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第2章 THE ARRIVAL OF THE BOY(1)

第一次世界大战期间,帕齐和贝丝都十分焦急地渴望了解战况,于是约翰叔叔向她俩娓娓道来。谈话之际门铃乍响,一个男孩前来看望大家。见到这个男孩,帕齐不禁兴奋地叫了起来。这位突然而至的访客究竟是谁呢?

"What's the news,Uncle?"asked Miss Patricia Doyle,as she entered the cosy breakfast room of a suite of apartments in Willing Square.Even as she spoke she pecked a little kiss on the forehead of the chubby man addressed as "Uncle"—none other,if you please,than the famous and eccentric multi—millionaire known in Wall Street as John Merrick—and satdown to pour the coffee.

There was energy in her method of doing this simple duty,an indication of suppressed vitality that conveyed the idea that here was a girl accustomed to action.And she fitted well into the homely scene:short and somewhat "squattya"of form,red—haired,freckle—faced and pug—nosed.Wholesome rather than beautiful was Patsy Doyle,but if you caught a glimpse of her dancing blue eyes you straightway forgot her lesser charms.

Quite different was the girl who entered the room a few minutes later.Hers was a dark olive complexion,face of exquisite contourb,great brown eyes with a wealth of hair to match them and the flush of a rose in her rounded cheeks.The poisec of her girlish figure was gracious and dignified as the bearing of a queen.

"Morning,Cousin Beth,"said Patsy cheerily.

"Good morning,my dear,"and then,with a trace of anxiety in her tone:"What is the news,Uncle John?"The little man had ignored Patsy's first question,but now he answered absently,his eyes still fixed upon the newspaper:

"Why,they're going to build another huge skyscraper on Broadway,at Eleventh,and I see the political pot is beginning to bubble all through the Bronx,although—""Stuff and nonsensea,Uncle!"exclaimed Patsy."Beth asked for news,not for gossip.""The news of the war,Uncle John,"added Beth,buttering her toast.

"Oh;the war,of course,"he said,turning over thepage of the morning paper."It ought to be the Allies'b day,for the Germans won yesterday.No—by crackyc,Beth—the Germans triumph again;they've captured Maubeuge.What do you think of that?"Patsy gave a little laugh.

"Not knowing where Maubeuge is,"she remarked,"my only thought is that something is wrong with the London press bureau.Perhaps the cables got crossed—or short circuited or something.They don't usually allow the Germans to win two days in succession.""Don't interrupt,please,"said Beth,earnestly."Thisis too important a matter to be treated lightly.Read us the article,Uncle.I was afraid Maubeuge would be taken."Patsy accepted her cousin's rebukea with her accustomed good nature.Indeed,she listened as intently as Beth to the thrilling account of the destruction of Maubeuge,and her blue eyes became quite as serious as the brown ones of her cousin when the tale of dead and wounded was recounted.

"Isn't it dreadful!"cried Beth,clasping her hands togetherimpulsively.

"Yes,"nodded her uncle,"the horror of it destroys the interest we naturally feel in any manly struggle for supremacy.""This great war is no manly struggle,"observed Patsy with a toss of her head."It is merely wholesale murder by aband of selfish diplomats.""Tut—tut!"warned Mr.Merrick;"we Americans are supposed to be neutral,my dear.We must not criticize.""That does not prevent our sympathizing with the innocent sufferers,however,"said Beth quietly."My heart goes out,Uncle,to those poor victims of the war's cruelty,the wounded and dying.I wish I could do something to help them!"Uncle John moved uneasily in his chair.Then he laid down his paper and applied himself to his breakfast.But his usual merry expression had faded into one of thoughtfulness.

"The wounded hauntb me by day and night,"went on Beth.

"There are thousands upon thousands of them,left to suffer terrible pain—perhaps to die—on the spot where they fell,and each one is dear to some poor woman who is ignorant of her lovedone's fate and can do nothing but moan and pray at home.""That's the hard part of it,"said Patsy,her cousin."Ithink the mothers and wives and sweethearts are as much to be pitied as the fallen soldiers.The men know what has happened,but the women don't.It isn't so bad when they're killed outright;the family gets a medal to indicate that their hero has died for his country.But the wounded are lost sight of and must suffer in silence,with no loving hands to soothea their agony.""My dears!"pleaded Uncle John,plaintivelyb,"why doyou insist upon flavoring our breakfast with these horrors?I—I—there!take it away;I can't eat."The conversation halted abruptly.The girls were likewise unnerved by the mental pictures evolved by their remarks and it was now too late to restore cheerfulness to the morning meal.They sat in pensivec silence for a while and were glad when Mr.Merrick pushed back his chair and rose from the table.

As Beth and Patsy followed their uncle into the cosy library where he was accustomed to smoke his morning cigar,the little man remarked:

"Let's see;this is the seventh of September.""Quite right,Uncle,"said Patsy.

"Isn't this the day Maud Stanton is due to arrive?""No,"replied Beth;"she will come to—morrow morning.It'sa good four days'trip from California to New York,you know.""I wonder why she is coming here at this time of year,"said Patsy reflectively,"and I wonder if her Aunt Jane or her sister Flo are with her.""She did not mention them in her telegram,"answeredBeth."All she said was to expect her Wednesday morning.It seems quite mysterious,that telegram,for I had no idea Maud thought of coming East.""Well,we will know all about it when she arrives,"observed Uncle John."I will be glad to see Maud again,for she is one of my especial favorites.""She's a very dear girl!"exclaimed Patsy,with emphasis.

"It will be simply glorious to—"

(美)弗兰克·鲍姆

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