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An Unpardonable Liar   By: (1862-1932)

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Note: Images of the original pages are available through Early Canadiana Online. See http://www.canadiana.org/ECO/ItemRecord/52346?id=14d852d8ab3fd2a8

AN UNPARDONABLE LIAR

by

GILBERT PARKER

Author of Seats of the Mighty , The Battle of the Strong , etc.

Chicago Charles H. Sergel Company

1900

CHAPTER I.

AN ECHO.

"O de worl am roun an de worl am wide O Lord, remember your chillun in de mornin! It's a mighty long way up de mountain side, An day aint no place whar de sinners kin hide, When de Lord comes in de mornin."

With a plaintive quirk of the voice the singer paused, gayly flicked the strings of the banjo, then put her hand flat upon them to stop the vibration and smiled round on her admirers. The group were applauding heartily. A chorus said, "Another verse, please, Mrs. Detlor."

"Oh, that's all I know, I'm afraid," was the reply. "I haven't sung it for years and years, and I should have to think too hard no, no, believe me, I can't remember any more. I wish I could, really."

A murmur of protest rose, but there came through the window faintly yet clearly a man's voice:

"Look up an look aroun, Fro you burden on de groun"

The brown eyes of the woman grew larger. There ran through her smile a kind of frightened surprise, but she did not start nor act as if the circumstance were singular.

One of the men in the room Baron, an honest, blundering fellow started toward the window to see who the prompter was, but the host of intuitive perception saw that this might not be agreeable to their entertainer and said quietly: "Don't go to the window, Baron. See, Mrs. Detlor is going to sing."

Baron sat down. There was an instant's pause, in which George Hagar, the host, felt a strong thrill of excitement. To him Mrs. Detlor seemed in a dream, though her lips still smiled and her eyes wandered pleasantly over the heads of the company. She was looking at none of them, but her body was bent slightly toward the window, listening with it, as the deaf and dumb do.

Her fingers picked the strings lightly, then warmly, and her voice rose, clear, quaint and high:

"Look up an look aroun, Fro you burden on de groun, Reach up an git de crown, When de Lord comes in de mornin When de Lord comes in de mornin!"

The voice had that strange pathos, veined with humor, which marks most negro hymns and songs, so that even those present who had never heard an Americanized negro sing were impressed and grew almost painfully quiet, till the voice fainted away into silence.

With the last low impulsion, however, the voice from without began again as if in reply. At the first note one of the young girls present made a start for the window. Mrs. Detlor laid a hand upon her arm. "No," she said, "you will spoil the effect. Let us keep up the mystery."

There was a strange, puzzled look on her face, apparent most to George Hagar. The others only saw the lacquer of amusement, summoned for the moment's use.

"Sit down," she added, and she drew the young girl to her feet and passed an arm round her shoulder. This was pleasant to the young girl. It singled her out for a notice which would make her friends envious.

It was not a song coming to them from without not a melody, but a kind of chant, hummed first in a low sonorous tone, and then rising and falling in weird undulations. The night was still, and the trees at the window gave forth a sound like the monotonous s sh of rain. The chant continued for about a minute. While it lasted Mrs. Detlor sat motionless and her hands lay lightly on the shoulders of the young girl. Hagar dropped his foot on the floor at marching intervals by instinct he had caught at the meaning of the sounds. When the voice had finished, Mrs. Detlor raised her head toward the window with a quick, pretty way she had, her eyes much shaded by the long lashes... Continue reading book >>




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