The Man in Lower Ten
16. The Shadow Of A Girl
Certain things about the dinner at the Dallas house will always be obscure to me. Dallas
was something in the Fish Commission, and I remember his reeling off fish eggs in
billions while we ate our caviar. He had some particular stunt he had been urging the
government to for years - something about forbidding the establishment of mills and
factories on river-banks - it seems they kill the fish, either the smoke, or the noise, or
something they pour into the water.
Mrs. Dallas was there, I think. Of course, I suppose she must have been; and there was a
woman in yellow: I took her in to dinner, and I remember she loosened my clams for me
so I could get them. But the only real person at the table was a girl across in white, a
sublimated young woman who was as brilliant as I was stupid, who never by any chance
looked directly at me, and who appeared and disappeared across the candles and orchids
in a sort of halo of radiance.
When the dinner had progressed from salmon to roast, and the conversation had done the
same thing - from fish to scandal - the yellow gown turned to me. "We have been awfully
good, haven't we, Mr. Blakeley?" she asked. "Although I am crazy to hear, I have not
said 'wreck' once. I'm sure you must feel like the survivor of Waterloo, or something of
"If you want me to tell you about the wreck," I said, glancing across the table, "I'm sorry
to be disappointing, but I don't remember anything."
"You are fortunate to be able to forget it." It was the first word Miss West had spoken
directly to me, and it went to my head.
"There are some things I have not forgotten," I said, over the candles. "I recall coming to
myself some time after, and that a girl, a beautiful girl - "
"Ah!" said the lady in yellow, leaning forward breathlessly. Miss West was staring at me
coldly, but, once started, I had to stumble on.
"That a girl was trying to rouse me, and that she told me I had been on fire twice
already." A shudder went around the table.
"But surely that isn't the end of the story," Mrs. Dallas put in aggrievedly. "Why, that's
the most tantalizing thing I ever heard."
"I'm afraid that's all," I said. "She went her way and I went mine. If she recalls me at all,
she probably thinks of me as a weak-kneed individual who faints like a woman when
everything is over.