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The Troll Garden and Selected Stories
Willa Cather.


Introduction by Rita Mae Brown



CONTENTS:

SELECTED STORIES

On the Divide
Eric Hermannson's Soul
The Enchanted Bluff
The Bohemian Girl

THE TROLL GARDEN

Flavia and Her Artists
The Sculptor's Funeral8
"A Death in the Desert"
The Garden Lodge
The Marriage of Phaedra
A Wagner Matinee
Paul's Case

* * * * *

SELECTED STORIES


On the Divide


Near Rattlesnake Creek, on the side of a little draw stood
Canute's shanty.  North, east, south, stretched the level
Nebraska plain of long rust-red grass that undulated constantly
in the wind.  To the west the ground was broken and rough, and a
narrow strip of timber wound along the turbid, muddy little
stream that had scarcely ambition enough to crawl over its black
bottom.  If it had not been for the few stunted cottonwoods and
elms that grew along its banks, Canute would have shot himself
years ago.  The Norwegians are a timber-loving people, and if
there is even a turtle pond with a few plum bushes around it they
seem irresistibly drawn toward it.

As to the shanty itself, Canute had built it without aid of
any kind, for when he first squatted along the banks of
Rattlesnake Creek there was not a human being within twenty
miles.  It was built of logs split in halves, the chinks stopped
with mud and plaster.  The roof was covered with earth and was
supported by one gigantic beam curved in the shape of a round
arch.  It was almost impossible that any tree had ever grown in
that shape.  The Norwegians used to say that Canute had taken the
log across his knee and bent it into the shape he wished.  There
were two rooms, or rather there was one room with a partition
made of ash saplings interwoven and bound together like big straw
basket work.  In one corner there was a cook stove, rusted and
broken.  In the other a bed made of unplaned planks and poles. it
was fully eight feet long, and upon it was a heap of dark bed
clothing.  There was a chair and a bench of colossal proportions. 
There was an ordinary kitchen cupboard with a few cracked dirty
dishes in it, and beside it on a tall box a tin washbasin.  Under
the bed was a pile of pint flasks, some broken, some whole,
all empty.  On the wood box lay a pair of shoes of almost
incredible dimensions.  On the wall hung a saddle, a gun, and
some ragged clothing, conspicuous among which was a suit of dark
cloth, apparently new, with a paper collar carefully wrapped in a
red silk handkerchief and pinned to the sleeve.  Over the door hung
a wolf and a badger skin, and on the door itself a brace of thirty
or forty snake skins whose noisy tails rattled ominously every time
it opened.  The strangest things in the shanty were the wide
windowsills.  At first glance they looked as though they had been
ruthlessly hacked and mutilated with a hatchet, but on closer
inspection all the notches and holes in the wood took form and
shape.  There seemed to be a series of pictures.  They were, in a
rough way, artistic, but the figures were heavy and labored, as
though they had been cut very slowly and with very awkward
instruments.  There were men plowing with little horned imps
sitting on their shoulders and on their horses' heads. There were
men praying with a skull hanging over their heads and little demons
behind them mocking their attitudes.  There were men fighting with
big serpents, and skeletons dancing together.  All about these
pictures were blooming vines and foliage such as never grew in this
world, and coiled among the branches of the vines there was always
the scaly body of a serpent, and behind every flower there was a
serpent's head.  It was a veritable Dance of Death by one who had
felt its sting.  In the wood box lay some boards, and every inch of
them was cut up in the same manner.  Sometimes the work was very
rude and careless, and looked as though the hand of the workman had
trembled.  It would sometimes have been hard to distinguish the men
from their evil geniuses but for one fact, the men were always
grave and were either toiling or praying, while the devils were
always smiling and dancing.  Several of these boards had been split
for kindling and it was evident that the artist did not value his
work highly.

It was the first day of winter on the Divide.  Canute stumbled
into his shanty carrying a basket of. cobs, and after filling the
stove, sat down on a stool and crouched his seven foot frame over
the fire, staring drearily out of the window at the wide gray
sky.  He knew by heart every individual clump of bunch grass in the
miles of red shaggy prairie that stretched before his cabin.  He
knew it in all the deceitful loveliness of its early summer, in all
the bitter barrenness of its autumn.  He had seen it smitten by all
the plagues of Egypt.  He had seen it parched by drought, and
sogged by rain, beaten by hail, and swept by fire, and in the
grasshopper years he had seen it eaten as bare and clean as bones
that the vultures have left.  After the great fires he had seen it
stretch for miles and miles, black and smoking as the floor of
hell.

He rose slowly and crossed the room, dragging his big feet
heavily as though they were burdens to him.  He looked out of the
window into the hog corral and saw the pigs burying themselves in
the straw before the shed.  The leaden gray clouds were beginning
to spill themselves, and the snow flakes were settling down over
the white leprous patches of frozen earth where the hogs had gnawed
even the sod away.  He shuddered and began to walk, trampling
heavily with his ungainly feet.  He was the wreck of ten winters on
the Divide and he knew what that meant.  Men fear the winters of
the Divide as a child fears night or as men in the North Seas fear
the still dark cold of the polar twilight.  His eyes fell upon his
gun, and he took it down from the wall and looked it over.  He sat
down on the edge of his bed and held the barrel towards his face,
letting his forehead rest upon it, and laid his finger on the
trigger.  He was perfectly calm, there was neither passion nor
despair in his face, but the thoughtful look of a man who is
considering.  Presently he laid down the gun, and reaching into the
cupboard, drew out a pint bottle of raw white alcohol.  Lifting it
to his lips, he drank greedily.  He washed his face in the tin
basin and combed his rough hair and shaggy blond beard.  Then he
stood in uncertainty before the suit of dark clothes that hung on
the wall.  For the fiftieth time he took them in his hands and
tried to summon courage to put them on.  He took the paper collar
that was pinned to the sleeve of the coat and cautiously slipped it
under his rough beard, looking with timid expectancy into the
cracked, splashed glass that hung over the bench.  With a short
laugh he threw it down on the bed, and pulling on his old
black hat, he went out, striking off across the level.

It was a physical necessity for him to get away from his cabin
once in a while.  He had been there for ten years, digging and
plowing and sowing, and reaping what little the hail and the hot
winds and the frosts left him to reap.  Insanity and suicide are
very common things on the Divide.  They come on like an epidemic in
the hot wind season.  Those scorching dusty winds that blow up over
the bluffs from Kansas seem to dry up the blood in men's veins as
they do the sap in the corn leaves.  Whenever the yellow scorch
creeps down over the tender inside leaves about the ear, then the
coroners prepare for active duty; for the oil of the country is
burned out and it does not take long for the flame to eat up the
wick.  It causes no great sensation there when a Dane is found
swinging to his own windmill tower, and most of the Poles after
they have become too careless and discouraged to shave themselves
keep their razors to cut their throats with.

It may be that the next generation on the Divide will be very
happy, but the present one came too late in life.  It is useless
for men that have cut hemlocks among the mountains of Sweden for
forty years to try to be happy in a country as flat and gray and
naked as the sea.  It is not easy for men that have spent their
youth fishing in the Northern seas to be content with following a
plow, and men that have served in the Austrian army hate hard work
and coarse clothing on the loneliness of the plains, and long for
marches and excitement and tavern company and pretty barmaids. 
After a man has passed his fortieth birthday it is not easy for him
to change the habits and conditions of his life.  Most men bring
with them to the Divide only the dregs of the lives that they have
squandered in other lands and among other peoples.

Canute Canuteson was as mad as any of them, but his madness
did not take the form of suicide or religion but of alcohol.  He
had always taken liquor when he wanted it, as all Norwegians do,
but after his first year of solitary life he settled down to it
steadily.  He exhausted whisky after a while, and went to alcohol,
because its effects were speedier and surer.  He was a big man and
with a terrible amount of resistant force, and it took a great
deal of alcohol even to move him.  After nine years of drinking,
the quantities he could take would seem fabulous to an ordinary
drinking man.  He never let it interfere with his work, he
generally drank at night and on Sundays.  Every night, as soon as
his chores were done, he began to drink.  While he was able to sit
up he would play on his mouth harp or hack away at his window sills
with his jackknife.  When the liquor went to his head he would lie
down on his bed and stare out of the window until he went to sleep. 
He drank alone and in solitude not for pleasure or good cheer, but
to forget the awful loneliness and level of the Divide.  Milton
made a sad blunder when he put mountains in hell.  Mountains
postulate faith and aspiration.  All mountain peoples are
religious.  It was the cities of the plains that, because of their
utter lack of spirituality and the mad caprice of their vice, were
cursed of God.

Alcohol is perfectly consistent in its effects upon man. 
Drunkenness is merely an exaggeration.  A foolish man drunk becomes
maudlin; a bloody man, vicious; a coarse man, vulgar.  Canute was
none of these, but he was morose and gloomy, and liquor took him
through all the hells of Dante.  As he lay on his giant's bed all
the horrors of this world and every other were laid bare to his
chilled senses.  He was a man who knew no joy, a man who toiled in
silence and bitterness.  The skull and the serpent were always
before him, the symbols of eternal futileness and of eternal hate.

When the first Norwegians near enough to be called neighbors
came, Canute rejoiced, and planned to escape from his bosom vice. 
But he was not a social man by nature and had not the power of
drawing out the social side of other people.  His new neighbors
rather feared him because of his great strength and size, his
silence and his lowering brows.  Perhaps, too, they knew that he
was mad, mad from the eternal treachery of the plains, which every
spring stretch green and rustle with the promises of Eden, showing
long grassy lagoons full of clear water and cattle whose hoofs are
stained with wild roses.  Before autumn the lagoons are dried up,
and the ground is burnt dry and hard until it blisters and cracks
open.

So instead of becoming a friend and neighbor to the men that
settled about him, Canute became a mystery and a terror.  They told
awful stories of his size and strength and of the alcohol he drank.

They said that one night, when he went out to see to his horses
just before he went to bed, his steps were unsteady and the rotten
planks of the floor gave way and threw him behind the feet of a
fiery young stallion.  His foot was caught fast in the floor, and
the nervous horse began kicking frantically.  When Canute felt the
blood trickling down into his eyes from a scalp wound in his head,
he roused himself from his kingly indifference, and with the quiet
stoical courage of a drunken man leaned forward and wound his arms
about the horse's hind legs and held them against his breast with
crushing embrace.  All through the darkness and cold of the night
he lay there, matching strength against strength.  When little Jim
Peterson went over the next morning at four o'clock to go with him
to the Blue to cut wood, he found him so, and the horse was on its
fore knees, trembling and whinnying with fear.  This is the story
the Norwegians tell of him, and if it is true it is no wonder that
they feared and hated this Holder of the Heels of Horses.

One spring there moved to the next "eighty" a family that made
a great change in Canute's life.  Ole Yensen was too drunk most of
the time to be afraid of any one, and his wife Mary was too
garrulous to be afraid of any one who listened to her talk, and
Lena, their pretty daughter, was not afraid of man nor devil.  So
it came about that Canute went over to take his alcohol with Ole
oftener than he took it alone, After a while the report spread that
he was going to marry Yensen's daughter, and the Norwegian girls
began to tease Lena about the great bear she was going to keep
house for.  No one could quite see how the affair had come about,
for Canute's tactics of courtship were somewhat peculiar.  He
apparently never spoke to her at all: he would sit for hours with
Mary chattering on one side of him and Ole drinking on the other
and watch Lena at her work.  She teased him, and threw flour in his
face and put vinegar in his coffee, but he took her rough jokes
with silent wonder, never even smiling.  He took her to church
occasionally, but the most watchful and curious people never
saw him speak to her.  He would sit staring at her while she
giggled and flirted with the other men.

Next spring Mary Lee went to town to work in a steam laundry. 
She came home every Sunday, and always ran across to Yensens to
startle Lena with stories of ten cent theaters, firemen's dances,
and all the other esthetic delights of metropolitan life.  In a few
weeks Lena's head was completely turned, and she gave her father no
rest until he let her go to town to seek her fortune at the ironing
board.  From the time she came home on her first visit she began to
treat Canute with contempt.  She had bought a plush cloak and kid
gloves, had her clothes made by the dress maker, and assumed airs
and graces that made the other women of the neighborhood cordially
detest her.  She generally brought with her a young man from town
who waxed his mustache and wore a red necktie, and she did not even
introduce him to Canute.

The neighbors teased Canute a good deal until he knocked one
of them down.  He gave no sign of suffering from her neglect except
that he drank more and avoided the other Norwegians more carefully
than ever, He lay around in his den and no one knew what he felt or
thought, but little Jim Peterson, who had seen him glowering at
Lena in church one Sunday when she was there with the town man,
said that he would not give an acre of his wheat for Lena's life or
the town chap's either; and Jim's wheat was so wondrously worthless
that the statement was an exceedingly strong one.

Canute had bought a new suit of clothes that looked as nearly
like the town man I s as possible.  They had cost him half a millet
crop; for tailors are not accustomed to fitting giants and they
charge for it.  He had hung those clothes in his shanty two months
ago and had never put them on, partly from fear of ridicule, partly
from discouragement, and partly because there was something in his
own soul that revolted at the littleness of the device.

Lena was at home just at this time.  Work was slack in the
laundry and Mary had not been well, so Lena stayed at home, glad
enough to get an opportunity to torment Canute once more.

She was washing in the side kitchen, singing loudly as
she worked.  Mary was on her knees, blacking the stove and scolding
violently about the young man who was coming out from town that
night.  The young man had committed the fatal error of laughing at
Mary's ceaseless babble and had never been forgiven.

"He is no good, and you will come to a bad end by running with
him!  I do not see why a daughter of mine should act so.  I do not
see why the Lord should visit such a punishment upon me as to give
me such a daughter.  There are plenty of good men you can marry."

Lena tossed her head and answered curtly, "I don't happen to
want to marry any man right away, and so long as Dick dresses nice
and has plenty of money to spend, there is no harm in my going with
him."

"Money to spend?  Yes, and that is all he does with it I'll be
bound.  You think it very fine now, but you will change your tune
when you have been married five years and see your children running
naked and your cupboard empty.  Did Anne Hermanson come to any good
end by marrying a town man?"

"I don't know anything about Anne Hermanson, but I know any of
the laundry girls would have Dick quick enough if they could get
him."

"Yes, and a nice lot of store clothes huzzies you are too.  Now
there is Canuteson who has an 'eighty' proved up and fifty head
of cattle and--"

"And hair that ain't been cut since he was a baby, and a big
dirty beard, and he wears overalls on Sundays, and drinks like a
pig.  Besides he will keep.  I can have all the fun I want, and
when I am old and ugly like you he can have me and take care of me.

The Lord knows there ain't nobody else going to marry him."

Canute drew his hand back from the latch as though it were red
hot.  He was not the kind of man to make a good eavesdropper, and
he wished he had knocked sooner.  He pulled himself together and
struck the door like a battering ram.  Mary jumped and opened it
with a screech.

"God!  Canute, how you scared us!  I thought it was crazy Lou--
he has been tearing around the neighborhood trying to convert
folks.  I am afraid as death of him.  He ought to be sent off, I
think.  He is just as liable as not to kill us all, or burn
the barn, or poison the dogs.  He has been worrying even the poor
minister to death, and he laid up with the rheumatism, too!  Did
you notice that he was too sick to preach last Sunday?  But don't
stand there in the cold, come in.  Yensen isn't here, but he just
went over to Sorenson's for the mail; he won't be gone long.  Walk
right in the other room and sit down."

Canute followed her, looking steadily in front of him and not
noticing Lena as he passed her.  But Lena's vanity would not allow
him to pass unmolested.  She took the wet sheet she was wringing
out and cracked him across the face with it, and ran giggling to
the other side of the room.  The blow stung his cheeks and the
soapy water flew in his eves, and he involuntarily began rubbing
them with his hands.  Lena giggled with delight at his
discomfiture, and the wrath in Canute's face grew blacker than
ever.  A big man humiliated is vastly more undignified than a
little one.  He forgot the sting of his face in the bitter
consciousness that he had made a fool of himself He stumbled
blindly into the living room, knocking his head against the door
jamb because he forgot to stoop.  He dropped into a chair behind
the stove, thrusting his big feet back helplessly on either side of
him.

Ole was a long time in coming, and Canute sat there, still and
silent, with his hands clenched on his knees, and the skin of his
face seemed to have shriveled up into little wrinkles that trembled
when he lowered his brows.  His life had been one long lethargy of
solitude and alcohol, but now he was awakening, and it was as when
the dumb stagnant heat of summer breaks out into thunder.

When Ole came staggering in, heavy with liquor, Canute rose at
once.

"Yensen," he said quietly, "I have come to see if you will let
me marry your daughter today."

"Today!" gasped Ole.

"Yes, I will not wait until tomorrow.  I am tired of living alone."

Ole braced his staggering knees against the bedstead, and
stammered eloquently: "Do you think I will marry my daughter to a
drunkard? a man who drinks raw alcohol? a man who sleeps with
rattle snakes?  Get out of my house or I will kick you out
for your impudence."  And Ole began looking anxiously for his feet.

Canute answered not a word, but he put on his hat and went out
into the kitchen.  He went up to Lena and said without looking at
her, "Get your things on and come with me!"

The tones of his voice startled her, and she said angrily,
dropping the soap, "Are you drunk?"

"If you do not come with me, I will take you--you had better
come," said Canute quietly.

She lifted a sheet to strike him, but he caught her arm
roughly and wrenched the sheet from her.  He turned to the wall and
took down a hood and shawl that hung there, and began wrapping her
up.  Lena scratched and fought like a wild thing.  Ole stood in the
door, cursing, and Mary howled and screeched at the top of her
voice.  As for Canute, he lifted the girl in his arms and went out
of the house.  She kicked and struggled, but the helpless wailing
of Mary and Ole soon died away in the distance, and her face was
held down tightly on Canute's shoulder so that she could not see
whither he was taking her.  She was conscious only of the north
wind whistling in her ears, and of rapid steady motion and of a
great breast that heaved beneath her in quick, irregular breaths. 
The harder she struggled the tighter those iron arms that had held
the heels of horses crushed about her, until she felt as if they
would crush the breath from her, and lay still with fear.  Canute
was striding across the level fields at a pace at which man never
went before, drawing the stinging north winds into his lungs in
great gulps.  He walked with his eyes half closed and looking
straight in front of him, only lowering them when he bent his head
to blow away the snow flakes that settled on her hair.  So it was
that Canute took her to his home, even as his bearded barbarian
ancestors took the fair frivolous women of the South in their hairy
arms and bore them down to their war ships.  For ever and anon the
soul becomes weary of the conventions that are not of it, and with
a single stroke shatters the civilized lies with which it is unable
to cope, and the strong arm reaches out and takes by force what it
cannot win by cunning.

When Canute reached his shanty he placed the girl upon a
chair, where she sat sobbing.  He stayed only a few minutes.  He
filled the stove with wood and lit the lamp, drank a huge swallow
of alcohol and put the bottle in his pocket.  He paused a moment,
staring heavily at the weeping girl, then he went off and locked
the door and disappeared in the gathering gloom of the night.

Wrapped in flannels and soaked with turpentine, the little
Norwegian preacher sat reading his Bible, when he heard a
thundering knock at his door, and Canute entered, covered with snow
and his beard frozen fast to his coat.

"Come in, Canute, you must be frozen," said the little man,
shoving a chair towards his visitor.

Canute remained standing with his hat on and said quietly, "I
want you to come over to my house tonight to marry me to Lena
Yensen."

"Have you got a license, Canute?"

"No, I don't want a license.  I want to be married."

"But I can't marry you without a license, man. it would not be
legal."

A dangerous light came in the big Norwegian's eye.  "I want
you to come over to my house to marry me to Lena Yensen."

"No, I can't, it would kill an ox to go out in a storm like
this, and my rheumatism is bad tonight."

"Then if you will not go I must take you," said Canute with a
sigh.

He took down the preacher's bearskin coat and bade him put it
on while he hitched up his buggy.  He went out and closed the door
softly after him.  Presently he returned and found the frightened
minister crouching before the fire with his coat lying beside him. 
Canute helped him put it on and gently wrapped his head in his big
muffler.  Then he picked him up and carried him out and placed him
in his buggy.  As he tucked the buffalo robes around him be said:
"Your horse is old, he might flounder or lose his way in this
storm.  I will lead him."

The minister took the reins feebly in his hands and sat
shivering with the cold.  Sometimes when there was a lull in the
wind, he could see the horse struggling through the snow with
the man plodding steadily beside him.  Again the blowing snow would
hide them from him altogether.  He had no idea where they were or
what direction they were going.  He felt as though he were being
whirled away in the heart of the storm, and he said all the prayers
he knew.  But at last the long four miles were over, and Canute set
him down in the snow while he unlocked the door.  He saw the bride
sitting by the fire with her eyes red and swollen as though she had
been weeping.  Canute placed a huge chair for him, and said
roughly,--

"Warm yourself."

Lena began to cry and moan afresh, begging the minister to
take her home.  He looked helplessly at Canute.  Canute said
simply,

"If you are warm now, you can marry us."

"My daughter, do you take this step of your own free will?"
asked the minister in a trembling voice.

"No, sir, I don't, and it is disgraceful he should force me
into it!  I won't marry him."

"Then, Canute, I cannot marry you," said the minister,
standing as straight as his rheumatic limbs would let him.

"Are you ready to marry us now, sir?" said Canute, laying one
iron hand on his stooped shoulder.  The little preacher was a good
man, but like most men of weak body he was a coward and had a
horror of physical suffering, although he had known so much of it. 
So with many qualms of conscience he began to repeat the marriage
service.  Lena sat sullenly in her chair, staring at the fire. 
Canute stood beside her, listening with his head bent reverently
and his hands folded on his breast.  When the little man had prayed
and said amen, Canute began bundling him up again.

"I will take you home, now," he said as he carried him out and
placed him in his buggy, and started off with him through the fury
of the storm, floundering among the snow drifts that brought even
the giant himself to his knees.

After she was left alone, Lena soon ceased weeping.  She was
not of a particularly sensitive temperament, and had little
pride beyond that of vanity.  After the first bitter anger wore
itself out, she felt nothing more than a healthy sense of
humiliation and defeat.  She had no inclination to run away, for
she was married now, and in her eyes that was final and all
rebellion was useless.  She knew nothing about a license, but she
knew that a preacher married folks.  She consoled herself by
thinking that she had always intended to marry Canute someday,
anyway.

She grew tired of crying and looking into the fire, so she got
up and began to look about her.  She had heard queer tales about
the inside of Canute's shanty, and her curiosity soon got the
better of her rage.  One of the first things she noticed was the
new black suit of clothes hanging on the wall.  She was dull, but
it did not take a vain woman long to interpret anything so
decidedly flattering, and she was pleased in spite of herself.  As
she looked through the cupboard, the general air of neglect and
discomfort made her pity the man who lived there.

"Poor fellow, no wonder he wants to get married to get
somebody to wash up his dishes.  Batchin's pretty hard on a man."

It is easy to pity when once one's vanity has been tickled. 
She looked at the windowsill and gave a little shudder and wondered
if the man were crazy.  Then she sat down again and sat a long time
wondering what her Dick and Ole would do.

"It is queer Dick didn't come right over after me.  He surely
came, for he would have left town before the storm began and he
might just as well come right on as go back.  If he'd hurried he
would have gotten here before the preacher came.  I suppose he was
afraid to come, for he knew Canuteson could pound him to jelly, the
coward!"  Her eyes flashed angrily.

The weary hours wore on and Lena began to grow horribly
lonesome.  It was an uncanny night and this was an uncanny place to
be in.  She could hear the coyotes howling hungrily a little way
from the cabin, and more terrible still were all the unknown noises
of the storm.  She remembered the tales they told of the big log
overhead and she was afraid of those snaky things on the
windowsills.  She remembered the man who had been killed in the
draw, and she wondered what she would do if she saw crazy Lou's
white face glaring into the window.  The rattling of the door
became unbearable, she thought the latch must be loose and took the
lamp to look at it.  Then for the first time she saw the ugly brown
snake skins whose death rattle sounded every time the wind jarred
the door.

"Canute, Canute!" she screamed in terror.

Outside the door she heard a heavy sound as of a big dog
getting up and shaking himself.  The door opened and Canute stood
before her, white as a snow drift.

"What is it?" he asked kindly.

"I am cold," she faltered.

He went out and got an armful of wood and a basket of cobs and
filled the stove.  Then he went out and lay in the snow before the
door.  Presently he heard her calling again.

"What is it?" he said, sitting up.

"I'm so lonesome, I'm afraid to stay in here all alone."

"I will go over and get your mother."  And he got up.

"She won't come."

"I'll bring her," said Canute grimly.

"No, no.  I don't want her, she will scold all  the  time."

"Well, I will bring your father."

She spoke again and it seemed as though her mouth was close up
to the key-hole.  She spoke lower than he had ever heard her speak
before, so low that he had to put his ear up to the lock to hear
her.

"I don't want him either, Canute,--I'd rather have you."

For a moment she heard no noise at all, then something like a
groan.  With a cry of fear she opened the door, and saw Canute
stretched in the snow at her feet, his face in his hands, sobbing
on the doorstep.





Eric Hermannson's Soul


It was a great night at the Lone Star schoolhouse--a night
when the Spirit was present with power and when God was very near
to man.  So it seemed to Asa Skinner, servant of God and Free
Gospeller.  The schoolhouse was crowded with the saved and
sanctified, robust men and women, trembling and quailing before the
power of some mysterious psychic force.  Here and there among this
cowering, sweating multitude crouched some poor wretch who had felt
the pangs of an awakened conscience, but had not yet experienced
that complete divestment of reason, that frenzy born of a
convulsion of the mind, which, in the parlance of the Free
Gospellers, is termed "the Light."  On the floor before the
mourners' bench lay the unconscious figure of a man in whom
outraged nature had sought her last resort.  This "trance" state
is the highest evidence of grace among the Free Gospellers, and
indicates a close walking with God.

Before the desk stood Asa Skinner, shouting of the mercy and
vengeance of God, and in his eyes shone a terrible earnestness, an
almost prophetic flame.  Asa was a converted train gambler who used
to run between Omaha and Denver.  He was a man made for the
extremes of life; from the most debauched of men he had become the
most ascetic.  His was a bestial face, a. face that bore the stamp
of Nature's eternal injustice.  The forehead was low, projecting
over the eyes, and the sandy hair was plastered down over it and
then brushed back at an abrupt right angle.  The chin was heavy,
the nostrils were low and wide, and the lower lip hung loosely
except in his moments of spasmodic earnestness, when it shut like
a steel trap.  Yet about those coarse features there were deep,
rugged furrows, the scars of many a hand-to-hand struggle with the
weakness of the flesh, and about that drooping lip were sharp,
strenuous lines that had conquered it and taught it to pray.  Over
those seamed cheeks there was a certain pallor, a greyness caught
from many a vigil.  It was as though, after Nature had done her
worst with that face, some fine chisel had gone over it, chastening
and almost transfiguring it.  Tonight, as his muscles twitched with
emotion, and the perspiration dropped from his hair and chin, there
was a certain convincing power in the man.  For Asa Skinner was a
man possessed of a belief, of that sentiment of the sublime before
which all inequalities are leveled, that transport of conviction
which seems superior to all laws of condition, under which
debauchees have become martyrs; which made a tinker an artist and
a camel-driver the founder of an empire.  This was with Asa Skinner
tonight, as he stood proclaiming the vengeance of God.

It might have occurred to an impartial observer that Asa
Skinner's God was indeed a vengeful God if he could reserve
vengeance for those of his creatures who were packed into the Lone
Star schoolhouse that night.  Poor exiles of all nations; men from
the south and the north, peasants from almost every country of
Europe, most of them from the mountainous, night-bound coast of
Norway.  Honest men for the most part, but men with whom the world
had dealt hardly; the failures of all countries, men sobered by
toil and saddened by exile, who had been driven to fight for the
dominion of an untoward soil, to sow where others should gather,
the advance guard of a mighty civilization to be.

Never had Asa Skinner spoken more earnestly than now.  He felt
that the Lord had this night a special work for him to do.  Tonight
Eric Hermannson, the wildest lad on all the Divide, sat in his
audience with a fiddle on his knee, just as he had dropped in on
his way to play for some dance.  The violin is an object of
particular abhorrence to the Free Gospellers.  Their antagonism to
the church organ is bitter enough, but the fiddle they regard as a
very incarnation of evil desires, singing forever of worldly
pleasures and inseparably associated with all forbidden things.

Eric Hermannson had long been the object of the prayers of the
revivalists.  His mother had felt the power of the Spirit weeks
ago, and special prayer-meetings had been held at her house for her
son.  But Eric had only gone his ways laughing, the ways of youth,
which are short enough at best, and none too flowery on the Divide.

He slipped away from the prayer-meetings to meet the Campbell boys
in Genereau's saloon, or hug the plump little French girls at
Chevalier's dances, and sometimes, of a summer night, he even went
across the dewy cornfields and through the wild-plum thicket to
play the fiddle for Lena Hanson, whose name was a reproach through
all the Divide country, where the women are usually too plain and
too busy and too tired to depart from the ways of virtue.  On such
occasions Lena, attired in a pink wrapper and silk stockings and
tiny pink slippers, would sing to him, accompanying herself on a
battered guitar.  It gave him a delicious sense of freedom and
experience to be with a woman who, no matter how, had lived in big
cities and knew the ways of town folk, who had never worked in the
fields and had kept her hands white and soft, her throat fair and
tender, who had heard great singers in Denver and Salt Lake, and
who knew the strange language of flattery and idleness and mirth.

Yet, careless as he seemed, the frantic prayers of his mother
were not altogether without their effect upon Eric.  For days he
had been fleeing before them as a criminal from his pursuers, and
over his pleasures had fallen the shadow of something dark and
terrible that dogged his steps.  The harder he danced, the louder
he sang, the more was he conscious that this phantom was gaining
upon him, that in time it would track him down.  One Sunday
afternoon, late in the fall, when he had been drinking beer with
Lena Hanson and listening to a song which made his cheeks burn, a
rattlesnake had crawled out of the side of the sod house and thrust
its ugly head in under the screen door.  He was not afraid of
snakes, but he knew enough of Gospellism to feel the significance
of the reptile lying coiled there upon her doorstep.  His lips were
cold when he kissed Lena goodbye, and he went there no more.

The final barrier between Eric and his mother's faith was his
violin, and to that he clung as a man sometimes will cling to his
dearest sin, to the weakness more precious to him than all his
strength, In the great world beauty comes to men in many guises,
and art in a hundred forms, but for Eric there was only his violin.

It stood, to him, for all the manifestations of art; it was his
only bridge into the kingdom of the soul.

It was to Eric Hermannson that the evangelist directed his
impassioned pleading that night.

"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Is there a Saul here
tonight who has stopped his ears to that gentle pleading, who has
thrust a spear into that bleeding side?  Think of it, my brother;
you are offered this wonderful love and you prefer the worm that
dieth not and the fire which will not be quenched.  What right have
you to lose one of God's precious souls?  Saul, Saul, why
persecutest thou me?"

A great joy dawned in Asa Skinner's pale face, for he saw that
Eric Hermannson was swaying to and fro in his seat.  The minister
fell upon his knees and threw his long arms up over his head.

"O my brothers!  I feel it coming, the blessing we have prayed
for.  I tell you the Spirit is coming! just a little more prayer,
brothers, a little more zeal, and he will be here.  I can feel his
cooling wing upon my brow.  Glory be to God forever and ever,
amen!"

The whole congregation groaned under the pressure of this
spiritual panic.  Shouts and hallelujahs went up from every lip. 
Another figure fell prostrate upon the floor.  From the mourners'
bench rose a chant of terror and rapture:


            "Eating honey and drinking wine,
            Glory to the bleeding Lamb!
            I am my Lord's and he is mine,
            Glory to the bleeding Lamb!"


The hymn was sung in a dozen dialects and voiced all the vague
yearning of these hungry lives, of these people who had starved all
the passions so long, only to fall victims to the barest of them
all, fear.

A groan of ultimate anguish rose from Eric Hermannson's bowed
head, and the sound was like the groan of a great tree when it
falls in the forest.

The minister rose suddenly to his feet and threw back his
head, crying in a loud voice:

"Lazarus, come forth! Eric Hermannson, you are lost, going
down at sea.  In the name of God, and Jesus Christ his Son, I throw
you the life line.  Take hold!  Almighty God, my soul for his!" 
The minister threw his arms out and lifted his quivering face.

Eric Hermannson rose to his feet; his lips were set and the
lightning was in his eyes.  He took his violin by the neck and
crushed it to splinters across his knee, and to Asa Skinner the
sound was like the shackles of sin broken audibly asunder.



                              II

For more than two years Eric Hermannson kept the austere faith
to which he had sworn himself, kept it until a girl from the East
came to spend a week on the Nebraska Divide.  She was a girl of
other manners and conditions, and there were greater distances
between her life and Eric's than all the miles which separated
Rattlesnake Creek from New York City.  Indeed, she had no business
to be in the West at all; but ah! across what leagues of land and
sea, by what improbable chances, do the unrelenting gods bring to
us our fate!

