…Madame Forestier had halted. “You say you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?”
“Yes. You hadn’t noticed it? They were very much alike.” And she smiled in proud and innocent happiness.
Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her two hands. “Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was worth at the very most five hundred francs!”
“Oh!” exclaimed Mathilde. “Then surely you won’t mind selling it and giving me back the difference.”
Madame Forestier, even more deeply moved, grasped her two shoulders. “Of course not, dear! Let’s go to the jeweler’s this instant! With the appreciation on a thing like that I can easily buy another rhinestone job and you should have enough money left to retire.”
Mathilde breathed a profound sigh of relief. Her life of deprivation was behind her at last. “Wow!” she gasped. “What a pleasant surprise…”
…As he is about to clasp her he feels a stunning blow upon the back of the neck; a blinding white light blazes all about him with a sound like the shock of a cannon — then all is darkness and silence! Peyton Farquhar was dead; his body, with a broken neck, swung gently from side to side beneath the timbers of the Owl Creek bridge.
“For crying out loud Peyton, wake up and quit moaning!” his wife shouted. “You’re probably having that damn war flashback nightmare again!”
“Woah!” Farquhar exclaimed. “It was so vivid!”
“It was ‘vivid’ three times last month!” his wife snapped. “Look — they didn’t hang you, all right? The rope broke, you escaped, I hid you in the cellar for the rest of the war and now here we both are, safe and sound. For heaven’s sake, that was almost forty years ago — think you’d get over it by now. Now shut the hell up and go back to sleep.”
“Why’d I ever marry the old sow?” Peyton muttered to himself as he rolled over. “But that dream! What a shock!”
…Jim tumbled down on the couch and put his hands under the back of his head and smiled. “Dell,” said he, “let’s put our Christmas presents away and keep ’em a while. They’re too nice to use just at present. I sold the watch to get the money to buy your combs.”
“Aw, thanks honey! You’re really sweet,” said Della, as she bent down to give him a kiss. “Good thing I didn’t cut off ALL my hair. What the heck, it was almost to my ankles. These combs’ll do just fine for the pageboy do I’ve got now. You think I should get the ends frosted or…?”
But by this time Jim was on the phone to the pawnbroker. “Hey, Max, could you do me a favor?” he said. After Max had listened to the whole story and had a good laugh, he promised to hold on to the watch until Della’s hair grew out enough to sell again and they could redeem the precious heirloom. “Oh, and Jim!” Max added before hanging up the phone. “You ought to get yourself a literary agent and sell the rights to your story. It’s a real bombshell!”
…The blind man stood for a long time, swallowing hoarsely. He gulped: “Parsons! I thought you — …Yes. Maybe so. MAYBE SO! BUT I’M BLIND! I’M BLIND, AND YOU’VE BEEN STANDING HERE LETTING ME SPOUT TO YOU, AND LAUGHING AT ME EVERY MINUTE OF IT! I’M BLIND!”
Mr. Parsons looked over, almost piteously and said reflectively, “Well, don’t make such a row about it, Markwardt …. So am I.”
Markwardt gulped and said sheepishly, “Well, actually Parsons, I’m not really blind. Truth is I’m a no-account lazy drunk. I just pretend to be blind because I get more money panhandling that way.”
“Aw hell,” said Parsons, “I’m not really blind either. I figured if you couldn’t see me you wouldn’t know I was lying and I could get out of here without having to give you anything. But all right, damn it, you got me — here’s a fifty. Now beat it.”
“Thanks pal!” called the retreating Markwardt. “What a windfall!”
And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
Went home and put a bullet through his head.
– – – Epilogue – – –
‘Twas only then that everyone found out
He suffered from a dire and dread disease
That would have done him in, there was no doubt,
Before the coming autumn tinged the trees.
His life insurance said it wouldn’t pay
For suicides. His will and testament
Was voided due to fiscal foul play.
His wife and kids were left without a cent.
An inquest formed to delve into his past
Revealed some startling news about the man:
The day before he fired the fatal blast
He’d introduced a profit-sharing plan
For every worker toiling in his mill
From night shift to supplies to cleaning crew.
We owned the fact’ry, stock, land and goodwill
And all his private goods and chattels too.
Our Corycorp shares soared to record heights.
We’ve cash for meat and scotch and private school.
And after work on warm calm summer nights
We swim in Richard Cory’s heated pool.