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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 10. Morton Sends A Telegram
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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 10. Morton Sends A Telegram Post by :p00kie Category :Long Stories Author :Hamlin Garland Date :May 2012 Read :3260

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The Tyranny Of The Dark - Book 2 - Chapter 10. Morton Sends A Telegram


The harsh reality of the outside world was like the hard-driven, acrid spray of the ocean in a wintry storm, it stung yet calmed with its grateful, stern menace. A thin drizzle of rain was beginning to fall, and the avenues were filled with the furious clamor of belated traffic. The clangor of the overhead trains--almost incessant at this hour--benumbed the ear, and every side-street rang with the hideous clatter of drays and express-carts, each driver, each motor-man, laboring in a kind of sullen frenzy to reach his barn before six o'clock, while truculent pedestrians, tired, eager, and exacting, trod upon one another's heels in their homeward haste.

This tumult of turbulent, coarse, unthinking life seemed at the moment not merely normal but wholesome and admirable by force of contrast with the morbid, unnatural, and useless scenes through which he had just passed. Better to be a burly, unreflecting truckman than a troubled, unresting soul like Anthony Clarke, "Yes, and better for Viola Lambert to be the wife of one of these rude animal types, suffering a life of physical hardship, than to continue the sport of a man who, having lost the true values out of his own life, is remorselessly distorting those of the woman he professes to love."

His mind then went back, by the same law of contrast, to his momentous ride across the Sulphur Spring trail. "To think on how small a chance my share in this girl's singular history hangs! Had I taken 'the cut-off,' as my guide suggested, had I camped in the log-cabin at the head of the canon, or had I saddled up the next morning and ridden over to Silver City, as I had planned, we would never have met; and I would not now be involved in her hysterical career."

But he had done neither of these things. He had camped in the town, he had sought her, and in this seeking lay something more than chance. His second meeting was an acknowledgment of his youth and her beauty. She had held him in the village day by day, because she was lithe of body and fair of face and because her eyes were unaccountably wistful. Yes, he had sought her that night when the river sang with joyous, immemorial clamor, and the lamp beckoned like a hand. He had gone to her for diversion--that he now acknowledged--and he had grown each day more deeply concerned with her life and its burdens.

And now here she was at his door, more dangerously enthralling than ever, involved in a snare of most intricate pattern, calling upon him through some hidden affinity of their natures as no woman had ever called him before--calling so powerfully, so insistently, that to save her from her peril, as pressing as it was intangible, seemed the one and only task at his hand.

In this mood, sustained by the memory of her anguished face, he sent a telegram to Lambert, urging him to come at once to the relief of his wife and daughter.

He did not appreciate the full force of this act until he left the office and resumed his walk homeward. Then, like a shock from a battery, came the realisation. "I have now definitely intervened; but how weakly, how ingloriously!"

This thought grew less agreeable and more humiliating as he dwelt upon the possible consequences. "Will Lambert remember me? Will he take my warning to heart?"

In imagination he followed the small envelope as it passed to the hand of a messenger and started up that fearsome, splendid trail towards the mill. The world was stern and cold and white and still up there in the Basin--winter yet reigned in majesty and the pathways were deep sunk in heaped and sculptured snows.

Up to the half-buried office the courier would ride, and with a cheery halloo call Lambert to the door. What would he think upon receiving such an imperative summons from a stranger? "Did I make the situation clear? He may imagine that some dire physical disaster has overtaken his women. But that would be true. Their peril is none the less real because intangible, and yet my part in it may not seem either wise or manly."

In truth every step towards his own door removed him an emotional league from the scene in the hall, and as the throb of Viola's agonized voice died out of his ears the crisis in her life grew hysteric, unsubstantial, and at last unreal. Her gestures, her plea for help, her descent of the stairway, came to seem like the climaxes in a singular drama powerfully acted. "God! what an actress--if she _is an actress!" he exclaimed, as the tragic intensity of her face returned upon him.

He passed from this to the next phase of his development. In a certain good-humored way he had accepted his friend Tolman's theories of hypnotic control, but had never taken them into serious account till this moment. He was forced now to admit the entire truth of "suggestion" or to charge this girl, whose character so bewitched him, with being an impostor. She was either a marvellous artist in deception or Clarke controlled her through some sinister and little-understood law of the mind. What else could have brought her creeping like a somnambulist down the stairway to demonstrate her tormentor's demoniacal sovereignty? And if he could call her to him in such wise, then all the weird tales of the romancers, all the half-mythical doings of Mesmer and Charcot, were true, and the feet of Bulwer Lytton's remorseless lover solidly set upon the rock of fact.

"My school of thought is very exact and very dogmatic. It prides itself on not looking beyond its nose. There is no room in our text-books for this girl and her claims. But--" He stood on the corner and surveyed the familiar scene, the rushing, commonplace men, the commonplace horses, the commonplace, ugly walls and signs, and for an instant they lost substance, became as shadowy as drifting mist, the men were of no more bulk than phantoms, the walls and pavements but the effluvia of the commonplace perceiving mind. All were as transitory as smoke, as illusionary as the opium-eater's mid-day dream. What did it signify--this mad rush to get round a corner to creep into a hole? Why should he trouble himself about one of the millions of women, evanescent as butterflies, with which the earth continually replenished its swarms of men?

He walked on, eager to return to his own little nest, to his books, his easy-chair, his glowing fire. What folly to go out of his own life, to profess accountability for the welfare of a girl whom he had seen but a few hours in all his life. Why trouble to explain her case? Was it worth while to dethrone Spencer in order to defend the action of a child's disordered mind.

This mood gave way to one far less philosophical--he permitted himself a moment of exultation over his youth. Science had not yet taken out of him the nerves that leap to the touch of a woman's palm--the right woman. Ten years' deep, patient, absorbing dissection of pathologic tissue had not rendered the gloss and glow of a girl's cheek less velvet-soft. On the contrary, the healthy, wholesome flesh, the matured beauty of this mountain maid seemed of more worth than any fame to be wrung from the niggard hands of the Royal Academy. The absorption of the true scientist was completely broken up. "Love is worth while," he said, in answer to himself, "and to serve others the only solace in the end."

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