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All Over by: Guy de Maupassant

Comte de Lormerin had just finished dressing. He cast a parting glance at the large mirror which occupied an entire panel in his dressing-room and smiled.
He was really a fine-looking man still, although quite gray. Tall, slight, elegant, with no sign of a paunch, with a small mustache of doubtful shade, which might be called fair, he had a walk, a nobility, a "chic," in short, that indescribable something which establishes a greater difference between two men than would millions of money. He murmured:
"Lormerin is still alive!"
And he went into the drawing-room where his correspondence awaited him.
On his table, where everything had its place, the work table of the gentleman who never works, there were a dozen letters lying beside three newspapers of different opinions. With a single touch he spread out all these letters, like a gambler giving the choice of a card; and he scanned the handwriting, a thing he did each morning before opening the envelopes.
It was for him a moment of delightful expectancy, of inquiry and vague anxiety. What did these sealed mysterious letters bring him? What did they contain of pleasure, of happiness, or of grief? He surveyed them with a rapid sweep of the eye, recognizing the writing, selecting them, making two or three lots, according to what he expected from them. Here, friends; there, persons to whom he was indifferent; further on, strangers. The last kind always gave him a little uneasiness. What did they want from him? What hand had traced those curious characters full of thoughts, promises, or threats?
This day one letter in particular caught his eye. It was simple, nevertheless, without seeming to reveal anything; but he looked at it uneasily, with a sort of chill at his heart. He thought: "From whom can it be? I certainly know this writing, and yet I can't identify it."
He raised it to a level with his face, holding it delicately between two fingers, striving to read through the envelope, without making up his mind to open it.
Then he smelled it, and snatched up from the table a little magnifying glass which he used in studying all the niceties of handwriting. He suddenly felt unnerved. "Whom is it from? This hand is familiar to me, very familiar. I must have often read its tracings, yes, very often. But this must have been a long, long time ago. Whom the deuce can it be from? Pooh! it's only somebody asking for money."
And he tore open the letter. Then he read:
My Dear Friend: You have, without doubt, forgotten me, for it is now twenty-five years since we saw each other. I was young; I am old. When I bade you farewell, I left Paris in order to follow into the provinces my husband, my old husband, whom you used to call "my hospital." Do you remember him? He died five years ago, and now I am returning to Paris to get my daughter married, for I have a daughter, a beautiful girl of eighteen, whom you have never seen. I informed you of her birth, but you certainly did not pay much attention to so trifling an event.
You are still the handsome Lormerin; so I have been told. Well if you still recollect little Lise, whom you used to call Lison, come and dine with her this evening, with the elderly Baronne de Vance, your ever faithful friend, who, with some emotion, although happy, reaches out to you a devoted hand, which you must clasp, but no longer kiss, my poor Jaquelet.
Lise de Vance.
Lormerin's heart began to throb. He remained sunk in his armchair with the letter on his knees, staring straight before him, overcome by a poignant emotion that made the tears mount up to his eyes! If he had ever loved a woman in his life it was this one, little Lise, Lise de Vance, whom he called "Ashflower," on account of the strange color of her hair and the pale gray of her eyes. Oh! what a dainty, pretty, charming creature she was, this frail baronne, the wife of that gouty, pimply baron, who had abruptly carried her off to the provinces, shut her up, kept her in seclusion through jealousy, jealousy of the handsome Lormerin.
Yes, he had loved her, and he believed that he, too, had been truly loved. She familiarly gave him the name of Jaquelet, and would pronounce that word in a delicious fashion.
A thousand forgotten memories came back to him, far off and sweet and melancholy now. One evening she had called on him on her way home from a ball, and they went for a stroll in the Bois de Boulogne, she in evening dress, he in his dressing-jacket. It was springtime; the weather was beautiful. The fragrance from her bodice embalmed the warm air--the odor of her bodice, and perhaps, too, the fragrance of her skin. What a divine night! When they reached the lake, as the moon's rays fell across the branches into the water, she began to weep. A little surprised, he asked her why.
She replied:
"I don't know. The moon and the water have affected me. Every time I see poetic things I have a tightening at the heart, and I have to cry."
He smiled, affected himself, considering her feminine emotion charming--the unaffected emotion of a poor little woman whom every sensation overwhelms. And he embraced her passionately, stammering:
"My little Lise, you are exquisite."
What a charming love affair, short-lived and dainty, it had been and over all too quickly, cut short in the midst of its ardor by this old brute of a baron, who had carried off his wife, and never let any one see her afterward.
Lormerin had forgotten, in fact, at the end of two or three months. One woman drives out another so quickly in Paris, when one is a bachelor! No matter; he had kept a little altar for her in his heart, for he had loved her alone! He assured himself now that this was so.
He rose, and said aloud: "Certainly, I will go and dine with her this evening!"
And instinctively he turned toward the mirror to inspect himself from head to foot. He reflected: "She must look very old, older than I look." And he felt gratified at the thought of showing himself to her still handsome, still fresh, of astonishing her, perhaps of filling her with emotion, and making her regret those bygone days so far, far distant!
He turned his attention to the other letters. They were of no importance.
The whole day he kept thinking of this ghost of other days. What was she like now? How strange it was to meet in this way after twenty-five years! But would he recognize her?
He made his toilet with feminine coquetry, put on a white waistcoat, which suited him better with the coat than a black one, sent for the hairdresser to give him a finishing touch with the curling iron, for he had preserved his hair, and started very early in order to show his eagerness to see her.
The first thing he saw on entering a pretty drawing-room newly furnished was his own portrait, an old faded photograph, dating from the days when he was a beau, hanging on the wall in an antique silk frame.
