you must reconsider it. It is such a short distanceit is very soon done and very soon overand think what a memory it will be!
Then he went on and made a picture of the Russian capital and its wonders, which made Alfred Parrishs mouth water and his roused spirits cry out with longing. Then
Of course you must see St. Petersburgyou must! Why, it will be a joy to youa joy! I know, because I know the place as familiarly as I know my own birthplace in America. Ten yearsIve known it ten years. Ask anybody there; theyll tell you; they all know meMajor Jackson The very dogs know me. Do go; oh, you must go; you must, indeed.
Alfred Parrish was quivering with eagerness now. He would go. His face said it as plainly as his tongue could have done it. Thenthe old shadow fell, and he said, sorrowfully:
Oh nono, its no use; I cant. I should die of the loneliness.
The Major said, with astonishment: Theloneliness! Why, Im going with you!
It was startlingly unexpected. And not quite pleasant. Things were moving too rapidly. Was this a trap? Was this stranger a sharper? Whence all this gratuitous interest in a wandering and unknown lad? Then he glanced at the Majors frank and winning and beaming face, and was ashamed; and wished he knew how to get out of this scrape without hurting the feelings of its contriver. But he was not handy in matters of diplomacy, and went at the difficulty with conscious awkwardness and small confidence. He said, with a quite overdone show of unselfishness:
Oh no, no, you are too kind; I couldntI couldnt allow you to put yourself to such an inconvenience on my
Inconvenience? None in the world, my boy; I was going to-night, anyway; I leave in the express at nine. Come! well go together. You shant be lonely a single minute. Come alongsay the word!
So that excuse had failed. What to do now? Parrish was disheartened; it seemed to him that no subterfuge which his poor invention could contrive would ever rescue him from these toils. Still, he must make another effort, and he did; and before he had finished his new excuse he thought he recognized that it was unanswerable:
Ah, but most unfortunately luck is against me, and it is impossible. Look at theseand he took out his tickets and laid them on the table. I am booked through to Paris, and I couldnt get these tickets and baggage coupons changed for St. Petersburg, of course, and would have to lose the money; and if I could afford to lose the money I should be rather short after I bought the new ticketsfor there is all the cash Ive got about meand he laid a five-hundred-mark bank-note on the table.
In a moment the Major had the tickets and coupons and was on his feet, and saying, with enthusiasm:
Good! Its all right, and everything safe. Theyll change the tickets and baggage pasters for me; they all know meeverybody knows me. Sit right where you are; Ill be back right away. Then he reached for the bank-note, and added, Ill take this along, for there will be a little extra pay on the new tickets, maybeand the next moment he was flying out at the door.
Alfred Parrish was paralyzed. It was all so sudden. So sudden, so daring, so incredible, so impossible. His mouth was open, but his tongue wouldnt work; he tried to shout Stop him, but his lungs were empty; he wanted to pursue, but his legs refused to do anything but tremble; then they gave way under him and let him down into his chair. His throat was dry, he was gasping and swallowing with dismay, his head was in a whirl. What must he do? He did not know. One thing seemed plain, howeverhe must pull himself together, and try to overtake that man. Of course the man could not get back the ticket money,
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|