ɖ aur; n in ɖ mdst v it ś cem.”

“Cem hǎ – fṛm ẃr?”

“Fṛm ẃr ɖe cm fṛm! Ś jst apird n std ɖr – bt nt so nir.”

“N wɖt cmñ nirr?”

“Ǒ, fr ɖ ifct n ɖ fīlñ, ś mt hv bn az clos az y!”

Mî frend, wɖ an od impuls, fél bac a step. “Wz ś smwn y’v nvr sìn?”

“Yes. Bt smwn ɖ ćîld hz. Smwn y hv.” Ɖen, t śo hǎ I hd ʈt it ol ǎt: “Mî prīdisesr – ɖ wn hu daid.”

“Mis Jesl?”

“Mis Jesl. Y d’nt b’liv m?” I prest.

Ś trnd rît n left in hr dstres. “Hǎ cn y b śr?”

Ɖs drù fṛm m, in ɖ stet v mî nrvz, a flaś v impeśns. “Ɖen asc Flora – ś’z śr!” Bt I hd no snr spocn ɖn I còt mslf p. “No, fr God’z sec, d’nt! Ś’l se ś z’nt – ś’l lai!”

Msz. Grǒs wz nt tù bwildrd instñtivli t pṛtst. “Ā, hǎ cn y?”

“Bcz I’m clir. Flora dz’nt wont m t nǒ.”

“It’s onli ɖen t sper y.”

“No, no – ɖr r depʈs, depʈs! Ɖ mor I g ovr it, ɖ mor I si in it, n ɖ mor I si in it, ɖ mor I fir. I d’nt nǒ ẃt I d’nt si – ẃt I d’nt fir!”

Msz. Grǒs traid t cīp p wɖ m. “Y mīn y’r afreid v siyñ hr agn?”

“Ǒ, no; ɖt’s nʈñ – nǎ!” Ɖen I xplend. “It’s v nt siyñ hr.”

Bt mî cmpańn onli lct won. “I d’nt unḍstand y.”

“Ẃ, it’s ɖt ɖ ćîld me cīp it p – n ɖt ɖ ćîld aśuridli wl – wɖt mî nwñ it.”

At ɖ imij v ɖs posbiḷti Msz. Grǒs fr a momnt c’lapst, yt prezntli t pl hrslf tgɖr agn, az f fṛm ɖ poẓtiv fors v ɖ sns v ẃt, śd w yīld an inć, ɖr wd riyli b t gv we t. “Dir, dir – w mst cīp ǎr hedz! N aftr ol, f ś dz’nt mînd it – !” Ś īvn traid a grim joc. “Phps ś lîcs it!”

“Lîcs ʈñz – a scrap v an inf̣nt!”

“Z’nt it jst a prūf v hr blesid iṇsns?” mî frend brevli inqîrd.

Ś bròt m, fr ɖ instnt, olmst rnd. “Ǒ, w mst cluć at ɖt – w mst clñ t it! F it z’nt a prūf v ẃt y se, it’s a prūf v – God nz ẃt! Fr ɖ wmn’z a horr v horrz.”

Msz. Grǒs, at ɖs, fixt hr îz a minit on ɖ grǎnd; ɖen at last rezñ ɖm, “Tel m hǎ y nǒ,” ś sd.

“Ɖen y admit it’s ẃt ś wz?” I craid.

“Tel m hǎ y nǒ,” mî frend simpli rpitd.

“Nǒ? Bî siyñ hr! Bî ɖ we ś lct.”

“At y, d y mīn – so wicidli?”

“Dir m, no – I cd hv bòrn ɖt. Ś gev m nvr a glans. Ś onli fixt ɖ ćîld.”

Msz. Grǒs traid t si it. “Fixt hr?”

“Ā, wɖ sć ōfl îz!”

Ś stérd at mîn az f ɖe mt riyli hv rzmbld ɖm. “D y mīn v dslîc?”

“God hlp s, no. V smʈñ mć wrs.”

“Wrs ɖn dslîc?” – ɖs left hr indd at a los.

“Wɖ a dtrṃneśn – indiscrîbbl. Wɖ a cnd v fyri v intnśn.”

I md hr trn pel. “Intnśn?”

“T gt hold v hr.” Msz. Grǒs – hr îz jst linġrñ on mîn – gev a śudr n wōct t ɖ windo; n ẃl ś std ɖr lcñ ǎt I cmplitd mî stetmnt. “Ɖt’s ẃt Flora nz.”

Aftr a litl ś trnd rnd. “Ɖ prsn wz in blac, y se?”

“In mōrnñ – rɖr pur, olmst śabi. Bt – yes – wɖ xtrordnri byti.” I nǎ rec̣gnîzd t ẃt I hd at last, stroc bî stroc, bròt ɖ victim v mî confidns, fr ś qt viẓbli weid ɖs. “Ǒ, hansm – vri, vri,” I insistd; “wundrf̣li hansm. Bt infṃs.”

Ś slǒli cem bac t m. “Mis Jesl – wz infṃs.” Ś wns mor tc mî hand in bʈ hr ǒn, holdñ it az tît az f t forṭfî m agnst ɖ incris v alarm I mt drw fṛm ɖs dscloźr. “Ɖe wr bʈ infṃs,” ś fîṇli sd.

So, fr a litl, w fest it wns mor tgɖr; n I faund abṣlutli a dgri v hlp in siyñ it nǎ so stret. “I aprīśiet,” I sd, “ɖ gret dīsnsi v yr nt hvñ hiɖrtu spocn; bt ɖ tîm hz srtnli cm t gv m ɖ hol ʈñ.” Ś apird t asnt t ɖs, bt stl onli in sîḷns; siyñ ẃć I wnt on: “I mst hv it nǎ. V ẃt dd ś dî? Cm, ɖr wz smʈñ btwn ɖm.”

“Ɖr wz evrʈñ.”

“In spît v ɖ difṛns – ?”

“Ǒ, v ɖer ranc, ɖer cndiśn” – ś bròt it wǒf̣li ǎt. “Ś wz a ledi.”

I trnd it ovr; I agn sw. “Yes – ś wz a ledi.”

“N h so dredf̣li b’lo,” sd Msz. Grǒs.

I flt ɖt I dǎtlis nīd’nt pres tù hard, in sć cumṗni, on ɖ ples v a srvnt in ɖ scel; bt ɖr wz nʈñ t privnt an axptns v mî cmpańn’z ǒn meźr v mî prīdisesr’z abesmnt. Ɖr wz a we t dīl wɖ ɖt, n I dlt; ɖ mor reḍli fr mî fl viźn – on ɖ evidns – v ǎr imployr’z lêt clevr, gd-lcñ “ǒn” man; impydnt, aśurd, spôld, dprevd. “Ɖ felo wz a hǎnd.”

Msz. Grǒs cnsidrd az f it wr phps a litl a ces fr a sns v śêdz. “I’v nvr sìn wn lîc him. H dd ẃt h wśt.”

“Wɖ hr?

“Wɖ ɖm ol.”

It wz az f nǎ in mî frend’z ǒn îz Mis Jesl hd agn apird. I sīmd at eni ret, fr an instnt, t si ɖer evceśn v hr az dstñtli az I hd sìn hr bî ɖ pond; n I bròt ǎt wɖ dsiźn: “It mst hv bn olso ẃt ś wśt!”

Msz. Grǒs’z fes sigṇfaid ɖt it hd bn indd, bt ś sd at ɖ sem tîm: “Pur wmn – ś peid fr it!”

“Ɖen y d nǒ ẃt ś daid v?” I asct.

“No – I nǒ nʈñ. I wontd nt t nǒ; I wz glad inuf I dd’nt; n I ʈanct hevn ś wz wel ǎt v ɖs!”

“Yt y hd, ɖen, yr îdīa – ”

“V hr riyl rīzn fr līvñ? Ǒ, yes – az t ɖt. Ś cd’nt hv steid. Fansi it hir – fr a guṿnes! N afṭwd I imajind – n I stl imajin. N ẃt I imajin z dredfl.”

“Nt so dredfl az ẃt I d,” I rplaid; on ẃć I mst hv śoun hr – az I wz indd bt tù conśs – a frunt v mizṛbl dfit. It bròt ǎt agn ol hr cmpaśn fr m, n at ɖ rnyd tuć v hr cîndnis mî pǎr t rzist brouc dǎn. I brst, az I hd, ɖ uɖr tîm, md hr brst, intu tirz; ś tc m t hr muɖrli brest, n mî lamnteśn oṿfloud. “I d’nt d it!” I sobd in dsper; “I d’nt sev or śīld ɖm! It’s far wrs ɖn I drīmd – ɖ’r lost!”

___

VIII

Ẃt I hd sd t Msz. Grǒs wz tru inuf: ɖr wr in ɖ matr I hd pt bfr hr depʈs n posbiḷtiz ɖt I lact reẓluśn t sǎnd; so ɖt ẃn w met wns mor in ɖ wundr v it w wr v a comn mînd abt ɖ dyti v rzistns t xtraṿgnt fansiz. W wr t cīp ǎr hedz f w śd cīp nʈñ els – dificlt indd az ɖt mt b in ɖ fes v ẃt, in ǎr pṛdijs xpirịns, wz līst t b qsćnd. Lêt ɖt nît, ẃl ɖ hǎs slept, w hd anɖr tōc in mî rūm, ẃn ś wnt ol ɖ we wɖ m az t its biyñ bynd dǎt ɖt I hd sìn xacli ẃt I hd sìn. T hold hr prf̣cli in ɖ pinć v ɖt, I faund I hd onli t asc hr hǎ, f I hd “md it p,” I cem t b ebl t gv, v ć v ɖ prsnz apirñ t m, a picćr dsclozñ, t ɖ last dītel, ɖer speśl marcs – a portrit on ɖ xbiśn v ẃć ś hd instntli rec̣gnîzd n nemd ɖm. Ś wśt v cors – smōl blem t hr! – t snc ɖ hol subjict; n I wz qc t aśur hr ɖt mî ǒn inṭrest in it hd nǎ vayḷntli tecn ɖ form v a srć fr ɖ we t iscep fṛm it. I incǎntrd hr on ɖ grǎnd v a probbiḷti ɖt wɖ rcuṛns – fr rcuṛns w tc fr grantd – I śd gt yst t mî denjr, dstñtli pṛfesñ ɖt mî prsnl xpoźr hd sudnli bcm ɖ līst v mî dscumf̣ts. It wz mî ny sspiśn ɖt wz intolṛbl; n yt īvn t ɖs compḷceśn ɖ lêtr aurz v ɖ de hd bròt a litl īz.

On līvñ hr, aftr mî frst ǎtbrec, I hd v cors rtrnd t mî pyplz, asośietñ ɖ rît reṃdi fr mî dsme wɖ ɖt sns v ɖer ćarm ẃć I hd olrdi faund t b a ʈñ I cd poztivli culṭvet n ẃć hd nvr feld m yt. I hd simpli, in uɖr wrdz, plunjd afreś intu Flora’z speśl ssayti n ɖr bcm awer – it wz olmst a lux̣́ri! – ɖt ś cd pt hr litl conśs hand stret upn ɖ spot ɖt ect. Ś hd lct at m in swīt spekleśn n ɖen hd akzd m t mî fes v hvñ “craid.” I hd s’pozd I hd bruśt awe ɖ ugli sînz: bt I cd litṛli – fr ɖ tîm, at ol ivnts – rjôs, undr ɖs faɖmlis ćaṛti, ɖt ɖe hd nt intîrli dis’pird. T gêz intu ɖ depʈs v blu v ɖ ćîld’z îz n pṛnǎns ɖer luvlinis a tric v preṃtyr cunñ wz t b gilti v a siṇsizm in prefṛns t ẃć I naćṛli prifŕd t abjur mî jujmnt n, so far az mt b, mî ajteśn. I cd’nt abjur fr mirli wontñ t, bt I cd rpit t Msz. Grǒs – az I dd ɖr, ovr n ovr, in ɖ smōl aurz – ɖt wɖ ɖer vôsz in ɖ er, ɖer preśr on wn’z hart, n ɖer fregṛnt fesz agnst wn’z ćīc, evrʈñ fél t ɖ grǎnd bt ɖer inc̣paṣti n ɖer byti. It wz a piti ɖt, smhǎ, t setl ɖs wns fr ol, I hd īqli t riińṃret ɖ sînz v sutlti ɖt, in ɖ afṭnun, bî ɖ lec hd md a miṛcl v mî śo v slfpześn. It wz a piti t b oblîjd t riinvstget ɖ srttyd v ɖ momnt itslf n rpit hǎ it hd cm t m az a reṿleśn ɖt ɖ incnsiṿbl cḿńn I ɖen s’prîzd wz a matr, fr îɖr parti, v habit. It wz a piti ɖt I śd hv hd t qevr ǎt agn ɖ rīznz fr mî nt hvñ, in mî dluźn, so mć az qsćnd ɖt ɖ litl grl sw ǎr vizitnt īvn az I acć̣li sw Msz. Grǒs hrslf, n ɖt ś wontd, bî jst so mć az ś dd ɖus si, t mc m s’poz ś dd’nt, n at ɖ sem tîm, wɖt śowñ enʈñ, arîv at a ges az t ẃɖr I mslf dd! It wz a piti ɖt I nīdd wns mor t dscrîb ɖ portnṭs litl activti bî ẃć ś sòt t dvrt mî atnśn – ɖ psptbl incris v muvmnt, ɖ gretr intnṣti v ple, ɖ sññ, ɖ gaḅlñ v nonsns, n ɖ invteśn t romp.Yt f I hd nt induljd, t pruv ɖr wz nʈñ in it, in ɖs rvy, I śd hv míst ɖ tū or ʈri dim elimnts v cumf̣t ɖt stl rmend t m. I śd nt fr instns hv bn ebl t aseṿret t mî frend ɖt I wz srtn – ẃć wz so mć t ɖ gd – ɖt I at līst hd nt btreid mslf. I śd nt hv bn promtd, bî stres v nīd, bî desṗreśn v mînd – I scers nǒ ẃt t cōl it – t invoc sć frɖr ed t intelijns az mt sprñ fṛm pśñ mî colīg ferli t ɖ wōl. Ś hd tld m, bit bî bit, undr preśr, a gret dīl; bt a smōl śifti spot on ɖ roñ sîd v it ol stl smtmz bruśt mî brǎ lîc ɖ wñ v a bat; n I rmembr hǎ on ɖs oceźn – fr ɖ slīpñ hǎs n ɖ consntreśn alîc v ǎr denjr n ǎr woć sīmd t hlp – I flt ɖ importns v gvñ ɖ last jrc t ɖ crtn. “I d’nt b’liv enʈñ so hoṛbl,” I rec̣lect seyñ; “no, let s pt it defiṇtli, mî dir, ɖt I d’nt. Bt f I dd, y nǒ, ɖr’z a ʈñ I śd rqîr nǎ, jst wɖt spẹrñ y ɖ līst bit mor – ǒ, nt a scrap, cm! – t gt ǎt v y. Ẃt wz it y hd in mînd ẃn, in ǎr dstres, bfr Mîlz cem bac, ovr ɖ letr fṛm hiz scūl, y sd, undr mî insistns, ɖt y dd’nt pritnd fr him ɖt h hd nt litṛli evr bn ‘bad’? H hz nt litṛli ‘evr,’ in ɖz wīcs ɖt I mslf hv livd wɖ him n so closli woćt him; h hz bn an imṗtrbbl litl proḍji v dlîtfl, luṿbl gdnis. Ɖrfr y mt prf̣cli hv md ɖ clem fr him f y hd nt, az it hapnd, sìn an xpśn t tec. Ẃt wz yr xpśn, n t ẃt pasij in yr prsnl obẓveśn v him dd y rfŕ?”

It wz a dredf̣li ostir inqîri, bt leṿti wz nt ǎr not, n, at eni ret, bfr ɖ gre dōn admoniśt s t seṗret I hd got mî ansr. Ẃt mî frend hd hd in mînd pruvd t b imnsli t ɖ prṗs. It wz nɖr mor nr les ɖn ɖ srcmstans ɖt fr a pirịd v sevṛl munʈs Qint n ɖ bô hd bn ppć̣li tgɖr. It wz in fact ɖ vri aproprịt truʈ ɖt ś hd vnćrd t criṭsîz ɖ pṛprayti, t hint at ɖ incngruwti, v so clos an alayns, n īvn t g so far on ɖ subjict az a franc oṿćr t Mis Jesl. Mis Jesl hd, wɖ a most strenj manr, rqstd hr t mînd hr biznis, n ɖ gd wmn hd, on ɖs, d’recli aproćt litl Mîlz. Ẃt ś hd sd t him, sins I prest, wz ɖt ś lîct t si yuñ jntlṃn nt fget ɖer steśn.

I prest agn, v cors, at ɖs. “Y rmîndd him ɖt Qint wz onli a bes mīńl?”

“Az y mt se! N it wz hiz ansr, fr wn ʈñ, ɖt wz bad.”

“N fr anɖr ʈñ?” I wêtd. “H rpitd yr wrdz t Qint?”

“No, nt ɖt. It’s jst ẃt h wd’nt!” ś cd stl impres upn m. “I wz śr, at eni ret,” ś add, “ɖt h dd’nt. Bt h dnaid srtn oceźnz.”

“Ẃt oceźnz?”

“Ẃn ɖe hd bn abt tgɖr qt az f Qint wr hiz tytr – n a vri grand wn – n Mis Jesl onli fr ɖ litl ledi. Ẃn h hd gn of wɖ ɖ felo, I mīn, n spent aurz wɖ him.”

“H ɖen privaṛcetd abt it – h sd h hd’nt?” Hr asnt wz clir inuf t cōz m t ad in a momnt: “I si. H laid.”

“Ǒ!” Msz. Grǒs mumbld. Ɖs wz a sjsćn ɖt it dd’nt matr; ẃć indd ś bact p bî a frɖr rmarc. “Y si, aftr ol, Mis Jesl dd’nt mînd. Ś dd’nt fbid him.”

I cnsidrd. “Dd h pt ɖt t y az a justif̣ceśn?”

At ɖs ś dropt agn. “No, h nvr spouc v it.”

“Nvr mnśnd hr in cnx́n wɖ Qint?”

Ś sw, viẓbli fluśñ, ẃr I wz cmñ ǎt. “Wel, h dd’nt śo enʈñ. H dnaid,” ś rpitd; “h dnaid.”

Lord, hǎ I prest hr nǎ! “So ɖt y cd si h ń ẃt wz btwn ɖ tū rećz?”

“I d’nt nǒ – I d’nt nǒ!” ɖ pur wmn grond.

“Y d nǒ, y dir ʈñ,” I rplaid; “onli y hv’nt mî dredfl boldnis v mînd, n y cīp bac, ǎt v tmidti n moḍsti n delic̣si, īvn ɖ impreśn ɖt, in ɖ past, ẃn y hd, wɖt mî ed, t flǎndr abt in sîḷns, most v ol md y mizṛbl. Bt I śl gt it ǎt v y yt! Ɖr wz smʈñ in ɖ bô ɖt sjstd t y,” I cntinyd, “ɖt h cuvrd n cnsild ɖer rleśn.”

“Ǒ, h cd’nt privnt – ”

“Yr lrnñ ɖ truʈ? I der se! Bt, hevnz,” I fél, wɖ viymns, aʈncñ, “ẃt it śoz ɖt ɖe mst, t ɖt xtnt, hv s’xidd in mcñ v him!”

“Ā, nʈñ ɖt’s nt nîs nǎ!” Msz. Grǒs l’gubrịsli plīdd.

“I d’nt wundr y lct qir,” I psistd, “ẃn I mnśnd t y ɖ letr fṛm hiz scūl!”

“I dǎt f I lct az qir az y!” ś rtortd wɖ homli fors. “N f h wz so bad ɖen az ɖt cmz t, hǎ z h sć an enjl nǎ?”

“Yes, indd – n f h wz a fīnd at scūl! Hǎ, hǎ, hǎ? Wel,” I sd in mî torment, “y mst pt it t m agn, bt I śl nt b ebl t tel y fr sm dez. Onli, pt it t m agn!” I craid in a we ɖt md mî frend stér. “Ɖr r d’rex́nz in ẃć I mst nt fr ɖ preznt let mslf g.” Mnẃl I rtrnd t hr frst xampl – ɖ wn t ẃć ś hd jst prīvịsli rfŕd – v ɖ bô’z hapi cpaṣti fr an oceźnl slip. “F Qint – on yr remnstṛns at ɖ tîm y spīc v – wz a bes mīńl, wn v ɖ ʈñz Mîlz sd t y, I fînd mslf gesñ, wz ɖt y wr anɖr.” Agn hr admiśn wz so adiqt ɖt I cntinyd: “N y fgev him ɖt?”

“Wd’nt y?

“Ǒ, yes!” N w xćenjd ɖr, in ɖ stilnis, a sǎnd v ɖ odist aḿzmnt. Ɖen I wnt on: “At ol ivnts, ẃl h wz wɖ ɖ man – ”

“Mis Flora wz wɖ ɖ wmn. It sūtd ɖm ol!”

It sūtd m, tù, I flt, onli tù wel; bî ẃć I mīn ɖt it sūtd xacli ɖ ptiklrli dedli vy I wz in ɖ vri act v fbidñ mslf t entten. Bt I so far s’xidd in ćecñ ɖ xpreśn v ɖs vy ɖt I wl ʈro, jst hir, no frɖr lît on it ɖn me b ofrd bî ɖ mnśn v mî fînl obẓveśn t Msz. Grǒs. “Hiz hvñ laid n bn impydnt r, I cnfes, les ingejñ spesimnz ɖn I hd hopt t hv fṛm y v ɖ ǎtbrec in him v ɖ litl naćṛl man. Stl,” I ḿzd, “Ɖe mst d, fr ɖe mc m fīl mor ɖn evr ɖt I mst woć.”

It md m bluś, ɖ nxt minit, t si in mî frend’z fes hǎ mć mor unrizrvidli ś hd fgivn him ɖn hr aṇcdot struc m az prizntñ t mî ǒn tndrnis an oceźn fr dwñ. Ɖs cem ǎt ẃn, at ɖ scūlrūm dor, ś qitd m. “Śrli y d’nt akz him – ”

“V cariyñ on an inṭcors ɖt h cnsilz fṛm m? Ā, rmembr ɖt, untl frɖr evidns, I nǎ akz nbdi.” Ɖen, bfr śutñ hr ǎt t g, bî anɖr pasij, t hr ǒn ples, “I mst jst wêt,” I waund p.

___

IX

I  wêtd n wêtd, n ɖ dez, az ɖe ilapst, tc smʈñ fṛm mî consṭneśn. A vri fy v ɖm, in fact, pasñ, in constnt sît v mî pyplz, wɖt a freś insidnt, s’fîst t gv t grīṿs fansiz n īvn t odịs meṃriz a cnd v bruś v ɖ spunj. I hv spocn v ɖ srendr t ɖer xtrordnri ćîldiś gres az a ʈñ I cd activli culṭvet, n it me b imajind f I nglectd nǎ t adres mslf t ɖs sors fr ẃtvr it wd yīld. Strenjr ɖn I cn xpres, srtnli, wz ɖ ef̣t t strugl agnst mî ny lîts; it wd dǎtlis hv bn, hvr, a gretr tnśn stl hd it nt bn so frīqntli s’xesfl. I yst t wundr hǎ mî litl ćarjz cd hlp gesñ ɖt I ʈt strenj ʈñz abt ɖm; n ɖ srcmstansz ɖt ɖz ʈñz onli md ɖm mor inṭrestñ wz nt bî itslf a d’rect ed t cīpñ ɖm in ɖ darc. I trembld lest ɖe śd si ɖt ɖe wr so imnsli mor inṭrestñ. Ptñ ʈñz at ɖ wrst, at ol ivnts, az in medteśn I so ofn dd, eni clǎdñ v ɖer iṇsns cd onli b – blemlis n fōrdumd az ɖe wr – a rīzn ɖ mor fr tecñ riscs. Ɖr wr momnts ẃn, bî an irizistbl impuls, I faund mslf caćñ ɖm p n presñ ɖm t mî hart. Az sn az I hd dn so I yst t se t mslf: “Ẃt wl ɖe ʈnc v ɖt? Dz’nt it btre tù mć?” It wd hv bn īzi t gt intu a sad, wîld tangl abt hǎ mć I mt btre; bt ɖ riyl acǎnt, I fīl, v ɖ aurz v pīs ɖt I cd stl injô wz ɖt ɖ imīɉt ćarm v mî cmpańnz wz a bgîlmnt stl ifctiv īvn undr ɖ śado v ɖ posbiḷti ɖt it wz studid. Fr f it ocŕd t m ɖt I mt oceźṇli xît sspiśn bî ɖ litl ǎtbrecs v mî śarpr paśn fr ɖm, so tù I rmembr wunḍrñ f I mt’nt si a qirnis in ɖ treṣbl incris v ɖer ǒn demnstreśnz.

