**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


The Interruption
by [?]

“It doesn’t matter,” said Hannah. “I thought I was worth it—to you—that’s all. You know best. Some people might think I was worth two hundred. That’s a bigger jump, but after all a big jump is better than—”

She broke off and tittered. Goddard eyed her.

“—than a big drop,” she concluded.

Her master’s face set. The lips almost disappeared and something came into the pale eyes that was revolting. Still eyeing her, he rose and approached her. She stood her ground and met him eye to eye.

“You are jocular,” he said at last.

“Short life and a merry one,” said the woman.

“Mine or yours?”

“Both, perhaps,” was the reply.

“If—if I give you a hundred,” said Goddard, moistening his lips, “that ought to make your life merrier, at any rate.”

Hannah nodded. “Merry and long, perhaps,” she said slowly. “I’m careful, you know—very careful.”

“I am sure you are,” said Goddard, his face relaxing.

“Careful what I eat and drink, I mean,” said the woman, eyeing him steadily.

“That is wise,” he said slowly. “I am myself—that is why I am paying a good cook a large salary. But don’t overdo things, Hannah; don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

“I am not likely to do that,” she said coldly. “Live and let live; that is my motto. Some people have different ones. But I’m careful; nobody won’t catch me napping. I’ve left a letter with my sister, in case.”

Goddard turned slowly and in a casual fashion put the flowers straight in a bowl on the table, and, wandering to the window, looked out. His face was white again and his hands trembled.

“To be opened after my death,” continued Hannah. “I don’t believe in doctors—not after what I’ve seen of them I don’t think they know enough; so if I die I shall be examined. I’ve given good reasons.”

“And suppose,” said Goddard, coming from the window, “suppose she is curious, and opens it before you die?”

“We must chance that,” said Hannah, shrugging her shoulders; “but I don’t think she will. I sealed it up with sealing-wax, with a mark on it.”

“She might open it and say nothing about it,” persisted her master.

An unwholesome grin spread slowly over Hannah’s features. “I should know it soon enough,” she declared boisterously, “and so would other people. Lord! there would be an upset! Chidham would have something to talk about for once. We should be in the paper—both of us.”

Goddard forced a smile. “Dear me!” he said gently. “Your pen seems to be a dangerous weapon, Hannah, but I hope that the need to open it will not happen for another fifty years. You look well and strong.”

The woman nodded. “I don’t take up my troubles before they come,” she said, with a satisfied air; “but there’s no harm in trying to prevent them coming. Prevention is better than cure.”

“Exactly,” said her master; “and, by the way, there’s no need for this little financial arrangement to be known by anybody else. I might become unpopular with my neighbours for setting a bad example. Of course, I am giving you this sum because I really think you are worth it.”

“I’m sure you do,” said Hannah. “I’m not sure I ain’t worth more, but this’ll do to go on with. I shall get a girl for less than we are paying Milly, and that’ll be another little bit extra for me.”

“Certainly,” said Goddard, and smiled again.

“Come to think of it,” said Hannah, pausing at the door, “I ain’t sure I shall get anybody else; then there’ll be more than ever for me. If I do the work I might as well have the money.

Her master nodded, and, left to himself, sat down to think out a position which was as intolerable as it was dangerous. At a great risk he had escaped from the dominion of one woman only to fall, bound and helpless, into the hands of another. However vague and unconvincing the suspicions of Hannah might be, they would be sufficient. Evidence could be unearthed. Cold with fear one moment, and hot with fury the next, he sought in vain for some avenue of escape. It was his brain against that of a cunning, illiterate fool; a fool whose malicious stupidity only added to his danger. And she drank. With largely increased wages she would drink more and his very life might depend upon a hiccuped boast. It was clear that she was enjoying her supremacy; later on her vanity would urge her to display it before others. He might have to obey the crack of her whip before witnesses, and that would cut off all possibility of escape.

He sat with his head in his hands. There must be a way out and he must find it. Soon. He must find it before gossip began; before the changed position of master and servant lent colour to her story when that story became known. Shaking with fury, he thought of her lean, ugly throat and the joy of choking her life out with his fingers. He started suddenly, and took a quick breath. No, no fingers—a rope.