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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesSamuel The Seeker - Chapter 11
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Samuel The Seeker - Chapter 11 Post by :ben.g Category :Long Stories Author :Upton Sinclair Date :May 2012 Read :2505

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Samuel The Seeker - Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

A week passed, and Samuel did not see his divinity again. He lived upon the memory of their brief interview, and while he trimmed the hedges he was dreaming the most extravagant dreams of rescues and perilous escapes. For the first time he began to find that his work was tedious; it offered so few possibilities of romance! If only he had been her chauffeur, now! Or the guide who escorted her in her tramps about the wilderness! Or the man who ran the wonderful motor- boat that was shaped like a knife blade!

Samuel continued to ponder, and was greatly worried lest the commonplace should ingulf him. So little he dreamed how near was a change!

Bertie Lockman had been away for a few days, visiting some friends, and he came back unexpectedly one afternoon. Samuel knew that he had not been expected, for always there were great bunches of flowers to be placed in his room. The gardener happened to be away at the time the motor arrived, and so Samuel upon his own responsibility cut the flowers and took them into the house. He left them in the housekeeper's workroom and then set out to find that functionary, and tell her what he had done. So, in the entrance to the dining room, he stumbled upon his young master, giving some orders to Peters, the butler.

As an humble gardener's boy, Samuel should have stepped back and vanished. Instead he came forward, and Bertie smiled pleasantly and said, "Hello, Samuel."

"Good afternoon, Master Albert," said Samuel.

"And how do you like your work?" the other asked.

"I like it very well, sir," he replied; and then added apologetically, "I was bringing some flowers."

The master turned to speak to Peters again; and Samuel turned to retire. But at that instant there came the sound of a motor in front of the house.

"Hello," said Bertie. "Who's that?" and turned to look through the entrance hall. Peters went forward to the door; and so Samuel was left standing and watching.

A big red touring car had drawn up in front of the piazza. It was filled with young people, waving their hands and shouting, "Bertie! Oh, Bertie!"

The other appeared to be startled. "Well, I'll be damned!" he muttered as he went to meet them.

Of course Samuel had no business whatever to stand there. He should have fled in trepidation. But he, as a privileged person, had not yet been drilled into a realization of his "place." And they were such marvelous creatures--these people of the upper world--and he was so devoured with the desire to know about them.

There were two young men in the motor, of about his master's age, and nearly as goodly to look at. And there were four young women, of a quite extraordinary sort. They were beautiful, all of them--nearly as beautiful as Miss Gladys; and perhaps it was only the automobile costumes, but they struck one as even more alarmingly complex.

They were airy, ethereal creatures, with delicate peach blow complexions, and very small hands and feet. They seemed to favor all kinds of fluffy and flimsy things; they were explosions of all the colors of the springtime. There were leaves and flowers and fruits and birds in their hats; and there were elaborate filmy veils to hold the hats on. They descended from the motor, and Samuel had glimpses of ribbons and ruffles, of shapely ankles and daintily slippered feet. They came in the midst of a breeze of merriment, with laughter and bantering and little cries of all sorts.

"You don't seem very glad to see us, Bertie!" one said.

"Cheer up, old chap--nobody'll tell on us!" cried one of the young men.

"And we'll be good and go home early!" added another of the girls.

One of the party Samuel noticed particularly, because she looked more serious, and hung back a little. She was smaller than the others, a study in pink and white; her dress and hat were trimmed with pink ribbons, and she had the most marvelously pink cheeks and lips, and the most exquisite features Samuel had ever seen in his life.

Now suddenly she ran to young Lockman and flung her arms about his neck.

"Bertie," she exclaimed, "it's my fault. I made them come! I wanted to see you so badly! You aren't mad with us, are you?"

"No," said Bertie, "I'm not mad."

"Well, then, be glad!" cried the girl, and kissed him again. "Be a good boy--do!"

"All right," said Bertie feebly. "I'll be good, Belle."

"We wanted to surprise you," added one of the young fellows.

"You surprised me all right," said Bertie--a reply which all of them seemed to find highly amusing, for they laughed uproariously.

"He doesn't ask us in," said one of the girls. "Come on, Dolly--let's see this house of his."

And so the party poured in. Samuel waited just long enough to catch the rustle of innumerable garments, and a medley of perfumes which might have been blown from all the gardens of the East. Then he turned and fled to the regions below.

One of the young men, he learned from the talk in the servants' hall, was Jack Holliday, the youngest son of the railroad magnate; it was his sister who was engaged to marry the English duke. The other boy was the heir of a great lumber king from the West, and though he was only twenty he had got himself involved in a divorce scandal with some actor people. Who the young ladies were no one seemed to know, but there were half-whispered remarks about them, the significance of which was quite lost upon Samuel.

Presently the word came that the party was to stay to dinner. And then instantly the whole household sprang into activity. Above stairs everything would move with the smoothness of clockwork; but downstairs in the servants' quarters it was a serious matter that an elaborate banquet for seven people had to be got ready in a couple of hours. Even Samuel was pressed into service at odd jobs--something for which he was very glad, as it gave him a chance to remain in the midst of events.