He sat down and waited. A door opened behind him. He rose up abruptly, and, turning round, beheld an old woman with white hair who extended both hands toward him.
He seized them, kissed them one after the other several times; then, lifting up his head, he gazed at the woman he had loved.
Yes, it was an old lady, an old lady whom he did not recognize, and who, while she smiled, seemed ready to weep.
He could not abstain from murmuring:
"Is it you, Lise?"
She replied:
"Yes, it is I; it is I, indeed. You would not have known me, would you? I have had so much sorrow--so much sorrow. Sorrow has consumed my life. Look at me now--or, rather, don't look at me! But how handsome you have kept--and young! If I had by chance met you in the street I would have exclaimed: 'Jaquelet!' Now, sit down and let us, first of all, have a chat. And then I will call my daughter, my grown-up daughter. You'll see how she resembles me--or, rather, how I resembled her--no, it is not quite that; she is just like the 'me' of former days--you shall see! But I wanted to be alone with you first. I feared that there would be some emotion on my side, at the first moment. Now it is all over; it is past. Pray be seated, my friend."
He sat down beside her, holding her hand; but he did not know what to say; he did not know this woman--it seemed to him that he had never seen her before. Why had he come to this house? What could he talk about? Of the long ago? What was there in common between him and her? He could no longer recall anything in presence of this grandmotherly face. He could no longer recall all the nice, tender things, so sweet, so bitter, that had come to his mind that morning when he thought of the other, of little Lise, of the dainty Ashflower. What, then, had become of her, the former one, the one he had loved? That woman of far-off dreams, the blonde with gray eyes, the young girl who used to call him "Jaquelet" so prettily?
They remained side by side, motionless, both constrained, troubled, profoundly ill at ease.
As they talked only commonplaces, awkwardly and spasmodically and slowly, she rose and pressed the button of the bell.
"I am going to call Renée," she said.
There was a tap at the door, then the rustle of a dress; then a young voice exclaimed:
"Here I am, mamma!"
Lormerin remained bewildered as at the sight of an apparition.
He stammered:
"Good-day, mademoiselle."
Then, turning toward the mother:
"Oh! it is you!"
In fact, it was she, she whom he had known in bygone days, the Lise who had vanished and come back! In her he found the woman he had won twenty-five years before. This one was even younger, fresher, more childlike.
He felt a wild desire to open his arms, to clasp her to his heart again, murmuring in her ear:
"Good-morning, Lison!"
A man-servant announced:
"Dinner is ready, madame."
And they proceeded toward the dining-room.
What passed at this dinner? What did they say to him, and what could he say in reply? He found himself plunged in one of those strange dreams which border on insanity. He gazed at the two women with a fixed idea in his mind, a morbid, self-contradictory idea:
"Which is the real one?"
The mother smiled, repeating over and over again:
"Do you remember?" And it was in the bright eyes of the young girl that he found again his memories of the past. Twenty times he opened his mouth to say to her: "Do you remember, Lison?" forgetting this white-haired lady who was looking at him tenderly.
And yet, there were moments when he no longer felt sure, when he lost his head. He could see that the woman of to-day was not exactly the woman of long ago. The other one, the former one, had in her voice, in her glances, in her entire being, something which he did not find again. And he made prodigious efforts of mind to recall his lady love, to seize again what had escaped from her, what this resuscitated one did not possess.
The baronne said:
"You have lost your old vivacity, my poor friend."
He murmured:
"There are many other things that I have lost!"
But in his heart, touched with emotion, he felt his old love springing to life once more, like an awakened wild beast ready to bite him.
The young girl went on chattering, and every now and then some familiar intonation, some expression of her mother's, a certain style of speaking and thinking, that resemblance of mind and manner which people acquire by living together, shook Lormerin from head to foot. All these things penetrated him, making the reopened wound of his passion bleed anew.
He got away early, and took a turn along the boulevard. But the image of this young girl pursued him, haunted him, quickened his heart, inflamed his blood. Apart from the two women, he now saw only one, a young one, the old one come back out of the past, and he loved her as he had loved her in bygone years. He loved her with greater ardor, after an interval of twenty-five years.
He went home to reflect on this strange and terrible thing, and to think what he should do.
But, as he was passing, with a wax candle in his hand, before the glass, the large glass in which he had contemplated himself and admired himself before he started, he saw reflected there an elderly, gray-haired man; and suddenly he recollected what he had been in olden days, in the days of little Lise. He saw himself charming and handsome, as he had been when he was loved! Then, drawing the light nearer, he looked at himself more closely, as one inspects a strange thing with a magnifying glass, tracing the wrinkles, discovering those frightful ravages, which he had not perceived till now.
And he sat down, crushed at the sight of himself, at the sight of his lamentable image, murmuring:
"All over, Lormerin!"

Across The Way By Robert Grant

The news that the late Mr. Cherrington's house on Saville Street had been let for a school, within a few months after his death, could not have been a surprise to any one in the neighborhood. Ten years before, when Mr. Cherrington and those prominent in his generation were in their heyday, Saville Street had been sacred to private residences from one end to the other, but the tide of fashion had been drifting latterly. There was already another school in the same block, and there were scattered all along on either side of the street a sprinkling of throat, eye, and ear doctors, a very fashionable dressmaker or two, an up-town bank, and numerous apartments for bachelors.
