Sample L09 from Mignon G. Eberhart, The Cup, the Blade or the Sword. New York: Random House, 1961. Pp. 126-132. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,027 words 313 (15.4%) quotesL09

Used by permission of Random House and M. G. Eberhart. 0010-1720

Mignon G. Eberhart, The Cup, the Blade or the Sword. New York: Random House, 1961. Pp. 126-132.

Arbitrary No Hyphen: homemade [0860]

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Maude's long nose unexpectedly wrinkled up . `` Happened to be in the hall ! ! Happened to hear you quarrel about her ! ! Oh , well , you can't really blame Lolotte . She lost her beau to you '' .

But she was talking of Emile when she saw the black line of the open door ; ; Sarah remembered it clearly . Maude went on . `` I've got to get busy . Miss Celie's taken to her bed , with the door locked . She opened it an inch and poked out the keys for me to give you . Here '' -- She thrust a bundle of keys strung on a thick red cord into Sarah's hand . `` Not that there's much use in locking up the smokehouse and the storehouse now . Drink your coffee '' --

coffee . `` It's -- cold '' . Maude suddenly looked quite capable of pouring it down her throat . `` I don't want it '' , Sarah said , firmly .

`` Oh . Well -- I'll take it down with me as I go '' .

Maude swooped up the cup and hiked up her top hoop as if about to take off with a racing start . At the door she turned back , her Roman nose looking very long now and satiric . `` I forgot . Ben and Lucien have gone after them . It's just like that book your Northern friend wrote -- except there aren't any ice floes to cross and no bloodhounds '' .

`` I don't know Mrs. Stowe . What can they do if they find them '' ? ?

`` They can't do anything . It's silly , childish , running after them like that . I told Ben so . But of course the paterollers won't be of any help , not with everything so upset and that Yankee cavalry outfit they say is running around , God knows where '' .

She had swished away , she had been gone for a long time probably when Sarah suddenly realized that she ought to stop her , pour out the coffee , so no one would drink it . But then the so-called coffee was bad enough at best , cold it was all but undrinkable -- especially that cup ! !

She was deeply , horribly sure that Lucien had filled it with opium . She had quarreled with Lucien , she had resisted his demands for money -- and if she died , by the provisions of her marriage contract , Lucien would inherit legally not only the immediate sum of gold under the floorboards in the office , but later , when the war was over , her father's entire estate .

She felt cold and hot , sticky and chilly at the same time . Now wait a minute , she told herself , think about it ; ; Lucien is not the only person in this house who could have put opium in that coffee .

She had lost a bottle of opium -- but that was on the trip from New Orleans . Or someone had taken it during her first day at Honotassa . Yes , she had missed it after her talk with Emile , after dinner , just before Emile was shot . Rilly or Glendora had entered her room while she slept , bringing back her washed clothes . So somebody else could have come in , too -- then or later while she was out of the room . It would have been easy to identify as opium by its odor .

It was not very reasonable to believe that Lucien had procured unprocurable opium and come back to Honotassa with a formed plan to murder her . He didn't even know that she was there . And he certainly couldn't have guessed that she would resist his demand for the gold or that she was not the yielding -- yes , and credible fool he had every right to expect . No , he had been surprised , unpleasantly surprised , but surprised .

Then somebody else ? ? Don't question , Rev had said , don't invite danger . Her skin crawled : Lolotte had told Maude that she was in the hall and the door was open . Sarah had begun to tell Lucien of Emile , she had begun to question and a little draft had crept across the room from the bedroom door , open barely enough to show a rim of blackness in the hall . So Lolotte -- or anybody -- could have listened , and that somebody could have already been supplied with the missing bottle of opium .

That was not reasonable either . The opium had disappeared before Emile's death and whoever shot him could not by any stretch of the imagination have foreseen Sarah's own doubts and suspicions -- and questions .

She began to doubt whether there had been in fact a lethal dose of opium in the cup . So suppose somebody only wished to frighten her , so she would leave Honotassa ! !

That made a certain amount of logic . Added to the argument was the fact that while she might have tasted the coffee if it had been still hot , she might even have drunk some of it , she wouldn't have taken enough to kill her , for she would have been warned by its taste .

No . It was merely an attempt to frighten her .

She wouldn't go back to New York as Maude suggested ; ; she wouldn't run like a scared cat . But -- well , she'd be very careful .

She dressed and the accustomed routine restored to her a sense of normal everyday life .

But before she left her room she dug into her big moire bag , took out the envelope holding her marriage contract and the wax seal had been broken . So somebody else knew what would happen to her father's money if she died .

Rev had known all along . Rev didn't need to break the wax seal , read the contract and find out . He could conceivably have wished to make sure ; ; Rev loved Honotassa , it was like a part of his breath and body ; ; Rev had stressed the need for money . Rev would never have tried to give her poison ! !

She thrust the envelope back in the bag ; ; there was no point in locking it up in the armoire now , it was like locking the barn after the horse was stolen . And in all likelihood , by now , there was more than one person in the house who knew the terms of her marriage contract . There was no point either in telling herself again what a fool she'd been .

