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!

"Swept And Garnished"
by [?]

(January 1915)

When the first waves of feverish cold stole over Frau Ebermann she very wisely telephoned for the doctor and went to bed. He diagnosed the attack as mild influenza, prescribed the appropriate remedies, and left her to the care of her one servant in her comfortable Berlin flat. Frau Ebermann, beneath the thick coverlet, curled up with what patience she could until the aspirin should begin to act, and Anna should come back from the chemist with the formamint, the ammoniated quinine, the eucalyptus, and the little tin steam-inhaler. Meantime, every bone in her body ached; her head throbbed; her hot, dry hands would not stay the same size for a minute together; and her body, tucked into the smallest possible compass, shrank from the chill of the well-warmed sheets.

Of a sudden she noticed that an imitation-lace cover which should have lain mathematically square with the imitation-marble top of the radiator behind the green plush sofa had slipped away so that one corner hung over the bronze-painted steam pipes. She recalled that she must have rested her poor head against the radiator-top while she was taking off her boots. She tried to get up and set the thing straight, but the radiator at once receded toward the horizon, which, unlike true horizons, slanted diagonally, exactly parallel with the dropped lace edge of the cover. Frau Ebermann groaned through sticky lips and lay still.

‘Certainly, I have a temperature,’ she said. ‘Certainly, I have a grave temperature. I should have been warned by that chill after dinner.’

She resolved to shut her hot-lidded eyes, but opened them in a little while to torture herself with the knowledge of that ungeometrical thing against the far wall. Then she saw a child–an untidy, thin-faced little girl of about ten, who must have strayed in from the adjoining flat. This proved–Frau Ebermann groaned again at the way the world falls to bits when one is sick–proved that Anna had forgotten to shut the outer door of the flat when she went to the chemist. Frau Ebermann had had children of her own, but they were all grown up now, and she had never been a child-lover in any sense. Yet the intruder might be made to serve her scheme of things.

‘Make–put,’ she muttered thickly, ‘that white thing straight on the top of that yellow thing.’

The child paid no attention, but moved about the room, investigating everything that came in her way–the yellow cut-glass handles of the chest of drawers, the stamped bronze hook to hold back the heavy puce curtains, and the mauve enamel, New Art finger-plates on the door. Frau Ebermann watched indignantly.

‘Aie! That is bad and rude. Go away!’ she cried, though it hurt her to raise her voice. ‘Go away by the road you came!’ The child passed behind the bed-foot, where she could not see her. ‘Shut the door as you go. I will speak to Anna, but–first, put that white thing straight.’

She closed her eyes in misery of body and soul. The outer door clicked, and Anna entered, very penitent that she had stayed so long at the chemist’s. But it had been difficult to find the proper type of inhaler, and–

‘Where did the child go?’ moaned Frau Ebermann–‘the child that was here?’

‘There was no child,’ said startled Anna. ‘How should any child come in when I shut the door behind me after I go out? All the keys of the flats are different.’

‘No, no! You forgot this time. But my back is aching, and up my legs also. Besides, who knows what it may have fingered and upset? Look and see.’

‘Nothing is fingered, nothing is upset,’ Anna replied, as she took the inhaler from its paper box.

‘Yes, there is. Now I remember all about it. Put–put that white thing, with the open edge–the lace, I mean–quite straight on that–‘ she pointed. Anna, accustomed to her ways, understood and went to it.