The news could not have been a surprise even to Mr. Homer Ramsay, but that crusty old bachelor in the seventies brought down his walking-stick with a vicious thump when he heard it, and remarked that he would live to be ninety "if only to spite 'em." This threat, however, had reference, not to Mr. Cherrington's residence, but his own, which was exactly opposite, and which he had occupied for more than forty years. It was a conviction of Mr. Ramsay's that there was a conspiracy on foot to purchase his house, and accordingly he took every opportunity to declare that he would never part with an inch of his land while he was in the flesh. A wag in the neighborhood had expressed the opinion that the old gentleman waxed hale and hearty on his own bile. He was certainly a churlish individual in his general bearing toward his fellow-beings, and violent in his prejudices. For the last ten years his favorite prophecy had been that the country was going to the devil.
Besides the house on Saville Street, Mr. Ramsay had some bonds and stock--fifty or sixty thousand dollars in all--which tidy little property would, in the natural course of events, descend to his next of kin; in this case, however, only a first cousin once removed. In the eye of the law a living person has no heir; but blood is thicker than water, and it was generally taken for granted that Mr. Horace Barker, whose grandmother had been the sister of Mr. Ramsay's father, would some day be the owner of the house on Saville Street. At least, confident expectation that this would come to pass had long restrained Mr. Barker from letting any one but his better half know that he regarded his Cousin Homer as an irascible old curmudgeon; and perhaps, on the other hand, had justified Mr. Ramsay in his own mind for referring in common parlance to his first cousin once removed as a stiff nincompoop who had married a sickly doll. Not that Mr. Horace Barker needed the money, by any means. He was well-to-do already, and lived in a more fashionable street than Saville Street, where he occupied a dignified-looking brown-stone house, from the windows of which his three little people--all girls--peeped and nodded at the organ-grinder and the street-band.
The name of the person to whom Mr. Cherrington's house had been leased was Miss Elizabeth Whyte. She was twenty-five, and she was starting a school because it was necessary for her to earn her own living. She considered that life, from the point of view of happiness, was over for her; and yet, though she had made up her mind that she could never be really happy again, she was resolved neither to mope nor to be a burden on any one. Mr. Mills, the executor of Mr. Cherrington's estate, who believed himself to be a judge of human nature withal, had observed that she seemed a little overwrought, as though she had lived on her nerves; but, on the other hand, he had been impressed by her direct, business-like manner, which argued that she was very much in earnest. Besides, she was vouched for by the best people, and Mrs. Cyrus Bangs was moving heaven and earth to procure pupils for her. It was clearly his duty as a business man to let her have the house.
Until within a few months Elizabeth Whyte had lived in a neighboring town--the seat of a college, where the minds of young men for successive generations have been cultivated, but sometimes at the expense of a long-suffering local community. Her father, who at the time of her birth was a clergyman with a parish, had subsequently evolved into an agnostic and an invalid without one, and she had been used to plain living and high thinking from her girlhood. Even parents who find it difficult to keep the wolf at a respectful distance by untiring economy will devise some means to make an only daughter look presentable on her first appearance in society. Fine feathers do not make fine birds, and yet the consciousness of a becoming gown will irradiate the cheek of beauty. Elizabeth at eighteen would have been fetching in any dress, but in each of her three new evening frocks she looked bewitching. She was a gay, trig little person, with snapping, dark eyes and an arch expression; a tireless dancer, quick and audacious at repartee; the very ideal of a college belle. The student world had fallen prostrate at her feet, and Tom Whittemore most conspicuously and devotedly of all.
Tom was, perhaps, the most popular man of his day; a Philadelphian of reputedly superfine stock, fresh-faced and athletic, with a jaunty walk. There was no one at the college assemblies who whispered so entrancingly in her ear when she was all alone with him in a corner, and no one who placed her new fleecy wrap about her shoulders with such an air of devotion when it was time to go home. She liked him from the very first; and all her girl friends babbled, "Wouldn't it be a lovely match?" But Tom's classmates from Philadelphia, when they became confidential in the small hours of the morning, asked each other what Tom's mother would say. Tom was a senior, and it was generally assumed that matters would culminate on Class-day evening, that evening of all evenings in the collegiate world sacred to explanation and vows. Elizabeth lay awake all that night, remembering that she had let Tom have his impetuous say, and that at the end he had folded her in his arms and kissed her. Not until the next morning, and then merely as an unimportant fact, did it occur to her that, though Tom had told her she was dearer to him than all the world besides, there was no definite engagement between them. It was only when whispers reached her that Tom, who had gone to Philadelphia to attend the wedding of a relation, was not coming back to his Commencement, that she began to think a little. But she never really doubted until the news came that Tom had been packed off by his mother on a two years' journey round the world.
What mother in a distant city would be particularly pleased to have her only son, on whom rested the hopes of an illustrious stock, lose his heart to a college belle? But Elizabeth can scarcely be blamed for not having taken the illustrious stock into consideration. She kept saying to herself, that, if he had only written, she could have forgiven him; and it was not surprising that the partners with whom she danced at the college assemblies during the next five years described her to each other as steely. Indeed, she danced and prattled with such vivacious energy, and her black eyes shone so like beads, that college tradition twisted her story until it ran that she had thrown over Tom Whittemore, the most popular man of his day, and that she had no more heart than a nether millstone. And all the time, just to prove to herself that she had not cared for him, she kept the roses that he had given her on that Class-day evening in the secret drawer of her work-box. It had been all sheer nonsense, a boy and girl flirtation. So she had taught herself to argue, knowing that it was untrue, and knowing that she knew it to be so.
Then had come the deaths of her father and mother within three months of each other, and she had awakened one morning to the consciousness that she was alone in the world, and face to face with the necessity of earning her daily bread. The gentleman who had charge of the few thousand dollars belonging to her father's estate, in announcing that her bonds had ceased to pay interest, had added that she was in the same boat with many of the best people; which ought to have been a consolation, had she needed any. But this loss of the means of living had seemed a mere trifle beside her other griefs; indeed, it acted as a spur rather than a bludgeon. The same pride which had prompted her to continue to dance bade her bestir herself to make a living. Upon reflection, the plan of starting a school struck her as the most practicable. But it should be a school for girls; she had done with the world of men. She had loved with all her heart, and her heart was broken; it was withered, like the handful of dried roses in the secret drawer of her work-box.
