It Happened Near a Lake by John Collier
This is a short story written by John Collier. Mr Beaseley inherits a lot of money and decides to travel. His wife follows him to nag him. He meets a doctor who tells him about a monster in the Amazon River. They go there and Mrs Beaseley decides to leave them and go to a big city. She discovers the monster’s footprints and doesn’t want her husband to see them. While she’s approaching the edge of the river brushing off the footprints, the monster attacks her. Mr Beaseley returns to the city thinking his wife is already there.
It Happened Near a Lake by John Collier
Mrs Beaseley went with him. She hated it; but she was prepared to do anything that reduced her husband’s pleasure.
Mr Beaseley was fifty. As he washed, he examined his face in the mirror. ‘I’m older,’ he thought. ‘But what do I care? I don’t care, even if Maria does. And she’s getting old, too!’ He finished dressing and hurried downstairs. He thought anxiously that he was probably late for breakfast. Immediately after breakfast he had to open his shop, and that always kept him busy until ten o’clock at night. He never made much money, although he worked so hard. Sometimes, during the day, Maria Beaseley came into the shop and explained the mistakes that he was making. She did this even when there were customers there. He found a little happiness every morning when he opened the newspaper. While he was reading it, he could escape from his dull life. For a short time he could forget. On Fridays he enjoyed himself more than on other days. On Fridays he received his copy of a magazine called Scientific Discoveries. With Scientific Discoveries he escaped from the dull house and his hopeless life into a more exciting world. On this particular morning, good news came to Mr Beaseley in his own home . It came in a long envelope from a lawyer. ‘Believe it or not, my dear,’ Mr Beaseley said to his wife. ‘Someone has died and left me four hundred thousand dollars.’ ‘What?’ she said. ‘Where? Let me see! Don’t keep the letter to yourself like that! Give it to me!’ ‘Go on!’ he said. ‘Read it! Push your nose into it! Do you think it will help you?’ ‘Oh!’ she cried. ‘The money has already made you unpleasant!’ ‘Yes,’ he said thoughtfully. ‘I’ve been left four hundred thousand dollars. Four hundred thousand!’
‘We’ll be able to have a flat in New York,’ she said, ‘or a little house in Miami. ‘ ‘You can have half the money,’ said Mr Beaseley. ‘You can do what you like with it. But I intend to travel.’ Mrs Beaseley heard these words without pleasure. He belonged to her. She never liked losing anything that belonged to her. She always wanted to keep everything, even things that had become old and useless.
So you want to leave me!’ she cried. ‘I want to see other places, unusual places, different places. In Scientific Discoveries it says that there are people with very long necks. I want to see them. And I want to see the very small people who live in Africa, and some of the strange animals and birds. I want to visit the old cities of the Yucatan in Mexico. I have offered you half the money because you like city life. You like mixing with the rich and the famous, but I prefer to travel. If you want to come with me, comе.’ She did not have to think long before answering. ‘I will come,’ she said. ‘And don’t forget that I’m doing it for you. When you’re tired of walking around with your mouth open, we’ll buy a house. We’ll have a flat in New York and a house in ‘Miami. ‘ So Mrs Beaseley went with him. She hated it; but she was prepared to do anything that reduced her husband’s pleasure. Their journeys took them into dеер forests. Their bedroom walls and floors were often made of plain wood; but outside the window there were beautiful views. The colours of the flowers and the straightness of the trees looked fine in the bright light. In the high mountains of the Andes their window was a square of burning blue. Sometime s a small whit e cloud appeared in a lower corner of the square. On islands in the sun they stayed in huts by the sea. Ther e the sea brought offerings of plants and sea creature s to their door in the mornings. Mr Beaseley was glad, but his wife preferred bottles of wine . She dreamed every day of a flat in New York; or she thought about the little house in Miami . She tried endlessly to punish the man who kept her from them.
If a beautiful bird came to rest on a branch over her husband’s head, she gave a terrible cry. Then the bird flew away before Mr Beaseley had the time to examine it. When they planned a trip to the Yucatan, she told him the wrong time for the start of the journey. Often, while he was trying to watch an interesting animal, she told him that she had something in her eye. So he had to look into it and get the thing out. Usually he found nothing. She wanted to stay in Buenos Aires for a long time. She had to have her hair done; she also needed some better clothes. Mr Beaseley agreed to these trips because he wanted to be fair to her. They took rooms in a comfortable hotel. One day, when his wife was out hopping, Mr Beaseley me t a little Portuguese doctor. Soon they were talking happily together. They discussed some of the animals that lived in South America.
