Bressant had heard little or nothing of the explanation volunteered by the bearer of the message, but he at once recognized the yellow telegraph-envelope, and comprehended the rest. But, ere he could leave the window to go down and receive it, he saw the fat servant-girl, who had witnessed the scene from the parlor, run down to the front-gate, sinking above her ankles at every step, take the envelope from Bill’s mittened paw, exchange a word and a grin with him, and then return, carefully stepping into the holes she had made going out.
Bill gave a nod of good-will to Bressant’s window—for Bressant was no longer there—whipped up his nag, and jingled off with his milk-cans. In another minute the fat servant-girl, after stamping the remains of the snow off her shoes upon the door-mat, opened the door, and introduced the dispatch and her own smiling physiognomy. Bressant snatched the former, and shut the door in the latter, before the hand-wiping and haranguing had time to begin.
Before opening the envelope, he stood up at his full height, and filled his lungs with a long, profound breath; then emitted it suddenly in a sort of deep, short growl, and took his seat at the table. He tore open the end of the envelope, pulled out the inclosure, which was an ordinary printed telegraph-blank, filled in with three lines of writing, as follows: “Been very ill come on at once at once must hear all no alternative” in the scrawly and unpunctuated chirography peculiar to written telegrams. The name signed was “M. Vauderp.” Bressant read the message, and afterward carefully perused the printing, even down to the name of the printer’s firm, which was given in very small type at the bottom of the paper. Then he glanced over the writing once more, and returned the paper to the envelope.
“At once, at once!” muttered he; “that’s the only way of writing italics in telegraphy, I suppose. Well, I’ll go at once; it’s ten now; there’s a train at half-past.”
He unlocked a drawer in his table, and took from it a purse, which he put in his pocket. He buttoned a pea-jacket across his broad chest, pressed a round fur-cap on to his handsome head, took a pair of thick gloves from the mantel-piece, and walked away without giving one backward glance.
The snow blew and drifted through the open window into the empty room; the few remaining flowers were hustled from their stalks; the red eye of the stove grew dimmer and dimmer, and finally faded into darkness, and the colored drawing of the patent derrick broke loose at another corner, and flapped and fluttered against the wall in crazy exultation.
FACT AND FANCY.