Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything


Books Menu

Author Catalog
Title Catalog
Sectioned Catalog


- Aladdin O'Brien - 26/32 -

Oddly enough, there was another man in the car who was having precisely the same difficulty in deciphering his newspaper. At about the same time they both gave up the attempt; and their eyes met. And they laughed aloud. And presently, seated together, they fell into good talk, but each refrained pointedly from asking the other where he was going.

With a splendid assumption of innocence, they drove together across Boston, and remarking nothing on the coincidence, each distinctly heard the other checking his luggage for Portland, Maine.

Side by side they rolled out of Portland and saw familiar trees and hills go by. Presently Aladdin chuckled:

"Where are you going, Peter, anyway?" he said.

"Just where you are," said Peter.


Peter," said Aladdin, presently, "it seems to me that for two such old friends we are lacking in confidence. I know precisely what you are thinking about, and you know precisely what I am. We mustn't play the jealous rivals to the last; and to put it plainly, Peter, if God is going to be good to you instead of me, why, I'm going to try and thank God just the same. A personal disappointment is a purely private matter and has no license to upset old ties and affections. Does it occur to you that we are after the same thing and that one of us isn't going to get it?"

"We won't let it make any difference," said Peter, stoutly.

"That's just it," said Aladdin. "We mustn't."

"The situation--"Peter began.

"Is none the less difficult, I know. Here we are with a certain amount of leave to occupy as we each see fit. And, unfortunately, there's only one thing which seems fit to either of us. And, equally unfortunately, it's something we can't hold hands and do at the same time. Shall I go straight from the station to Mrs. Brackett's and wait until you've had your say, Peter?--not that I want to wait very long," he added.

"That wouldn't be at all fair," said Peter.

"Do you mind," said Aladdin after a pause, "telling me about what your chances are?"

Peter reddened uncomfortably.

"I'm afraid they're not very good, 'Laddin," he said. "She --she said she wasn't sure. And that's a good deal more apt to mean nothing than everything, but I can't straighten my life out till I'm sure."

"My chances," said Aladdin, critically, "shouldn't by rights be anywhere near as good as yours, but as long as they remain chances I feel just the same as you do about yours, and want to get things straightened out. But if I were any kind of a man, I'd drop it, because I'm not in her class."

"Nonsense," said Peter.

"No, I'm not," said Aladdin, gloomily. "I know that. But, Peter, what is a man going to do, a single, solitary, pretty much good-for-nothing man, with three great bouncing Fates lined up against him?"

Peter laughed his big, frank laugh.

"Shall we chuck the whole thing," said Aladdin, "until it's time to go back to the army?"

"No," said Peter, "that would be shirking; it's got to be settled one way or another very quickly." He became grave again.

"I think so, too, Peter," said Aladdin. "And I think that if she takes one of us it will be a great sorrow for the other."

"And for her," said Peter, quietly.

"Perhaps," said Aladdin, whimsically, "she won't take either of us."

"That," said Peter, "should be a great sorrow for us both."

"I know," said Aladdin. "Anyway, there's got to be sorrow."

"I think I shall bear it better," said Peter, "if she takes you, 'Laddin."

A flash of comparison between his somewhat morbid and warped self and the bigness and nobility of his friend passed through Aladdin's mind. He glanced covertly at the strong, emaciated face beside him, and noted the steadiness and purity of the eyes. A little quixotic flame, springing like an orchid from nothing, blazed suddenly in his heart, and for the instant he was the better man of the two.

"I hope she takes you, Peter," he said.

They rolled on through the midsummer woods, heavy with bright leaves and waist-deep with bracken; little brooks, clean as whistles, piped away among immaculate stones, and limpid light broken by delicious shadows fell over all.

"Who shall ask her first?" said Aladdin. Peter smiled. "Shall we toss for it?" said Aladdin. Peter laughed gaily. "Do you really want it to be like that?" he said.

"What's the use of our being friends," said Aladdin, "if we are not going to back each other up in this of all things?"

"Right!" said Peter. "But you ought to have the first show because you mentioned it first."

"Rubbish!" said Aladdin. "We'll toss, but not now; we'll wait till we get there."

Peter looked at his watch.

"Nearly in," he said.

"Yes," said Aladdin. "I know by the woods."

"Did you telegraph, by any chance?" said Peter. "Because I didn't."

"Nor I," said Aladdin; "I didn't want to be met."

"Nor I," said Peter.

The sick man and the lame man will take hands and hobble up the hill," said Aladdin. "And whatever happens, they mustn't let anything make any difference."

"No," said Peter, "they mustn't."


Our veterans walked painfully through the town and up the hill; nor were they suffered to go in peace, for right and left they were recognized, and people rushed up to shake them by the hands and ask news of such an one, and if Peter's bullet was still in him, and if it was true, which of course they saw it wasn't, that Aladdin had a wooden leg. Aladdin, it must be owned, enjoyed these demonstrations, and in spite of his lameness strutted a little. But Peter, white from the after effects of his wound and weary with the long travel, did not enjoy them at all. Then the steep pitch of the hill was almost too much for him, and now and again he was obliged to stop and rest.

The St. Johns' house stood among lilacs and back from the street by the breadth of a small garden. In the rear were large grounds, fields, and even woods. The place had two entrances, one immediately in front of the house for people on foot, and the other, a quarter of a mile distant, for people driving. This latter, opening from a joyous country lane of blackberry-vines and goldenrod, passed between two prodigious round stones, and S-ed into a dark and stately wood. Trees, standing gladly where God had set them, made a screen, impenetrable to the eye, between the gateway and the house.

Here Peter and Aladdin halted, while Aladdin sent a coin spinning into the air.

"Heads!" called Peter.

Aladdin let the piece fall to the ground, and they bent over it eagerly.

"After you," said Peter, for the coin read, "Tails."

Aladdin picked up the coin, and hurled it far away among the trees.

"That's our joint sacrifice to the gods, Peter," he said.

Peter gave him five cents.

"My share," he said.

"Peter," said Aladdin, "I will ask her the first chance I get, and if there's nothing in it for me, I will go away and leave the road clear for you. Come."

Aladdin O'Brien - 26/32

Previous Page     Next Page

  1   10   20   21   22   23   24   25   26   27   28   29   30   31   32 

Schulers Books Home

 Games Menu

Dice Poker
Tic Tac Toe


Schulers Books Online

books - games - software - wallpaper - everything