I have recently returned from the River Amazon,’ said the doctor. ‘In one of the lakes there is a very strange creature. It is unknown to science, but the Indians have seen it. It is very big. It lives in the water and has a very long neck. Its teeth are like knives.’ Mr Beaseley was terribly excited. ‘What a monster! ‘ he cried happily. ‘Yes,’ said the Portuguese doctor. ‘It is certainly interesting.’ ‘I must go there!’ cried Mr Beaseley. ‘I must talk to those Indians. If there’s a monster in the lake, I must see it. Will you show me the way? Can you come with me?’ The doctor agreed, and they decided to prepare for the trip immediately. Mrs Beaseley returned from the shops and learned of the new plan with little pleasure. The two men explained that they would live near the unknown lake. They would spend their time with the Indians. She was not pleased, and she spoke rudely to the little doctor. He just replied politely. He had no need to worry. He was going to be paid well for his help. Mrs Beaseley complained loudly all the way up the river. She told her husband that there was no monster in the lake. She said that the doctor was lying to him. Although this was the way she always spoke, her husband was hurt. He felt ashamed in front of the Portuguese man. His wife’s voice was also very loud and sharp, so every animal hurried away from them. Mr Beaseley saw nothing of the animals except their back legs. They all left the great river and the terrible voice at high speed and hid themselves in the dark forest behind the biggest trees. The little party reached the lake after many days on the river.
‘How do we know that this is the right place?’ Mrs Beaseley said to her husband. She was watching the doctor, who was talking to some Indians. ‘It is probably just a lake. It’s not a special one. What are those Indians saying to him? You can’t understand a word. You’re ready to believe anything, aren’t you? You’ll never see the monster. Only a stupid person would believe that story ‘ Mr Beaseley did not reply. The doctor continued his conversation with the Indians, and they gave him some useful information. They told him about an empty grass hut which was near the lake. The little party found this hut with great difficulty, and they stayed in it for several days. Mr Beaseley watched the lake every day, but he never saw the monster. In fact, he saw nothing at all. Mrs Beaseley was very satisfied with the result of their long journey, but she continued to look angry. One day she shouted at her husband. ‘I will not live this kind of life any longer,’ she said. ‘I’ve followed you from one place to another. I’ve tried to watch you and take care of you all the time. I’ve travelled hundreds of kilometres in an open boat with Indians. Now you’re throwing your money away on a man who only wants to rob you. We shall leave for Para in the morning.’ You can go if you wish,’ he said. ‘I’ll write you a cheque for two hundred thousand dollars. Perhaps you can ask an Indian to take you down the river in a boat. But I will not come with you.’ ‘We shall see,’ she said. She had no wish to leave her husband alone. She was afraid that he might enjoy himself. He wrote out the cheque and gave it to her. She still continued to talk about leaving him, but she stayed. She got up early the next morning and went outside the hut. She decided to have breakfast alone, and walked angrily towards some trees intending to pick some fruit. But she had not gone far before she noticed a mark on the sand. It was a very large footprint nearly a metre wide. The toes seemed to have sharp points, and the next footprint was three metres away. Mrs Beaseley looked without interest at the marks which the monster had left. Her only feeling was anger at the thought of her husband’s success. She was angry because the Portuguese doctor had been right. She did not cry out in excitement; she did not call to the sleeping men. She only gave a kind of bitter laugh.
Then she picked up a small branch which was lying on the ground. The monster’s footprints had never been seen before by a European, but she brushed the first one with the branch until it disappeared. When she had finished, she smiled to herself. There was now no sign of the footprint, and so she looked for the next one. She cleaned that away, too. Further on she saw another, and then one more. She brushed earth over them. Then she saw another, moved towards it. and made it disappear. She continued in this way, holding the branch with both hands. Soon every footprint down to the edge of the lake had gone. The last fool print was partly in the water. The monster had clearly gone back to the lake. Mrs Beaseley stood up straight. She looked coldly back towards the hut. ‘I will tell you about this,’ she said to herself, thinking of her sleeping husband, ‘when we are far away. We shall be in our house in Miami , and you will be an old man. You will never see the footprint or the monster. You’ll be too old to do anything then.’ At that moment there was a sound in the water behind her and large teeth closed on her. The Portuguese doctor had described these teeth very well: they were exactly like knives. He had described a number of other details, but she had no time to see if they were correct. After she had given one short cry, she was pulled under the water. Her cry was not heard by either of the men. She had used her voice too much during the past weeks, and it was tired.
A short time later Mr Beaseley awoke and saw that his wife was absent. He went to talk to the doctor, and asked him if he had seen her. The doctor, of course, knew nothing and went back to sleep. Mr Beaseley went outside and looked around for his wife, but he could see nothing. He returned to his friend ‘I think my wife has run away,’ he explained. ‘I’ve found her footprints. They lead down to the lake. I expect she saw an Indian in his boat who has taken her away from here. She was talking about leaving yesterday. She wants to find a small house in Miami. ‘
‘That is not a bad place,’ the doctor replied. ‘But Buenos Aires is probably a better one’. I’m sorry we haven’t found the monster, my dear friend. Let us go back to Buenos Aires. I will show you some things there that will surprise you. They are very different from anything here, of course.’ ‘You’re a very good friend,’ said Mr Beaseley. ‘You make even life in a city SEEM attractive.’ ‘If you get tired of it,’ the Portuguese said, we can always move on. I know some wonderful islands, with friendly people on them. We can visit them after we leave the cities.’