_Henry Slesar, young New York advertisingexecutive and by now no

longer a new-comer to either this magazine or to this field,

describes a strange little town that you, yourself, may blunder into

one of these evenings. But, if you do, beware--beware of the





The woman in the doorway looked so harmless. Who

was to tell she had some rather startling interests?

The woman in the doorway looked like Mom in the homier political

cartoons. She was plump, apple-cheeked, white-haired. She wore a fussy,

old-fashioned nightgown, and was busily clutching a worn house-robe

around her expansive middle. She blinked at Sol Becker's rain-flattened

hair and hang-dog expression, and said: "What is it? What do you want?"

"I'm sorry--" Sol's voice was pained. "The man in the diner said

you might put me up. I had my car stolen: a hitchhiker; going to

Salinas ..." He was puffing.

"Hitchhiker? I don't understand." She clucked at the sight of the pool

of water he was creating in her foyer. "Well, come inside, for heaven's

sake. You're soaking!"

"Thanks," Sol said gratefully.

With the door firmly shut behind him, the warm interior of the little

house covered him like a blanket. He shivered, and let the warmth seep

over him. "I'm terribly sorry. I know how late it is." He looked at his

watch, but the face was too misty to make out the hour.

"Must be nearly three," the woman sniffed. "You couldn't have come at a

worse time. I was just on my way to court--"

The words slid by him. "If I could just stay overnight. Until the

morning. I could call some friends in San Fernando. I'm very susceptible

to head colds," he added inanely.

"Well, take those shoes off, first," the woman grumbled. "You can

undress in the parlor, if you'll keep off the rug. You won't mind using

the sofa?"

"No, of course not. I'd be happy to pay--"

"Oh, tush, nobody's asking you to pay. This isn't a hotel. You mind if I

go back upstairs? They're gonna miss me at the palace."

"No, of course not," Sol said. He followed her into the darkened parlor,

and watched as she turned the screw on a hurricane-style lamp, shedding

a yellow pool of light over half a flowery sofa and a doily-covered wing

chair. "You go on up. I'll be perfectly fine."

"Guess you can use a towel, though. I'll get you one, then I'm going up.

We wake pretty early in this house. Breakfast's at seven; you'll have to

be up if you want any."

"I really can't thank you enough--"

"Tush," the woman said. She scurried out, and returned a moment later

with a thick bath towel. "Sorry I can't give you any bedding. But you'll

find it nice and warm in here." She squinted at the dim face of a

ship's-wheel clock on the mantle, and made a noise with her tongue.

"Three-thirty!" she exclaimed. "I'll miss the whole execution ..."

"The what?"

"Goodnight, young man," Mom said firmly.

She padded off, leaving Sol holding the towel. He patted his face, and

then scrubbed the wet tangle of brown hair. Carefully, he stepped off

the carpet and onto the stone floor in front of the fireplace. He

removed his drenched coat and suit jacket, and squeezed water out over

the ashes.

He stripped down to his underwear, wondering about next morning's

possible embarrassment, and decided to use the damp bath towel as a

blanket. The sofa was downy and comfortable. He curled up under the

towel, shivered once, and closed his eyes.

* * * * *

He was tired and very sleepy, and his customarynightlyreview was

limited to a few detached thoughts about the wedding he was supposed to

attend in Salinas that weekend ... the hoodlum who had responded to his

good-nature by dumping him out of his own car ... the slogging walk to

the village ... the little round woman who was hurrying off, like the

White Rabbit, to some mysterious appointment on the upper floor ...

Then he went to sleep.

A voice awoke him, shrill and questioning.

"Are you _nakkid_?"

His eyes flew open, and he pulled the towel protectively around his body

and glared at the little girl with the rust-red pigtails.

"Huh, mister?" she said, pushing a finger against her freckled nose.

"Are you?"

"No," he said angrily. "I'm not naked. Will you please go away?"