She went downstairs and received another curious shock , for when Glendora flapped into the dining room in her homemade moccasins , Sarah asked her when she had brought coffee to her room and Glendora said she hadn't . `` Too much work this morning , Miss Sarah -- everybody gone like that '' --

Sarah swallowed past another kind of constriction in her throat . `` Well , then who brought it '' ? ?

`` Miss Maude . She come to the kitchen and say she take it up to you '' . Glendora put down a dish of lukewarm rice . `` Not much breakfast this morning . I don't know what we're going to do , Miss Sarah '' .

`` We've got to eat '' , Sarah said , curtly , because a chill crawled over her again . Maude ? ?

Glendora flapped away . The rice wasn't dosed with opium , indeed it had no taste at all , not a grain of salt . She ate what she could and went out along the covered passageway , with the rain dripping from the vines . In the kitchen Glendora was despairingly picking chickens . `` Get a basket '' , Sarah told her . `` We'll go to the storehouse '' .

Glendora dropped a chicken and a flurry of feathers , and went with her through the drizzle , to the storehouse . Sarah found the right key and unlocked the door .

It was a long , low room , like a root cellar , for it was banked up with soil , and vines had run rampant over that , too . It was dark but dry and cool . She doled out what Glendora vaguely guessed were the right amounts of dried peas , eggs , cornmeal , a little salt . The shelves looked emptier than when Miss Celie had shown her the storeroom , and since the men from the Commissary had called ; ; there were certainly now fewer mouths to feed but there was less to feed them with . She took Glendora to the smokehouse , unlocked it and saw with satisfaction there was still a quantity of hams and sides of bacon , hanging from the smoke-stained rafters .

They wouldn't go hungry , not yet . And the fields were green and growing . `` Can't you possibly imagine what life is going to be like , here '' ? ? Maude had said .

Maude .

She sent Glendora back to the house , her basket and her apron laden . She stood for a moment , rain dripping from the trees over her head , thinking of Maude .

Maude had the opportunity to take the bottle of opium from Sarah's room . Maude had the cool ruthlessness to do whatever she made up her mind to do . She couldn't see how her death could affect Maude . She couldn't see any reason why Maude would attempt to frighten her . Besides , there was something hysterical and silly , something almost childish about an attempt to frighten her . Maude was neither hysterical nor silly and Sarah rather doubted if she had ever been childish .

Yet Maude had suggested that Sarah return to New York . Maude could have shot Emile -- if she'd had a reason to kill him .

There was no use in standing there in the drizzle , trying to find a link between Emile's murder and opium in a cup of coffee .

She started back for the house , saw a light in the office , opened the door and surprised a domestic little scene which was far outside the dark realm of murder or attempted murder . Rev , George and Lolotte were mending shoes .

A lighted lamp stood on the table that dusky , drizzling day . They were all three bent over a shabby riding boot ; ; George had a tack hammer . Lolotte held a patch of leather , Rev steadied something , a tiny brad , waiting for George's poised hammer . George said , `` First thing I do when I get to Vicksburg again , is get me a Yankee '' --

`` With boots on '' , Lolotte laughed softly .

Rev looked up and saw her . Lolotte looked up and stiffened . George didn't look up at all . There was no way to know , no way to guess whether any one of them was surprised at Sarah's appearance , believing her to be drugged and senseless -- and just possibly dead .

Rev said , `` Come in , Sarah . Reckon you know the news '' .

And what news , Sarah thought as satirically as Maude might have said it .

Rev's face was suddenly a little fixed and questioning . He turned to George and Lolotte . `` Take your cobbler's shop somewhere else . I want to talk to Sarah '' .

Everything in the office , the spreading circle of lamplight , the patch of leather in Lolotte's hands . George poised with the tack hammer , the homely , everyday atmosphere , all denied an attempt at murder . A rush of panic caught Sarah . `` No . Not now . I mean I've got to -- to see to the kitchen . Glendora '' --

Her words jumbled together and she all but ran from the office and from the question in Rev's face .

Now why did I do that ? ? She thought as warm , drizzling rain touched her face . She was no schoolgirl , refusing to bear tales .

As she reached the kitchen door the answer presented itself ; ; if she told anyone of the opium it must be Lucien , her husband .

It might be , indeed it had already proved to be a marriage without love , but it was marriage . So she couldn't choose Rev as a confidant ; ; it must be Lucien .

Always provided that Lucien himself had not dosed her coffee with opium , she thought , as coldly and sharply , again , as Maude might have said it .

She paused at the kitchen door , caught her breath , told herself firmly that the opium was only an attempt to frighten her and went into the kitchen , where Glendora was eyeing the chickens dismally and Maude was cleaning lamp chimneys . Glendora gave a gulp . `` Miss Sarah , I can't cut up no chicken . Miss Maude say she won't '' .

Again the homely , everyday details of daily living refuted a vicious attempt to frighten her -- or to murder her .

The homely everyday details of living and domestic requirements also pressed upon her with their immediate urgency . No matter what had happened or hadn't happened , somebody had to see about dinner . She eyed the chickens with , if she had known it , something of Glendora's dismal look and thought with a certain fury of the time she had spent on Latin verbs .