Waltz Into Darkness

Waltz Into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich

Book: Waltz Into Darkness by Cornell Woolrich Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cornell Woolrich
of her dress in
them, as if not knowing what to do with them.
    At
last she took a small part of her own skirt and wiped sadly at the
edge of the table with it, from old habit, as if thinking she were
dusting it. That was the only help she could give him, the only ease
she could bring him: to dust an edge of the table in his room. But
pity takes many forms, and it has no need of words.
    And
it was as though she had brought warmth into the room; warmth at
least sufficient to thaw him, to melt the glacial casque that held
him rigid. Just by being there, another human being, near him.
    Then
slowly he started to come back to life. The dead started to come back
to life. It wasn't pleasurable to watch. Rebirth after death. The
death of the heart.
    Death-throes
in reverse. Coming after the terminal blow, not before. When the
heart dies, it should stay dead. It should be given the coup de
grace, struck still once and for all, not allowed to agonize.
    His
knees broke their locked rigidity, and he dropped down at half-height
beside the bed. His arms reached out across it, clawing in torment.
    And
one of the dresses stirred, as if under its own impulse,; rippled in
serpentine haste across the bed top, and was sucked up into the
maelstrom of his grief; his head falling prone upon it, his face
burrowing into it in ghastly parody of kisses once given, that could
never be given again, for there was no one there to give them to.
Only the empty cocoon he pleaded with now.
    "Julia.
Julia. Be merciful."
    The
old woman's hand started toward his palsied shoulder in solace, then
held itself suspended barely clear of touch.
    "Hush,
Mr. Lou," she said with guttural intensity. "Hush, poor
man."
    She
raised her outstretched hand then, held it poised at greater height,
up over his oblivious, gnawing head.
    "May
the Lawd have mercy on you. May He take pity on you. You weeping, but
you ain't got nothing to weep for. You mourning, but you mourning for
something you never had."
    He
rolled his head sideward, and looked up at her with sudden frightened
intentness.
    As
if kindled into anger now by sight of his wasted grief, as if
vindictive with long-delayed revelation, she went to the bureau that
bad been Julia's. She threw open a drawer of it with such righteous
violence that the whole cabinet shook and quivered.
    She
plunged her hand in, unerringly striking toward a hiding place she
knew of from some past discovery. Then held it toward him in
speechless portent. Within it was rimmed a dusty cake, a pastille, of
cheek rouge.
    She
threw it down, anathema.
    Again
her hand burrowed into secretive recesses of the drawer. She held up,
this time, a cluster of slender, spindly cigars.
    She
showed him, flung them from her.
    Her
hands went up overhead, quivered there aloft, vibrant with doom and
malediction, calling the blind skies to witness.
    She
intoned in a blood-curdling voice, like some Old Testament prophetess
calling down apocalyptic judgment.
    "They's
been a bad woman living in your house! They's been a stranger
sleeping in your bed!"

    19

    Hatless,
coatless, hair awry, just as the discovery had found him in his room
moments before, he was running like someone demented through the
quiet, night-lidded streets now, unable to find a coach and too
crazed to stand still and wait for one in any one given place.
Onward, ever onward, toward an address that had fortuitously recurred
to him just now, when he needed it most. The house of the banker
Simms, halfway across New 'Orleans. He would have run the whole
distance on foot, to get there, if necessary.
    But
luckily, as he came to a four-way crossing, a gaslit post brooding
over it in sulphurio yellow-green, he spied a carriage just ahead,
returning idle from some recent hire, screaming after it and without
waiting for it to come back and get him, ran down the roadway after
it full tilt; floundered into it and choked out Simms' address.
    At
the banker's house he rang the bell like fury.
    A
colored servant led him

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