In Which the Telephone Continues Ringing
When he had finished writing he sorted
out some silver, and handed it and the yellow paper to Sacharissa.
"It's dark in here.
Would you mind reading it aloud to me to see if I've made it plain?"
"Certainly," said Sacharissa;
and she read:
MRS. DELANCY COURLAND,
I'm stuck in an idiotic elevator at 1008-1/2 Fifth Avenue. If
I don't appear by New Year's you'll know why. Be careful that
no reporters get hold of this.
KILLIAN VAN K. VANDERDYNK.
flushed deeply. "I can't send this," she said.
"Why not?" demanded
the young man, irritably.
"Because, Mr. Vanderdynk,
my father, brother-in-law, married sister, and three younger sisters
are expected at the Courlands'. Imagine what effect such a telegram
would have on them!"
"Then cross out the
street and number," he said; "just say I'm stuck in a strange elevator."
She did so, rang, and
a servant took away the telegram.
"Now," said the heir
apparent to the Prince Regency of Manhattan, "there are two things
still" possible. First, you might ring up police headquarters and
ask for aid; next, request assistance from fire headquarters."
"If I do," she said,
"wouldn't the newspapers get hold of it?"
"You are perfectly
right," he said.
She had now drawn her
chair so close to the gilded grille that, hands resting upon it,
she could look down into the car where sat the scion of the Vanderdynks
on a flimsy Louis XV chair.
"I can't express to
you how sorry I am," she said. "Is there anything I can do to--to
ameliorate your imprisonment?"
He looked at her in
a bewildered way.
"You don't expect me
to remain here until after New Year's, do you?" he inquired.
"I don't see how you
can avoid it. Nobody seems to want to work until after New Year's."
"Stay in a cage--two
days and a night!"
"Perhaps I had better
call up the police."
"No, no! Wait. I'll
tell you what to do. Start that man, Ferdinand, on a tour of the
city. If he hunts hard enough and long enough he'll find some plumber
or locksmith or somebody who'll come."
She rang for Ferdinand;
together they instructed him, and he went away, promising to bring
salvation in some shape.
Which promise made
the young man more cheerful and smoothed out the worried pucker
between Sacharissa's straight brows.
"I suppose," she said,
"that you will never forgive my maid for this--or me either."
He laughed. "After
all," he admitted, "it's rather funny."
"I don't believe you
think it's funny."
"Yes, I do."
"Didn't you want to
go to Tuxedo?"
"I!" He looked up at
the pretty countenance of Sacharissa. "I did want
to--a few minutes ago."
"And now that you can't
your philosophy teaches you that you don't want to?"
They laughed at each
other in friendly fashion.
"Perhaps it's my philosophy,"
he said, "but" I really don't care very much.... I'm not sure that
I care at all.... In fact, now that I think of it, why should I
have wished to go to Tuxedo? It's stupid to want to go to Tuxedo
when New York is so attractive."
"Do you know," she
said reflectively, "that I came to the same conclusion?"
"Oh, yes," she said
rather hastily, "before you came----"
She broke off, pink
with consternation. What a ridiculous thing to say! What on earth
was twisting her tongue to hint at such an absurdity?
She said, gravely,
with heightened color: "I was standing by the window this morning,
thinking, and it occurred to me that I didn't care to go to Tuxedo....
When did you change your mind?"
"A few minutes a--that
is--well, I never really wanted to go. It's jollier
in town. Don't you think so? Blue sky, snow--er--and all that?"
"Yes," she said, "it
is perfectly delightful in town to-day."
He assented, then looked
"Perhaps you would
like to go out?" he said.
"I? Oh, no.... The
sun on the snow is bad for one's eyes; don't you think so?"
"Very.... I'm terribly
sorry that I'm giving you so much trouble."
"I don't mind--really.
If only I could do something for you."
