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The Garotters   By: (1837-1920)

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This etext was produced from the 1897 David Douglas edition by David Price, email


by William D. Howells



At the window of her apartment in Hotel Bellingham, Mrs. Roberts stands looking out into the early nightfall. A heavy snow is driving without, and from time to time the rush of the wind and the sweep of the flakes against the panes are heard. At the sound of hurried steps in the anteroom, Mrs. Roberts turns from the window, and runs to the portiere, through which she puts her head.

MRS. ROBERTS: 'Is that you, Edward? So dark here! We ought really to keep the gas turned up all the time.'

MR. ROBERTS, in a muffled voice, from without: 'Yes, it's I.'

MRS. ROBERTS: 'Well, hurry in to the fire, do! Ugh, what a storm! Do you suppose anybody will come? You must be half frozen, you poor thing! Come quick, or you'll certainly perish!' She flies from the portiere to the fire burning on the hearth, pokes it, flings on a log, jumps back, brushes from her dress with a light shriek the sparks driven out upon it, and continues talking incessantly in a voice lifted for her husband to hear in the anteroom. 'If I'd dreamed it was any such storm as this, I should never have let you go out in it in the world. It wasn't at all necessary to have the flowers. I could have got on perfectly well, and I believe NOW the table would look better without them. The chrysanthemums would have been quite enough; and I know you've taken more cold. I could tell it by your voice as soon as you spoke; and just as quick as they're gone to night I'm going to have you bathe your feet in mustard and hot water, and take eight of aconite, and go straight to bed. And I don't want you to eat very much at dinner, dear, and you must be sure not to drink any coffee, or the aconite won't be of the least use.' She turns and encounters her husband, who enters through the portiere, his face pale, his eyes wild, his white necktie pulled out of knot, and his shirt front rumpled. 'Why, Edward, what in the world is the matter? What has happened?'

ROBERTS, sinking into a chair: 'Get me a glass of water, Agnes wine whisky brandy '

MRS. ROBERTS, bustling wildly about: 'Yes, yes. But what Bella! Bridget! Maggy! Oh, I'll go for it myself, and I WON'T stop to listen! Only only don't die!' While Roberts remains with his eyes shut, and his head sunk on his breast in token of extreme exhaustion, she disappears and reappears through the door leading to her chamber, and then through the portiere cutting off the dining room. She finally descends upon her husband with a flagon of cologne in one hand, a small decanter of brandy in the other, and a wineglass held in the hollow of her arm against her breast. She contrives to set the glass down on the mantel and fill it from the flagon, then she turns with the decanter in her hand, and while she presses the glass to her husband's lips, begins to pour the brandy on his head. 'Here! this will revive you, and it'll refresh you to have this cologne on your head.'

ROBERTS, rejecting a mouthful of the cologne with a furious sputter, and springing to his feet: 'Why, you've given me the cologne to DRINK, Agnes! What are you about? Do you want to poison me? Isn't it enough to be robbed at six o'clock on the Common, without having your head soaked in brandy, and your whole system scented up like a barber's shop, when you get home?'

MRS. ROBERTS: 'Robbed?' She drops the wineglass, puts the decanter down on the hearth, and carefully bestowing the flagon of cologne in the wood box, abandons herself to justice: 'Then let them come for me at once, Edward! If I could have the heart to send you out in such a night as this for a few wretched rosebuds, I'm quite equal to poisoning you. Oh, Edward, WHO robbed you?'

ROBERTS: 'That's what I don't know.' He continues to wipe his head with his handkerchief, and to sputter a little from time to time... Continue reading book >>

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