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A Child Of The Rain
A Difficult Problem
A Grammatical Ghost
A Memorable Night
A Mysterious Case
A Mystery With A Moral
A Spectral Collie
A Terribly Strange Bed
American Horses
An Astral Onion
An Intangible Clue
As Told By Mr Gryce
Bourgonef
From The Loom Of The Dead
His Last Bow
Hunted Down
Introduction To A Mystery With A Moral
Introduction To Melmoth The Wanderer
Melmoth The Wanderer
Missing: Page Thirteen
My Fascinating Friend
No 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man
On Being Found Out
On The Northern Ice
Problem Ix Violet's Own
Satire Of The Sea
Shall He Wed Her?
Story Of An Obstinate Corpse
Story Of The Vanishing Patient
The Adventure Of Black Peter
The Adventure Of Charles Augustus Milverton
The Adventure Of The Abbey Grange
The Adventure Of The Bruce-partington Plans
The Adventure Of The Cardboard Box
The Adventure Of The Dancing Men
The Adventure Of The Devil's Foot
The Adventure Of The Dying Detective
The Adventure Of The Empty House
The Adventure Of The Golden Pince-nez
The Adventure Of The Missing Three-quarter
The Adventure Of The Norwood Builder
The Adventure Of The Priory School
The Adventure Of The Red Circle
The Adventure Of The Six Napoleons
The Adventure Of The Solitary Cyclist
The Adventure Of The Three Students
The Adventure Of Wisteria Lodge
The Affair Of The Tortoise
The Avenger
The Birth-mark
The Black Cross
The Box With The Iron Clamps
The Bronze Hand
The Cambered Foot
The Case Of He Golden Bullet
The Case Of Mr Foggatt
The Case Of The Dixon Torpedo
The Case Of The Pocket Diary Found In The Snow
The Case Of The Pool Of Blood In The Pastor's Study
The Case Of The Registered Letter
The Closed Cabinet
The Coin Of Dionysius
The Disappearance Of Lady Frances Carfax
The Doctor His Wife And The Clock
The Dreaming Lady
The End Of The Road
The Fortune Teller
The Golden Slipper
The Gray Madam
The Great Valdez Sapphire
The Grotto Spectre
The Haunted And The Haunters Or The House And The Brain
The Hermit Of Street
The Hole In The Mahogany Panel
The House By The Loch
The House Of Clocks
The House That Was Not
The Incantation
The Jew's Breastplate
The Knight's Cross Signal Problem
The Last Adventure
The Last Exploit Of Harry The Actor
The Lenton Croft Robberies
The Loss Of Sammy Crockett
The Lost Lady
The Lost Room
The Man In The Green Hat
The Mortals In The House
The Mysterious Card
The Notch On The Ax - A Story A La Mode
The Oblong Box
The Old Stone House
The Piano Next Door
The Pumpkin Coach
The Quinton Jewel Affair
The Reward
The Room Of The Evil Thought
The Second Bullet
The Shape Of Fear
The Spread Rails
The Stanway Cameo Mystery
The Thing On The Hearth
The Torture By Hope
The Tragedy At Brookbend Cottage
The Wrong Sign
The Yellow Flower
Their Dear Little Ghost

The Shape Of Fear

A Child Of The Rain
A Grammatical Ghost
A Spectral Collie
An Astral Onion
From The Loom Of The Dead
On The Northern Ice
Story Of An Obstinate Corpse
Story Of The Vanishing Patient
The House That Was Not
The Piano Next Door
The Room Of The Evil Thought
The Shape Of Fear
Their Dear Little Ghost



A Child Of The Rain








IT was the night that Mona Meeks,
the dressmaker, told him she
didn't love him. He couldn't
believe it at first, because he had
so long been accustomed to the idea that she
did, and no matter how rough the weather or
how irascible the passengers, he felt a song
in his heart as he punched transfers, and rang
his bell punch, and signalled the driver when
to let people off and on.

Now, suddenly, with no reason except a
woman's, she had changed her mind. He
dropped in to see her at five o'clock, just
before time for the night shift, and to give
her two red apples he had been saving for her.
She looked at the apples as if they were in-
visible and she could not see them, and stand-
ing in her disorderly little dressmaking parlor,
with its cuttings and scraps and litter of fab-
rics, she said:

"It is no use, John. I shall have to work
here like this all my life -- work here alone.
For I don't love you, John. No, I don't. I
thought I did, but it is a mistake."

"You mean it?" asked John, bringing up
the words in a great gasp.

"Yes," she said, white and trembling and
putting out her hands as if to beg for his
mercy. And then -- big, lumbering fool --
he turned around and strode down the stairs
and stood at the corner in the beating rain
waiting for his car. It came along at length,
spluttering on the wet rails and spitting out
blue fire, and he took his shift after a
gruff "Good night" to Johnson, the man he
relieved.

He was glad the rain was bitter cold and
drove in his face fiercely. He rejoiced at
the cruelty of the wind, and when it hustled
pedestrians before it, lashing them, twisting
their clothes, and threatening their equilib-
rium, he felt amused. He was pleased at
the chill in his bones and at the hunger that
tortured him. At least, at first he thought it
was hunger till he remembered that he had
just eaten. The hours passed confusedly.
He had no consciousness of time. But it
must have been late, -- near midnight, --
judging by the fact that there were few per-
sons visible anywhere in the black storm,
when he noticed a little figure sitting at the
far end of the car. He had not seen the
child when she got on, but all was so curious
and wild to him that evening -- he himself
seemed to himself the most curious and the
wildest of all things -- that it was not surpris-
ing that he should not have observed the little
creature.