"Yes; you are being
exceedingly nice to me. I am afraid you feel under obligations to
remain indoors and----"
"Truly, I don't. I
was not going out."
She leaned nearer and
looked through the bars: "Are you quite sure you feel comfortable?"
"I feel like something
in a zoo!"
She laughed. "That
reminds me," she said, "have you had any luncheon?"
He had not, it appeared,
after a little polite protestation, so she rang for Sparks.
Her own appetite, too,
had returned when the tray was brought; napkin and plate were passed
through the grille to him, and, as they lunched, he in his cage,
she close to the bars, they fell into conversation, exchanging information
concerning mutual acquaintances whom they had expected to meet at
the Delancy Courlands'.
"So you see," she said,
"that if I had not changed my mind about going to Tuxedo this morning
you would not be here now. Nor I.... And we would never have--lunched
"That didn't alter
things," he said, smiling. "If you hadn't been ill you would have
gone to Tuxedo, and I should have seen you there."
"Then, whatever I did
made no difference," she assented, thoughtfully, "for we were bound
to meet, anyway."
He remained standing
close to the grille, which, as she was seated, brought his head
on a level with hers.
"It would seem," he
said laughingly, "as though we were doomed to meet each other, anyway.
It looks like a case of Destiny to me."
She started slightly:
"What did you say?"
"I said that it looks
as though Fate intended us to meet, anyhow. Don't you think so?"
She remained silent.
He added cheerfully:
"I never was afraid of Fate."
"Would you care for
a--a book--or anything?" she asked, aware of a new constraint in
"I don't believe I
could see to read in here.... Are you--going?"
"I--ought to." Vexed
at the feeble senselessness of her reply she found herself walking
down the landing, toward nowhere in particular. She turned abruptly
and came back.
"Do you want a book?"
"Oh, I forgot that
you can't see to read. But perhaps you might care to smoke."
"Are you going away?"
"I--don't mind your
He lighted a cigarette;
she looked at him irresolutely.
"You mustn't think
of remaining," he said. Whereupon she seated herself.
"I suppose I ought
to try to amuse you--till Ferdinand returns with a plumber," she
He protested: "I couldn't
think of asking so much from you."
"Anyway, it's my duty,"
she insisted. "I ought."
"Because you are under
my roof--a guest."
"Please don't think----"
"But I really don't
mind! If there is anything I can do to make your imprisonment easier----"
"It is easy. I rather
like being here."
"It is very amiable
of you to say so."
"I really mean it."
"How can you really
"I don't know, but
I do." In their earnestness they had come close to the bars; she
stood with both hands resting on the grille, looking in; he in a
similar position, looking out.
He said: "I feel like
an occupant of the Bronx, and it rather astonishes me that you haven't
thrown me in a few peanuts."
She laughed, fetched
her box of chocolates, then began seriously: "If Ferdinand doesn't
find anybody I'm afraid you might be obliged to remain to dinner."
"That prospect," he
said, "is not unpleasant. You know when one becomes accustomed to
one's cage it's rather a bore to be let out."
They sampled the chocolates,
she sitting close to the cage, and as the box would not go through
the bars she was obliged to hand them to him, one by one.
"I wonder," she mused,
"how soon Ferdinand will find a plumber?"
He shrugged his shoulders.
She bent her adorable
head, chose a chocolate and offered it to him.
you not terribly impatient?" she inquired.
Their glances encountered
and she said hurriedly:
"I am sure you must
be perfectly furious with everybody in this house. I--I think it
is most amiable of you to behave so cheerfully about it."
"As a matter of fact,"
he said, "I'm feeling about as cheerful as I ever felt in my life."
"Cooped up in a cage?"
"Which may fall at
any--" The idea was a new one to them both. She leaned forward in
sudden consternation. "I never thought of that!" she exclaimed.
"You don't think there's any chance of its falling, do you?"
He looked at the startled,
gray eyes so earnestly fixed on his. The sweet mouth quivered a
little--just a little--or he thought it did.
