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The World And The Door
by [?]

Mrs. Conant slowly dropped the paper, and sat on a chair, clasping her hands tightly.

“Let me think–O God!–let me think,” she whispered. “I took the bottle with me . . . I threw it out of the window of the train . . . I– . . . there was another bottle in the cabinet . . . there were two, side by side–the aconite–and the valerian that I took when I could not sleep . . . If they found the aconite bottle full, why–but, he is alive, of course–I gave him only a harmless dose of valerian . . . I am not a murderess in fact . . . Ralph, I–O God, don’t let this be a dream!”

She went into the part of the house that she rented from the old Peruvian man and his wife, shut the door, and walked up and down her room swiftly and feverishly for half an hour. Merriam’s photograph stood in a frame on a table. She picked it up, looked at it with a smile of exquisite tenderness, and–dropped four tears on it. And Merriam only twenty rods away! Then she stood still for ten minutes, looking into space. She looked into space through a slowly opening door. On her side of the door was the building material for a castle of Romance–love, an Arcady of waving palms, a lullaby of waves on the shore of a haven of rest, respite, peace, a lotus land of dreamy ease and security–a life of poetry and heart’s ease and refuge. Romanticist, will you tell me what Mrs. Conant saw on the other side of the door? You cannot?–that is, you will not? Very well; then listen.

She saw herself go into a department store and buy five spools of silk thread and three yards of gingham to make an apron for the cook. “Shall I charge it, ma’am?” asked the clerk. As she walked out a lady whom she met greeted her cordially. “Oh, where did you get the pattern for those sleeves, dear Mrs. Conant?” she said. At the corner a policeman helped her across the street and touched his helmet. “Any callers?” she asked the maid when she reached home. “Mrs. Waldron,” answered the maid, “and the two Misses Jenkinson.” “Very well,” she said. “You may bring me a cup of tea, Maggie.”

Mrs. Conant went to the door and called Angela, the old Peruvian woman. “If Mateo is there send him to me.” Mateo, a half-breed, shuffling and old but efficient, came.

“Is there a steamer or a vessel of any kind leaving this coast to-night or to-morrow that I can get passage on?” she asked.

Mateo considered.

“At Punta Reina, thirty miles down the coast, senora,” he answered, “there is a small steamer loading with cinchona and dyewoods. She sails for San Francisco to-morrow at sunrise. So says my brother, who arrived in his sloop to-day, passing by Punta Reina.”

“You must take me in that sloop to that steamer to-night. Will you do that?”

“Perhaps–” Mateo shrugged a suggestive shoulder. Mrs. Conant took a handful of money from a drawer and gave it to him.

“Get the sloop ready behind the little point of land below the town,” she ordered. “Get sailors, and be ready to sail at six o’clock. In half an hour bring a cart partly filled with straw into the patio here, and take my trunk to the sloop. There is more money yet. Now, hurry.”

For one time Mateo walked away without shuffling his feet.

“Angela,” cried Mrs. Conant, almost fiercely, “come and help me pack. I am going away. Out with this trunk. My clothes first. Stir yourself. Those dark dresses first. Hurry.”

From the first she did not waver from her decision. Her view was clear and final. Her door had opened and let the world in. Her love for Merriam was not lessened; but it now appeared a hopeless and unrealizable thing. The visions of their future that had seemed so blissful and complete had vanished. She tried to assure herself that her renunciation was rather for his sake than for her own. Now that she was cleared of her burden–at least, technically–would not his own weigh too heavily upon him? If she should cling to him, would not the difference forever silently mar and corrode their happiness? Thus she reasoned; but there were a thousand little voices calling to her that she could feel rather than hear, like the hum of distant, powerful machinery–the little voices of the world, that, when raised in unison, can send their insistent call through the thickest door.