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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 11
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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 11 Post by :rjsexton1 Category :Long Stories Author :Gouverneur Morris Date :May 2012 Read :2861

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Aladdin O'brien - Book 1 - Chapter 11

BOOK I CHAPTER XI

Aladdin had a large acquaintance in the town among all sorts of men, and, as he went home sorrowfully in the rain, he met a youth, older than himself, who had an evil notoriety; for being born with brains, of respectable people, and propitiously launched on the world, he had begun in his early teens, and in the face of the most heartrending solicitude, to drink himself to death. The miserable part of it was that everybody loved him when he was sober, and out of consideration to his family still asked him to the best that the town could do in the way of parties and entertainments. He was a good-looking young man with a big frame and a pale face. His real name was William Addison Larch, but he was better known as "Beau Larch." He had a nervous, engaging smile, of which he made frequent use.

"My word, Aladdin," he said, "you look sick as a dog. Come with me and take a snifter for it."

Aladdin hesitated a moment. And as soon as he had thoroughly made up his mind that it was wrong to say so, he said:

"I believe I will." The Celt in him was feeling suicidal. They went into the ground-floor room of a house where liquor was sold.

"For me, whisky," said Beau Larch.

"The same for me," said Aladdin, with something suspiciously like a gulp. The first drink which a man takes against his better judgment is a grisly epoch in his life. Aladdin realized this, and was at once miserable and willing that it should be so.

"To those that love us!" said Beau Larch.

Aladdin put down his liquor without grimace or gasp.

Beau Larch paid.

In Aladdin's pocket were three dollars, the first mile-post on the steep road to his ideal. He felt, to be sure that they were there.

"Now you 'll have one with me," he said.

When the sudden rain-storm had rained and thundered and lightened itself out, they went to another saloon, and from there to the Boat Club, of which Beau Larch was a member and whither he asked Aladdin to supper. Fishes and lobsters and clams were the staple articles of Boat Club suppers, and over savory messes of these, helped down with much whisky and water, Aladdin and Beau Larch made the evening spin. Aladdin, talking eagerly and with the naivete of a child, wondered why he had never liked this man so much before. And Larch told the somewhat abject story of his life three times with an introduction of much racy anecdote.

Aladdin's head held surprisingly well. Every now and then he would hand himself an inward congratulation on the alertness and clearness of his mind, and think what a fine constitution he must have. They got to singing after a while, and reciting poems, of which each knew a quantity by heart. And, oddly enough, Aladdin, though he had been brought up to speak sound American, developed in his cups, and afterward clung to, in moments of exhilaration or excitement, an indescribably faint but perfectly distinct Hibernian accent. It was the heritage to which he was heir, and made his eager and earnest rendering of "Annabel Lee" so pathetic that Beau Larch wept, and knocked a glass off the table....

Men came and sat with them, and Aladdin discovered in himself what he had hitherto never suspected--the power of becoming heart-to-heart friends with strangers in two seconds.

Aladdin was never able to remember just how or when or with whom they left the Boat Club. He only remembered walking and walking and talking and talking, and finally arguing a knotty question, on which all defended the same side, and then sitting down on the steps of a house in a low quarter of the town, and pouring the ramifications of all his troubles into the thoroughly sympathetic if somewhat noncomprehending ears of Beau Larch. He talked long and became drunker as he talked, while Larch became soberer. Then Aladdin remembered that the door at the top of the steps had opened, and a frowzy head had been stuck out, and that a brassy voice, with something at once pathetic and wheedling in it, had said:

"Aren't you coming in, boys?"

Then Aladdin remembered that Beau Larch and he had had angry words, and that Beau Larch had told him not to make an ass of himself, and for heaven's sake to go home. To which Aladdin had retorted that he was old enough to know what was good for him, and hated the world and didn't give a damn who knew it, and wouldn't go home. Aladdin could swear that after that he only closed his eyes for a second to shut out something or other, and that when he opened them, the reverberation of a door closing was in his ears. But for all that Beau Larch had gone, and was to be seen neither up the street nor down. Although his own was past mending, Beau Larch, drunk as he was, had done a good deed that night, for he had guarded a precious innocence against the assaults of a drunken little Irish boy who was feeling down about something--a girl named something or other, Beau Larch thought, and another boy named something or other. The next day Beau had forgotten even that much.

Aladdin thought that Larch was hiding in jest. He arose unsteadily and wandered off in search of him. After a time he found himself before the door of his own house. There were lights in the parlor, and Aladdin became almost sober. He realized with a thrill of stricken conscience that Mrs. Brackett was sitting up for him, and he was afraid. He tried the front door and found it unlocked. He went in. On the right, the door leading into the parlor stood open. On the table burned a lamp. Beside the table in the crushed plush rocker sat Mrs. Brackett. Her spectacles were pushed high up on her forehead. Her eyes were closed, and her mouth was slightly open. From the corners of her eyes red marks ran down her cheeks. Her thin gray hair was in disarray. In her lap, open, lay her huge family Bible; a spray of pressed maidenhair fern marked the place.

Aladdin, somewhat sobered by now, and already stung with the anguish of remorse, tiptoed into the parlor and softly blew out the light; but the instant before he did so he glanced down at the Bible in the good lady's lap and saw that she had been reading about the prodigal son. Great tears ran out of Aladdin's eyes. He went up-stairs, weeping and on tiptoe, and as he passed the door of his brother's room he heard a stir within.

"Is that you, 'Laddin?"

"Sssh, darlint," said Aladdin; "you'll wake Mother Brackett."

In his own room there was a lamp burning low, and on his bureau was a note for him from Margaret:


DEAR ALADDIN: Papa wants you to come up and have supper with us. Peter Manners is here, and I think it will be fun. Please do come, and remember a lot of foolish songs to sing. Why wouldn't you speak to me? It hurts so when you act like that....


Aladdin, kissing the note, went down on his knees and twice began to pray, "O God--O God!" He could say no more, but all the penitence and heartburnings of his soul were in his prayer. Later he lay on his bed staring into a darkness which moved in wheels, and he kept saying to the darkness:


"Neither the angels in Heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee."


Late in the still morning he awoke, grieving and hurt, for he did not see how he should ever face Mrs. Brackett, or his brother, or Margaret, or himself, or anybody ever again.

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BOOK I CHAPTER XSenator St. John, for he was at heart democratic, and heard little of Aladdin that was not to Aladdin's credit, derigorized the taboo which he had once placed on Aladdin's and Margaret's friendship, and allowed the young man to come occasionally to the house, and occasionally loaned him books. Margaret was really at the bottom of this, but she stayed comfortably at the bottom, and teased her father to do the needful, and he, wrapped up in the great issues which were threatening to divide the country, complied. In those days the senator's interests extended far beyond his
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