It was in a year of financial depression that Wyllis Elliot
came to Nebraska to buy cheap land and revisit the country where he
had spent a year of his youth.  When he had graduated from Harvard
it was still customary for moneyed gentlemen to send their
scapegrace sons to rough it on ranches in the wilds of Nebraska or
Dakota, or to consign them to a living death in the sagebrush of
the Black Hills.  These young men did not always return to the ways
of civilized life.  But Wyllis Elliot had not married a
half-breed, nor been shot in a cowpunchers' brawl, nor wrecked by
bad whisky, nor appropriated by a smirched adventuress.  He had
been saved from these things by a girl, his sister, who had been
very near to his life ever since the days when they read fairy
tales together and dreamed the dreams that never come true.  On
this, his first visit to his father's ranch since he left it six
years before, he brought her with him.  She had been laid up half
the winter from a sprain received while skating, and had had too
much time for reflection during those months.  She was restless and
filled with a desire to see something of the wild country of which
her brother had told her so much.  She was to be married the next
winter, and Wyllis understood her when she begged him to take her
with him on this long, aimless jaunt across the continent, to taste
the last of their freedom together. it comes to all women of her
type--that desire to taste the unknown which allures and terrifies,
to run one's whole soul's length out to the wind--just once.

It had been an eventful journey.  Wyllis somehow understood that
strain of gypsy blood in his sister, and he knew where to take her. 
They had slept in sod houses on the Platte River, made the
acquaintance of the personnel of a third-rate opera company on the
train to Deadwood, dined in a camp of railroad constructors at the
world's end beyond New Castle, gone through the Black Hills on
horseback, fished for trout in Dome Lake, watched a dance at
Cripple Creek, where the lost souls who hide in the hills
gathered for their besotted revelry.  And now, last of all, before
the return to thraldom, there was this little shack, anchored on
the windy crest of the Divide, a little black dot against the
flaming sunsets, a scented sea of cornland bathed in opalescent air
and blinding sunlight.

Margaret Elliot was one of those women of whom there are so
many in this day, when old order, passing, giveth place to new;
beautiful, talented, critical, unsatisfied, tired of the world at
twenty-four.  For the moment the life and people of the Divide
interested her.  She was there but a week; perhaps had she stayed
longer, that inexorable ennui which travels faster even than the
Vestibule Limited would have overtaken her.  The week she
tarried there was the week that Eric Hermannson was helping Jerry
Lockhart thresh; a week earlier or a week later, and there would
have been no story to write.

It was on Thursday and they were to leave on Saturday.  Wyllis
and his sister were sitting on the wide piazza of the ranchhouse,
staring out into the afternoon sunlight and protesting against the
gusts of hot wind that blew up from the sandy riverbottom twenty
miles to the southward.

The young man pulled his cap lower over his eyes and remarked:

"This wind is the real thing; you don't strike it anywhere
else.  You remember we had a touch of it in Algiers and I told you
it came from Kansas.  It's the keynote of this country."

Wyllis touched her hand that lay on the hammock and continued
gently:

"I hope it's paid you, Sis.  Roughing it's dangerous business;
it takes the taste out of things."

She shut her fingers firmly over the brown hand that was so
like her own.

"Paid?  Why, Wyllis, I haven't been so happy since we were
children and were going to discover the ruins of Troy together some
day.  Do you know, I believe I could just stay on here forever and
let the world go on its own gait.  It seems as though the tension
and strain we used to talk of last winter were gone for good, as
though one could never give one's strength out to such petty things
any more."

Wyllis brushed the ashes of his pipe away from the silk
handkerchief that was knotted about his neck and stared moodily off
at the skyline.

"No, you're mistaken.  This would bore you after a while.  You
can't shake the fever of the other life.  I've tried it. There was
a time when the gay fellows of Rome could trot down into the
Thebaid and burrow into the sandhills and get rid of it.  But it's
all too complex now.  You see we've made our dissipations so dainty
and respectable that they've gone further in than the flesh, and
taken hold of the ego proper.  You couldn't rest, even here.  The
war cry would follow you."

"You don't waste words, Wyllis, but you never miss fire.  I
talk more than you do, without saying half so much.  You must have
learned the art of silence from these taciturn Norwegians.  I think
I like silent men."

"Naturally," said Wyllis, "since you have decided to marry the most
brilliant talker you know."

Both were silent for a time, listening to the sighing of the
hot wind through the parched morning-glory vines.  Margaret spoke
first.

"Tell me, Wyllis, were many of the Norwegians you used to know
as interesting as Eric Hermannson?"

"Who, Siegfried?  Well, no.  He used to be the flower of the
Norwegian youth in my day, and he's rather an exception, even now. 
He has retrograded, though.  The bonds of the soil have tightened
on him, I fancy."

"Siegfried?  Come, that's rather good, Wyllis.  He looks like
a dragon-slayer.  What is it that makes him so different from the
others?  I can talk to him; he seems quite like a human being."

 "Well," said Wyllis, meditatively, "I don't read Bourget
as much as my cultured sister, and I'm not so well up in analysis,
but I fancy it's because one keeps cherishing a perfectly
unwarranted suspicion that under that big, hulking anatomy of his,
he may conceal a soul somewhere.  Nicht wahr?"

"Something like that," said Margaret, thoughtfully, "except
that it's more than a suspicion, and it isn't groundless.  He has
one, and he makes it known, somehow, without speaking."

"I always have my doubts about loquacious souls," Wyllis
remarked, with the unbelieving smile that had grown habitual with
him.

Margaret went on, not heeding the interruption.  "I knew it
from the first, when he told me about the suicide of his cousin,
the Bernstein boy.  That kind of blunt pathos can't be summoned at
will in anybody.  The earlier novelists rose to it, sometimes,
unconsciously.  But last night when I sang for him I was doubly
sure.  Oh, I haven't told you about that yet!  Better light your
pipe again.  You see, he stumbled in on me in the dark when I was
pumping away at that old parlour organ to please Mrs. Lockhart
It's her household fetish and I've forgotten how many pounds of
butter she made and sold to buy it.  Well, Eric stumbled in, and in
some inarticulate manner made me understand that he wanted me to
sing for him.  I sang just the old things, of course.  It's queer
to sing familiar things here at the world's end.  It makes one
think how the hearts of men have carried them around the world,
into the wastes of Iceland and the jungles of Africa and the
islands of the Pacific.  I think if one lived here long enough one
would quite forget how to be trivial, and would read only the great
books that we never get time to read in the world, and would
remember only the great music, and the things that are really worth
while would stand out clearly against that horizon over there.  And
of course I played the intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana
for him; it goes rather better on an organ than most things do.  He
shuffled his feet and twisted his big hands up into knots and
blurted out that he didn't know there was any music like that in
the world.  Why, there were tears in his voice, Wyllis!  Yes, like
Rossetti, I heard his tears.  Then it dawned upon me that it
was probably the first good music be had ever heard in all his
life.  Think of it, to care for music as he does and never to hear
it, never to know that it exists on earth!  To long for it as we
long for other perfect experiences that never come.  I can't tell
you what music means to that man.  I never saw any one so
susceptible to it. It gave him speech, he became alive.  When I had
finished the intermezzo, he began telling me about a little
crippled brother who died and whom he loved and used to carry
everywhere in his arms.  He did not wait for encouragement.  He
took up the story and told it slowly, as if to himself, just sort
of rose up and told his own woe to answer Mascagni's.  It overcame
me."

"Poor devil," said Wyllis, looking at her with mysterious
eyes, "and so you've given him a new woe.  Now he'll go on
wanting Grieg and Schubert the rest of his days and never getting
them.  That's a girl's philanthropy for you!"

Jerry Lockhart came out of the house screwing his chin over
the unusual luxury of a stiff white collar, which his wife insisted
upon as a necessary article of toilet while Miss Elliot was
at the house.  Jerry sat down on the step and smiled his broad, red
smile at Margaret.

"Well, I've got the music for your dance, Miss Elliot.  Olaf
Oleson will bring his accordion and Mollie will play the organ,
when she isn't lookin' after the grub, and a little chap from
Frenchtown will bring his fiddle--though the French don't mix with
the Norwegians much."

"Delightful!  Mr. Lockhart, that dance will be the feature of
our trip, and it's so nice of you to get it up for us. We'll see
the Norwegians in character at last," cried Margaret, cordially.

"See here, Lockhart, I'll settle with you for backing her in
this scheme," said Wyllis, sitting up and knocking the ashes out of
his pipe.  "She's done crazy things enough on this trip, but to
talk of dancing all night with a gang of half-mad Norwegians and
taking the carriage at four to catch the six o'clock train out of
Riverton--well, it's tommyrot, that's what it is!"

"Wyllis, I leave it to your sovereign power of reason to
decide whether it isn't easier to stay up all night than to get up
at three in the morning.  To get up at three, think what that
means!  No, sir, I prefer to keep my vigil and then get into a
sleeper."

"But what do you want with the Norwegians?  I thought you were
tired of dancing."

"So I am, with some people.  But I want to see a Norwegian
dance, and I intend to.  Come, Wyllis, you know how seldom it is
that one really wants to do anything nowadays.  I wonder when I
have really wanted to go to a party before.  It will be something
to remember next month at Newport, when we have to and don't want
to.  Remember your own theory that contrast is about the only thing
that makes life endurable.  This is my party and Mr. Lockhart's;
your whole duty tomorrow night will consist in being nice to the
Norwegian girls.  I'll warrant you were adept enough at it once. 
And you'd better be very nice indeed, for if there are many such
young Valkyries as Eric's sister among them, they would simply tie
you up in a knot if they suspected you were guying them."

Wyllis groaned and sank back into the hammock to consider his
fate, while his sister went on.

"And the guests, Mr. Lockhart, did they accept?"

Lockhart took out his knife and began sharpening it on the sole of
his plowshoe.

"Well, I guess we'll have a couple dozen.  You see it's pretty
hard to get a crowd together here any more.  Most of 'em have gone
over to the Free Gospellers, and they'd rather put their feet in
the fire than shake 'em to a fiddle."

Margaret made a gesture of impatience.  "Those Free Gospellers
have just cast an evil spell over this country, haven't they?"

"Well," said Lockhart, cautiously, "I don't just like to pass
judgment on any Christian sect, but if you're to know the chosen by
their works, the Gospellers can't make a very proud showin', an'
that's a fact.  They're responsible for a few suicides, and they've
sent a good-sized delegation to the state insane asylum, an' I
don't see as they've made the rest of us much better than we were
before.  I had a little herdboy last spring, as square a little
Dane as I want to work for me, but after the Gospellers got hold of
him and sanctified him, the little beggar used to get down on his
knees out on the prairie and pray by the hour and let the cattle
get into the corn, an' I had to fire him.  That's about the way it
goes.  Now there's Eric; that chap used to be a hustler and the
spryest dancer in all this section-called all the dances.  Now he's
got no ambition and he's glum as a preacher.  I don't suppose we
can even get him to come in tomorrow night."

"Eric?  Why, he must dance, we can't let him off," said
Margaret, quickly.  "Why, I intend to dance with him myself."

"I'm afraid he won't dance.  I asked him this morning if he'd
help us out and he said, 'I don't dance now, any more,' " said
Lockhart, imitating the laboured English of the Norwegian.

"'The Miller of Hofbau, the Miller of Hofbau, O my Princess!'"
chirped Wyllis, cheerfully, from his hammock.

The red on his sister's cheek deepened a little, and she
laughed mischievously.  "We'll see about that, sir.  I'll not admit
that I am beaten until I have asked him myself."

Every night Eric rode over to St. Anne, a little village in
the heart of the French settlement, for the mail.  As the road lay
through the most attractive part of the Divide country, on several
occasions Margaret Elliot and her brother had accompanied him. 
Tonight Wyllis had business with Lockhart, and Margaret rode
with Eric, mounted on a frisky little mustang that Mrs. Lockhart
had broken to the sidesaddle.  Margaret regarded her escort very
much as she did the servant who always accompanied her on long
rides at home, and the ride to the village was a silent one.  She
was occupied with thoughts of another world, and Eric was wrestling
with more thoughts than had ever been crowded into his head before.

He rode with his eyes riveted on that slight figure before him, as
though he wished to absorb it through the optic nerves and hold it
in his brain forever.  He understood the situation perfectly.  His
brain worked slowly, but he had a keen sense of the values of
things.  This girl represented an entirely new species of humanity
to him, but he knew where to place her.  The prophets of old, when
an angel first appeared unto them, never doubted its high origin.

Eric was patient under the adverse conditions of his life, but
he was not servile.  The Norse blood in him had not entirely lost
its self-reliance.  He came of a proud fisher line, men who were
not afraid of anything but the ice and the  devil, and he had
prospects before him when his father went down off the North Cape
in the long Arctic night, and his mother, seized by a violent
horror of seafaring life, had followed her brother to America. 
Eric was eighteen then, handsome as young Siegfried, a giant in
stature, with a skin singularly pure and delicate, like a Swede's;
hair as yellow as the locks of Tennyson's amorous Prince, and eyes
of a fierce, burning blue, whose flash was most dangerous to women.

He had in those days a certain pride of bearing, a certain
confidence of approach, that usually accompanies physical
perfection.  It was even said of him then that he was in love with
life, and inclined to levity, a vice most unusual on the Divide. 
But the sad history of those Norwegian exiles, transplanted in an
arid soil and under a scorching sun, had repeated itself in his
case.  Toil and isolation had sobered him, and he grew more and
more like the clods among which he laboured. It was as though some
red-hot instrument had touched for a moment those delicate
fibers of the brain which respond to acute pain or pleasure, in
which lies the power of exquisite sensation, and had seared them
quite away.  It is a painful thing to watch the light die out of
the eyes of those Norsemen, leaving an expression of impenetrable
sadness, quite passive, quite hopeless, a shadow that is never
lifted.  With some this change comes almost at once, in the first
bitterness of homesickness, with others it comes more slowly,
according to the time it takes each man's heart to die.

Oh, those poor Northmen of the Divide!  They are dead many a
year before they are put to rest in the little graveyard on the
windy hill where exiles of all nations grow akin.

The peculiar species of hypochondria to which the exiles of
his people sooner or later succumb had not developed in Eric until
that night at the Lone Star schoolhouse, when he had broken his
violin across his knee.  After that, the gloom of his people
settled down upon him, and the gospel of maceration began its work.

"If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out," et cetera.  The
pagan smile that once hovered about his lips was gone, and he was
one with sorrow.  Religion heals a hundred hearts for one that it
embitters, but when it destroys, its work is quick and deadly, and
where the agony of the cross has been, joy will not come again. 
This man understood things literally: one must live without
pleasure to die without fear; to save the soul, it was necessary to
starve the soul.

The sun hung low above the cornfields when Margaret and her
cavalier left St. Anne.  South of the town there is a stretch of
road that runs for some three miles through the French settlement,
where the prairie is as level as the surface of a lake.  There the
fields of flax and wheat and rye are bordered by precise rows of
slender, tapering Lombard poplars.  It was a yellow world that
Margaret Elliot saw under the wide light of the setting sun.

The girl gathered up her reins and called back to Eric, "It
will be safe to run the horses here, won't it?"

"Yes, I think so, now," he answered, touching his spur to his
pony's flank.  They were off like the wind.  It is an old
saying in the West that newcomers always ride a horse or two
to death before they get broken in to the country.  They are
tempted by the great open spaces and try to outride the horizon, to
get to the end of something.  Margaret galloped over the level
road, and Eric, from behind, saw her long veil fluttering in the
wind.  It had fluttered just so in his dreams last night and the
night before.  With a sudden inspiration of courage he overtook her
and rode beside her, looking intently at her half-averted face. 
Before, he had only stolen occasional glances at it, seen it in
blinding flashes, always with more or less embarrassment, but now
he determined to let every line of it sink into his memory.  Men of
the world would have said that it was an unusual face, nervous,
finely cut, with clear, elegant lines that betokened ancestry.  Men
of letters would have called it a historic face, and would have
conjectured at what old passions, long asleep, what old sorrows
forgotten time out of mind, doing battle together in ages gone, had
curved those delicate nostrils, left their unconscious memory in
those eyes.  But Eric read no meaning in these details.  To him
this beauty was something more than colour and line; it was a flash
of white light, in which one cannot distinguish colour because all
colours are there.  To him it was a complete revelation, an
embodiment of those dreams of impossible loveliness that linger by
a young man's pillow on midsummer nights; yet, because it held
something more than the attraction of health and youth and
shapeliness, it troubled him, and in its presence he felt as the
Goths before the white marbles in the Roman Capitol, not knowing
whether they were men or gods.  At times he felt like uncovering
his head before it, again the fury seized him to break and despoil,
to find the clay in this spirit-thing and stamp upon it.  Away from
her, he longed to strike out with his arms, and take and hold; it
maddened him that this woman whom he could break in his hands
should be so much stronger than he. But near her, he never
questioned this strength; he admitted its potentiality as he
admitted the miracles of the Bible; it enervated and conquered him.

Tonight, when he rode so close to her that he could have touched
her, he knew that he might as well reach out his hand to
take a star.

Margaret stirred uneasily under his gaze and turned questioningly
in her saddle.

"This wind puts me a little out of breath when we ride fast,"
she said.

Eric turned his eyes away.

"I want to ask you if I go to New York to work, if I maybe
hear music like you sang last night?  I been a purty good hand to
work," he asked, timidly.

Margaret looked at him with surprise, and then, as she studied
the outline of his face, pityingly.

"Well, you might--but you'd lose a good deal else.  I shouldn't
like you to go to New York--and be poor, you'd be out of
atmosphere, some way," she said, slowly.  Inwardly she was
thinking: There he would be altogether sordid, impossible--a
machine who would carry one's trunks upstairs, perhaps.  Here he is
every inch a man, rather picturesque; why is it?  "No," she
added aloud, "I shouldn't like that."

"Then I not go," said Eric, decidedly.

Margaret turned her face to hide a smile.  She was a trifle
amused and a trifle annoyed.  Suddenly she spoke again.

"But I'll tell you what I do want you to do, Eric.  I want you
to dance with us tomorrow night and teach me some of the Norwegian
dances; they say you know them all.  Won't you?"

Eric straightened himself in his saddle and his eyes flashed
as they had done in the Lone Star schoolhouse when he broke his
violin across his knee.

"Yes, I will," he said, quietly, and he believed that he
delivered his soul to hell as he said it.

They had reached the rougher country now, where the road wound
through a narrow cut in one of the bluffs along the creek, when a
beat of hoofs ahead and the sharp neighing of horses made the
ponies start and Eric rose in his stirrups.  Then down the gulch in
front of them and over the steep clay banks thundered a herd of
wild ponies, nimble as monkeys and wild as rabbits, such as horse-
traders drive east from the plains of Montana to sell in the
farming country.  Margaret's pony made a shrill sound, a neigh that
was almost a scream, and started up the clay bank to meet them, all
the wild blood of the range breaking out in an instant.  Margaret
called to Eric just as he threw himself out of the saddle and
caught her pony's bit.  But the wiry little animal had gone mad and
was kicking and biting like a devil.  Her wild brothers of the
range were all about her, neighing, and pawing the earth, and
striking her with their forefeet and snapping at her flanks.  It
was the old liberty of the range that the little beast fought for.

"Drop the reins and hold tight, tight!" Eric called, throwing
all his weight upon the bit, struggling under those frantic
forefeet that now beat at his breast, and now kicked at the wild
mustangs that surged and tossed about him.  He succeeded in
wrenching the pony's head toward him and crowding her withers
against the clay bank, so that she could not roll.

"Hold tight, tight!" he shouted again, launching a kick at a
snorting animal that reared back against Margaret's saddle.  If she
should lose her courage and fall now, under those hoofs--  He
struck out again and again, kicking right and left with all his
might.  Already the negligent drivers had galloped into the cut,
and their long quirts were whistling over the heads of the herd. 
As suddenly as it had come, the struggling, frantic wave of wild
life swept up out of the gulch and on across the open prairie, and
with a long despairing whinny of farewell the pony dropped her head
and stood trembling in her sweat, shaking the foam and blood from
her bit.

Eric stepped close to Margaret's side and laid his hand on her
saddle.  "You are not hurt?" he asked, hoarsely.  As he raised his
face in the soft starlight she saw that it was white and drawn and
that his lips were working nervously.

"No, no, not at all.  But you, you are suffering; they struck
you!" she cried in sharp alarm.

He stepped back and drew his hand across his brow.

"No, it is not that," he spoke rapidly now, with his hands
clenched at his side.  "But if they had hurt you, I would beat
their brains out with my hands.  I would kill them all.  I
was never afraid before.  You are the only beautiful thing that
has ever come close to me.  You came like an angel out of the sky.
You are like the music you sing, you are like the stars and the
snow on the mountains where I played when I was a little boy.  You
are like all that I wanted once and never had, you are all that
they have killed in me.  I die for you tonight, tomorrow, for all
eternity.  I am not a coward; I was afraid because I love you more
than Christ who died for me, more than I am afraid of hell, or hope
for heaven.  I was never afraid before.  If you had fallen--oh, my
God!"  He threw his arms out blindly and dropped his head upon the
pony's mane, leaning ]imply against the animal like a man struck
by some sickness.  His shoulders rose and fell perceptibly with his
laboured breathing.  The horse stood cowed with exhaustion and
fear.  Presently Margaret laid her hand on Eric's head and said
gently:

"You are better now, shall we go on?  Can you get your horse?"

"No, he has gone with the herd.  I will lead yours, she is not
safe.  I will not frighten you again."  His voice was still husky,
but it was steady now.  He took hold of the bit and tramped home in
silence.

When they reached the house, Eric stood stolidly by the pony's
head until Wyllis came to lift his sister from the saddle.

"The horses were badly frightened, Wyllis.  I think I was pretty
thoroughly scared myself," she said as she took her brother's arm
and went slowly up the hill toward the house.  "No, I'm not hurt,
thanks to Eric.  You must thank him for taking such good care of
me.  He's a mighty fine fellow.  I'll tell you all about it in the
morning, dear.  I was pretty well shaken up and I'm going right to
bed now.  Good night."

When she reached the low room in which she slept, she sank
upon the bed in her riding dress, face downward.

"Oh, I pity him!  I pity him!" she murmured, with a long sigh
of exhaustion.  She must have slept a little.  When she rose again,
she took from her dress a letter that had been waiting for her at
the village post-office.  It was closely written in a long,
angular hand, covering a dozen pages of foreign note-paper, and
began:

My Dearest Margaret: if I should attempt to say how like
a winter hath thine absence been, I should incur the risk of
being tedious.  Really, it takes the sparkle out of everything. 
Having nothing better to do, and not caring to go anywhere in
particular without you, I remained in the city until Jack Courtwell
noted my general despondency and brought me down here to his place
on the sound to manage some open-air theatricals he is getting up. 
As You Like It is of course the piece selected.  Miss
Harrison plays Rosalind.  I wish you had been here to take the
part.  Miss Harrison reads her lines well, but she is either a
maiden-all-forlorn or a tomboy; insists on reading into the part
all sorts of deeper meanings and highly coloured suggestions wholly
out of harmony with the pastoral setting.  Like most of the
professionals, she exaggerates the emotional element and quite
fails to do justice to Rosalind's facile wit and really brilliant
mental qualities.  Gerard will do Orlando, but rumor says he is
epris of your sometime friend, Miss Meredith, and his memory
is treacherous and his interest fitful.

My new pictures arrived last week on the Gascogne.  The
Puvis de Chavannes is even more beautiful than I thought it in
Paris.  A pale dream-maiden sits by a pale dream-cow and a
stream of anemic water flows at her feet.  The Constant, you
will remember, I got because you admired it.  It is here in
all its florid splendour, the whole dominated by a glowing
sensuosity.  The drapery of the female figure is as wonderful
as you said; the fabric all barbaric pearl and gold, painted
with an easy, effortless voluptuousness, and that white,
gleaming line of African coast in the background recalls
memories of you very precious to me.  But it is useless to
deny that Constant irritates me.  Though I cannot prove the
charge against him, his brilliancy always makes me suspect him
of cheapness.

Here Margaret stopped and glanced at the remaining pages of
this strange love-letter.  They seemed to be filled chiefly with
discussions of pictures and books, and with a slow smile she laid
them by.

She rose and began undressing.  Before she lay down she went
to open the window.  With her hand on the sill, she hesitated,
feeling suddenly as though some danger were lurking outside, some
inordinate desire waiting to spring upon her in the darkness.  She
stood there for a long time, gazing at the infinite sweep of the
sky.

"Oh, it is all so little, so little there," she murmured. 
"When everything else is so dwarfed, why should one expect love to
be great?  Why should one try to read highly coloured suggestions
into a life like that?  If only I could find one thing in it all
that mattered greatly, one thing that would warm me when I am
alone!  Will life never give me that one great moment?"

As she raised the window, she heard a sound in the plum bushes
outside.  It was only the house-dog roused from his sleep, but
Margaret started violently and trembled so that she caught the foot
of the bed for support.  Again she felt herself pursued by some
overwhelming longing, some desperate necessity for herself, like
the outstretching of helpless, unseen arms in the darkness, and the
air seemed heavy with sighs of yearning.  She fled to her bed with
the words, "I love you more than Christ who died for me!" ringing
in her ears.


                             III

About midnight the dance at Lockhart's was at its height. 
Even the old men who had come to "look on" caught the spirit of
revelry and stamped the floor with the vigor of old Silenus.  Eric
took the violin from the Frenchmen, and Minna Oleson sat at the
organ, and the music grew more and more characteristic--rude, half
mournful music, made up of the folksongs of the North, that the
villagers sing through the long night in hamlets by the sea, when
they are thinking of the sun, and the spring, and the fishermen so
long away.  To Margaret some of it sounded like Grieg's Peer
Gynt music.  She found something irresistibly infectious in
the mirth of these people who were so seldom merry, and she felt
almost one of them.  Something seemed struggling for freedom in
them tonight, something of the joyous childhood of the nations
which exile had not killed.  The girls were all boisterous with
delight.  Pleasure came to them but rarely, and when it came, they
caught at it wildly and crushed its fluttering wings in their
strong brown fingers.  They had a hard life enough, most of them. 
Torrid summers and freezing winters, labour and drudgery and
ignorance, were the portion of their girlhood; a short wooing, a
hasty, loveless marriage, unlimited maternity, thankless sons,
premature age and ugliness, were the dower of their womanhood.  But
what matter?  Tonight there was hot liquor in the glass and hot
blood in the heart; tonight they danced.

Tonight Eric Hermannson had renewed his youth.  He was no
longer the big, silent Norwegian who had sat at Margaret's feet and
looked hopelessly into her eyes.  Tonight he was a man, with a
man's rights and a man's power.  Tonight he was Siegfried indeed. 
His hair was yellow as the heavy wheat in the ripe of summer, and
his eyes flashed like the blue water between the ice packs in the
north seas.  He was not afraid of Margaret tonight, and when he
danced with her he held her firmly.  She was tired and dragged on
his arm a little, but the strength of the man was like an all-
pervading fluid, stealing through her veins, awakening under her
heart some nameless, unsuspected existence that had slumbered there
all these years and that went out through her throbbing fingertips
to his that answered.  She wondered if the hoydenish blood of some
lawless ancestor, long asleep, were calling out in her tonight,
some drop of a hotter fluid that the centuries had failed to cool,
and why, if this curse were in her, it had not spoken before.  But
was it a curse, this awakening, this wealth before undiscovered,
this music set free?  For the first time in her life her heart held
something stronger than herself, was not this worthwhile?  Then she
ceased to wonder.  She lost sight of the lights and the faces and
the music was drowned by the beating of her own arteries.  She saw
only the blue eyes that flashed above her, felt only the
warmth of that throbbing hand which held hers and which the blood
of his heart fed.  Dimly, as in a dream, she saw the drooping
shoulders, high white forehead and tight, cynical mouth of the man
she was to marry in December.  For an hour she had been crowding
back the memory of that face with all her strength.

"Let us stop, this is enough," she whispered.  His only answer
was to tighten the arm behind her.  She sighed and let that
masterful strength bear her where it would.  She forgot that this
man was little more than a savage, that they would part at dawn. 
The blood has no memories, no reflections, no regrets for the past,
no consideration of the future.

"Let us go out where it is cooler," she said when the music
stopped; thinking, I am  growing faint here, I shall be all
right in the open air.  They stepped out into the cool, blue
air of the night.

Since the older folk had begun dancing, the young Norwegians
had been slipping out in couples to climb the windmill tower into
the cooler atmosphere, as is their custom.

"You like to go up?" asked Eric, close to her ear.

She turned and looked at him with suppressed amusement.  "How
high is it?"

"Forty feet, about.  I not let you fall."  There was a note of
irresistible pleading in his voice, and she felt that he
tremendously wished her to go.  Well, why not?  This was a night of
the unusual, when she was not herself at all, but was living an
unreality.  Tomorrow, yes, in a few hours, there would be the
Vestibule Limited and the world.

"Well, if you'll take good care of me.  I used to be able to
climb, when I was a little girl."

Once at the top and seated on the platform, they were silent. 
Margaret wondered if she would not hunger for that scene all her
life, through all the routine of the days to come.  Above them
stretched the great Western sky, serenely blue, even in the night,
with its big, burning stars, never so cold and dead and far away as
in denser atmospheres.  The moon would not be up for twenty minutes
yet, and all about the horizon, that wide horizon, which
seemed to reach around the world, lingered a pale white light, as
of a universal dawn.  The weary wind brought up to them the heavy
odours of the cornfields.  The music of the dance sounded faintly
from below.  Eric leaned on his elbow beside her, his legs swinging
down on the ladder.  His great shoulders looked more than ever like
those of the stone Doryphorus, who stands in his perfect, reposeful
strength in the Louvre, and had often made her wonder if such men
died forever with the youth of Greece.

"How sweet the corn smells at night," said Margaret nervously.

"Yes, like the flowers that grow in paradise, I think."

She was somewhat startled by this reply, and more startled
when this taciturn man spoke again.

"You go away tomorrow?"

"Yes, we have stayed longer than we thought to now."

"You not come back any more?"

"No, I expect not.  You see, it is a long trip halfway across
the continent."

"You soon forget about this country, I guess."  It seemed to
him now a little thing to lose his soul for this woman, but that
she should utterly forget this night into which he threw all his
life and all his eternity, that was a bitter thought.

"No, Eric, I will not forget.  You have all been too kind to
me for that.  And you won't be sorry you danced this one night,
will you?"

"I never be sorry.  I have not been so happy before.  I not be
so happy again, ever.  You will be happy many nights yet, I only
this one.  I will dream sometimes, maybe."

The mighty resignation of his tone alarmed and touched her. 
It was as when some great animal composes itself for death, as when
a great ship goes down at sea.

She sighed, but did not answer him.  He drew a little closer
and looked into her eyes.

"You are not always happy, too?" he asked.

"No, not always, Eric; not very often, I think."

"You have a trouble?"

"Yes, but I cannot put it into words.  Perhaps if I could do
that, I could cure it."

He clasped his hands together over his heart, as children do when
they pray, and said falteringly, "If I own all the world, I give
him you."

Margaret felt a sudden moisture in her eyes, and laid her hand
on his.

"Thank you, Eric; I believe you would.  But perhaps even then
I should not be happy.  Perhaps I have too much of it already."

She did not take her hand away from him; she did not dare. 
She sat still and waited for the traditions in which she had always
believed to speak and save her.  But they were dumb.  She belonged
to an ultra-refined civilization which tries to cheat nature with
elegant sophistries.  Cheat nature?  Bah!  One generation may do
it, perhaps two, but the third--  Can we ever rise above nature or
sink below her?  Did she not turn on Jerusalem as upon Sodom, upon
St. Anthony in his desert as upon Nero in his seraglio?  Does she
not always cry in brutal triumph: "I am here still, at the bottom
of things, warming the roots of life; you cannot starve me nor tame
me nor thwart me; I made the world, I rule it, and I am its
destiny."

This woman, on a windmill tower at the world's end with a
giant barbarian, heard that cry tonight, and she was afraid!  Ah!
the terror and the delight of that moment when first we fear
ourselves!  Until then we have not lived.

"Come, Eric, let us go down; the moon is up and the music has
begun again," she said.

He rose silently and stepped down upon the ladder, putting his
arm about her to help her.  That arm could have thrown Thor's
hammer out in the cornfields yonder, yet it scarcely touched her,
and his hand trembled as it had done in the dance.  His face was
level with hers now and the moonlight fell sharply upon it.  All
her life she had searched the faces of men for the look that lay in
his eyes.  She knew that that look had never shone for her before,
would never shine for her on earth again, that such love comes to
one only in dreams or in impossible places like this, unattainable
always.  This was Love's self, in a moment it would die.  Stung by
the agonized appeal that emanated from the man's whole being, she
leaned forward and laid her lips on his.  Once, twice and again she
heard the deep respirations rattle in his throat while she held
them there, and the riotous force under her head became an
engulfing weakness.  He drew her up to him until he felt all the
resistance go out of her body, until every nerve relaxed and
yielded.  When she drew her face back from
his, it was white with fear.

"Let us go down, oh, my God! let us go down!" she muttered. 
And the drunken stars up yonder seemed reeling to some appointed
doom as she clung to the rounds of the ladder.  All that she was to
know of love she had left upon his lips.

"The devil is loose again," whispered Olaf Oleson, as he saw Eric
dancing a moment later, his eyes blazing.

But Eric was thinking with an almost savage exultation of the
time when he should pay for this.  Ah, there would be no quailing
then! if ever a soul went fearlessly, proudly down to the gates
infernal, his should go.  For a moment he fancied he was there
already, treading down the tempest of flame, hugging the fiery
hurricane to his breast.  He wondered whether in ages gone, all the
countless years of sinning in which men had sold and lost and flung
their souls away, any man had ever so cheated Satan, had ever
bartered his soul for so great a price.