Ɖe wr at ɖs pirịd xtraṿgntli n prīṭnaćṛli fond v m; ẃć, aftr ol, I cd rflect, wz no mor ɖn a gresfl rspons in ćildṛn ppć̣li baud ovr n hugd. Ɖ homij v ẃć ɖe wr so laviś s’xidd, in truʈ, fr mî nrvz, qt az wel az f I nvr apird t mslf, az I me se, litṛli t cać ɖm at a prṗs in it. Ɖe hd nvr, I ʈnc, wontd t d so mni ʈñz fr ɖer pur pṛtctris; I mīn – ɖo ɖe got ɖer lésnz betr n betr, ẃć wz naćṛli ẃt wd plīz hr most – in ɖ we v dvrtñ, enttenñ, s’prîzñ hr; rīdñ hr paṣjz, telñ hr storiz, actñ hr ś’redz, pǎnsñ ǎt at hr, in dsgîzz, az animlz n historicl caṛctrz, n abv ol astoṇśñ hr bî ɖ “pìsz” ɖe hd sīcṛtli got bî hart n cd intrmiṇbli rsît. I śd nvr gt t ɖ botm – wr I t let mslf g īvn nǎ – v ɖ pṛdijs prîṿt comntri, ol undr stl mor prîṿt c’rex́n, wɖ ẃć, in ɖz dez, I oṿscord ɖer fl aurz. Ɖe hd śoun m fṛm ɖ frst a fsiḷti fr evrʈñ, a jenṛl faclti ẃć, tecñ a freś start, aćivd rmarcbl flîts. Ɖe got ɖer litl tascs az f ɖe luvd ɖm, n induljd, fṛm ɖ mir xybṛns v ɖ gift, in ɖ most unimpozd litl miṛclz v meṃri. Ɖe nt onli popt ǎt at m az tîgrz n az Romnz, bt az Śecspirịnz, astroṇmrz, n naṿgetrz. Ɖs wz so snğlrli ɖ ces ɖt it hd prizyṃbli mć t d wɖ ɖ fact az t ẃć, at ɖ preznt de, I am at a los fr a difṛnt xpḷneśn: I alud t mî uņaćṛl cmpoźr on ɖ subjict v anɖr scūl fr Mîlz. Ẃt I rmembr z ɖt I wz cntnt nt, fr ɖ tîm, t opn ɖ qsćn, n ɖt cntntmnt mst hv spruñ fṛm ɖ sns v hiz ppć̣li strîcñ śo v clevrnis. H wz tù clevr fr a bad guṿnes, fr a parsn’z dōtr, t spôl; n ɖ strenjist f nt ɖ brîtist ʈred in ɖ pensiv imbrôdri I jst spouc v wz ɖ impreśn I mt hv got, f I hd derd t wrc it ǎt, ɖt h wz undr sm inflụns oṗretñ in hiz smōl inṭlecćl lîf az a tṛmnḍs insîtmnt.F it wz īzi t rflect, hvr, ɖt sć a bô cd pspon scūl, it wz at līst az marct ɖt fr sć a bô t hv bn “cict ǎt” bî a scūlmastr wz a mistif̣ceśn wɖt end. Let m ad ɖt in ɖer cumṗni nǎ – n I wz cerfl olmst nvr t b ǎt v it – I cd folo no sént vri far. W livd in a clǎd v ḿzic n luv n s’xes n prîṿt ʈiatriclz. Ɖ ḿzicl sns in ć v ɖ ćildṛn wz v ɖ qcist, bt ɖ eldr in ispeśl hd a marvḷs nac v caćñ n rpitñ. Ɖ scūlrūm piano brouc intu ol grūsm fansiz; n ẃn ɖt feld ɖr wr cnfabyleśnz in cornrz, wɖ a sīql v wn v ɖm gwñ ǎt in ɖ hîist spirits in ordr t “cm in” az smʈñ ny. I hd hd bruɖrz mslf, n it wz no reṿleśn t m ɖt litl grlz cd b sleviś aidoḷtrz v litl bôz. Ẃt s’pást evrʈñ wz ɖt ɖr wz a litl bô in ɖ wrld hu cd hv fr ɖ infirịr ej, sx, n intelijns so fîn a cnsiḍreśn. Ɖe wr xtrordnṛli at wn, n t se ɖt ɖe nvr îɖr qoṛld or cmplend z t mc ɖ not v prêz cōrs fr ɖer qoḷti v swītnis. Smtmz, indd, ẃn I dropt intu cōrsnis, I phps cem acrs tresz v litl unḍstandñz btwn ɖm bî ẃć wn v ɖm śd cīp m okpaid ẃl ɖ uɖr slipt awe. Ɖr z a naïf sîd, I s’poz, in ol dploṃsi; bt f mî pyplz practist upn m, it wz śrli wɖ ɖ minimm v grosnis. It wz ol in ɖ uɖr qortr ɖt, aftr a lul, ɖ grosnis brouc ǎt.

I fînd ɖt I riyli hañ bac; bt I mst tec mî plunj. In gwñ on wɖ ɖ record v ẃt wz hidịs at Blai, I nt onli ćalinj ɖ most libṛl feʈ – fr ẃć I litl cer; bt – n ɖs z anɖr matr – I rny ẃt I mslf sufrd, I agn pś mî we ʈru it t ɖ end. Ɖr cem sudnli an aur aftr ẃć, az I lc bac, ɖ afer sīmz t m t hv bn ol pyr suf̣rñ; bt I hv at līst rīćt ɖ hart v it, n ɖ stretist rod ǎt z dǎtlis t advans. Wn īvnñ – wɖ nʈñ t līd p or t priper it – I flt ɖ cold tuć v ɖ impreśn ɖt hd briɖd on m ɖ nît v mî arîvl n ẃć, mć lîtr ɖen, az I hv mnśnd, I śd probbli hv md litl v in meṃri hd mî subsiqnt sojrn bn les ajtetd. I hd nt gn t bed; I sat rīdñ bî a cupl v candlz. Ɖr wz a rūmfl v old bcs at Blai – last-snćri fix́n, sm v it, ẃć, t ɖ xtnt v a dstñtli depṛcetd rnǎn, bt nvr t so mć az ɖt v a stre spesimn, hd rīćt ɖ s’qestrd hom n apild t ɖ un’vaud krioṣti v mî yʈ. I rmembr ɖt ɖ bc I hd in mî hand wz Fīldñ’z Amīła; olso ɖt I wz hoļi awec. I rcōl frɖr bʈ a jenṛl cnvix́n ɖt it wz hoṛbli lêt n a ptiklr objx́n t lcñ at mî woć. I figr, fîṇli, ɖt ɖ ẃît crtn drepñ, in ɖ faśn v ɖoz dez, ɖ hed v Flora’z litl bed, śrǎdd, az I hd aśurd mslf loñ bfr, ɖ pfx́n v ćîldiś rest. I rec̣lect in śort ɖt, ɖo I wz dīpli inṭrestd in mî oʈr, I faund mslf, at ɖ trn v a pej n wɖ hiz spel ol scatrd, lcñ stret p fṛm him n hard at ɖ dor v mî rūm. Ɖr wz a momnt jrñ ẃć I lisnd, rmîndd v ɖ fent sns I hd hd, ɖ frst nît, v ɖr biyñ smʈñ undifîṇbli astŕ in ɖ hǎs, n notd ɖ soft breʈ v ɖ opn cesmnt jst muv ɖ haf-drwn blînd. Ɖen, wɖ ol ɖ marcs v a dliḅreśn ɖt mst hv sīmd mgnifisnt hd ɖr bn enwn t admîr it, I leid dǎn mî bc, rouz t mî fīt, n, tecñ a candl, wnt stret ǎt v ɖ rūm n, fṛm ɖ pasij, on ẃć mî lît md litl impreśn, nôzlisli clozd n loct ɖ dor.

I cn se nǎ nɖr ẃt dtrmind nr ẃt gîdd m, bt I wnt stret alñ ɖ lobi, holdñ mî candl hî, tl I cem wɖn sît v ɖ tōl windo ɖt prizîdd ovr ɖ gret trn v ɖ sterces. At ɖs pônt I prisipittli faund mslf awer v ʈri ʈñz. Ɖe wr practicli simlteńs, yt ɖe hd flaśz v s’xeśn. Mî candl, undr a bold fluriś, wnt ǎt, n I psivd, bî ɖ uncuvrd windo, ɖt ɖ yīldñ dusc v rliist mornñ rendrd it uņesṣri. Wɖt it, ɖ nxt instnt, I sw ɖt ɖr wz smwn on ɖ ster. I spīc v sīqnsz, bt I rqîrd no laps v secndz t stifn mslf fr a ʈrd incǎntr wɖ Qint. Ɖ aṗriśn hd rīćt ɖ landñ hafwe p n wz ɖrfr on ɖ spot nirist ɖ windo, ẃr at sît v m, it stopt śort n fixt m xacli az it hd fixt m fṛm ɖ tǎr n fṛm ɖ gardn. H ń m az wel az I ń him; n so, in ɖ cold, fent twîlît, wɖ a glimr in ɖ hî glas n anɖr on ɖ poliś v ɖ oc ster b’lo, w fest ć uɖr in ǎr comn intnṣti. H wz abṣlutli, on ɖs oceźn, a livñ, dtstbl, denjṛs prezns. Bt ɖt wz nt ɖ wundr v wundrz; I rzrv ɖs dstñśn fr qt anɖr srcmstans: ɖ srcmstans ɖt dred hd unmistecbli qitd m n ɖt ɖr wz nʈñ in m ɖr ɖt dd’nt mīt n meźr him.

I hd plenti v anḡś aftr ɖt xtrordnri momnt, bt I hd, ʈanc God, no terr. N h ń I hd nt – I faund mslf at ɖ end v an instnt mgnifisntli awer v ɖs. I flt, in a firs rigr v confidns, ɖt f I std mî grǎnd a minit I śd sīs – fr ɖ tîm, at līst – t hv him t recn wɖ; n jrñ ɖ minit, acordñli, ɖ ʈñ wz az hymn n hidịs az a riyl inṭvy: hidịs jst bcz it wz hymn, az hymn az t hv met alon, in ɖ smōl aurz, in a slīpñ hǎs, sm eṇmi, sm advnćrr, sm criminl. It wz ɖ ded sîḷns v ǎr loñ gêz at sć clos qortrz ɖt gev ɖ hol horr, hyj az it wz, its onli not v ɖ uņaćṛl. F I hd met a mrdrr in sć a ples n at sć an aur, w stl at līst wd hv spocn. Smʈñ wd hv pást, in lîf, btwn s; f nʈñ hd pást, wn v s wd hv muvd. Ɖ momnt wz so pṛloñd ɖt it wd hv tecn bt litl mor t mc m dǎt f īvn I wr in lîf. I c’nt xpres ẃt foloud it sev bî seyñ ɖt ɖ sîḷns itslf – ẃć wz indd in a manr an aṭsteśn v mî streñʈ – bcem ɖ elimnt intu ẃć I sw ɖ figr dis’pir; in ẃć I defiṇtli sw it trn az I mt hv sìn ɖ lo reć t ẃć it hd wns b’loñd trn on rsit v an ordr, n pas, wɖ mî îz on ɖ viḷṇs bac ɖt no hunć cd hv mor dsfigrd, stret dǎn ɖ sterces n intu ɖ darcnis in ẃć ɖ nxt bnd wz lost.

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X

I  rmend aẃl at ɖ top v ɖ ster, bt wɖ ɖ ifct prezntli v unḍstandñ ɖt ẃn mî vizitr hd gn, h hd gn: ɖen I rtrnd t mî rūm. Ɖ fōrmost ʈñ I sw ɖr bî ɖ lît v ɖ candl I hd left brnñ wz ɖt Flora’z litl bed wz emti; n on ɖs I còt mî breʈ wɖ ol ɖ terr ɖt, fîv minits bfr, I hd bn ebl t rzist. I daśt at ɖ ples in ẃć I hd left hr layñ n ovr ẃć (fr ɖ smōl silc cǎnṭpein n ɖ śīts wr dis’renjd) ɖ ẃît crtnz hd bn dsivñli pld fwd; ɖen mî step, t mî unutṛbl rlif, pṛdyst an anṣrñ sǎnd: I psivd an ajteśn v ɖ windoblînd, n ɖ ćîld, ducñ dǎn, imrjd roẓli fṛm ɖ uɖr sîd v it. Ś std ɖr in so mć v hr candr n so litl v hr nîtgǎn, wɖ hr pnc bér fīt n ɖ goldn glo v hr crlz. Ś lct intnsli grev, n I hd nvr hd sć a sns v luzñ an advantij aqîrd (ɖ ʈril v ẃć hd jst bn so pṛdijs) az on mî conśsnis ɖt ś adrest m wɖ a rproć. “Y nōti: ẃr hv y bn?” – instd v ćaḷnjñ hr ǒn ireğlaṛti I faund mslf arend n xplenñ. Ś hrslf xplend, fr ɖt matr, wɖ ɖ luvliist, īġrist simpliṣti. Ś hd noun sudnli, az ś le ɖr, ɖt I wz ǎt v ɖ rūm, n hd jumt p t si ẃt hd bcm v m. I hd dropt, wɖ ɖ jô v hr ri’piṛns, bac intu mî ćer – fīlñ ɖen, n ɖen onli, a litl fent; n ś hd patrd stret ovr t m, ʈroun hrslf upn mî ni, gvn hrslf t b hld wɖ ɖ flem v ɖ candl fl in ɖ wundrfl litl fes ɖt wz stl fluśt wɖ slīp. I rmembr clozñ mî îz an instnt, yīldñli, conśsli, az bfr ɖ xes v smʈñ bytifl ɖt śon ǎt v ɖ blu v hr ǒn. “Y wr lcñ fr m ǎt v ɖ windo?” I sd. “Y ʈt I mt b wōcñ in ɖ grǎndz?”

“Wel, y nǒ, I ʈt smwn wz” – ś nvr blanćt az ś smîld ǎt ɖt at m.Ǒ, hǎ I lct at hr nǎ! “N dd y si enwn?”

“Ā, no!” ś rtrnd, olmst wɖ ɖ fl priṿlij v ćîldiś inconsiqns, rzntf̣li, ɖo wɖ a loñ swītnis in hr litl drōl v ɖ neġtiv.

At ɖt momnt, in ɖ stet v mî nrvz, I abṣlutli b’livd ś laid; n f I wns mor clozd mî îz it wz bfr ɖ dazl v ɖ ʈri or for poṣbl wez in ẃć I mt tec ɖs p. Wn v ɖz, fr a momnt, tmtd m wɖ sć snğlr intnṣti ɖt, t wɖstand it, I mst hv gript mî litl grl wɖ a spazm ɖt, wundrf̣li, ś sbmitd t wɖt a crî or a sîn v frît. Ẃ nt brec ǎt at hr on ɖ spot n hv it ol ovr? – gv it t hr stret in hr luvli litl lîtd fes? “Y si, y si, y ɖt y d n ɖt y olrdi qt sspct I b’liv it; ɖrfr, ẃ nt francli cnfes it t m, so ɖt w me at līst liv wɖ it tgɖr n lrn phps, in ɖ strenjnis v ǎr fet, ẃr w r n ẃt it mīnz?” Ɖs s’liṣteśn dropt, alas, az it cem: f I cd imīɉtli hv s’cumd t it I mt hv sperd mslf – wel, y’l si ẃt. Instd v s’cumñ I sprañ agn t mî fīt, lct at hr bed, n tc a hlplis midl we. “Ẃ dd y pl ɖ crtn ovr ɖ ples t mc m ʈnc y wr stl ɖr?”

Flora lūmiṇsli cnsidrd; aftr ẃć, wɖ hr litl dvîn smîl: “Bcz I d’nt lîc t frîtn y!”

“Bt f I hd, bî yr îdīa, gn ǎt – ?”

Ś abṣlutli dclînd t b puzld; ś trnd hr îz t ɖ flem v ɖ candl az f ɖ qsćn wr az ireḷvnt, or at eni ret az imprsnl, az Msz. Marsét or nîn-tîmz-nîn. “Ǒ, bt y nǒ,” ś qt adiqtli ansrd, “ɖt y mt cm bac, y dir, n ɖt y hv!” N aftr a litl, ẃn ś hd got intu bed, I hd, fr a loñ tîm, bî olmst sitñ on hr t hold hr hand, t pruv ɖt I rec̣gnîzd ɖ prṭnns v mî rtrn.

Y me imajin ɖ jenṛl cmplex́n, fṛm ɖt momnt, v mî nîts. I rpitidli sat p tl I dd’nt nǒ ẃn; I s’lectd momnts ẃn mî rūm̦êt unmistecbli slept, n, stìlñ ǎt, tc nôzlis trnz in ɖ pasij n īvn pśt az far az t ẃr I hd last met Qint. Bt I nvr met him ɖr agn; n I me az wel se at wns ɖt I on no uɖr oceźn sw him in ɖ hǎs. I jst míst, on ɖ sterces, on ɖ uɖr hand, a difṛnt advnćr. Lcñ dǎn it fṛm ɖ top I wns rec̣gnîzd ɖ prezns v a wmn sītd on wn v ɖ lowr steps wɖ hr bac prizntd t m, hr bodi haf-baud n hr hed, in an attyd v wo, in hr handz. I hd bn ɖr bt an instnt, hvr, ẃn ś vaniśt wɖt lcñ rnd at m. I ń, nnɖles, xacli ẃt dredfl fes ś hd t śo; n I wundrd ẃɖr, f instd v biyñ abv I hd bn b’lo, I śd hv hd, fr gwñ p, ɖ sem nrv I hd lêtli śoun Qint. Wel, ɖr cntinyd t b plenti v ćans fr nrv. On ɖ ilevnʈ nît aftr mî lêtist incǎntr wɖ ɖt jntlmn – ɖe wr ol numbrd nǎ – I hd an alarm ɖt periḷsli scrtd it n ɖt indd, fṛm ɖ ptiklr qoḷti v its unixpctidnis, pruvd qt mî śarpist śoc. It wz prisîsli ɖ frst nît jrñ ɖs siriz ɖt, wiri wɖ woćñ, I hd flt ɖt I mt agn wɖt lax̣ti le mslf dǎn at mî old aur. I slept imīɉtli n, az I afṭwd ń, tl abt wn o’cloc; bt ẃn I wouc it wz t sit stret p, az cmplitli rǎzd az f a hand hd śc m. I hd left a lît brnñ, bt it wz nǎ ǎt, n I flt an instnt srtnti ɖt Flora hd xtnḡśt it. Ɖs bròt m t mî fīt n stret, in ɖ darcnis, t hr bed, ẃć I faund ś hd left. A glans at ɖ windo inlîtnd m frɖr, n ɖ strîcñ v a mać cmplitd ɖ picćr.

Ɖ ćîld hd agn got p – ɖs tîm blowñ ǎt ɖ tepr, n hd agn, fr sm prṗs v obẓveśn or rspons, sqizd in bhnd ɖ blînd n wz pirñ ǎt intu ɖ nît. Ɖt ś nǎ sw – az ś hd nt, I hd saṭsfaid mslf, ɖ prīvịs tîm – wz pruvd t m bî ɖ fact ɖt ś wz dstrbd nɖr bî mî riiluṃneśn nr bî ɖ hest I md t gt intu sliprz n intu a ráp. Hidn, pṛtctd, abzorbd, ś evidntli restd on ɖ sil – ɖ cesmnt opnd fwd – n gev hrslf p. Ɖr wz a gret stil mūn t hlp hr, n ɖs fact hd cǎntd in mî qc dsiźn. Ś wz fes t fes wɖ ɖ aṗriśn w hd met at ɖ lec, n cd nǎ cḿṇcet wɖ it az ś hd nt ɖen bn ebl t d. Ẃt I, on mî sîd, hd t cer fr wz, wɖt dstrbñ hr, t rīć, fṛm ɖ coṛdor, sm uɖr windo in ɖ sem qortr. I got t ɖ dor wɖt hr hírñ m; I got ǎt v it, clozd it, n lisnd, fṛm ɖ uɖr sîd, fr sm sǎnd fṛm hr. Ẃl I std in ɖ pasij I hd mî îz on hr bruɖr’z dor, ẃć wz bt ten steps of n ẃć, indiscrîbbli, pṛdyst in m a rnywl v ɖ strenj impuls ɖt I lêtli spouc v az mî tmteśn. Ẃt f I śd g stret in n marć t hiz windo? – ẃt f, bî riscñ t hiz bôiś bwildrmnt a reṿleśn v mî motiv, I śd ʈro acrs ɖ rest v ɖ misṭri ɖ loñ hōltr v mî boldnis?

Ɖs ʈt hld m sfiśntli t mc m cros t hiz ʈreśhold n pōz agn. I prīṭnaćṛli lisnd; I figrd t mslf ẃt mt portnṭsli b; I wundrd f hiz bed wr olso emti n h tù wr sīcṛtli at woć. It wz a dīp, sǎndlis minit, at ɖ end v ẃć mî impuls feld. H wz qayt; h mt b iṇsnt; ɖ risc wz hidịs; I trnd awe. Ɖr wz a figr in ɖ grǎndz – a figr prǎlñ fr a sît, ɖ vizitr wɖ hūm Flora wz ingejd; bt it wz nt ɖ vizitr most cnsrnd wɖ mî bô. I heztetd afreś, bt on uɖr grǎndz n onli fr a fy secndz; ɖen I hd md mî ćôs. Ɖr wr emti rūmz at Blai, n it wz onli a qsćn v ćuzñ ɖ rît wn. Ɖ rît wn sudnli prizntd itslf t m az ɖ lowr wn – ɖo hî abv ɖ gardnz – in ɖ solid cornr v ɖ hǎs ɖt I hv spocn v az ɖ old tǎr. Ɖs wz a larj, sqer ćembr, arenjd wɖ sm stet az a bedrūm, ɖ xtraṿgnt sîz v ẃć md it so incnvińnt ɖt it hd nt fr yirz, ɖo cept bî Msz. Grǒs in xmpḷri ordr, bn okpaid. I hd ofn admîrd it n I ń mî we abt in it; I hd onli, aftr jst fōlṭrñ at ɖ frst ćil glūm v its dsys, t pas acrs it n unbolt az qaytli az I cd wn v ɖ śutrz. Aćivñ ɖs transit, I uncuvrd ɖ glas wɖt a sǎnd n, aplayñ mî fes t ɖ pein, wz ebl, ɖ darcnis wɖt biyñ mć les ɖn wɖn, t si ɖt I cmandd ɖ rît d’rex́n. Ɖen I sw smʈñ mor. Ɖ mūn md ɖ nît xtrordnṛli penitṛbl n śoud m on ɖ lōn a prsn, dminiśt bî distns, hu std ɖr mośnlis n az f faṣnetd, lcñ p t ẃr I hd apird – lcñ, ɖt z, nt so mć stret at m az at smʈñ ɖt wz apaṛntli abv m. Ɖr wz clirli anɖr prsn abv m – ɖr wz a prsn on ɖ tǎr; bt ɖ prezns on ɖ lōn wz nt in ɖ līst ẃt I hd cnsivd n hd confidntli hurid t mīt. Ɖ prezns on ɖ lōn – I flt sic az I md it ǎt – wz pur litl Mîlz himslf.

