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Fearing, Kenneth (ed.) / The Wisconsin literary magazine
Volume XXIII, Number III (December 1923)

Schindler, John
Whispers and screams,   p. 9

Page 9

Whispers and Screams
)ohn Schindler.
There was nothing in the night that might have
stirred the imaginative hopes of youth. It was
one of those listless, dead, moonless nights; there
was no satisfaction in having it about one. Its
embrace lacked that submissive feminine pressure
that makes a heaven of the evening in June. But
there was a wind; a mysterious hidden wind, stir-
ring through dry leaves, whispering little rhetor-
ical speeches with which to win Catherine. Cath-
erine and I were not engaged. But there was the
wind-and I did not know but what we might be
before the evening was over. She might attempt
to elude me diplomatically after the conventional
preliminary manner. Yet she was, I knew, nor-
mally feminine. I began to enjoy fair hopes, as
she did perhaps, of negotiating dearer relations.
For a time we walked along in silence. I allowed
myself anticipation.
Then, with piercing suddenness, a woman's
voice went screaming into the night. Wild, hys-
terical, agonized-just for the briefest moment.
Then all was silent-and changed.
I felt suddenly weak and shaken. The wind
had stopped its whispering. My arm dropped
to my side, away from her.  Catherine, beside
me, grew cold and tense. I felt at the time that
our feelings were purely conventional sentiment,
yet I knew that for the time being Catherine and
I were hoplessly estranged.
We slunk back to the hotel, silently, where all
was tensely still now. There we parted without
a word.
There was nothing in the morning papers.
The affair refused to be thrust from my
mind.   Could this man, with   his worried
look, be concerned?  Was that the woman,
sitting opposite in the lobby, with the drooping
eyes? She was pretty, and of that extremely
femine type who are continually changing their
minds upon an afterthought. I pictured to my-
self the doom and the circumstances leading to
the scream. Vivid possibilities went winging
their way through my head. I fancied a man
speeding to the border. Had the affair been hid-
den, perhaps, by murder? Was the woman be-
ing kept silent? Or was the story to burst into
flame in the evening papers?
The evening papers contained nothing. Per-
haps after all it had been my imagination. I
crept stealthily to my room, and the scream
crept with me.
There came a knock upon my door; my an-
swer ushered in Catherine. She was leaving,
she said, on the evening train. I felt somehow
small and mean before her, and she seemed too
somewhat confused. Then it occurred to me,
between gulps of embarrassment, that she was
strikingly beautiful there in the doorway, and I
remembered the previous night before the scream
had killed it. It was quite possible that she was
to go out of my life forever.  A whisper welled
up from somewhere within me until it choked and
drowned the scream. Entirely upon intuition I
obeyed that whisper. She struggled, rather
weakly I thought, and I heard the scream of the
night before. But now it was empty and mean-
ingless and easily stilled with a few simple kisses.
The Sundering
For fifty years Abel and Sarah Jordan had
shared, as man and wife, the same bed, food, sor-
rows, and ecstacies that constitute the cycle of
life on a Massachussets farm.  Children were
born of them; their two lives had settled to one
rythm; they were capable of communicating with
each other by signs and habits, and they spoke
Abel Jordan on his death-bed, just before un-
consciousness overtook him, suddenly stretched
out his arm, shook hands with Sarah, and mutter-
ed embarrassedly:
"Well, good-bye Mrs. Jordan; I'm glad t'have
met you."
-K. Fearing.
December, 1923

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