"No," he replied, with
a slight catch in his voice, "I don't believe it's going to fall."
"Perhaps you had better
not move around very much in it. Be careful, I beg of you. You will,
won't you, Mr. Vanderdynk?"
"Please don't let it
bother you," he said, stepping toward her impulsively.
"Oh, don't, don't move!"
she exclaimed. "You really must keep perfectly still. Won't you
promise me you will keep perfectly still?"
"I'll promise you anything,"
he said a little wildly.
Neither seemed to notice
that he had overdone it.
She drew her chair
as close as it would go to the grille and leaned against it.
keep up your courage, won't you?" she asked anxiously.
"Certainly. By the
way, how far is it to the b-basement?"
She turned quite white
for an instant, then:
"I think I'd better
go and ring up the police."
"No! A thousand times
no! I couldn't stand that."
"But the car might--drop
"Better decently dead
than publicly paragraphed.... I haven't the least idea that this
thing is going to drop.... Anyway, it's worth it," he added, rather
asked, looking into his rather winning, brown eyes.
"Being here," he said,
looking into her engaging gray ones.
After a startling silence
she said calmly: "Will you promise me not to move or shake the car
till I return?"
"You won't be very
long, will you?"
"Not--very," she replied
She walked into the
library, halted in the center of the room, hands clasped behind
her. Her heart was beating like a trip hammer.
"I might as well face
it," she said to herself; "he is--by far--the most thoroughly attractive
man I have ever seen.... I--I don't know what's the
matter," she added piteously.... "if it's that machine William made
I can't help it; I don't care any longer; I wish----"
A sharp crack from
the landing sent her out there in a hurry, pale and frightened.
somewhere," explained the young man with forced carelessness, "some
unimportant splinter gave way and the thing slid down an inch or
"D-do you think----"
"No, I don't. But it's
perfectly fine of you to care."
"C-care? I'm a little
frightened, of course.... Anybody would be.... Oh, I wish you were
out and p-perfectly safe." "If I thought you could ever really care
what became of a man like me----"
Killian Van K. Vanderdynk's
aristocratic senses began gyrating; he grasped the bars, the back
of his hand brushed against hers, and the momentary contact sent
a shock straight through the scion of that celebrated race.
She seated herself
abruptly; a delicate color grew, staining her face.
Neither spoke. A long,
luminous sunbeam fell across the landing, touching the edge of her
hair till it glimmered like bronze afire. The sensitive mouth was
quiet, the eyes, very serious, were lifted from time to time, then
lowered, thoughtfully, to the clasped fingers on her knee.
Could it be possible?
How could it be possible?--with a man she had never before chanced
to meet--with a man she had seen for the first time in her life
only an hour or so ago! Such things didn't happen outside of short
stories. There was neither logic nor common decency in it. Had she
or had she not any ordinary sense remaining?
She raised her eyes
and looked at the heir of the Vanderdynks.
Of course anybody could
see he was unusually attractive--that he had that indefinable something
about him which is seldom, if ever, seen outside of fiction or of
Mr. Gibson's drawings--perhaps it is entirely confined to them--except
in this one very rare case.
Sacharissa's eyes fell.
Another unusual circumstance
was engaging her attention, namely, that his rather remarkable physical
perfection appeared to be matched by a breeding quite as faultless,
and a sublimity of courage in the face of destruction itself, which----
Sacharissa lifted her
There he stood, suspended
over an abyss, smoking a cigarette, bravely forcing himself to an
attitude of serene insouciance, while the basement yawned for him!
Machine or no machine, how could any girl look upon such miraculous
self-control unmoved? She could not. It was natural
that a woman should be deeply thrilled by such a spectacle--and
William Destyn's machine had nothing to do with it--not a thing!
Neither had psychology, nor demonology, nor anything, with wires
or wireless. She liked him, frankly. Who wouldn't? She feared for
him, desperately. Who wouldn't? She----
is it!" she cried, springing to the grille.