"Sally!" It was Mom, appearing in the doorway of the parlor. "You leave

the gentleman alone." She went off again.

"Yes," Sol said. "Please let me get dressed. If you don't mind." The

girl didn't move. "What time is it?"

"Dunno," Sally shrugged. "I like poached eggs. They're my favorite eggs

in the whole world."

"That's good," Sol said desperately. "Now why don't you be a good girl

and eat your poached eggs. In the kitchen."

"Ain't ready yet. You going to stay for breakfast?"

"I'm not going to do anything until you get out of here."

She put the end of a pigtail in her mouth and sat down on the chair

opposite. "I went to the palace last night. They had an exelution."

"Please," Sol groaned. "Be a good girl, Sally. If you let me get

dressed, I'll show you how to take your thumb off."

"Oh, that's an old trick. Did you ever see an exelution?"

"No. Did you ever see a little girl with her hide tanned?"


"_Sally!_" Mom again, sterner. "You get out of there, or

you-know-what ..."

"Okay," the girl said blithely. "I'm goin' to the palace again. If I

brush my teeth. Aren't you _ever_ gonna get up?" She skipped out of the

room, and Sol hastily sat up and reached for his trousers.

When he had dressed, the clothes still damp and unpleasant against his

skin, he went out of the parlor and found the kitchen. Mom was busy at

the stove. He said: "Good morning."

"Breakfast in ten minutes," she said cheerfully. "You like poached


"Sure. Do you have a telephone?"

"In the hallway. Party line, so you may have to wait."

He tried for fifteen minutes to get through, but there was a woman on

the line who was terribly upset about a cotton dress she had ordered

from Sears, and was telling the world about it.

Finally, he got his call through to Salinas, and a sleepy-voiced Fred,

his old Army buddy, listened somewhat indifferently to his tale of woe.

"I might miss the wedding," Sol said unhappily. "I'm awfully sorry."

Fred didn't seem to be half as sorry as he was. When Sol hung up, he was

feeling more despondent than ever.

A man, tall and rangy, with a bobbing Adam's apple and a lined face,

came into the hallway. "Hullo?" he said inquiringly. "You the fella had

the car stolen?"


The man scratched his ear. "Take you over to Sheriff Coogan after

breakfast. He'll let the Stateys know about it. My name's Dawes."

Sol accepted a careful handshake.

"Don't get many people comin' into town," Dawes said, looking at him

curiously. "Ain't seen a stranger in years. But you look like the rest

of us." He chuckled.

Mom called out: "Breakfast!"

* * * * *

At the table, Dawes asked his destination.

"Wedding in Salinas," he explained. "Old Army friend of mine. I picked

this hitchhiker up about two miles from here. He _seemed_ okay."

"Never can tell," Dawes said placidly, munching egg. "Hey, Ma. That why

you were so late comin' to court last night?"

"That's right, Pa." She poured the blackest coffee Sol had ever seen.

"Didn't miss much, though."

"What court is that?" Sol asked politely, his mouth full.

"Umagum," Sally said, a piece of toast sticking out from the side of her

mouth. "Don't you know _nothin'_?"

"_Arma_gon," Dawes corrected. He looked sheepishly at the stranger.

"Don't expect Mister--" He cocked an eyebrow. "What's the name?"


"Don't expect Mr. Becker knows anything about Armagon. It's just a

dream, you know." He smiled apologetically.

"Dream? You mean this--Armagon is a place you dream about?"

"Yep," Dawes said. He lifted cup to lip. "Great coffee, Ma." He leaned

back with a contented sigh. "Dream about it every night. Got so used to

the place, I get all confused in the daytime."

Mom said: "I get muddle-headed too, sometimes."

"You mean--" Sol put his napkin in his lap. "You mean _you_ dream about

the same place?"

"Sure," Sally piped. "We all go there at night. I'm goin' to the palace

again, too."

"If you brush your teeth," Mom said primly.