It seemed but a little while till dawn.

The carriage was brought to the door and Wyllis Elliot and his
sister said goodbye.  She could not meet Eric's eyes as she gave
him her hand, but as he stood by the horse's head, just as the
carriage moved off, she gave him one swift glance that said, "I
will not forget."  In a moment the carriage was gone.

Eric changed his coat and plunged his head into the water tank
and went to the barn to hook up his team.  As he led his horses to
the door, a shadow fell across his path, and he saw Skinner rising
in his stirrups.  His rugged face was pale and worn with looking
after his wayward flock, with dragging men into the way of
salvation.

"Good morning, Eric.  There was a dance here last night?" he
asked, sternly.

"A dance?  Oh, yes, a dance," replied Eric, cheerfully.

"Certainly you did not dance, Eric?"

"Yes, I danced. I danced all the time."

The minister's shoulders drooped, and an expression of profound
discouragement settled over his haggard face.  There was almost
anguish in the yearning he felt for this soul.

"Eric, I didn't look for this from you.  I thought God had set
his mark on you if he ever had on any man.  And it is for things
like this that you set your soul back a thousand years from God. 0
foolish and perverse generation!"

Eric drew himself up to his full height and looked off to
where the new day was gilding the corn-tassels and flooding the
uplands with light.  As his nostrils drew in the breath of the dew
and the morning, something from the only poetry he had ever read
flashed across his mind, and he murmured, half to himself, with
dreamy exultation:

"'And a day shall be as a thousand years, and a thousand years
as a day.'"




The Enchanted Bluff

We had our swim before sundown, and while we were cooking our
supper the oblique rays of light made a dazzling glare on the white
sand about us.  The translucent red ball itself sank behind the
brown stretches of cornfield as we sat down to eat, and the warm
layer of air that had rested over the water and our clean sand bar
grew fresher and smelled of the rank ironweed and sunflowers
growing on the flatter shore.  The river was brown and sluggish,
like any other of the half-dozen streams that water the Nebraska
corn lands.  On one shore was an irregular line of bald clay bluffs
where a few scrub oaks with thick trunks and flat, twisted tops
threw light shadows on the long grass.  The western shore was low
and level, with cornfields that stretched to the skyline, and all
along the water's edge were little sandy coves and beaches where
slim cottonwoods and willow saplings flickered.

The turbulence of the river in springtime discouraged milling,
and, beyond keeping the old red bridge in repair, the busy farmers
did not concern themselves with the stream; so the Sandtown boys
were left in undisputed possession.  In the autumn we hunted quail
through the miles of stubble and fodder land along the flat shore,
and, after the winter skating season was over and the ice had gone
out, the spring freshets and flooded bottoms gave us our great
excitement of the year.  The channel was never the same for two
successive seasons.  Every spring the swollen stream undermined a
bluff to the east, or bit out a few acres of cornfield to the west
and whirled the soil away, to deposit it in spumy mud banks
somewhere else.  When the water fell low in midsummer, new sand
bars were thus exposed to dry and whiten in the August sun.
Sometimes these were banked so firmly that the fury of the next
freshet failed to unseat them; the little willow seedlings emerged
triumphantly from the yellow froth, broke into spring leaf, shot up
into summer growth, and with their mesh of roots bound together the
moist sand beneath them against the batterings of another April. 
Here and there a cottonwood soon glittered among them, quivering in
the low current of air that, even on breathless days when the dust
hung like smoke above the wagon road, trembled along the face of
the water.

It was on such an island, in the third summer of its yellow
green, that we built our watch fire; not in the thicket of dancing
willow wands, but on the level terrace of fine sand which had been
added that spring; a little new bit of world, beautifully ridged
with ripple marks, and strewn with the tiny skeletons of turtles
and fish, all as white and dry as if they had been expertly cured. 
We had been careful not to mar the freshness of the place, although
we often swam to it on summer evenings and lay on the sand to rest.

This was our last watch fire of the year, and there were
reasons why I should remember it better than any of the others. 
Next week the other boys were to file back to their old places in
the Sandtown High School, but I was to go up to the Divide to teach
my first country school in the Norwegian district.  I was already
homesick at the thought of quitting the boys with whom I had always
played; of leaving the river, and going up into a windy plain that
was all windmills and cornfields and big pastures; where there was
nothing wilful or unmanageable in the landscape, no new islands,
and no chance of unfamiliar birds--such as often followed the
watercourses.

Other boys came and went and used the river for fishing or
skating, but we six were sworn to the spirit of the stream, and we
were friends mainly because of the river.  There were the two
Hassler boys, Fritz and Otto, sons of the little German tailor. 
They were the youngest of us; ragged boys of ten and twelve, with
sunburned hair, weather-stained faces, and pale blue eyes.  Otto,
the elder, was the best mathematician in school, and clever
at his books, but he always dropped out in the spring term as if
the river could not get on without him.  He and Fritz caught the
fat, horned catfish and sold them about the town, and they lived
so much in the water that they were as brown and sandy as the river
itself.

There was Percy Pound, a fat, freckled boy with chubby cheeks,
who took half a dozen boys' story-papers and was always being kept
in for reading detective stories behind his desk.  There was Tip
Smith, destined by his freckles and red hair to be the buffoon in
all our games, though he walked like a timid little old man and had
a funny, cracked laugh.  Tip worked hard in his father's grocery
store every afternoon, and swept it out before school in the
morning.  Even his recreations were laborious.  He collected
cigarette cards and tin tobacco-tags indefatigably, and would sit
for hours humped up over a snarling little scroll-saw which he kept
in his attic.  His dearest possessions were some little pill
bottles that purported to contain grains of wheat from the Holy
Land, water from the Jordan and the Dead Sea, and earth from the
Mount of Olives.  His father had bought these dull things from a
Baptist missionary who peddled them, and Tip seemed to derive great
satisfaction from their remote origin.

The tall boy was Arthur Adams.  He had fine hazel eves that
were almost too reflective and sympathetic for a boy, and such a
pleasant voice that we all loved to hear him read aloud.  Even when
he had to read poetry aloud at school, no one ever thought of
laughing.  To be sure, he was not at school very much of the time. 
He was seventeen and should have finished the High School the year
before, but he was always off somewhere with his gun.  Arthur's
mother was dead, and his father, who was feverishly absorbed in
promoting schemes, wanted to send the boy away to school and get
him off his hands; but Arthur always begged off for another year
and promised to study.  I remember him as a tall, brown boy with an
intelligent face, always lounging among a lot of us little fellows,
laughing at us oftener than with us, but such a soft, satisfied
laugh that we felt rather flattered when we provoked it.  In
after-years people said that Arthur had been given to evil ways
as a ]ad, and it is true that we often saw him with the gambler's
sons and with old Spanish Fanny's boy, but if he learned anything
ugly in their company he never betrayed it to us.  We would have
followed Arthur anywhere, and I am bound to say that he led us into
no worse places than the cattail marshes and the stubble fields. 
These, then, were the boys who camped with me that summer night
upon the sand bar.

After we finished our supper we beat the willow thicket for
driftwood.  By the time we had collected enough, night had fallen,
and the pungent, weedy smell from the shore increased with the
coolness.  We threw ourselves down about the fire and made another
futile effort to show Percy Pound the Little Dipper.  We had tried
it often before, but he could never be got past the big one.

"You see those three big stars just below the handle, with the
bright one in the middle?" said Otto Hassler; "that's Orion's belt,
and the bright one is the clasp."  I crawled behind Otto's shoulder
and sighted up his arm to the star that seemed perched upon the tip
of his steady forefinger.  The Hassler boys did seine-fishing at
night, and they knew a good many stars.

Percy gave up the Little Dipper and lay back on the sand, his
hands clasped under his head.  "I can see the North Star," he
announced, contentedly, pointing toward it with his big toe. 
"Anyone might get lost and need to know that."

We all looked up at it.

"How do you suppose Columbus felt when his compass didn't
point north any more?" Tip asked.

Otto shook his head.  "My father says that there was another
North Star once, and that maybe this one won't last always.  I
wonder what would happen to us down here if anything went wrong
with it?"

Arthur chuckled.  "I wouldn't worry, Ott.  Nothing's apt to
happen to it in your time.  Look at the Milky Way!  There must be
lots of good dead Indians."

We lay back and looked, meditating, at the dark cover of the
world.  The gurgle of the water had become heavier.  We had often
noticed a mutinous, complaining note in it at night, quite
different from its cheerful daytime chuckle, and seeming like the
voice of a much deeper and more powerful stream.  Our water had
always these two moods: the one of sunny complaisance, the other of
inconsolable, passionate regret.

"Queer how the stars are all in sort of diagrams," remarked
Otto.  "You could do most any proposition in geometry with 'em. 
They always look as if they meant something.  Some folks say
everybody's fortune is all written out in the stars, don't they?"

"They believe so in the old country," Fritz affirmed.

But Arthur only laughed at him.  "You're thinking of Napoleon,
Fritzey.  He had a star that went out when he began to lose
battles.  I guess the stars don't keep any close tally on Sandtown
folks."

We were speculating on how many times we could count a hundred
before the evening star went down behind the cornfields, when
someone cried, "There comes the moon, and it's as big as a cart
wheel!"

We all jumped up to greet it as it swam over the bluffs behind
us.  It came up like a galleon in full sail; an enormous, barbaric
thing, red as an angry heathen god.

"When the moon came up red like that, the Aztecs used to
sacrifice their prisoners on the temple top," Percy announced.

"Go on, Perce.  You got that out of Golden Days.  Do you
believe that, Arthur?" I appealed.

Arthur answered, quite seriously: "Like as not.  The moon was
one of their gods.  When my father was in Mexico City he saw the
stone where they used to sacrifice their prisoners."

As we dropped down by the fire again some one asked whether
the Mound-Builders were older than the Aztecs.  When we once got
upon the Mound-Builders we never willingly got away from them, and
we were still conjecturing when we heard a loud splash in the
water.

"Must have been a big cat jumping," said Fritz.  "They do
sometimes.  They must see bugs in the dark.  Look what a track the
moon makes!"

There was a long, silvery streak on the water, and where the
current fretted over a big log it boiled up like gold pieces.

"Suppose there ever was any gold hid away in this old
river?" Fritz asked.  He lay like a little brown Indian, close to
the fire, his chin on his hand and his bare feet in the air.  His
brother laughed at him, but Arthur took his suggestion seriously.

"Some of the Spaniards thought there was gold up here somewhere. 
Seven cities chuck full of gold, they had it, and Coronado and his
men came up to hunt it.  The Spaniards were all over this country
once."

Percy looked interested.  "Was that before the Mormons went
through?"

We all laughed at this.

"Long enough before.  Before the Pilgrim Fathers, Perce.  Maybe
they came along this very river.  They always followed the
watercourses."

"I wonder where this river really does begin?" Tip mused. 
That was an old and a favorite mystery which the map did not
clearly explain.  On the map the little black line stopped
somewhere in western Kansas; but since rivers generally rose in
mountains, it was only reasonable to suppose that ours came from
the Rockies.  Its destination, we knew, was the Missouri, and the
Hassler boys always maintained that we could embark at Sandtown in
floodtime, follow our noses, and eventually arrive at New Orleans. 
Now they took up their old argument.  "If us boys had grit enough
to try it, it wouldn't take no time to get to Kansas City and St.
Joe."

We began to talk about the places we wanted to go to. The
Hassler boys wanted to see the stockyards in Kansas City, and Percy
wanted to see a big store in Chicago.  Arthur was interlocutor and
did not betray himself.

"Now it's your turn, Tip."

Tip rolled over on his elbow and poked the fire, and his eyes
looked shyly out of his queer, tight little face.  "My place is
awful far away.  My Uncle Bill told me about it."

Tip's Uncle Bill was a wanderer, bitten with mining fever, who
had drifted into Sandtown with a broken arm, and when it was well
had drifted out again.

"Where is it?"

"Aw, it's down in New Mexico somewheres.  There aren't no
railroads or anything.  You have to go on mules, and you run out of
water before you get there and have to drink canned tomatoes."

"Well, go on, kid.  What's it like when you do get there?"

Tip sat up and excitedly began his story.

"There's a big red rock there that goes right up out of the
sand for about nine hundred feet.  The country's flat all around
it, and this here rock goes up all by itself, like a monument. 
They call it the Enchanted Bluff down there, because no white man
has ever been on top of it.  The sides are smooth rock, and
straight up, like a wall.  The Indians say that hundreds of years
ago, before the Spaniards came, there was a village away up there
in the air.  The tribe that lived there had some sort of steps,
made out of wood and bark, bung down over the face of the bluff,
and the braves went down to hunt and carried water up in big jars
swung on their backs.  They kept a big supply of water and dried
meat up there, and never went down except to hunt.  They were a
peaceful tribe that made cloth and pottery, and they went up there
to get out of the wars.  You see, they could pick off any war party
that tried to get up their little steps.  The Indians say they were
a handsome people, and they had some sort of queer religion.  Uncle
Bill thinks they were Cliff-Dwellers who had got into trouble and
left home.  They weren't fighters, anyhow.

"One time the braves were down hunting and an awful storm came
up--a kind of waterspout--and when they got back to their rock they
found their little staircase had been all broken to pieces, and
only a few steps were left hanging away up in the air.  While they
were camped at the foot of the rock, wondering what to do, a
war party from the north came along and massacred 'em to a man,
with all the old folks and women looking on from the rock.  Then
the war party went on south and left the village to get down the
best way they could.  Of course they never got down.  They starved
to death up there, and when the war party came back on their way
north, they could hear the children crying from the edge of the
bluff where they had crawled out, but they didn't see a sign of a
grown Indian, and nobody has ever been up there since."

We exclaimed at this dolorous legend and sat up.

"There couldn't have been many people up there," Percy demurred. 
"How big is the top, Tip?"

"Oh, pretty big.  Big enough so that the rock doesn't look
nearly as tall as it is.  The top's bigger than the base.  The
bluff is sort of worn away for several hundred feet up.  That's one
reason it's so hard to climb."

I asked how the Indians got up, in the first place.

"Nobody knows how they got up or when.  A hunting party came
along once and saw that there was a town up there, and that was
all."

Otto rubbed his chin and looked thoughtful.  "Of course there
must be some way to get up there.  Couldn't people get a rope over
someway and pull a ladder up?"

Tip's little eyes were shining with excitement.  "I know a
way.  Me and Uncle Bill talked it over.  There's a kind of rocket
that would take a rope over--lifesavers use 'em--and then you could
hoist a rope ladder and peg it down at the bottom and make it tight
with guy ropes on the other side.  I'm going to climb that there
bluff, and I've got it all planned out."

Fritz asked what he expected to find when he got up there.

"Bones, maybe, or the ruins of their town, or pottery, or some
of their idols.  There might be 'most anything up there.  Anyhow,
I want to see."

"Sure nobody else has been up there, Tip?" Arthur asked.

"Dead sure.  Hardly anybody ever goes down there.  Some hunters
tried to cut steps in the rock once, but they didn't get higher
than a man can reach.  The Bluff's all red granite, and Uncle Bill
thinks it's a boulder the glaciers left.  It's a queer place,
anyhow.  Nothing but cactus and desert for hundreds of miles, and
yet right under the Bluff there's good water and plenty of grass. 
That's why the bison used to go down there."

Suddenly we heard a scream above our fire, and jumped up to
see a dark, slim bird floating southward far above us--a whooping
crane, we knew by her cry and her long neck.  We ran to the edge of
the island, hoping we might see her alight, but she wavered
southward along the rivercourse until we lost her.  The Hassler
boys declared that by the look of the heavens it must be after
midnight, so we threw more wood on our fire, put on our jackets,
and curled down in the warm sand.  Several of us pretended to doze,
but I fancy we were really thinking about Tip's Bluff and the
extinct people.  Over in the wood the ring doves were calling
mournfully to one another, and once we heard a dog bark, far away. 
"Somebody getting into old Tommy's melon patch," Fritz murmured
sleepily, but nobody answered him.  By and by Percy spoke out of
the shadows.

"Say, Tip, when you go down there will you take me with you?"

"Maybe."

"Suppose one of us beats you down there, Tip?"

"Whoever gets to the Bluff first has got to promise to tell
the rest of us exactly what he finds," remarked one of the Hassler
boys, and to this we all readily assented.

Somewhat reassured, I dropped off to sleep.  I must have
dreamed about a race for the Bluff, for I awoke in a kind of fear
that other people were getting ahead of me and that I was losing my
chance.  I sat up in my damp clothes and looked at the other boys,
who lay tumbled in uneasy attitudes about the dead fire.  It was
still dark, but the sky was blue with the last wonderful azure of
night.  The stars glistened like crystal globes, and trembled as if
they shone through a depth of clear water.  Even as I watched, they
began to pale and the sky brightened.  Day came suddenly, almost
instantaneously.  I turned for another look at the blue
night, and it was gone.  Everywhere the birds began to call, and
all manner of little insects began to chirp and hop about in the
willows.  A breeze sprang up from the west and brought the heavy
smell of ripened corn.  The boys rolled over and shook themselves.
We stripped and plunged into the river just as the sun came up over
the windy bluffs.

When I came home to Sandtown at Christmas time, we skated out
to our island and talked over the whole project of the Enchanted
Bluff, renewing our resolution to find it.


Although that was twenty years ago, none of us have ever
climbed the Enchanted Bluff.  Percy Pound is a stockbroker in
Kansas City and will go nowhere that his red touring car cannot
carry him.  Otto Hassler went on the railroad and lost his foot
braking; after which he and Fritz succeeded their father as the
town tailors.

Arthur sat about the sleepy little town all his life--he died
before he was twenty-five.  The last time I saw him, when I was
home on one of my college vacations, he was sitting in a steamer
chair under a cottonwood tree in the little yard behind one of the
two Sandtown saloons.  He was very untidy and his hand was not
steady, but when he rose, unabashed, to greet me, his eyes were as
clear and warm as ever.  When I had talked with him for an hour and
heard him laugh again, I wondered how it was that when Nature had
taken such pains with a man, from his hands to the arch of his long
foot, she had ever lost him in Sandtown.  He joked about Tip
Smith's Bluff, and declared he was going down there just as soon as
the weather got cooler; he thought the Grand Canyon might be worth
while, too.

I was perfectly sure when I left him that he would never get
beyond the high plank fence and the comfortable shade of the
cottonwood.  And, indeed, it was under that very tree that he died
one summer morning.

Tip Smith still talks about going to New Mexico.  He married
a slatternly, unthrifty country girl, has been much tied to a
perambulator, and has grown stooped and grey from irregular
meals and broken sleep.  But the worst of his difficulties are now
over, and he has, as he says, come into easy water.  When I was
last in Sandtown I walked home with him late one moonlight night,
after he had balanced his cash and shut up his store.  We took the
long way around and sat down on the schoolhouse steps, and between
us we quite revived the romance of the lone red rock and the
extinct people.  Tip insists that he still means to go down there,
but he thinks now he will wait until his boy Bert is old enough to
go with him.  Bert has been let into the story, and thinks of
nothing but the Enchanted Bluff.






The Bohemian Girl

The transcontinental express swung along the windings of the
Sand River Valley, and in the rear seat of the observation car a
young man sat greatly at his ease, not in the least discomfited by
the fierce sunlight which beat in upon his brown face and neck and
strong back.  There was a look of relaxation and of great passivity
about his broad shoulders, which seemed almost too heavy until he
stood up and squared them.  He wore a pale flannel shirt and a blue
silk necktie with loose ends.  His trousers were wide and belted at
the waist, and his short sack coat hung open.  His heavy shoes had
seen good service.  His reddish-brown hair, like his clothes, had
a foreign cut.  He had deep-set, dark blue eyes under heavy reddish
eyebrows.  His face was kept clean only by close shaving, and even
the sharpest razor left a glint of yellow in the smooth brown of
his skin.  His teeth and the palms of his hands were very white. 
His head, which looked hard and stubborn, lay indolently in the
green cushion of the wicker chair, and as he looked out at the ripe
summer country a teasing, not unkindly smile played over his lips. 
Once, as he basked thus comfortably, a quick light flashed in his
eves, curiously dilating the pupils, and his mouth became a hard,
straight line, gradually relaxing into its former smile of rather
kindly mockery.  He told himself, apparently, that there was no
point in getting excited; and he seemed a master hand at taking his
ease when he could.  Neither the sharp whistle of the locomotive
nor the brakeman's call disturbed him.  It was not until after the
train had stopped that he rose, put on a Panama hat, took from the
rack a small valise and a flute case, and stepped deliberately to
the station platform.  The baggage was already unloaded, and the
stranger presented a check for a battered sole-leather steamer
trunk.

"Can you keep it here for a day or two?" he asked the agent.  "I
may send for it, and I may not."

"Depends on whether you like the country, I suppose?" demanded
the agent in a challenging tone.

"Just so."

The agent shrugged his shoulders, looked scornfully at the
small trunk, which was marked "N.E.," and handed out a claim check
without further comment.  The stranger watched him as he caught one
end of the trunk and dragged it into the express room.  The agent's
manner seemed to remind him of something amusing.  "Doesn't seem to
be a very big place," he remarked, looking about.

"It's big enough for us," snapped the agent, as he banged the
trunk into a corner.

That remark, apparently, was what Nils Ericson had wanted.  He
chuckled quietly as he took a leather strap from his pocket and
swung his valise around his shoulder.  Then he settled his Panama
securely on his head, turned up his trousers, tucked the flute case
under his arm, and started off across the fields.  He gave the
town, as he would have said, a wide berth, and cut through a great
fenced pasture, emerging, when he rolled under the barbed wire at
the farther corner, upon a white dusty road which ran straight up
from the river valley to the high prairies, where the ripe wheat
stood yellow and the tin roofs and weathercocks were twinkling in
the fierce sunlight.  By the time Nils had done three miles, the
sun was sinking and the farm wagons on their way home from town
came rattling by, covering him with dust and making him sneeze. 
When one of the farmers pulled up and offered to give him a lift,
he clambered in willingly.  The driver was a thin, grizzled old man
with a long lean neck and a foolish sort of beard, like a goat's. 
"How fur ye goin'?" he asked, as he clucked to his horses and
started off.

"Do you go by the Ericson place?"

"Which Ericson?"  The old man drew in his reins as if he expected
to stop again.

"Preacher Ericson's."

"Oh, the Old Lady Ericson's!"  He turned and looked at Nils. 
"La, me!  If you're goin' out there you might a' rid out in the
automobile.  That's a pity, now.  The Old Lady Ericson was in town
with her auto.  You might 'a' heard it snortin' anywhere about the
post-office er the butcher shop."

"Has she a motor?" asked the stranger absently.

"'Deed an' she has!  She runs into town every night about this
time for her mail and meat for supper.  Some folks say she's afraid
her auto won't get exercise enough, but I say that's jealousy."

"Aren't there any other motors about here?"

"Oh, yes! we have fourteen in all.  But nobody else gets
around like the Old Lady Ericson.  She's out, rain er shine, over
the whole county, chargin' into town and out amongst her farms, an'
up to her sons' places.  Sure you ain't goin' to the wrong place?"
He craned his neck and looked at Nils' flute case with eager
curiosity.  "The old woman ain't got any piany that I knows on. 
Olaf, he has a grand.  His wife's musical: took lessons in
Chicago."

"I'm going up there tomorrow," said Nils imperturbably.  He
saw that the driver took him for a piano tuner.

"Oh, I see!"  The old man screwed up his eyes mysteriously.  He
was a little dashed by the stranger's noncommunicativeness, but he
soon broke out again.

"I'm one o' Miss Ericson's tenants.  Look after one of her
places.  I did own the place myself once, but I lost it a while
back, in the bad years just after the World's Fair.  Just as well,
too, I say.  Lets you out o' payin' taxes.  The Ericsons do own
most of the county now.  I remember the old preacher's favorite
text used to be, 'To them that hath shall be given.' They've spread
something wonderful--run over this here country like bindweed.  But
I ain't one that begretches it to 'em.  Folks is entitled to what
they kin git; and they're hustlers.  Olaf, he's in the Legislature
now, and a likely man fur Congress.  Listen, if that ain't the old
woman comin' now.  Want I should stop her?"

Nils shook his head.  He heard the deep chug-chug of a motor
vibrating steadily in the clear twilight behind them.  The pale
lights of the car swam over the hill, and the old man slapped his
reins and turned clear out of the road, ducking his head at
the first of three angry snorts from behind.  The motor was running
at a hot, even speed, and passed without turning an inch from its
course.  The driver was a stalwart woman who sat at ease in the
front seat and drove her car bareheaded.  She left a cloud of dust
and a trail of gasoline behind her.  Her tenant threw back his head
and sneezed.

"Whew!  I sometimes say I'd as lief be before Mrs. Ericson
as behind her.  She does beat all!  Nearly seventy, and never lets
another soul touch that car.  Puts it into commission herself
every morning, and keeps it tuned up by the hitch-bar all day.  I
never stop work for a drink o' water that I don't hear her a-
churnin' up the road.  I reckon her darter-in-laws never sets
down easy nowadays.  Never know when she'll pop in.  Mis' Otto,
she says to me: 'We're so afraid that thing'll blow up and do Ma
some injury yet, she's so turrible venturesome.' Says I: 'I
wouldn't stew, Mis' Otto; the old lady'll drive that car to the
funeral of every darter-in-law she's got.' That was after the old
woman had jumped a turrible bad culvert."

The stranger heard vaguely what the old man was saying. 
Just now he was experiencing something very much like
homesickness, and he was wondering what had brought it about. 
The mention of a name or two, perhaps; the rattle of a wagon
along a dusty road; the rank, resinous smell of sunflowers and
ironweed, which the night damp brought up from the draws and low
places; perhaps, more than all, the dancing lights of the motor
that had plunged by. He squared his shoulders with a comfortable
sense of strength.

The wagon, as it jolted westward, climbed a pretty steady
up-grade.  The country, receding from the rough river valley,
swelled more and more gently, as if it had been smoothed out by
the wind.  On one of the last of the rugged ridges, at the end of
a branch road, stood a grim square house with a tin roof and
double porches.  Behind the house stretched a row of broken,
wind-racked poplars, and down the hill slope to the left
straggled the sheds and stables.  The old man stopped his horses
where the Ericsons' road branched across a dry sand creek that
wound about the foot of the hill.

"That's the old lady's place.  Want I should drive in?"  "No,
thank you.  I'll roll out here.  Much obliged to you.  Good
night."

His passenger stepped down over the front wheel, and the old
man drove on reluctantly, looking back as if he would like to see
how the stranger would be received.

As Nils was crossing the dry creek he heard the restive
tramp of a horse coming toward him down the hill.  Instantly he
flashed out of the road and stood behind a thicket of wild plum
bushes that grew in the sandy bed.  Peering through the dusk, be
saw a light horse, under tight rein, descending the hill at a
sharp walk.  The rider was a slender woman--barely visible
against the dark hillside--wearing an old-fashioned derby hat and
a long riding skirt.  She sat lightly in the saddle, with her
chin high, and seemed to be looking into the distance.  As she
passed the plum thicket her horse snuffed the air and shied.  She
struck him, pulling him in sharply, with an angry exclamation,
"Blazne!" in Bohemian.  Once in the main road, she let him
out into a lope, and they soon emerged upon the crest of high land,
where they moved along the skyline, silhouetted against the band
of faint colour that lingered in the west.  This horse and rider,
with their free, rhythmical gallop, were the only moving things
to be seen on the face of the flat country.  They seemed, in the
last sad light of evening, not to be there accidentally, but as
an inevitable detail of the landscape.

Nils watched them until they had shrunk to a mere moving
speck against the sky, then he crossed the sand creek and climbed
the hill.  When he reached the gate the front of the house was
dark, but a light was shining from the side windows.  The pigs
were squealing in the hog corral, and Nils could see a tall boy,
who carried two big wooden buckets, moving about among them. 
Halfway between the barn and the house, the windmill wheezed
lazily.  Following the path that ran around to the back porch,
Nils stopped to look through the screen door into the lamplit
kitchen.  The kitchen was the largest room in the house; Nils
remembered that his older brothers used to give dances there when
he was a boy.  Beside the stove stood a little girl with two
light yellow braids and a broad, flushed face, peering
anxiously into a frying pan.  In the dining-room beyond, a large,
broad-shouldered woman was moving about the table.  She walked
with an active, springy step.  Her face was heavy and florid,
almost without wrinkles, and her hair was black at seventy.  Nils
felt proud of her as he watched her deliberate activity; never a
momentary hesitation, or a movement that did not tell.  He waited
until she came out into the kitchen and, brushing the child aside,
took her place at the stove.  Then he tapped on the screen door
and entered.

"It's nobody but Nils, Mother.  I expect you weren't looking
for me."

Mrs. Ericson turned away from the stove and stood staring at
him.  "Bring the lamp, Hilda, and let me look."

Nils laughed and unslung his valise.  "What's the matter,
Mother?  Don't you know me?"

Mrs. Ericson put down the lamp.  "You must be Nils.  You
don't look very different, anyway."

"Nor you, Mother.  You hold your own.  Don't you wear
glasses yet?"

"Only to read by.  Where's your trunk, Nils?"

"Oh, I left that in town.  I thought it might not be
convenient for you to have company so near threshing-time."

"Don't be foolish, Nils."  Mrs. Ericson turned back to the
stove.  "I don't thresh now.  I hitched the wheat land onto the
next farm and have a tenant.  Hilda, take some hot water up to
the company room, and go call little Eric."

The tow-haired child, who had been standing in mute
amazement, took up the tea-kettle and withdrew, giving Nils a
long, admiring look from the door of the kitchen stairs.

"Who's the youngster?" Nils asked, dropping down on the
bench behind the kitchen stove.

"One of your Cousin Henrik's."

"How long has Cousin Henrik been dead?"

"Six years.  There are two boys.  One stays with Peter and
one with Anders.  Olaf is their guardeen."

There was a clatter of pails on the porch, and a tall, lanky
boy peered wonderingly in through the screen door.  He had a
fair, gentle face and big grey eyes, and wisps of soft yellow
hair hung down under his cap.  Nils sprang up and pulled
him into the kitchen, hugging him and slapping him on the
shoulders.  "Well, if it isn't my kid!  Look at the size of him!
Don't you know me, Eric?"

The boy reddened tinder his sunburn and freckles, and hung his
head.  "I guess it's Nils," he said shyly.

"You're a good guesser," laughed Nils giving the lad's hand a
swing.  To himself he was thinking: "That's why the little girl
looked so friendly.  He's taught her to like me.  He was only six
when I went away, and he's remembered for twelve years."

Eric stood fumbling with his cap and smiling.  "You look just
like I thought you would," he ventured.

"Go wash your hands, Eric," called Mrs. Ericson.  "I've got
cob corn for supper, Nils.  You used to like it.  I guess you don't
get much of that in the old country.  Here's Hilda; she'll take you
up to your room.  You'll want to get the dust off you before you
eat."

Mrs. Ericson went into the dining-room to lay another plate,
and the little girl came up and nodded to Nils as if to let him
know that his room was ready.  He put out his hand and she took it,
with a startled glance up at his face.  Little Eric dropped his
towel, threw an arm about Nils and one about Hilda, gave them a
clumsy squeeze, and then stumbled out to the porch.

During supper Nils heard exactly how much land each of his
eight grown brothers farmed, how their crops were coming on, and
how much livestock they were feeding.  His mother watched him
narrowly as she talked.  "You've got better looking, Nils," she
remarked abruptly, whereupon he grinned and the children giggled. 
Eric, although he was eighteen and as tall as Nils, was always
accounted a child, being the last of so many sons.  His face seemed
childlike, too, Nils thought, and he had the open, wandering eves
of a little boy.  All the others had been men at his age.

After supper Nils went out to the front porch and sat down on
the step to smoke a pipe.  Mrs. Ericson drew a rocking-chair up
near him and began to knit busily.  It was one of the few Old World
customs she had kept up, for she could not bear to sit with idle
hands.

"Where's little Eric, Mother?"

"He's helping Hilda with the dishes.  He does it of his own
will; I don't like a boy to be too handy about the house."

"He seems like a nice kid."

"He's very obedient."

Nils smiled a little in the dark.  It was just as well to
shift the line of conversation.  "What are you knitting there,
Mother?"

"Baby stockings.  The boys keep me busy."  Mrs. Ericson
chuckled and clicked her needles.

"How many grandchildren have you?"

"Only thirty-one now.  Olaf lost his three.  They were
sickly, like their mother."

"I supposed he had a second crop by this time!"

"His second wife has no children.  She's too proud.  She
tears about on horseback all the time.  But she'll get caught up
with, yet.  She sets herself very high, though nobody knows what
for.  They were low enough Bohemians she came of.  I never
thought much of Bohemians; always drinking."

Nils puffed away at his pipe in silence, and Mrs. Ericson
knitted on.  In a few moments she added grimly: "She was down
here tonight, just before you came.  She'd like to quarrel with
me and come between me and Olaf, but I don't give her the chance. 
I suppose you'll be bringing a wife home some day."

"I don't know.  I've never thought much about it."