She was wrapped in a coat so much too
large that it had become frayed at the bottom
from dragging on the pavement. Her hair
hung in unkempt stringiness about her bent
shoulders, and her feet were covered with
old arctics, many sizes too big, from which
the soles hung loose.

Beside the little figure was a chest of dark
wood, with curiously wrought hasps. From
this depended a stout strap by which it could
be carried over the shoulders. John Billings
stared in, fascinated by the poor little thing
with its head sadly drooping upon its breast,
its thin blue hands relaxed upon its lap, and
its whole attitude so suggestive of hunger,
loneliness, and fatigue, that he made up his
mind he would collect no fare from it.

"It will need its nickel for breakfast," he
said to himself. "The company can stand
this for once. Or, come to think of it, I
might celebrate my hard luck. Here's to the
brotherhood of failures!" And he took a
nickel from one pocket of his great-coat and
dropped it in another, ringing his bell punch
to record the transfer.

The car plunged along in the darkness, and
the rain beat more viciously than ever in his
face. The night was full of the rushing sound
of the storm. Owing to some change of tem-
perature the glass of the car became obscured
so that the young conductor could no longer
see the little figure distinctly, and he grew
anxious about the child.

"I wonder if it's all right," he said to him-
self. "I never saw living creature sit so still."

He opened the car door, intending to speak
with the child, but just then something went
wrong with the lights. There was a blue and
green flickering, then darkness, a sudden halt-
ing of the car, and a great sweep of wind and
rain in at the door. When, after a moment,
light and motion reasserted themselves, and
Billings had got the door together, he turned
to look at the little passenger. But the car
was empty.

It was a fact. There was no child there --
not even moisture on the seat where she had
been sitting.

"Bill," said he, going to the front door and
addressing the driver, "what became of that
little kid in the old cloak?"

"I didn't see no kid," said Bill, crossly.
"For Gawd's sake, close the door, John, and
git that draught off my back."

"Draught!" said John, indignantly, "where's
the draught?"

"You've left the hind door open," growled
Bill, and John saw him shivering as a blast
struck him and ruffled the fur on his bear-skin
coat. But the door was not open, and yet
John had to admit to himself that the car
seemed filled with wind and a strange
coldness.

However, it didn't matter. Nothing mat-
tered! Still, it was as well no doubt to look
under the seats just to make sure no little
crouching figure was there, and so he did.
But there was nothing. In fact, John said to
himself, he seemed to be getting expert in
finding nothing where there ought to be some-
thing.

He might have stayed in the car, for there
was no likelihood of more passengers that
evening, but somehow he preferred going out
where the rain could drench him and the
wind pommel him. How horribly tired he
was! If there were only some still place away
from the blare of the city where a man could
lie down and listen to the sound of the sea
or the storm -- or if one could grow suddenly
old and get through with the bother of living
-- or if --

The car gave a sudden lurch as it rounded
a curve, and for a moment it seemed to be
a mere chance whether Conductor Billings
would stay on his platform or go off under
those fire-spitting wheels. He caught in-
stinctively at his brake, saved himself, and
stood still for a moment, panting.

"I must have dozed," he said to himself.

Just then, dimly, through the blurred win-
dow, he saw again the little figure of the
child, its head on its breast as before, its
blue hands lying in its lap and the curious
box beside it. John Billings felt a coldness
beyond the coldness of the night run through
his blood. Then, with a half-stifled cry, he
threw back the door, and made a desperate
spring at the corner where the eerie thing
sat.

And he touched the green carpeting on the
seat, which was quite dry and warm, as if no
dripping, miserable little wretch had ever
crouched there.

He rushed to the front door.

"Bill," he roared, "I want to know about
that kid."

"What kid?"

"The same kid! The wet one with the old
coat and the box with iron hasps! The one
that's been sitting here in the car!"

Bill turned his surly face to confront the
young conductor.

"You've been drinking, you fool," said he.
"Fust thing you know you'll be reported."

The conductor said not a word. He went
slowly and weakly back to his post and stood
there the rest of the way leaning against the
end of the car for support. Once or twice
he muttered:

"The poor little brat!" And again he
said, "So you didn't love me after all!"

He never knew how he reached home, but
he sank to sleep as dying men sink to death.
All the same, being a hearty young man, he
was on duty again next day but one, and
again the night was rainy and cold.

It was the last run, and the car was spin-
ning along at its limit, when there came a
sudden soft shock. John Billings knew what
that meant. He had felt something of the
kind once before. He turned sick for a
moment, and held on to the brake. Then
he summoned his courage and went around
to the side of the car, which had stopped.
Bill, the driver, was before him, and had a
limp little figure in his arms, and was carry-
ing it to the gaslight. John gave one look
and cried:

"It's the same kid, Bill! The one I told
you of!"

True as truth were the ragged coat dangling
from the pitiful body, the little blue hands,
the thin shoulders, the stringy hair, the big
arctics on the feet. And in the road not far
off was the curious chest of dark wood with
iron hasps.

"She ran under the car deliberate!" cried
Bill. "I yelled to her, but she looked at me
and ran straight on!"

He was white in spite of his weather-beaten
skin.

"I guess you wasn't drunk last night after
all, John," said he.

"You -- you are sure the kid is -- is there?"
gasped John.

"Not so damned sure!" said Bill.

But a few minutes later it was taken away
in a patrol wagon, and with it the little box
with iron hasps.





Next: The Room Of The Evil Thought

Previous: Story Of An Obstinate Corpse



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