The Rose Door

Chapter 7

Another twenty-seventh arrived. The very next twenty-seventh to the great twenty-seventh when the wistaria gave forth electric blossoms; when moon and stars came down to twinkle in tall trees; when ten thousand roses gave their soft bodies to the dainty tread of a maiden. Such a twenty-seventh would never come again – so said the servants of Wistaria House.

On the second twenty-seventh, Dr Hamilton sits looking over his mail. One letter he retains, pushing the others unopened aside. The envelope is postmarked, "Hilo, Hawaii." He opens it hurriedly – he reads it eagerly:

" Your letter to the Postmaster at Honolulu, was forwarded to me for an answer.

"Ralph Young returned home one month before the close of his second year at Berkeley. He went direct from the steamer to his Honolulu house and sent immediately for his father. The moment he appeared, Ralph retreated a step and uttered the word most hated in all the land of Kamehameha. But Albert Young went straight to him and winding both arms about him said: 'That is a sorry jest, Laddie.'

"When Ralph had said his Say his father termed the San Francisco doctors, 'a pack of idiots' and sent post haste for me. I was in Honolulu and went at once.

" It was an attendant at the Turkish baths–himself a Hawaiian – who called Ralph's attention to his body and in a significant tone advised him to see a doctor at once.

" Ralph stripped for me; it was all under his clothes. When Albert Young saw, his face took on the look of fallen gladiator, when thumbs are down.

'Yes' or 'No,' doctor, he said, with a brave attempt at courage.

"My tongue wouldn't say it. I nodded my head. He began to shiver; then he strangled and would have gone to the floor, but that Ralph and I took hold of him. I thought he was dying then and there–if he only had been. Of all cruel things there's nothing to compare with living.

"We seated him. He never stood again. He rallied, however, and cried, 'My boy, my boy, my boy!' Then there was swaying and inarticulate moaning, followed by an attempt to rise; but he could not.

"'Come to your father, Laddie, his old legs have turned traitors,' he said.

"Ralph went to him. His father drew him down on his lap and putting his arms about him, pressed Ralph's face against his own, as he had done eighteen years before, when the nurse laid a soft, little bundle in his arms, saying, 'Here is your son.'

"Presently Ralph felt the encircling arms relax and he arose.

"A tremor rippled over Albert Young followed by an ague that threw his hands off the arms of the big chair and made his feet dance upon the floor. This passed and his voice returned. 'My boy, my Laddie, my little, little Laddie!' Then quiet.

" He was far back, sitting in the lap of existence, playing with a beautiful man child–back where Life made fair promises and where no man might call her 'liar without being laid low by the eloquence of his enraptured, believing heart.

"This passed. He raised his voice; Doctor, you are a surgeon; can't you do anything. Cut them out. Cut them out!

"Then, as though he knew he spoke folly, he dropped his face in his hands, and moaned and swayed and swayed and moaned.

" Then another arousing: 'But Molokai shan't get you, Laddie! We'll hide you where devils and a pack of blood hounds couldn't find you. We'll go to Hilo Bay–Mauna Loa is long and Mauna Loa is high. You won't be alone, Laddie. Your father will be with you all the time, and Joe will come too, to take care of you.

" He paused to ponder some other thought.

"In a lowered voice: 'And, Laddie, there will always be a bright piece of steel close to your hand, and when the sight has grown intolerable, you can – erase it.'

"Then around the cycle again–moaning, ague, raving, quiet.

"In one of his quiet periods, Ralph spoke: 'Daddie, there's someone worse off than I. Someone without either parent; who is in utter poverty. One who had not a friend in the world, till I came to her.

"The word 'her' caught Albert Young's attention and held it for a second.

"'Was she good to you?' he asked eagerly.

"'We loved each other,' answered Ralph.

"'Yes, but was she good to you, or was she after your money?' he repeated.

"'She asked nothing and gave all that a woman can give to a man,' said Ralph.

"'Then, by God! though she be a Chinatown harlot she shall be the richest woman in San Francisco!' he shouted.

"The next minute he wilted, as a plant wilts in an unmoist, withering heat.

"I never saw a well man die so fast. He crumpled up like a slug thrust on to a fish hook. In four days he was gone. They said he would not eat. He could not perceive food. He was a disembodied spirit from the moment he read my verdict.

"Ralph died two years back–thank God! But Molokai got him."