Sample P14 from Livingston Biddle, Jr., Sam Bentley's Island. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1961. Pp. 70-75. A part of the XML version of the Brown Corpus2,023 words 584 (28.9%) quotesP14

Used by permission of Livingstone Biddle, Jr. 0010-1750

Livingston Biddle, Jr., Sam Bentley's Island. New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1961. Pp. 70-75.

Arbitrary Hyphen: pinch-hit [1580] No Hyphen: cheekbones [0620]

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She was moving through a screen of hemlocks , in among the white birch and maples . The sounds from the quarry began to pulse in her ears . She stood , once more listening . She had never been here at this hour . She felt as if some dark , totally unfamiliar shape would clutch at her arm ; ; but she found the path she always used , the stubs of branches she had broken , those she had pushed aside ; ; and she walked easily now , and more slowly , until she could see the dark glisten of water beneath her .

If I ever committed suicide , she thought , I would dive straight down from here -- and no one would find me for days . She smiled , and expertly let herself downward , holding this known root or that , her sneakers sliding in the leaves .

She jumped out onto the flat expanse of rock and , seating herself , shook her short-cut brown hair and tilted her chin far upward . The reedy music of the frogs had faded , but presently it began again , growing in volume until it was vibrant . Julia felt at peace and drew her legs up and clasped her hands tightly around the bent knees . She had accomplished a miracle . This was her place . The hour couldn't change it . Only -- only -- her thoughts were a little strange . They were becoming confused . Perhaps it was because it was so late , and because she had no business to be here now .

She was thinking of Paul a few weeks ago , in the Easter holidays , with her at one of those awful Friday Evening Dancing Class parties her mother had made her attend . `` Hello , Julie , how are you '' ? ? And then off he went so casually , to someone else with breasts better developed , more obvious in a lower-cut dress , someone without a mouthful of wire bands and an inability to find words that would hold him . I wish he was with me now , she thought , and that we were both the ages we are and doing what was once only pretense and acute embarrassment . Oh God ! ! I wish I were older or younger , Julia Bentley thought . I wish so much someone loved me .

George Rawlings remembered seeing the door open sometime during the night -- Millie , in a white robe , standing like a ghost at the threshold . She had vanished ; ; he must have slept again . He was staring at the blue china lamp left on beside him . It seemed too much trouble even to reach for the switch ; ; but of course the impossible effort of leaving would have to be made on this Monday morning . This room was like a prison . He would not be indebted to Sam ! ! Below him , as if at the end of some remote tunnel , he heard the humming of a vacuum cleaner . His fingers fumbled across the bandages . They had left both of his eyes uncovered . Well , he told himself , let's put the show on the road .

He was walking across to the bathroom . He drank a glass of water and gripped the sink with both hands . A fearful pain had come from his head , as if the water were coursing up through the blood vessels and expanding them . He recognized his jacket and trousers . The fabric was dark ; ; the stains weren't too apparent ; ; and there were his shoes , thank God , but his shirt was one terrible mess .

He shivered , and then tore away the blood-soaked parts and wound the rest around his neck like a scarf . Sam would be amazed to find him gone . Millie would have to understand . She must have put his clothes in the closet . He found a lump rising in his throat because of that one simple act of tidiness . He was on the verge of tears . Alex Poldowski -- in a fashion he owed a debt to that effete gentleman . At least Alex had told him he wasn't dying . Perhaps George Rawlings would be better off dead .

What time was it ? ? He peered at his wristwatch . Strange , it was still running . A quarter to seven . Too early for a vacuum cleaner , but probably Sam wanted the whole house in order before he came downstairs . He was kneeling to tie his shoelaces . His fingers felt absurdly thick and clumsy . He rose slowly and looked into the mirror on the inside of the closet door . He barely knew himself . This was some freak , two strands of adhesive tape across his nose , like ugly roots from the mass of gauze , suddenly moist over his cheekbones . The surface , however , was perfectly white .

He was drinking another glass of water . It was after seven o'clock . He was supposed to be in court this afternoon , at City Hall . Who would take over ? ? He'd have to think , but the main thing , the imperative necessity , was to leave before Sam Bentley was up and about , and before Millie detained him with sympathy .

He entered the hallway . He was actually walking down the stairs . A plane up in the sky , above the clouds , and this freakish wreck of a man desperately trying to get away .

`` Father , is that you '' ? ? The voice issued from the cavern of the hall below . George did not reply . `` Is that you , Father ? ? Who's there '' ? ?

For a moment he felt like a thief discovered . Then Julia appeared under the arch leading to the dining room . She stood gazing at him .

`` Uncle George '' ! !

He was trying to smile at her .

`` Gosh ! ! You shouldn't be up , should you '' ? ?

`` I -- I was just leaving here , Julie . I'm all set . Just about to call a taxi '' .

She was wearing some sort of gray blazer . She seemed overly tall , her brow knitted in concern . `` Well , at least you won't have to do that '' , she was saying . `` I'm about to leave myself . I'll drop you off '' .

`` You're leaving '' ? ?

`` I'm going back to school '' , she answered . `` Pietro's driving me . I'm just finishing breakfast . But have you told Mother you were going '' ? ? She asked him .

`` No . I just don't want anyone disturbed , Julie . That's my wish . It's quite a big one '' , he added .