So it happened that he saw Peters emerging from the wine cellar, followed by a man with a huge basket full of bottles. And this set Samuel to pondering hard, the while he scraped away at a bowl of potatoes. It was the one thing which had disconcerted him in the life of this upper world--the obvious part that drinking played in it. There were always decanters of liquor upon the buffet in the dining room; and liquor was served to guests upon any--and every pretext. And the women drank as freely as the men--even Miss Gladys drank, a thing which was simply appalling to Samuel.

Of course, these were privileged people, and they knew what they wanted to do. But could it be right for anyone to drink? As in the case of suicide, Samuel found his moral convictions beginning to waver. Perhaps it was that drink did not affect these higher beings as it did ordinary people! Or perhaps what they drank was something that cheered without inebriating! Certain it was that the servants got drunk; and Samuel had seen that they took the stuff from the decanters used by the guests.

It was something over which he labored with great pain of soul. But, of course, all his hesitations and sophistries were for the benefit of his master--that it could be right for Samuel himself to touch liquor was something that could not by any chance enter his mind.

The dinner had begun; and Samuel went on several errands to the room below the butler's pantry, and so from the dumb-waiter shafts he could hear the sounds of laughter and conversation. And more wine went up-- it was evidently a very merry party. The meal was protracted for two or three hours, and the noise grew louder and louder. They were shouting so that one could hear them all over the house. They were singing songs--wild rollicking choruses which were very wonderful to listen to, and yet terribly disturbing to Samuel. These fortunate successful ones--he would grant them the right to any happiness--it was to be expected that they should dwell in perpetual merriment and delight. But he could hear the champagne corks popping every few minutes. And COULD it be right for them to drink!

It grew late, and still the revelry went on. A thunderstorm had come up and was raging outside. The servants who were not at work, had gone to bed, but there was no sleep for Samuel; he continued to prowl about, restless and tormented. The whole house was now deserted, save for the party in the dining room; and so he crept up, by one of the rear stairways, and crouched in a doorway, where he could listen to the wild uproar.

He had been there perhaps ten minutes. He could hear the singing and yelling, though he could not make out the words because of the noise of the elements. But then suddenly, above all the confusion, he heard a woman's shrieks piercing and shrill; and he started up and sprang into the hall. Whether they were cries of anger, or of fear, or of pain, Samuel could not be certain; but he knew that they were not cries of enjoyment.

He stood trembling. There rose a babel of shouts, and then again came the woman's voice--"No, no--you shan't, I say!"

"Sit down, you fool!" Samuel heard Bertie Lockman shout.

And then came another woman's voice--"Shut up and mind your business!"

"I'll tear your eyes out, you devil!" shrilled the first voice, and there followed a string of furious curses. The other woman replied in kind and Samuel made out that there was some kind of a quarrel, and that some of the party wanted to interfere, and that others wanted it to go on. All were whooping and shrieking uproariously, and the two women yelled like hyenas.

It was like the nightmare sounds he had heard from his cell in the police station, and Samuel listened appalled. There came a crash of breaking glass; and then suddenly, in the midst of the confusion, he heard his young master cry, "Get out of here!"--and the dining room door was flung open, and the uproar burst full upon him.

A terrible sight met his eyes. It was the beautiful and radiant creature who had kissed Bertie Lockman; her face was now flushed with drink and distorted with rage--her hair disheveled and her aspect wild; and she was screaming in the voice which had first startled Samuel. Bertie had grappled with her and was trying to push her out of the room, while she fought frantically, and screamed: "Let me go! Let me go!"

"Get out of here, I say!" cried Bertie, "I mean it now."

"I won't! Let me be!" exclaimed the girl.

"Hurrah!" shouted the others, crowding behind them. Young Holliday was dancing about, waving a bottle and yelling like a maniac, "Go it, Bertie! Give it to him, Belle!"

"This is the end of it!" cried Bertie. "I'm through with you. And you get out of here!"

"I won't! I won't!" screamed the girl again and again. "Help!" And she flung one arm about his neck and caught at the doorway.

But he tore her loose and dragged her bodily across the entrance hall. "Out with you!" he exclaimed. "And don't ever let me see your face again!"

"Bertie! Bertie!" she protested.

"I mean it!" he said. "Here Jack! Open the door for me."

"Bertie! No!" shrieked the girl; but then with a sudden effort he half threw her out into the darkness. There was a brief altercation outside, and then he sprang back, and flung to the heavy door, and bolted it fast.

"Now, by God!" he said, "you'll stay out."

The girl beat and kicked frantically upon the door. But Bertie turned his back and staggered away, reeling slightly. "That'll settle it, I guess," he said, with a wild laugh.

And amidst a din of laughter and cheers from the others, he went back to the dining room. One of the other women flung her arms about him hilariously, and Jack Holliday raised a bottle of wine on high, and shouted: "Off with the old love--on with the new!"

And so Bertie shut the door again, and the scene was hid from Samuel's eyes.

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