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XI

It wz nt tl lêt nxt de ɖt I spouc t Msz. Grǒs; ɖ rigr wɖ ẃć I cept mî pyplz in sît mcñ it ofn dificlt t mīt hr prîṿtli, n ɖ mor az w ć flt ɖ importns v nt pṛvocñ – on ɖ part v ɖ srvnts qt az mć az on ɖt v ɖ ćildṛn – eni sspiśn v a sīcrit fluri or ɖt v a dscuśn v misṭriz. I drù a gret s’kṛti in ɖs ptiklr fṛm hr mir smuɖ aspect. Ɖr wz nʈñ in hr freś fes t pas on t uɖrz mî hoṛbl confidnsz. Ś b’livd m, I wz śr, abṣlutli: f ś hd’nt I d’nt nǒ ẃt wd hv bcm v m, fr I cd’nt hv bòrn ɖ biznis alon. Bt ś wz a mgnifisnt mońmnt t ɖ blesñ v a wont v imaɉneśn, n f ś cd si in ǎr litl ćarjz nʈñ bt ɖer byti n emịbiḷti, ɖer hapinis n clevrnis, ś hd no d’rect cḿṇceśn wɖ ɖ sorsz v mî trubl. F ɖe hd bn at ol viẓbli blîtd or batrd, ś wd dǎtlis hv groun, on tresñ it bac, haġd inuf t mać ɖm; az matrz std, hvr, I cd fīl hr, ẃn ś sveid ɖm, wɖ hr larj ẃît armz foldd n ɖ habit v sreṇti in ol hr lc, ʈanc ɖ Lord’z mrsi ɖt f ɖe wr ruind ɖ pìsz wd stl srv. Flîts v fansi gev ples, in hr mînd, t a stedi fîrsîd glo, n I hd olrdi bgun t psiv hǎ, wɖ ɖ dveḷpmnt v ɖ cnvix́n ɖt – az tîm wnt on wɖt a public axidnt – ǎr yuñ ʈñz cd, aftr ol, lc ǎt fr ɖmslvz, ś adrest hr gretist s’liṣtyd t ɖ sad ces prizntd bî ɖer instructris. Ɖt, fr mslf, wz a sǎnd simplif̣ceśn: I cd ingej ɖt, t ɖ wrld, mî fes śd tel no têlz, bt it wd hv bn, in ɖ cndiśnz, an imns add stren t fînd mslf añśs abt hrz.

At ɖ aur I nǎ spīc v ś hd jônd m, undr preśr, on ɖ teris, ẃr, wɖ ɖ laps v ɖ sīzn, ɖ afṭnunsún wz nǎ agriybl; n w sat ɖr tgɖr ẃl, bfr s, at a distns, bt wɖn cōl f w wśt, ɖ ćildṛn strold t n fro in wn v ɖer most maniɉbl mūdz. Ɖe muvd slǒli, in ynisn, b’lo s, ovr ɖ lōn, ɖ bô, az ɖe wnt, rīdñ alǎd fṛm a stori-bc n pasñ hiz arm rnd hiz sistr t cīp hr qt in tuć. Msz. Grǒs woćt ɖm wɖ poẓtiv pḷsidti; ɖen I còt ɖ s’prest inṭlecćl crīc wɖ ẃć ś conśienśsli trnd t tec fṛm m a vy v ɖ bac v ɖ taṗstri. I hd md hr a rspticl v lŭrid ʈñz, bt ɖr wz an od recgniśn v mî s’pirioṛti – mî acumpliśmnts n mî fuñśn – in hr peśns undr mî pen. Ś ofrd hr mînd t mî dscloźrz az, hd I wśt t mix a wić’z broʈ n pṛpozd it wɖ aśuṛns, ś wd hv hld ǎt a larj clīn sōspn. Ɖs hd bcm ʈuṛli hr attyd bî ɖ tîm ɖt, in mî rsîtl v ɖ ivnts v ɖ nît, I rīćt ɖ pônt v ẃt Mîlz hd sd t m ẃn, aftr siyñ him, at sć a monstṛs aur, olmst on ɖ vri spot ẃr h hapnd nǎ t b, I hd gn dǎn t brñ him in; ćuzñ ɖen, at ɖ windo, wɖ a consntretd nīd v nt alarmñ ɖ hǎs, rɖr ɖt meʈ̇d ɖn a signl mor reẓnnt. I hd left hr mnẃl in litl dǎt v mî smōl hop v reprizntñ wɖ s’xes īvn t hr acćl simṗʈi mî sns v ɖ riyl splendr v ɖ litl insṗreśn wɖ ẃć, aftr I hd got him intu ɖ hǎs, ɖ bô met mî fînl artikḷt ćalinj. Az sn az I apird in ɖ mūnlît on ɖ teris, h hd cm t m az stret az poṣbl; on ẃć I hd tecn hiz hand wɖt a wrd n léd him, ʈru ɖ darc spesz, p ɖ sterces ẃr Qint hd so hungṛli hovrd fr him, alñ ɖ lobi ẃr I hd lisnd n trembld, n so t hiz fōrsecn rūm.Nt a sǎnd, on ɖ we, hd pást btwn s, n I hd wundrd – ǒ, I hd wundrd! – f h wr gropñ abt in hiz litl mînd fr smʈñ plōẓbl n nt tù gṛtesc. It wd tax hiz invnśn, srtnli, n I flt, ɖs tîm, ovr hiz riyl imbaṛsmnt, a krịs ʈril v trîumf. It wz a śarp trap fr ɖ inscrūṭbl! H cd’nt ple eni longr at iṇsns; so hǎ ɖ dys wd h gt ǎt v it? Ɖr bìt in m indd, wɖ ɖ paśṇt ʈrob v ɖs qsćn an īql dum apil az t hǎ ɖ dys I śd. I wz cnfruntd at last, az nvr yt, wɖ ol ɖ risc ataćt īvn nǎ t sǎndñ mî ǒn horid not. I rmembr in fact ɖt az w pśt intu hiz litl ćembr, ẃr ɖ bed hd nt bn slept in at ol n ɖ windo, uncuvrd t ɖ mūnlît, md ɖ ples so clir ɖt ɖr wz no nīd v strîcñ a mać – I rmembr hǎ I sudnli dropt, sanc upn ɖ éj v ɖ bed fṛm ɖ fors v ɖ îdīa ɖt h mst nǒ hǎ h riyli, az ɖe se, “hd” m. H cd d ẃt h lîct, wɖ ol hiz clevrnis t hlp him, so loñ az I śd cntiny t dfŕ t ɖ old tṛdiśn v ɖ criṃnaḷti v ɖoz certecrz v ɖ yuñ hu ministr t sūṗstiśnz n firz. H “hd” m indd, n in a cleft stic; fr hu wd evr abzolv m, hu wd cnsnt ɖt I śd g unhuñ, f, bî ɖ fentist tremr v an oṿćr, I wr ɖ frst t intṛdys intu ǎr prfict inṭcors an elimnt so dîr? No, no: it wz yslis t atmt t cnve t Msz. Grǒs, jst az it z scersli les so t atmt t sjst hir, hǎ, in ǎr śort, stif bruś in ɖ darc, h ferli śc m wɖ adṃreśn. I wz v cors ʈuṛli cînd n mrsifl; nvr, nvr yt hd I plest on hiz litl śoldrz handz v sć tndrnis az ɖoz wɖ ẃć, ẃl I restd agnst ɖ bed, I hld him ɖr wel undr fîr. I hd no oltrṇtiv bt, in form at līst, t pt it t him.

“Y mst tel m nǎ – n ol ɖ truʈ. Ẃt dd y g ǎt fr? Ẃt wr y dwñ ɖr?”

I cn stl si hiz wundrfl smîl, ɖ ẃîts v hiz bytifl îz, n ɖ uncuṿrñ v hiz litl tīʈ śîn t m in ɖ dusc. “F I tel y ẃ, wl y unḍstand?” Mî hart, at ɖs, lept intu mî mǎʈ. Wd h tel m ẃ? I faund no sǎnd on mî lips t pres it, n I wz awer v rplayñ onli wɖ a veg, rpitd, griṃsñ nod. H wz jntlnis itslf, n ẃl I wagd mî hed at him h std ɖr mor ɖn evr a litl fẹriprins. It wz hiz brîtnis indd ɖt gev m a respît. Wd it b so gret f h wr riyli gwñ t tel m? “Wel,” h sd at last, “jst xacli in ordr ɖt y śd d ɖs.”

“D ẃt?”

“Ʈnc m – fr a ćenj – bad!” I śl nvr fget ɖ swītnis n geyti wɖ ẃć h bròt ǎt ɖ wrd, nr hǎ, on top v it, h bnt fwd n cist m. It wz practicli ɖ end v evrʈñ. I met hiz cis n I hd t mc, ẃl I foldd him fr a minit in mî armz, ɖ most stypnds ef̣t nt t crî. H hd gvn xacli ɖ acǎnt v himslf ɖt pmitd līst v mî gwñ bhnd it, n it wz onli wɖ ɖ ifct v cnfrmñ mî axptns v it ɖt, az I prezntli glanst abt ɖ rūm, I cd se –

“Ɖen y dd’nt undres at ol?”

H ferli glitrd in ɖ glūm. “Nt at ol. I sat p n réd.”

“N ẃn dd y g dǎn?”

“At midnît. Ẃn I’m bad I am bad!”

“I si, I si – it’s ćarmñ. Bt hǎ cd y b śr I wd nǒ it?”

“Ǒ, I arenjd ɖt wɖ Flora.” Hiz ansrz rañ ǎt wɖ a redinis! “Ś wz t gt p n lc ǎt.”

“Ẃć z ẃt ś dd d.” It wz I hu fél intu ɖ trap!

“So ś dstrbd y, n, t si ẃt ś wz lcñ at, y olso lct – y sw.”

“Ẃl y,” I cncŕd, “còt yr deʈ in ɖ nîter!”

H litṛli blūmd so fṛm ɖs xplôt ɖt h cd aford redịntli t asnt. “Hǎ uɖ̇wz śd I hv bn bad inuf?” h asct. Ɖen, aftr anɖr imbres, ɖ insidnt n ǎr inṭvy clozd on mî recgniśn v ol ɖ rzrvz v gdnis ɖt, fr hiz joc, h hd bn ebl t drw upn.

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XII

Ɖ  ptiklr impreśn I hd rsivd pruvd in ɖ mornñ lît, I rpit, nt qt s’xesf̣li prizntbl t Msz. Grǒs, ɖo I riinforst it wɖ ɖ mnśn v stl anɖr rmarc ɖt h hd md bfr w seṗretd. “It ol lîz in haf a duzn wrdz,” I sd t hr, “wrdz ɖt riyli setl ɖ matr. ‘Ʈnc, y nǒ, ẃt I mt d!’ H ʈrù ɖt of t śo m hǎ gd h z. H nz dǎn t ɖ grǎnd ẃt h ‘mt’ d. Ɖt’s ẃt h gev ɖm a test v at scūl.”

“Lord, y d ćenj!” craid mî frend.“I d’nt ćenj – I simpli mc it ǎt. Ɖ for, dpnd upn it, ppć̣li mīt. F on îɖr v ɖz last nîts y hd bn wɖ îɖr ćîld, y wd clirli hv unḍstd. Ɖ mor I’v woćt n wêtd ɖ mor I’v flt ɖt f ɖr wr nʈñ els t mc it śr it wd b md so bî ɖ sisṭmatic sîḷns v ć. Nvr, bî a slip v ɖ tuñ, hv ɖe so mć az aludd t îɖr v ɖer old frendz, eni mor ɖn Mîlz hz aludd t hiz xpulśn. Ǒ, yes, w me sit hir n lc at ɖm, n ɖe me śo of t s ɖr t ɖer fil; bt īvn ẃl ɖe pritnd t b lost in ɖer fẹritêl ɖ’r stīpt in ɖer viźn v ɖ ded rstord. H’z nt rīdñ t hr,” I dclerd; “ɖ’r tōcñ v ɖm – ɖ’r tōcñ horrz! I g on, I nǒ, az f I wr crezi; n it’s a wundr I’m nt. Ẃt I’v sìn wd hv md y so; bt it hz onli md m mor lūsid, md m gt hold v stl uɖr ʈñz.”

Mî lūsidti mst hv sīmd ōfl, bt ɖ ćarmñ crīćrz hu wr victimz v it, pasñ n rīpasñ in ɖer inṭloct swītnis, gev mî colīg smʈñ t hold on bî; n I flt hǎ tît ś hld az, wɖt stŕñ in ɖ breʈ v mî paśn, ś cuvrd ɖm stl wɖ hr îz. “V ẃt uɖr ʈñz hv y got hold?”

“Ẃ, v ɖ vri ʈñz ɖt hv dlîtd, faṣnetd, n yt, at botm, az I nǎ so strenjli si, misṭfaid n trubld m. Ɖer mor ɖn rʈli byti, ɖer abṣlutli uņaćṛl gdnis. It’s a gem,” I wnt on; “it’s a poḷsi n a frōd!”

“On ɖ part v litl darlñz – ?”

“Az yt mir luvli bebiz? Yes, mad az ɖt sīmz!” Ɖ vri act v brññ it ǎt riyli hlpt m t tres it – folo it ol p n pìs it ol tgɖr. “Ɖe hv’nt bn gd – ɖ’v onli bn absnt. It hz bn īzi t liv wɖ ɖm, bcz ɖ’r simpli līdñ a lîf v ɖer ǒn. Ɖ’r nt mîn – ɖ’r nt ǎrz. Ɖ’r hiz n ɖ’r hrz!”

“Qint’s n ɖt wmn’z?”

“Qint’s n ɖt wmn’z. Ɖe wont t gt t ɖm.”

Ǒ, hǎ, at ɖs, pur Msz. Grǒs apird t studi ɖm! “Bt fr ẃt?”

“Fr ɖ luv v ol ɖ īvl ɖt, in ɖoz dredfl dez, ɖ per pt intu ɖm. N t plî ɖm wɖ ɖt īvl stl, t cīp p ɖ wrc v dīmnz, z ẃt brñz ɖ uɖrz bac.”

“Lwz!” sd mî frend undr hr breʈ. Ɖ xcḷmeśn wz homli, bt it rvild a riyl axptns v mî frɖr prūf v ẃt, in ɖ bad tîm – fr ɖr hd bn a wrs īvn ɖn ɖs! – mst hv ocŕd. Ɖr cd hv bn no sć justif̣ceśn fr m az ɖ plen asnt v hr xpirịns t ẃtvr depʈ v dpravti I faund creḍbl in ǎr bres v scǎndṛlz. It wz in obvịs sbmiśn v meṃri ɖt ś bròt ǎt aftr a momnt: “Ɖe wr rasclz! Bt ẃt cn ɖe nǎ d?” ś psyd.

“D?” I ecoud so lǎd ɖt Mîlz n Flora, az ɖe pást at ɖer distns, pōzd an instnt in ɖer wōc n lct at s. “D’nt ɖe d inuf?” I dmandd in a lowr ton, ẃl ɖ ćildṛn, hvñ smîld n nodd n cist handz t s, rzymd ɖer xbiśn. W wr hld bî it a minit; ɖen I ansrd: “Ɖe cn dstrô ɖm!” At ɖs mî cmpańn dd trn, bt ɖ inqîri ś lōnćt wz a sîḷnt wn, ɖ ifct v ẃć wz t mc m mor xplisit. “Ɖe d’nt nǒ, az yt, qt hǎ – bt ɖ’r trayñ hard. Ɖ’r sìn onli acrs, az it wr, n bynd – in strenj plesz n on hî plesz, ɖ top v tǎrz, ɖ rūf v hǎzz, ɖ ǎtsd v windoz, ɖ frɖr éj v pūlz; bt ɖr’z a dīp dzîn, on îɖr sîd, t śortn ɖ distns n oṿcm ɖ obsṭcl; n ɖ s’xes v ɖ tmtrz z onli a qsćn v tîm. Ɖ’v onli t cīp t ɖer sjsćnz v denjr.”

“Fr ɖ ćildṛn t cm?”

“N periś in ɖ atmt!” Msz. Grǒs slǒli got p, n I scrūpyḷsli add: “Unls, v cors, w cn privnt!”

Standñ ɖr bfr m ẃl I cept mî sīt, ś viẓbli trnd ʈñz ovr. “Ɖer uncl mst d ɖ privntñ. H mst tec ɖm awe.”

“N hu’z t mc him?”

Ś hd bn scanñ ɖ distns, bt ś nǎ dropt on m a fūliś fes. “Y, mis.”

“Bî raitñ t him ɖt hiz hǎs z pôznd n hiz litl nefy n nīs mad?”

“Bt f ɖe r, mis?”

“N f I am mslf, y mīn? Ɖt’s ćarmñ nyz t b snt him bî a guṿnes huz prîm unḍtecñ wz t gv him no wuri.”

Msz. Grǒs cnsidrd, folowñ ɖ ćildṛn agn. “Yes, h d het wuri. Ɖt wz ɖ gret rīzn – ”

“Ẃ ɖoz fīndz tc him in so loñ? No dǎt, ɖo hiz indifṛns mst hv bn ōfl. Az I’m nt a fīnd, at eni ret, I śd’nt tec him in.”

Mî cmpańn, aftr an instnt n fr ol ansr, sat dǎn agn n graspt mî arm. “Mc him at eni ret cm t y.”

I stérd. “T m?” I hd a sudn fir v ẃt ś mt d. “‘Him’?”

“H òt t b hir – h òt t hlp.”

I qcli rouz, n I ʈnc I mst hv śoun hr a qirr fes ɖn evr yt. “Y si m ascñ him fr a vizit?” No, wɖ hr îz on mî fes ś evidntli cd’nt. Instd v it īvn – az a wmn rīdz anɖr – ś cd si ẃt I mslf sw: hiz d’riźn, hiz aḿzmnt, hiz cntmt fr ɖ brecdǎn v mî reẓgneśn at biyñ left alon n fr ɖ fîn mśīṇri I hd set in mośn t atract hiz atnśn t mî slîtd ćarmz. Ś dd’nt nǒ – nwn ń – hǎ prǎd I hd bn t srv him n t stic t ǎr trmz; yt ś nnɖles tc ɖ meźr, I ʈnc, v ɖ wornñ I nǎ gev hr. “F y śd so lūz yr hed az t apil t him fr m – ”

Ś wz riyli frîtnd. “Yes, mis?”

“I wd līv, on ɖ spot, bʈ him n y.”

___

XIII

It wz ol vri wel t jôn ɖm, bt spīcñ t ɖm pruvd qt az mć az evr an ef̣t bynd mî streñʈ – ofrd, in clos qortrz, dificltiz az inṣmǎntbl az bfr. Ɖs sićueśn cntinyd a munʈ, n wɖ ny agṛveśnz n ptiklr nots, ɖ not abv ol, śarpr n śarpr, v ɖ smōl îronic conśsnis on ɖ part v mî pyplz. It wz nt, I am az śr tde az I wz śr ɖen, mî mir infrṇl imaɉneśn: it wz abṣlutli treṣbl ɖt ɖe wr awer v mî pridic̣mnt n ɖt ɖs strenj rleśn md, in a manr, fr a loñ tîm, ɖ er in ẃć w muvd. I d’nt mīn ɖt ɖe hd ɖer tuñz in ɖer ćīcs or dd enʈñ vulgr, fr ɖt wz nt wn v ɖer denjrz: I d mīn, on ɖ uɖr hand, ɖt ɖ elimnt v ɖ uņemd n untućt bcem, btwn s, gretr ɖn eni uɖr, n ɖt so mć avôdns cd nt hv bn so s’xesf̣li ifctd wɖt a gret dīl v tasit arenjmnt. It wz az f, at momnts, w wr ppć̣li cmñ intu sît v subjicts bfr ẃć w mst stop śort, trnñ sudnli ǎt v aliz ɖt w psivd t b blînd, clozñ wɖ a litl bañ ɖt md s lc at ć uɖr – fr, lîc ol bañz, it wz smʈñ lǎdr ɖn w hd intndd – ɖ dorz w hd indiscritli opnd. Ol rodz līd t Rom, n ɖr wr tîmz ẃn it mt hv struc s ɖt olmst evri branć v studi or subjict v convseśn scrtd fbidn grǎnd. Fbidn grǎnd wz ɖ qsćn v ɖ rtrn v ɖ ded in jenṛl n v ẃtvr, in ispeśl, mt svîv, in meṃri, v ɖ frendz litl ćildṛn hd lost. Ɖr wr dez ẃn I cd hv sworn ɖt wn v ɖm hd, wɖ a smōl inviẓbl nuj, sd t ɖ uɖr: “Ś ʈncs ś’l d it ɖs tîm – bt ś w’nt!” T “d it” wd hv bn t indulj fr instns – n fr wns in a we – in sm d’rect refṛns t ɖ ledi hu hd priperd ɖm fr mî diṣplin. Ɖe hd a dlîtfl endlis aṗtît fr paṣjz in mî ǒn hisṭri, t ẃć I hd agn n agn trītd ɖm; ɖe wr in pześn v evrʈñ ɖt hd evr hapnd t m, hd hd, wɖ evri srcmstans ɖ stori v mî smōlist advnćrz n v ɖoz v mî bruɖrz n sistrz n v ɖ cat n ɖ dog at hom, az wel az mni ptiklrz v ɖ xntric nećr v mî faɖr, v ɖ frnićr n arenjmnt v ǎr hǎs, n v ɖ convseśn v ɖ old wimin v ǎr vilij. Ɖr wr ʈñz inuf, tecñ wn wɖ anɖr, t ćatr abt, f wn wnt vri fast n ń bî instñt ẃn t g rnd. Ɖe pld wɖ an art v ɖer ǒn ɖ strñz v mî invnśn n mî meṃri; n nʈñ els phps, ẃn I ʈt v sć oceźnz afṭwd, gev m so ɖ sspiśn v biyñ woćt fṛm undr cuvr. It wz in eni ces ovr lîf, past, n frendz alon ɖt w cd tec enʈñ lîc ǎr īz – a stet v aferz ɖt léd ɖm smtmz wɖt ɖ līst prṭnns t brec ǎt intu soṣ́bl rmîndrz. I wz invîtd – wɖ no viẓbl cnx́n – t rpit afreś Gdi Gozlñ’z seḷbretd mot or t cnfrm ɖ dītelz olrdi s’plaid az t ɖ clevrnis v ɖ vic̣rijponi.

