**** 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 Poisoned Ice
by [?]

“These are fair quarters, for a change.”

He grinned. “They seem to suit the lady, your grandmother. She has not groaned for three hours. I infer that her illustrious sciatica is no longer troubling her.”

Our chatter awoke the Carmelite. She opened her eyes, unclasped her hand, which had been locked round one of the old hag’s, and sat up blinking, with a smile which died away very pitiably.

“Good morning, Senorita,” said I.

She bent over Teresa, but suddenly drew back with a little “Ah!” and stared, holding her breath.

“What is the matter?”

She was on her knees, now; and putting out a hand, touched Teresa’s skinny neck with the tips of two fingers.

“What is the matter?” echoed Felipe, coming forward from the fountain.

“She is dead!” said I, dropping the hand which I had lifted.

“Jesu–” began the Carmelite, and stopped: and we stared at one another, all three.

With her eyes wide and fastened on mine, Sister Marta felt for the crucifix and rope of beads which usually hung from her waist. It was gone: but her hands fumbled for quite a minute before the loss came home to her brain. And then she removed her face from us and bent her forehead to the pavement. She made no sound, but I saw her feet writhing.

“Come, come,” said Felipe, and found no more to say.

I can guess now a little of what was passing through her unhappy mind. Women are women and understand one another. And Teresa, unclean and abandoned old hulk though she was, had stood by this girl when she came to us flying out of the wrack like a lost ship. “Dear, dear, dear”–I remembered scraps of her talk–“the good Lord is debonair, and knows all about these things. He isn’t like a man, as you might say”: and again, “Why bless you, He’s not going to condemn you for a matter that I could explain in five minutes. ‘If it comes to that,’ I should say–and I’ve often noticed that a real gentleman likes you all the better for speaking up–‘If it comes to that, Lord, why did You put such bloody-minded pirates into the world?’ Now to my thinking”–and I remember her rolling a leaf of tobacco as she said it–“it’s a great improvement to the mind to have been through the battle, whether you have won or lost; and that’s why, when on earth, He chose the likes of us for company.”

This philosophy was not the sort to convince a religious girl: but I believe it comforted her. Women are women, as I said; and when the ship goes down a rotten plank is better than none. So the Carmelite had dropped asleep last night with her hand locked round Teresa’s: and so it happened to Teresa this morning to be lamented, and sincerely lamented, by one of the devout. It was almost an edifying end; and the prospect of it, a few days ago, would have tickled her hugely.

“But what did she die of?” I asked Felipe, when we had in delicacy withdrawn to the fountain, leaving the Carmelite alone with her grief.

He opened his mouth and pointed a finger at it.

“But only last evening I offered to share my bone with her: and she told me to keep it for myself.”

“Your Excellency does not reason so well as usual,” said Felipe, without a smile on his face. “The illustrious defunct had a great affection for her grandchild, which caused her to overlook the ambiguity of the relationship–and other things.”

“But do you mean to say–“

“She was a personage of great force of character, and of some virtues which escaped recognition, being unusual. I pray,” said he, lifting the rim of his rusty hat, “that her soul may find the last peace! I had the honour to follow her career almost from the beginning. I remember her even as a damsel of a very rare beauty: but even then as I say, her virtues were unusual, and less easily detected than her failings. I, for example, who supposed myself to know her thoroughly, missed reckoning upon her courage, or I had spent last night in seeking food. I am a fool and a pig.”