Her face seemed to float in an implausibly bright shaft of sunlight . `` Well , won't you come in then , have a cup of coffee -- or something ? ? Or maybe a drink '' ? ? She asked , in a way that seemed oddly sophisticated , considerate , and yet perhaps partly scornful . He tried to see her face more clearly .

`` No -- nothing at all '' , he said after a moment's hesitation . `` I'll just wait for you here '' .

He leaned his head against the wood paneling behind him , but the vivid red images of pain inserted themselves against his eyelids . He raised them . Julia moved past .

`` I have to say good-bye upstairs . I won't be long '' .

`` As a great favor , Julie '' , he said , `` please don't mention you've seen me '' .

`` Not to anyone '' ? ?

`` No -- please . `` I'll call your mother as soon as I get home . It'll be so much easier '' .

`` All right '' She was staring at him .

`` I'm fine , Julie . Please , you just go ahead '' .

She had disappeared . He could feel a pulse pounding against the bandages . He imagined Sam's voice : `` George , what the hell goes on '' ? ? I wouldn't have the strength to answer , he thought . Maybe I couldn't have called a taxi .

He could hear the footsteps overhead . He saw the suitcase , which Julia was holding . He stood up .

`` I'll take that , Julie -- for you '' .

`` Oh no '' , she said . `` I can manage '' .

She went ahead of him . Outside the Lincoln was parked . He could hardly believe he was getting in . Pietro was gazing at him in an insolent , disdainful fashion ; ; but that didn't matter .

We'll drop Mr. Rawlings off in Ardmore '' , Julia said , and for the merest second George was reminded of her father's tone with servants . To the manner born -- odd to have such a thought at a time like this ; ; yet her inflection seemed forced or rehearsed . He could not stop to analyze . He had never felt particularly close to her . Carrie seemed more affectionate , but obviously Julia had respected his request . He took her hand .

`` I wish I didn't have to go back to school '' , she said , and then , `` I wish you lived in New York . That's in the opposite direction '' .

`` I wish I did '' , he responded . `` I wish I wasn't wearing this ridiculous costume , and that we could go to a theater together , or a nice restaurant , forget we knew '' He stopped speaking .

`` Forget we ever knew what '' ? ?

`` Oh , just sort of everything in general '' .

She said nothing until Pietro had slackened their pace . `` I know you feel badly , but that sounds like such a queer thing for you to say '' .

`` Does it '' ? ? He asked . `` Yes , perhaps . I'm supposed to joke about things , aren't I ? ? But sometimes life can be rather a disappointing business '' .

His voice seemed thick and purposeless . He relinquished her hand . He could see the stone building where he lived . Just a few more steps . Abruptly he reached into his pocket . Yes , there was the key .

`` Are you positive you'll be all right by yourself '' ? ? She asked him .

For a moment he smiled . `` Yes , Julie dear . You've done me the greatest possible service . By myself I'll be fine '' .

`` Take care of yourself then '' .

`` I will . You , also . Don't work too hard '' .

It was an automatic phrase ; ; as he crossed through the courtyard he regretted it . He should have discovered a more tender farewell . Someone shouted at him , `` Well ! ! Will you look at George Rawlings ! ! What happened to you '' ? ?

`` I bumped into a door handle '' , George said .

Someone laughed . George walked steadily ahead into his entry . His bandages seemed on fire . He had shut his door with the brass number screwed to it . In the kitchenette the raw whiskey made him gasp . Just one or two swallows , he told himself , enough to lessen some of the pain .

He was telephoning . `` No , Millie , I'm home . No , really , right as rain . Tell Sam not to worry about the car . I'll get it hauled away . No , please -- no visit today -- I'll be asleep . For God's sake , don't worry . That upsets me more than anything . Yes , sure , I'll see the doctor -- this evening , if you insist .

There was one more call to make .

`` Joan , did I wake you '' ? ? He asked . `` Yes , I thought you'd probably be up . Look , sweetheart , some fool was . Happened to be driving somewhat intoxicated last night . Unfortunately it turned out to be me , but I wouldn't quite put it that way to the boss . Oh hell no , I'm not in a hospital . I won't be in town for a couple of days , though , and there's that case I was supposed to handle this afternoon . Too bad a jury isn't involved . I might struggle in for a jury . I'd win hands down . But I thought maybe Tony Elliott could pinch-hit for me . He'll understand -- you might give him sort of a tactful nudge . He's got all the facts . I wouldn't want to ask for a postponement -- it's really just a routine thing . What ? ? No , darling I'd rather you didn't come out '' . A smile pulled at the lower strip of adhesive tape . `` Don't even send flowers . I'll see you Wednesday . I'll bribe you with a nice '' -- He was about to say `` double martini '' but thought better of it . `` I'll take you out to dinner . Okay ? ?

He had put down the receiver . A strange relationship between Joan Fulbright and himself . Who knew about it ? ? She lived alone in the older part of the city , in one of those renovated houses whose brick facade some early settler had constructed . She had two tiny rooms on the second floor . She was a clever girl , a most efficient secretary . She let him come and go as he pleased , or as it pleased her . In the office you might have thought them only casual friends ; ; yet if he said : Make an excuse yourself , come out here today , she would have been on the next train -- and , similarly , if she had been in need , he would have gone to her .