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Christopher and Columbus
by Countess Elizabeth Von Arnim
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"Seen what? What haven't I seen? Ah, don't cry—don't cry like that—"

"Oh, I've lost her—lost her—"

"Lost her? Because she's marrying?"

"Lost her—lost her—" sobbed Anna-Rose.

"Come now," remonstrated Mr. Twist. "Come now. That's just flat contrary to the facts. You've lost nothing, and you've gained a brother."

"Oh,—lost her—lost her," sobbed Anna-Rose.

"Come, come now," said Mr. Twist helplessly.

"Oh," she sobbed, looking at him out of her piteous eyes, "has nobody thought of it but me? Columbus hasn't. I—I know she hasn't from what—from what—she said. She's too—too happy to think. But—haven't you thought—haven't you seen—that she'll be English now—really English—and go away from me to England with him—and I—I can't go to England—because I'm still—I'm still—an alien enemy—and so I've lost her—lost her—lost my own twin—"

And Anna-Rose dropped her head on to her knees and sobbed in an abandonment of agony.

Mr. Twist sat without saying or doing anything at all. He hadn't thought of this; nor, he was sure, had Anna-Felicitas. And it was true. Now he understood Anna-Rose's face and the despair of it. He sat looking at her, overwhelmed by the realization of her misfortune. For a moment he was blinded by it, and didn't see what it would mean for him. Then he did see. He almost leaped, so sudden was the vision, and so luminous.

"Anna-Rose," he said, his voice trembling, "I want to put my arm round you. That's because I love you. And if you'll let me do that I could tell you of a way there is out of this for you. But I can't tell you so well unless—unless you let me put my arm round you first...."

He waited trembling. She only sobbed. He couldn't even be sure she was listening. So he put his arm round her to try. At least she didn't resist. So he drew her closer. She didn't resist that either. He couldn't even be sure she knew about it. So he put his other arm round her too, and though he couldn't be sure, he thought—he hardly dared think, but it did seem as if—she nestled.

Happiness, such as in his lonely, loveless life he had never imagined, flooded Mr. Twist. He looked down at her face, which was now so close to his, and saw that her eyes were shut. Great sobs went on shaking her little body, and her tears, now that he wasn't wiping them, were rolling down her cheeks unchecked.

He held her closer to him, close to his heart where she belonged, and again he had that sensation, that wonderful sensation, of nestling.

"Little Blessed, the way out is so simple," he whispered. "Little Blessed, don't you see?"

But whether Anna-Rose saw seemed very doubtful. There was only that feeling, as to which he was no doubt mistaken, of nestling to go on. Her eyes, anyhow, remained shut, and her body continued to heave with sobs.

He bent his head lower. His voice shook. "It's so, so simple," he whispered. "All you've got to do is to marry me."

And as she made an odd little movement in his arms he held her tighter and began to talk very fast.

"No, no," he said, "don't answer anything yet. Just listen. Just let me tell you first. I want to tell you to start with how terribly I love you. But that doesn't mean you've got to love me—you needn't if you don't want to—if you can't—if you'd rather not I'm eighteen years older than you, and I know what I'm like to look at—no, don't say anything yet—just listen quiet first—but if you married me you'd be an American right away, don't you see? Just as Anna-Felicitas is going to be English. And I always intended going back to England as soon as may be, and if you married me what is to prevent your coming too? Coming to England? With Anna-Felicitas and her husband. Anna-Rose—little Blessed—think of it—all of us together. There won't be any aliens in that quartette, I guess, and the day you marry me you'll be done with being German for good and all. And don't you get supposing it matters about your not loving me, because, you see, I love you so much, I adore you so terribly, that anyhow there'll be more than enough love to go round, and you needn't ever worry about contributing any if you don't feel like it—"

Mr. Twist broke off abruptly. "What say?" he said, for Anna-Rose was making definite efforts to speak. She was also making definite and unmistakable movements, and this time there could be no doubt about it; she was coming closer.

"What say?" said Mr. Twist breathlessly, bending his head.

"But I do," whispered Anna-Rose.

"Do what?" said Mr. Twist, again breathlessly.

She turned her face up to his. On it was the same look he had lately seen on Anna-Felicitas's, shining through in spite of the disfiguration of her tears.

"But—of course I do," whispered Anna-Rose, an extraordinary smile, an awe-struck sort of smile, coming into her face at the greatness of her happiness, at the wonder of it.

"What? Do what?" said Mr. Twist, still more breathlessly.

"I—always did," whispered Anna-Rose.

"What did you always did?" gasped Mr. Twist, hardly able to believe it, and yet—and yet—there on her little face, on her little transfigured face, shone the same look.

"Oh—love you," sighed Anna-Rose, nestling as close as she could get.

* * * * *

It was Mr. Twist himself who got on a ladder at five minutes past four that afternoon and pasted a strip of white paper obliquely across the sign of The Open Arms with the word.

SHUT

on it in big letters. Li Koo held the foot of the ladder. Mr. Twist had only remembered the imminence of four o'clock and the German inrush a few minutes before the hour, because of his being so happy; and when he did he flew to charcoal and paper. He got the strip on only just in time. A car drove up as he came down the ladder.

"What?" exclaimed the principal male occupant of the car, pointing, thwarted and astonished, to the sign.

"Shut," said Mr. Twist.

"Shut?"

"Shut."

THE END

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