* * * * *
Elizabeth was fortunate enough to obtain at the outset the patronage of some of those same "best people" in the adjacent city, who happened to know her story. Fashionable favor grows apace. It was only after hearing that Mrs. Cyrus Bangs had intrusted her little girl to the tender mercies of Miss Whyte that Mrs. Horace Barker subdued the visions of scarlet-fever, bad air, and evil communications which haunted her, sufficiently to be willing to send her own darlings to the new kindergarten. People intimate with Mrs. Barker were apt to say that worry over her three little girls, who were exceptionally healthy children, kept her a nervous invalid.
"I consider Mrs. Cyrus Bangs a very particular woman," she said, with plaintive impressiveness to her husband. "If she is willing to send her Gwendolen to Miss Whyte, I am disposed to let Margery, Gladys, and Dorothy go. Only you must have a very clear understanding with Miss Whyte, at the outset, as to hours and ventilation and Gladys's hot milk. We cannot move from the seaside until a fortnight after her term begins, and it will be utterly impossible for me to get the children to school in the mornings before half-past nine."
It never occurred to Horace Barker, when one morning about ten o'clock, some six weeks later, he called at the kindergarten with his precious trio, that there was any impropriety in breaking in upon Miss Whyte's occupations an hour after school had begun. What school-mistress could fail to be proud of the distinction of obtaining his three daughters as pupils at any hour of the twenty-four when he saw fit to proffer them? He expected to find a cringing, deferential young person, who would, in the interest of her own bread and butter, accede without a murmur to any stipulations which so important a patroness as Mrs. Horace Barker might see fit to impose. He became conscious, in the first place, that the school-mistress was a much more attractive-looking young person than he had anticipated, and secondly, that she seemed rather amused than otherwise at his conditions. No man, and least of all a man so consummate as Mr. Barker--for he was a dapper little person with a closely cropped beard and irreproachable kid gloves--likes to be laughed at by a woman, especially by one who is young and moderately good-looking; and he instinctively drew himself up by way of protest before Elizabeth spoke.
"Really, Mr. Barker," she replied, after a few moments of reflection, "I don't see how it is possible for me to carry out Mrs. Barker's wishes. To let the children come half an hour later and go home half an hour earlier than the rest would interfere with the proper conduct of the school. I will do my best to have the ventilation satisfactory, and perhaps I can manage to provide some hot milk for the second one, as her mother desires; but in the matter of the hours, I do not see how I can accommodate Mrs. Barker. To make such an exception would be entirely contrary to my principles."
Horace Barker smiled inwardly at the suggestion that a school-mistress could have principles which an influential parent might not violate.
"When I say to you that it is Mrs. Barker's particular desire that her preferences regarding hours should be observed, I am sure that you will interpose no further objection."
Elizabeth gave a strange little laugh, and her eyes, which were still her most salient feature, snapped noticeably. "It is quite out of the question, Mr. Barker," she said with decision. "Much as I should like to have your little girls, I cannot consent to break my rules on their account."
"Mrs. Barker would be very sorry to be compelled to send her children elsewhere," he said solemnly, with the air of one who utters a dire threat.
"I should be glad to teach your little girls upon the same terms as I do my other pupils," said Elizabeth, quietly. "But if my regulations are unsatisfactory, you had better send them elsewhere."
Horace Barker was a man who prided himself on his deportment. He would no more have condescended to express himself with irate impetuosity than he would have permitted his closely cropped beard to exceed the limits which he imposed upon it. He simply bowed stiffly, and turning to the Misses Barker, who, under the supervision of a nurse, whom they had been taught to address by her patronymic Thompson instead of by her Christian name Bridget, had been open-mouthed listeners to the dialogue, said, "Come, children."
It so happened that as Mr. Horace Barker and the Misses Barker descended the steps of the late Mr. Cherrington's house, they came plump upon Mr. Homer Ramsay, who was taking his morning stroll. The old gentleman was standing leaning on his cane, glaring across the street; and, by way of acknowledging that he perceived his first cousin once removed, he raised the cane, and, pointing in the line of his scowling gaze, ejaculated:
"This street is going to perdition. As though it weren't enough to have a school opposite me, a fellow has had the impudence to put his doctor's sign right next door to my house--an oculist, he calls himself. In my day, a man who was fit to call himself a doctor could set a leg, or examine your eyes, or tell what was the matter with your throat, and not leave you so very much the wiser even then; but now there's a different kind of quack for every ache and pain in our bodies."
"We live in a progressive world, Cousin Homer," said Mr. Barker, placing his eyeglass astride his nose to examine the obnoxious sign across the way. "Dr. James Clay, Oculist," he read aloud, indifferently.
"Progressive fiddlesticks, Cousin Horace. A fig for your oculists and your dermatologists and all the rest of your specialists! I have managed to live to be seventy-five, and I never had anybody prescribe for me but a good old-fashioned doctor, thank Heaven! And I'm not dead yet, as the speculators who have their eyes on my house and are waiting for me to die will find out." Mr. Ramsay scowled ferociously; then casting a sweeping glance from under his eyebrows at the little girls, he said, "Cousin Horace, if your children don't have better health than their mother, they might as well be dead. Do they go there?" he asked, indicating the school-house with his cane.