It wz partli at sć juñćrz az ɖz n partli at qt difṛnt wnz ɖt, wɖ ɖ trn mî matrz hd nǎ tecn, mî pridic̣mnt, az I hv cōld it, grù most snṣbl. Ɖ fact ɖt ɖ dez pást fr m wɖt anɖr incǎntr òt, it wd hv apird, t hv dn smʈñ twd suɖñ mî nrvz. Sins ɖ lît bruś, ɖt secnd nît on ɖ upr landñ, v ɖ prezns v a wmn at ɖ ft v ɖ ster, I hd sìn nʈñ, ẃɖr in or ǎt v ɖ hǎs, ɖt wn hd betr nt hv sìn. Ɖr wz mni a cornr rnd ẃć I xpctd t cm upn Qint, n mni a sićueśn ɖt, in a mirli sinistr we, wd hv fevrd ɖ apiṛns v Mis Jesl. Ɖ sumr hd trnd, ɖ sumr hd gn; ɖ ōtm hd dropt upn Blai n hd bloun ǎt haf ǎr lîts. Ɖ ples, wɖ its gre scî n wiɖrd garḷndz, its bérd spesz n scatrd ded līvz, wz lîc a ʈiytr aftr ɖ pformns – ol strùn wɖ crumpld plêbílz. Ɖr wr xacli stets v ɖ er, cndiśnz v sǎnd n v stilnis, unspīcbl impreśnz v ɖ cnd v minisṭrñ momnt, ɖt bròt bac t m, loñ inuf t cać it, ɖ fīlñ v ɖ mīdịm in ẃć, ɖt Jūn īvnñ ǎt v dorz, I hd hd mî frst sît v Qint, n in ẃć, tù, at ɖoz uɖr instnts, I hd, aftr siyñ him ʈru ɖ windo, lct fr him in ven in ɖ srcl v śruḅri. I rec̣gnîzd ɖ sînz, ɖ portnts – I rec̣gnîzd ɖ momnt, ɖ spot. Bt ɖe rmend un’cumṗnid n emti, n I cntinyd unṃlestd; f unṃlestd wn cd cōl a yuñ wmn huz snsbiḷti hd, in ɖ most xtrordnri faśn, nt dclînd bt dīpnd. I hd sd in mî tōc wɖ Msz. Grǒs on ɖt horid sīn v Flora’z bî ɖ lec – n hd pplext hr bî so seyñ – ɖt it wd fṛm ɖt momnt dstres m mć mor t lūz mî pǎr ɖn t cīp it. I hd ɖen xprest ẃt wz vividli in mî mînd: ɖ truʈ ɖt, ẃɖr ɖ ćildṛn riyli sw or nt – sins, ɖt z, it wz nt yt defiṇtli pruvd – I gretli prifŕd, az a sefgard, ɖ fŭlnis v mî ǒn xpoźr. I wz redi t nǒ ɖ vri wrst ɖt wz t b noun. Ẃt I hd ɖen hd an ugli glims v wz ɖt mî îz mt b sìld jst ẃl ɖerz wr most opnd. Wel, mî îz wr sìld, it apird, at preznt – a consymeśn fr ẃć it sīmd blasfṃs nt t ʈanc God. Ɖr wz, alas, a dificlti abt ɖt: I wd hv ʈanct him wɖ ol mî soul hd I nt hd in a pṛporśṇt meźr ɖs cnvix́n v ɖ sīcrit v mî pyplz.Hǎ cn I rītres tde ɖ strenj steps v mî obseśn? Ɖr wr tîmz v ǎr biyñ tgɖr ẃn I wd hv bn redi t swer ɖt, litṛli, in mî prezns, bt wɖ mî d’rect sns v it clozd, ɖe hd vizitrz hu wr noun n wr welcm. Ɖen it wz ɖt, hd I nt bn dtrd bî ɖ vri ćans ɖt sć an inɉri mt pruv gretr ɖn ɖ inɉri t b avrtd, mî xlteśn wd hv brocn ǎt. “Ɖ’r hir, ɖ’r hir, y litl rećz,” I wd hv craid, “n y c’nt dnî it nǎ!” Ɖ litl rećz dnaid it wɖ ol ɖ add volym v ɖer sośbiḷti n ɖer tndrnis, in jst ɖ cristl depʈs v ẃć – lîc ɖ flaś v a fiś in a strīm – ɖ moc̣ri v ɖer advantij pīpt p. Ɖ śoc, in truʈ, hd sunc intu m stl dīpr ɖn I ń on ɖ nît ẃn, lcñ ǎt t si îɖr Qint or Mis Jesl undr ɖ starz, I hd bheld ɖ bô ovr huz rest I woćt n hu hd imīɉtli bròt in wɖ him – hd stretwe, ɖr, trnd it on m – ɖ luvli upwd lc wɖ ẃć, fṛm ɖ batlmnts abv m, ɖ hidịs aṗriśn v Qint hd pleid. F it wz a qsćn v a scer, mî dscuṿri on ɖs oceźn hd scerd m mor ɖn eni uɖr, n it wz in ɖ cndiśn v nrvz pṛdyst bî it ɖt I md mî acćl indux́nz. Ɖe haṛst m so ɖt smtmz, at od momnts, I śut mslf p ōḍbli t rhrs – it wz at wns a fntastic rlif n a rnyd dsper – ɖ manr in ẃć I mt cm t ɖ pônt. I aproćt it fṛm wn sîd n ɖ uɖr ẃl, in mî rūm, I fluñ mslf abt, bt I olwz brouc dǎn in ɖ monstṛs utṛns v nemz. Az ɖe daid awe on mî lips, I sd t mslf ɖt I śd indd hlp ɖm t repriznt smʈñ infṃs, f, bî pṛnǎnsñ ɖm, I śd vaylet az rer a litl ces v instñtiv delic̣si az eni scūlrūm, probbli, hd evr noun. Ẃn I sd t mslf: “Ɖe hv ɖ manrz t b sîḷnt, n y, trustd az y r, ɖ besnis t spīc!” I flt mslf crimzn n I cuvrd mî fes wɖ mî handz. Aftr ɖz sīcrit sīnz I ćatrd mor ɖn evr, gwñ on vołbli inuf tl wn v ǎr pṛdijs, palṗbl huśz ocŕd – I cn cōl ɖm nʈñ els – ɖ strenj, dizi lift or swim (I trî fr trmz!) intu a stilnis, a pōz v ol lîf, ɖt hd nʈñ t d wɖ ɖ mor or les nôz ɖt at ɖ momnt w mt b ingejd in mcñ n ɖt I cd hír ʈru eni dīpnd xiḷreśn or qcnd reṣteśn or lǎdr strum v ɖ piano. Ɖen it wz ɖt ɖ uɖrz, ɖ ǎtsîdrz, wr ɖr. Ɖo ɖe wr nt enjlz, ɖe “pást,” az ɖ Frenć se, cōzñ m, ẃl ɖe steid, t trembl wɖ ɖ fir v ɖer adresñ t ɖer yungr victimz sm yt mor infrṇl mesij or mor vivid imij ɖn ɖe hd ʈt gd inuf fr mslf.

Ẃt it wz most imposbl t gt rid v wz ɖ cruwl îdīa ɖt, ẃtvr I hd sìn, Mîlz n Flora sw mor – ʈñz teṛbl n ungeṣbl n ɖt sprañ fṛm dredfl paṣjz v inṭcors in ɖ past. Sć ʈñz naćṛli left on ɖ srfis, fr ɖ tîm, a ćil ẃć w vsifṛsli dnaid ɖt w flt; n w hd, ol ʈri, wɖ reṗtiśn, got intu sć splendid trenñ ɖt w wnt, ć tîm, olmst ōṭmaticli, t marc ɖ cloz v ɖ insidnt, ʈru ɖ vri sem muvmnts. It wz strîcñ v ɖ ćildṛn, at ol ivnts, t cis m invetṛtli wɖ a cnd v wîld ireḷvns n nvr t fel – wn or ɖ uɖr – v ɖ preśs qsćn ɖt hd hlpt s ʈru mni a peṛl. “Ẃn d y ʈnc h wl cm? D’nt y ʈnc w òt t rait?” – ɖr wz nʈñ lîc ɖt inqîri, w faund bî xpirịns, fr cariyñ of an ōcẉdnis. “H” v cors wz ɖer uncl in Harli Strīt; n w livd in mć pṛfyźn v ʈiyri ɖt h mt at eni momnt arîv t mngl in ǎr srcl. It wz imposbl t hv gvn les incurijmnt ɖn h hd dn t sć a doctrin, bt f w hd nt hd ɖ doctrin t fōl bac upn w śd hv dprîvd ć uɖr v sm v ǎr fînist xbiśnz. H nvr rout t ɖm – ɖt me hv bn slfiś, bt it wz a part v ɖ flaṭri v hiz trust v m; fr ɖ we in ẃć a man pez hiz hîist tribyt t a wmn z apt t b bt bî ɖ mor fstl seḷbreśn v wn v ɖ secrid lwz v hiz cumf̣t; n I hld ɖt I carid ǎt ɖ spirit v ɖ plej gvn nt t apil t him ẃn I let mî ćarjz unḍstand ɖt ɖer ǒn letrz wr bt ćarmñ litrri x’sîsz. Ɖe wr tù bytifl t b postd; I cept ɖm mslf; I hv ɖm ol t ɖs aur. Ɖs wz a rūl indd ẃć onli add t ɖ s’tiric ifct v mî biyñ plaid wɖ ɖ supziśn ɖt h mt at eni momnt b amñ s. It wz xacli az f mî ćarjz ń hǎ olmst mor ōcẉd ɖn enʈñ els ɖt mt b fr m. Ɖr apirz t m, morovr, az I lc bac, no not in ol ɖs mor xtrordnri ɖn ɖ mir fact ɖt, in spît v mî tnśn n v ɖer trîumf, I nvr lost peśns wɖ ɖm. Adoṛbl ɖe mst in truʈ hv bn, I nǎ rflect, ɖt I dd’nt in ɖz dez het ɖm! Wd xasṗreśn, hvr, f rlif hd longr bn pspond, fîṇli hv btreid m? It litl matrz, fr rlif arîvd. I cōl it rlif, ɖo it wz onli ɖ rlif ɖt a snap brñz t a stren or ɖ brst v a ʈundrstorm t a de v suf̣ceśn. It wz at līst ćenj, n it cem wɖ a ruś.

___

XIV

Wōcñ t ćrć a srtn Súnde mornñ, I hd litl Mîlz at mî sîd n hiz sistr, in advans v s n at Msz. Grǒs’z, wel in sît. It wz a crisp, clir de, ɖ frst v its ordr fr sm tîm; ɖ nît hd bròt a tuć v frost, n ɖ ōtm er, brît n śarp, md ɖ ćrć belz olmst ge. It wz an od axidnt v ʈt ɖt I śd hv hapnd at sć a momnt t b ptiklrli n vri gretf̣li struc wɖ ɖ obīdịns v mî litl ćarjz. Ẃ dd ɖe nvr rznt mî inexṛbl, mî ppćl ssayti? Smʈñ or uɖr hd bròt nirr hom t m ɖt I hd ol bt pind ɖ bô t mî śōl n ɖt, in ɖ we ǎr cmpańnz wr marśld bfr m, I mt hv apird t pṛvîd agnst sm denjr v rbełn. I wz lîc a jelr wɖ an î t poṣbl s’prîzz n isceps. Bt ol ɖs b’loñd – I mīn ɖer mgnifisnt litl srendr – jst t ɖ speśl are v ɖ facts ɖt wr most abizml. Trnd ǎt fr Súnde bî hiz uncl’z teilr, hu hd hd a fri hand n a nośn v priti weistcots n v hiz grand litl er, Mîlz’z hol tîtl t indipndns, ɖ rîts v hiz sx n sićueśn, wr so stamt upn him ɖt f h hd sudnli struc fr frīdm I śd hv hd nʈñ t se. I wz bî ɖ strenjist v ćansz wunḍrñ hǎ I śd mīt him ẃn ɖ reṿluśn unmistecbli ocŕd. I cōl it a reṿluśn bcz I nǎ si hǎ, wɖ ɖ wrd h spouc, ɖ crtn rouz on ɖ last act v mî dredfl drama, n ɖ ctastṛfi wz prisiṗtetd. “Lc hir, mî dir, y nǒ,” h ćarmñli sd, “ẃn in ɖ wrld, plīz, am I gwñ bac t scūl?”

Trnscrîbd hir ɖ spīć sǎndz harmlis inuf, ptiklrli az utrd in ɖ swīt, hî, caźl pîp wɖ ẃć, at ol inṭloktrz, bt abv ol at hiz itrnl guṿnes, h ʈrù of inṭneśnz az f h wr tosñ rozz. Ɖr wz smʈñ in ɖm ɖt olwz md wn “cać,” n I còt, at eni ret, nǎ so ifcć̣li ɖt I stopt az śort az f wn v ɖ triz v ɖ parc hd fōḷn acrs ɖ rod. Ɖr wz smʈñ ny, on ɖ spot, btwn s, n h wz prf̣cli awer ɖt I rec̣gnîzd it, ɖo, t inebl m t d so, h hd no nīd t lc a ẃit les candid n ćarmñ ɖn yźl. I cd fīl in him hǎ h olrdi, fṛm mî at frst fîndñ nʈñ t rplî, psivd ɖ advantij h hd gend. I wz so slo t fînd enʈñ ɖt h hd plenti v tîm, aftr a minit, t cntiny wɖ hiz sjstiv bt incnclūsiv smîl: “Y nǒ, mî dir, ɖt fr a felo t b wɖ a ledi olwz – !” Hiz “mî dir” wz constntli on hiz lips fr m, n nʈñ cd hv xprest mor ɖ xact śêd v ɖ sntimnt wɖ ẃć I dzîrd t inspîr mî pyplz ɖn its fond fmiliaṛti. It wz so rspctf̣li īzi.Bt, ǒ, hǎ I flt ɖt at preznt I mst pic mî ǒn frezz! I rmembr ɖt, t gen tîm, I traid t laf, n I sīmd t si in ɖ bytifl fes wɖ ẃć h woćt m hǎ ugli n qir I lct. “N olwz wɖ ɖ sem ledi?” I rtrnd.

H nɖr blanćt nr wnct. Ɖ hol ʈñ wz vrć̣li ǎt btwn s. “Ā, v cors, ś’z a joli, ‘prfict’ ledi; bt, aftr ol, I’m a felo, d’nt y si? ɖt’s – wel, gtñ on.”

I lingrd ɖr wɖ him an instnt evr so cîndli. “Yes, y’r gtñ on.” Ǒ, bt I flt hlplis!

I hv cept t ɖs de ɖ hartbrecñ litl îdīa v hǎ h sīmd t nǒ ɖt n t ple wɖ it. “N y c’nt se I’v nt bn ōf̣li gd, cn y?”

I leid mî hand on hiz śoldr, fr, ɖo I flt hǎ mć betr it wd hv bn t wōc on, I wz nt yt qt ebl. “No, I c’nt se ɖt, Mîlz.”

“Xpt jst ɖt wn nît, y nǒ – !”

“Ɖt wn nît?” I cd’nt lc az stret az h.

“Ẃ, ẃn I wnt dǎn – wnt ǎt v ɖ hǎs.”

“Ǒ, yes. Bt I fget ẃt y dd it fr.”

“Y fget?” – h spouc wɖ ɖ swīt xtraṿgns v ćîldiś rproć. “Ẃ, it wz t śo y I cd!”

“Ǒ, yes, y cd.”

“N I cn agn.”

I flt ɖt I mt, phps, aftr ol, s’xid in cīpñ mî wits abt m. “Srtnli. Bt y w’nt.”

“No, nt ɖt agn. It wz nʈñ.”

“It wz nʈñ,” I sd. “Bt w mst g on.”

H rzymd ǎr wōc wɖ m, pasñ hiz hand intu mî arm. “Ɖen ẃn am I gwñ bac?”

I wòr, in trnñ it ovr, mî most rsponsbl er. “Wr y vri hapi at scūl?”

H jst cnsidrd. “Ǒ, I’m hapi inuf enẃr!”

“Wel, ɖen,” I qevrd, “f y’r jst az hapi hir – !”

“Ā, bt ɖt z’nt evrʈñ! V cors y nǒ a lot – ”

“Bt y hint ɖt y nǒ olmst az mć?” I risct az h pōzd.

“Nt haf I wont t!” Mîlz oṇstli pṛfest. “Bt it z’nt so mć ɖt.”

“Ẃt z it, ɖen?”

“Wel – I wont t si mor lîf.”

“I si; I si.” W hd arîvd wɖn sît v ɖ ćrć n v verịs prsnz, includñ sevṛl v ɖ hǎshold v Blai, on ɖer we t it n clustrd abt ɖ dor t si s g in. I qcnd ǎr step; I wontd t gt ɖr bfr ɖ qsćn btwn s opnd p mć frɖr; I rflectd hungṛli ɖt, fr mor ɖn an aur, h wd hv t b sîḷnt; n I ʈt wɖ envi v ɖ cmpaṛtiv dusc v ɖ py n v ɖ olmst spirićl hlp v ɖ haṣc on ẃć I mt bnd mî niz. I sīmd litṛli t b runñ a rês wɖ sm cnfyźn t ẃć h wz abt t rdys m, bt I flt ɖt h hd got in frst ẃn, bfr w hd īvn entrd ɖ ćrćyard, h ʈrù ǎt –

“I wont mî ǒn sort!”

It litṛli md m bǎnd fwd. “Ɖr r nt mni v yr ǒn sort, Mîlz!” I laft. “Unls phps dir litl Flora!”

“Y riyli cmper m t a bebigrl?”

Ɖs faund m snğlrli wìc. “D’nt y, ɖen, luv ǎr swīt Flora?”

“F I dd’nt – n y, tù; f I dd’nt – !” h rpitd az f rtritñ fr a jump, yt līvñ hiz ʈt so unfiniśt ɖt, aftr w hd cm intu ɖ get, anɖr stop, ẃć h impozd on m bî ɖ preśr v hiz arm, hd bcm inevitbl. Msz. Grǒs n Flora hd pást intu ɖ ćrć, ɖ uɖr wrśiprz hd foloud, n w wr, fr ɖ minit, alon amñ ɖ old, ʈic grevz. W hd pōzd, on ɖ paʈ fṛm ɖ get, bî a lo, obloñ, tebļîc tūm.

“Yes, f y dd’nt – ?”

H lct, ẃl I wêtd, at ɖ grevz. “Wel, y nǒ ẃt!” Bt h dd’nt muv, n h prezntli pṛdyst smʈñ ɖt md m drop stret dǎn on ɖ ston slab, az f sudnli t rest. “Dz mî uncl ʈnc ẃt y ʈnc?”

I marcidli restd. “Hǎ d y nǒ ẃt I ʈnc?”

“Ā, wel, v cors I d’nt; fr it strîcs m y nvr tel m. Bt I mīn dz h nǒ?”

“Nǒ ẃt, Mîlz?”

“Ẃ, ɖ we I’m gwñ on.”

I psivd qcli inuf ɖt I cd mc, t ɖs inqîri, no ansr ɖt wd nt involv smʈñ v a sacṛfîs v mî imployr. Yt it apird t m ɖt w wr ol, at Blai, sfiśntli sacṛfîst t mc ɖt vīńl. “I d’nt ʈnc yr uncl mć cerz.”

Mîlz, on ɖs, std lcñ at m. “Ɖen d’nt y ʈnc h cn b md t?”

“In ẃt we?”

“Ẃ, bî hiz cmñ dǎn.”

“Bt hu’l gt him t cm dǎn?”

I wl!” ɖ bô sd wɖ xtrordnri brîtnis n emf̣sis. H gev m anɖr lc ćarjd wɖ ɖt xpreśn n ɖen marćt of alon intu ćrć.

___

XV

Ɖ  biznis wz practicli setld fṛm ɖ momnt I nvr foloud him. It wz a pitifl srendr t ajteśn, bt mî biyñ awer v ɖs hd smhǎ no pǎr t rstor m. I onli sat ɖr on mî tūm n réd intu ẃt mî litl frend hd sd t m ɖ fŭlnis v its mīnñ; bî ɖ tîm I hd graspt ɖ hol v ẃć I hd olso imbrest, fr absns, ɖ prītxt ɖt I wz aśemd t ofr mî pyplz n ɖ rest v ɖ congṛgeśn sć an xampl v dle. Ẃt I sd t mslf abv ol wz ɖt Mîlz hd got smʈñ ǎt v m n ɖt ɖ prūf v it, fr him, wd b jst ɖs ōcẉd c’laps. H hd got ǎt v m ɖt ɖr wz smʈñ I wz mć afreid v n ɖt h śd probbli b ebl t mc ys v mî fir t gen, fr hiz ǒn prṗs, mor frīdm. Mî fir wz v hvñ t dīl wɖ ɖ intolṛbl qsćn v ɖ grǎndz v hiz dsmisl fṛm scūl, fr ɖt wz riyli bt ɖ qsćn v ɖ horrz gaɖrd bhnd. Ɖt hiz uncl śd arîv t trīt wɖ m v ɖz ʈñz wz a s’lūśn ɖt, stricli spīcñ, I òt nǎ t hv dzîrd t brñ on; bt I cd so litl fes ɖ uglinis n ɖ pen v it ɖt I simpli pṛcrasṭnetd n livd fṛm hand t mǎʈ. Ɖ bô, t mî dīp discmpoźr, wz imnsli in ɖ rît, wz in a pziśn t se t m: “Îɖr y clir p wɖ mî gardịn ɖ misṭri v ɖs inṭrupśn v mî studiz, or y sīs t xpct m t līd wɖ y a lîf ɖt’s so uņaćṛl fr a bô.” Ẃt wz so uņaćṛl fr ɖ ptiklr bô I wz cnsrnd wɖ wz ɖs sudn reṿleśn v a conśsnis n a plan.

Ɖt wz ẃt riyli oṿcem m, ẃt privntd mî gwñ in. I wōct rnd ɖ ćrć, heztetñ, hoṿrñ; I rflectd ɖt I hd olrdi, wɖ him, hrt mslf bynd rper. Ɖrfr I cd pać p nʈñ, n it wz tù xtrim an ef̣t t sqīz bsd him intu ɖ py: h wd b so mć mor śr ɖn evr t pas hiz arm intu mîn n mc m sit ɖr fr an aur in clos, sîḷnt contact wɖ hiz comntri on ǎr tōc. Fr ɖ frst minit sins hiz arîvl I wontd t gt awe fṛm him. Az I pōzd bnʈ ɖ hî īst windo n lisnd t ɖ sǎndz v wrśp, I wz tecn wɖ an impuls ɖt mt mastr m, I flt, cmplitli śd I gv it ɖ līst incurijmnt. I mt īẓli pt an end t mî pridic̣mnt bî gtñ awe oltgɖr. Hir wz mî ćans; ɖr wz nwn t stop m; I cd gv ɖ hol ʈñ p – trn mî bac n rtrit. It wz onli a qsćn v huriyñ agn, fr a fy preṗreśnz, t ɖ hǎs ẃć ɖ atndns at ćrć v so mni v ɖ srvnts wd practicli hv left unokpaid. Nwn, in śort, cd blem m f I śd jst drîv despṛtli of. Ẃt wz it t gt awe f I got awe onli tl dinr? Ɖt wd b in a cupl v aurz, at ɖ end v ẃć – I hd ɖ akt priviźn – mî litl pyplz wd ple at iṇsnt wundr abt mî non’piṛns in ɖer tren.“Ẃt dd y d, y nōti, bad ʈñ? Ẃ in ɖ wrld, t wuri s so – n tec ǎr ʈts of, tù, d’nt y nǒ? – dd y dzrt s at ɖ vri dor?” I cd’nt mīt sć qsćnz nr, az ɖe asct ɖm, ɖer fōls litl luvli îz; yt it wz ol so xacli ẃt I śd hv t mīt ɖt, az ɖ prospect grù śarp t m, I at last let mslf g.

I got, so far az ɖ imīɉt momnt wz cnsrnd, awe; I cem stret ǎt v ɖ ćrćyard n, ʈncñ hard, rtrest mî steps ʈru ɖ parc. It sīmd t m ɖt bî ɖ tîm I rīćt ɖ hǎs I hd md p mî mînd I wd flî. Ɖ Súnde stilnis bʈ v ɖ aproćz n v ɖ intirịr, in ẃć I met nwn, ferli xîtd m wɖ a sns v oṗtyṇti. Wr I t gt of qcli, ɖs we, I śd gt of wɖt a sīn, wɖt a wrd. Mî qcnis wd hv t b rmarcbl, hvr, n ɖ qsćn v a cnveyns wz ɖ gret wn t setl. Tormntd, in ɖ hōl, wɖ dificltiz n obsṭclz, I rmembr sncñ dǎn at ɖ ft v ɖ sterces – sudnli c’lapsñ ɖr on ɖ lǒist step n ɖen, wɖ a rvulśn, rcōlñ ɖt it wz xacli ẃr mor ɖn a munʈ bfr, in ɖ darcnis v nît n jst so baud wɖ īvl ʈñz, I hd sìn ɖ spectr v ɖ most hoṛbl v wimin. At ɖs I wz ebl t stretn mslf; I wnt ɖ rest v ɖ we p; I md, in mî bwildrmnt, fr ɖ scūlrūm, ẃr ɖr wr objicts b’loññ t m ɖt I śd hv t tec. Bt I opnd ɖ dor t fînd agn, in a flaś, mî îz unsealed. In ɖ prezns v ẃt I sw I rīld stret bac upn mî rzistns.