"Well, perhaps it's best as it is," suggested Mrs. Ericson
hopefully.  "You'd never be contented tied down to the land. 
There was roving blood in your father's family, and it's come out
in you.  I expect your own way of life suits you best."  Mrs.
Ericson had dropped into a blandly agreeable tone which Nils well
remembered.  It seemed to amuse him a good deal and his white
teeth flashed behind his pipe.  His mother's strategies had
always diverted him, even when he was a boy--they were so flimsy
and patent, so illy proportioned to her vigor and force. 
"They've been waiting to see which way I'd jump," he reflected. 
He felt that Mrs. Ericson was pondering his case deeply as she
sat clicking her needles.

"I don't suppose you've ever got used to steady work," she went on
presently.  "Men ain't apt to if they roam around too long.  It's
a pity you didn't come back the year after the World's Fair.  Your
father picked up a good bit of land cheap then, in the hard times,
and I expect maybe he'd have give you a farm. it's too bad you put
off comin' back so long, for I always thought he meant to do
something by you."

Nils laughed and shook the ashes out of his pipe.  "I'd have
missed a lot if I had come back then.  But I'm sorry I didn't get
back to see father."

"Well, I suppose we have to miss things at one end or the
other.  Perhaps you are as well satisfied with your own doings,
now, as you'd have been with a farm," said Mrs. Ericson
reassuringly.

"Land's a good thing to have," Nils commented, as he lit
another match and sheltered it with his hand.

His mother looked sharply at his face until the match burned
out.  "Only when you stay on it!" she hastened to say.

Eric came round the house by the path just then, and Nils
rose, with a yawn.  "Mother, if you don't mind, Eric and I will
take a little tramp before bedtime.  It will make me sleep."

"Very well; only don't stay long.  I'll sit up and wait for
you.  I like to lock up myself."

Nils put his hand on Eric's shoulder, and the two tramped down
the hill and across the sand creek into the dusty highroad beyond. 
Neither spoke.  They swung along at an even gait, Nils puffing at
his pipe.  There was no moon, and the white road and the wide
fields lay faint in the starlight.  Over everything was darkness
and thick silence, and the smell of dust and sunflowers.  The
brothers followed the road for a mile or more without finding a
place to sit down.  Finally, Nils perched on a stile over the wire
fence, and Eric sat on the lower step.

"I began to think you never would come back, Nils," said the
boy softly.

"Didn't I promise you I would?"

"Yes; but people don't bother about promises they make to
babies.  Did you really know you were going away for good
when you went to Chicago with the cattle that time?"

"I thought it very likely, if I could make my way."

"I don't see how you did it, Nils.  Not many fellows could."
Eric rubbed his shoulder against his brother's knee.

"The hard thing was leaving home you and father.  It was easy
enough, once I got beyond Chicago.  Of course I got awful homesick;
used to cry myself to sleep.  But I'd burned my bridges."

"You had always wanted to go, hadn't you?"

"Always.  Do you still sleep in our little room?  Is that
cottonwood still by the window?"

Eric nodded eagerly and smiled up at his brother in the grey
darkness.

"You remember how we always said the leaves were whispering
when they rustled at night?  Well, they always whispered to me
about the sea.  Sometimes they said names out of the geography
books.  In a high wind they had a desperate sound, like someone
trying to tear loose."

"How funny, Nils," said Eric dreamily, resting his chin on his
hand.  "That tree still talks like that, and 'most always it talks
to me about you."

They sat a while longer, watching the stars.  At last Eric
whispered anxiously: "Hadn't we better go back now?  Mother will
get tired waiting for us."  They rose and took a short cut home,
through the pasture.


                           II

The next morning Nils woke with the first flood of light that
came with dawn.  The white-plastered walls of his room reflected
the glare that shone through the thin window shades, and he found
it impossible to sleep.  He dressed hurriedly and slipped down the
hall and up the back stairs to the half-story room which be used to
share with his little brother.  Eric, in a skimpy nightshirt, was
sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbing his eyes, his pale yellow
hair standing up in tufts all over his head.  When he saw Nils, he
murmured something confusedly and hustled his long legs into
his trousers.  "I didn't expect you'd be up so early, Nils," he
said, as his head emerged from his blue shirt.

"Oh, you thought I was a dude, did you?"  Nils gave him a
playful tap which bent the tall boy up like a clasp knife.  "See
here: I must teach you to box."  Nils thrust his hands into his
pockets and walked about.  "You haven't changed things much up
here.  Got most of my old traps, haven't you?"

He took down a bent, withered piece of sapling that hung over
the dresser.  "If this isn't the stick Lou Sandberg killed himself
with!"

The boy looked up from his shoe-lacing.

"Yes; you never used to let me play with that.  Just how did
he do it, Nils?  You were with father when he found Lou, weren't
you?"

"Yes.  Father was going off to preach somewhere, and, as we
drove along, Lou's place looked sort of forlorn, and we thought
we'd stop and cheer him up.  When we found him father said he'd
been dead a couple days.  He'd tied a piece of binding twine round
his neck, made a noose in each end, fixed the nooses over the ends
of a bent stick, and let the stick spring straight; strangled
himself."

"What made him kill himself such a silly way?"

The simplicity of the boy's question set Nils laughing.  He
clapped little Eric on the shoulder.  "What made him such a silly
as to kill himself at all, I should say!"

"Oh, well!  But his hogs had the cholera, and all up and died
on him, didn't they?"

"Sure they did; but he didn't have cholera; and there were
plenty of bogs left in the world, weren't there?"

"Well, but, if they weren't his, how could they do him any
good?" Eric asked, in astonishment.

"Oh, scat!  He could have had lots of fun with other people's
hogs.  He was a chump, Lou Sandberg.  To kill yourself for a pig--
think of that, now!"  Nils laughed all the way downstairs, and
quite embarrassed little Eric, who fell to scrubbing his face and
hands at the tin basin.  While he was parting his wet hair at the
kitchen looking glass, a heavy tread sounded on the stairs.  The
boy dropped his comb.  "Gracious, there's Mother.  We must have
talked too long."  He hurried out to the shed, slipped on his
overalls, and disappeared with the milking pails.

Mrs. Ericson came in, wearing a clean white apron, her black
hair shining from the application of a wet brush.

"Good morning, Mother.  Can't I make the fire for you?"

"No, thank you, Nils.  It's no trouble to make a cob fire, and
I like to manage the kitchen stove myself" Mrs. Ericson paused with
a shovel full of ashes in her hand.  "I expect you will be wanting
to see your brothers as soon as possible.  I'll take you up to
Anders' place this morning.  He's threshing, and most of our boys
are over there."

"Will Olaf be there?"

Mrs. Ericson went on taking out the ashes, and spoke between
shovels.  "No; Olaf's wheat is all in, put away in his new barn. 
He got six thousand bushel this year.  He's going to town today to
get men to finish roofing his barn."

"So Olaf is building a new barn?" Nils asked absently.

"Biggest one in the county, and almost done.  You'll likely be
here for the barn-raising.  He's going to have a supper and a dance
as soon as everybody's done threshing.  Says it keeps the voters in
good humour.  I tell him that's all nonsense; but Olaf has a head
for politics."

"Does Olaf farm all Cousin Henrik's land?"

Mrs. Ericson frowned as she blew into the faint smoke curling up
about the cobs.  "Yes; he holds it in trust for the children, Hilda
and her brothers.  He keeps strict account of everything he raises
on it, and puts the proceeds out at compound interest for them."

Nils smiled as he watched the little flames shoot up.  The
door of the back stairs opened, and Hilda emerged, her arms behind
her, buttoning up her long gingham apron as she came.  He nodded to
her gaily, and she twinkled at him out of her little blue eyes, set
far apart over her wide cheekbones.

"There, Hilda, you grind the coffee--and just put in an extra
handful; I expect your Cousin Nils likes his strong," said Mrs.
Ericson, as she went out to the shed.

Nils turned to look at the little girl, who gripped the coffee
grinder between her knees and ground so hard that her two braids
bobbed and her face flushed under its broad spattering of
freckles.  He noticed on her middle finger something that had not
been there last night, and that had evidently been put on for
company: a tiny gold ring with a clumsily set garnet stone.  As her
hand went round and round he touched the ring with the tip of his
finger, smiling.

Hilda glanced toward the shed door through which Mrs. Ericson
had disappeared.  "My Cousin Clara gave me that," she whispered
bashfully.  "She's Cousin Olaf's wife."


                           III

Mrs. Olaf Ericson--Clara Vavrika, as many people still called
her--was moving restlessly about her big bare house that morning. 
Her husband had left for the county town before his wife was out of
bed--her lateness in rising was one of the many things the Ericson
family had against her.  Clara seldom came downstairs before eight
o'clock, and this morning she was even later, for she had dressed
with unusual care.  She put on, however, only a tightfitting black
dress, which people thereabouts thought very plain.  She was a
tall, dark woman of thirty, with a rather sallow complexion and a
touch of dull salmon red in her cheeks, where the blood seemed to
burn under her brown skin.  Her hair, parted evenly above her low
forehead, was so black that there were distinctly blue lights in
it.  Her black eyebrows were delicate half-moons and her lashes
were long and heavy.  Her eyes slanted a little, as if she had a
strain of Tartar or gypsy blood, and were sometimes full of fiery
determination and sometimes dull and opaque.  Her expression was
never altogether amiable; was often, indeed, distinctly sullen, or,
when she was animated, sarcastic.  She was most attractive in
profile, for then one saw to advantage her small, well-shaped head
and delicate ears, and felt at once that here was a very positive,
if not an altogether pleasing, personality.

The entire management of Mrs. Olaf's household devolved upon
her aunt, Johanna Vavrika, a superstitious, doting woman of fifty. 
When Clara was a little girl her mother died, and Johanna's life
had been spent in ungrudging service to her niece.  Clara,
like many self-willed and discontented persons, was really very
apt, without knowing it, to do as other people told her, and to let
her destiny be decided for her by intelligences much below her own. 
It was her Aunt Johanna who had humoured and spoiled her in her
girlhood, who had got her off to Chicago to study piano, and who
had finally persuaded her to marry Olaf Ericson as the best match
she would be likely to make in that part of the country.  Johanna
Vavrika had been deeply scarred by smallpox in the old country. 
She was short and fat, homely and jolly and sentimental.  She was
so broad, and took such short steps when she walked, that her
brother, Joe Vavrika, always called her his duck.  She adored her
niece because of her talent, because of her good looks and
masterful ways, but most of all because of her selfishness.

Clara's marriage with Olaf Ericson was Johanna's particular
triumph.  She was inordinately proud of Olaf's position, and she
found a sufficiently exciting career in managing Clara's house, in
keeping it above the criticism of the Ericsons, in pampering Olaf
to keep him from finding fault with his wife, and in concealing
from every one Clara's domestic infelicities.  While Clara slept of
a morning, Johanna Vavrika was bustling about, seeing that Olaf and
the men had their breakfast, and that the cleaning or the butter-
making or the washing was properly begun by the two girls in the
kitchen.  Then, at about eight o'clock, she would take Clara's
coffee up to her, and chat with her while she drank it, telling her
what was going on in the house.  Old Mrs. Ericson frequently said
that her daughter-in-law would not know what day of the week it was
if Johanna did not tell her every morning.  Mrs. Ericson despised
and pitied Johanna, but did not wholly dislike her.  The one thing
she hated in her daughter-in-law above everything else was the way
in which Clara could come it over people.  It enraged her that the
affairs of her son's big, barnlike house went on as well as they
did, and she used to feel that in this world we have to wait
overlong to see the guilty punished.  "Suppose Johanna Vavrika died
or got sick?" the old lady used to say to Olaf.  "Your wife
wouldn't know where to look for her own dish-cloth."  Olaf
only shrugged his shoulders. The fact remained that Johanna did
not die, and, although Mrs. Ericson often told her she was
looking poorly, she was never ill.  She seldom left the house,
and she slept in a little room off the kitchen.  No Ericson, by
night or day, could come prying about there to find fault without
her knowing it.  Her one weakness was that she was an incurable
talker, and she sometimes made trouble without meaning to.

This morning Clara was tying a wine-coloured ribbon about
her throat when Johanna appeared with her coffee.  After putting
the tray on a sewing table, she began to make Clara's bed,
chattering the while in Bohemian.

"Well, Olaf got off early, and the girls are baking.  I'm
going down presently to make some poppy-seed bread for Olaf.  He
asked for prune preserves at breakfast, and I told him I was out
of them, and to bring some prunes and honey and cloves from
town."

Clara poured her coffee.  "Ugh!  I don't see how men can eat
so much sweet stuff.  In the morning, too!"

Her aunt chuckled knowingly.  "Bait a bear with honey, as we
say in the old country."

"Was he cross?" her niece asked indifferently.

"Olaf?  Oh, no!  He was in fine spirits.  He's never cross if
you know how to take him.  I never knew a man to make so little
fuss about bills.  I gave him a list of things to get a yard
long, and he didn't say a word; just folded it up and put it in
his pocket."

"I can well believe he didn't say a word," Clara remarked
with a shrug.  "Some day he'll forget how to talk."

"Oh, but they say he's a grand speaker in the Legislature. 
He knows when to keep quiet.  That's why he's got such influence
in politics.  The people have confidence in him."  Johanna beat up
a pillow and held it under her fat chin while she slipped on the
case.  Her niece laughed.

"Maybe we could make people believe we were wise, Aunty, if
we held our tongues.  Why did you tell Mrs. Ericson that Norman
threw me again last Saturday and turned my foot?  She's been
talking to Olaf."

Johanna fell into great confusion.  "Oh, but, my precious,
the old lady asked for you, and she's always so angry if I can't
give an excuse.  Anyhow, she needn't talk; she's always tearing
up something with that motor of hers."

When her aunt clattered down to the kitchen, Clara went to
dust the parlour.  Since there was not much there to dust, this did
not take very long.  Olaf had built the house new for her before
their marriage, but her interest in furnishing it had been short-
lived.  It went, indeed, little beyond a bathtub and her piano. 
They had disagreed about almost even, other article of furniture,
and Clara had said she would rather have her house empty than full
of things she didn't want.  The house was set in a hillside, and
the west windows of the parlour looked out above the kitchen yard
thirty feet below.  The east windows opened directly into the front
yard.  At one of the latter, Clara, while she was dusting, heard a
low whistle.  She did not turn at once, but listened intently as
she drew her cloth slowly along the round of a chair.  Yes, there
it was:

I dreamt that I dwelt in ma-a-arble halls.

She turned and saw Nils Ericson laughing in the sunlight, his
hat in his hand, just outside the window.  As she crossed the room
he leaned against the wire screen.  "Aren't you at all surprised to
see me, Clara Vavrika?"

"No; I was expecting to see you.  Mother Ericson telephoned
Olaf last night that you were here."

Nils squinted and gave a long whistle.  "Telephoned?  That must
have been while Eric and I were out walking.  Isn't she
enterprising?  Lift this screen, won't you?"

Clara lifted the screen, and Nils swung his leg across the
window-sill.  As he stepped into the room she said: "You didn't
think you were going to get ahead of your mother, did you?"

He threw his hat on the piano.  "Oh, I do sometimes.  You see,
I'm ahead of her now.  I'm supposed to be in Anders' wheat-field. 
But, as we were leaving, Mother ran her car into a soft place
beside the road and sank up to the hubs.  While they were going for
the horses to pull her out, I cut away behind the stacks and
escaped."  Nils chuckled.  Clara's dull eyes lit up as she looked
at him admiringly.

"You've got them guessing already. 1 don't know what your
mother said to Olaf over the telephone, but be came back looking as
if he'd seen a ghost, and he didn't go to bed until a dreadful
hour--ten o'clock, I should think.  He sat out on the porch in the
dark like a graven image.  It had been one of his talkative days,
too."  They both laughed, easily and lightly, like people who have
laughed a great deal together; but they remained standing.

"Anders and Otto and Peter looked as if they had seen ghosts,
too, over in the threshing field.  What's the matter with them
all?"

Clara gave him a quick, searching look.  "Well, for one thing,
they've always been afraid you have the other will."

Nils looked interested.  "The other will?"

"Yes.  A later one.  They knew your father made another, but
they never knew what he did with it.  They almost tore the old
house to pieces looking for it.  They always suspected that he
carried on a clandestine correspondence with you, for the one thing
he would do was to get his own mail himself.  So they thought he
might have sent the new will to you for safekeeping.  The old one,
leaving everything to your mother, was made long before you went
away, and it's understood among them that it cuts you out--that she
will leave all the property to the others.  Your father made the
second will to prevent that.  I've been hoping you had it.  It
would be such fun to spring it on them."  Clara laughed mirthfully,
a thing she did not often do now.

Nils shook his head reprovingly.  "Come, now, you're malicious."

"No, I'm not.  But I'd like something to happen to stir them
all up, just for once.  There never was such a family for having
nothing ever happen to them but dinner and threshing.  I'd almost
be willing to die, just to have a funeral.  You wouldn't
stand it for three weeks."

Nils bent over the piano and began pecking at the keys with
the finger of one hand.  "I wouldn't?  My dear young lady, how do
you know what I can stand?  You wouldn't wait to find out."

Clara flushed darkly and frowned.  "I didn't believe you would
ever come back--" she said defiantly.

"Eric believed I would, and he was only a baby when I went
away.  However, all's well that ends well, and I haven't come back
to be a skeleton at the feast.  We mustn't quarrel.  Mother mill be
here with a search warrant pretty soon."  He swung round and faced
her, thrusting his hands into his coat pockets.  "Come, you ought
to be glad to see me, if you want something to happen.  I'm
something, even without a will.  We can have a little fun, can't
we?  I think we can!"

She echoed him, "I think we can!"  They both laughed and their
eyes sparkled.  Clara Vavrika looked ten years younger than when
she had put the velvet ribbon about her throat that morning.

"You know, I'm so tickled to see mother," Nils went on. "I
didn't know I was so proud of her.  A regular pile driver.  How
about little pigtails, down at the house?  Is Olaf doing the square
thing by those children?"

Clara frowned pensively.  "Olaf has to do something that looks
like the square thing, now that he's a public man!"  She glanced
drolly at Nils.  "But he makes a good commission out of it.  On
Sundays they all get together here and figure.  He lets Peter and
Anders put in big bills for the keep of the two boys, and he pays
them out of the estate.  They are always having what they call
accountings.  Olaf gets something out of it, too.  I don't know
just how they do it, but it's entirely a family matter, as they
say.  And when the Ericsons say that--"  Clara lifted her eyebrows.

Just then the angry honk-honk of an approaching motor
sounded from down the road.  Their eyes met and they began to
laugh.  They laughed as children do when they can not contain
themselves, and can not explain the cause of their mirth to grown
people, but share it perfectly together.  When Clara Vavrika sat
down at the piano after he was gone, she felt that she had laughed
away a dozen years.  She practised as if the house were burning
over her head.

When Nils greeted his mother and climbed into the front seat
of the motor beside her, Mrs. Ericson looked grim, but she
made no comment upon his truancy until she had turned her car and
was retracing her revolutions along the road that ran by Olaf's big
pasture.  Then she remarked dryly:

"If I were you I wouldn't see too much of Olaf's wife while
you are here.  She's the kind of woman who can't see much of men
without getting herself talked about.  She was a good deal talked
about before he married her."

"Hasn't Olaf tamed her?" Nils asked indifferently.

Mrs. Ericson shrugged her massive shoulders.  "Olaf don't seem
to have much luck, when it comes to wives.  The first one was meek
enough, but she was always ailing.  And this one has her own way. 
He says if he quarreled with her she'd go back to her father, and
then he'd lose the Bohemian vote.  There are a great many Bohunks
in this district.  But when you find a man under his wife's thumb
you can always be sure there's a soft spot in him somewhere."

Nils thought of his own father, and smiled.  "She brought him
a good deal of money, didn't she, besides the Bohemian vote?"

Mrs. Ericson sniffed.  "Well, she has a fair half section in
her own name, but I can't see as that does Olaf much good.  She
will have a good deal of property some day, if old Vavrika don't
marry again.  But I don't consider a saloonkeeper's money as good
as other people's money,"

Nils laughed outright.  "Come, Mother, don't let your
prejudices carry you that far.  Money's money.  Old Vavrika's a
mighty decent sort of saloonkeeper.  Nothing rowdy about him."

Mrs. Ericson spoke up angrily.  "Oh, I know you always stood
up for them!  But hanging around there when you were a boy never
did you any good, Nils, nor any of the other boys who went there. 
There weren't so many after her when she married Olaf, let me tell
you.  She knew enough to grab her chance."

Nils settled back in his seat.  "Of course I liked to go
there, Mother, and you were always cross about it.  You never took
the trouble to find out that it was the one jolly house in this
country for a boy to go to.  All the rest of you were working
yourselves to death, and the houses were mostly a mess, full
of babies and washing and flies. oh, it was all right--I understand
that; but you are young only once, and I happened to be young then.
Now, Vavrika's was always jolly.  He played the violin, and I used
to take my flute, and Clara played the piano, and Johanna used to
sing Bohemian songs.  She always had a big supper for us--herrings
and pickles and poppy-seed bread, and lots of cake and preserves.
Old Joe had been in the army in the old country, and he could tell
lots of good stories.  I can see him cutting bread, at the head of
the table, now.  I don't know what I'd have done when I was a kid
if it hadn't been for the Vavrikas, really."

"And all the time he was taking money that other people had
worked hard in the fields for," Mrs. Ericson observed.

"So do the circuses, Mother, and they're a good thing.  People
ought to get fun for some of their money.  Even father liked old
Joe."

"Your father," Mrs. Ericson said grimly, "liked everybody."

As they crossed the sand creek and turned into her own place,
Mrs. Ericson observed, "There's Olaf's buggy.  He's stopped on his
way from town."  Nils shook himself and prepared to greet his
brother, who was waiting on the porch.

Olaf was a big, heavy Norwegian, slow of speech and movement. 
His head was large and square, like a block of wood.  When Nils, at
a distance, tried to remember what his brother looked like, he
could recall only his heavy head, high forehead, large nostrils,
and pale blue eyes, set far apart.  Olaf's features were
rudimentary: the thing one noticed was the face itself, wide and
flat and pale; devoid of any expression, betraying his fifty years
as little as it betrayed anything else, and powerful by reason of
its very stolidness.  When Olaf shook hands with Nils he looked at
him from under his light eyebrows, but Nils felt that no one could
ever say what that pale look might mean.  The one thing he had
always felt in Olaf was a heavy stubbornness, like the unyielding
stickiness of wet loam against the plow.  He had always found Olaf
the most difficult of his brothers.

"How do you do, Nils?  Expect to stay with us long?"

"Oh, I may stay forever," Nils answered gaily.  "I like this
country better than I used to."

"There's been some work put into it since you left," Olaf remarked.

"Exactly.  I think it's about ready to live in now--and I'm
about ready to settle down."  Nils saw his brother lower his big
head ("Exactly like a bull," he thought.) "Mother's been persuading
me to slow down now, and go in for farming," he went on lightly.

Olaf made a deep sound in his throat.  "Farming ain't learned
in a day," he brought out, still looking at the ground.

"Oh, I know!  But I pick things up quickly."  Nils had not meant
to antagonize his brother, and he did not know now why he was doing
it.  "Of course," he went on, "I shouldn't expect to make a big
success, as you fellows have done.  But then, I'm not ambitious. 
I won't want much.  A little land, and some cattle, maybe."

Olaf still stared at the ground, his head down.  He wanted to
ask Nils what he had been doing all these years, that he didn't
have a business somewhere he couldn't afford to leave; why he
hadn't more pride than to come back with only a little sole-leather
trunk to show for himself, and to present himself as the only
failure in the family.  He did not ask one of these questions, but
he made them all felt distinctly.

"Humph!" Nils thought.  "No wonder the man never talks, when
he can butt his ideas into you like that without ever saying a
word.  I suppose he uses that kind of smokeless powder on his wife
all the time.  But I guess she has her innings."  He chuckled, and
Olaf looked up.  "Never mind me, Olaf.  I laugh without knowing
why, like little Eric.  He's another cheerful dog."

"Eric," said Olaf slowly, "is a spoiled kid.  He's just let
his mother's best cow go dry because he don't milk her right.  I
was hoping you'd take him away somewhere and put him into business.

If he don't do any good among strangers, he never will."  This was
a long speech for Olaf, and as he finished it he climbed into his
buggy.

Nils shrugged his shoulders.  "Same old tricks," he
thought.  "Hits from behind you every time.  What a whale of a
man!"  He turned and went round to the kitchen, where his mother
was scolding little Eric for letting the gasoline get low.


                           IV

Joe Vavrika's saloon was not in the county seat, where Olaf
and Mrs. Ericson did their trading, but in a cheerfuller place, a
little Bohemian settlement which lay at the other end of the
county, ten level miles north of Olaf's farm.  Clara rode up to see
her father almost every day.  Vavrika's house was, so to speak, in
the back yard of his saloon.  The garden between the two buildings
was inclosed by a high board fence as tight as a partition, and in
summer Joe kept beer tables and wooden benches among the gooseberry
bushes under his little cherry tree.  At one of these tables Nils
Ericson was seated in the late afternoon, three days after his
return home.  Joe had gone in to serve a customer, and Nils was
lounging on his elbows, looking rather mournfully into his half-
emptied pitcher, when he heard a laugh across the little garden. 
Clara, in her riding habit, was standing at the back door of the
house, under the grapevine trellis that old Joe had grown there
long ago.  Nils rose.

"Come out and keep your father and me company.  We've been
gossiping all afternoon.  Nobody to bother us but the flies."

She shook her head.  "No, I never come out here any more.  Olaf
doesn't like it.  I must live up to my position, you know."

"You mean to tell me you never come out and chat with the boys, as
you used to?  He has tamed you!  Who keeps up these
flower-beds?"

"I come out on Sundays, when father is alone, and read the
Bohemian papers to him.  But I am never here when the bar is open. 
What have you two been doing?"

"Talking, as I told you.  I've been telling him about my
travels.  I find I can't talk much at home, not even to Eric."

Clara reached up and poked with her riding-whip at a white
moth that was fluttering in the sunlight among the vine leaves.  "I
suppose you will never tell me about all those things."

"Where can I tell them?  Not in Olaf's house, certainly. 
What's the matter with our talking here?"  He pointed persuasively
with his hat to the bushes and the green table, where the flies
were singing lazily above the empty beer glasses.

Clara shook her head weakly.  "No, it wouldn't do.  Besides,
I am going now."

"I'm on Eric's mare.  Would you be angry if I overtook you?"

Clara looked back and laughed.  "You might try and see.  I can
leave you if I don't want you.  Eric's mare can't keep up with
Norman."

Nils went into the bar and attempted to pay his score.  Big
Joe, six feet four, with curly yellow hair and mustache, clapped
him on the shoulder.  "Not a Goddamn a your money go in my drawer,
you hear?  Only next time you bring your flute, te-te-te-te-te-ty."
Joe wagged his fingers in imitation of the flute player's position.

"My Clara, she come all-a-time Sundays an' play for me.  She not
like to play at Ericson's place."  He shook his yellow curls and
laughed.  "Not a Goddamn a fun at Ericson's.  You come a Sunday. 
You like-a fun.  No forget de flute."  Joe talked very rapidly and
always tumbled over his English.  He seldom spoke it to his
customers, and had never learned much.

Nils swung himself into the saddle and trotted to the west of
the village, where the houses and gardens scattered into prairie
land and the road turned south.  Far ahead of him, in the declining
light, he saw Clara Vavrika's slender figure, loitering on
horseback.  He touched his mare with the whip, and shot along the
white, level road, under the reddening sky.  When he overtook
Olaf's wife he saw that she had been crying.  "What's the matter,
Clara Vavrika?" he asked kindly.

"Oh, I get blue sometimes.  It was awfully jolly living there
with father.  I wonder why I ever went away."

Nils spoke in a low, kind tone that he sometimes used with women:
"That's what I've been wondering these many years.  You were the
last girl in the country I'd have picked for a wife for Olaf.  What
made you do it, Clara?"

"I suppose I really did it to oblige the neighbours"--Clara
tossed her head.  "People were beginning to wonder."

"To wonder?"

"Yes--why I didn't get married.  I suppose I didn't like to
keep them in suspense.  I've discovered that most girls marry out
of consideration for the neighbourhood."

Nils bent his head toward her and his white teeth flashed. 
"I'd have gambled that one girl I knew would say, 'Let the
neighbourhood be damned.'"

Clara shook her head mournfully.  "You see, they have it on
you, Nils; that is, if you're a woman.  They say you're beginning
to go off.  That's what makes us get married: we can't stand the
laugh."

Nils looked sidewise at her.  He had never seen her head droop
before.  Resignation was the last thing he would have expected of
her.  "In your case, there wasn't something else?"

"Something else?"

"I mean, you didn't do it to spite somebody?  Somebody who
didn't come back?"

Clara drew herself up.  "Oh, I never thought you'd come back. 
Not after I stopped writing to you, at least.  That was all
over, long before I married Olaf."

"It never occurred to you, then, that the meanest thing you
could do to me was to marry Olaf?"

Clara laughed.  "No; I didn't know you were so fond of Olaf."

Nils smoothed his horse's mane with his glove.  "You know,
Clara Vavrika, you are never going to stick it out.  You'll cut
away some day, and I've been thinking you might as well cut away
with me."

Clara threw up her chin.  "Oh, you don't know me as well as
you think.  I won't cut away.  Sometimes, when I'm with father, I
feel like it.  But I can hold out as long as the Ericsons can. 
They've never got the best of me yet, and one can live, so long as
one isn't beaten.  If I go back to father, it's all up with Olaf in
politics.  He knows that, and he never goes much beyond
sulking.  I've as much wit as the Ericsons.  I'll never leave them
unless I can show them a thing or two."

"You mean unless you can come it over them?"

"Yes--unless I go away with a man who is cleverer than they
are, and who has more money."

Nils whistled.  "Dear me, you are demanding a good deal.  The
Ericsons, take the lot of them, are a bunch to beat.  But I should
think the excitement of tormenting them would have worn off by this
time."

"It has, I'm afraid," Clara admitted mournfully.

"Then why don't you cut away?  There are more amusing games
than this in the world.  When I came home I thought it might amuse
me to bully a few quarter sections out of the Ericsons; but I've
almost decided I can get more fun for my money somewhere else."

Clara took in her breath sharply.  "Ah, you have got the other
will!  That was why you came home!"

"No, it wasn't.  I came home to see how you were getting on
with Olaf."

Clara struck her horse with the whip, and in a bound she was
far ahead of him.  Nils dropped one word, "Damn!" and whipped after
her; but she leaned forward in her saddle and fairly cut the wind. 
Her long riding skirt rippled in the still air behind her.  The sun
was just sinking behind the stubble in a vast, clear sky, and the
shadows drew across the fields so rapidly that Nils could scarcely
keep in sight the dark figure on the road.  When he overtook her he
caught her horse by the bridle.  Norman reared, and Nils was
frightened for her; but Clara kept her seat.

"Let me go, Nils Ericson!" she cried.  "I hate you more than
any of them.  You were created to torture me, the whole tribe of
you--to make me suffer in every possible way."

She struck her horse again and galloped away from him.  Nils
set his teeth and looked thoughtful.  He rode slowly home along the
deserted road, watching the stars come out in the clear violet sky.

They flashed softly into the limpid heavens, like jewels let fall
into clear water.  They were a reproach, he felt, to a sordid
world.  As he turned across the sand creek, he looked up at
the North Star and smiled, as if there were an understanding
between them.  His mother scolded him for being late for supper.


                           V

On Sunday afternoon Joe Vavrika, in his shirt sleeves arid
carpet slippers, was sitting in his garden, smoking a long-tasseled
porcelain pipe with a hunting scene painted on the bowl.  Clara sat
under the cherry tree, reading aloud to him from the, weekly
Bohemian papers.  She had worn a white muslin dress under her
riding habit, and the leaves of the cherry tree threw a pattern of
sharp shadows over her skirt.  The black cat was dozing in the
sunlight at her feet, and Joe's dachshund was scratching a hole
under the scarlet geraniums and dreaming of badgers.  Joe was
filling his pipe for the third time since dinner, when he heard a
knocking on the fence.  He broke into a loud guffaw and unlatched
the little door that led into the street.  He did not call Nils by
name, but caught him by the hand and dragged him in.  Clara
stiffened and the colour deepened under her dark skin.  Nils, too,
felt a little awkward.  He had not seen her since the night when
she rode away from him and left him alone on the level road between
the fields.  Joe dragged him to the wooden bench beside the green
table.

"You bring de flute," he cried, tapping the leather case under
Nils' arm.  "Ah, das-a good' Now we have some liddle fun like old
times.  I got somet'ing good for you."  Joe shook his finger at
Nils and winked his blue eye, a bright clear eye, full of fire,
though the tiny bloodvessels on the ball were always a little
distended.  "I got somet'ing for you from"--he paused and waved his
hand--  "Hongarie. You know Hongarie?  You wait!"  He pushed Nils
down on the bench, and went through the back door of his saloon.

Nils looked at Clara, who sat frigidly with her white skirts
drawn tight about her.  "He didn't tell you he had asked me to
come, did he?  He wanted a party and proceeded to arrange it.
Isn't he fun?  Don't be cross; let's give him a good time."

Clara smiled and shook out her skirt.  "Isn't that like
Father?  And he has sat here so meekly all day.  Well, I won't
pout.  I'm glad you came.  He doesn't have very many good times now
any more.  There are so few of his kind left.  The second
generation are a tame lot."