"I am removing them this morning. Anabel had concluded to send them there, but I find that the young woman who is the teacher has such hoity-toity notions that I cannot consent to let my daughters remain with her. In my opinion, so arbitrary a young person should be checked; and my belief is that before many days she will find herself without pupils." Whereupon Mr. Barker proceeded on his way, muttering to himself, when at a safe distance, "Irrational old idiot!"
Mr. Ramsay stood for some moments mulling over his cousin's answer; by degrees his countenance brightened and he began to chuckle; and every now and then, in the course of his progress along Saville Street, he would stand and look back at the late Mr. Cherrington's house, as though it had acquired a new interest in his eyes. His daily promenade was six times up and six times down Saville Street; and he happened to complete the last lap, so to speak, of his sixth time down at the very moment when Miss Whyte's little girls came running out on the sidewalk for recess. Behind them appeared the school-mistress, who stood looking at her flock from the top of the stone flight.
Elizabeth knew the old gentleman by sight but not by name, and she was therefore considerably astonished to see him suddenly veer from his ordinary course, and come slowly up the steps.
"You're the school-mistress?" he asked, with the directness of an old man who feels that he need not mince his words.
"Yes, sir. I'm Miss Whyte."
"My name's Ramsay; Homer Ramsay. I live opposite, and I've come to tell you I admire your pluck in not letting my cousin, Horace Barker, put you down. I'll stand by you, too; you can tell him that. Break up your school? I should like to see him do it. Had to take his three little girls away, did he? Ho, ho! A grand good joke that; a grand good joke. What was it he asked you to do?"
"Mr. Barker wished me to change some of my rules about hours, and I was not able to accommodate him, that was all," answered Elizabeth, who found herself eminently puzzled by the interest in her affairs displayed by this strange visitor.
"I'll warrant he did. And you wouldn't make the change. A grand good joke that. I know him; he's my first cousin once removed, and the only relation I've left. And he is going to try and break up your school. I'd like to see him do it."
"I don't believe that Mr. Barker would do anything so unjust," said Elizabeth, flushing.
"Yes, he would. I had it from his own lips. But he shan't; not while I'm in the flesh. What did you say your name was?"
"Whyte--Elizabeth Whyte."
"And what made you become a school-teacher, I should like to know?"
"I had to earn my living."
"Humph! In my day, girls as pretty as you got married; but now the rich ones are those who get husbands, and those who are poor have to tend shop instead of baby."
"I know a number of girls who were poor, who have excellent husbands," said Elizabeth quietly, spurred into coming to the rescue of the sex she despised. "But," she added, "there are many girls nowadays who are poor who prefer to remain single." She was amused at having been led into so unusual a discussion with this queer old gentleman.
"Bah! That caps the climax. When pretty girls pretend that they don't wish to be married, the world is certainly turned upside down. Well, I like your spirit, though I don't approve of your methods. I just dropped in to say that if Horace Barker does cause you any trouble, you've a friend across the way. Good-morning."
And before Elizabeth could bethink herself to say that she was very much obliged to him, Mr. Ramsay was gone.
That very day after school, while Elizabeth was on her way across the park which lay between Saville Street and the section of the city where her rooms were, she dodged the wrong way in a narrow path, so that she ran plump into the arms of a young man who was walking in the opposite direction. Most women expect men to look out for them when they dodge, but Elizabeth's code did not allow her to put herself under obligations to any man. To tell the truth, she was in such a brown study over the events of the morning that she had become practically oblivious of her surroundings. When she recovered sufficiently from her confusion at her clumsiness to take in the details of the situation, she realized that the individual in question was a young man whom she was in the habit of passing daily at this same hour. Only the day before he had rescued her veil which had been swept away by a high wind; and here she was again, within twenty-four hours, forcing herself upon his attention. She, too, of all women, who had done with men forever!
But Elizabeth's confusion was slight compared with that manifested by her victim, who, notwithstanding that his hat had been jammed in by her school-bag (which she had raised as a shield), was so profuse in the utterance of his apologies and so willing to shoulder all responsibility, that her own sensibilities were speedily comforted. She found herself, after they had separated, much more engrossed by the fact that he had addressed her by name. Although they had been passing each other daily for over two months, it had never occurred to her to wonder who he might be. But it was evident that she was not unknown to him. She remembered now merely that he was a gentleman, and that he had intelligent eyes and a pleasant, deferential smile. The recollection of his blushing diffidence made her laugh.
On the following day, when they were about to pass as usual, she was suddenly confronted in her mind by the alternative whether to recognize him or not. A glance at him as he approached told her that he himself was evidently uncertain if she would choose to consider their experience of the previous day as equivalent to an introduction, and yet she noticed a certain wistfulness of expression which suggested the desire to be permitted to doff his hat to her. To acknowledge by a simple inclination of her head the existence of a man whom she was likely to pass every day seemed the natural thing to do, however unconventional; so she bowed.
"Good afternoon, Miss Whyte," he said, lifting his hat with a glad smile.
How completely our lives are often appropriated by incidents which seem at the time of but slight importance! For the next few months Elizabeth was buffeted as it were between the persistent persecution of Mr. Horace Barker and the persistent devotion of Mr. Homer Ramsay. With Mr. Barker she had no further interview, but not many weeks elapsed before the influence of malicious strictures and insinuations circulated by him concerning the hygienic arrangements of her school began to bear their natural fruit. Parents became querulous and suspicious; and when calumny was at its height, a case of scarlet-fever among her pupils threw consternation even into the soul of Mrs. Cyrus Bangs, her chief patroness. But, on the other hand, she soon realized that she possessed an ardent, if not altogether discreet, champion in her enemy's septuagenarian first cousin once removed, who sang her praises and fought her battles from one end of Saville Street to the other. Mr. Ramsay no longer railed against electric cars and specialists; all his fulminations were uttered against the malicious warfare which his Cousin Horace and that blood relative's sickly wife were waging against the charming little Miss Whyte, who had hired Mr. Cherrington's house across the way. What is more, he paid Elizabeth almost daily visits, during which, after he had discussed ways and means for confounding his vindictive kinsman, he was apt to declare that she ought to be married, and that it was a downright shame so pretty a girl should be condemned to drudgery because she lacked a dowry. This was a point on which the old gentleman never ceased to harp; and Elizabeth labored vainly to make him understand that teaching was a delight to her instead of a drudgery, and that she had not the remotest desire for a husband. And by way of proving how indifferent she was to the whole race of men, she continued to bow to the unknown stranger of her daily walk without making the slightest effort to discover his name.
