قراءة كتاب The Carpet from Bagdad

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‏اللغة: English
The Carpet from Bagdad

The Carpet from Bagdad

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 5

accommodate him.

"I telegraphed," crisply.

"The name, if you please?"

"Ryanne; spelled R-y-a double-n e. Have you ever been in County Clare?"

"No, sir." The manager added a question with the uplift of his eyebrows.

"Well," was the enlightening answer, "you pronounce it as they do there."

The manager scanned the little slip of paper in his hand. "Ah, yes; we have reserved a room for you, sir. The French style rather confused me." This was not offered in irony, or sarcasm, or satire; mining in a Swiss brain for the saving grace of humor is about as remunerative as the extraction of gold from sea-water. Nevertheless, the Swiss has the talent of swiftly substracting from a confusion of ideas one point of illumination: there was a quality to the stranger's tone that decided him favorably. It was the voice of a man in the habit of being obeyed; and in these days it was the power of money alone that obtained obedience to any man. Beyond this, the same nebulous cogitation that had subdued the Arabs outside acted likewise upon him. Here was a brother.


"I will see, sir." The manager summoned a porter. "Room 208."

The porter caught up the somewhat collapsed kit-bag, which had in all evidence received some rough usage in its time, and reached toward the roll. Mr. Ryanne interposed.

"I will see to that, my man," tersely.

"Yes, sir."

"Where is your guest-list?" demanded Mr. Ryanne of the manager.

"The head-porter's bureau, sir. I will see if you have any mail." The manager passed into his own bureau. It was rather difficult to tell whether this man was an American or an Englishman. His accent was western, but his manner was decidedly British. At any rate, that tone and carriage must be bastioned by good English sovereigns, or for once his judgment was at fault.

The porter dashed up-stairs. Mr. Ryanne, his bundle still snug under his arm, sauntered over to the head-porter's bureau and ran his glance up and down the columns of visiting-cards. Once he nodded with approval, and again he smiled, having discovered that which sent a ripple across his sleeping sense of amusement. Major Callahan, room 206; Fortune Chedsoye, 205; George P. A. Jones, 210.

"Hm! the Major smells of County Antrim and the finest whisky in all the isle. Fortune Chedsoye; that is a pleasing name; tinkling brooks, the waving green grasses in the meadows, the kine in the water, the fleeting shadows under the oaks; a pastoral, a bucolic name. To claim Fortune for mine own; a happy thought."

As he uttered these poesy expressions aloud, in a voice low and not unpleasing, for all that it was bantering, the head-porter stared at him with mingling doubt and alarm; and as if to pronounce these emotions mutely for the benefit of the other, he permitted his eyes to open their widest.

"Tut, tut; that's all right, porter. I am cursed with the habit of speaking my inmost thoughts. Some persons are afflicted with insomnia; some fall asleep in church; I think orally. Beastly habit, eh?"

The porter then understood that he was dealing not with a species of mild lunacy, but with that kind of light-hearted cynicism upon which the world (as porters know it) had set its approving seal. In brief, he smiled faintly; and if he had any pleasantry to pass in turn, the approach of the manager, now clothed metaphorically in deferentialism, relegated it to the limbo of things thought but left unsaid.

"Here is a letter for you, Mr. Ryanne. Have you any more luggage?"

"No." Mr. Ryanne smiled. "Shall I pay for my room in advance?"

"Oh, no, sir!" Ten years ago the manager would have blushed at having been so misunderstood. "Your room is 208."

"Will you have a boy show me the way?"

"I shall myself attend to that. If the room is not what you wish it may be exchanged."

"The room is the one I telegraphed for. I am superstitious to a degree. On three boats I have had fine state-rooms numbered 208. Twice the number of my hotel room has been the same. On the last voyage there were 208 passengers, and the captain had made 208 voyages on the Mediterranean."

"Quite a coincident."

"Ah, if roulette could be played with such a certainty."

Mr. Ryanne sighed, hitched up his bundle, which, being heavy, was beginning to wear upon his arm, and signified to the manager to lead the way.

As they vanished round the corner to the lift, the head-porter studied the guest-list. He had looked over it a dozen times that day, but this was the first instance of his being really interested in it. As his chin was freshly shaven he had no stubble to stroke to excite his mental processes; so he fell back, as we say, upon the consoling ends of his abundant mustache. Curious; but all these persons were occupying or about to occupy adjacent rooms. There was truly nothing mysterious about it, save that the stranger had picked out these very names as a target for his banter. Fortune Chedsoye; it was rather an unusual name; but as she had arrived only an hour or so before, he could not distinctly recall her features. And then, there was that word bucolic. He mentally turned it over and over as physically he was wont to do with post-cards left in his care to mail. He could make nothing of the word, except that it smacked of the East Indian plague.

Here he was saved from further cerebral agony by a timely interruption. A man, who was not of bucolic persuasion either in dress or speech, urban from the tips of his bleached fingers to the bulb of his bibulous nose, leaned across the counter and asked if Mr. Horace Ryanne had yet arrived. Yes, he had just arrived; he was even now on his way to his room. The urban gentleman nodded. Then, with a finger slim and well-trimmed, he trailed up and down the guest-list.

"Ha! I see that you have the Duke of What-d'ye-call from Germany here. I'll give you my card. Send it up to Mr. Ryanne. No hurry. I shall be in again after dinner."

He bustled off toward the door. He was pursy, well-fed, and decently dressed, the sort of a man who, when he moved in any direction, created the impression that he had an important engagement somewhere else or was paring minutes from time-tables. For a man in his business it was a clever expedient, deceiving all but those who knew him. He hesitated at the door, however, as if he had changed his mind in the twenty-odd paces it took to reach it. He stared for a long period at the elderly gentleman who was watching the feluccas on the river through the window. The white mustache and imperial stood out in crisp relief against the ruddy sunburn on his face. If he was aware of this scrutiny on the part of the pursy gentleman, he gave not the least sign. The revolving door spun round, sending a puff of outdoor air into the lounging-room. The elderly gentleman then smiled, and applied his thumb and forefinger to the waxen point of his imperial.

In the intervening time Mr. Ryanne entered his room, threw the bundle on the bed, sat down beside it, and read his letter. Shadows and lights moved across his face; frowns that hardened it, smiles that mellowed it. Women hold the trick of writing letters. Do they hate, their thoughts flash and burn from line to line. Do they love, 'tis lettered music. Do they conspire, the breadth of their imagination is without horizon. At best, man can indite only a polite business letter, his love-notes were adjudged long since a maudlin collection of loose sentences. In this letter Mr. Ryanne found the three parts of life.

"She's a good general; but hang these brimstone efforts of hers. She talks too