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WEIRD TALES

FEBRUARY, 1937

At the Time Appointed

By LORETTA BURROUGH

The father hated his son with a vindictive hatred, all because of a childhood
accident—and his hatred culminated in a ghastly jest,
there in the silent tomb
 

NOW that Nick Carruthers had the letter in his hand, it seemed amazing to him that he could have gone about the shabby business of his daily life-getting a scanty breakfast, poring for hours over thumbed racingsheets while he made his desperate guesses-with it lying all the morning outside his door. He had heard it thump down while he was still in bed, and the concierge shuffle away, list slippers flopping, and not stirred, thinking, "Another damn bill!"

Even when he had finally opened his door and picked the letter up, nothing had moved in him at the black lines of the return address in the upper left-hand comer of the envelope. He had forgotten that Stevens and Brewster were his father's attorneys; looking at the blue United States stamp, he had almost forgotten that he had ever been a citizen of that land. It had been forwarded three times, following him on his ever downward passage through meaner streets to meaner rooming-houses.

Sitting now on his rumpled bed, he lighted a cigarette with unsteady fingers and reread the letter. The green bank draft for a thousand dollars was folded into his pocket, sitting snugly next to his heart.

The letter ran:

Dear Mr. Carruthers,

We regret to inform you of the death of your father on September 12th last. According to the terms of his will, everything that he possesses has been left to you.

There is, however, a rather curious circumstance connected with this. At the time of his death, he had converted all his securities, real estate, etc., into cash with which he bought precious stones— you are no doubt aware of his great interest in gems. We have no knowledge as to the disposition of this large fortune in jewels, but we have in our possession a sealed letter for you, which the will states contains information of the whereabouts of your inheritance. We will appreciate it if you will let us know when we may expect you in our office.

According to your late father's instructions, we are forwarding a bank draft for one thousand dollars.

Cordially yours,
Evan W. Stevens.

Nick was stunned by his good fortune—this magical draft that would set him free from his horrible life here, and beyond that the pouring torrent of his father's millions, glittering and winking in emeralds and rubies and many-faceted gleaming diamonds. It was incredible, it was glorious! What had happened in the old devil's heart that had permitted his hated son to inherit?

He got up from the bed and crossed to the window. Flat gray clouds hung from the muggy October sky, close to those acres of bleak dirty roofs and chimney-pots; Parisian squalor, he thought, was filthier than any other kind. Automobiles chugged and hurried; grimy people scurried through the streets.

He threw up the window and leaned out into the fetid air. "Good-bye!" he shouted to the oblivious heads below, then came back into the room.

He must get some clothes first, so that he should not look too much like a tramp on the boat going over. And then pay his bills and buy his passage—he was dazed by remembering how brightly the sun shone on the Atlantic, and how clean and free was ocean air.

Whistling a little, he began to tidy up the room; his thousand-dollar draft had given him the respectable instincts of a clean man again, not a bum. So Father was paying him back at last for his horrible childhood and wretched youth! Roger Carruthers must have got religion on his death bed.

HIS face shadowed, Nick began to get into his one half-way decent suit. All that hate and savage cruelty because of a child's innocent terrible accident! He had been six years old when it happened, too young to know what he was doing. He had been playing alone in the library. A rainy day; he remembered clearly the rain slanting down the long windows, rushing with soft thundering sounds from the leaden gutters. There had been a gun, blue and heavy in his small hands, that Father had kept in the right-hand drawer of the library table; for even in those days, he owned too many precious stones and feared robbers. Nick had been playing he was Father, protecting his jewels against burglars. Mother, smiling, had come in the door, and he had pointed the gun at her, said "Boo!" and pulled the trigger with all the strength of his small hands.

Knotting his tie before the cracked,...

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