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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe House Of Martha - Chapter 12. Eza
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The House Of Martha - Chapter 12. Eza Post by :JuvioSuccess Category :Long Stories Author :Frank R Stockton Date :May 2012 Read :3283

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The House Of Martha - Chapter 12. Eza

XII. EZA

The next day, when the nun and Sister Sarah entered the secretary's room, I advanced to the grating and bade them good-morning. They both bowed, and the nun took her seat at the table. Sister Sarah then turned to me and asked if I had a gold pen, adding that the sister was accustomed to writing with one. I answered that I had all kinds of pens, and if the sister wanted a gold one it was only necessary to ask me for it. I brought several gold pens, and handed them through the grating to the sub-mother, who gave them to the secretary, and then took her leave, locking the door behind her. My nun took one of the pens, tried it, arranged the paper, and sat ready to write. I stood by the grating, hoping to converse a little, if it should be possible.

"Is there anything else you would like?" I said. "If there is, you know you must mention it."

She gently shook her head. The idea now occurred to me that perhaps my nun was dumb; but I almost instantly thought that this could not be, for dumb people were almost always deaf, and she could hear well enough. Then it struck me that she might be a Trappist nun, and bound by a vow of silence; but I reflected that she was not really a nun, and consequently could not be a Trappist.

Having been unsuccessful in my first attempt to make her speak, and having now stood silent for some moments, I felt it might be unwise to make another trial just then, for my object would be too plain. I therefore sat down and began dictating.

I did not work as easily as I had done on the preceding morning, for I intended, if possible, to make my nun look at me, or speak, before the hour of noon, and thinking of this intention prevented me from keeping my mind upon my work. From time to time I made remarks in regard to the temperature of the room, the quality of the paper, or something of the kind. To these she did not answer at all, or slightly nodded, or shook her head in a deprecatory manner, as if they were matters not worth considering.

Then I suddenly remembered the omission of the paging, and spoke of that. In answer she took up the manuscript she had written and paged every sheet. After this my progress was halting and uneven. Involuntarily my mind kept on devising plans for making that woman speak or turn her face toward me. If she would do the latter, I would be satisfied; and even if she proved to be an unveiled prophetess of Khorassan, there would be no further occasion for conjectures and wonderings, and I could go on with my work in peace. But it made me nervous to remain silent, and see that nun sitting there, pen in hand, but motionless as a post, and waiting for me to give her the signal to continue the exercise of the principle to which her existence was now devoted.

I went on with my dictation. I had left Marseilles, had touched slightly upon Nice, and was now traveling by carriage on the Cornice Road to Mentone. "It was on this road," I dictated, "that an odd incident occurred to me. We were nearly opposite the old robber village of"--and then I hesitated and stopped. I could not remember the name of the village. I walked up and down my study, rubbing my forehead, but the name would not recur to me. I was just thinking that I would have to go to the library and look up the name of the village, when from out of the depths of the nun's bonnet there came a voice, low but distinct, and, I thought, a little impatient, and it said, "Eza."

"Eza! of course!" I exclaimed,--"certainly it is Eza! How could I have forgotten it? I am very much obliged to you for reminding me of the name of that village. Perhaps you have been there?"

In answer to this question I received the least little bit of a nod, and the nun's pen began gently to paw the paper, as if it wanted to go on.

I was now really excited. She had spoken. Why should I not do something which should make her turn her face toward me,--something which would take her off her guard, as my forgetfulness had just done? But no idea came to my aid, and I felt obliged to begin to dictate the details of the odd incident, when suddenly the door opened, Sister Sarah walked in, and the morning's work was over.

I had not done much, but I had made that nun speak. She said "Eza." That was a beginning, and I felt confident that I should get on very well in time. I was a little sorry that my secretary had been on the Cornice Road. I fancied that she might have been one of those elderly single women who become Baedeker tourists, and, having tired of this sort of thing, had concluded to devote her life to the work of the House of Martha. But this was mere idle conjecture. She had spoken, and I should not indulge in pessimism.

I prepared a very good remark with which to greet the sub-mother on the next morning, and, although addressing Sister Sarah, I would be in reality speaking to my nun. I would say how well I was getting on. I had thought of saying _we were getting on, but reflected afterward that this would never do; I was sure that the House of Martha would not allow, under any circumstances, that sister and myself to constitute a _we_. Then I would refer to the help my secretary had been to me, and endeavor to express the satisfaction which an author must always feel for a suggestion of this kind, or any other, from one qualified to make them. If there was any gratitude or vanity in my nun's heart, I felt I could stir it up, if Sister Sarah would listen to me long enough; and if gratitude, or even vanity, could be stirred, the rigidity of my nun would be impaired, and she might find herself off her guard.

But I had no opportunity of making my remark. At nine o'clock the door of the secretary's room opened, the nun entered, and the door was then closed and locked. Sister Sarah must have been in a hurry that morning. Just as well as not I might have made my remark directly to my nun, but I did not. She walked quickly to the table, arranged her paper, opened her inkstand, and sat down. I fancied that I saw a wavy wriggle of impatience in her shawl. Perhaps she wanted to know the rest of that odd incident near Eza. It may have been that it was impatient interest which had impaired her rigidity the day before.

I went on with the odd incident, and made a very good thing of it. Even when on well-worn routes of travel, I tried to confine myself to out-of-the-way experiences. Walkirk had been very much interested in this affair when I had told it to him, and there was no reason why this nun should not also be interested, especially as she had seen Eza.

I finished the narrative, and began another, a rather exciting one, connected with the breaking of a carriage wheel and an exile from Monte Carlo; but never once did curiosity or any other emotion impair the rigidity of that nun. She wrote almost as fast as I could dictate, and when I stopped I know she was filled with nervous desire to know what was coming next,--at least I fancied that her shawl indicated such nervousness; but hesitate as I might, or say what I might,--and I did say a good many things which almost demanded a remark or answer,--not one word came from her during the whole morning, nor did she ever turn the front of her bonnet toward me.

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