Garman and Worse

by Alexander Kielland

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Chapter XX

There was no hope of the young Consul's recovery. For a fortnight he had been wavering to and fro. Sometimes it appeared as if the right side would prevail, but then the left got the upper hand again; and each time the paralysis seemed to get a firmer hold.

Miss Cordsen heard the doctor say to Richard, "He may perhaps linger for a few hours, but he cannot live through the night." The old lady remained for a few minutes in the sick-room, and then went upstairs. Her own apartment was a picture of old-fashioned neatness. Carpets and chairs carefully covered, boxes locked, nothing lying about; everything trim, well cared for, and shielded from prying eyes.

There arose an odour of clean linen and lavender as she opened the press, and in a little secret drawer, behind a bundle of well-starched nightcaps, there lay, carefully wrapped up, a miniature portrait in a black frame. It represented a young man dressed in a green frock-coat, with a broad velvet collar. The hair was slightly red, and brushed back in the fashion of the time, in two locks in front of the ears. The eyes were blue and clear, and the under jaw was slightly projecting. Miss Cordsen sat a long time gazing at the portrait, and tear after tear dropped down among the other secrets which lay cherished in the old press among the linen and dry lavender.

Uncle Richard sat gazing at his brother. The doctor's words had deprived him of all hope, but even yet he could not bring himself to believe that the end could be so near.

"It will soon be all over, Richard," said the invalid, in a feeble voice.

The attaché sat down by the side of the bed, and after a short struggle broke into tears, and laid his head on the coverlid.

"Here am I, so strong and well," he sobbed, "and can't do even the smallest thing to help you! I have never been anything to you but a trouble and a burden."

"Nonsense, Dick!" answered the Consul; "you have been everything to me—you and the business. But I have something for which to ask your forgiveness before I die."

"My forgiveness?" Uncle Richard thought he was wandering, and looked up.

"Yes," said the Consul, as what was almost a smile passed over the half-stiffened features. "I have made a fool of you. Your account does not exist. It was only a joke. Are you angry with me?"

How could he possibly be angry? He laid his face down again on the withered hand, and as he lay there in his sorrow, with his curly head buried in the pillows, he looked almost like a great shaggy Newfoundland.

The doctor came into the room.

"I really cannot permit your brother to lie so close to you—it will interfere with your breathing; and if you don't wish——"

"My brother," said the young Consul, interrupting him in a voice which bore some resemblance to his business voice. "I wish my brother, Mr. Richard Garman, to remain exactly where he is." He then added with an effort, "Will you summon my family?"

The doctor left the room, and a few minutes afterwards the invalid drew a long breath, and said, "Good-bye, Dick! How many happy days we have had together since our childhood! You shall have all the Burgundy. I have arranged it all. I should have wished to have left you better off, but——" A movement came over the features, which feebly reminded Richard of the gesture he used when adjusting his chin in his neckcloth, and he said slowly and almost noiselessly, "The house is no longer what it has been."

These were the last words he spoke, for before the doctor had got the family assembled in the sick chamber, the young Consul was dead; calm and precise as he had lived.


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