"If I brush my teeth. Boy, you shoulda seen the exelution!"

"Execution," her father said.

"Oh, my goodness!" Mom got up hastily. "That reminds me. I gotta call

poor Mrs. Brundage. It's the _least_ I could do."

"Good idea," Dawes nodded. "And I'll have to round up some folks and get

old Brundage out of there."

Sol was staring. He opened his mouth, but couldn't think of the right

question to ask. Then he blurted out: "What execution?"

"None of _your_ business," the man said coldly. "You eat up, young man.

If you want me to get Sheriff Coogan lookin' for your car."

The rest of the meal went silently, except for Sally's insistence upon

singing her school song between mouthfuls. When Dawes was through, he

pushed back his plate and ordered Sol to get ready.

Sol grabbed his topcoat and followed the man out the door.

"Have to stop someplace first," Dawes said. "But we'll be pickin' up the

Sheriff on the way. Okay with you?"

"Fine," Sol said uneasily.

The rain had stopped, but the heavy clouds seemed reluctant to leave the

skies over the small town. There was a skittish breeze blowing, and Sol

Becker tightened the collar of his coat around his neck as he tried to

keep up with the fast-stepping Dawes.

* * * * *

They crossed the street diagonally, and entered a two-story wooden

building. Dawes took the stairs at a brisk pace, and pushed open the

door on the second floor. A fat man looked up from behind a desk.

"Hi, Charlie. Thought I'd see if you wanted to help move Brundage."

The man batted his eyes. "Oh, Brundage!" he said. "You know, I clean

forgot about him?" He laughed. "Imagine me forgetting that?"

"Yeah." Dawes wasn't amused. "And you Prince Regent."

"Aw, Willie--"

"Well, come on. Stir that fat carcass. Gotta pick up Sheriff Coogan,

too. This here gentleman has to see him about somethin' else."

The man regarded Sol suspiciously. "Never seen you before. Night _or_

day. Stranger?"

"Come _on_!" Dawes said.

The fat man grunted and hoisted himself out of the swivel chair. He

followed lamely behind the two men as they went out into the street


A woman, with an empty market basket, nodded casually to them. "Mornin',

folks. Enjoyed it last night. Thought you made a right nice speech, Mr.


"Thanks," Dawes answered gruffly, but obviously flattered. "We were just

goin' over to Brundage's to pick up the body. Ma's gonna pay a call on

Mrs. Brundage around ten o'clock. You care to visit?"

"Why, I think that's very nice," the woman said. "I'll be sure and do

that." She smiled at the fat man. "Mornin', Prince."

Sol's head was spinning. As they left the woman and continued their

determined march down the quiet street, he tried to find answers.

"Look, Mr. Dawes." He was panting; the pace was fast. "Does _she_ dream

about this--Armagon, too? That woman back there?"


Charlie chuckled. "He's a stranger, all right."

"And you, Mr.--" Sol turned to the fat man. "You also know about this

palace and everything?"

"I told you," Dawes said testily. "Charlie here's Prince Regent. But

don't let the fancy title fool you. He got no more power than any Knight

of the Realm. He's just too dern fat to do much more'n sit on a throne

and eat grapes. That right, Charlie?"

The fat man giggled.

"Here's the Sheriff," Dawes said.

The Sheriff, a sleepy-eyed citizen with a long, sad face, was rocking on

a porch as they approached his house, trying to puff a half-lit pipe. He

lifted one hand wearily when he saw them.

"Hi, Cookie," Dawes grinned. "Thought you, me, and Charlie would get

Brundage's body outa the house. This here's Mr. Becker; he got another

problem. Mr. Becker, meet Cookie Coogan."

The Sheriff joined the procession, pausing only once to inquire into

Sol's predicament.

He described the hitchhiker incident, but Coogan listened stoically. He

murmured something about the Troopers, and shuffled alongside the

puffing fat man.