Joe came back with a flask in one hand and three wine glasses
caught by the stems between the fingers of the other.  These he
placed on the table with an air of ceremony, and, going behind
Nils, held the flask between him and the sun, squinting into it
admiringly.  "You know dis, Tokai?  A great friend of mine, he
bring dis to me, a present out of Hongarie.  You know how much it
cost, dis wine?  Chust so much what it weigh in gold.  Nobody but
de nobles drink him in Bohemie.  Many, many years I save him up,
dis Tokai."  Joe whipped out his official corkscrew and delicately
removed the cork.  "De old man die what bring him to me, an' dis
wine he lay on his belly in my cellar an' sleep.  An' now,"
carefully pouring out the heavy yellow wine, "an' now he wake up;
and maybe he wake us up, too!"  He carried one of the glasses to
his daughter and presented it with great gallantry.

Clara shook her head, but, seeing her father's disappointment,
relented.  "You taste it first.  I don't want so much."

Joe sampled it with a beatific expression, and turned to Nils. 
"You drink him slow, dis wine.  He very soft, but he go down hot. 
You see!"

After a second glass Nils declared that he couldn't take any
more without getting sleepy.  "Now get your fiddle, Vavrika," he
said as he opened his flute case.

But Joe settled back in his wooden rocker and wagged his big
carpet slipper.  "No-no-no-no-no-no-no!  No play fiddle now any
more: too much ache in de finger," waving them, "all-a-time
rheumatic.  You play de flute, te-tety-tetety-te.  Bohemie songs."

"I've forgotten all the Bohemian songs I used to play with you
and Johanna.  But here's one that will make Clara pout.  You
remember how her eyes used to snap when we called her the Bohemian
Girl?"  Nils lifted his flute and began "When Other Lips and Other
Hearts," and Joe hummed the air in a husky baritone, waving
his carpet slipper.  "Oh-h-h, das-a fine music," he cried, clapping
his hands as Nils finished.  "Now 'Marble Halls, Marble Halls'!
Clara, you sing him."

Clara smiled and leaned back in her chair, beginning softly:

       I dreamt that I dwelt in ma-a-arble halls,
          With vassals and serfs at my knee,"

and Joe hummed like a big bumblebee.

"There's one more you always played," Clara said quietly, "I
remember that best."  She locked her hands over her knee and began
"The Heart Bowed Down," and sang it through without groping for the
words.  She was singing with a good deal of warmth when she came to
the end of the old song:

             "For memory is the only friend
             That grief can call its own."

Joe flashed out his red silk handkerchief and blew his nose,
shaking his head.  "No-no-no-no-no-no-no!  Too sad, too sad!  I not
like-a dat.  Play quick somet'ing gay now."

Nils put his lips to the instrument, and Joe lay back in his
chair, laughing and singing, "Oh, Evelina, Sweet Evelina!"  Clara
laughed, too.  Long ago, when she and Nils went to high school, the
model student of their class was a very homely girl in thick
spectacles.  Her name was Evelina Oleson; she had a long, swinging
walk which somehow suggested the measure of that song, and they
used mercilessly to sing it at her.

"Dat ugly Oleson girl, she teach in de school," Joe gasped,
"an' she still walks chust like dat, yup-a, yup-a, yup-a, chust
like a camel she go!  Now, Nils, we have some more li'l drink.  Oh,
yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes-yes!  Dis time you haf to drink, and
Clara she haf to, so she show she not jealous.  So, we all drink to
your girl.  You not tell her name, eh?  No-no-no, I no make you
tell.  She pretty, eh?  She make good sweetheart?  I bet!"  Joe
winked and lifted his glass.  "How soon you get married?"

Nils screwed up his eyes.  "That I don't know.  When she says."

Joe threw out his chest.  "Das-a way boys talks.  No way for
mans.  Mans say, 'You come to de church, an' get a hurry on you.'
Das-a way mans talks."

"Maybe Nils hasn't got enough to keep a wife," put in Clara
ironically.  "How about that, Nils?" she asked him frankly, as if
she wanted to know.

Nils looked at her coolly, raising one eyebrow.  "oh, I can
keep her, all right."

"The way she wants to be kept?"

"With my wife, I'll decide that," replied Nils calmly.  "I'll
give her what's good for her."

Clara made a wry face.  "You'll give her the strap, I expect,
like old Peter Oleson gave his wife."

"When she needs it," said Nils lazily, locking his hands
behind his head and squinting up through the leaves of the cherry
tree.  "Do you remember the time I squeezed the cherries all over
your clean dress, and Aunt Johanna boxed my ears for me?  My
gracious, weren't you mad!  You had both hands full of cherries,
and I squeezed 'em and made the juice fly all over you.  I liked to
have fun with you; you'd get so mad."

"We did have fun, didn't we?  None of the other kids ever
had so much fun.  We knew how to play."

Nils dropped his elbows on the table and looked steadily
across at her.  "I've played with lots of girls since, but I
haven't found one who was such good fun."

Clara laughed.  The late afternoon sun was shining full in her
face, and deep in the back of her eyes there shone something fiery,
like the yellow drops of Tokai in the brown glass bottle.  "Can you
still play, or are you only pretending?"

"I can play better than I used to, and harder."

"Don't you ever work, then?"  She had not intended to say it. 
It slipped out because she was confused enough to say just the
wrong thing.

"I work between times."  Nils' steady gaze still beat upon her. 
"Don't you worry about my working, Mrs. Ericson.  You're getting
like all the rest of them."  He reached his brown, warm hand across
the table and dropped it on Clara's, which was cold as an
icicle.  "Last call for play, Mrs. Ericson!"  Clara shivered, and
suddenly her hands and cheeks grew warm.  Her fingers lingered in
his a moment, and they looked at each other earnestly.  Joe Vavrika
had put the mouth of the bottle to his lips and was swallowing the
last drops of the Tokai, standing.  The sun, just about to sink
behind his shop, glistened on the bright glass, on his flushed face
and curly yellow hair.  "Look," Clara whispered, "that's the way I
want to grow old."


                           VI

On the day of Olaf Ericson's barn-raising, his wife, for once
in a way, rose early.  Johanna Vavrika had been baking cakes and
frying and boiling and spicing meats for a week beforehand, but it
was not until the day before the party was to take place that Clara
showed any interest in it. Then she was seized with one of her
fitful spasms of energy, and took the wagon and little Eric and
spent the day on Plum Creek, gathering vines and swamp goldenrod
to decorate the barn.

By four o'clock in the afternoon buggies and wagons began to
arrive at the big unpainted building in front of Olaf's house. 
When Nils and his mother came at five, there were more than fifty
people in the barn, and a great drove of children.  On the ground
floor stood six long tables, set with the crockery of seven
flourishing Ericson families, lent for the occasion.  In the middle
of each table was a big yellow pumpkin, hollowed out and filled
with woodbine.  In one corner of the barn, behind a pile of green-
and-white striped watermelons, was a circle of chairs for the old
people; the younger guests sat on bushel measures or barbed-wire
spools, and the children tumbled about in the haymow.  The box
stalls Clara had converted into booths.  The framework was hidden
by goldenrod and sheaves of wheat, and the partitions were covered
'With wild grapevines full of fruit.  At one of these Johanna
Vavrika watched over her cooked meats, enough to provision an army;
and at the next her kitchen girls had ranged the ice-cream
freezers, and Clara was already cutting pies and cakes
against the hour of serving.  At the third stall, little Hilda, in
a bright pink lawn dress, dispensed lemonade throughout the
afternoon.  Olaf, as a public man, had thought it inadvisable
to serve beer in his barn; but Joe Vavrika had come over with two
demijohns concealed in his buggy, and after his arrival the wagon
shed was much frequented by the men.

"Hasn't Cousin Clara fixed things lovely?" little Hilda
whispered, when Nils went up to her stall and asked for lemonade.

Nils leaned against the booth, talking to the excited little
girl and watching the people.  The barn faced the west, and the
sun, pouring in at the big doors, filled the whole interior with a
golden light, through which filtered fine particles of dust from
the haymow, where the children were romping.  There was a great
chattering from the stall where Johanna Vavrika exhibited to the
admiring women her platters heaped with fried chicken, her roasts
of beef, boiled tongues, and baked hams with cloves stuck in the
crisp brown fat and garnished with tansy and parsley.  The older
women, having assured themselves that there were twenty kinds of
cake, not counting cookies, and three dozen fat pies, repaired to
the corner behind the pile of watermelons, put on their white
aprons, and fell to their knitting and fancywork.  They were a fine
company of old women, and a Dutch painter would have loved to find
them there together, where the sun made bright patches on the floor
and sent long, quivering shafts of gold through the dusky shade up
among the rafters.  There were fat, rosy old women who looked hot
in their best black dresses; spare, alert old women with brown,
dark-veined hands; and several of almost heroic frame, not less
massive than old Mrs. Ericson herself.  Few of them wore glasses,
and old Mrs. Svendsen, a Danish woman, who was quite bald, wore the
only cap among them.  Mrs. Oleson, who had twelve big
grandchildren, could still show two braids of yellow hair as thick
as her own wrists.  Among all these grandmothers there were more
brown heads than white.  They all had a pleased, prosperous air, as
if they were more than satisfied with themselves and with life. 
Nils, leaning against Hilda's lemonade stand, watched them
as they sat chattering in four languages, their fingers never
lagging behind their tongues.

"Look at them over there," he whispered, detaining Clara as
she passed him.  "Aren't they the Old Guard?  I've just counted
thirty hands.  I guess they've wrung many a chicken's neck and
warmed many a boy's jacket for him in their time."

In reality he fell into amazement when he thought of the
Herculean labours those fifteen pairs of hands had performed: of
the cows they had milked, the butter they had made, the gardens
they had planted, the children and grandchildren they had tended,
the brooms they had worn out, the mountains of food they had
cooked.  It made him dizzy.  Clara Vavrika smiled a hard,
enigmatical smile at him and walked rapidly away.  Nils' eyes
followed her white figure as she went toward the house.  He
watched her walking alone in the sunlight, looked at her slender,
defiant shoulders and her little hard-set head with its coils of
blue-black hair.  "No," he reflected; "she'd never be like them,
not if she lived here a hundred years.  She'd only grow more
bitter.  You can't tame a wild thing; you can only chain it. 
People aren't all alike.  I mustn't lose my nerve."  He gave
Hilda's pigtail a parting tweak and set out after Clara.  "Where
to?" he asked, as he came upon her in the kitchen.

"I'm going to the cellar for preserves."

"Let me go with you.  I never get a moment alone with you. 
Why do you keep out of my way?"

Clara laughed.  "I don't usually get in anybody's way."

Nils followed her down the stairs and to the far corner of
the cellar, where a basement window let in a stream of light. 
From a swinging shelf Clara selected several glass jars, each
labeled in Johanna's careful hand.  Nils took up a brown flask. 
"What's this?  It looks good."

"It is.  It's some French brandy father gave me when I was
married.  Would you like some?  Have you a corkscrew?  I'll get
glasses."

When she brought them, Nils took them from her and put them
down on the window-sill.  "Clara Vavrika, do you remember how
crazy I used to be about you?"

Clara shrugged her shoulders.  "Boys are always crazy
about somebody or another.  I dare say some silly has been crazy
about Evelina Oleson.  You got over it in a hurry."

"Because I didn't come back, you mean?  I had to get on, you
know, and it was hard sledding at first.  Then I heard you'd
married Olaf."

"And then you stayed away from a broken heart," Clara laughed.

"And then I began to think about you more than I had since I
first went away.  I began to wonder if you were really as you had
seemed to me when I was a boy.  I thought I'd like to see.  I've
had lots of girls, but no one ever pulled me the same way.  The
more I thought about you, the more I remembered how it used to be--
like hearing a wild tune you can't resist, calling you out at
night.  It had been a long while since anything had pulled me out
of my boots, and I wondered whether anything ever could again."
Nils thrust his hands into his coat pockets and squared his
shoulders, as his mother sometimes squared hers, as Olaf, in a
clumsier manner, squared his.  "So I thought I'd come back and see.
Of course the family have tried to do me, and I rather thought I'd
bring out father's will and make a fuss.  But they can have their
old land; they've put enough sweat into it."  He took the flask and
filled the two glasses carefully to the brim.  "I've found out what
I want from the Ericsons.  Drink skoal, Clara."  He lifted
his glass, and Clara took hers with downcast eyes.  "Look at me,
Clara Vavrika.  Skoal!"

She raised her burning eyes and answered fiercely: "Skoal!"


The barn supper began at six o'clock and lasted for two
hilarious hours.  Yense Nelson had made a wager that he could eat
two whole fried chickens, and he did.  Eli Swanson stowed away two
whole custard pies, and Nick Hermanson ate a chocolate layer cake
to the last crumb.  There was even a cooky contest among the
children, and one thin, slablike Bohemian boy consumed sixteen and
won the prize, a gingerbread pig which Johanna Vavrika had
carefully decorated with red candies and burnt sugar.  Fritz
Sweiheart, the German carpenter, won in the pickle contest, but he
disappeared soon after supper and was not seen for the rest of the
evening.  Joe Vavrika said that Fritz could have managed the
pickles all right, but he had sampled the demijohn in his buggy too
often before sitting down to the table.

While the supper was being cleared away the two fiddlers began
to tune up for the dance.  Clara was to accompany them on her old
upright piano, which had been brought down from her father's.  By
this time Nils had renewed old acquaintances.  Since his interview
with Clara in the cellar, he had been busy telling all the old
women how young they looked, and all the young ones how pretty they
were, and assuring the men that they had here the best farmland in
the world.  He had made himself so agreeable that old Mrs.
Ericson's friends began to come up to her and tell how lucky she
was to get her smart son back again, and please to get him to play
his flute.  Joe Vavrika, who could still play very well when he
forgot that he had rheumatism, caught up a fiddle from Johnny
Oleson and played a crazy Bohemian dance tune that set the wheels
going.  When he dropped the bow every one was ready to dance.

Olaf, in a frock coat and a solemn made-up necktie, led the grand
march with his mother.  Clara had kept well out of that
by sticking to the piano.  She played the march with a pompous
solemnity which greatly amused the prodigal son, who went over and
stood behind her.

"Oh, aren't you rubbing it into them, Clara Vavrika?  And
aren't you lucky to have me here, or all your wit would be thrown
away."

"I'm used to being witty for myself.  It saves my life."

The fiddles struck up a polka, and Nils convulsed Joe Vavrika
by leading out Evelina Oleson, the homely schoolteacher.  His next
partner was a very fat Swedish girl, who, although she was an
heiress, had not been asked for the first dance, but had stood
against the wall in her tight, high-heeled shoes, nervously
fingering a lace handkerchief.  She was soon out of breath, so Nils
led her, pleased and panting, to her seat, and went over to the
piano, from which Clara had been watching his gallantry.  "Ask
Olena Yenson," she whispered.  "She waltzes beautifully."

Olena, too, was rather inconveniently plump, handsome in a smooth,
heavy way, with a fine colour and good-natured, sleepy eyes.  She
was redolent of violet sachet powder, and had warm, soft, white
hands, but she danced divinely, moving as smoothly as the tide
coming in. "There, that's something like," Nils said as he released
her.  "You'll give me the next waltz, won't you?  Now I must go and
dance with my little cousin."

Hilda was greatly excited when Nils went up to her stall and
held out his arm.  Her little eyes sparkled, but she declared that
she could not leave her lemonade.  Old Mrs. Ericson, who happened
along at this moment, said she would attend to that, and Hilda came
out, as pink as her pink dress.  The dance was a schottische, and
in a moment her yellow braids were fairly standing on end. 
"Bravo!" Nils cried encouragingly.  "Where did you learn to dance
so nicely?"

"My Cousin Clara taught me," the little girl panted.

Nils found Eric sitting with a group of boys who were too
awkward or too shy to dance, and told him that he must dance the
next waltz with Hilda.

The boy screwed up his shoulders.  "Aw, Nils, I can't dance. 
My feet are too big; I look silly."

"Don't be thinking about yourself.  It doesn't matter how boys
look."

Nils had never spoken to him so sharply before, and Eric made
haste to scramble out of his corner and brush the straw from his
coat.

Clara nodded approvingly.  "Good for you, Nils.  I've been
trying to get hold of him.  They dance very nicely together; I
sometimes play for them."

"I'm obliged to you for teaching him.  There's no reason why he
should grow up to be a lout."

"He'll never be that.  He's more like you than any of them. 
Only he hasn't your courage."  From her slanting eyes Clara shot
forth one of those keen glances, admiring and at the same time
challenging, which she seldom bestowed on any one, and which seemed
to say, "Yes, I admire you, but I am your equal."

Clara was proving a much better host than Olaf, who, once the
supper was over, seemed to feel no interest in anything but the
lanterns.  He had brought a locomotive headlight from
town to light the revels, and he kept skulking about as if he
feared the mere light from it might set his new barn on fire.
His wife, on the contrary, was cordial to every one, was
animated and even gay.  The deep salmon colour in her cheeks burned
vividly, and her eyes were full of life.  She gave the piano over
to the fat Swedish heiress, pulled her father away from the corner
where he sat gossiping with his cronies, and made him dance a
Bohemian dance with her.  In his youth Joe had been a famous
dancer, and his daughter got him so limbered up that every one sat
around and applauded them.  The old ladies were particularly
delighted, and made them go through the dance again.  From their
corner where they watched and commented, the old women kept time
with their feet and hands, and whenever the fiddles struck up a new
air old Mrs. Svendsen's white cap would begin to bob.

Clara was waltzing with little Eric when Nils came up to them,
brushed his brother aside, and swung her out among the dancers. 
"Remember how we used to waltz on rollers at the old skating rink
in town?  I suppose people don't do that any more.  We used to keep
it up for hours.  You know, we never did moon around as other boys
and girls did.  It was dead serious with us from the beginning. 
When we were most in love with each other, we used to fight.  You
were always pinching people; your fingers were like little nippers.

A regular snapping turtle, you were.  Lord, how you'd like
Stockholm!  Sit out in the streets in front of cafes and talk all
night in summer. just like a reception--officers and ladies and
funny English people.  Jolliest people in the world, the Swedes,
once you get them going.  Always drinking things--champagne and
stout mixed, half-and-half, serve it out of big pitchers, and serve
plenty.  Slow pulse, you know; they can stand a lot.  Once they
light up, they're glowworms, I can tell you."

"All the same, you don't really like gay people."

"I don't?"

"No; I could tell that when you were looking at the old women
there this afternoon.  They're the kind you really admire, after
all; women like your mother.  And that's the kind you'll marry."

"Is it, Miss Wisdom?  You'll see who I'll marry, and she
won't have a domestic virtue to bless herself with.  She'll be a
snapping turtle, and she'll be a match for me.  All the same,
they're a fine bunch of old dames over there.  You admire them
yourself

"No, I don't; I detest them."

"You won't, when you look back on them from Stockholm or
Budapest.  Freedom settles all that.  Oh, but you're the real
Bohemian Girl, Clara Vavrika!"  Nils laughed down at her sullen
frown and began mockingly to sing:

       "Oh, how could a poor gypsy maiden like me
       Expect the proud bride of a baron to be?"

Clara clutched his shoulder.  "Hush, Nils; every one is looking at
you."

"I don't care.  They can't gossip.  It's all in the family, as
the Ericsons say when they divide up little Hilda's patrimony
amongst them.  Besides, we'll give them something to talk about
when we hit the trail.  Lord, it will be a godsend to them!  They
haven't had anything so interesting to chatter about since the
grasshopper year.  It'll give them a new lease of life.  And Olaf
won't lose the Bohemian vote, either.  They'll have the laugh on
him so that they'll vote two apiece.  They'll send him to Congress.
They'll never forget his barn party, or us.  They'll always
remember us as we're dancing together now.  We're making a legend. 
Where's my waltz, boys?" he called as they whirled past the
fiddlers.

The musicians grinned, looked at each other, hesitated, and
began a new air; and Nils sang with them, as the couples fell from
a quick waltz to a long, slow glide:

           "When other lips and other hearts
            Their tale of love shall tell,
            In language whose excess imparts
            The power they feel so well."

The old women applauded vigorously.  "What a gay one he is,
that Nils!"  And old Mrs. Svendsen's cap lurched dreamily
from side to side to the flowing measure of the dance.

          Of days that have as ha-a-p-py been,
          And you'll remember me."


                          VII

The moonlight flooded that great, silent land.  The reaped
fields lay yellow in it.  The straw stacks and poplar windbreaks
threw sharp black shadows.  The roads were white rivers of dust. 
The sky was a deep, crystalline blue, and the stars were few and
faint.  Everything seemed to have succumbed, to have sunk to sleep,
under the great, golden, tender, midsummer moon.  The splendour of
it seemed to transcend human life and human fate.  The senses were
too feeble to take it in, and every time one looked up at the sky
one felt unequal to it, as if one were sitting deaf under the waves
of a great river of melody.  Near the road, Nils Ericson was lying
against a straw stack in Olaf's wheat field.  His own life seemed
strange and unfamiliar to him, as if it were something he had read
about, or dreamed, and forgotten.  He lay very still, watching the
white road that ran in front of him, lost itself among the fields,
and then, at a distance, reappeared over a little hill.  At last,
against this white band he saw something moving rapidly, and he got
up and walked to the edge of the field.  "She is passing the row of
poplars now," he thought.  He heard the padded beat of hoofs along
the dusty road, and as she came into sight he stepped out and waved
his arms.  Then, for fear of frightening the horse, he drew back
and waited.  Clara had seen him, and she came up at a walk.  Nils
took the horse by the bit and stroked his neck.

"What are you doing out so late, Clara Vavrika?  I went to the
house, but Johanna told me you had gone to your father's."

"Who can stay in the house on a night like this?  Aren't you
out yourself?"

"Ah, but that's another matter."

Nils turned the horse into the field.

"What are you doing?  Where are you taking Norman?"

"Not far, but I want to talk to you tonight; I have something to
say to you.  I can't talk to you at the house, with Olaf sitting
there on the porch, weighing a thousand tons."

Clara laughed.  "He won't be sitting there now.  He's in bed
by this time, and asleep--weighing a thousand tons."

Nils plodded on across the stubble.  "Are you really going
to spend the rest of your life like this, night after night,
summer after summer?  Haven't you anything better to do on a night
like this than to wear yourself and Norman out tearing across the
country to your father's and back?  Besides, your father won't
live forever, you know.  His little place will be shut up or
sold, and then you'll have nobody but the Ericsons.  You'll have
to fasten down the hatches for the winter then."

Clara moved her head restlessly.  "Don't talk about that.  I
try never to think of it.  If I lost Father I'd lose everything,
even my hold over the Ericsons."

"Bah!  You'd lose a good deal more than that.  You'd lose
your race, everything that makes you yourself.  You've lost a
good deal of it now."

"Of what?"

"Of your love of life, your capacity for delight."

Clara put her hands up to her face.  "I haven't, Nils
Ericson, I haven't!  Say anything to me but that.  I won't have
it!" she declared vehemently.

Nils led the horse up to a straw stack, and turned to Clara,
looking at her intently, as he had looked at her that Sunday
afternoon at Vavrika's.  "But why do you fight for that so?  What
good is the power to enjoy, if you never enjoy?  Your hands are
cold again; what are you afraid of all the time?  Ah, you're
afraid of losing it; that's what's the matter with you!  And you
will, Clara Vavrika, you will!  When I  used to know you--listen;
you've caught a wild bird in your hand, haven't you, and felt its
heart beat so hard that you were afraid it would shatter its
little body to pieces?  Well, you used to be just like that, a
slender, eager thing with a wild delight inside you.  That is how
I remembered you.  And I come back and find you--a bitter
woman.  This is a perfect ferret fight here; you live by biting
and being bitten.  Can't you remember what life used to be?  Can't
you remember that old delight?  I've never forgotten it, or known
its like, on land or sea."

He drew the horse under the shadow of the straw stack. 
Clara felt him take her foot out of the stirrup, and she slid
softly down into his arms.  He kissed her slowly.  He was a
deliberate man, but his nerves were steel when he wanted
anything.  Something flashed out from him like a knife out of a
sheath.  Clara felt everything slipping away from her; she was
flooded by the summer night.  He thrust his hand into his pocket,
and then held it out at arm's length.  "Look," he said.  The
shadow of the straw stack fell sharp across his wrist, and in the
palm of his hand she saw a silver dollar shining.  "That's my
pile," he muttered; "will you go with me?"

Clara nodded, and dropped her forehead on his shoulder.

Nils took a deep breath.  "Will you go with me tonight?"

"Where?" she whispered softly.

"To town, to catch the midnight flyer."

Clara lifted her head and pulled herself together.  "Are you
crazy, Nils?  We couldn't go away like that."

"That's the only way we ever will go.  You can't sit on the
bank and think about it.  You have to plunge.  That's the way
I've always done, and it's the right way for people like you and
me.  There's nothing so dangerous as sitting still.  You've only
got one life, one youth, and you can let it slip through your
fingers if you want to; nothing easier.  Most people do that. 
You'd be better off tramping the roads with me than you are
here."  Nils held back her head and looked into her eyes.  "But
I'm not that kind of a tramp, Clara.  You won't have to take in
sewing.  I'm with a Norwegian shipping line; came over on
business with the New York offices, but now I'm going straight
back to Bergen.  I expect I've got as much money as the Ericsons. 
Father sent me a little to get started.  They never knew about
that.  There, I hadn't meant to tell you; I wanted you to come on
your own nerve."

Clara looked off across the fields.  "It isn't that, Nils,
but something seems to hold me.  I'm afraid to pull against it.
It comes out of the ground, I think."

"I know all about that.  One has to tear loose.  You're not
needed here.  Your father will understand; he's made like us.  As
for Olaf, Johanna will take better care of him than ever you
could.  It's now or never, Clara Vavrika.  My bag's at the
station; I smuggled it there yesterday."

Clara clung to him and hid her face against his shoulder. 
"Not tonight," she whispered.  "Sit here and talk to me tonight. 
I don't want to go anywhere tonight.  I may never love you like
this again."

Nils laughed through his teeth.  "You can't come that on me. 
That's not my way, Clara Vavrika.  Eric's mare is over there
behind the stacks, and I'm off on the midnight.  It's goodbye, or
off across the world with me.  My carriage won't wait.  I've
written a letter to Olaf, I'll mail it in town.  When he reads it
he won't bother us--not if I know him.  He'd rather have the
land.  Besides, I could demand an investigation of his
administration of Cousin Henrik's estate, and that would be bad
for a public man.  You've no clothes, I know; but you can sit up
tonight, and we can get everything on the way.  Where's your old
dash, Clara Vavrika?  What's become of your Bohemian blood?  I used
to think you had courage enough for anything.  Where's your
nerve--what are you waiting for?"

Clara drew back her head, and he saw the slumberous fire in
her eyes.  "For you to say one thing, Nils Ericson."

"I never say that thing to any woman, Clara Vavrika."  He
leaned back, lifted her gently from the ground, and whispered
through his teeth: "But I'll never, never let you go, not to any
man on earth but me!  Do you understand me?  Now, wait here."

Clara sank down on a sheaf of wheat and covered her face
with her hands.  She did not know what she was going to do--
whether she would go or stay.  The great, silent country seemed
to lay a spell upon her.  The ground seemed to hold her as if by
roots.  Her knees were soft under her.  She felt as if she could
not bear separation from her old sorrows, from her old discontent.
They were dear to her, they had kept her alive, they were
a part of her.  There would be nothing left of her if she were
wrenched away from them.  Never could she pass beyond that skyline
against which her restlessness had beat so many times.  She felt
as if her soul had built itself a nest there on that horizon at
which she looked every morning and every evening, and it was dear
to her, inexpressibly dear.  She pressed her fingers against her
eyeballs to shut it out.  Beside her she heard the tramping of
horses in the soft earth.  Nils said nothing to her.  He put his
hands under her arms and lifted her lightly to her saddle.  Then
he swung himself into his own.

"We shall have to ride fast to catch the midnight train.  A
last gallop, Clara Vavrika.  Forward!"

There was a start, a thud of hoofs along the moonlit road, two
dark shadows going over the hill; and then the great, still land
stretched untroubled under the azure night.  Two shadows had
passed.


                          VII

A year after the flight of Olaf Ericson's wife, the night
train was steaming across the plains of Iowa.  The conductor was
hurrying through one of the day coaches, his lantern on his arm,
when a lank, fair-haired boy sat up in one of the plush seats and
tweaked him by the coat.

"What is the next stop, please, sir?"

"Red Oak, Iowa.  But you go through to Chicago, don't you?"
He looked down, and noticed that the boy's eyes were red and his
face was drawn, as if he were in trouble.

"Yes.  But I was wondering whether I could get off at the
next place and get a train back to Omaha."

"Well, I suppose you could.  Live in Omaha?"

"No.  In the western part of the State.  How soon do we get
to Red Oak?"

"Forty minutes.  You'd better make up your mind, so I can
tell the baggageman to put your trunk off."

"Oh, never mind about that!  I mean, I haven't got any," the
boy added, blushing.

"Run away," the conductor thought, as he slammed the coach
door behind him.

Eric Ericson crumpled down in his seat and put his brown hand
to his forehead.  He had been crying, and he had had no supper, and
his head was aching violently.  "Oh, what shall I do?" he thought,
as he looked dully down at his big shoes.  "Nils will be ashamed of
me; I haven't got any spunk."

Ever since Nils had run away with his brother's wife, life at
home had been hard for little Eric.  His mother and Olaf both
suspected him of complicity.  Mrs. Ericson was harsh and
faultfinding, constantly wounding the boy's pride; and Olaf was
always setting her against him.

Joe Vavrika heard often from his daughter.  Clara had always
been fond of her father, and happiness made her kinder.  She wrote
him long accounts of the voyage to Bergen, and of the trip she and
Nils took through Bohemia to the little town where her father had
grown up and where she herself was born.  She visited all her
kinsmen there, and sent her father news of his brother, who was a
priest; of his sister, who had married a horse-breeder--of their
big farm and their many children.  These letters Joe always managed
to read to little Eric.  They contained messages for Eric and
Hilda.  Clara sent presents, too, which Eric never dared to take
home and which poor little Hilda never even saw, though she loved
to hear Eric tell about them when they were out getting the eggs
together.  But Olaf once saw Eric coming out of Vavrika's house--
the old man had never asked the boy to come into his saloon--and
Olaf went straight to his mother and told her.  That night Mrs.
Ericson came to Eric's room after he was in bed and made a terrible
scene.  She could be very terrifying when she was really angry. 
She forbade him ever to speak to Vavrika again, and after that
night she would not allow him to go to town alone.  So it was a
long while before Eric got any more news of his brother.  But old
Joe suspected what was going on, and he carried Clara's letters
about in his pocket.  One Sunday he drove out to see a German
friend of his, and chanced to catch sight of Eric, sitting by the
cattle pond in the big pasture.  They went together into Fritz
Oberlies' barn, and read the letters and talked things over.  Eric
admitted that things were getting hard for him at home.  That very
night old Joe sat down and laboriously penned a statement of the
case to his daughter.

Things got no better for Eric.  His mother and Olaf felt
that, however closely he was watched, he still, as they said,
"heard."  Mrs. Ericson could not admit neutrality.  She had sent
Johanna Vavrika packing back to her brother's, though Olaf would
much rather have kept her than Anders' eldest daughter, whom Mrs.
Ericson installed in her place.  He was not so highhanded as his
mother, and he once sulkily told her that she might better have
taught her granddaughter to cook before she sent Johanna away. 
Olaf could have borne a good deal for the sake of prunes spiced
in honey, the secret of which Johanna had taken away with her.

At last two letters came to Joe Vavrika: one from Nils,
enclosing a postal order for money to pay Eric's passage to
Bergen, and one from Clara, saying that Nils had a place for Eric
in the offices of his company, that he was to live with them, and
that they were only waiting for him to come.  He was to leave New
York on one of the boats of Nils' own line; the captain was one
of their friends, and Eric was to make himself known at once.

Nils' directions were so explicit that a baby could have
followed them, Eric felt.  And here he was, nearing Red Oak,
Iowa, and rocking backward and forward in despair.  Never had he
loved his brother so much, and never had the big world called to
him so hard.  But there was a lump in his throat which would not
go down.  Ever since nightfall he had been tormented by the
thought of his mother, alone in that big house that had sent
forth so many men.  Her unkindness now seemed so little, and her
loneliness so great.  He remembered everything she had ever done
for him: how frightened she had been when he tore his hand in the
corn-sheller, and how she wouldn't let Olaf scold him.  When Nils
went away he didn't leave his mother all alone, or he would never
have gone.  Eric felt sure of that.

The train whistled.  The conductor came in, smiling not unkindly. 
"Well, young man, what are you going to do?  We stop at Red Oak in
three minutes."

"Yes, thank you.  I'll let you know."  The conductor went out,
and the boy doubled up with misery.  He couldn't let his one chance
go like this.  He felt for his breast pocket and crackled Nils'
letter to give him courage.  He didn't want Nils to be ashamed of
him.  The train stopped.  Suddenly he remembered his brother's
kind, twinkling eyes, that always looked at you as if from far
away.  The lump in his throat softened.  "Ah, but Nils, Nils would
understand!" he thought.  "That's just it about Nils; he
always understands."

A lank, pale boy with a canvas telescope stumbled off the
train to the Red Oak siding, just as the conductor called, "All
aboard!"

The next night Mrs. Ericson was sitting alone in her wooden
rocking-chair on the front porch.  Little Hilda had been sent to
bed and had cried herself to sleep.  The old woman's knitting was
on her lap, but her hands lay motionless on top of it.  For more
than an hour she had not moved a muscle.  She simply sat, as only
the Ericsons and the mountains can sit.  The house was dark, and
there was no sound but the croaking of the frogs down in the pond
of the little pasture.