Pneumonia, that deadly foe of hale and hearty septuagenarians, carried Mr. Homer Ramsay off within forty-eight hours in the first week of May. And very shortly after, Elizabeth received a letter from Mr. Mills, the lawyer, requesting her to call on a matter of importance. She supposed that it concerned her lease. Perhaps her enemy had bought the roof over her head.
Mr. Mills ushered her into his private office. Then opening a parchment envelope on his desk, he turned to her, and said: "I have the pleasure to inform you, Miss Whyte, that my client, the late Mr. Homer Ramsay, has left you the residuary legatee of his entire property--some fifty or sixty thousand dollars. Perhaps," he added, observing Elizabeth's bewildered expression, "you would like to read the will while I attend to a little matter in the other office. It is quite short, and straight as a string. I drew the instrument, and the testator knew what he was about just as well as you or I."
Mr. Mills, who, as you may remember, was a student of human nature, believed that Miss Whyte lived on her nerves, and he had therefore planned to leave her alone for a few moments to allow any hysterical tendency to exhaust itself. When he returned, he found her looking straight before her with the document in her lap.
"Is it all plain?" he asked kindly.
"Yes. But I don't understand exactly why he left it to me."
"Because he liked you, my dear. He had become very fond of you. And if you will excuse my saying so," he added, with a knowing smile, "he was very anxious to see you well married. He said that he wished to provide you with a suitable dowry."
"I see," said Elizabeth, coloring. She reflected for a moment, then looked up and said, "But I am free to use it as I see fit?"
"Absolutely. I may as well tell you now as any time, however," Mr. Mills added smoothly, "that Mr. Ramsay's cousin, Mr. Horace Barker, has expressed an intention to contest the will. He is the next of kin, though only a first cousin once removed."
Elizabeth started at the name, and drew herself up slightly.
"You need not give yourself the smallest concern in the matter," the lawyer continued. "If Mr. Barker were in needy circumstances or were a nearer relative, he might be able to make out a case, but no jury will hesitate between a first cousin once removed, amply rich in this world's goods, and a--a--pretty woman. I myself am ready to testify that Mr. Ramsay was completely in his right mind," he added, with professional dignity; "and as for the claim of undue influence, it is rubbish--sheer rubbish."
Elizabeth sat for a few moments without speaking. She seemed to pay no heed to several further reassuring remarks which Mr. Mills, who judged that she was appalled by the idea of a legal contest, hastened to let fall. At last she looked straight at him, and said with firmness, "I suppose that I am at liberty not to take this money, if I don't wish to?"
"At liberty? Bless my stars, Miss Whyte, anybody is at liberty to refuse a gift of fifty thousand dollars. But when you call to see me again, you will be laughing at the very notion of such a thing. Go home, my dear young lady, and leave the matter in my hands. Naturally you are overwrought at the prospect of going into court."
"It isn't that, Mr. Mills. I cannot take this money; I have no right to it. I am no relation to Mr. Ramsay, and the only reason he left it to me was--was because he thought it would help me to be married. Otherwise he would have left it to Mr. Barker. I have no intention of marrying, and I should not be willing to take a fortune under such circumstances."
"The will is perfectly legal, my dear. And as to marrying, you are free to remain single all your days, if you wish to," said Mr. Mills, with another knowing smile. "Indeed, you are overwrought."
Elizabeth shook her head. "I am sure that I shall never change my mind," she answered. "I could never take it."
Elizabeth slept little that night; but when she arose in the morning, she felt doubly certain that she had acted to her own satisfaction. What real right had she to this money? It was coming to her as the result of the fancy of an eccentric old man, who, in a moment of needless pity and passing interest, had made a will in her favor to the prejudice of his natural heir. Of what odds was it that that heir had ample means already, or even that he was her bitter enemy? Did not the very fact that he was her enemy and that she despised him make it impossible for her to take advantage of an old man's whim so as to rob him? She would have no lawsuit; he might keep the fifty thousand dollars, and she would go her way as though Mr. Homer Ramsay and Mr. Horace Barker had never existed. Mr. Ramsay had left her his money on the assumption that she would be able to marry. To have taken it knowing that she intended never to marry would have been to take it under false pretences.
Mr. Mills consoled himself after much additional expostulation with the reflection that if a woman is bent on making a fool of herself, the wisest man in the world is helpless to prevent her. He set himself at last to prepare the necessary papers which would put Mr. Horace Barker in possession of his cousin's property; and very shortly the act of signal folly, as he termed it, was completed. Tongues in the neighborhood wagged energetically for a few days; but presently the birth of twins in the next block distracted the public mind, and Elizabeth was allowed to resume the vocation of an inconspicuous schoolmistress. From the object of her bounty, Mr. Horace Barker, she heard nothing directly; but at least he had the grace to discontinue his persecutions. And parental confidence, which, in spite of scarlet-fever, had never been wholly lost, was manifested in the form of numerous applications to take pupils for the coming year. For the first time for many weeks Elizabeth was in excellent spirits and was looking forward to the summer vacation, now close at hand; during which she hoped to be able to fit herself more thoroughly for her duties after a few weeks of necessary rest.
