Strength of the Strong and Other Stories
The Dream Of Debs
I awoke fully an hour before my customary time. This in itself was remarkable,
and I lay very wide awake, pondering over it. Something was the matter,
something was wrong - I knew not what. I was oppressed by a premonition of
something terrible that had happened or was about to happen. But what was it? I
strove to orient myself. I remembered that at the time of the Great Earthquake of
1906 many claimed they awakened some moments before the first shock and
that during these moments they experienced strange feelings of dread. Was San
Francisco again to be visited by earthquake?
I lay for a full minute, numbly expectant, but there occurred no reeling of walls
nor shock and grind of falling masonry. All was quiet. That was it! The silence! No
wonder I had been perturbed. The hum of the great live city was strangely
absent. The surface cars passed along my street, at that time of day, on an
average of one every three minutes; but in the ten succeeding minutes not a car
passed. Perhaps it was a street-railway strike, was my thought; or perhaps there
had been an accident and the power was shut off. But no, the silence was too
profound. I heard no jar and rattle of waggon wheels, nor stamp of iron-shod
hoofs straining up the steep cobble-stones.
Pressing the push-button beside my bed, I strove to hear the sound of the bell,
though I well knew it was impossible for the sound to rise three stories to me
even if the bell did ring. It rang all right, for a few minutes later Brown entered
with the tray and morning paper. Though his features were impassive as ever, I
noted a startled, apprehensive light in his eyes. I noted, also, that there was no
cream on the tray.
"The Creamery did not deliver this morning," he explained; "nor did the bakery."
I glanced again at the tray. There were no fresh French rolls - only slices of stale
graham bread from yesterday, the most detestable of bread so far as I was
"Nothing was delivered this morning, sir," Brown started to explain apologetically;
but I interrupted him.
"Yes, sir, it was delivered, but it was the only thing, and it is the last time, too.
There won't be any paper to-morrow. The paper says so. Can I send out and get
you some condensed milk?"
I shook my head, accepted the coffee black, and spread open the paper. The
headlines explained everything - explained too much, in fact, for the lengths of