Eric did not come home by the road, but across the fields,
where no one could see him.  He set his telescope down softly in
the kitchen shed, and slipped noiselessly along the path to the
front porch.  He sat down on the step without saying anything. 
Mrs. Ericson made no sign, and the frogs croaked on.  At last the
boy spoke timidly.

"I've come back, Mother."

"Very well," said Mrs. Ericson.

Eric leaned over and picked up a little stick out of the grass.

"How about the milking?" he faltered.

"That's been done, hours ago."

"Who did you get?"

"Get?  I did it myself.  I can milk as good as any of you."

Eric slid along the step nearer to her.  "Oh, Mother, why did you?"
he asked sorrowfully.  "Why didn't you get one of Otto's boys?"

"I didn't want anybody to know I was in need of a boy," said
Mrs. Ericson bitterly.  She looked straight in front of her and her
mouth tightened.  "I always meant to give you the home farm," she
added.

The boy stared and slid closer.  "Oh, Mother," he faltered, "I
don't care about the farm.  I came back because I thought you might
be needing me, maybe."  He hung his head and got no further.

"Very well," said Mrs. Ericson.  Her hand went out from her
suddenly and rested on his head.  Her fingers twined themselves in
his soft, pale hair.  His tears splashed down on the boards;
happiness filled his heart.





The Troll Garden





Flavia and Her Artists

As the train neared Tarrytown, Imogen Willard began to
wonder why she had consented to be one of Flavia's house party at
all.  She had not felt enthusiastic about it since leaving the
city, and was experiencing a prolonged ebb of purpose, a current
of chilling indecision, under which she vainly sought for the
motive which had induced her to accept Flavia's invitation.

Perhaps it was a vague curiosity to see Flavia's husband,
who had been the magician of her childhood and the hero of
innumerable Arabian fairy tales.  Perhaps it was a desire to see
M. Roux, whom Flavia had announced as the especial attraction of
the occasion.  Perhaps it was a wish to study that remarkable
woman in her own setting.

Imogen admitted a mild curiosity concerning Flavia.  She was
in the habit of taking people rather seriously, but somehow found
it impossible to take Flavia so, because of the very vehemence
and insistence with which Flavia demanded it.  Submerged in her
studies, Imogen had, of late years, seen very little of Flavia;
but Flavia, in her hurried visits to New York, between her
excursions from studio to studio--her luncheons with this lady
who had to play at a matinee, and her dinners with that singer
who had an evening concert--had seen enough of her friend's
handsome daughter to conceive for her an inclination of such
violence and assurance as only Flavia could afford.  The fact
that Imogen had shown rather marked capacity in certain esoteric
lines of scholarship, and had decided to specialize in a well-
sounding branch of philology at the Ecole des Chartes, had fairly
placed her in that category of "interesting people" whom Flavia
considered her natural affinities, and lawful prey.

When Imogen stepped upon the station platform she was immediately
appropriated by her hostess, whose commanding figure and assurance
of attire she had recognized from a distance.  She was hurried into
a high tilbury and Flavia, taking the driver's cushion beside her,
gathered up the reins with an experienced hand.

"My dear girl," she remarked, as she turned the horses up the
street, "I was afraid the train might be late.  M. Roux insisted
upon coming up by boat and did not arrive until after seven."

"To think of M. Roux's being in this part of the world at
all, and subject to the vicissitudes of river boats!  Why in the
world did he come over?" queried Imogen with lively interest. 
"He is the sort of man who must dissolve and become a shadow
outside of Paris."

"Oh, we have a houseful of the most interesting people,"
said Flavia, professionally.  "We have actually managed to get
Ivan Schemetzkin.  He was ill in California at the close of his
concert tour, you know, and he is recuperating with us, after his
wearing journey from the coast.  Then there is Jules Martel, the
painter; Signor Donati, the tenor; Professor Schotte, who has dug
up Assyria, you know; Restzhoff, the Russian chemist; Alcee
Buisson, the philologist; Frank Wellington, the novelist; and
Will Maidenwood, the editor of Woman.  Then there is my
second cousin, Jemima Broadwood, who made such a hit in Pinero's
comedy last winter, and Frau Lichtenfeld.  Have you read
her?"

Imogen confessed her utter ignorance of Frau Lichtenfeld,
and Flavia went on.

"Well, she is a most remarkable person; one of those
advanced German women, a militant iconoclast, and this drive will
not be long enough to permit of my telling you her history.  Such
a story!  Her novels were the talk of all Germany when I was there
last, and several of them have been suppressed--an honor in
Germany, I understand.  'At Whose Door' has been translated.  I
am so unfortunate as not to read German."

"I'm all excitement at the prospect of meeting Miss
Broadwood," said Imogen.  "I've seen her in nearly everything she
does.  Her stage personality is delightful.  She always reminds me
of a nice, clean, pink-and-white boy who has just had his cold
bath, and come down all aglow for a run before breakfast."

"Yes, but isn't it unfortunate that she will limit herself to
those minor comedy parts that are so little appreciated in this
country?  One ought to be satisfied with nothing less than the
best, ought one?"  The peculiar, breathy tone in which Flavia
always uttered that word "best," the most worn in her vocabulary,
always jarred on Imogen and always made her obdurate.

"I don't at all agree with you," she said reservedly.  "I
thought everyone admitted that the most remarkable thing about Miss
Broadwood is her admirable sense of fitness, which is rare enough
in her profession."

Flavia could not endure being contradicted; she always seemed
to regard it in the light of a defeat, and usually colored
unbecomingly.  Now she changed the subject.

"Look, my dear," she cried, "there is Frau Lichtenfeld now,
coming to meet us.  Doesn't she look as if she had just escaped out
of Valhalla?  She is actually over six feet."

Imogen saw a woman of immense stature, in a very short skirt
and a broad, flapping sun hat, striding down the hillside at a
long, swinging gait.  The refugee from Valhalla approached,
panting.  Her heavy, Teutonic features were scarlet from the rigor
of her exercise, and her hair, under her flapping sun hat, was
tightly befrizzled about her brow.  She fixed her sharp little eves
upon Imogen and extended both her hands.

"So this is the little friend?" she cried, in a rolling baritone.

Imogen was quite as tall as her hostess; but everything, she
reflected, is comparative.  After the introduction Flavia
apologized.

"I wish I could ask you to drive up with us, Frau Lichtenfeld."

"Ah, no!" cried the giantess, drooping her head in humorous
caricature of a time-honored pose of the heroines of sentimental
romances.  "It has never been my fate to be fitted into corners. 
I have never known the sweet privileges of the tiny."

Laughing, Flavia started the ponies, and the colossal woman,
standing in the middle of the dusty road, took off her wide hat
and waved them a farewell which, in scope of gesture, recalled
the salute of a plumed cavalier.

When they arrived at the house, Imogen looked about her with
keen curiosity, for this was veritably the work of Flavia's
hands, the materialization of hopes long deferred.  They passed
directly into a large, square hall with a gallery on three sides,
studio fashion.  This opened at one end into a Dutch breakfast
room, beyond which was the large dining room.  At the other end
of the hall was the music room.  There was a smoking room, which
one entered through the library behind the staircase.  On the
second floor there was the same general arrangement: a square
hall, and, opening from it, the guest chambers, or, as Miss
Broadwood termed them, the "cages."

When Imogen went to her room, the guests had begun to return
from their various afternoon excursions.  Boys were gliding
through the halls with ice water, covered trays, and flowers,
colliding with maids and valets who carried shoes and other
articles of wearing apparel.  Yet, all this was done in response
to inaudible bells, on felt soles, and in hushed voices, so that
there was very little confusion about it.

Flavia had at last built her house and hewn out her seven
pillars; there could be no doubt, now, that the asylum for
talent, the sanatorium of the arts, so long projected, was an
accomplished fact.  Her ambition had long ago outgrown the
dimensions of her house on Prairie Avenue; besides, she had
bitterly complained that in Chicago traditions were against her. 
Her project had been delayed by Arthur's doggedly standing out
for the Michigan woods, but Flavia knew well enough that certain
of the rarae aves--"the best"--could not be lured so far
away from the seaport, so she declared herself for the historic
Hudson and knew no retreat.  The establishing of a New York office
had at length overthrown Arthur's last valid objection to quitting
the lake country for three months of the year; and Arthur could
be wearied into anything, as those who knew him knew.

Flavia's house was the mirror of her exultation; it was
a temple to the gods of Victory, a sort of triumphal arch.  In
her earlier days she had swallowed experiences that would have
unmanned one of less torrential enthusiasm or blind pertinacity. 
But, of late years, her determination had told; she saw less and
less of those mysterious persons with mysterious obstacles in
their path and mysterious grievances against the world, who had
once frequented her house on Prairie Avenue.  In the stead of
this multitude of the unarrived, she had now the few, the select,
"the best."  Of all that band of indigent retainers who had once
fed at her board like the suitors in the halls of Penelope, only
Alcee Buisson still retained his right of entree.  He alone had
remembered that ambition hath a knapsack at his back, wherein he
puts alms to oblivion, and he alone had been considerate enough
to do what Flavia had expected of him, and give his name a
current value in the world.  Then, as Miss Broadwood put it, "he
was her first real one,"--and Flavia, like Mohammed, could
remember her first believer.

"The House of Song," as Miss Broadwood had called it, was
the outcome of Flavia's more exalted strategies.  A woman who
made less a point of sympathizing with their delicate organisms,
might have sought to plunge these phosphorescent pieces into the
tepid bath of domestic life; but Flavia's discernment was deeper. 
This must be a refuge where the shrinking soul, the sensitive
brain, should be unconstrained; where the caprice of fancy should
outweigh the civil code, if necessary.  She considered that this
much Arthur owed her; for she, in her turn, had made concessions. 
Flavia had, indeed, quite an equipment of epigrams to the effect
that our century creates the iron genii which evolve its fairy
tales: but the fact that her husband's name was annually painted
upon some ten thousand threshing machines in reality contributed
very little to her happiness.

Arthur Hamilton was born and had spent his boyhood in the
West Indies, and physically he had never lost the brand of the
tropics.  His father, after inventing the machine which bore his
name, had returned to the States to patent and manufacture it. 
After leaving college, Arthur had spent five years ranching in
the West and traveling abroad.  Upon his father's death
he had returned to Chicago and, to the astonishment of all his
friends, had taken up the business--without any demonstration of
enthusiasm, but with quiet perseverance, marked ability, and
amazing industry.  Why or how a self-sufficient, rather ascetic
man of thirty, indifferent in manner, wholly negative in all
other personal relations, should have doggedly wooed and finally
married Flavia Malcolm was a problem that had vexed older heads
than Imogen's.

While Imogen was dressing she heard a knock at her door, and
a young woman entered whom she at once recognized as Jemima
Broadwood--"Jimmy" Broadwood she was called by people in her own
profession.  While there was something unmistakably professional
in her frank savoir-faire, "Jimmy's" was one of those faces
to which the rouge never seems to stick.  Her eyes were keen and
gray as a windy April sky, and so far from having been seared by
calcium lights, you might have fancied they had never looked on
anything less bucolic than growing fields and country fairs.  She
wore her thick, brown hair short and parted at the side; and,
rather than hinting at freakishness, this seemed admirably in
keeping with her fresh, boyish countenance.  She extended to
Imogen a large, well-shaped hand which it was a pleasure to
clasp.

"Ah!  You are Miss Willard, and I see I need not introduce
myself.  Flavia said you were kind enough to express a wish to
meet me, and I preferred to meet you alone.  Do you mind if I
smoke?"

"Why, certainly not," said Imogen, somewhat disconcerted and
looking hurriedly about for matches.

"There, be calm, I'm always prepared," said Miss Broadwood,
checking Imogen's flurry with a soothing gesture, and producing
an oddly fashioned silver match-case from some mysterious recess
in her dinner gown.  She sat down in a deep chair, crossed her
patent-leather Oxfords, and lit her cigarette.  "This matchbox,"
she went on meditatively, "once belonged to a Prussian officer. 
He shot himself in his bathtub, and I bought it at the sale of
his effects."

Imogen had not yet found any suitable reply to make to this
rather irrelevant confidence, when Miss Broadwood turned to her
cordially: "I'm awfully glad you've come, Miss Willard, though I've
not quite decided why you did it. I wanted very much to meet you. 
Flavia gave me your thesis to read."

"Why, how funny!" ejaculated Imogen.

"On the contrary," remarked Miss Broadwood.  "I thought it
decidedly lacked humor."

"I meant," stammered Imogen, beginning to feel very much
like Alice in Wonderland, "I meant that I thought it rather
strange Mrs. Hamilton should fancy you would be interested."

Miss Broadwood laughed heartily.  "Now, don't let my
rudeness frighten you.  Really, I found it very interesting, and
no end impressive.  You see, most people in my profession are
good for absolutely nothing else, and, therefore, they have a
deep and abiding conviction that in some other line they might
have shone.  Strange to say, scholarship is the object of our
envious and particular admiration.  Anything in type impresses us
greatly; that's why so many of us marry authors or newspapermen
and lead miserable lives."  Miss Broadwood saw that she had rather
disconcerted Imogen, and blithely tacked in another direction. 
"You see," she went on, tossing aside her half-consumed
cigarette, "some years ago Flavia would not have deemed me worthy
to open the pages of your thesis--nor to be one of her house
party of the chosen, for that matter.  I've Pinero to thank for
both pleasures.  It all depends on the class of business I'm
playing whether I'm in favor or not.  Flavia is my second cousin,
you know, so I can say whatever disagreeable things I choose with
perfect good grace.  I'm quite desperate for someone to laugh
with, so I'm going to fasten myself upon you--for, of course, one
can't expect any of these gypsy-dago people to see anything
funny.  I don't intend you shall lose the humor of the situation. 
What do you think of Flavia's infirmary for the arts, anyway?"

"Well, it's rather too soon for me to have any opinion at
all," said Imogen, as she again turned to her dressing.  "So far,
you are the only one of the artists I've met."

"One of them?" echoed Miss Broadwood.  "One of the artists?
My offense may be rank, my dear, but I really don't deserve
that.  Come, now, whatever badges of my tribe I may bear upon me,
just let me divest you of any notion that I take myself seriously."

Imogen turned from the mirror in blank astonishment and sat
down on the arm of a chair, facing her visitor.  "I can't fathom
you at all, Miss Broadwood," she said frankly.  "Why shouldn't
you take yourself seriously?  What's the use of beating about the
bush?  Surely you know that you are one of the few players on this
side of the water who have at all the spirit of natural or
ingenuous comedy?"

"Thank you, my dear.  Now we are quite even about the thesis,
aren't we?  Oh, did you mean it?  Well, you are a clever
girl.  But you see it doesn't do to permit oneself to look at it
in that light.  If we do, we always go to pieces and waste our
substance astarring as the unhappy daughter of the Capulets.  But
there, I hear Flavia coming to take you down; and just remember
I'm not one of them--the artists, I mean."


Flavia conducted Imogen and Miss Broadwood downstairs.  As
they reached the lower hall they heard voices from the music
room, and dim figures were lurking in the shadows under the
gallery, but their hostess led straight to the smoking room.  The
June evening was chilly, and a fire had been lighted in the
fireplace.  Through the deepening dusk, the firelight flickered
upon the pipes and curious weapons on the wall and threw an
orange glow over the Turkish hangings.  One side of the smoking
room was entirely of glass, separating it from the conservatory,
which was flooded with white light from the electric bulbs. 
There was about the darkened room some suggestion of certain
chambers in the Arabian Nights, opening on a court of palms. 
Perhaps it was partially this memory-evoking suggestion that
caused Imogen to start so violently when she saw dimly, in a blur
of shadow, the figure of a man, who sat smoking in a low, deep
chair before the fire.  He was long, and thin, and brown.  His
long, nerveless hands drooped from the arms of his chair.  A
brown mustache shaded his mouth, and his eyes were sleepy and
apathetic.  When Imogen entered he rose indolently and gave her
his hand, his manner barely courteous.

"I am glad you arrived promptly, Miss Willard," he said with
an indifferent drawl.  "Flavia was afraid you might be late.  You
had a pleasant ride up, I hope?"

"Oh, very, thank you, Mr. Hamilton," she replied, feeling
that he did not particularly care whether she replied at all.

Flavia explained that she had not yet had time to dress for
dinner, as she had been attending to Mr. Will Maidenwood, who had
become faint after hurting his finger in an obdurate window, and
immediately excused herself As she left, Hamilton turned to Miss
Broadwood with a rather spiritless smile.

"Well, Jimmy," he remarked, "I brought up a piano box full
of fireworks for the boys.  How do you suppose we'll manage to
keep them until the Fourth?"

"We can't, unless we steel ourselves to deny there are any on the
premises," said Miss Broadwood, seating herself on a low stool by
Hamilton's chair and leaning back against the mantel.  "Have you
seen Helen, and has she told you the tragedy of the tooth?"

"She met me at the station, with her tooth wrapped up in
tissue paper.  I had tea with her an hour ago.  Better sit down,
Miss Willard;" he rose and pushed a chair toward Imogen, who was
standing peering into the conservatory.  "We are scheduled to
dine at seven, but they seldom get around before eight."

By this time Imogen had made out that here the plural
pronoun, third person, always referred to the artists.  As
Hamilton's manner did not spur one to cordial intercourse, and as
his attention seemed directed to Miss Broadwood, insofar as it
could be said to be directed to anyone, she sat down facing the
conservatory and watched him, unable to decide in how far he was
identical with the man who had first met Flavia Malcolm in her
mother's house, twelve years ago.  Did he at all remember having
known her as a little girl, and why did his indifference hurt her
so, after all these years?  Had some remnant of her childish
affection for him gone on living, somewhere down in the sealed
caves of her consciousness, and had she really expected to find
it possible to be fond of him again?  Suddenly she saw a light in
the man's sleepy eyes, an unmistakable expression of
interest and pleasure that fairly startled her.  She turned
quickly in the direction of his glance, and saw Flavia, just
entering, dressed for dinner and lit by the effulgence of her
most radiant manner.  Most people considered Flavia handsome,
and there was no gainsaying that she carried her five-and-thirty
years splendidly.  Her figure had never grown matronly, and her
face was of the sort that does not show wear.  Its blond tints
were as fresh and enduring as enamel--and quite as hard.  Its
usual expression was one of tense, often strained, animation,
which compressed her lips nervously.  A perfect scream of
animation, Miss Broadwood had called it, created and maintained
by sheer, indomitable force of will.  Flavia's appearance on any
scene whatever made a ripple, caused a certain agitation and
recognition, and, among impressionable people, a certain
uneasiness, For all her sparkling assurance of manner, Flavia
was certainly always ill at ease and, even more certainly,
anxious.  She seemed not convinced of the established order of
material things, seemed always trying to conceal her feeling that
walls might crumble, chasms open, or the fabric of her life fly
to the winds in irretrievable entanglement.  At least this was
the impression Imogen got from that note in Flavia which was so
manifestly false.

Hamilton's keen, quick, satisfied glance at his wife had
recalled to Imogen all her inventory of speculations about them. 
She looked at him with compassionate surprise.  As a child she
had never permitted herself to believe that Hamilton cared at all
for the woman who had taken him away from her; and since she had
begun to think about them again, it had never occurred to her
that anyone could become attached to Flavia in that deeply
personal and exclusive sense.  It seemed quite as irrational as
trying to possess oneself of Broadway at noon.

When they went out to dinner Imogen realized the completeness of
Flavia's triumph.  They were people of one name, mostly, like
kings; people whose names stirred the imagination like a romance or
a melody.  With the notable exception of M. Roux, Imogen had seen
most of them before, either in concert halls or lecture rooms; but
they looked noticeably older and dimmer than she remembered them.

Opposite her sat Schemetzkin, the Russian pianist, a short,
corpulent man, with an apoplectic face and purplish skin, his
thick, iron-gray hair tossed back from his forehead.  Next to the
German giantess sat the Italian tenor --the tiniest of men--pale,
with soft, light hair, much in disorder, very red lips, and
fingers yellowed by cigarettes.  Frau Lichtenfeld shone in a gown
of emerald green, fitting so closely as to enhance her natural
floridness.  However, to do the good lady justice, let her attire
be never so modest, it gave an effect of barbaric splendor.  At
her left sat Herr Schotte, the Assyriologist, whose features were
effectually concealed by the convergence of his hair and beard,
and whose glasses were continually falling into his plate.  This
gentleman had removed more tons of earth in the course of his
explorations than had any of his confreres, and his vigorous
attack upon his food seemed to suggest the strenuous nature of
his accustomed toil.  His eyes were small and deeply set, and his
forehead bulged fiercely above his eves in a bony ridge.  His
heavy brows completed the leonine suggestion of his face.  Even
to Imogen, who knew something of his work and greatly respected
it, he was entirely too reminiscent of the Stone Age to be
altogether an agreeable dinner companion.  He seemed, indeed, to
have absorbed something of the savagery of those early types of
life which he continually studied.

Frank Wellington, the young Kansas man who had been two
years out of Harvard and had published three historical novels,
sat next to Mr. Will Maidenwood, who was still pale from his
recent sufferings and carried his hand bandaged.  They took
little part in the general conversation, but, like the lion and
the unicorn, were always at it, discussing, every time they met,
whether there were or were not passages in Mr. Wellington's works
which should be eliminated, out of consideration for the Young
Person.  Wellington had fallen into the hands of a great American
syndicate which most effectually befriended struggling authors
whose struggles were in the right direction, and which had
guaranteed to make him famous before he was thirty.  Feeling the
security of his position he stoutly defended those passages which
jarred upon the sensitive nerves of the young editor of
Woman.  Maidenwood, in the smoothest of voices, urged the
necessity of the author's recognizing certain restrictions at the
outset, and Miss Broadwood, who joined the argument quite without
invitation or encouragement, seconded him with pointed and
malicious remarks which caused the young editor manifest
discomfort.  Restzhoff, the chemist, demanded the attention of the
entire company for his exposition of his devices for manufacturing
ice cream from vegetable oils and for administering drugs in
bonbons.

Flavia, always noticeably restless at dinner, was somewhat
apathetic toward the advocate of peptonized chocolate and was
plainly concerned about the sudden departure of M. Roux, who had
announced that it would be necessary for him to leave tomorrow. 
M. Emile Roux, who sat at Flavia's right, was a man in middle
life and quite bald, clearly without personal vanity, though his
publishers preferred to circulate only those of his portraits
taken in his ambrosial youth.  Imogen was considerably shocked at
his unlikeness to the slender, black-stocked Rolla he had looked
at twenty.  He had declined into the florid, settled heaviness of
indifference and approaching age.  There was, however, a certain
look of durability and solidity about him; the look of a man who
has earned the right to be fat and bald, and even silent at
dinner if he chooses.

Throughout the discussion between Wellington and Will
Maidenwood, though they invited his participation, he remained
silent, betraying no sign either of interest or contempt.  Since
his arrival he had directed most of his conversation to Hamilton,
who had never read one of his twelve great novels.  This
perplexed and troubled Flavia.  On the night of his arrival Jules
Martel had enthusiastically declared, "There are schools and
schools, manners and manners; but Roux is Roux, and Paris sets
its watches by his clock."  Flavia bad already repeated this
remark to Imogen.  It haunted her, and each time she quoted it
she was impressed anew.

Flavia shifted the conversation uneasily, evidently exasperated
and excited by her repeated failures to draw the novelist out.
"Monsieur Roux," she began abruptly, with her most animated smile,
"I remember so well a statement I read some years ago in your 'Mes
Etudes des Femmes' to the effect that you had never met a really
intellectual woman.  May I ask, without being impertinent, whether
that assertion still represents your experience?"

"I meant, madam," said the novelist conservatively, "intellectual
in a sense very special, as we say of men in whom the purely
intellectual functions seem almost independent."

"And you still think a woman so constituted a mythical
personage?" persisted Flavia, nodding her head encouragingly.

"Une Meduse, madam, who, if she were discovered, would
transmute us all into stone," said the novelist, bowing gravely. 
"If she existed at all," he added deliberately, "it was my
business to find her, and she has cost me many a vain pilgrimage. 
Like Rudel of Tripoli, I have crossed seas and penetrated deserts
to seek her out.  I have, indeed, encountered women of learning
whose industry I have been compelled to respect; many who have
possessed beauty and charm and perplexing cleverness; a few with
remarkable information and a sort of fatal facility."

"And Mrs. Browning, George Eliot, and your own Mme.  Dudevant?"
queried Flavia with that fervid enthusiasm with which she could, on
occasion, utter things simply incomprehensible for their
banality--at her feats of this sort Miss Broadwood was wont to sit
breathless with admiration.

"Madam, while the intellect was undeniably present in the
performances of those women, it was only the stick of the rocket. 
Although this woman has eluded me I have studied her conditions
and perturbances as astronomers conjecture the orbits of planets
they have never seen. if she exists, she is probably neither an
artist nor a woman with a mission, but an obscure personage, with
imperative intellectual needs, who absorbs rather than produces."

Flavia, still nodding nervously, fixed a strained glance of
interrogation upon M. Roux.  "Then you think she would be a woman
whose first necessity would be to know, whose instincts would be
satisfied only with the best, who could draw from others;
appreciative, merely?"

The novelist lifted his dull eyes to his interlocutress with
an untranslatable smile and a slight inclination of his
shoulders.  "Exactly so; you are really remarkable, madam," he
added, in a tone of cold astonishment.

After dinner the guests took their coffee in the music room,
where Schemetzkin sat down at the piano to drum ragtime, and give
his celebrated imitation of the boardingschool girl's execution
of Chopin.  He flatly refused to play anything more serious, and
would practice only in the morning, when he had the music room to
himself.  Hamilton and M. Roux repaired to the smoking room to
discuss the necessity of extending the tax on manufactured
articles in France--one of those conversations which particularly
exasperated Flavia.

After Schemetzkin had grimaced and tortured the keyboard
with malicious vulgarities for half an hour, Signor Donati, to
put an end to his torture, consented to sing, and Flavia and
Imogen went to fetch Arthur to play his accompaniments.  Hamilton
rose with an annoyed look and placed his cigarette on the mantel. 
"Why yes, Flavia, I'll accompany him, provided he sings something
with a melody, Italian arias or ballads, and provided the recital
is not interminable."

"You will join us, M. Roux?"

"Thank you, but I have some letters to write," replied the
novelist, bowing.

As Flavia had remarked to Imogen, "Arthur really played
accompaniments remarkably well."  To hear him recalled vividly the
days of her childhood, when he always used to spend his business
vacations at her mother's home in Maine.  He had possessed for
her that almost hypnotic influence which young men sometimes
exert upon little girls.  It was a sort of phantom love affair,
subjective and fanciful, a precocity of instinct, like that
tender and maternal concern which some little girls feel for
their dolls.  Yet this childish infatuation is capable of all the
depressions and exaltations of love itself, it has its bitter
jealousies, cruel disappointments, its exacting caprices.

Summer after summer she had awaited his coming and wept at his
departure, indifferent to the gayer young men who had called her
their sweetheart and laughed at everything she said.  Although
Hamilton never said so, she had been always quite sure that he was
fond of her.  When he pulled her up the river to hunt for fairy
knolls shut about by low, hanging willows, he was often silent for
an hour at a time, yet she never felt he was bored or was
neglecting her.  He would lie in the sand smoking, his eyes
half-closed, watching her play, and she was always conscious that
she was entertaining him.  Sometimes he would take a copy of "Alice
in Wonderland" in his pocket, and no one could read it as he could,
laughing at her with his dark eyes, when anything amused him.  No
one else could laugh so, with just their eyes, and without moving
a muscle of their face.  Though he usually smiled at passages that
seemed not at all funny to the child, she always laughed gleefully,
because he was so seldom moved to mirth that any such demonstration
delighted her and she took the credit of it entirely to herself Her
own inclination had been for serious stories, with sad endings,
like the Little Mermaid, which he had once told her in an unguarded
moment when she had a cold, and was put to bed early on her
birthday night and cried because she could not have her party.  But
he highly disapproved of this preference, and had called it a
morbid taste, and always shook his finger at her when she asked for
the story.  When she had been particularly good, or particularly
neglected by other people, then he would sometimes melt and tell
her the story, and never laugh at her if she enjoyed the "sad
ending" even to tears.  When Flavia had taken him away and he came
no more, she wept inconsolably for the space of two weeks, and
refused to learn her lessons.  Then she found the story of the
Little Mermaid herself, and forgot him.

Imogen had discovered at dinner that he could still smile at
one secretly, out of his eyes, and that he had the old manner of
outwardly seeming bored, but letting you know that he was not. 
She was intensely curious about his exact state of feeling toward
his wife, and more curious still to catch a sense of his final
adjustment to the conditions of life in general.  This, she could
not help feeling, she might get again--if she could have him alone
for an hour, in some place where there was a little river and a
sandy cove bordered by drooping willows, and a blue sky seen
through white sycamore boughs.

That evening, before retiring, Flavia entered her husband's
room, where be sat in his smoking jacket, in one of his favorite
low chairs.

"I suppose it's a grave responsibility to bring an ardent,
serious young thing like Imogen here among all these fascinating
personages," she remarked reflectively.  "But, after all, one can
never tell.  These grave, silent girls have their own charm, even
for facile people."

"Oh, so that is your plan?" queried her husband dryly.  "I
was wondering why you got her up here.  She doesn't seem to mix
well with the faciles.  At least, so it struck me."

Flavia paid no heed to this jeering remark, but repeated, "No,
after all, it may not be a bad thing."

"Then do consign her to that shaken reed, the tenor," said
her husband yawning.  "I remember she used to have a taste for
the pathetic."

"And then," remarked Flavia coquettishly, "after all, I owe her
mother a return in kind.  She was not afraid to trifle with
destiny."

But Hamilton was asleep in his chair.


Next morning Imogen found only Miss Broadwood in the breakfast
room.

"Good morning, my dear girl, whatever are you doing up so
early?  They never breakfast before eleven.  Most of them take
their coffee in their room.  Take this place by me."

Miss Broadwood looked particularly fresh and encouraging in
her blue serge walking skirt, her open jacket displaying an
expanse of stiff, white shirt bosom, dotted with some almost
imperceptible figure, and a dark blue-and-white necktie, neatly
knotted under her wide, rolling collar.  She wore a white rosebud
in the lapel of her coat, and decidedly she seemed more than ever
like a nice, clean boy on his holiday.  Imogen was just hoping
that they would breakfast alone when Miss Broadwood exclaimed,
"Ah, there comes Arthur with the children.  That's the reward of
early rising in this house; you never get to see the youngsters
at any other time."

Hamilton entered, followed by two dark, handsome little
boys.  The girl, who was very tiny, blonde like her mother, and
exceedingly frail, he carried in his arms.  The boys came up and
said good morning with an ease and cheerfulness uncommon, even in
well-bred children, but the little girl hid her face on her
father's shoulder.

"She's a shy little lady," he explained as he put her gently
down in her chair.  "I'm afraid she's like her father; she can't
seem to get used to meeting people.  And you, Miss Willard, did
you dream of the White Rabbit or the Little Mermaid?"

"Oh, I dreamed of them all!  All the personages of that
buried civilization," cried Imogen, delighted that his estranged
manner of the night before had entirely vanished and feeling
that, somehow, the old confidential relations had been restored
during the night.

"Come, William," said Miss Broadwood, turning to the younger
of the two boys, "and what did you dream about?"

"We dreamed," said William gravely--he was the more assertive of
the two and always spoke for both--"we dreamed that there were
fireworks hidden in the basement of the carriage house; lots and
lots of fireworks."

His elder brother looked up at him with apprehensive
astonishment, while Miss Broadwood hastily put her napkin to her
lips and Hamilton dropped his eyes.  "If little boys dream
things, they are so apt not to come true," he reflected sadly. 
This shook even the redoubtable William, and he glanced nervously
at his brother.  "But do things vanish just because they have
been dreamed?" he objected.

"Generally that is the very best reason for their vanishing,"
said Arthur gravely.

"But, Father, people can't help what they dream,"
remonstrated Edward gently.

"Oh, come!  You're making these children talk like a
Maeterlinck dialogue," laughed Miss Broadwood.

Flavia presently entered, a book in her hand, and bade them all
good morning.  "Come, little people, which story shall it be this
morning?" she asked winningly.  Greatly excited, the children
followed her into the garden.  "She does then, sometimes," murmured
Imogen as they left the breakfast room.

"Oh, yes, to be sure," said Miss Broadwood cheerfully.  "She
reads a story to them every morning in the most picturesque part
of the garden.  The mother of the Gracchi, you know.  She does so
long, she says, for the time when they will be intellectual
companions for her.  What do you say to a walk over the hills?"

As they left the house they met Frau Lichtenfeld and the
bushy Herr Schotte--the professor cut an astonishing figure in
golf stockings--returning from a walk and engaged in an animated
conversation on the tendencies of German fiction.

"Aren't they the most attractive little children," exclaimed
Imogen as they wound down the road toward the river.

"Yes, and you must not fail to tell Flavia that you think
so.  She will look at you in a sort of startled way and say,
'Yes, aren't they?' and maybe she will go off and hunt them up
and have tea with them, to fully appreciate them.  She is awfully
afraid of missing anything good, is Flavia.  The way those
youngsters manage to conceal their guilty presence in the House
of Song is a wonder."