One evening, about a fortnight before the date when the school was to close, she noticed that the print of her book seemed blurred; she turned the page and, perceiving the same effect, realized that her vision was impaired. On the following morning at school she noticed the same peculiarity whenever she looked at a book. She concluded that it was but a passing weakness, the result of having studied too assiduously at night. Still, recognizing that her eyes were all-important to her, she decided to consult an oculist at once. It would be a simple matter to do, for was there not one directly opposite in the house next to Mr. Ramsay's? The sign, Dr. James Clay, Oculist, had daily stared her in the face. She resolved to consult him that very day after school. To be sure she knew nothing about him individually, but she was aware that only doctors of the best class were to be found in Saville Street.
She was obliged to wait in an anteroom, as there were three or four patients ahead of her. When her turn came to be ushered into the doctor's office, she found herself suddenly in the presence of the unknown young man whom she was accustomed to meet daily on her way from school. Her impulse at recognizing him, though she could not have told why, was to slip away; but before she could move, he looked up from the table over which he was bent making a memorandum.
"Miss Whyte!" he exclaimed with pleased astonishment and some confusion, advancing to meet her. "In what way can I be of service to you?"
"Dr. Clay? I should like you to look at my eyes; they have been troubling me lately."
Elizabeth briefly detailed her symptoms. He listened with gravity, and then after requesting her to change her seat, he examined her eyes with absorbed attention. This took some minutes, and when he had finished there was something in his manner which prompted her to say:
"Of course you will tell me, Dr. Clay, exactly what is the matter."
"I am bound to do so," he said, slowly. "I wished to make perfectly sure, before saying that your eyes are quite seriously affected--not that there is danger of a loss of sight, if proper precautions are taken--but--but it will be absolutely necessary for you to abstain from using them in order to check the progress of the disease."
"I see," she said, quietly, after a brief silence. "Do you mean that I cannot teach school? I am a school-teacher."
"I knew that; and knowing it, I thought it best to tell you the whole truth. No, Miss Whyte; you must not use your eyes for at least a year, if you do not wish to lose your sight."
"I see," said Elizabeth again, with the hopeless air of one from whom the impossible is demanded. "I thank you, Dr. Clay, for telling me the truth," she added, simply. "Have I strained my eyes?"
"You have evidently overtaxed them a little; but the disease is primarily a disease of the nerves. Will you excuse me for asking if at any time within the last few years you have suffered a severe shock?"
"A shock?" Elizabeth hesitated an instant, and replied gently: "Yes; but it was a number of years ago."
"That would account for the case, nevertheless."
A few minutes later Elizabeth was walking along the street, face to face with despair. She had not been able to obtain permission from the doctor to use her eyes even during the ten days which remained before vacation. He had said that every moment of delay would make the cure more difficult. She must absolutely cease to look at a book for one whole year. It would be necessary at first for her to visit him for treatment two or three times a week. He had said--she remembered his exact words--"I cannot do a very great deal for you; we can rely only on time for that; but believe me, I shall endeavor to help you so far as it lies in human power. I hope that you will trust me--and--and come to me freely." Kind words these, but of what avail were they to answer the embarrassing question how she was to live? She must give up her school at least for a year; that seemed inevitable. How was she to earn her daily bread if she obeyed the doctor's orders? Would it not be better to use her eyes to the end, and trust to charity to send her to an infirmary when she became blind? Why had she been foolish enough to refuse Mr. Ramsay's property? But for a quixotic theory, she would not now have been at the world's mercy.
It was the sting of shame which this last thought aroused, following in the train of her bitter reasoning, that caused her to quicken her pace and clinch her hands. That same pride, which had been her ally hitherto, had come to her rescue once more. She said to herself that she had done what she knew was right, and that no force of cruel circumstances should induce her to regret that she had not acted differently. She would prove still that she was able to make her own way without assistance, even though she were obliged to scrub floors. A shock? The shock of a betrayed faith which had arrayed her soul in bitterness against mankind. Must she own that she was crushed? Not while she had an arm to toil and a heart to strive.
The next ten days were bitter ones. Elizabeth, after disbanding her school, began to plan and contrive for the future. Schemes bright with prospect suggested themselves, and faded into smoke at the touch of practicability. She had a few hundred dollars, which would enable her to live until she had been able to devise a plan, and she determined that the world should not think that she was discouraged. The world, and chiefly at the moment Dr. Clay, whose kindness and earnest attention during the visits which she paid him suggested that he felt great pity for her. Pity? She wished the pity of no man.
One evening while she was alone in her parlor, wrestling with her schemes, the maid entered and said that a gentleman wished to see her. A gentleman? She could think of none who would be likely to call upon her, but she bade the girl show him in; and a moment later she was greeting Dr. Clay. Presently, while she was wondering why he had come, she found herself listening to these words: "I am a stranger to you to all intents and purposes, but you are none to me. For months I have dogged your footsteps unknown to you, and haunted this house in my walks because I knew that you lived here. The memory of your face has sweetened my dreams, and those brief moments when we have passed each other daily have been sweeter than any paradise. I know the story of your struggle with that coward and of your noble act of renunciation. It cut into my heart like a knife to speak to you those necessary words the other day, and I have been miserable ever since. I said to myself at last that I would go to you and tell you that I could not be happy apart from you; and that your happiness was mine. This seems presumptuous, intrusive: I wish to be neither. I have merely come to ask that I may be free to call upon you and to try to make you love me. I am not rich, but my practice is such that I am able to offer you a home. Will you allow me to come to see you, at least to be your friend?"