"I don't know," he
said, somewhat pale. "The old thing seems--to be sliding."
"Mr. Vanderdynk! I
must call the police----"
went the car, dropping an inch or two.
With a stifled cry
she caught his hands through the bars, as though to hold him by
"Are you crazy?" he
said fiercely, thrusting them away. "Be careful! If the thing drops
you'll break your arms!"
"I--I don't care!"
she said breathlessly. "I can't let----"
"Crack!" But the car
call the police!" she cried.
"The papers may make
fun of you."
"Was it for me
you were afraid? Oh, Mr. Vanderdynk! What do I care for ridicule
The car had sunk so
far in the shaft now that she had to kneel and put her head close
to the floor to see him.
"I will only be a minute
at the telephone," she said. "Keep up courage; I am thinking of
you every moment."
"W-will you let me
say one word?" he stammered.
"Oh, what? Be quick,
I beg you."
"It's only goodbye--in
case the thing drops. May I say it?"
"Y-yes--yes! But say
"And if it doesn't
drop after all, you won't be angry at what I'm going to say?"
"N-no. Oh, for Heaven's
"Then--you are the
sweetest woman in the world!... Goodbye--Sacharissa-- dear."
She sprang up, dazed,
and at the same moment a terrific crackling and splintering resounded
from the shaft, and the car sank out of sight.
Faint, she swayed for
a second against the balustrade, then turned and ran downstairs,
ears strained for the sickening crash from below.
There was no crash,
no thud. As she reached the drawing-room landing, to her amazement
a normally-lighted elevator slid slowly down, came to a stop, and
the automatic grilles opened quietly.
As Killian Van K. Vanderdynk
crept forth from the elevator, Sacharissa's nerves gave way; his,
also, seemed to disintegrate; and they stood for some moments mutually
supporting each other, during which interval unaccustomed tears
fell from the gray eyes, and unaccustomed words, breathed brokenly,
reassured her; and, altogether unaccustomed to such things, they
presently found themselves seated in a distant corner of the drawing-room,
still endeavoring to reassure each other with interclasped hands.
They said nothing so
persistently that the wordless minutes throbbed into hours; through
the windows the red west sent a glowing tentacle into the room,
searching the gloom for them.
It fell, warm, across
her upturned throat, in the half light.
For her head lay back
on his shoulder; his head was bent down, lips pressed to the white
hands crushed fragrantly between his own.
A star came out and
looked at them with astonishment; in a little while the sky was
thronged with little stars, all looking through the window at them.
Her maid knocked, backed
out hastily and fled, distracted. Then Ferdinand arrived with a
Later the butler came.
They did not notice him until he ventured to cough and announce
The interruptions were
very annoying, particularly when she was summoned to the telephone
to speak to her father.
"What is it, dad?"
she asked impatiently.
"Are you all right?"
"Oh, yes," she answered,
carelessly; "we are all right, dad. Goodbye."
"We? Who the devil
"Mr. Vanderdynk and
I. We're taking my maid and coming down to Tuxedo this evening together.
I'm in a hurry now."
"Oh, it's all right,
dad. Here, Killian, please explain things to my father."
her hand and picked up the receiver as though it had been a live
"Is that you, Mr. Carr?"
he began--stopped short, and stood listening, rigid, bewildered,
turning redder and redder as her father's fluency increased. Then,
without a word, he hooked up the receiver.
"Is it all right?"
she asked calmly. "Was dad--vivacious?"
The young man said:
"I'd rather go back into that elevator than go to Tuxedo.... But--I'm
"So am I," said Bushwyck
Carr's daughter, dropping both hands on her lover's shoulders....
"Was he really very--vivid?"
The telephone again
He bent his head; she
lifted her face and he kissed her.
After a while the racket
of the telephone annoyed them, and they slowly moved away out of