Sītd at mî ǒn tebl in clir nūnde lît I sw a prsn hūm, wɖt mî prīvịs xpirịns, I śd hv tecn at ɖ frst bluś fr sm hǎsmeid hu mt hv steid at hom t lc aftr ɖ ples n hu, avelñ hrslf v rer rlif fṛm obẓveśn n v ɖ scūlrūm tebl n mî pnz, ñc, n pepr, hd aplaid hrslf t ɖ cnsidṛbl ef̣t v a letr t hr swīthart. Ɖr wz an ef̣t in ɖ we ɖt, ẃl hr armz restd on ɖ tebl, hr handz wɖ evidnt wirinis s’portd hr hed; bt at ɖ momnt I tc ɖs in I hd olrdi bcm awer ɖt, in spît v mî entṛns, hr attyd strenjli psistd. Ɖen it wz – wɖ ɖ vri act v its anǎnsñ itslf – ɖt hr îdntti flerd p in a ćenj v posćr. Ś rouz, nt az f ś hd hŕd m, bt wɖ an indiscrîbbl grand meḷnc̣li v indifṛns n dtaćmnt, n, wɖn a duzn fīt v m, std ɖr az mî vîl prīdisesr. Disonrd n trajic, ś wz ol bfr m; bt īvn az I fixt n, fr meṃri, s’krd it, ɖ ōfl imij pást awe. Darc az midnît in hr blac dres, hr haġd byti n hr unutṛbl wo, ś hd lct at m loñ inuf t apir t se ɖt hr rît t sit at mî tebl wz az gd az mîn t sit at hrz. Ẃl ɖz instnts lastd, indd, I hd ɖ xtrordnri ćil v fīlñ ɖt it wz I hu wz ɖ intrudr. It wz az a wîld protest agnst it ɖt, acć̣li adresñ hr – “Y teṛbl, mizṛbl wmn!” – I hŕd mslf brec intu a sǎnd ɖt, bî ɖ opn dor, rañ ʈru ɖ loñ pasij n ɖ emti hǎs. Ś lct at m az f ś hŕd m, bt I hd rcuvrd mslf n clird ɖ er. Ɖr wz nʈñ in ɖ rūm ɖ nxt minit bt ɖ súnśîn n a sns ɖt I mst ste.

___

XVI

I  hd so prf̣cli xpctd ɖt ɖ rtrn v mî pyplz wd b marct bî a demnstreśn ɖt I wz freśli upset at hvñ t tec intu acǎnt ɖt ɖe wr dum abt mî absns. Instd v gêli dnǎnsñ n c’resñ m, ɖe md no aluźn t mî hvñ feld ɖm, n I wz left, fr ɖ tîm, on psivñ ɖt ś tù sd nʈñ, t studi Msz. Grǒs’z od fes. I dd ɖs t sć prṗs ɖt I md śr ɖe hd in sm we brîbd hr t sîḷns; a sîḷns ɖt, hvr, I wd ingej t brec dǎn on ɖ frst prîṿt oṗtyṇti. Ɖs oṗtyṇti cem bfr ti: I s’krd fîv minits wɖ hr in ɖ hǎscīpr’z rūm, ẃr, in ɖ twîlît, amd a smel v lêtli bect bred, bt wɖ ɖ ples ol swept n garniśt, I faund hr sitñ in pend pḷsidti bfr ɖ fîr. So I si hr stl, so I si hr bst: fesñ ɖ flem fṛm hr stret ćer in ɖ dusci, śînñ rūm, a larj clīn imij v ɖ “pt awe” – v drorz clozd n loct n rest wɖt a reṃdi.

“Ǒ, yes, ɖe asct m t se nʈñ; n t plīz ɖm – so loñ az ɖe wr ɖr – v cors I promist. Bt ẃt hd hapnd t y?”

“I onli wnt wɖ y fr ɖ wōc,” I sd. “I hd ɖen t cm bac t mīt a frend.”

Ś śoud hr s’prîz. “A frend – y?

“Ǒ, yes, I hv a cupl!” I laft. “Bt dd ɖ ćildṛn gv y a rīzn?”

“Fr nt aludñ t yr līvñ s? Yes; ɖe sd y wd lîc it betr. D y lîc it betr?”

Mî fes hd md hr rūfl. “No, I lîc it wrs!” Bt aftr an instnt I add: “Dd ɖe se ẃ I śd lîc it betr?”

“No; Mastr Mîlz onli sd, ‘W mst d nʈñ bt ẃt ś lîcs!’”

“I wś indd h wd. N ẃt dd Flora se?”

“Mis Flora wz tù swīt. Ś sd, ‘Ǒ, v cors, v cors!’ – n I sd ɖ sem.”

I ʈt a momnt. “Y wr tù swīt, tù – I cn hír y ol. Bt nnɖles, btwn Mîlz n m, it’s nǎ ol ǎt.”

“Ol ǎt?” Mî cmpańn stérd. “Bt ẃt, mis?”

“Evrʈñ. It dz’nt matr. I’v md p mî mînd. I cem hom, mî dir,” I wnt on, “fr a tōc wɖ Mis Jesl.”

I hd bî ɖs tîm formd ɖ habit v hvñ Msz. Grǒs litṛli wel in hand in advans v mî sǎndñ ɖt not; so ɖt īvn nǎ, az ś brevli blinct undr ɖ signl v mî wrd, I cd cīp hr cmpaṛtivli frm. “A tōc! D y mīn ś spouc?”

“It cem t ɖt. I faund hr, on mî rtrn, in ɖ scūlrūm.”

“N ẃt dd ś se?” I cn hír ɖ gd wmn stl, n ɖ candr v hr styṗfax́n.

“Ɖt ś sufrz ɖ torments – !”

It wz ɖs, v a truʈ, ɖt md hr, az ś fild ǎt mî picćr, gep. “D y mīn,” ś fōltrd, “ – v ɖ lost?”

“V ɖ lost. V ɖ dámd. N ɖt’s ẃ, t śer ɖm – ” I fōltrd mslf wɖ ɖ horr v it.

Bt mî cmpańn, wɖ les imaɉneśn, cept m p. “T śer ɖm – ?”

“Ś wonts Flora.” Msz. Grǒs mt, az I gev it t hr, ferli hv fōḷn awe fṛm m hd I nt bn priperd. I stl hld hr ɖr, t śo I wz. “Az I’v tld y, hvr, it dz’nt matr.”

“Bcz y’v md p yr mînd? Bt t ẃt?”

“T evrʈñ.”

“N ẃt d y cōl ‘evrʈñ’?”

“Ẃ, sndñ fr ɖer uncl.”

“Ǒ, mis, in piti d,” mî frend brouc ǎt.

“Ā, bt I wl, I wl! I si it’s ɖ onli we. Ẃt’s ‘ǎt,’ az I tld y, wɖ Mîlz z ɖt f h ʈncs I’m afreid t – n hz îdīaz v ẃt h genz bî ɖt – h śl si h’z mstecn. Yes, yes; hiz uncl śl hv it hir fṛm m on ɖ spot (n bfr ɖ bô himslf, f nesṣri) ɖt f I’m t b rproćt wɖ hvñ dn nʈñ agn abt mor scūl – ”

“Yes, mis – ” mî cmpańn prest m.

“Wel, ɖr’z ɖt ōfl rīzn.”

Ɖr wr nǎ clirli so mni v ɖz fr mî pur colīg ɖt ś wz xkẓbl fr biyñ veg. “Bt – a – ẃć?”

“Ẃ, ɖ letr fṛm hiz old ples.”

“Y’l śo it t ɖ mastr?”

“I òt t hv dn so on ɖ instnt.”

“Ǒ, no!” sd Msz. Grǒs wɖ dsiźn.

“I’l pt it bfr him,” I wnt on inexṛbli, “ɖt I c’nt unḍtec t wrc ɖ qsćn on bhaf v a ćîld hu hz bn xpeld – ”

“Fr w’v nvr in ɖ līst noun ẃt!” Msz. Grǒs dclerd.

“Fr wicidnis. Fr ẃt els – ẃn h’z so clevr n bytifl n prfict? Z h stypid? Z h untîdi? Z h infrm? Z h il-nećrd? H’z xqizit – so it cn b onli ɖt; n ɖt wd opn p ɖ hol ʈñ. Aftr ol,” I sd, “it’s ɖer uncl’z fōlt. F h left hir sć ppl – !”

“H dd’nt riyli in ɖ līst nǒ ɖm. Ɖ fōlt’s mîn.” Ś hd trnd qt pel.

“Wel, y ś’nt sufr,” I ansrd.

“Ɖ ćildṛn ś’nt!” ś imfaticli rtrnd.

I wz sîḷnt aẃl; w lct at ć uɖr. “Ɖen ẃt am I t tel him?”

“Y nīd’nt tel him enʈñ. I’l tel him.”

I meźrd ɖs. “D y mīn y’l rait – ?” Rmemḅrñ ś cd’nt, I còt mslf p. “Hǎ d y cḿṇcet?”

“I tel ɖ beilif. H raits.”

“N śd y lîc him t rait ǎr stori?”

Mî qsćn hd a sarcastic fors ɖt I hd nt fŭli intndd, n it md hr, aftr a momnt, inconsiqntli brec dǎn. Ɖ tirz wr agn in hr îz. “Ā, mis, y rait!”

“Wel – tnît,” I at last ansrd; n on ɖs w seṗretd.

___

XVII

I  wnt so far, in ɖ īvnñ, az t mc a bginñ. Ɖ weɖr hd ćenjd bac, a gret wind wz abrōd, n bnʈ ɖ lamp, in mî rūm, wɖ Flora at pīs bsd m, I sat fr a loñ tîm bfr a blanc śīt v pepr n lisnd t ɖ laś v ɖ ren n ɖ batr v ɖ gusts. Fîṇli I wnt ǎt, tecñ a candl; I crost ɖ pasij n lisnd a minit at Mîlz’z dor. Ẃt, undr mî endlis obseśn, I hd bn impeld t lisn fr wz sm btreyl v hiz nt biyñ at rest, n I prezntli còt wn, bt nt in ɖ form I hd xpctd. Hiz vôs tncld ǎt. “I se, y ɖr – cm in.” It wz a geyti in ɖ glūm!

I wnt in wɖ mî lît n faund him, in bed, vri wîd awec, bt vri mć at hiz īz. “Wel, ẃt r y p t?” h asct wɖ a gres v sośbiḷti in ẃć it ocŕd t m ɖt Msz. Grǒs, hd ś bn preznt, mt hv lct in ven fr prūf ɖt enʈñ wz “ǎt.”I std ovr him wɖ mî candl. “Hǎ dd y nǒ I wz ɖr?”

“Ẃ, v cors I hŕd y. Dd y fansi y md no nôz? Y’r lîc a trūp v cavlri!” h bytifli laft.

“Ɖen y wr’nt aslip?”

“Nt mć! I lî awec n ʈnc.”

I hd pt mî candl, dzînidli, a śort we of, n ɖen, az h hld ǎt hiz frendli old hand t m, hd sat dǎn on ɖ éj v hiz bed. “Ẃt z it,” I asct, “ɖt y ʈnc v?”

“Ẃt in ɖ wrld, mî dir, bt y?

“Ā, ɖ prîd I tec in yr aprīśieśn dz’nt insist on ɖt! I hd so far rɖr y slept.”

“Wel, I ʈnc olso, y nǒ, v ɖs qir biznis v ǎrz.”

I marct ɖ cūlnis v hiz frm litl hand. “V ẃt qir biznis, Mîlz?”

“Ẃ, ɖ we y brñ m p. N ol ɖ rest!”

I ferli hld mî breʈ a minit, n īvn fṛm mî gliṃrñ tepr ɖr wz lît inuf t śo hǎ h smîld p at m fṛm hiz pilo. “Ẃt d y mīn bî ol ɖ rest?”

“Ǒ, y nǒ, y nǒ!”

I cd se nʈñ fr a minit, ɖo I flt, az I hld hiz hand n ǎr îz cntinyd t mīt, ɖt mî sîḷns hd ol ɖ er v admitñ hiz ćarj n ɖt nʈñ in ɖ hol wrld v riaḷti wz phps at ɖt momnt so fabyḷs az ǎr acćl rleśn. “Srtnli y śl g bac t scūl,” I sd, “f it b ɖt ɖt trublz y. Bt nt t ɖ old ples – w mst fînd anɖr, a betr. Hǎ cd I nǒ it dd trubl y, ɖs qsćn, ẃn y nvr tld m so, nvr spouc v it at ol?” Hiz clir, liṣnñ fes, fremd in its smuɖ ẃîtnis, md him fr ɖ minit az apilñ az sm wistfl peśnt in a ćildṛn’z hospitl; n I wd hv gvn, az ɖ rzmbḷns cem t m, ol I pzest on rʈ riyli t b ɖ nrs or ɖ sistr v ćaṛti hu mt hv hlpt t kr him. Wel, īvn az it wz, I phps mt hlp! “D y nǒ y’v nvr sd a wrd t m abt yr scūl – I mīn ɖ old wn; nvr mnśnd it in eni we?”

H sīmd t wundr; h smîld wɖ ɖ sem luvlinis. Bt h clirli gend tîm; h wêtd, h cōld fr gîdns. “Hv’nt I?” It wz’nt fr m t hlp him – it wz fr ɖ ʈñ I hd met!

Smʈñ in hiz ton n ɖ xpreśn v hiz fes, az I got ɖs fṛm him, set mî hart ecñ wɖ sć a pañ az it hd nvr yt noun; so unutṛbli tućñ wz it t si hiz litl bren puzld n hiz litl rzorsz taxt t ple, undr ɖ spel leid on him, a part v iṇsns n cnsistnsi. “No, nvr – fṛm ɖ aur y cem bac. Y’v nvr mnśnd t m wn v yr mastrz, wn v yr comredz, nr ɖ līst litl ʈñ ɖt evr hapnd t y at scūl. Nvr, litl Mîlz – no, nvr – hv y gvn m an ñclñ v enʈñ ɖt me hv hapnd ɖr. Ɖrfr y cn fansi hǎ mć I’m in ɖ darc. Untl y cem ǎt, ɖt we, ɖs mornñ, y hd, sins ɖ frst aur I sw y, scers īvn md a refṛns t enʈñ in yr prīvịs lîf. Y sīmd so prf̣cli t axpt ɖ preznt.” It wz xtrordnri hǎ mî abṣlut cnvix́n v hiz sīcrit pricoṣti (or ẃtvr I mt cōl ɖ pôzn v an inflụns ɖt I derd bt haf t frêz) md him, in spît v ɖ fent breʈ v hiz inwd trubl, apir az axesbl az an oldr prsn – impozd him olmst az an inṭlecćl īql. “I ʈt y wontd t g on az y r.”

It struc m ɖt at ɖs h jst fentli culrd. H gev, at eni ret, lîc a conṿlesnt slîtli ftīgd, a lanḡd śec v hiz hed. “I d’nt – I d’nt. I wont t gt awe.”

“Y’r tîrd v Blai?”

“Ǒ, no, I lîc Blai.”

“Wel, ɖen – ?”

“Ǒ, y nǒ ẃt a bô wonts!”

I flt ɖt I dd’nt nǒ so wel az Mîlz, n I tc tmprri refyj. “Y wont t g t yr uncl?”

Agn, at ɖs, wɖ hiz swīt îronic fes, h md a muvmnt on ɖ pilo. “Ā, y c’nt gt of wɖ ɖt!”

I wz sîḷnt a litl, n it wz I, nǎ, I ʈnc, hu ćenjd culr. “Mî dir, I d’nt wont t gt of!”

“Y c’nt, īvn f y d. Y c’nt, y c’nt!” – h le bytifli stẹrñ. “Mî uncl mst cm dǎn, n y mst cmplitli setl ʈñz.”

“F w d,” I rtrnd wɖ sm spirit, “y me b śr it wl b t tec y qt awe.”

“Wel, d’nt y unḍstand ɖt ɖt’s xacli ẃt I’m wrcñ fr? Y’l hv t tel him – abt ɖ we y’v let it ol drop: y’l hv t tel him a tṛmnḍs lot!”

Ɖ xlteśn wɖ ẃć h utrd ɖs hlpt m smhǎ, fr ɖ instnt, t mīt him rɖr mor. “N hǎ mć wl y, Mîlz, hv t tel him? Ɖr r ʈñz h’l asc y!”

H trnd it ovr. “Vri lîcli. Bt ẃt ʈñz?”

“Ɖ ʈñz y’v nvr tld m. T mc p hiz mînd ẃt t d wɖ y. H c’nt snd y bac – ”

“Ǒ, I d’nt wont t g bac!” h brouc in. “I wont a ny fīld.”

H sd it wɖ admṛbl sreṇti, wɖ poẓtiv unimpīćbl geyti; n dǎtlis it wz ɖt vri not ɖt most ivoct fr m ɖ pôńnsi, ɖ uņaćṛl ćîldiś traɉdi, v hiz probbl ri’piṛns at ɖ end v ʈri munʈs wɖ ol ɖs bṛvādo n stl mor dsonr. It oṿẃlmd m nǎ ɖt I śd nvr b ebl t ber ɖt, n it md m let mslf g. I ʈrù mslf upn him n in ɖ tndrnis v mî piti I imbrest him. “Dir litl Mîlz, dir litl Mîlz – !”

Mî fes wz clos t hiz, n h let m cis him, simpli tecñ it wɖ induljnt gd hymr. “Wel, old ledi?”

“Z ɖr nʈñ – nʈñ at ol ɖt y wont t tel m?”

H trnd of a litl, fesñ rnd twd ɖ wōl n holdñ p hiz hand t lc at az wn hd sìn sic ćildṛn lc. “I’v tld y – I tld y ɖs mornñ.”

Ǒ, I wz sori fr him! “Ɖt y jst wont m nt t wuri y?”

H lct rnd at m nǎ, az f in recgniśn v mî unḍstandñ him; ɖen evr so jntli, “T let m alon,” h rplaid.

Ɖr wz īvn a snğlr litl digṇti in it, smʈñ ɖt md m rlis him, yt, ẃn I hd slǒli rizn, lingr bsd him. God nz I nvr wśt t haṛs him, bt I flt ɖt mirli, at ɖs, t trn mî bac on him wz t abandn or, t pt it mor trūli, t lūz him. “I’v jst bgun a letr t yr uncl,” I sd.

“Wel, ɖen, finiś it!”

I wêtd a minit. “Ẃt hapnd bfr?”

H gezd p at m agn. “Bfr ẃt?”

“Bfr y cem bac. N bfr y wnt awe.”

Fr sm tîm h wz sîḷnt, bt h cntinyd t mīt mî îz. “Ẃt hapnd?”

It md m, ɖ sǎnd v ɖ wrdz, in ẃć it sīmd t m ɖt I còt fr ɖ vri frst tîm a smōl fent qevr v cnsntñ conśsnis – it md m drop on mî niz bsd ɖ bed n sīz wns mor ɖ ćans v pzesñ him. “Dir litl Mîlz, dir litl Mîlz, f y ń hǎ I wont t hlp y! It’s onli ɖt, it’s nʈñ bt ɖt, n I’d rɖr dî ɖn gv y a pen or d y a roñ – I’d rɖr dî ɖn hrt a her v y. Dir litl Mîlz” – ǒ, I bròt it ǎt nǎ īvn f I śd g tù far – “I jst wont y t hlp m t sev y!” Bt I ń in a momnt aftr ɖs ɖt I hd gn tù far. Ɖ ansr t mî apil wz instnteńs, bt it cem in ɖ form v an xtrordnri blast n ćil, a gust v frozn er, n a śec v ɖ rūm az gret az f, in ɖ wîld wind, ɖ cesmnt hd craśt in. Ɖ bô gev a lǎd, hî śrīc, ẃć, lost in ɖ rest v ɖ śoc v sǎnd, mt hv sīmd, indistñtli, ɖo I wz so clos t him, a not îɖr v jūḅleśn or v terr. I jumt t mî fīt agn n wz conśs v darcnis. So fr a momnt w rmend, ẃl I stérd abt m n sw ɖt ɖ drwn crtnz wr unstŕd n ɖ windo tît. “Ẃ, ɖ candl’z ǎt!” I ɖen craid.

“It wz I hu blù it, dir!” sd Mîlz.

___

XVIII

Ɖ  nxt de, aftr lésnz, Msz. Grǒs faund a momnt t se t m qaytli: “Hv y ritn, mis?”

“Yes – I’v ritn.” Bt I dd’nt ad – fr ɖ aur – ɖt mî letr, sìld n d’rectd, wz stl in mî pocit. Ɖr wd b tîm inuf t snd it bfr ɖ mesinjr śd g t ɖ vilij. Mnẃl ɖr hd bn, on ɖ part v mî pyplz, no mor briłnt, mor xmpḷri mornñ. It wz xacli az f ɖe hd bʈ hd at hart t glos ovr eni rīsnt litl frix́n. Ɖe pformd ɖ diziist fìts v ariʈṃtic, sōrñ qt ǎt v fībl renj, n prṗtretd, in hayr spirits ɖn evr, jịgraficl n historicl jocs. It wz cnspiks v cors in Mîlz in ptiklr ɖt h apird t wś t śo hǎ īẓli h cd let m dǎn. Ɖs ćîld, t mî meṃri, riyli livz in a setñ v byti n miẓri ɖt no wrdz cn trnzlet; ɖr wz a dstñśn ol hiz ǒn in evri impuls h rvild; nvr wz a smōl naćṛl crīćr, t ɖ uniniśietd î ol francnis n frīdm, a mor injīńs, a mor xtrordnri litl jntlmn. I hd ppć̣li t gard agnst ɖ wundr v contmpleśn intu ẃć mî iniśietd vy btreid m; t ćec ɖ ireḷvnt gêz n dscurijd sai in ẃć I constntli bʈ atact n rnǎnst ɖ inigma v ẃt sć a litl jntlmn cd hv dn ɖt dzrvd a penlti. Se ɖt, bî ɖ darc proḍji I ń, ɖ imaɉneśn v ol īvl hd bn opnd p t him: ol ɖ justis wɖn m ect fr ɖ prūf ɖt it cd evr hv flǎrd intu an act.H hd nvr, at eni ret, bn sć a litl jntlmn az ẃn, aftr ǎr rli dinr on ɖs dredfl de, h cem rnd t m n asct f I śd’nt lîc him, fr haf an aur, t ple t m. Devid pleyñ t Sōl cd nvr hv śoun a fînr sns v ɖ oceźn. It wz litṛli a ćarmñ xbiśn v tact, v magnniṃti, n qt tanṭmǎnt t hiz seyñ ǎtrît: “Ɖ tru naits w luv t rīd abt nvr pś an advantij tù far. I nǒ ẃt y mīn nǎ: y mīn ɖt – t b let alon yrslf n nt foloud p – y’l sīs t wuri n spî upn m, w’nt cīp m so clos t y, wl let m g n cm. Wel, I ‘cm,’ y si – bt I d’nt g! Ɖr’l b plenti v tîm fr ɖt. I d riyli dlît in yr ssayti, n I onli wont t śo y ɖt I cntndd fr a prínsipl.” It me b imajind ẃɖr I rzistd ɖs apil or feld t acumṗni him agn, hand in hand, t ɖ scūlrūm. H sat dǎn at ɖ old piano n pleid az h hd nvr pleid; n f ɖr r ɖoz hu ʈnc h hd betr hv bn cicñ a ftbōl I cn onli se ɖt I hoļi agri wɖ ɖm. Fr at ɖ end v a tîm ɖt undr hiz inflụns I hd qt sīst t meźr, I startd p wɖ a strenj sns v hvñ litṛli slept at mî post. It wz aftr lunćn, n bî ɖ scūlrūm fîr, n yt I hd’nt riyli, in ɖ līst, slept: I hd onli dn smʈñ mć wrs – I hd fgotn. Ẃr, ol ɖs tîm, wz Flora? Ẃn I pt ɖ qsćn t Mîlz, h pleid on a minit bfr anṣrñ n ɖen cd onli se: “Ẃ, mî dir, hǎ d I nǒ?” – brecñ morovr intu a hapi laf ẃć, imīɉtli aftr, az f it wr a vocl acumṗnimnt, h pṛloñd intu inc̣hiṛnt, xtraṿgnt soñ.