The silence which followed this eager question seemed to demand an answer. Elizabeth, who had been sitting with bent head, looked up presently and answered with a sweet smile:
"I have no friends, Dr. Clay. I think it would be very pleasant to have one."
A few minutes later when he was gone, Elizabeth sat for some time without moving, with the same happy smile on her lips. He had asked nothing more and she had given him no greater assurance. Why was it that at last she buried her face in her hands and sobbed as though her bosom would break? Why was it, too, that before she went to bed that night she took a handful of withered flowers, mere dust and ashes, from the secret drawer of her work-box, and, wrapping them in the paper which had enclosed them, held them in the flame of the lamp until they were consumed? Why? Because love, unwatched for, unbidden had entered her heart, which she thought sere as the rose-leaves, and restored light to the sunshine and joy to the world.


short love story

I was a very simple man who was never intrested in finding true love.All I wanted was money.My entire life had been spent studying very hard so that I can clear IIT-JEE(the most fiercely contested entrance exam in my country).I cleared it and after passing out from that institute I got a top notch job and was happy with my life.I felt as if I had everything I could desire for.One day I was hanging out with my friends when I saw a beautiful simple girl.At that time I was in New Delhi.At one moment I fell in love with her.But at that time I was walking on road and was watching nothing except that girl.I was hit by a car and was rushed to hospital.Thank God, the car had almost stopped before hitting me and I survived with only 2 fractures.
After that I spent 1 year finding her but it was useless.After that I lost all hope and when my company offered me to go to Mumbai,I accepted at once and left for Mumbai.My parents wanted me to get married but I had considered that mysterious girl as my wife.One night I was hanging out in a disco when I saw that girl with her friends in MUMBAI!!!!!Yes that's right,I saw her in Mumbai,in a pub.At once I wanted to befriend her.I first befriended one of her friends named Akanksha.Then I met her friend everyday and one day I told her that I was actually in love with her friend.She felt sad because I think she had started to love me.But she was a good person and at once gave me her phone number and told me that her name was Pooja.She also told me about a mall where I can meet Pooja the next day and told me that she would introduce me to Pooja.I felt extremely happy.The next day when I met Pooja,I was not able to speak a word and she thought that I was a psycho case.But then my meeting with Pooja incresed and she realized that I actually loved her.One day I decided to propose her.I bought an expensive ring and went upto her and proposed her.She declined and told me that she considered me as her friend and was not ready for marriage.I felt terribly sad and was about to cry.I turned away and thought that that actually I didn't deserve her.(She was very rich and I got a handsome salary but was still not able to buy a home.She was extremely beautiful,whereas I was the exact definition of ugly.She was a model and was earning much more than what I could even dream of.) But when I turned back she was there holding a rose and said sorry for hurting me.She said that she loved me and knew that even I loved her and was just joking a bit.We finally got married and today is our first wedding anniversary.We have had some usual fights but are extremely happy with each other.


Unspoken feelings-A true story by Wei Er

Thoughts of her will still make me well up with tears despite that she has already passed away for 4 years, the pain of losing her, the unspoken feelings I had for her… It was during my secondary school days that I got to know her, I was 16, and she was 14. We were introduced to each other by a mutual friend. Being courteous I stood up and offer a handshake, introducing myself. She was like the others, laughing at my weird name.Soon we were spending time together despite that we spoke very little to each other. And I realized that we had quite a number of mutual friends. Over time my feelings for her developed, her smile, and her sweetness attracted me a lot. She became my source of motivation, for I strive hard in my studies. From scoring borderline marks for all subjects to a top scorer in my class. Due to being small size, I was often bullied by my classmates; going to school became rather depressing. But she changed it all, I looked forward to our meetings at the library after classes ended.One day when I couldn’t sleep, I then wonder if I should confess my feelings to her. I was hoping to get to know her further, not rushing into a bgr relationship. But then I realized that I was not good enough for her, she was a top scorer in class where all the elites were. I was in a class that was notorious for being trouble makers. I don’t think that I am good enough for her, no looks no brains, kind of useless. It would be disgraceful and that I should be content with that she would even be friends with me. I tossed a coin which indicated that I should tell her how I felt.Coincidentally I really did saw her the next day. I told her that I got something that I would like to tell her, but then no words came out of my mouth. I got cold feet, for thoughts that I am not good enough for her came to my mind. In the end I left saying that I had forgotten what I wanted to say. I was upset hence I decided to concentrate on my studies instead. For that period I really forgotten about her, for what was on my mind was to be number 1 in class.Soon it was time for a major examination; I prayed hard that I could score well for it. When the results came out, I was number 1 in my level with the best score. I wanted to share the joy with her and perhaps that it might seem a good time to confess to her. Sadly I never met her.When the next academic year came, I anxiously searched for her but I couldn’t find her. Her classmates guess that she might be sick.Later that day 2 of our mutual friends came to me and brought me the news that she had already passed away. I was devastated, tears just flow. Neither did I get to attend her funeral due to objections from my mother who was quite superstitious. All that I had as a memory of her was a sweet wrapper which she gave me, which is still in my wallet till this day.I pray that she would rest in peace… If you asked me why I chose not to let her know how I feel. It is because I don't think I will be able to be there for her, I rather she would be happily being with the guy she likes. For her happiness is all that matters to me, so long I am able to stay by her side as a friend, that would be good enough. At least I still get to see her. Love is not about possession, it never was. Till today she still remains in my heart. My only regret was that I was not around to help her, to give her support. I know I could change it, she could have been alive today. To all people out there, though saying words to your love ones may be hard, do not hide your feelings. Express it in other ways.