"But don't any of the artist-folk fancy children?" asked Imogen.

"Yes, they just fancy them and no more.  The chemist remarked the
other day that children are like certain salts which need not be
actualized because the formulae are quite sufficient for practical
purposes.  I don't see how even Flavia can endure to have that man
about."

"I have always been rather curious to know what Arthur
thinks of it all," remarked Imogen cautiously.

"Thinks of it!" ejaculated Miss Broadwood.  "Why, my dear,
what would any man think of having his house turned into an
hotel, habited by freaks who discharge his servants, borrow his
money, and insult his neighbors?  This place is shunned like a
lazaretto!"

Well, then, why does he--why does he--" persisted Imogen.

"Bah!" interrupted Miss Broadwood impatiently, "why did he
in the first place?  That's the question."

"Marry her, you mean?" said Imogen coloring.

"Exactly so," said Miss Broadwood sharply, as she snapped
the lid of her matchbox.

"I suppose that is a question rather beyond us, and
certainly one which we cannot discuss," said Imogen.  "But his
toleration on this one point puzzles me, quite apart from other
complications."

"Toleration?  Why this point, as you call it, simply is
Flavia.  Who could conceive of her without it?  I don't know where
it's all going to end, I'm sure, and I'm equally sure that, if it
were not for Arthur, I shouldn't care," declared Miss Broadwood,
drawing her shoulders together.

"But will it end at all, now?"

"Such an absurd state of things can't go on indefinitely.  A
man isn't going to see his wife make a guy of herself forever, is
he?  Chaos has already begun in the servants' quarters.  There are
six different languages spoken there now.  You see, it's all on
an entirely false basis.  Flavia hasn't the slightest notion of
what these people are really like, their good and their bad alike
escape her.  They, on the other hand, can't imagine what she is
driving at. Now, Arthur is worse off than either faction; he is
not in the fairy story in that he sees these people exactly as
they are, but he is utterly unable to see Flavia as they see
her.  There you have the situation.  Why can't he see her as we do? 
My dear, that has kept me awake o' nights.  This man who has
thought so much and lived so much, who is naturally a critic,
really takes Flavia at very nearly her own estimate.  But now I am
entering upon a wilderness.  From a brief acquaintance with her
you can know nothing of the icy fastnesses of Flavia's self-
esteem.  It's like St. Peter's; you can't realize its magnitude
at once.  You have to grow into a sense of it by living under its
shadow.  It has perplexed even Emile Roux, that merciless
dissector of egoism.  She has puzzled him the more because be saw
at a glance what some of them do not perceive at once, and what
will be mercifully concealed from Arthur until the trump sounds;
namely, that all Flavia's artists have done or ever will do means
exactly as much to her as a symphony means to an oyster; that
there is no bridge by which the significance of any work of art
could be conveyed to her."

"Then, in the name of goodness, why does she bother?" gasped
Imogen.  "She is pretty, wealthy, well-established; why should
she bother?"

"That's what M. Roux has kept asking himself.  I can't pretend to
analyze it.  She reads papers on the Literary Landmarks of Paris,
the Loves of the Poets, and that sort of thing, to clubs out in
Chicago.  To Flavia it is more necessary to be called clever than
to breathe.  I would give a good deal to know that glum Frenchman's
diagnosis.  He has been watching her out of those fishy eyes of his
as a biologist watches a hemisphereless frog."

For several days after M. Roux's departure Flavia gave an
embarrassing share of her attention to Imogen.  Embarrassing,
because Imogen had the feeling of being energetically and
futilely explored, she knew not for what.  She felt herself under
the globe of an air pump, expected to yield up something.  When
she confined the conversation to matters of general interest
Flavia conveyed to her with some pique that her one endeavor in
life had been to fit herself to converse with her friends upon
those things which vitally interested them.  "One has no right to
accept their best from people unless one gives, isn't it so?  I
want to be able to give--!" she declared vaguely.  Yet whenever
Imogen strove to pay her tithes and plunged bravely into her
plans for study next winter, Flavia grew absent-minded and
interrupted her by amazing generalizations or by such
embarrassing questions as, "And these grim studies really have
charm for you; you are quite buried in them; they make other
things seem light and ephemeral?"

"I rather feel as though I had got in here under false
pretenses," Imogen confided to Miss Broadwood.  "I'm sure I don't
know what it is that she wants of me."

"Ah," chuckled Jemima, "you are not equal to these heart to
heart talks with Flavia.  You utterly fail to communicate to her
the atmosphere of that untroubled joy in which you dwell.  You
must remember that she gets no feeling out of things
herself, and she demands that you impart yours to her by some
process of psychic transmission.  I once met a blind girl, blind
from birth, who could discuss the peculiarities of the Barbizon
school with just Flavia's glibness and enthusiasm.  Ordinarily
Flavia knows how to get what she wants from people, and her
memory is wonderful.  One evening I heard her giving Frau
Lichtenfeld some random impressions about Hedda Gabler which she
extracted from me five years ago; giving them with an impassioned
conviction of which I was never guilty.  But I have known other
people who could appropriate  your stories and opinions; Flavia
is infinitely more subtle than that; she can soak up the very
thrash and drift of  your daydreams, and take the very thrills
off your back, as it were."

After some days of unsuccessful effort, Flavia withdrew
herself, and Imogen found Hamilton ready to catch her when she
was tossed afield.  He seemed only to have been awaiting this
crisis, and at once their old intimacy reestablished itself as a
thing inevitable and beautifully prepared for.  She convinced
herself that she had not been mistaken in him, despite all the
doubts that had come up in later years, and this renewal of faith
set more than one question thumping in her brain.  "How did he,
how can he?" she kept repeating with a tinge of her childish
resentment, "what right had he to waste anything so fine?"

When Imogen and Arthur were returning from a walk before
luncheon one morning about a week after M. Roux's departure, they
noticed an absorbed group before one of the hall windows.  Herr
Schotte and Restzhoff sat on the window seat with a newspaper
between them, while Wellington, Schemetzkin, and Will Maidenwood
looked over their shoulders.  They seemed intensely interested,
Herr Schotte occasionally pounding his knees with his fists in
ebullitions of barbaric glee.  When imogen entered the hall,
however, the men were all sauntering toward the breakfast room
and the paper was lying innocently on the divan.  During luncheon
the personnel of that window group were unwontedly animated and
agreeable all save Schemetzkin, whose stare was blanker than
ever, as though Roux's mantle of insulting indifference
had fallen upon him, in addition to his own oblivious self-
absorption.  Will Maidenwood seemed embarrassed and annoyed; the
chemist employed himself with making polite speeches to Hamilton.
Flavia did not come down to lunch--and there was a malicious
gleam under Herr Schotte's eyebrows.  Frank Wellington announced
nervously that an imperative letter from his protecting syndicate
summoned him to the city.

After luncheon the men went to the golf links, and Imogen,
at the first opportunity, possessed herself of the newspaper
which had been left on the divan.  One of the first things that
caught her eye was an article headed "Roux on Tuft Hunters; The
Advanced American Woman as He Sees Her; Aggressive, Superficial,
and Insincere."  The entire interview was nothing more nor less
than a satiric characterization of Flavia, aquiver with
irritation and vitriolic malice.  No one could mistake it; it was
done with all his deftness of portraiture.  Imogen had not finished
the article when she heard a footstep, and clutching the paper she
started precipitately toward the stairway as Arthur entered.  He
put out his hand, looking critically at her distressed face.

"Wait a moment, Miss Willard," he said peremptorily, "I want
to see whether we can find what it was that so interested our
friends this morning.  Give me the paper, please."

Imogen grew quite white as he opened the journal.  She
reached forward and crumpled it with her hands.  "Please don't,
please don't," she pleaded; "it's something I don't want you to
see.  Oh, why will you? it's just something low and despicable
that you can't notice."

Arthur had gently loosed her hands, and he pointed her to a chair. 
He lit a cigar and read the article through without comment.  When
he had finished it he walked to the fireplace, struck a match, and
tossed the flaming journal between the brass andirons.

"You are right," he remarked as he came back, dusting his
hands with his handkerchief.  "It's quite impossible to comment. 
There are extremes of blackguardism for which we have no name. 
The only thing necessary is to see that Flavia gets no
wind of this.  This seems to be my cue to act; poor girl."

Imogen looked at him tearfully; she could only murmur, "Oh,
why did you read it!"

Hamilton laughed spiritlessly.  "Come, don't you worry about
it.  You always took other people's troubles too seriously.  When
you were little and all the world was gay and everybody happy,
you must needs get the Little Mermaid's troubles to grieve over. 
Come with me into the music room.  You remember the musical
setting I once made you for the Lay of the Jabberwock?  I was
trying it over the other night, long after you were in bed, and I
decided it was quite as fine as the Erl-King music.  How I wish I
could give you some of the cake that Alice ate and make you a
little girl again.  Then, when you had got through the glass door
into the little garden, you could call to me, perhaps, and tell
me all the fine things that were going on there.  What a pity it
is that you ever grew up!" he added, laughing; and Imogen, too,
was thinking just that.

At dinner that evening, Flavia, with fatal persistence,
insisted upon turning the conversation to M. Roux.  She had been
reading one of his novels and had remembered anew that Paris set
its watches by his clock.  Imogen surmised that she was tortured
by a feeling that she had not sufficiently appreciated him while
she had had him.  When she first mentioned his name she was
answered only by the pall of silence that fell over the company. 
Then everyone began to talk at once, as though to correct a false
position.  They spoke of him with a fervid, defiant admiration,
with the sort of hot praise that covers a double purpose.  Imogen
fancied she could see that they felt a kind of relief at what the
man had done, even those who despised him for doing it; that they
felt a spiteful hate against Flavia, as though she had tricked
them, and a certain contempt for themselves that they had been
beguiled.  She was reminded of the fury of the crowd in the fairy
tale, when once the child had called out that the king was in his
night clothes.  Surely these people knew no more about Flavia
than they had known before, but the mere fact that the
thing had been said altered the situation.  Flavia, meanwhile,
sat chattering amiably, pathetically unconscious of her nakedness.

Hamilton lounged, fingering the stem of his wineglass,
gazing down the table at one face after another and studying the
various degrees of self-consciousness they exhibited.  Imogen's
eyes followed his, fearfully.  When a lull came in the spasmodic
flow of conversation, Arthur, leaning back in his chair, remarked
deliberately, "As for M. Roux, his very profession places him
in that class of men whom society has never been able to accept
unconditionally because it has never been able to assume that
they have any ordered notion of taste.  He and his ilk remain,
with the mountebanks and snake charmers, people indispensable to
our civilization, but wholly unreclaimed by it; people whom we
receive, but whose invitations we do not accept."

Fortunately for Flavia, this mine was not exploded until
just before the coffee was brought.  Her laughter was pitiful to
hear; it echoed through the silent room as in a vault, while she
made some tremulously light remark about her husband's drollery,
grim as a jest from the dying.  No one responded and she sat
nodding her head like a mechanical toy and smiling her white, set
smile through her teeth, until Alcee Buisson and Frau Lichtenfeld
came to her support.

After dinner the guests retired immediately to their rooms,
and Imogen went upstairs on tiptoe, feeling the echo of breakage
and the dust of crumbling in the air.  She wondered whether
Flavia's habitual note of uneasiness were not, in a manner,
prophetic, and a sort of unconscious premonition, after all.  She
sat down to write a letter, but she found herself so nervous, her
head so hot and her hands so cold, that she soon abandoned the
effort. just as she was about to seek Miss Broadwood, Flavia
entered and embraced her hysterically.

"My dearest girl," she began, "was there ever such an
unfortunate and incomprehensible speech made before?  Of course
it is scarcely necessary to explain to you poor Arthur's lack of
tact, and that he meant nothing.  But they!  Can they be
expected to understand?  He will feel wretchedly about it when
he realizes what he has done, but in the meantime?  And M. Roux,
of all men!  When we were so fortunate as to get him, and he made
himself so unreservedly agreeable, and I fancied that, in his way,
Arthur quite admired him.  My dear, you have no idea what that
speech has done.  Schemetzkin and Herr Schotte have already sent
me word that they must leave us tomorrow.  Such a thing from a
host!"  Flavia paused, choked by tears of vexation and despair.

Imogen was thoroughly disconcerted; this was the first time
she had ever seen Flavia betray any personal emotion which was
indubitably genuine.  She replied with what consolation she
could.  "Need they take it personally at all?  It was a mere
observation upon a class of people--"

"Which he knows nothing whatever about, and with whom he has
no sympathy," interrupted Flavia.  "Ah, my dear, you could not be
expected to understand.  You can't realize, knowing Arthur
as you do, his entire lack of any aesthetic sense whatever.  He is
absolutely nil, stone deaf and stark blind, on that side. 
He doesn't mean to be brutal, it is just the brutality of utter
ignorance.  They always feel it--they are so sensitive to
unsympathetic influences, you know; they know it the moment they
come into the house.  I have spent my life apologizing for him
and struggling to conceal it; but in spite of me, he wounds them;
his very attitude, even in silence, offends them.  Heavens!  Do I
not know?  Is it not perpetually and forever wounding me?  But
there has never been anything so dreadful as this--never!  If I
could conceive of any possible motive, even!"

"But, surely, Mrs. Hamilton, it was, after all, a mere
expression of opinion, such as we are any of us likely to venture
upon any subject whatever.  It was neither more personal nor more
extravagant than many of M. Roux's remarks."

"But, Imogen, certainly M. Roux has the right.  It is a part
of his art, and that is altogether another matter.  Oh, this is
not the only instance!" continued Flavia passionately, "I've
always had that narrow, bigoted prejudice to contend with.  It
has always held me back.  But this--!"

"I think you mistake his attitude," replied Imogen, feeling
a flush that made her ears tingle.  "That is, I fancy he is more
appreciative than he seems.  A man can't be very demonstrative
about those things--not if he is a real man.  I should not think
you would care much about saving the feelings of people who are
too narrow to admit of any other point of view than their own."
She stopped, finding herself in the impossible position of
attempting to explain Hamilton to his wife; a task which, if once
begun, would necessitate an entire course of enlightenment which
she doubted Flavia's ability to receive, and which she could
offer only with very poor grace.

"That's just where it stings most"--here Flavia began pacing
the floor--"it is just because they have all shown such tolerance
and have treated Arthur with such unfailing consideration that I
can find no reasonable pretext for his rancor.  How can he fail
to see the value of such friendships on the children's account,
if for nothing else!  What an advantage for them to grow up among
such associations!  Even though he cares nothing about these
things himself he might realize that.  Is there nothing I could
say by way of explanation?  To them, I mean?  If someone were to
explain to them how unfortunately limited he is in these
things--"

"I'm afraid I cannot advise you," said Imogen decidedly,
"but that, at least, seems to me impossible."

Flavia took her hand and glanced at her affectionately,
nodding nervously.  "Of course, dear girl, I can't ask you to be
quite frank with me.  Poor child, you are trembling and your
hands are icy.  Poor Arthur!  But you must not judge him by this
altogether; think how much he misses in life.  What a cruel shock
you've had.  I'll send you some sherry, Good night, my dear."

When Flavia shut the door Imogen burst into a fit of nervous
weeping.

Next morning she awoke after a troubled and restless night.  At
eight o'clock Miss Broadwood entered in a red and white striped
bathrobe.

"Up, up, and see the great doom's image!" she cried, her
eyes sparkling with excitement.  "The hall is full of
trunks, they are packing.  What bolt has fallen?  It's you, ma
cherie, you've brought Ulysses home again and the slaughter has
begun!" she blew a cloud of smoke triumphantly from her lips and
threw herself into a chair beside the bed.

Imogen, rising on her elbow, plunged excitedly into the
story of the Roux interview, which Miss Broadwood heard with the
keenest interest, frequently interrupting her with exclamations
of delight.  When Imogen reached the dramatic scene which
terminated in the destruction of the newspaper, Miss Broadwood
rose and took a turn about the room, violently switching the
tasselled cords of her bathrobe.

"Stop a moment," she cried, "you mean to tell me that he had
such a heaven-sent means to bring her to her senses and didn't
use it--that he held such a weapon and threw it away?"

"Use it?" cried Imogen unsteadily.  "Of course he didn't!  He
bared his back to the tormentor, signed himself over to
punishment in that speech he made at dinner, which everyone
understands but Flavia.  She was here for an hour last night and
disregarded every limit of taste in her maledictions."

"My dear!" cried Miss Broadwood, catching her hand in
inordinate delight at the situation, "do you see what he has
done?  There'll be no end to it.  Why he has sacrificed himself to
spare the very vanity that devours him, put rancors in the
vessels of his peace, and his eternal jewel given to the common
enemy of man, to make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings!  He is
magnificent!"

"Isn't he always that?" cried Imogen hotly.  "He's like a
pillar of sanity and law in this house of shams and swollen
vanities, where people stalk about with a sort of madhouse
dignity, each one fancying himself a king or a pope.  If you
could have heard that woman talk of him!  Why, she thinks him
stupid, bigoted, blinded by middleclass prejudices.  She talked
about his having no aesthetic sense and insisted that her artists
had always shown him tolerance.  I don't know why it should get
on my nerves so, I'm sure, but her stupidity and assurance are
enough to drive one to the brink of collapse."

"Yes, as opposed to his singular fineness, they are
calculated to do just that," said Miss Broadwood gravely, wisely
ignoring Imogen's tears.  "But what has been is nothing to what
will be.  Just wait until Flavia's black swans have flown!  You
ought not to try to stick it out; that would only make it harder
for everyone.  Suppose you let me telephone your mother to wire
you to come home by the evening train?"

"Anything, rather than have her come at me like that again.  It
puts me in a perfectly impossible position, and he is so
fine!"

"Of course it does," said Miss Broadwood sympathetically,
"and there is no good to be got from facing it.  I will stay
because such things interest me, and Frau Lichtenfeld will stay
because she has no money to get away, and Buisson will stay
because he feels somewhat responsible.  These complications are
interesting enough to cold-blooded folk like myself who have an
eye for the dramatic element, but they are distracting and
demoralizing to young people with any serious purpose in life."

Miss Broadwood's counsel was all the more generous seeing
that, for her, the most interesting element of this denouement
would be eliminated by Imogen's departure.  "If she goes now,
she'll get over it," soliloquized Miss Broadwood.  "If she stays,
she'll be wrung for him and the hurt may go deep enough to last. 
I haven't the heart to see her spoiling things for herself."  She
telephoned Mrs. Willard and helped Imogen to pack.  She even took
it upon herself to break the news of Imogen's going to Arthur,
who remarked, as he rolled a cigarette in his nerveless fingers:

"Right enough, too.  What should she do here with old cynics
like you and me, Jimmy?  Seeing that she is brim full of dates and
formulae and other positivisms, and is so girt about with
illusions that she still casts a shadow in the sun.  You've been
very tender of her, haven't you?  I've watched you.  And to think
it may all be gone when we see her next.  'The common fate of all
things rare,' you know.  What a good fellow you are, anyway,
Jimmy," he added, putting his hands affectionately on her
shoulders.

Arthur went with them to the station.  Flavia was so
prostrated by the concerted action of her guests that she was
able to see Imogen only for a moment in her darkened sleeping
chamber, where she kissed her hysterically, without lifting her
head, bandaged in aromatic vinegar.  On the way to the station
both Arthur and Imogen threw the burden of keeping up appearances
entirely upon Miss Broadwood, who blithely rose to the occasion. 
When Hamilton carried Imogen's bag into the car, Miss Broadwood
detained her for a moment, whispering as she gave her a large,
warm handclasp, "I'll come to see you when I get back to town;
and, in the meantime, if you meet any of our artists, tell them
you have left Caius Marius among the ruins of Carthage."





The Sculptor's Funeral

A group of the townspeople stood on the station siding of a
little Kansas town, awaiting the coming of the night train, which
was already twenty minutes overdue.  The snow had fallen thick
over everything; in the pale starlight the line of bluffs across
the wide, white meadows south of the town made soft, smoke-
colored curves against the clear sky.  The men on the siding
stood first on one foot and then on the other, their hands thrust
deep into their trousers pockets, their overcoats open, their
shoulders screwed up with the cold; and they glanced from time to
time toward the southeast, where the railroad track wound along
the river shore.  They conversed in low tones and moved about
restlessly, seeming uncertain as to what was expected of them. 
There was but one of the company who looked as though he knew
exactly why he was there; and he kept conspicuously apart;
walking to the far end of the platform, returning to the station
door, then pacing up the track again, his chin sunk in the high
collar of his overcoat, his burly shoulders drooping forward, his
gait heavy and dogged.  Presently he was approached by a tall,
spare, grizzled man clad in a faded Grand Army suit, who shuffled
out from the group and advanced with a certain deference, craning
his neck forward until his back made the angle of a jackknife
three-quarters open.

"I reckon she's agoin' to be pretty late ag'in tonight,
Jim," he remarked in a squeaky falsetto.  "S'pose it's the snow?"

"I don't know," responded the other man with a shade of
annoyance, speaking from out an astonishing cataract of red beard
that grew fiercely and thickly in all directions.

The spare man shifted the quill toothpick he was chewing to
the other side of his mouth.  "It ain't likely that anybody from
the East will come with the corpse, I s'pose," he went on
reflectively.

"I don't know," responded the other, more curtly than before.

"It's too bad he didn't belong to some lodge or other.  I
like an order funeral myself.  They seem more appropriate for
people of some reputation," the spare man continued, with an
ingratiating concession in his shrill voice, as he carefully
placed his toothpick in his vest pocket.  He always carried the
flag at the G. A. R. funerals in the town.

The heavy man turned on his heel, without replying, and walked up
the siding.  The spare man shuffled back to the uneasy group. 
"Jim's ez full ez a tick, ez ushel," he commented commiseratingly.

Just then a distant whistle sounded, and there was a
shuffling of feet on the platform.  A number of lanky boys of all
ages appeared as suddenly and slimily as eels wakened by the
crack of thunder; some came from the waiting room, where they had
been warming themselves by the red stove, or half-asleep on the
slat benches; others uncoiled themselves from baggage trucks or
slid out of express wagons.  Two clambered down from the driver's
seat of a hearse that stood backed up against the siding.  They
straightened their stooping shoulders and lifted their heads, and
a flash of momentary animation kindled their dull eyes at that
cold, vibrant scream, the world-wide call for men.  It stirred
them like the note of a trumpet; just as it had often stirred the
man who was coming home tonight, in his boyhood.

The night express shot, red as a rocket, from out the eastward
marsh lands and wound along the river shore under the long lines of
shivering poplars that sentineled the meadows, the escaping steam
hanging in gray masses against the pale sky and blotting out the
Milky Way.  In a moment the red glare from the headlight streamed
up the snow-covered track before the siding and glittered on the
wet, black rails.  The burly man with the disheveled red beard
walked swiftly up the platform toward the approaching train,
uncovering his head as he went.  The group of men behind him
hesitated, glanced questioningly at one another, and awkwardly
followed his example.  The train stopped, and the crowd shuffled up
to the express car just as the door was thrown open, the spare man
in the G. A. B. suit thrusting his head forward with curiosity. 
The express messenger appeared in the doorway, accompanied by a
young man in a long ulster and traveling cap.

"Are Mr. Merrick's friends here?" inquired the young man.

The group on the platform swayed and shuffled uneasily. 
Philip Phelps, the banker, responded with dignity: "We have come
to take charge of the body.  Mr. Merrick's father is very feeble
and can't be about."

"Send the agent out here," growled the express messenger,
"and tell the operator to lend a hand."

The coffin was got out of its rough box and down on the
snowy platform.  The townspeople drew back enough to make room
for it and then formed a close semicircle about it, looking
curiously at the palm leaf which lay across the black cover.  No
one said anything.  The baggage man stood by his truck, waiting
to get at the trunks.  The engine panted heavily, and the fireman
dodged in and out among the wheels with his yellow torch and long
oilcan, snapping the spindle boxes.  The young Bostonian, one of
the dead sculptor's pupils who had come with the body, looked
about him helplessly.  He turned to the banker, the only one of
that black, uneasy, stoop-shouldered group who seemed enough of
an individual to be addressed.

"None of Mr. Merrick's brothers are here?" he asked uncertainly.

The man with the red heard for the first time stepped up and
joined the group.  "No, they have not come yet; the family is
scattered.  The body will be taken directly to the house."  He
stooped and took hold of one of the handles of the coffin.

"Take the long hill road up, Thompson--it will be easier on
the horses," called the liveryman as the undertaker snapped the
door of the hearse and prepared to mount to the driver's seat.

Laird, the red-bearded lawyer, turned again to the stranger:
"We didn't know whether there would be anyone with him or not,"
he explained.  "It's a long walk, so you'd better go up in the
hack."  He pointed to a single, battered conveyance, but the young
man replied stiffly: "Thank you, but I think I will go up with
the hearse.  If you don't object," turning to the undertaker,
"I'll ride with you."

They clambered up over the wheels and drove off in the
starlight tip the long, white hill toward the town.  The lamps in
the still village were shining from under the low, snow-burdened
roofs; and beyond, on every side, the plains reached out into
emptiness, peaceful and wide as the soft sky itself, and wrapped
in a tangible, white silence.

When the hearse backed up to a wooden sidewalk before a naked,
weatherbeaten frame house, the same composite, ill-defined group
that had stood upon the station siding was huddled about the gate. 
The front yard was an icy swamp, and a couple of warped planks,
extending from the sidewalk to the door, made a sort of rickety
footbridge.  The gate hung on one hinge and was opened wide with
difficulty.  Steavens, the young stranger, noticed that something
black was tied to the knob of the front door.

The grating sound made by the casket, as it was drawn from the
hearse, was answered by a scream from the house; the front door was
wrenched open, and a tall, corpulent woman rushed out bareheaded
into the snow and flung herself upon the coffin, shrieking: "My
boy, my boy!  And this is how you've come home to me!"

As Steavens turned away and closed his eyes with a shudder
of unutterable repulsion, another woman, also tall, but flat and
angular, dressed entirely in black, darted out of the house and
caught Mrs. Merrick by the shoulders, crying sharply: "Come,
come, Mother; you mustn't go on like this!"  Her tone changed to
one of obsequious solemnity as she turned to the banker: "The
parlor is ready, Mr. Phelps."

The bearers carried the coffin along the narrow boards,
while the undertaker ran ahead with the coffin-rests.  They
bore it into a large, unheated room that smelled of dampness and
disuse and furniture polish, and set it down under a hanging lamp
ornamented with jingling glass prisms and before a "Rogers group"
of John Alden and Priscilla, wreathed with smilax.  Henry
Steavens stared about him with the sickening conviction that
there had been some horrible mistake, and that he had somehow
arrived at the wrong destination.  He looked painfully about over
the clover-green Brussels, the fat plush upholstery, among the
hand-painted china plaques and panels, and vases, for some mark
of identification, for something that might once conceivably have
belonged to Harvey Merrick.  It was not until he recognized his
friend in the crayon portrait of a little boy in kilts and curls
hanging above the piano that he felt willing to let any of these
people approach the coffin.

"Take the lid off, Mr. Thompson; let me see my boy's face,"
wailed the elder woman between her sobs.  This time Steavens
looked fearfully, almost beseechingly into her face, red and
swollen under its masses of strong, black, shiny hair.  He
flushed, dropped his eyes, and then, almost incredulously, looked
again.  There was a kind of power about her face--a kind of
brutal handsomeness, even, but it was scarred and furrowed by
violence, and so colored and coarsened by fiercer passions that
grief seemed never to have laid a gentle finger there.  The long
nose was distended and knobbed at the end, and there were deep
lines on either side of it; her heavy, black brows almost met
across her forehead; her teeth were large and square and set far
apart--teeth that could tear.  She filled the room; the men were
obliterated, seemed tossed about like twigs in an angry water,
and even Steavens felt himself being drawn into the whirlpool.

The daughter--the tall, rawboned woman in crepe, with a
mourning comb in her hair which curiously lengthened her long
face sat stiffly upon the sofa, her hands, conspicuous for their
large knuckles, folded in her lap, her mouth and eyes drawn down,
solemnly awaiting the opening of the coffin.  Near the door stood
a mulatto woman, evidently a servant in the house, with a timid
bearing and an emaciated face pitifully sad and gentle.
She was weeping silently, the corner of her calico apron lifted
to her eyes, occasionally suppressing a long, quivering sob.
Steavens walked over and stood beside her.

Feeble steps were heard on the stairs, and an old man, tall
and frail, odorous of pipe smoke, with shaggy, unkept gray hair
and a dingy beard, tobacco stained about the mouth, entered
uncertainly.  He went slowly up to the coffin and stood, rolling
a blue cotton handkerchief between his hands, seeming so pained
and embarrassed by his wife's orgy of grief that he had no
consciousness of anything else.

"There, there, Annie, dear, don't take on so," he quavered
timidly, putting out a shaking hand and awkwardly patting her
elbow.  She turned with a cry and sank upon his shoulder with
such violence that he tottered a little.  He did not even glance
toward the coffin, but continued to look at her with a dull,
frightened, appealing expression, as a spaniel looks at the whip. 
His sunken cheeks slowly reddened and burned with miserable
shame.  When his wife rushed from the room her daughter strode
after her with set lips.  The servant stole up to the coffin,
bent over it for a moment, and then slipped away to the kitchen,
leaving Steavens, the lawyer, and the father to themselves.  The
old man stood trembling and looking down at his dead son's face. 
The sculptor's splendid head seemed even more noble in its rigid
stillness than in life.  The dark hair had crept down upon the
wide forehead; the face seemed strangely long, but in it there
was not that beautiful and chaste repose which we expect to find
in the faces of the dead.  The brows were so drawn that there
were two deep lines above the beaked nose, and the chin was
thrust forward defiantly.  It was as though the strain of life
had been so sharp and bitter that death could not at once wholly
relax the tension and smooth the countenance into perfect peace--
as though he were still guarding something precious and holy,
which might even yet be wrested from him.

The old man's lips were working under his stained beard.  He
turned to the lawyer with timid deference: "Phelps and the rest are
comin' back to set up with Harve, ain't they?" he asked.  "Thank
'ee, Jim, thank 'ee."  He brushed the hair back gently from his
son's forehead.  "He was a good boy, Jim; always a good boy.  He
was ez gentle ez a child and the kindest of 'em all--only we didn't
none of us ever onderstand him."  The tears trickled slowly down
his beard and dropped upon the sculptor's coat.

"Martin, Martin.  Oh, Martin! come here," his wife wailed
from the top of the stairs.  The old man started timorously:
"Yes, Annie, I'm coming."  He turned away, hesitated  stood for a
moment in miserable indecision; then he reached back and patted
the dead man's hair softly, and stumbled from the room.

"Poor old man, I didn't think he had any tears left.  Seems
as if his eyes would have gone dry long ago.  At his age nothing
cuts very deep," remarked the lawyer.

Something in his tone made Steavens glance up.  While the
mother had been in the room the young man had scarcely seen
anyone else; but now, from the moment he first glanced into Jim
Laird's florid face and bloodshot eyes, he knew that he had found
what he had been heartsick at not finding before--the feeling,
the understanding, that must exist in someone, even here.

The man was red as his beard, with features swollen and
blurred by dissipation, and a hot, blazing blue eye.  His face
was strained--that of a man who is controlling himself with
difficulty--and he kept plucking at his beard with a sort of
fierce resentment.  Steavens, sitting by the window, watched him
turn down the glaring lamp, still its jangling pendants with an
angry gesture, and then stand with his hands locked behind him,
staring down into the master's face.  He could not help wondering
what link there could have been between the porcelain vessel and
so sooty a lump of potter's clay.

From the kitchen an uproar was sounding; when the dining-
room door opened the import of it was clear.  The mother was
abusing the maid for having forgotten to make the dressing for
the chicken salad which had been prepared for the watchers. 
Steavens had never heard anything in the least like it; it was
injured, emotional, dramatic abuse, unique and masterly
in its excruciating cruelty, as violent and unrestrained as had
been her grief of twenty minutes before.  With a shudder of
disgust the lawyer went into the dining room and closed the door
into the kitchen.

"Poor Roxy's getting it now," he remarked when he came back. 
"The Merricks took her out of the poorhouse years ago; and if her
loyalty would let her, I guess the poor old thing could tell
tales that would curdle your blood.  She's the mulatto woman who
was standing in here a while ago, with her apron to her eyes. 
The old woman is a fury; there never was anybody like her for
demonstrative piety and ingenious cruelty.  She made Harvey's
life a hell for him when he lived at home; he was so sick ashamed
of it. I never could see how he kept himself so sweet."

"He was wonderful," said Steavens slowly, "wonderful; but
until tonight I have never known how wonderful."

"That is the true and eternal wonder of it, anyway; that it
can come even from such a dung heap as this," the lawyer cried,
with a sweeping gesture which seemed to indicate much more than
the four walls within which they stood.

"I think I'll see whether I can get a little air.  The room
is so close I am beginning to feel rather faint," murmured
Steavens, struggling with one of the windows.  The sash was
stuck, however, and would not yield, so he sat down dejectedly
and began pulling at his collar.  The lawyer came over, loosened
the sash with one blow of his red fist, and sent the window up a
few inches.  Steavens thanked him, but the nausea which had been
gradually climbing into his throat for the last half-hour left
him with but one desire--a desperate feeling that he must get
away from this place with what was left of Harvey Merrick.  Oh,
he comprehended well enough now the quiet bitterness of the smile
that he had seen so often on his master's lips!

