The Man in Lower Ten
14. The Trap-Door
By Sunday evening, a week after the wreck, my inaction had goaded me to frenzy. The
very sight of Johnson across the street or lurking, always within sight of the house, kept
me constantly exasperated. It was on that day that things began to come to a focus, a
burning-glass of events that seemed to center on me.
I dined alone that evening in no cheerful frame of mind. There had been a polo game the
day before and I had lent a pony, which is always a bad thing to do. And she had
wrenched her shoulder, besides helping to lose the game. There was no one in town: the
temperature was ninety and climbing, and my left hand persistently cramped under its
Mrs. Klopton herself saw me served, my bread buttered and cut in tidbits, my meat ready
for my fork. She hovered around me maternally, obviously trying to cheer me.
"The paper says still warmer," she ventured. "The thermometer is ninety-two now."
"And this coffee is two hundred and fifty," I said, putting down my cup. "Where is
Euphemia? I haven't seen her around, or heard a dish smash all day."
"Euphemia is in bed," Mrs. Klopton said gravely. "Is your meat cut small enough, Mr.
Lawrence?" Mrs. Klopton can throw more mystery into an ordinary sentence than any
one I know. She can say, "Are your sheets damp, sir?" And I can tell from her tone that
the house across the street has been robbed, or that my left hand neighbor has
appendicitis. So now I looked up and asked the question she was waiting for.
"What's the matter with Euphemia?" I inquired idly.
"Frightened into her bed," Mrs. Klopton said in a stage whisper. "She's had three hot
water bottles and she hasn't done a thing all day but moan."
"She oughtn't to take hot water bottles," I said in my severest tone. "One would make me
moan. You need not wait, I'll ring if I need anything."
Mrs. Klopton sailed to the door, where she stopped and wheeled indignantly. "I only hope
you won't laugh on the wrong side of your face some morning, Mr. Lawrence," she
declared, with Christian fortitude. "But I warn you, I am going to have the police watch
that house next door."
I was half inclined to tell her that both it and we were under police surveillance at that
moment. But I like Mrs. Klopton, in spite of the fact that I make her life a torment for
her, so I refrained.