“Annie!” he cried. “Good God! Annie, it’s daddy who loves you!” Poor Henry, her voice was still under a whisper and in his agony he committed the error of rushing at her. “Annie, it’s daddy! See, your own dear daddy!”
But she was too quick. Her head thrown back so that the neck muscles strained out like an outraged deer’s cornered in the hunt and her eyes rolled up, Ann felt for and grasped the paper knife off the trinket-littered table.
“Don’t you touch me—slit you up from tail to your gills.”
“Annie, it’s daddy! Papa! For God’s sake look at daddy—Ann! God!” And caught her wrist in the very act of its plumb-line rush for his heart.
He was sweating in his struggle with her, and most of all her strength appalled him, she was so little for her terrible unaccountable power.
“Don’t touch me! You can’t! You haven’t any arms! Horrible gills!”
She was talking as she struggled, still under the hoarse and frantic whisper, but her breath coming in long soughs. “Slit-you-up-from-tail. Slit—you—up—from—tail—to—gills.”
“Annie! Annie!” still obsessed by his anguished desire to reassure her with the normality of his touch. “See, Annie, it’s daddy. Ann Elizabeth’s daddy.” With a flash her arm and the glint of the paper cutter eluded him again and again, but finally he caught her by the waist, struggling, in his dreadful mistake, to calm her down into the chair again.
“Now I’ve got you, darling. Now—sit—down—”
“No, you haven’t,” she said, a sort of wild joy coming out in her whisper, and cunningly twisting the upper half of her body back from his, the hand still held high. “You’ll never get me—you fish!”
And plunged with her high hand in a straight line down into her throat.
It was only when the coroner withdrew the sliver of paper knife from its whiteness, that, coagulated, the dead and waiting blood began to ooze.
* * * * *
“Do you,” intoned the judge for the third and slightly more impatient time, “plead guilty or not guilty to the charge of murder against you?”
This time the lips of the prisoner’s wound of a mouth moved stiffly together:
Snow in the village of Vodna can have the quality of hot white plush of enormous nap, so dryly thick it packs into the angles where fences cross, sealing up the windward sides of houses, rippling in great seas across open places, flaming in brilliancy against the boles of ever so occasional trees, and tucking in the houses up to the sills and down over the eaves.
Out in the wide places it is like a smile on a dead face, this snow hush, grateful that peace can be so utter. It is the silence of a broody God, and out of that frozen pause, in a house tucked up to the sills and down to the eaves, Sara Turkletaub was prematurely taken with the pangs of childbirth, and in the thin dawn, without even benefit of midwife, twin sons were born.