Sol soon realized that their destination was a barber shop.

Dawes cupped his hands over the plate glass and peered inside. Gold

letters on the glass advertised: HAIRCUT SHAVE & MASSAGE PARLOR. He

reported: "Nobody in the shop. Must be upstairs."

* * * * *

The fat man rang the bell. It was a while before an answer came.

It was a reedy woman in a housecoat, her hair in curlers, her eyes red

and swollen.

"Now, now," Dawes said gently. "Don't you take on like that, Mrs.

Brundage. You heard the charges. It hadda be this way."

"My poor Vincent," she sobbed.

"Better let us up," the Sheriff said kindly. "No use just lettin' him

lay there, Mrs. Brundage."

"He didn't mean no harm," the woman snuffled. "He was just purely

ornery, Vincent was. Just plain mean stubborn."

"The law's the law," the fat man sighed.

Sol couldn't hold himself in.

"What law? Who's dead? How did it happen?"

Dawes looked at him disgustedly. "Now is it any of _your_ business? I

mean, is it?"

"I don't know," Sol said miserably.

"You better stay out of this," the Sheriff warned. "This is a local

matter, young man. You better stay in the shop while we go up."

They filed past him and the crying Mrs. Brundage.

When they were out of sight, Sol pleaded with her.

"What happened? How did your husband die?"

"Please ..."