I wnt stret t mî rūm, bt hiz sistr wz nt ɖr; ɖen, bfr gwñ dǎnsterz, I lct intu sevṛl uɖrz. Az ś wz nẃr abt ś wd śrli b wɖ Msz. Grǒs, hūm, in ɖ cumf̣t v ɖt ʈiyri, I acordñli pṛsidd in qst v. I faund hr ẃr I hd faund hr ɖ īvnñ bfr, bt ś met mî qc ćalinj wɖ blanc, scerd ignṛns. Ś hd onli s’pozd ɖt, aftr ɖ rpast, I hd carid of bʈ ɖ ćildṛn; az t ẃć ś wz qt in hr rît, fr it wz ɖ vri frst tîm I hd alaud ɖ litl grl ǎt v mî sît wɖt sm speśl pṛviźn. V cors nǎ indd ś mt b wɖ ɖ meidz, so ɖt ɖ imīɉt ʈñ wz t lc fr hr wɖt an er v alarm. Ɖs w promtli arenjd btwn s; bt ẃn, ten minits lêtr n in psywns v ǎr arenjmnt, w met in ɖ hōl, it wz onli t rport on îɖr sîd ɖt aftr gardd inqîriz w hd oltgɖr feld t tres hr. Fr a minit ɖr, apart fṛm obẓveśn, w xćenjd ḿt alarmz, n I cd fīl wɖ ẃt hî inṭrest mî frend rtrnd m ol ɖoz I hd fṛm ɖ frst gvn hr.

“Ś’l b abv,” ś prezntli sd – “in wn v ɖ rūmz y hv’nt srćt.”

“No; ś’z at a distns.” I hd md p mî mînd. “Ś hz gn ǎt.”

Msz. Grǒs stérd. “Wɖt a hat?”

I naćṛli olso lct volymz. “Z’nt ɖt wmn olwz wɖt wn?”

“Ś’z wɖ hr?

“Ś’z wɖ hr!” I dclerd. “W mst fînd ɖm.”

Mî hand wz on mî frend’z arm, bt ś feld fr ɖ momnt, cnfruntd wɖ sć an acǎnt v ɖ matr, t rspond t mî preśr. Ś cḿnd, on ɖ contrri, on ɖ spot, wɖ hr unīzinis. “N ẃr’z Mastr Mîlz?”

“Ǒ, h’z wɖ Qint. Ɖ’r in ɖ scūlrūm.”

“Lord, mis!” Mî vy, I wz mslf awer – n ɖrfr I s’poz mî ton – hd nvr yt rīćt so cām an aśuṛns.

“Ɖ tric’s pleid,” I wnt on; “ɖ’v s’xesf̣li wrct ɖer plan. H faund ɖ most dvîn litl we t cīp m qayt ẃl ś wnt of.”

“‘Dvîn’?” Msz. Grǒs bwildrdli ecoud.

“Infrṇl, ɖen!” I olmst ćirf̣li rjônd. “H hz pṛvîdd fr himslf az wel. Bt cm!”

Ś hd hlplisli glūmd at ɖ upr rījnz. “Y līv him – ?”

“So loñ wɖ Qint? Yes – I d’nt mînd ɖt nǎ.”

Ś olwz endd, at ɖz momnts, bî gtñ pześn v mî hand, n in ɖs manr ś cd at preznt stl ste m. Bt aftr gaspñ an instnt at mî sudn reẓgneśn, “Bcz v yr letr?” ś īgrli bròt ǎt.

I qcli, bî we v ansr, flt fr mî letr, drù it fʈ, hld it p, n ɖen, friyñ mslf, wnt n leid it on ɖ gret hōl tebl. “Lūc wl tec it,” I sd az I cem bac. I rīćt ɖ hǎsdor n opnd it; I wz olrdi on ɖ steps.

Mî cmpańn stl dḿrd: ɖ storm v ɖ nît n ɖ rli mornñ hd dropt, bt ɖ afṭnun wz damp n gre. I cem dǎn t ɖ drîv ẃl ś std in ɖ dorwe. “Y g wɖ nʈñ on?”

“Ẃt d I cer ẃn ɖ ćîld hz nʈñ? I c’nt wêt t dres,” I craid, “n f y mst d so, I līv y. Trî mnẃl, yrslf, upsterz.”

“Wɖ ɖm?” Ǒ, on ɖs, ɖ pur wmn promtli jônd m!

___

XIX

W  wnt stret t ɖ lec, az it wz cōld at Blai, n I der se rîtli cōld, ɖo I rflect ɖt it me in fact hv bn a śīt v wōtr les rmarcbl ɖn it apird t mî untravld îz. Mî aqentns wɖ śīts v wōtr wz smōl, n ɖ pūl v Blai, at ol ivnts on ɖ fy oceźnz v mî cnsntñ, undr ɖ pṛtx́n v mî pyplz, t afrunt its srfis in ɖ old flat-botmd bot murd ɖr fr ǎr ys, hd imprest m bʈ wɖ its xtnt n its ajteśn. Ɖ yźl ples v imbarceśn wz haf a mîl fṛm ɖ hǎs, bt I hd an intiṃt cnvix́n ɖt, ẃrvr Flora mt b, ś wz nt nir hom. Ś hd nt gvn m ɖ slip fr eni smōl advnćr, n, sins ɖ de v ɖ vri gret wn ɖt I hd śerd wɖ hr bî ɖ pond, I hd bn awer, in ǎr wōcs, v ɖ qortr t ẃć ś most inclînd. Ɖs wz ẃ I hd nǎ gvn t Msz. Grǒs’z steps so marct a d’rex́n – a d’rex́n ɖt md hr, ẃn ś psivd it, opoz a rzistns ɖt śoud m ś wz freśli misṭfaid. “Y’r gwñ t ɖ wōtr, Mis? – y ʈnc ś’z in – ?”

“Ś me b, ɖo ɖ depʈ z, I b’liv, nẃr vri gret. Bt ẃt I juj most lîcli z ɖt ś’z on ɖ spot fṛm ẃć, ɖ uɖr de, w sw tgɖr ẃt I tld y.”“Ẃn ś pritndd nt t si – ?”

“Wɖ ɖt astǎndñ slf-pześn? I’v olwz bn śr ś wontd t g bac alon. N nǎ hr bruɖr hz manijd it fr hr.”

Msz. Grǒs stl std ẃr ś hd stopt. “Y s’poz ɖe riyli tōc v ɖm?”

“I cd mīt ɖs wɖ a confidns! Ɖe se ʈñz ɖt, f w hŕd ɖm, wd simpli apōl s.”

“N f ś z ɖr – ”

“Yes?”

“Ɖen Mis Jesl z?”

“Bynd a dǎt. Y śl si.”

“Ǒ, ʈanc y!” mî frend craid, plantd so frm ɖt, tecñ it in, I wnt stret on wɖt hr. Bî ɖ tîm I rīćt ɖ pūl, hvr, ś wz clos bhnd m, n I ń ɖt, ẃtvr, t hr aprihnśn, mt bfōl m, ɖ xpoźr v mî ssayti struc hr az hr līst denjr. Ś xheld a mon v rlif az w at last cem in sît v ɖ gretr part v ɖ wōtr wɖt a sît v ɖ ćîld. Ɖr wz no tres v Flora on ɖt nirr sîd v ɖ banc ẃr mî obẓveśn v hr hd bn most starṭlñ, n nn on ɖ oṗzit éj, ẃr, sev fr a marjin v sm twenti yardz, a ʈic cops cem dǎn t ɖ wōtr. Ɖ pond, obloñ in śep, hd a widʈ so scant cmperd t its leñʈ ɖt, wɖ its endz ǎt v vy, it mt hv bn tecn fr a scant rivr. W lct at ɖ emti xpans, n ɖen I flt ɖ sjsćn v mî frend’z îz. I ń ẃt ś mnt n I rplaid wɖ a neġtiv hedśec.

“No, no; wêt! Ś hz tecn ɖ bot.”

Mî cmpańn stérd at ɖ vecnt murñples n ɖen agn acrs ɖ lec. “Ɖen ẃr z it?”

“Ǎr nt siyñ it z ɖ strongist v prūfs. Ś hz yzd it t g ovr, n ɖen hz manijd t hîd it.”

“Ol alon – ɖt ćîld?”

“Ś’z nt alon, n at sć tîmz ś’z nt a ćîld: ś’z an old, old wmn.” I scand ol ɖ viẓbl śor ẃl Msz. Grǒs tc agn, intu ɖ qir elimnt I ofrd hr, wn v hr plunjz v sbmiśn; ɖen I pôntd ǎt ɖt ɖ bot mt prf̣cli b in a smōl refyj formd bî wn v ɖ rsesz v ɖ pūl, an indnteśn masct, fr ɖ hiɖr sîd, bî a pṛjx́n v ɖ banc n bî a clump v triz growñ clos t ɖ wōtr.

“Bt f ɖ bot’s ɖr, ẃr on rʈ z ś?” mî colīg añśsli asct.

“Ɖt’s xacli ẃt w mst lrn.” N I startd t wōc frɖr.

“Bî gwñ ol ɖ we rnd?”

“Srtnli, far az it z. It wl tec s bt ten minits, bt it’s far inuf t hv md ɖ ćîld prifŕ nt t wōc. Ś wnt stret ovr.”

“Lwz!” craid mî frend agn; ɖ ćen v mî lojic wz evr tù mć fr hr. It dragd hr at mî hìlz īvn nǎ, n ẃn w hd got hafwe rnd – a dīvịs, tîrsm proses, on grǎnd mć brocn n bî a paʈ ćoct wɖ oṿgroʈ – I pōzd t gv hr breʈ. I sstend hr wɖ a gretfl arm, aśurñ hr ɖt ś mt hyjli hlp m; n ɖs startd s afreś, so ɖt in ɖ cors v bt fy minits mor w rīćt a pônt fṛm ẃć w faund ɖ bot t b ẃr I hd s’pozd it. It hd bn intnśṇli left az mć az poṣbl ǎt v sît n wz taid t wn v ɖ stecs v a fns ɖt cem, jst ɖr, dǎn t ɖ brinc n ɖt hd bn an asistns t disimbarcñ. I rec̣gnîzd, az I lct at ɖ per v śort, ʈic òrz, qt sefli drwn p, ɖ pṛdijs caṛctr v ɖ fìt fr a litl grl; bt I hd livd, bî ɖs tîm, tù loñ amñ wundrz n hd pantd t tù mni lîvlịr meźrz. Ɖr wz a get in ɖ fns, ʈru ẃć w pást, n ɖt bròt s, aftr a trîf̣lñ inṭvl, mor intu ɖ opn. Ɖen, “Ɖr ś z!” w bʈ xclemd at wns.

Flora, a śort we of, std bfr s on ɖ gras n smîld az f hr pformns wz nǎ cmplit. Ɖ nxt ʈñ ś dd, hvr, wz t stūp stret dǎn n pluc – qt az f it wr ol ś wz ɖr fr – a big, ugli spre v wiɖrd frn. I instntli bcem śr ś hd jst cm ǎt v ɖ cops. Ś wêtd fr s, nt hrslf tecñ a step, n I wz conśs v ɖ rer s’lemṇti wɖ ẃć w prezntli aproćt hr. Ś smîld n smîld, n w met; bt it wz ol dn in a sîḷns bî ɖs tîm flegṛntli omiṇs. Msz. Grǒs wz ɖ frst t brec ɖ spel: ś ʈrù hrslf on hr niz n, drw̃ ɖ ćîld t hr brest, claspt in a loñ imbres ɖ litl tndr, yīldñ bodi. Ẃl ɖs dum cnvulśn lastd I cd onli woć it – ẃć I dd ɖ mor intntli ẃn I sw Flora’z fes pīp at m ovr ǎr cmpańn’z śoldr. It wz sirịs nǎ – ɖ flicr hd left it; bt it streñʈnd ɖ pañ wɖ ẃć I at ɖt momnt envid Msz. Grǒs ɖ simpliṣti v hr rleśn. Stl, ol ɖs ẃl, nʈñ mor pást btwn s sev ɖt Flora hd let hr fūliś frn agn drop t ɖ grǎnd. Ẃt ś n I hd vrć̣li sd t ć uɖr wz ɖt prītxts wr yslis nǎ. Ẃn Msz. Grǒs fîṇli got p ś cept ɖ ćîld’z hand, so ɖt ɖ tū wr stl bfr m; n ɖ snğlr retisns v ǎr cḿńn wz īvn mor marct in ɖ franc lc ś lōnćt m. “I’l b hañd,” it sd, “f I’l spīc!”

It wz Flora hu, gezñ ol ovr m in candid wundr, wz ɖ frst. Ś wz struc wɖ ǎr bér-hedd aspect. “Ẃ, ẃr r yr ʈñz?”

“Ẃr yrz r, mî dir!” I promtli rtrnd.

Ś hd olrdi got bac hr geyti, n apird t tec ɖs az an ansr qt sfiśnt. “N ẃr’z Mîlz?” ś wnt on.

Ɖr wz smʈñ in ɖ smōl valr v it ɖt qt finiśt m: ɖz ʈri wrdz fṛm hr wr, in a flaś lîc ɖ glitr v a drwn bled, ɖ josl v ɖ cup ɖt mî hand, fr wīcs n wīcs, hd hld hî n fl t ɖ brim ɖt nǎ, īvn bfr spīcñ, I flt oṿflo in a delyj. “I’l tel y f y’l tel m – ” I hŕd mslf se, ɖen hŕd ɖ tremr in ẃć it brouc.

“Wel, ẃt?”

Msz. Grǒs’z sspns blezd at m, bt it wz tù lêt nǎ, n I bròt ɖ ʈñ ǎt hansmli. “Ẃr, mî pet, z Mis Jesl?”

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XX

Jst az in ɖ ćrćyard wɖ Mîlz, ɖ hol ʈñ wz upn s. Mć az I hd md v ɖ fact ɖt ɖs nem hd nvr wns, btwn s, bn sǎndd, ɖ qc, smitn gler wɖ ẃć ɖ ćîld’z fes nǎ rsivd it ferli lîcnd mî brīć v ɖ sîḷns t ɖ smaś v a pein v glas. It add t ɖ inṭpozñ crî, az f t ste ɖ blo, ɖt Msz. Grǒs, at ɖ sem instnt, utrd ovr mî vayḷns – ɖ śrīc v a crīćr scerd, or rɖr wūndd, ẃć, in trn, wɖn a fy secndz, wz cmplitd bî a gasp v mî ǒn. I sizd mî colīg’z arm. “Ś’z ɖr, ś’z ɖr!”

Mis Jesl std bfr s on ɖ oṗzit banc xacli az ś hd std ɖ uɖr tîm, n I rmembr, strenjli, az ɖ frst fīlñ nǎ pṛdyst in m, mî ʈril v jô at hvñ bròt on a prūf. Ś wz ɖr, n I wz jusṭfaid; ś wz ɖr, n I wz nɖr cruwl nr mad. Ś wz ɖr fr pur scerd Msz. Grǒs, bt ś wz ɖr most fr Flora; n no momnt v mî monstṛs tîm wz phps so xtrordnri az ɖt in ẃć I conśsli ʈrù ǎt t hr – wɖ ɖ sns ɖt, pel n ravṇs dīmn az ś wz, ś wd cać n unḍstand it – an inartikḷt mesij v grattyd. Ś rouz irect on ɖ spot mî frend n I hd lêtli qitd, n ɖr wz nt, in ol ɖ loñ rīć v hr dzîr, an inć v hr īvl ɖt fél śort. Ɖs frst vividnis v viźn n imośn wr ʈñz v a fy secndz, jrñ ẃć Msz. Grǒs’z dezd blinc acrs t ẃr I pôntd struc m az a sovrin sîn ɖt ś tù at last sw, jst az it carid mî ǒn îz prisipittli t ɖ ćîld. Ɖ reṿleśn ɖen v ɖ manr in ẃć Flora wz afctd startld m, in truʈ, far mor ɖn it wd hv dn t fînd hr olso mirli ajtetd, fr d’rect dsme wz v cors nt ẃt I hd xpctd. Priperd n on hr gard az ǎr psyt hd acć̣li md hr, ś wd rpres evri btreyl; n I wz ɖrfr śecn, on ɖ spot, bî mî frst glims v ɖ ptiklr wn fr ẃć I hd nt alaud. T si hr, wɖt a cnvulśn v hr smōl pnc fes, nt īvn fên t glans in ɖ d’rex́n v ɖ proḍji I anǎnst, bt onli, instd v ɖt, trn at m an xpreśn v hard, stil graṿti, an xpreśn abṣlutli ny n unpresdntd n ɖt apird t rīd n akz n juj m – ɖs wz a stroc ɖt smhǎ cnvrtd ɖ litl grl hrslf intu ɖ vri prezns ɖt cd mc m qêl. I qeld īvn ɖo mî srttyd ɖt ś ʈuṛli sw wz nvr gretr ɖn at ɖt instnt, n in ɖ imīɉt nīd t dfnd mslf I cōld it paśṇtli t witnis. “Ś’z ɖr, y litl unhapi ʈñ – ɖr, ɖr, ɖr, n y si hr az wel az y si m!” I hd sd śortli bfr t Msz. Grǒs ɖt ś wz nt at ɖz tîmz a ćîld, bt an old, old wmn, n ɖt dscripśn v hr cd nt hv bn mor strîcñli cnfrmd ɖn in ɖ we in ẃć, fr ol ansr t ɖs, ś simpli śoud m, wɖt a cnseśn, an admiśn, v hr îz, a cǎntinns v dīpr n dīpr, v indd sudnli qt fixt, repṛbeśn. I wz bî ɖs tîm – f I cn pt ɖ hol ʈñ at ol tgɖr – mor apōld at ẃt I me proprli cōl hr manr ɖn at enʈñ els, ɖo it wz simlteńsli wɖ ɖs ɖt I bcem awer v hvñ Msz. Grǒs olso, n vri formiḍbli, t recn wɖ. Mî eldr cmpańn, ɖ nxt momnt, at eni ret, blotd ǎt evrʈñ bt hr ǒn fluśt fes n hr lǎd, śoct protest, a brst v hî dis’pruvl. “Ẃt a dredfl trn, t b śr, mis! Ẃr on rʈ d y si enʈñ?”I cd onli grasp hr mor qcli yt, fr īvn ẃl ś spouc ɖ hidịs plen prezns std undimd n undōntd. It hd olrdi lastd a minit, n it lastd ẃl I cntinyd, sizñ mî colīg, qt ʈrustñ hr at it n prizntñ hr t it, t insist wɖ mî pôntñ hand. “Y d’nt si hr xacli az w si? – y mīn t se y d’nt nǎ – nǎ? Ś’z az big az a blezñ fîr! Onli lc, dirist wmn, lc – !” Ś lct, īvn az I dd, n gev m, wɖ hr dīp gron v ngeśn, rpulśn, cmpaśn – ɖ mixćr wɖ hr piti v hr rlif at hr xmśn – a sns, tućñ t m īvn ɖen, ɖt ś wd hv bact m p f ś cd. I mt wel hv nīdd ɖt, fr wɖ ɖs hard blo v ɖ prūf ɖt hr îz wr hoplisli sìld I flt mî ǒn sićueśn hoṛbli crumbl, I flt – I sw – mî livid prīdisesr pres, fṛm hr pziśn, on mî dfit, n I wz conśs, mor ɖn ol, v ẃt I śd hv fṛm ɖs instnt t dīl wɖ in ɖ astǎndñ litl attyd v Flora. Intu ɖs attyd Msz. Grǒs imīɉtli n vayḷntli entrd, brecñ, īvn ẃl ɖr pirst ʈru mî sns v ruin a pṛdijs prîṿt trîumf, intu breʈlis ri’śuṛns.

“Ś z’nt ɖr, litl ledi, n nbdi’z ɖr – n y nvr si nʈñ, mî swīt! Hǎ cn pur Mis Jesl – ẃn pur Mis Jesl’z ded n berid? W nǒ, d’nt w, luv?” – n ś apild, blunḍrñ in, t ɖ ćîld. “It’s ol a mir mstec n a wuri n a joc – n w’l g hom az fast az w cn!”

Ǎr cmpańn, on ɖs, hd rspondd wɖ a strenj, qc primnis v pṛprayti, n ɖe wr agn, wɖ Msz. Grǒs on hr fīt, ynîtd, az it wr, in pend opziśn t m. Flora cntinyd t fix m wɖ hr smōl masc v repṛbeśn, n īvn at ɖt minit I preid God t fgiv m fr sīmñ t si ɖt, az ś std ɖr holdñ tît t ǎr frend’z dres, hr incmpaṛbl ćîldiś byti hd sudnli feld, hd qt vaniśt. I’v sd it olrdi – ś wz litṛli, ś wz hidịsli, hard; ś hd trnd comn n olmst ugli. “I d’nt nǒ ẃt y mīn. I si nbdi. I si nʈñ. I nvr hv. I ʈnc y’r cruwl. I d’nt lîc y!” Ɖen, aftr ɖs dlivṛns, ẃć mt hv bn ɖt v a vulgrli prt litl grl in ɖ strīt, ś hugd Msz. Grǒs mor closli n berid in hr scrts ɖ dredfl litl fes. In ɖs pziśn ś pṛdyst an olmst fyrịs weil. “Tec m awe, tec m awe – ǒ, tec m awe fṛm hr!

“Fṛm m?” I pantd.

“Fṛm y – fṛm y!” ś craid.

Īvn Msz. Grǒs lct acrs at m dsmeid, ẃl I hd nʈñ t d bt cḿṇcet agn wɖ ɖ figr ɖt, on ɖ oṗzit banc, wɖt a muvmnt, az rijidli stil az f caćñ, bynd ɖ inṭvl, ǎr vôsz, wz az vividli ɖr fr mî dzastr az it wz nt ɖr fr mî srvis. Ɖ rećid ćîld hd spocn xacli az f ś hd got fṛm sm ǎtsd sors ć v hr stabñ litl wrdz, n I cd ɖrfr, in ɖ fl dsper v ol I hd t axpt, bt sadli śec mî hed at hr. “F I hd evr dǎtd, ol mî dǎt wd at preznt hv gn. I’v bn livñ wɖ ɖ mizṛbl truʈ, n nǎ it hz onli tù mć clozd rnd m. V cors I’v lost y: I’v inṭfird, n y’v sìn – undr hr dicteśn” – wɖ ẃć I fest, ovr ɖ pūl agn, ǎr infrṇl witnis – “ɖ īzi n prfict we t mīt it. I’v dn mî bst, bt I’v lost y. Gdbî.” Fr Msz. Grǒs I hd an impeṛtiv, an olmst frantic “G, g!” bfr ẃć, in infiṇt dstres, bt ḿtli pzest v ɖ litl grl n clirli cnvinst, in spît v hr blîndnis, ɖt smʈñ ōfl hd ocŕd n sm c’laps ingulft s, ś rtritd, bî ɖ we w hd cm, az fast az ś cd muv.

V ẃt frst hapnd ẃn I wz left alon I hd no subsiqnt meṃri. I onli ń ɖt at ɖ end v, I s’poz, a qortr v an aur, an odṛs dampnis n rufnis, ćilñ n pirsñ mî trubl, hd md m unḍstand ɖt I mst hv ʈroun mslf, on mî fes, on ɖ grǎnd n gvn we t a wîldnis v grīf. I mst hv lein ɖr loñ n craid n sobd, fr ẃn I rezd mî hed ɖ de wz olmst dn. I got p n lct a momnt, ʈru ɖ twîlît, at ɖ gre pūl n its blanc, hōntd éj, n ɖen I tc, bac t ɖ hǎs, mî driri n dificlt cors. Ẃn I rīćt ɖ get in ɖ fns ɖ bot, t mî s’prîz, wz gn, so ɖt I hd a freś rflex́n t mc on Flora’z xtrordnri cmand v ɖ sićueśn. Ś pást ɖt nît, bî ɖ most tasit, n I śd ad, wr nt ɖ wrd so gṛtesc a fōls not, ɖ hapiist v arenjmnts, wɖ Msz. Grǒs. I sw nɖr v ɖm on mî rtrn, bt, on ɖ uɖr hand, az bî an ambigẏs compnseśn, I sw a gret dīl v Mîlz. I sw – I cn yz no uɖr frêz – so mć v him ɖt it wz az f it wr mor ɖn it hd evr bn. No īvnñ I hd pást at Blai hd ɖ portnṭs qoḷti v ɖs wn; in spît v ẃć – n in spît olso v ɖ dīpr depʈs v consṭneśn ɖt hd opnd bnʈ mî fīt – ɖr wz litṛli, in ɖ ebñ acćl, an xtrordnṛli swīt sadnis. On rīćñ ɖ hǎs I hd nvr so mć az lct fr ɖ bô; I hd simpli gn stret t mî rūm t ćenj ẃt I wz wẹrñ n t tec in, at a glans, mć mtirịl tstiṃni t Flora’z rupćr. Hr litl b’loññz hd ol bn rmuvd. Ẃn lêtr, bî ɖ scūlrūm fîr, I wz srvd wɖ ti bî ɖ yźl meid, I induljd, on ɖ articl v mî uɖr pypl, in no inqîri ẃtvr. H hd hiz frīdm nǎ – h mt hv it t ɖ end! Wel, h dd hv it; n it cnsistd – in part at līst – v hiz cmñ in at abt et o’cloc n sitñ dǎn wɖ m in sîḷns. On ɖ rmuvl v ɖ tīʈñz I hd bloun ǎt ɖ candlz n drwn mî ćer closr: I wz conśs v a mortl coldnis n flt az f I śd nvr agn b worm. So, ẃn h apird, I wz sitñ in ɖ glo wɖ mî ʈts. H pōzd a momnt bî ɖ dor az f t lc at m; ɖen – az f t śer ɖm – cem t ɖ uɖr sîd v ɖ harʈ n sanc intu a ćer. W sat ɖr in abṣlut stilnis; yt h wontd, I flt, t b wɖ m.

