|Cold, silent, indifferent he lay, Just as he had lived. The damp atmosphere prevailed
throughout the big, shadowy house. Sheep season it was--that inbetween season that
Precedes real springtime. First, those lovely, deceptive days that inspire one's being--
Lifts up one's soul to lofty heights of sublime beauty,--- and then the sudden drop; the
cold, rainy weather that gets its name from the custom of sheep owners waiting until
after the cool wet rain to shear their sheep.
It's creapy, this cold dankness---it permeates underneath the skin, slimy between the
"Ma, is he any better?" queries a lank, young boy.
"I can't tell no diffur'nce, Hugh," the woman replied wearily. "He seems 'bout the
"She said she'd be here tonight, didn't she, Ma?" the boy asked.
"Yes," his mother answered, "and she'll come, but it's hard for her---with all her
The woman left the room and the boy sat staring moodily at nothing. The old
The old man had raised himself up on the bed and was pointing an shaky finger
The boy stepped to his side in time to hear his father's words. "No-count," he heard
The boy glanced furtively towards the door. Seeing no one, he sighed with relief.
The dorr opened and the boy's mother came in bearing a saucer and cup of
As she finished her task, there came the sound of stamping feet and the rattlin'
At that moment a car drove up the long, winding driveway to the back door of the
" How's Pa?" the girl turned questioning eyes toward the bed. " He don't know
|"Oh, I can't bear it," she exclaimed. "To see him suffering like this."
She took hold of his hands and then drew back in horror. "Oh, they're like ice--
and his feet too. Ma, is he dying? Oh, he can't." A panic spread over her and she
felt engulfed by the whole of it---the dim, cold room; the tired, wobegone features
of her mother and brother, and Death stalking in every bare corner, getting ready
to pounce out at a moment's notice.
He's been like that for over a week, now, Mary," the mother answered. "The
"Oh, Ma, don't say that," the girl said quickly, "you know we wouldn't say a word
After some argument with her mother who stubbornly refused to go to bed, Mary
Finally, the children tucked to bed in various parts of the big old house and
It wasn't so bad for awhile. The old mas tossed and muttered uneasily. Mary
The hands of the grandfather clock were moving on relentlessly. "Poor Pa", she
But no, she went on, I don't want to go back to my childhood. Pa was better to me
Poor Pa, poor disillusioned Pa, he hadn't found that happiness and he thought it
Tick-tock---Tick-tock-beat out the clock with regularity. Ten, ten-thirty, and nearly
Now, the old man was getting aroused, more restless. He sat up on the edge of the
Up and down, Up and down. Through the weary night. Every two hours the hands of the clock were turned back to the figure eight. Mary kept count of the number of times
she pushed the clock hands back. Once--Eleven--twice--one--thrice---three. Onward-ever onward--eternity went relentlessly onward--never a stop--never a pause--such a surety
such a continuity. Tick-tock--tick-tock-- time stops for no man--and so the course is run.
Wilder and wilder grew the old man and then, feebler and feebler. Mary and her husband were worn beyond endurance. Just before four o'clock, her father was quiet--
too quiet it seemed.
"I've always heard," Mary remarked, " that anyone's resistance is lower at four that at any other time. If he can just get past four---" She was sitting with her back alongside
the bed and one elbow protruding out towards the old man. All at once she felt something icy picking at her arm. She jumped and turned. The old man was reaching
out one hand unsteadily, gropingly, his long, bony fingers curling, grasping.
"Oh, Pa, waht a turn you gave me," she was weak from fright, "What do you want?"
"You, he muttered in a voice that sounded as if it were coming out of a grave. "You--you--you--and then it trailed off into nothingness. Just as the clock should have struck five, the
old man drew a deep, long breath, let it depart slowly from his lungs and then--silence--unutterable silence.
Mary and her husband, looking down on him, grasped each other is terror. Mary broke the stillness with---"Oh, do something! He's gone! Let's get Ma!"
"No, wait," her husband said, maybe he's breathing. Let's work his arms, rub them." No sign of life--no breathing. Mary worked in a frenzy. And then, just as it left, the breath
came back----a deep intake of air flowed into his lungs so deep and invigorating as if to show to any onlooker how precious is the air we breathe. Just as he let go for the last
time, his wife entered the room. She immediately glanced at the clock and said, "Mary, I knew you wouldn't let me sleep past eleven."
Then she looked at the bed and said, " I see he's resting easy."
Mary put her arms around her mother and whispered, "Yes, Ma, he's in his eternal rest now. He's at peace at last." The mother understood what had happened for she looked
at the clock and said, "I must have know something would happen by eleven o' clock."
And Mary never told her the truth.