"You must tell me! Was it something to do with Armagon? Do you dream

  • advertising [´ædvətaiziŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.广告a.广告的   (初中英语单词)
  • executive [ig´zekjutiv] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.行政的 n.行政官   (初中英语单词)
  • doorway [´dɔ:wei] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.门口   (初中英语单词)
  • stolen [´stəulən] 移动到这儿单词发声  steal 的过去分词   (初中英语单词)
  • firmly [´fə:mli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.坚固地,稳定地   (初中英语单词)
  • interior [in´tiəriə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&a.内部地(的)   (初中英语单词)
  • warmth [wɔ:mθ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.温暖;热情;激动   (初中英语单词)
  • terribly [´terəbli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.可怕地   (初中英语单词)
  • parlor [´pɑ:lə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.客厅;起居室   (初中英语单词)
  • carpet [´kɑ:pit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.地毯 vt.铺地毯   (初中英语单词)
  • jacket [´dʒækit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.茄克衫;外套   (初中英语单词)
  • review [ri´vju:] 移动到这儿单词发声  v.&n.复习;回顾;检查   (初中英语单词)
  • wedding [´wediŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.婚礼,结婚   (初中英语单词)
  • supposed [sə´pəuzd] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.想象的;假定的   (初中英语单词)
  • rabbit [´ræbit] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.兔子,野兔   (初中英语单词)
  • mysterious [mi´stiəriəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.神秘的;难以理解的   (初中英语单词)
  • hastily [´heistili] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.急速地;草率地   (初中英语单词)
  • sheriff [´ʃerif] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.郡长;行政长官   (初中英语单词)
  • coldly [´kəuldli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.冷淡地   (初中英语单词)
  • silently [´sailəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.寂静地;沉默地   (初中英语单词)
  • breeze [bri:z] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.微风;不费力的事   (初中英语单词)
  • collar [´kɔlə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.衣领;(狗等的)项圈   (初中英语单词)
  • prince [´prins] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.王子;亲王;君主   (初中英语单词)
  • obviously [´ɔbviəsli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.明显地;显而易见地   (初中英语单词)
  • procession [prə´seʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.队伍 v.列队行进   (初中英语单词)
  • incident [´insidənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.小事件;事变   (初中英语单词)
  • barber [´bɑ:bə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.理发师   (初中英语单词)
  • gently [´dʒentli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.温和地;静静地   (初中英语单词)
  • blunder [´blʌndə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&v.(犯)大错;疏忽   (高中英语单词)
  • harmless [´hɑ:mləs] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.无害的,无恶意的   (高中英语单词)
  • startling [´stɑ:tliŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.惊人的   (高中英语单词)
  • perfectly [´pə:fiktli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.理想地;完美地   (高中英语单词)
  • mantle [´mæntl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.斗蓬 v.覆盖;笼罩   (高中英语单词)
  • execution [,eksi´kju:ʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.执行;演奏;表演   (高中英语单词)
  • tangle [´tæŋgəl] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.&vt.(使)缠结;纠纷   (高中英语单词)
  • fireplace [´faiəpleis] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.壁炉,炉灶   (高中英语单词)
  • decided [di´saidid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.明显的;决定的   (高中英语单词)
  • sleepy [´sli:pi] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.困的,想睡的   (高中英语单词)
  • customary [´kʌstəməri] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.通常的;惯例的   (高中英语单词)
  • shrill [ʃril] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.(声音)尖锐的   (高中英语单词)
  • angrily [´æŋgrili] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.生气地;愤怒地   (高中英语单词)
  • desperately [´despəritli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.绝望地;拼命地   (高中英语单词)
  • unpleasant [ʌn´plezənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.不愉快的;不合意的   (高中英语单词)
  • cheerfully [´tʃiəfuli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.高兴地,愉快地   (高中英语单词)
  • awfully [´ɔ:fuli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.令人畏惧地   (高中英语单词)
  • politely [pə´laitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.温和地;文雅地   (高中英语单词)
  • eyebrow [´aibrau] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.眉   (高中英语单词)
  • contented [kən´tentid] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.满足的;心满意足的   (高中英语单词)
  • napkin [´næpkin] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.餐巾;手帕;尿布   (高中英语单词)
  • spinning [´spiniŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.纺织 a.纺织品的   (高中英语单词)
  • alongside [əlɔŋ´said] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.在旁 prep.横靠   (高中英语单词)
  • destination [,desti´neiʃən] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.目标地   (高中英语单词)
  • busily [´bizili] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.忙碌地   (英语四级单词)
  • overnight [,əuvə´nait] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.通宵 a.昨晚的   (英语四级单词)
  • upstairs [,ʌp´steəz] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.在楼上 a.楼上的   (英语四级单词)
  • flowery [´flauəri] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.多花的   (英语四级单词)
  • embarrassment [im´bærəsmənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.窘迫;困惑;为难   (英语四级单词)
  • nightly [´naitli] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.&ad.每夜(的)   (英语四级单词)
  • weekend [´wi:kend, ,wi:k´end] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.周末休假   (英语四级单词)
  • freckled [´frekld] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.有雀斑的,有斑点的   (英语四级单词)
  • reluctant [ri´lʌktənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.勉强的;难得到的   (英语四级单词)
  • carcass [´kɑ:kəs] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(动物的)尸体   (英语四级单词)
  • trying [´traiiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  a.难堪的;费劲的   (英语四级单词)
  • wearily [´wiərili] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.疲倦地;厌烦地   (英语四级单词)
  • cookie [´kuki] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.家常小甜饼   (英语四级单词)
  • bedding [´bediŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.寝具;垫草;基础   (英语六级单词)
  • holding [´həuldiŋ] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.保持,固定,存储   (英语六级单词)
  • underwear [´ʌndəweə] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.内衣;衬衣   (英语六级单词)
  • hallway [´hɔ:lwei] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.(美)门厅,过道   (英语六级单词)
  • indifferently [in´difrəntli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.不关心地;冷淡地   (英语六级单词)
  • insistence [in´sistəns] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.坚持;坚决主张   (英语六级单词)
  • gruffly [´grʌmfli] 移动到这儿单词发声  ad.粗暴地   (英语六级单词)
  • regent [´ri:dʒənt] 移动到这儿单词发声  n.摄政者 a.摄政的   (英语六级单词)

  • 上传人 欢乐鱼 分享于 2017-06-26 18:00:22
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