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XXI

Bfr a ny de, in mî rūm, hd fŭli brocn, mî îz opnd t Msz. Grǒs, hu hd cm t mî bedsîd wɖ wrs nyz. Flora wz so marcidli fīṿriś ɖt an ilnis wz phps at hand; ś hd pást a nît v xtrim unrest, a nît ajtetd abv ol bî firz ɖt hd fr ɖer subjict nt in ɖ līst hr formr, bt hoļi hr preznt, guṿnes. It wz nt agnst ɖ poṣbl rientṛns v Mis Jesl on ɖ sīn ɖt ś pṛtstd – it wz cnspiksli n paśṇtli agnst mîn. I wz promtli on mî fīt v cors, n wɖ an imns dīl t asc; ɖ mor ɖt mî frend hd dsrṇbli nǎ grdd hr lônz t mīt m wns mor. Ɖs I flt az sn az I hd pt t hr ɖ qsćn v hr sns v ɖ ćîld’z snseṛti az agnst mî ǒn. “Ś psists in dnayñ t y ɖt ś sw, or hz evr sìn, enʈñ?”

Mî vizitr’z trubl, trūli, wz gret. “Ā, mis, it z’nt a matr on ẃć I cn pś hr! Yt it z’nt îɖr, I mst se, az f I mć nīdd t. It hz md hr, evri inć v hr, qt old.”“Ǒ, I si hr prf̣cli fṛm hir. Ś rznts, fr ol ɖ wrld lîc sm hî litl prṣnij, ɖ impyteśn on hr truʈflnis n, az it wr, hr rspctbiḷti. ‘Mis Jesl indd – ś!’ Ā, ś’z ‘rspctbl,’ ɖ ćit! Ɖ impreśn ś gev m ɖr yesṭde wz, I aśur y, ɖ vri strenjist v ol; it wz qt bynd eni v ɖ uɖrz. I dd pt mî ft in it! Ś’l nvr spīc t m agn.”

Hidịs n obskr az it ol wz, it hld Msz. Grǒs brīfli sîḷnt; ɖen ś grantd mî pônt wɖ a francnis ẃć, I md śr, hd mor bhnd it. “I ʈnc indd, mis, ś nvr wl. Ś d hv a grand manr abt it!”

“N ɖt manr” – I sumd it p – “z practicli ẃt’s ɖ matr wɖ hr nǎ!”

Ǒ, ɖt manr, I cd si in mî vizitr’z fes, n nt a litl els bsdz! “Ś ascs m evri ʈri minits f I ʈnc y’r cmñ in.”

“I si – I si.” I, tù, on mî sîd, hd so mć mor ɖn wrct it ǎt. “Hz ś sd t y sins yesṭde – xpt t rpydiet hr fmiliaṛti wɖ enʈñ so dredfl – a sngl uɖr wrd abt Mis Jesl?”

“Nt wn, mis. N v cors y nǒ,” mî frend add, “I tc it fṛm hr, bî ɖ lec, ɖt, jst ɖen n ɖr at līst, ɖr wz nbdi.”

“Rɖr! n, naćṛli, y tec it fṛm hr stl.”

“I d’nt contṛdict hr. Ẃt els cn I d?”

“Nʈñ in ɖ wrld! Y’v ɖ cleṿrist litl prsn t dīl wɖ. Ɖ’v md ɖm – ɖer tū frendz, I mīn – stl clevrr īvn ɖn nećr dd; fr it wz wundṛs mtirịl t ple on! Flora hz nǎ hr grīvns, n ś’l wrc it t ɖ end.”

“Yes, mis; bt t ẃt end?”

“Ẃ, ɖt v dīlñ wɖ m t hr uncl. Ś’l mc m ǎt t him ɖ lǒist crīćr – !”

I winst at ɖ fer śo v ɖ sīn in Msz. Grǒs’z fes; ś lct fr a minit az f ś śarpli sw ɖm tgɖr. “N him hu ʈncs so wel v y!”

“H hz an od we – it cmz ovr m nǎ,” I laft, “ – v pruvñ it! Bt ɖt dz’nt matr. Ẃt Flora wonts, v cors, z t gt rid v m.”

Mî cmpańn brevli cncŕd. “Nvr agn t so mć az lc at y.”

“So ɖt ẃt y’v cm t m nǎ fr,” I asct, “z t spīd m on mî we?” Bfr ś hd tîm t rplî, hvr, I hd hr in ćec. “I’v a betr îdīa – ɖ rzult v mî rflex́nz. Mî gwñ wd sīm ɖ rît ʈñ, n on Súnde I wz teṛbli nir it. Yt ɖt w’nt d. It’s y hu mst g. Y mst tec Flora.”

Mî vizitr, at ɖs, dd speklet. “Bt ẃr in ɖ wrld – ?”

“Awe fṛm hir. Awe fṛm ɖm. Awe, īvn most v ol, nǎ, fṛm m. Stret t hr uncl.”

“Onli t tel on y – ?”

“No, nt ‘onli’! T līv m, in adiśn, wɖ mî reṃdi.”

Ś wz stl veg. “N ẃt z yr reṃdi?”

“Yr loylti, t bgin wɖ. N ɖen Mîlz’z.”

Ś lct at m hard. “D y ʈnc h – ?”

“W’nt, f h hz ɖ ćans, trn on m? Yes, I vnćr stl t ʈnc it. At ol ivnts, I wont t trî. Gt of wɖ hiz sistr az sn az poṣbl n līv m wɖ him alon.” I wz amezd, mslf, at ɖ spirit I hd stl in rzrv, n ɖrfr phps a trîfl ɖ mor discnsrtd at ɖ we in ẃć, in spît v ɖs fîn xampl v it, ś heztetd. “Ɖr’z wn ʈñ, v cors,” I wnt on: “ɖe ms’nt, bfr ś gz, si ć uɖr fr ʈri secndz.” Ɖen it cem ovr m ɖt, in spît v Flora’z prizyṃbl sīqstreśn fṛm ɖ instnt v hr rtrn fṛm ɖ pūl, it mt olrdi b tù lêt. “D y mīn,” I añśsli asct, “ɖt ɖe hv met?”

At ɖs ś qt fluśt. “Ā, mis, I’m nt sć a fūl az ɖt! F I’v bn oblîjd t līv hr ʈri or for tîmz, it hz bn ć tîm wɖ wn v ɖ meidz, n at preznt, ɖo ś’z alon, ś’z loct in sef. N yt – n yt!” Ɖr wr tù mni ʈñz.

“N yt ẃt?”

“Wel, r y so śr v ɖ litl jntlmn?”

“I’m nt śr v enʈñ bt y. Bt I hv, sins last īvnñ, a ny hop. I ʈnc h wonts t gv m an oṗnñ. I d b’liv ɖt – pur litl xqizit reć! – h wonts t spīc. Last īvnñ, in ɖ fîrlît n ɖ sîḷns, h sat wɖ m fr tū aurz az f it wr jst cmñ.”

Msz. Grǒs lct hard, ʈru ɖ windo, at ɖ gre, gaɖ̇rñ de. “N dd it cm?”

“No, ɖo I wêtd n wêtd, I cnfes it dd’nt, n it wz wɖt a brīć v ɖ sîḷns or so mć az a fent aluźn t hiz sistr’z cndiśn n absns ɖt w at last cist fr gd nît. Ol ɖ sem,” I cntinyd, “I c’nt, f hr uncl siz hr, cnsnt t hiz siyñ hr bruɖr wɖt mî hvñ gvn ɖ bô – n most v ol bcz ʈñz hv got so bad – a litl mor tîm.”

Mî frend apird on ɖs grǎnd mor rluctnt ɖn I cd qt unḍstand. “Ẃt d y mīn bî mor tîm?”

“Wel, a de or tū – riyli t brñ it ǎt. H’l ɖen b on sîd – v ẃć y si ɖ importns. F nʈñ cmz, I śl onli fel, n y wl, at ɖ wrst, hv hlpt m bî dwñ, on yr arîvl in tǎn, ẃtvr y me hv faund poṣbl.” So I pt it bfr hr, bt ś cntinyd fr a litl so inscrūtbli imbaṛst ɖt I cem agn t hr ed. “Unls, indd,” I waund p, “y riyli wont nt t g.”

I cd si it, in hr fes, at last clir itslf; ś pt ǎt hr hand t m az a plej. “I’l g – I’l g. I’l g ɖs mornñ.”

I wontd t b vri just. “F y śd wś stl t wêt, I wd ingej ś śd’nt si m.”

“No, no: it’s ɖ ples itslf. Ś mst līv it.” Ś hld m a momnt wɖ hevi îz, ɖen bròt ǎt ɖ rest. “Yr îdīa’z ɖ rît wn. I mslf, mis – ”

“Wel?”

“I c’nt ste.”

Ɖ lc ś gev m wɖ it md m jump at posbiḷtiz. “Y mīn ɖt, sins yesṭde, y hv sìn – ?”

Ś śc hr hed wɖ digṇti. “I’v hŕd – !”

“Hŕd?”

“Fṛm ɖt ćîld – horrz! Ɖr!” ś said wɖ trajic rlif. “On mî onr, mis, ś sz ʈñz – !” Bt at ɖs evceśn ś brouc dǎn; ś dropt, wɖ a sudn sob, upn mî sofa n, az I hd sìn hr d bfr, gev we t ol ɖ grīf v it.

It wz qt in anɖr manr ɖt I, fr mî part, let mslf g. “Ǒ, ʈanc God!”

Ś sprañ p agn at ɖs, drayñ hr îz wɖ a gron. “‘Ʈanc God’?”

“It so jusṭfîz m!”

“It dz ɖt, mis!”

I cd’nt hv dzîrd mor emf̣sis, bt I jst heztetd. “Ś’z so hoṛbl?”

I sw mî colīg scers ń hǎ t pt it. “Riyli śocñ.”

“N abt m?”

“Abt y, mis – sins y mst hv it. It’s bynd evrʈñ, fr a yuñ ledi; n I c’nt ʈnc ẃrvr ś mst hv pict p – ”

“Ɖ apōlñ lanḡj ś aplaid t m? I cn, ɖen!” I brouc in wɖ a laf ɖt wz dǎtlis sgnificnt inuf.

It onli, in truʈ, left mî frend stl mor grev. “Wel, phps I òt t olso – sins I’v hŕd sm v it bfr! Yt I c’nt ber it,” ɖ pur wmn wnt on ẃl, wɖ ɖ sem muvmnt, ś glanst, on mî dresñtebl, at ɖ fes v mî woć. “Bt I mst g bac.”

I cept hr, hvr. “Ā, f y c’nt ber it – !”

“Hǎ cn I stop wɖ hr, y mīn? Ẃ, jst fr ɖt: t gt hr awe. Far fṛm ɖs,” ś psyd, “far fṛm ɖm – ”

“Ś me b difṛnt? Ś me b fri?” I sizd hr olmst wɖ jô. “Ɖen, in spît v yesṭde, y b’liv – ”

“In sć dwñz?” Hr simpl dscripśn v ɖm rqîrd, in ɖ lît v hr xpreśn, t b carid no frɖr, n ś gev m ɖ hol ʈñ az ś hd nvr dn. “I b’liv.”

Yes, it wz a jô, n w wr stl śoldr t śoldr: f I mt cntiny śr v ɖt I śd cer bt litl ẃt els hapnd. Mî s’port in ɖ prezns v dzastr wd b ɖ sem az it hd bn in mî rli nīd v confidns, n f mî frend wd ansr fr mî oṇsti, I wd ansr fr ol ɖ rest. On ɖ pônt v tecñ līv v hr, nnɖles, I wz t sm xtnt imbaṛst. “Ɖr’z wn ʈñ, v cors – it ocŕz t m – t rmembr. Mî letr, gvñ ɖ alarm, wl hv rīćt tǎn bfr y.”

I nǎ psivd stl mor hǎ ś hd bn bìtñ abt ɖ bś n hǎ wiri at last it hd md hr. “Yr letr w’nt hv got ɖr. Yr letr nvr wnt.”

“Ẃt ɖen bcem v it?”

“Gdnis nz! Mastr Mîlz – ”

“D y mīn h tc it?” I gaspt.

Ś huñ fîr, bt ś oṿcem hr rluctns. “I mīn ɖt I sw yesṭde, ẃn I cem bac wɖ Mis Flora, ɖt it wz’nt ẃr y hd pt it. Lêtr in ɖ īvnñ I hd ɖ ćans t qsćn Lūc, n h dclerd ɖt h hd nɖr notist nr tućt it.” W cd onli xćenj, on ɖs, wn v ǎr dīpr ḿćl sǎndñz, n it wz Msz. Grǒs hu frst bròt p ɖ plúm wɖ an olmst iletd “Y si!”

“Yes, I si ɖt f Mîlz tc it instd h probbli wl hv réd it n dstroid it.”

“N d’nt y si enʈñ els?”

I fest hr a momnt wɖ a sad smîl. “It strîcs m ɖt bî ɖs tîm yr îz r opn īvn wîdr ɖn mîn.”

Ɖe pruvd t b so indd, bt ś cd stl bluś, olmst, t śo it. “I mc ǎt nǎ ẃt h mst hv dn at scūl.” N ś gev, in hr simpl śarpnis, an olmst drol disiluźnd nod. “H stoul!”

I trnd it ovr – I traid t b mor jdiśl. “Wel – phps.”

Ś lct az f ś faund m unixpctidli cām. “H stoul letrz!

Ś cd’nt nǒ mî rīznz fr a cāmnis aftr ol priti śalo; so I śoud ɖm of az I mt. “I hop ɖen it wz t mor prṗs ɖn in ɖs ces! Ɖ not, at eni ret, ɖt I pt on ɖ tebl yesṭde,” I psyd, “wl hv gvn him so scant an advantij – fr it cntend onli ɖ bér dmand fr an inṭvy – ɖt h z olrdi mć aśemd v hvñ gn so far fr so litl, n ɖt ẃt h hd on hiz mînd last īvnñ wz prisîsli ɖ nīd v cnfeśn.” I sīmd t mslf, fr ɖ instnt, t hv mastrd it, t si it ol. “Līv s, līv s” – I wz olrdi, at ɖ dor, huriyñ hr of. “I’l gt it ǎt v him. H’l mīt m – h’l cnfes. F h cnfesz, h’z sevd. N f h’z sevd – ”

“Ɖen y r?” Ɖ dir wmn cist m on ɖs, n I tc hr férwel. “I’l sev y wɖt him!” ś craid az ś wnt.

___

XXII

Yt it wz ẃn ś hd got of – n I míst hr on ɖ spot – ɖt ɖ gret pinć riyli cem. F I hd cǎntd on ẃt it wd gv m t fînd mslf alon wɖ Mîlz, I spīḍli psivd, at līst, ɖt it wd gv m a meźr. No aur v mî ste in fact wz so aseld wɖ aprihnśnz az ɖt v mî cmñ dǎn t lrn ɖt ɖ carij cntenñ Msz. Grǒs n mî yungr pypl hd olrdi rold ǎt v ɖ gts. Nǎ I wz, I sd t mslf, fes t fes wɖ ɖ elimnts, n fr mć v ɖ rest v ɖ de, ẃl I fòt mî wìcnis, I cd cnsidr ɖt I hd bn s’prīmli raś. It wz a tîtr ples stl ɖn I hd yt trnd rnd in; ol ɖ mor ɖt, fr ɖ frst tîm, I cd si in ɖ aspect v uɖrz a cnfyzd rflex́n v ɖ crîsis. Ẃt hd hapnd naćṛli cōzd ɖm ol t stér; ɖr wz tù litl v ɖ xplend, ʈro ǎt ẃtvr w mt, in ɖ sudņis v mî colīg’z act. Ɖ meidz n ɖ men lct blanc; ɖ ifct v ẃć on mî nrvz wz an agṛveśn untl I sw ɖ nseṣti v mcñ it a poẓtiv ed. It wz prisîsli, in śort, bî jst clućñ ɖ hlm ɖt I avôdd totl rec; n I der se ɖt, t ber p at ol, I bcem, ɖt mornñ, vri grand n vri drî. I welcmd ɖ conśsnis ɖt I wz ćarjd wɖ mć t d, n I cōzd it t b noun az wel ɖt, left ɖus t mslf, I wz qt rmarcbli frm. I wondrd wɖ ɖt manr, fr ɖ nxt aur or tū, ol ovr ɖ ples n lct, I hv no dǎt, az f I wr redi fr eni onset. So, fr ɖ beṇfit v hūm it mt cnsrn, I p’redd wɖ a sic hart.

Ɖ prsn it apird līst t cnsrn pruvd t b, tl dinr, litl Mîlz himslf. Mî p’rambyleśnz hd gvn m, mnẃl, no glims v him, bt ɖe hd tndd t mc mor public ɖ ćenj tecñ ples in ǎr rleśn az a consiqns v hiz hvñ at ɖ piano, ɖ de bfr, cept m, in Flora’z inṭrest, so bgîld n bfūld. Ɖ stamp v pbliṣti hd v cors bn fŭli gvn bî hr cnfînmnt n dparćr, n ɖ ćenj itslf wz nǎ uśrd in bî ǎr nonobzrvns v ɖ reğlr custm v ɖ scūlrūm. H hd olrdi dis’pird ẃn, on mî we dǎn, I pśt opn hiz dor, n I lrnt b’lo ɖt h hd brecfstd – in ɖ prezns v a cupl v ɖ meidz – wɖ Msz. Grǒs n hiz sistr. H hd ɖen gn ǎt, az h sd, fr a strol; ɖn ẃć nʈñ, I rflectd, cd betr hv xprest hiz franc vy v ɖ abrupt transfmeśn v mî ofis. Ẃt h wd nt pmit ɖs ofis t cnsist v wz yt t b setld: ɖr wz a qir rlif, at ol ivnts – I mīn fr mslf in ispeśl – in ɖ rnǎnsmnt v wn pritnśn. F so mć hd spruñ t ɖ srfis, I scers pt it tù stroñli in seyñ ɖt ẃt hd phps spruñ hîist wz ɖ absrdti v ǎr pṛloññ ɖ fix́n ɖt I hd enʈñ mor t tīć him. It sfiśntli stuc ǎt ɖt, bî tasit litl trics in ẃć īvn mor ɖn mslf h carid ǎt ɖ cer fr mî digṇti, I hd hd t apil t him t let m of strenñ t mīt him on ɖ grǎnd v hiz tru cpaṣti. H hd at eni ret hiz frīdm nǎ; I wz nvr t tuć it agn; az I hd ampli śoun, morovr, ẃn, on hiz jônñ m in ɖ scūlrūm ɖ prīvịs nît, I hd utrd, on ɖ subjict v ɖ inṭvl jst cncludd, nɖr ćalinj nr hint. I hd tù mć, fṛm ɖs momnt, mî uɖr îdīaz. Yt ẃn h at last arîvd, ɖ dificlti v aplayñ ɖm, ɖ akḿleśnz v mî probḷm, wr bròt stret hom t m bî ɖ bytifl litl prezns on ẃć ẃt hd ocŕd hd az yt, fr ɖ î, dropt nɖr sten nr śado.T marc, fr ɖ hǎs, ɖ hî stet I cultvetd I dcrìd ɖt mî mīlz wɖ ɖ bô śd b srvd, az w cōld it, dǎnsterz; so ɖt I hd bn awêtñ him in ɖ pondṛs pomp v ɖ rūm ǎtsd v ɖ windo v ẃć I hd hd fṛm Msz. Grǒs, ɖt frst scerd Súnde, mî flaś v smʈñ it wd scers hv dn t cōl lît. Hir at preznt I flt afreś – fr I hd flt it agn n agn – hǎ mî eqlibrịm dpndd on ɖ s’xes v mî rijid wil, ɖ wil t śut mî îz az tît az poṣbl t ɖ truʈ ɖt ẃt I hd t dīl wɖ wz, rvoltñli, agnst nećr. I cd onli gt on at ol bî tecñ “nećr” intu mî confidns n mî acǎnt, bî trītñ mî monstṛs ordīl az a pś in a d’rex́n unyźl, v cors, n unpleznt, bt dmandñ, aftr ol, fr a fer frunt, onli anɖr trn v ɖ scru v ordnri hymn vrću. No atmt, nnɖles, cd wel rqîr mor tact ɖn jst ɖs atmt t s’plî, wn’z slf, ol ɖ nećr. Hǎ cd I pt īvn a litl v ɖt articl intu a s’preśn v refṛns t ẃt hd ocŕd? Hǎ, on ɖ uɖr hand, cd I mc refṛns wɖt a ny plunj intu ɖ hidịs obskr? Wel, a sort v ansr, aftr a tîm, hd cm t m, n it wz so far cnfrmd az ɖt I wz met, incntstbli, bî ɖ qcnd viźn v ẃt wz rer in mî litl cmpańn. It wz indd az f h hd faund īvn nǎ – az h hd so ofn faund at lésnz – stl sm uɖr delic̣t we t īz m of. Wz’nt ɖr lît in ɖ fact ẃć, az w śerd ǎr soḷtyd, brouc ǎt wɖ a spīśs glitr it hd nvr yt qt wòrn? – ɖ fact ɖt (oṗtyṇti edñ, preśs oṗtyṇti ẃć hd nǎ cm) it wd b pripostṛs, wɖ a ćîld so indaud, t fōrgo ɖ hlp wn mt rést fṛm abṣlut intelijns? Ẃt hd hiz intelijns bn gvn him fr bt t sev him? Mt’nt wn, t rīć hiz mînd, risc ɖ streć v an anğlr arm ovr hiz caṛctr? It wz az f, ẃn w wr fes t fes in ɖ dînñrūm, h hd litṛli śoun m ɖ we. Ɖ rost mutn wz on ɖ tebl, n I hd dspnst wɖ atndns. Mîlz, bfr h sat dǎn, std a momnt wɖ hiz handz in hiz pocits n lct at ɖ jônt, on ẃć h sīmd on ɖ pônt v pasñ sm hymṛs jujmnt. Bt ẃt h prezntli pṛdyst wz: “I se, mî dir, z ś riyli vri ōf̣li il?”

“Litl Flora? Nt so bad bt ɖt ś’l prezntli b betr. Lundn wl set hr p. Blai hd sīst t agri wɖ hr. Cm hir n tec yr mutn.”

H alrtli obeid m, carid ɖ plet cerf̣li t hiz sīt, n, ẃn h wz istabliśt, wnt on. “Dd Blai dis’gri wɖ hr so teṛbli sudnli?”

“Nt so sudnli az y mt ʈnc. Wn hd sìn it cmñ on.”

“Ɖen ẃ dd’nt y gt hr of bfr?”

“Bfr ẃt?”

“Bfr ś bcem tù il t travl.”

