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The Lifted Bandage by Mary Raymond Shipman Andrews

THE LIFTED BANDAGE

by

MARY RAYMOND SHIPMAN ANDREWS

Author of "The Perfect Tribute," etc.

New York Charles Scribner's Sons

1910

The man let himself into his front door and, staggering lightly, like a drunken man, as he closed it, walked to the hall table, and mechanically laid down his hat, but still wearing his overcoat turned and went into his library, and dropped on the edge of a divan and stared out through the leaded panes of glass across the room facing him. The grayish skin of his face seemed to fall in diagonal furrows, from the eyes, from the nose, from the mouth. He sat, still to his finger-tips, staring.

He was sitting so when a servant slipped in and stood motionless a minute, and went to the wide window where the west light glared through leafless branches outside, and drew the shades lower, and went to the fireplace and touched a match. Wood caught and crackled and a cheerful orange flame flew noisily up the chimney, but the man sitting on the divan did not notice. The butler waited a moment, watching, hesitating, and then:

"Have you had lunch, sir?" he asked in a tentative, gentle voice.

The staring eyes moved with an effort and rested on the servant's face. "Lunch?" he repeated, apparently trying to focus on the meaning of the word. "Lunch? I don't know, Miller. But don't bring anything."

With a great anxiety in his face Miller regarded his master. "Would you let me take your overcoat, Judge?--you'll be too warm," he said.

He spoke in a suppressed tone as if waiting for, fearing something, as if longing to show sympathy, and the man stood and let himself be cared for, and then sat down again in the same unrestful, fixed attitude, gazing out again through the glittering panes into the stormy, tawny west sky. Miller came back and stood quiet, patient; in a few minutes the man seemed to become aware of him.

"I forgot, Miller. You'll want to know," he said in a tone which went to show an old bond between the two. "You'll be sorry to hear, Miller," he said--and the dull eyes moved difficultly to the anxious ones, and his voice was uninflected--"you'll be sorry to know that the coroner's jury decided that Master Jack was a murderer."

The word came more horribly because of an air of detachment from the man's mind. It was like a soulless, evil mechanism, running unguided. Miller caught at a chair.

"I don't believe it, sir," he gasped. "No lawyer shall make me. I've known him since he was ten, Judge, and they're mistaken. It's not any mere lawyers can make me believe that awful thing, sir, of our Master Jack." The servant was shaking from head to foot with intense rejection, and the man put up his hand as if to ward off his emotion.

"I wish I could agree with you," he said quietly, and then added, "Thank you, Miller." And the old butler, walking as if struck with a sickness, was gone.


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