His Own People eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 67 pages of information about His Own People.

And with that young Cooley was gone.

IX.  Expiation

A multitudinous clangor of bells and a dozen neighboring chimes rang noon; then the rectangular oblongs of hot sunlight that fell from the windows upon the carpet of Mellin’s room began imperceptibly to shift their angles and move eastward.  From the stone pavement of the street below came the sound of horses pawing and the voices of waiting cabmen; then bells again, and more bells; clamoring the slow and cruel afternoon into the past.  But all was silent in Mellin’s room, save when, from time to time, a long, shuddering sigh came from the bed.

The unhappy young man had again drawn the coverlet over his head, but not to sleep:  it was more like a forlorn and desperate effort to hide, as if he crept into a hole, seeking darkness to cover the shame and fear that racked his soul.  For though his shame had been too great to let him confess to young Cooley and ask for help, his fear was as great as his shame; and it increased as the hours passed.  In truth his case was desperate.  Except the people who had stripped him, Cooley was the only person in all of Europe with whom he had more than a very casual acquaintance.  At home, in Cranston, he had no friends susceptible to such an appeal as it was vitally necessary for him to make.  His relatives were not numerous:  there were two aunts, the widows of his father’s brothers, and a number of old-maid cousins; and he had an uncle in Iowa, a country minister whom he had not seen for years.  But he could not cable to any of these for money; nor could he quite conjure his imagination into picturing any of them sending it if he did.  And even to cable he would have to pawn his watch, which was an old-fashioned one of silver and might not bring enough to pay the charges.

He began to be haunted by fragmentary, prophetic visions—­confused but realistic in detail, and horridly probable—­of his ejectment from the hotel, perhaps arrest and trial.  He wondered what they did in Italy to people who “beat” hotels; and, remembering what some one had told him of the dreadfulness of Italian jails, convulsive shudderings seized upon him.

The ruddy oblongs of sunlight crawled nearer to the east wall of the room, stretching themselves thinner and thinner, until finally they were not there at all, and the room was left in deepening grayness.  Carriages, one after the other, in unintermittent succession, rumbled up to the hotel-entrance beneath the window, bringing goldfish for the Pincio and the fountains of Villa Borghese.  Wild strains from the Hungarian orchestra, rhapsodical twankings of violins, and the runaway arpeggios of a zither crazed with speed-mania, skipped along the corridors and lightly through Mellin’s door.  In his mind’s eye he saw the gay crowd in the watery light, the little tables where only five days ago he had sat with the loveliest of all the anemone-like ladies....

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His Own People from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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