I faund mslf promt. “Ś’z nt tù il t travl: ś onli mt hv bcm so f ś hd steid. Ɖs wz jst ɖ momnt t sīz. Ɖ jrni wl diṣpet ɖ inflụns” – ǒ, I wz grand! – “n cari it of.”

“I si, I si” – Mîlz, fr ɖt matr, wz grand, tù. H setld t hiz rpast wɖ ɖ ćarmñ litl “teblmanr” ɖt, fṛm ɖ de v hiz arîvl, hd rlivd m v ol grosnis v adṃniśn. Ẃtvr h hd bn drivn fṛm scūl fr, it wz nt fr ugli fīdñ. H wz iriproćbl, az olwz, tde; bt h wz unmistecbli mor conśs. H wz dsrṇbli trayñ t tec fr grantd mor ʈñz ɖn h faund, wɖt asistns, qt īzi; n h dropt intu pīsfl sîḷns ẃl h flt hiz sićueśn. Ǎr mīl wz v ɖ brīfist – mîn a ven pritns, n I hd ɖ ʈñz imīɉtli rmuvd. Ẃl ɖs wz dn Mîlz std agn wɖ hiz handz in hiz litl pocits n hiz bac t m – std n lct ǎt v ɖ wîd windo ʈru ẃć, ɖt uɖr de, I hd sìn ẃt pld m p. W cntinyd sîḷnt ẃl ɖ meid wz wɖ s – az sîḷnt, it ẃimzicli ocŕd t m, az sm yuñ cupl hu, on ɖer wedñjrni, at ɖ ín, fīl śî in ɖ prezns v ɖ wêtr. H trnd rnd onli ẃn ɖ wêtr hd left s. “Wel – so w’r alon!”

___

XXIII

“Ǒ, mor or les.” I fansi mî smîl wz pel. “Nt abṣlutli. W śd’nt lîc ɖt!” I wnt on.

“No – I s’poz w śd’nt. V cors w hv ɖ uɖrz.”“W hv ɖ uɖrz – w hv indd ɖ uɖrz,” I cncŕd.

“Yt īvn ɖo w hv ɖm,” h rtrnd, stl wɖ hiz handz in hiz pocits n plantd ɖr in frunt v m, “ɖe d’nt mć cǎnt, d ɖe?”

I md ɖ bst v it, bt I flt won. “It dpndz on ẃt y cōl ‘mć’!”

“Yes” – wɖ ol acoṃdeśn – “evrʈñ dpndz!” On ɖs, hvr, h fest t ɖ windo agn n prezntli rīćt it wɖ hiz veg, restlis, cojtetñ step. H rmend ɖr aẃl, wɖ hiz fōrhed agnst ɖ glas, in contmpleśn v ɖ stypid śrubz I ń n ɖ dul ʈñz v Nvmbr. I hd olwz mî hipocṛsi v “wrc,” bhnd ẃć, nǎ, I gend ɖ sofa. Stediyñ mslf wɖ it ɖr az I hd rpitidli dn at ɖoz momnts v torment ɖt I hv dscrîbd az ɖ momnts v mî nwñ ɖ ćildṛn t b gvn t smʈñ fṛm ẃć I wz bàrd, I sfiśntli obeid mî habit v biyñ priperd fr ɖ wrst. Bt an xtrordnri impreśn dropt on m az I xtractd a mīnñ fṛm ɖ bô’z imbaṛst bac – nn uɖr ɖn ɖ impreśn ɖt I wz nt bàrd nǎ. Ɖs infṛns grù in a fy minits t śarp intnṣti n sīmd baund p wɖ ɖ d’rect pspśn ɖt it wz poztivli h hu wz. Ɖ fremz n sqerz v ɖ gret windo wr a cnd v imij, fr him, v a cnd v fełr. I flt ɖt I sw him, at eni ret, śut in or śut ǎt. H wz admṛbl, bt nt cumftbl: I tc it in wɖ a ʈrob v hop. Wz’nt h lcñ, ʈru ɖ hōntd pein, fr smʈñ h cd’nt si? – n wz’nt it ɖ frst tîm in ɖ hol biznis ɖt h hd noun sć a laps? Ɖ frst, ɖ vri frst: I faund it a splendid portent. It md him añśs, ɖo h woćt himslf; h hd bn añśs ol de n, īvn ẃl in hiz yźl swīt litl manr h sat at tebl, hd nīdd ol hiz smōl strenj jīńs t gv it a glos. Ẃn h at last trnd rnd t mīt m, it wz olmst az f ɖs jīńs hd s’cumd. “Wel, I ʈnc I’m glad Blai agriz wɖ m!

“Y wd srtnli sīm t hv sìn, ɖz twenti-fr aurz, a gd dīl mor v it ɖn fr sm tîm bfr. I hop,” I wnt on brevli, “ɖt y’v bn injoyñ yrslf.”

“Ǒ, yes, I’v bn evr so far; ol rnd abt – mîlz n mîlz awe. I’v nvr bn so fri.”

H hd riyli a manr v hiz ǒn, n I cd onli trî t cīp p wɖ him. “Wel, d y lîc it?”

H std ɖr smîlñ; ɖen at last h pt intu tū wrdz – “D y?” – mor dscriṃneśn ɖn I hd evr hŕd tū wrdz cnten. Bfr I hd tîm t dīl wɖ ɖt, hvr, h cntinyd az f wɖ ɖ sns ɖt ɖs wz an imprtinns t b sofnd. “Nʈñ cd b mor ćarmñ ɖn ɖ we y tec it, fr v cors f w’r alon tgɖr nǎ it’s y ɖt r alon most. Bt I hop,” h ʈrù in, “y d’nt ptiklrli mînd!”

“Hvñ t d wɖ y?” I asct. “Mî dir ćîld, hǎ cn I hlp mîndñ? Ɖo I’v rnǎnst ol clem t yr cumṗni – y’r so bynd m – I at līst gretli injô it. Ẃt els śd I ste on fr?”

H lct at m mor d’recli, n ɖ xpreśn v hiz fes, grevr nǎ, struc m az ɖ most bytifl I hd evr faund in it. “Y ste on jst fr ɖt?

“Srtnli. I ste on az yr frend n fṛm ɖ tṛmnḍs inṭrest I tec in y tl smʈñ cn b dn fr y ɖt me b mor wrʈ yr ẃl. Ɖt nīd’nt s’prîz y.” Mî vôs trembld so ɖt I flt it imposbl t s’pres ɖ śec. “D’nt y rmembr hǎ I tld y, ẃn I cem n sat on yr bed ɖ nît v ɖ storm, ɖt ɖr wz nʈñ in ɖ wrld I wd’nt d fr y?”

“Yes, yes!” H, on hiz sîd, mor n mor viẓbli nrṿs, hd a ton t mastr; bt h wz so mć mor s’xesfl ɖn I ɖt, lafñ ǎt ʈru hiz graṿti, h cd pritnd w wr plezntli jstñ. “Onli ɖt, I ʈnc, wz t gt m t d smʈñ fr y!

“It wz partli t gt y t d smʈñ,” I cnsidd. “Bt, y nǒ, y dd’nt d it.”

“Ǒ, yes,” h sd wɖ ɖ brîtist sūṗfiśl īgrnis, “y wontd m t tel y smʈñ.”

“Ɖt’s it. Ǎt, stret ǎt. Ẃt y hv on yr mînd, y nǒ.”

“Ā, ɖen, z ɖt ẃt y’v steid ovr fr?”

H spouc wɖ a geyti ʈru ẃć I cd stl cać ɖ fînist litl qivr v rzntfl paśn; bt I c’nt bgin t xpres ɖ ifct upn m v an impḷceśn v srendr īvn so fent. It wz az f ẃt I hd yrnd fr hd cm at last onli t astoniś m. “Wel, yes – I me az wel mc a clīn brest v it, it wz prisîsli fr ɖt.”

H wêtd so loñ ɖt I s’pozd it fr ɖ prṗs v rpydietñ ɖ asumśn on ẃć mî ax́n hd bn fǎndd; bt ẃt h fîṇli sd wz: “D y mīn nǎ – hir?”

“Ɖr cd’nt b a betr ples or tîm.” H lct rnd him unīẓli, n I hd ɖ rer – ǒ, ɖ qir! – impreśn v ɖ vri frst simtm I hd sìn in him v ɖ aproć v imīɉt fir. It wz az f h wr sudnli afreid v m – ẃć struc m indd az phps ɖ bst ʈñ t mc him. Yt in ɖ vri pañ v ɖ ef̣t I flt it ven t trî strņis, n I hŕd mslf ɖ nxt instnt so jntl az t b olmst gṛtesc. “Y wont so t g ǎt agn?”

“Ōf̣li!” H smîld at m hrôicli, n ɖ tućñ litl breṿri v it wz inhanst bî hiz acć̣li fluśñ wɖ pen. H hd pict p hiz hat, ẃć h hd bròt in, n std twrlñ it in a we ɖt gev m, īvn az I wz jst nirli rīćñ port, a pvrs horr v ẃt I wz dwñ. T d it in eni we wz an act v vayḷns, fr ẃt dd it cnsist v bt ɖ obtruźn v ɖ îdīa v grosnis n gilt on a smōl hlplis crīćr hu hd bn fr m a reṿleśn v ɖ posbiḷtiz v bytifl inṭcors? Wz’nt it bes t criet fr a biyñ so xqizit a mir ełn ōcẉdnis? I s’poz I nǎ rīd intu ǎr sićueśn a clirnis it cd’nt hv hd at ɖ tîm, fr I sīm t si ǎr pur îz olrdi lîtd wɖ sm sparc v a prīviźn v ɖ anḡś ɖt wz t cm. So w srcld abt, wɖ terrz n scrūplz, lîc fîtrz nt dẹrñ t cloz. Bt it wz fr ć uɖr w fird! Ɖt cept s a litl longr sspndd n unbruzd. “I’l tel y evrʈñ,” Mîlz sd – “I mīn I’l tel y enʈñ y lîc. Y’l ste on wɖ m, n w śl bʈ b ol rît, n I wl tel y – I wl. Bt nt nǎ.”

“Ẃ nt nǎ?”

Mî insistns trnd him fṛm m n cept him wns mor at hiz windo in a sîḷns jrñ ẃć, btwn s, y mt hv hŕd a pin drop. Ɖen h wz bfr m agn wɖ ɖ er v a prsn fr hūm, ǎtsd, smwn hu hd francli t b recnd wɖ wz wêtñ. “I hv t si Lūc.”

I hd nt yt rdyst him t qt so vulgr a lai, n I flt pṛporśṇtli aśemd. Bt, hoṛbl az it wz, hiz laiz md p mî truʈ. I aćivd ʈtf̣li a fy lūps v mî nitñ. “Wel, ɖen, g t Lūc, n I’l wêt fr ẃt y promis. Onli, in rtrn fr ɖt, saṭsfî, bfr y līv m, wn vri mć smōlr rqst.”

H lct az f h flt h hd s’xidd inuf t b ebl stl a litl t bargin. “Vri mć smōlr – ?”

“Yes, a mir frax́n v ɖ hol. Tel m” – ǒ, mî wrc priokpaid m, n I wz ofhand! – “f, yesṭde afṭnun, fṛm ɖ tebl in ɖ hōl, y tc, y nǒ, mî letr.”

___

XXIV

Mî sns v hǎ h rsivd ɖs sufrd fr a minit fṛm smʈñ ɖt I cn dscrîb onli az a firs split v mî atnśn – a stroc ɖt at frst, az I sprañ stret p, rdyst m t ɖ mir blînd muvmnt v gtñ hold v him, drw̃ him clos, n, ẃl I jst fél fr s’port agnst ɖ nirist pìs v frnićr, instñtivli cīpñ him wɖ hiz bac t ɖ windo. Ɖ apiṛns wz fl upn s ɖt I hd olrdi hd t dīl wɖ hir: Pītr Qint hd cm intu vy lîc a sntinl bfr a prizn. Ɖ nxt ʈñ I sw wz ɖt, fṛm ǎtsd, h hd rīćt ɖ windo, n ɖen I ń ɖt, clos t ɖ glas n glẹrñ in ʈru it, h ofrd wns mor t ɖ rūm hiz ẃît fes v damneśn. It repriznts bt grosli ẃt tc ples wɖn m at ɖ sît t se ɖt on ɖ secnd mî dsiźn wz md; yt I b’liv ɖt no wmn so oṿẃlmd evr in so śort a tîm rcuvrd hr grasp v ɖ act. It cem t m in ɖ vri horr v ɖ imīɉt prezns ɖt ɖ act wd b, siyñ n fesñ ẃt I sw n fest, t cīp ɖ bô himslf un’wer. Ɖ insṗreśn – I cn cōl it bî no uɖr nem – wz ɖt I flt hǎ voḷntṛli, hǎ transndnṭli, I mt. It wz lîc fîtñ wɖ a dīmn fr a hymn soul, n ẃn I hd ferli so aprezd it I sw hǎ ɖ hymn soul – hld ǎt, in ɖ tremr v mî handz, at arm’z leñʈ – hd a prfict dȳ v swet on a luvli ćîldiś fōrhed. Ɖ fes ɖt wz clos t mîn wz az ẃît az ɖ fes agnst ɖ glas, n ǎt v it prezntli cem a sǎnd, nt lo nr wìc, bt az f fṛm mć frɖr awe, ɖt I dranc lîc a woft v fregṛns.

“Yes – I tc it.”At ɖs, wɖ a mon v jô, I infoldd, I drù him clos; n ẃl I hld him t mî brest, ẃr I cd fīl in ɖ sudn fīvr v hiz litl bodi ɖ tṛmnḍs puls v hiz litl hart, I cept mî îz on ɖ ʈñ at ɖ windo n sw it muv n śift its posćr. I hv lîcnd it t a sntinl, bt its slo ẃīl, fr a momnt, wz rɖr ɖ prǎl v a bafld bīst. Mî preznt qcnd curij, hvr, wz sć ɖt, nt tù mć t let it ʈru, I hd t śêd, az it wr, mî flem. Mnẃl ɖ gler v ɖ fes wz agn at ɖ windo, ɖ scǎndṛl fixt az f t woć n wêt. It wz ɖ vri confidns ɖt I mt nǎ dfî him, az wel az ɖ poẓtiv srttyd, bî ɖs tîm, v ɖ ćîld’z unconśsnis, ɖt md m g on. “Ẃt dd y tec it fr?”

“T si ẃt y sd abt m.”

“Y opnd ɖ letr?”

“I opnd it.”

Mî îz wr nǎ, az I hld him of a litl agn, on Mîlz’z ǒn fes, in ẃć ɖ c’laps v moc̣ri śoud m hǎ cmplit wz ɖ ravij v unīzinis. Ẃt wz pṛdijs wz ɖt at last, bî mî s’xes, hiz sns wz sìld n hiz cḿṇceśn stopt: h ń ɖt h wz in prezns, bt ń nt v ẃt, n ń stl les ɖt I olso wz n ɖt I dd nǒ. N ẃt dd ɖs stren v trubl matr ẃn mî îz wnt bac t ɖ windo onli t si ɖt ɖ er wz clir agn n – bî mî prsnl trîumf – ɖ inflụns qnćt? Ɖr wz nʈñ ɖr. I flt ɖt ɖ cōz wz mîn n ɖt I śd śrli gt ol. “N y faund nʈñ!” – I let mî ileśn ǎt.

H gev ɖ most mōrnfl, ʈtfl litl hedśec. “Nʈñ.”

“Nʈñ, nʈñ!” I olmst śǎtd in mî jô.

“Nʈñ, nʈñ,” h sadli rpitd.

I cist hiz fōrhed; it wz drenćt. “So ẃt hv y dn wɖ it?”

“I’v brnt it.”

“Brnt it?” It wz nǎ or nvr. “Z ɖt ẃt y dd at scūl?”

Ǒ, ẃt ɖs bròt p! “At scūl?”

“Dd y tec letrz? – or uɖr ʈñz?”

“Uɖr ʈñz?” H apird nǎ t b ʈncñ v smʈñ far of n ɖt rīćt him onli ʈru ɖ preśr v hiz añzayti. Yt it dd rīć him. “Dd I stìl?

I flt mslf redn t ɖ rūts v mî her az wel az wundr f it wr mor strenj t pt t a jntlmn sć a qsćn or t si him tec it wɖ alawnsz ɖt gev ɖ vri distns v hiz fōl in ɖ wrld. “Wz it fr ɖt y mt’nt g bac?”

Ɖ onli ʈñ h flt wz rɖr a driri litl s’prîz. “Dd y nǒ I mt’nt g bac?”

“I nǒ evrʈñ.”

H gev m at ɖs ɖ longist n strenjist lc. “Evrʈñ?”

“Evrʈñ. Ɖrfr dd y – ?” Bt I cd’nt se it agn.

Mîlz cd, vri simpli. “No. I dd’nt stìl.”

Mî fes mst hv śoun him I b’livd him utrli; yt mî handz – bt it wz fr pyr tndrnis – śc him az f t asc him ẃ, f it wz ol fr nʈñ, h hd cndemd m t munʈs v torment. “Ẃt ɖen dd y d?”

H lct in veg pen ol rnd ɖ top v ɖ rūm n drù hiz breʈ, tū or ʈri tîmz ovr, az f wɖ dificlti. H mt hv bn standñ at ɖ botm v ɖ sì n rezñ hiz îz t sm fent grīn twîlît. “Wel – I sd ʈñz.”

“Onli ɖt?”

“Ɖe ʈt it wz inuf!”

“T trn y ǎt fr?”

Nvr, trūli, hd a prsn “trnd ǎt” śoun so litl t xplen it az ɖs litl prsn! H apird t wei mî qsćn, bt in a manr qt dtaćt n olmst hlplis. “Wel, I s’poz I òt’nt.”

“Bt t hūm dd y se ɖm?”

H evidntli traid t rmembr, bt it dropt – h hd lost it. “I d’nt nǒ!”

H olmst smîld at m in ɖ deẓleśn v hiz srendr, ẃć wz indd practicli, bî ɖs tîm, so cmplit ɖt I òt t hv left it ɖr. Bt I wz infaćuetd – I wz blînd wɖ vicṭri, ɖo īvn ɖen ɖ vri ifct ɖt wz t hv bròt him so mć nirr wz olrdi ɖt v add seṗreśn. “Wz it t evrwn?” I asct.

“No; it wz onli t – ” Bt h gev a sic litl hedśec. “I d’nt rmembr ɖer nemz.”

“Wr ɖe ɖen so mni?”

“No – onli a fy. Ɖoz I lîct.”

Ɖoz h lîct? I sīmd t flot nt intu clirnis, bt intu a darcr obskr, n wɖn a minit ɖr hd cm t m ǎt v mî vri piti ɖ apōlñ alarm v hiz biyñ phps iṇsnt. It wz fr ɖ instnt cnfǎndñ n botmlis, fr f h wr iṇsnt, ẃt ɖen on rʈ wz I? Paṛlîzd, ẃl it lastd, bî ɖ mir bruś v ɖ qsćn, I let him g a litl, so ɖt, wɖ a dīp-drwn sai, h trnd awe fṛm m agn; ẃć, az h fest twd ɖ clir windo, I sufrd, fīlñ ɖt I hd nʈñ nǎ ɖr t cīp him fṛm. “N dd ɖe rpit ẃt y sd?” I wnt on aftr a momnt.

H wz sn at sm distns fṛm m, stl briɖñ hard n agn wɖ ɖ er, ɖo nǎ wɖt angr fr it, v biyñ cnfînd agnst hiz wil. Wns mor, az h hd dn bfr, h lct p at ɖ dim de az f, v ẃt hd hiɖrtu sstend him, nʈñ wz left bt an unspīcbl añzayti. “Ǒ, yes,” h nvɖles rplaid – “ɖe mst hv rpitd ɖm. T ɖoz ɖe lîct,” h add.

Ɖr wz, smhǎ, les v it ɖn I hd xpctd; bt I trnd it ovr. “N ɖz ʈñz cem rnd – ?”

“T ɖ mastrz? Ǒ, yes!” h ansrd vri simpli. “Bt I dd’nt nǒ ɖ’d tel.”

“Ɖ mastrz? Ɖe dd’nt – ɖ’v nvr tld. Ɖt’s ẃ I asc y.”

H trnd t m agn hiz litl bytifl fīvrd fes. “Yes, it wz tù bad.”

“Tù bad?”

“Ẃt I s’poz I smtmz sd. T rait hom.”

I c’nt nem ɖ xqizit peʈos v ɖ contṛdix́n gvn t sć a spīć bî sć a spīcr; I onli nǒ ɖt ɖ nxt instnt I hŕd mslf ʈro of wɖ homli fors: “Stuf n nonsns!” Bt ɖ nxt aftr ɖt I mst hv sǎndd strn inuf. “Ẃt wr ɖz ʈñz?”

Mî strņis wz ol fr hiz juj, hiz x’kśnr; yt it md him avrt himslf agn, n ɖt muvmnt md m, wɖ a sngl bǎnd n an iripresbl crî, sprñ stret upn him. Fr ɖr agn, agnst ɖ glas, az f t blît hiz cnfeśn n ste hiz ansr, wz ɖ hidịs oʈr v ǎr wo – ɖ ẃît fes v damneśn. I flt a sic swim at ɖ drop v mî vicṭri n ol ɖ rtrn v mî batl, so ɖt ɖ wîldnis v mî veriṭbl līp onli srvd az a gret btreyl. I sw him, fṛm ɖ mdst v mî act, mīt it wɖ a diṿneśn, n on ɖ pspśn ɖt īvn nǎ h onli gest, n ɖt ɖ windo wz stl t hiz ǒn îz fri, I let ɖ impuls flem p t cnvrt ɖ clîmax v hiz dsme intu ɖ vri prūf v hiz liḅreśn. “No mor, no mor, no mor!” I śrīct, az I traid t pres him agnst m, t mî vizitnt.

“Z ś hir?” Mîlz pantd az h còt wɖ hiz sìld îz ɖ d’rex́n v mî wrdz. Ɖen az hiz strenj “ś” stagrd m n, wɖ a gasp, I ecoud it, “Mis Jesl, Mis Jesl!” h wɖ a sudn fyri gev m bac.

I sizd, styṗfaid, hiz supziśn – sm sīql t ẃt w hd dn t Flora, bt ɖs md m onli wont t śo him ɖt it wz betr stl ɖn ɖt. “It’s nt Mis Jesl! Bt it’s at ɖ windo – stret bfr s. It’s ɖr – ɖ cawd horr, ɖr fr ɖ last tîm!”

At ɖs, aftr a secnd in ẃć hiz hed md ɖ muvmnt v a bafld dog’z on a sént n ɖen gev a frantic litl śec fr er n lît, h wz at m in a ẃît rej, bwildrd, glẹrñ venli ovr ɖ ples n misñ hoļi, ɖo it nǎ, t mî sns, fild ɖ rūm lîc ɖ test v pôzn, ɖ wîd, oṿẃlmñ prezns. “It’s h?

I wz so dtrmind t hv ol mî prūf ɖt I flaśt intu îs t ćalinj him. “Hūm d y mīn bî ‘h’?”

“Pītr Qint – y devl!” Hiz fes gev agn, rnd ɖ rūm, its cnvulst supḷceśn. “Ẃr?

Ɖe r in mî irz stl, hiz s’prīm srendr v ɖ nem n hiz tribyt t mî dvośn. “Ẃt dz h matr nǎ, mî ǒn? – ẃt wl h evr matr? I hv y,” I lōnćt at ɖ bīst, “bt h hz lost y fr evr!” Ɖen, fr ɖ demnstreśn v mî wrc, “Ɖr, ɖr!” I sd t Mîlz.

Bt h hd olrdi jrct stret rnd, stérd, glerd agn, n sìn bt ɖ qayt de. Wɖ ɖ stroc v ɖ los I wz so prǎd v h utrd ɖ crî v a crīćr hrld ovr an abis, n ɖ grasp wɖ ẃć I rcuvrd him mt hv bn ɖt v caćñ him in hiz fōl. I còt him, yes, I hld him – it me b imajind wɖ ẃt a paśn; bt at ɖ end v a minit I bgan t fīl ẃt it trūli wz ɖt I hld. W wr alon wɖ ɖ qayt de, n hiz litl hart, disṗzest, hd stopt.

 

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