The Penalty eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 232 pages of information about The Penalty.

“Come,” said Barbara, after quite a long silence, “let’s go forth and collar a taxi.  Anywhere I can take you?  I can’t ask you to lunch, because I am having seven maidens, and afterward Victor Polideon to teach us to turkey-trot.”

“I wouldn’t be afraid of seven devils,” Wilmot urged in his own behalf, “if you were present.”

“There are only two,” she said practically, “and they are very little devils.  But I won’t let you come, because you would have much too good a time.”  Then she relented.  “Come later, about three, and teach me to turkey-trot.  You do it better than Polideon.  And I hate to have him touch me.”

“That’s something,” he exclaimed triumphantly.

“What’s something?”

“That you don’t hate for me to touch you.”

She laughed and tapped his shoulder in rag-time.  Also she whistled, and did a quiet suspicion of a turkey-trot with her feet.

VI

One bright morning in May, divinely early, two persons of very different appearance and nature came out of two houses of very different appearance and nature at precisely the same moment, and started to move toward each other by methods of locomotion no less different than were the appearances of the respective persons or the respective houses from which they emerged.

The house from which the one issued was of speckless white marble, and looked from the advantageous corner of Sixty-something Street and Fifth Avenue upon the purple and white lilacs and the engaging spring greens of Central Park.

The other came out of a dark house at the angle of a narrow street in the shadow of Brooklyn Bridge, whose door, crossed by dingy gilt lettering, violently clanged a bell at opening and closing.  The first person stepped with the long clean strides of youth and liberty.  The second person cannot be said to have stepped at all.  The first person, meeting a policeman, smiled and said:  “Good morning, Kelly.”  The second, similarly meeting with an officer of the law, scowled upward, and said:  “Do it again, and I’ll break you.”  The first person came out of the uptown palace like a fairy from a grotto; the second emerged from the downtown rookery like some prehistoric monster from a cave.

At a distance you might have mistaken him for an electrician or a sewer-expert coming into view through one of those round holes in the sidewalk by which access is provided to the subterranean apparatus of cities.  But, drawing nearer, you perceived that he was but half a man, who stood upon the six-inch stubs of what had once been a pair of legs.  But what nature could do for what was left of him nature had done.  He had the neck, the arms, and the torso of a Hercules.  His coat, black, threadbare, shining, and unpleasantly spotted, seemed on the point of giving way here and there to a system of restless and enormous muscles.  But that these should serve no better purpose than ceaselessly to turn the handle of an unusually diminutive and tuneless street-organ might have roused in the observer’s mind doubts as to the wisdom and vigilance of that divine providence which is so much better understood and trusted by the healthy and fortunate than by the wretched, the maimed, and the diseased.

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The Penalty from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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