He remembered that once, when Merrick returned from a visit
home, he brought with him a singularly feeling and suggestive
bas-relief of a thin, faded old woman, sitting and sewing
something pinned to her knee; while a full-lipped, full-blooded
little urchin, his trousers held up by a single gallows,
stood beside her, impatiently twitching her gown to call her
attention to a butterfly he had caught.  Steavens, impressed by
the tender and delicate modeling of the thin, tired face, had
asked him if it were his mother.  He remembered the dull flush
that had burned up in the sculptor's face.

The lawyer was sitting in a rocking chair beside the coffin,
his head thrown back and his eyes closed.  Steavens looked at him
earnestly, puzzled at the line of the chin, and wondering why a
man should conceal a feature of such distinction under that
disfiguring shock of beard.  Suddenly, as though he felt the
young sculptor's keen glance, he opened his eyes.

"Was he always a good deal of an oyster?" he asked abruptly. 
"He was terribly shy as a boy."

"Yes, he was an oyster, since you put it so," rejoined
Steavens.  "Although he could be very fond of people, he always
gave one the impression of being detached.  He disliked violent
emotion; he was reflective, and rather distrustful of himself--
except, of course, as regarded his work.  He was surefooted
enough there.  He distrusted men pretty thoroughly and women even
more, yet somehow without believing ill of them.  He was
determined, indeed, to believe the best, but he seemed afraid to
investigate."

"A burnt dog dreads the fire," said the lawyer grimly, and
closed his eyes.

Steavens went on and on, reconstructing that whole miserable
boyhood.  All this raw, biting ugliness had been the portion of
the man whose tastes were refined beyond the limits of the
reasonable--whose mind was an exhaustless gallery of beautiful
impressions, and so sensitive that the mere shadow of a poplar
leaf flickering against a sunny wall would be etched and held
there forever.  Surely, if ever a man had the magic word in his
fingertips, it was Merrick.  Whatever he touched, he revealed its
holiest secret; liberated it from enchantment and restored it to
its pristine loveliness, like the Arabian prince who fought the
enchantress spell for spell.  Upon whatever he had come in
contact with, he had left a beautiful record of the experience--a
sort of ethereal signature; a scent, a sound, a color that was
his own.

Steavens understood now the real tragedy of his master's
life; neither love nor wine, as many had conjectured, but a blow
which had fallen earlier and cut deeper than these could have
done--a shame not his, and yet so unescapably his, to bide in his
heart from his very boyhood.  And without--the frontier warfare;
the yearning of a boy, cast ashore upon a desert of newness and
ugliness and sordidness, for all that is chastened and old, and
noble with traditions.

At eleven o'clock the tall, flat woman in black crepe
entered, announced that the watchers were arriving, and asked
them "to step into the dining room."  As Steavens rose the lawyer
said dryly: "You go on--it'll be a good experience for you,
doubtless; as for me, I'm not equal to that crowd tonight; I've
had twenty years of them."

As Steavens closed the door after him be glanced back at the
lawyer, sitting by the coffin in the dim light, with his chin
resting on his hand.

The same misty group that had stood before the door of the
express car shuffled into the dining room.  In the light of the
kerosene lamp they separated and became individuals.  The
minister, a pale, feeble-looking man with white hair and blond
chin-whiskers, took his seat beside a small side table and placed
his Bible upon it.  The Grand Army man sat down behind the stove
and tilted his chair back comfortably against the wall, fishing
his quill toothpick from his waistcoat pocket.  The two bankers,
Phelps and Elder, sat off in a corner behind the dinner table,
where they could finish their discussion of the new usury law and
its effect on chattel security loans.  The real estate agent, an
old man with a smiling, hypocritical face, soon joined them.  The
coal-and-lumber dealer and the cattle shipper sat on opposite
sides of the hard coal-burner, their feet on the nickelwork. 
Steavens took a book from his pocket and began to read.  The talk
around him ranged through various topics of local interest while
the house was quieting down.  When it was clear that the members
of the family were in bed the Grand Army man hitched his
shoulders and, untangling his long legs, caught his heels on the
rounds of his chair.

"S'pose there'll be a will, Phelps?" he queried in his weak
falsetto.

The banker laughed disagreeably and began trimming his nails
with a pearl-handled pocketknife.

"There'll scarcely be any need for one, will there?" he
queried in his turn.

The restless Grand Army man shifted his position again,
getting his knees still nearer his chin.  "Why, the ole man says
Harve's done right well lately," he chirped.

The other banker spoke up.  "I reckon he means by that Harve
ain't asked him to mortgage any more farms lately, so as he could
go on with his education."

"Seems like my mind don't reach back to a time when Harve
wasn't bein' edycated," tittered the Grand Army man.

There was a general chuckle.  The minister took out his
handkerchief and blew his nose sonorously.  Banker Phelps closed
his  knife with a snap.  "It's too bad the old man's sons didn't 
turn out better," he remarked with reflective authority.  "They
never hung together.  He spent money enough on Harve to stock a
dozen cattle farms and he might as well have poured it into Sand
Creek.  If Harve had stayed at home and helped nurse what little
they had, and gone into stock on the old man's bottom farm, they
might all have been well fixed.  But the old man had to trust
everything to tenants and was cheated right and left."

"Harve never could have handled stock none," interposed the
cattleman.  "He hadn't it in him to be sharp.  Do you remember
when he bought Sander's mules for eight-year-olds, when everybody
in town knew that Sander's father-in-law give 'em to his wife for
a wedding present eighteen years before, an' they was full-grown
mules then."

Everyone chuckled, and the Grand Army man rubbed his knees
with a spasm of childish delight.

"Harve never was much account for anything practical, and he
shore was never fond of work," began the coal-and-lumber dealer. 
"I mind the last time he was home; the day he left, when the old
man was out to the barn helpin' his hand hitch up to take
Harve to the train, and Cal Moots was patchin' up the fence, Harve,
he come out on the step and sings out, in his ladylike voice: 'Cal
Moots, Cal Moots! please come cord my trunk.'"

"That's Harve for you," approved the Grand Army man
gleefully.  "I kin hear him howlin' yet when he was a big feller
in long pants and his mother used to whale him with a rawhide in
the barn for lettin' the cows git foundered in the cornfield when
he was drivin' 'em home from pasture.  He killed a cow of mine
that-a-way onc't--a pure Jersey and the best milker I had, an'
the ole man had to put up for her.  Harve, he was watchin' the
sun set acros't the marshes when the anamile got away; he argued
that sunset was oncommon fine."

"Where the old man made his mistake was in sending the boy
East to school," said Phelps, stroking his goatee and speaking in
a deliberate, judicial tone.  "There was where he got his head
full of traipsing to Paris and all such folly.  What Harve
needed, of all people, was a course in some first-class Kansas
City business college."

The letters were swimming before Steavens's eyes.  Was it
possible that these men did not understand, that the palm on the
coffin meant nothing to them?  The very name of their town would
have remained forever buried in the postal guide had it not been
now and again mentioned in the world in connection with Harvey
Merrick's.  He remembered what his master had said to him on the
day of his death, after the congestion of both lungs had shut off
any probability of recovery, and the sculptor had asked his pupil
to send his body home.  "It's not a pleasant place to be lying
while the world is moving and doing and bettering," he had said
with a feeble smile, "but it rather seems as though we ought to
go back to the place we came from in the end.  The townspeople
will come in for a look at me; and after they have had their say
I shan't have much to fear from the judgment of God.  The wings
of the Victory, in there"--with a weak gesture toward his studio--
will not shelter me."

The cattleman took up the comment.  "Forty's young for a
Merrick to cash in; they usually hang on pretty well.  Probably
he helped it along with whisky."

"His mother's people were not long-lived, and Harvey never
had a robust constitution," said the minister mildly.  He would
have liked to say more.  He had been the boy's Sunday-school
teacher, and had been fond of him; but he felt that he was not in
a position to speak.  His own sons had turned out badly, and it
was not a year since one of them had made his last trip home in
the express car, shot in a gambling house in the Black Hills.

"Nevertheless, there is no disputin' that Harve frequently
looked upon the wine when it was red, also variegated, and it
shore made an oncommon fool of him," moralized the cattleman.

Just then the door leading into the parlor rattled loudly,
and everyone started involuntarily, looking relieved when only
Jim Laird came out.  His red face was convulsed with anger, and
the Grand Army man ducked his head when he saw the spark in his
blue, bloodshot eye.  They were all afraid of Jim; he was a
drunkard, but he could twist the law to suit his client's needs
as no other man in all western Kansas could do; and there were
many who tried.  The lawyer closed the door gently behind him,
leaned back against it and folded his arms, cocking his head a
little to one side.  When he assumed this attitude in the
courtroom, ears were always pricked up, as it usually foretold a
flood of withering sarcasm.

"I've been with you gentlemen before," he began in a dry,
even tone, "when you've sat by the coffins of boys born and
raised in this town; and, if I remember rightly, you were never
any too well satisfied when you checked them up.  What's the
matter, anyhow?  Why is it that reputable young men are as scarce
as millionaires in Sand City?  It might almost seem to a stranger
that there was some way something the matter with your
progressive town.  Why did Ruben Sayer, the brightest young
lawyer you ever turned out, after he had come home from the
university as straight as a die, take to drinking and forge a
check and shoot himself?  Why did Bill Merrit's son die of the
shakes in a saloon in Omaha?  Why was Mr. Thomas's son, here,
shot in a gambling house?  Why did young Adams burn his mill to
beat the insurance companies and go to the pen?"

The lawyer paused and unfolded his arms, laying one clenched
fist quietly on the table.  "I'll tell you why.  Because you
drummed nothing but money and knavery into their ears from the
time they wore knickerbockers; because you carped away at them as
you've been carping here tonight, holding our friends Phelps and
Elder up to them for their models, as our grandfathers held up
George Washington and John Adams.  But the boys, worse luck, were
young and raw at the business you put them to; and how could they
match coppers with such artists as Phelps and Elder?  You wanted
them to be successful rascals; they were only unsuccessful ones--
that's all the difference.  There was only one boy ever raised in
this borderland between ruffianism and civilization who didn't
come to grief, and you hated Harvey Merrick more for winning out
than you hated all the other boys who got under the wheels. 
Lord, Lord, how you did hate him!  Phelps, here, is fond of saying
that he could buy and sell us all out any time he's a mind to;
but he knew Harve wouldn't have given a tinker's damn for his
bank and all his cattle farms put together; and a lack of
appreciation, that way, goes hard with Phelps.

"Old Nimrod, here, thinks Harve drank too much; and this
from such as Nimrod and me!"

"Brother Elder says Harve was too free with the old man's
money--fell short in filial consideration, maybe.  Well, we can
all remember the very tone in which brother Elder swore his own
father was a liar, in the county court; and we all know that the
old man came out of that partnership with his son as bare as a
sheared lamb.  But maybe I'm getting personal, and I'd better be
driving ahead at what I want to say."

The lawyer paused a moment, squared his heavy shoulders, and
went on: "Harvey Merrick and I went to school together, back
East.  We were dead in earnest, and we wanted you all to be proud
of us some day.  We meant to be great men.  Even 1, and I haven't
lost my sense of humor, gentlemen, I meant to be a great man.  I
came back here to practice, and I found you didn't in the least
want me to be a great man.  You wanted me to be a shrewd lawyer--
oh, yes!  Our veteran here wanted me to get him an increase of
pension, because he had dyspepsia; Phelps wanted a new county
survey that would put the widow Wilson's little bottom
farm inside his south line; Elder wanted to lend money at 5 per
cent a month and get it collected; old Stark here wanted to
wheedle old women up in Vermont into investing their annuities in
real estate mortgages that are not worth the paper they are
written on. Oh, you needed me hard  enough, and you'll go on
needing me; and that's why I'm not afraid to plug the truth home
to you this once.

"Well, I came back here and became the damned shyster you
wanted me to be.  You pretend to have some sort of respect for
me; and yet you'll stand up and throw mud at Harvey Merrick,
whose soul you couldn't dirty and whose hands you couldn't tie. 
Oh, you're a discriminating lot of Christians!  There have been
times when the sight of Harvey's name in some Eastern paper has
made me hang my head like a whipped dog; and, again, times when I
liked to think of him off there in the world, away from all this
hog wallow, doing his great work and climbing the big, clean
upgrade he'd set for himself.

"And we?  Now that we've fought and lied and sweated and
stolen, and hated as only the disappointed strugglers in a
bitter, dead little Western town know how to do, what have we got
to show for it?  Harvey Merrick wouldn't have given one sunset
over your marshes for all you've got put together, and you know
it.  It's not for me to say why, in the inscrutable wisdom of
God, a genius should ever have been called from this place of
hatred and bitter waters; but I want this Boston man to know that
the drivel he's been hearing here tonight is the only tribute any
truly great man could ever have from such a lot of sick, side-
tracked, burnt-dog, land-poor sharks as the here-present
financiers of Sand City--upon which town may God have mercy!"

The lawyer thrust out his hand to Steavens as he passed him,
caught up his overcoat in the hall, and had left the house before
the Grand Army man had had time to lift his ducked head and crane
his long neck about at his fellows.


Next day Jim Laird was drunk and unable to attend the
funeral services.  Steavens called twice at his office, but was
compelled to start East without seeing him.  He had a
presentiment that he would hear from him again, and left his
address on the lawyer's table; but if Laird found it, he never
acknowledged it.  The thing in him that Harvey Merrick had loved
must have gone underground with Harvey Merrick's coffin; for it
never spoke again, and Jim got the cold he died of driving across
the Colorado mountains to defend one of Phelps's sons, who had
got into trouble out there by cutting government timber.





"A Death in the Desert"

Everett Hilgarde was conscious that the man in the seat
across the aisle was looking at him intently.  He was a large,
florid man, wore a conspicuous diamond solitaire upon his third
finger, and Everett judged him to be a traveling salesman of some
sort.  He had the air of an adaptable fellow who had been about
the world and who could keep cool and clean under almost any
circumstances.

The "High Line Flyer," as this train was derisively called
among railroad men, was jerking along through the hot afternoon
over the monotonous country between Holdridge and Cheyenne. 
Besides the blond man and himself the only occupants of the car
were two dusty, bedraggled-looking girls who had been to the
Exposition at Chicago, and who were earnestly discussing the cost
of their first trip out of Colorado.  The four uncomfortable
passengers were covered with a sediment of fine, yellow dust
which clung to their hair and eyebrows like gold powder.  It blew
up in clouds from the bleak, lifeless country through which they
passed, until they were one color with the sagebrush and
sandhills.  The gray-and-yellow desert was varied only by
occasional ruins of deserted towns, and the little red boxes of
station houses, where the spindling trees and sickly vines in the
bluegrass yards made little green reserves fenced off in that
confusing wilderness of sand.

As the slanting rays of the sun beat in stronger and
stronger through the car windows, the blond gentleman asked the
ladies' permission to remove his coat, and sat in his lavender
striped shirt sleeves, with a black silk handkerchief tucked
carefully about his collar.  He had seemed interested in Everett
since they had boarded the train at Holdridge, and kept
glancing at him curiously and then looking reflectively out of
the window, as though he were trying to recall something.  But
wherever Everett went someone was almost sure to look at him with
that curious interest, and it had ceased to embarrass or annoy him.
Presently the stranger, seeming satisfied with his observation,
leaned back in his seat, half-closed his eyes, and began softly
to whistle the "Spring Song" from Proserpine, the cantata
that a dozen years before had made its young composer famous in a
night.  Everett had heard that air on guitars in Old Mexico, on
mandolins at college glees, on cottage organs in New England
hamlets, and only two weeks ago he had heard it played on
sleighbells at a variety theater in Denver.  There was literally no
way of escaping his brother's precocity.  Adriance could live on
the other side of the Atlantic, where his youthful indiscretions
were forgotten in his mature achievements, but his brother had
never been able to outrun Proserpine, and here he found it
again in the Colorado sand hills.  Not that Everett was exactly
ashamed of Proserpine; only a man of genius could have
written it, but it was the sort of thing that a man of genius
outgrows as soon as he can.

Everett unbent a trifle and smiled at his neighbor across
the aisle.  Immediately the large man rose and, coming over,
dropped into the seat facing Hilgarde, extending his card.

"Dusty ride, isn't it?  I don't mind it myself; I'm used to
it.  Born and bred in de briar patch, like Br'er Rabbit.  I've
been trying to place you for a long time; I think I must have met
you before."

"Thank you," said Everett, taking the card; "my name is
Hilgarde.  You've probably met my brother, Adriance; people often
mistake me for him."

The traveling man brought his hand down upon his knee with
such vehemence that the solitaire blazed.

"So I was right after all, and if you're not Adriance
Hilgarde, you're his double.  I thought I couldn't be mistaken. 
Seen him?  Well, I guess!  I never missed one of his recitals at
the Auditorium, and he played the piano score of Proserpine
through to us once at the Chicago Press Club.  I used to be on
the Commercial there before I 146 began to travel
for the publishing department of the concern.  So you're Hilgarde's
brother, and here I've run into you at the jumping-off place. 
Sounds like a newspaper yarn, doesn't it?"

The traveling man laughed and offered Everett a cigar, and
plied him with questions on the only subject that people ever
seemed to care to talk to Everett about.  At length the salesman
and the two girls alighted at a Colorado way station, and Everett
went on to Cheyenne alone.

The train pulled into Cheyenne at nine o'clock, late by a
matter of four hours or so; but no one seemed particularly
concerned at its tardiness except the station agent, who grumbled
at being kept in the office overtime on a summer night.  When
Everett alighted from the train he walked down the platform and
stopped at the track crossing, uncertain as to what direction he
should take to reach a hotel.  A phaeton stood near the crossing,
and a woman held the reins.  She was dressed in white, and her
figure was clearly silhouetted against the cushions, though it
was too dark to see her face.  Everett had scarcely noticed her,
when the switch engine came puffing up from the opposite
direction, and the headlight threw a strong glare of light on his
face.  Suddenly the woman in the phaeton uttered a low cry and
dropped the reins.  Everett started forward and caught the
horse's head, but the animal only lifted its ears and whisked its
tail in impatient surprise.  The woman sat perfectly still, her
head sunk between her shoulders and her handkerchief pressed to
her face.  Another woman came out of the depot and hurried toward
the phaeton, crying, "Katharine, dear, what is the matter?"

Everett hesitated a moment in painful embarrassment, then
lifted his hat and passed on.  He was accustomed to sudden
recognitions in the most impossible places, especially by women,
but this cry out of the night had shaken him.

While Everett was breakfasting the next morning, the headwaiter
leaned over his chair to murmur that there was a gentleman waiting
to see him in the parlor.  Everett finished his coffee and went in
the direction indicated, where he found his visitor restlessly
pacing the floor.  His whole manner betrayed a high degree of
agitation, though his physique was not that of a man whose nerves
lie near the surface.  He was something below medium height,
square-shouldered and solidly built.  His thick, closely cut hair
was beginning to show gray about the ears, and his bronzed face was
heavily lined.  His square brown hands were locked behind him, and
he held his shoulders like a man conscious of responsibilities;
yet, as he turned to greet Everett, there was an incongruous
diffidence in his address.

"Good morning, Mr. Hilgarde," he said, extending his hand;
"I found your name on the hotel register.  My name is Gaylord. 
I'm afraid my sister startled you at the station last night, Mr.
Hilgarde, and I've come around to apologize."

"Ah!  The young lady in the phaeton?  I'm sure I didn't know
whether I had anything to do with her alarm or not.  If I did, it
is I who owe the apology."

The man colored a little under the dark brown of his face.

"Oh, it's nothing you could help, sir, I fully understand
that.  You see, my sister used to be a pupil of your brother's,
and it seems you favor him; and when the switch engine threw a
light on your face it startled her."

Everett wheeled about in his chair.  "Oh! Katharine Gaylord!
Is it possible!  Now it's you who have given me a turn.  Why, I
used to know her when I was a boy.  What on earth--"

"Is she doing here?" said Gaylord, grimly filling out the
pause.  "You've got at the heart of the matter.  You knew my
sister had been in bad health for a long time?"

"No, I had never heard a word of that.  The last I knew of
her she was singing in London.  My brother and I correspond
infrequently and seldom get beyond family matters.  I am deeply
sorry to hear this.  There are more reasons why I am concerned
than I can tell you."

The lines in Charley Gaylord's brow relaxed a little.

"What I'm trying to say, Mr. Hilgarde, is that she wants to see
you.  I hate to ask you, but she's so set on it.  We live several
miles out of town, but my rig's below, and I can take you out
anytime you can go."

"I can go now, and it will give me real pleasure to do so," said
Everett, quickly.  "I'll get my hat and be with you in a moment."

When he came downstairs Everett found a cart at the door,
and Charley Gaylord drew a long sigh of relief as he gathered up
the reins and settled back into his own element.

"You see, I think I'd better tell you something about my
sister before you see her, and I don't know just where to begin. 
She traveled in Europe with your brother and his wife, and sang
at a lot of his concerts; but I don't know just how much you know
about her."

"Very little, except that my brother always thought her the
most gifted of his pupils, and that when I knew her she was very
young and very beautiful and turned my head sadly for a while."

Everett saw that Gaylord's mind was quite engrossed by his
grief.  He was wrought up to the point where his reserve and
sense of proportion had quite left him, and his trouble was the
one vital thing in the world.  "That's the whole thing," he went
on, flicking his horses with the whip.

"She was a great woman, as you say, and she didn't come of a
great family.  She had to fight her own way from the first.  She
got to Chicago, and then to New York, and then to Europe, where
she went up like lightning, and got a taste for it all; and now
she's dying here like a rat in a hole, out of her own world, and
she can't fall back into ours.  We've grown apart, some way--
miles and miles apart--and I'm afraid she's fearfully unhappy."

"It's a very tragic story that you are telling me, Gaylord,"
said Everett.  They were well out into the country now, spinning
along over the dusty plains of red grass, with the ragged-blue
outline of the mountains before them.

"Tragic!" cried Gaylord, starting up in his seat, "my God, man,
nobody will ever know how tragic.  It's a tragedy I live with and
eat with and sleep with, until I've lost my grip on everything. 
You see she had made a good bit of money, but she spent it all
going to health resorts.  It's her lungs, you know.  I've got money
enough to send her anywhere, but the doctors all say it's no use. 
She hasn't the ghost of a chance.  It's just getting through the
days now.  I had no notion she was half so bad before she came to
me.  She just wrote that she was all run down.  Now that she's
here, I think she'd be happier anywhere under the sun, but she
won't leave.  She says it's easier to let go of life here, and that
to go East would be dying twice.  There was a time when I was a
brakeman with a run out of Bird City, Iowa, and she was a little
thing I could carry on my shoulder, when I could get her everything
on earth she wanted, and she hadn't a wish my $80 a month didn't
cover; and now, when I've got a little property together, I can't
buy her a night's sleep!"

Everett saw that, whatever Charley Gaylord's present status
in the world might be, he had brought the brakeman's heart up the
ladder with him, and the brakeman's frank avowal of sentiment. 
Presently Gaylord went on:

"You can understand how she has outgrown her family.  We're
all a pretty common sort, railroaders from away back.  My father
was a conductor.  He died when we were kids.  Maggie, my other
sister, who lives with me, was a telegraph operator here while I
was getting my grip on things.  We had no education to speak of. 
I have to hire a stenographer because I can't spell straight--the
Almighty couldn't teach me to spell.  The things that make up
life to Kate are all Greek to me, and there's scarcely a point
where we touch any more, except in our recollections of the old
times when we were all young and happy together, and Kate sang in
a church choir in Bird City.  But I believe, Mr. Hilgarde, that
if she can see just one person like you, who knows about the
things and people she's interested in, it will give her about the
only comfort she can have now."

The reins slackened in Charley Gaylord's hand as they drew
up before a showily painted house with many gables and a round
tower.  "Here we are," he said, turning to Everett, "and I guess
we understand each other."

They were met at the door by a thin, colorless woman, whom
Gaylord introduced as "my sister, Maggie."  She asked her brother
to show Mr. Hilgarde into the music room, where Katharine wished
to see him alone.

When Everett entered the music room he gave a little start
of surprise, feeling that he had stepped from the glaring Wyoming
sunlight into some New York studio that he had always known.  He
wondered which it was of those countless studios, high up under
the roofs, over banks and shops and wholesale houses, that this
room resembled, and he looked incredulously out of the window at
the gray plain that ended in the great upheaval of the Rockies.

The haunting air of familiarity about the room perplexed
him.  Was it a copy of some particular studio he knew, or was it
merely the studio atmosphere that seemed so individual and
poignantly reminiscent here in Wyoming?  He sat down in a reading
chair and looked keenly about him.  Suddenly his eye fell upon a
large photograph of his brother above the piano.  Then it all
became clear to him: this was veritably his brother's room.  If
it were not an exact copy of one of the many studios that
Adriance had fitted up in various parts of the world, wearying of
them and leaving almost before the renovator's varnish had dried,
it was at least in the same tone.  In every detail Adriance's
taste was so manifest that the room seemed to exhale his
personality.

Among the photographs on the wall there was one of Katharine
Gaylord, taken in the days when Everett had known her, and when
the flash of her eye or the flutter of her skirt was enough to
set his boyish heart in a tumult.  Even now, he stood before the
portrait with a certain degree of embarrassment.  It was the face
of a woman already old in her first youth, thoroughly
sophisticated and a trifle hard, and it told of what her brother
had called her fight.  The camaraderie of her frank, confident
eyes was qualified by the deep lines about her mouth and the
curve of the lips, which was both sad and cynical.  Certainly she
had more good will than confidence toward the world, and the
bravado of her smile could not conceal the shadow of an unrest
that was almost discontent.  The chief charm of the woman, as
Everett had known her, lay in her superb figure and in her eyes,
which possessed a warm, lifegiving quality like the sunlight;
eyes which glowed with a sort of perpetual salutat to the
world.  Her head, Everett remembered as peculiarly well-shaped and
proudly poised.  There had been always a little of the imperatrix
about her, and her pose in the photograph revived all his old
impressions of her unattachedness, of how absolutely and valiantly
she stood alone.

Everett was still standing before the picture, his hands behind him
and his head inclined, when he heard the door open.  A very tall
woman advanced toward him, holding out her hand.  As she started to
speak, she coughed slightly; then, laughing, said, in a low, rich
voice, a trifle husky: "You see I make the traditional Camille
entrance--with the cough.  How good of you to come, Mr. Hilgarde."

Everett was acutely conscious that while addressing him she
was not looking at him at all, and, as he assured her of his
pleasure in coming, he was glad to have an opportunity to collect
himself.  He had not reckoned upon the ravages of a long illness. 
The long, loose folds of her white gown had been especially
designed to conceal the sharp outlines of her emaciated body, but
the stamp of her disease was there; simple and ugly and obtrusive,
a pitiless fact that could not be disguised or evaded.  The
splendid shoulders were stooped, there was a swaying unevenness in
her gait, her arms seemed disproportionately long, and her hands
were transparently white and cold to the touch.  The changes in her
face were less obvious; the proud carriage of the head, the warm,
clear eyes, even the delicate flush of color in her cheeks, all
defiantly remained, though they were all in a lower key--older,
sadder, softer.

She sat down upon the divan and began nervously to arrange the
pillows.  "I know I'm not an inspiring object to look upon, but you
must be quite frank and sensible about that and get used to it at
once, for we've no time to lose.  And if I'm a trifle irritable you
won't mind?--for I'm more than usually nervous."

"Don't bother with me this morning, if you are tired," urged
Everett.  "I can come quite as well tomorrow."

"Gracious, no!" she protested, with a flash of that quick,
keen humor that he remembered as a part of her.  "It's solitude
that I'm tired to death of--solitude and the wrong kind of people. 
You see, the minister, not content with reading the prayers for the
sick, called on me this morning.  He happened to be riding
by on his bicycle and felt it his duty to stop.  Of course, he
disapproves of my profession, and I think he takes it for granted
that I have a dark past.  The funniest feature of his conversation
is that he is always excusing my own vocation to me--condoning it,
you know--and trying to patch up my peace with my conscience by
suggesting possible noble uses for what he kindly calls my talent."

Everett laughed.  "Oh!  I'm afraid I'm not the person to call
after such a serious gentleman--I can't sustain the situation. 
At my best I don't reach higher than low comedy.  Have you
decided to which one of the noble uses you will devote yourself?"

Katharine lifted her hands in a gesture of renunciation and
exclaimed: "I'm not equal to any of them, not even the least
noble.  I didn't study that method."

She laughed and went on nervously: "The parson's not so bad. 
His English never offends me, and he has read Gibbon's Decline
and Fall, all five volumes, and that's something.  Then, he has
been to New York, and that's a great deal.  But how we are losing
time!  Do tell me about New York; Charley says you're just on from
there.  How does it look and taste and smell just now?  I think a
whiff of the Jersey ferry would be as flagons of cod-liver oil to
me.  Who conspicuously walks the Rialto now, and what does he or
she wear?  Are the trees still green in Madison Square, or have
they grown brown and dusty?  Does the chaste Diana on the Garden
Theatre still keep her vestal vows through all the exasperating
changes of weather?  Who has your brother's old studio now, and
what misguided aspirants practice their scales in the rookeries
about Carnegie Hall?  What do people go to see at the theaters,
and what do they eat and drink there in the world nowadays?  You
see, I'm homesick for it all, from the Battery to Riverside.  Oh,
let me die in Harlem!"  She was interrupted by a violent attack
of coughing, and Everett, embarrassed by her discomfort, plunged
into gossip about the professional people he had met in town
during the summer and the musical outlook for the winter.  He was
diagraming with his pencil, on the back of an old envelope he
found in his pocket, some new mechanical device to be
used at the Metropolitan in the production of the Rheingold,
when he became conscious that she was looking at him intently, and
that he was talking to the four walls.

Katharine was lying back among the pillows, watching him
through half-closed eyes, as a painter looks at a picture.  He
finished his explanation vaguely enough and put the envelope back
in his pocket.  As he did so she said, quietly: "How wonderfully
like Adriance you are!" and he felt as though a crisis of some
sort had been met and tided over.

He laughed, looking up at her with a touch of pride in his
eyes that made them seem quite boyish.  "Yes, isn't it absurd?
It's almost as awkward as looking like Napoleon--but, after all,
there are some advantages.  It has made some of his friends like
me, and I hope it will make you."

Katharine smiled and gave him a quick, meaning glance from
under her lashes.  "Oh, it did that long ago.  What a haughty,
reserved youth you were then, and how you used to stare at people
and then blush and look cross if they paid you back in your own
coin.  Do you remember that night when you took me home from a
rehearsal and scarcely spoke a word to me?"

"It was the silence of admiration," protested Everett, "very
crude and boyish, but very sincere and not a little painful. 
Perhaps you suspected something of the sort?  I remember you saw
fit to be very grown-up and worldly.

"I believe I suspected a pose; the one that college boys
usually affect with singers--'an earthen vessel in love with a
star,' you know.  But it rather surprised me in you, for you must
have seen a good deal of your brother's pupils.  Or had you an
omnivorous capacity, and elasticity that always met the
occasion?"

"Don't ask a man to confess the follies of his youth," said
Everett, smiling a little sadly; "I am sensitive about some of
them even now.  But I was not so sophisticated as you imagined. 
I saw my brother's pupils come and go, but that was about all. 
Sometimes I was called on to play accompaniments, or to fill out
a vacancy at a rehearsal, or to order a carriage for an
infuriated soprano who had thrown up her part.  But they never
spent any time on me, unless it was to notice the resemblance you
speak of."

"Yes", observed Katharine, thoughtfully, "I noticed it then,
too; but it has grown as you have grown older.  That is rather
strange, when you have lived such different lives.  It's not
merely an ordinary family likeness of feature, you know, but a
sort of interchangeable individuality; the suggestion of the
other man's personality in your face like an air transposed to
another key.  But I'm not attempting to define it; it's beyond
me; something altogether unusual and a trifle--well, uncanny,"
she finished, laughing.

"I remember," Everett said seriously, twirling the pencil
between his fingers and looking, as he sat with his head thrown
back, out under the red window blind which was raised just a
little, and as it swung back and forth in the wind revealed the
glaring panorama of the desert--a blinding stretch of yellow,
flat as the sea in dead calm, splotched here and there with deep
purple shadows; and, beyond, the ragged-blue outline of the
mountains and the peaks of snow, white as the white clouds--"I
remember, when I was a little fellow I used to be very sensitive
about it. I don't think it exactly displeased me, or that I would
have had it otherwise if I could, but it seemed to me like a
birthmark, or something not to be lightly spoken of.  People were
naturally always fonder of Ad than of me, and I used to feel the
chill of reflected light pretty often.  It came into even my
relations with my mother.  Ad went abroad to study when he was
absurdly young, you know, and mother was all broken up over it. 
She did her whole duty by each of us, but it was sort of
generally understood among us that she'd have made burnt
offerings of us all for Ad any day.  I was a little fellow then,
and when she sat alone on the porch in the summer dusk she used
sometimes to call me to her and turn my face up in the light that
streamed out through the shutters and kiss me, and then I always
knew she was thinking of Adriance."

"Poor little chap," said Katharine, and her tone was a
trifle huskier than usual.  "How fond people have always been of
Adriance!  Now tell me the latest news of him.  I haven't heard,
except through the press, for a year or more.  He was in Algeria
then, in the valley of the Chelif, riding horseback night and day
in an Arabian costume, and in his usual enthusiastic fashion he
had quite made up his mind to adopt the Mohammedan faith
and become as nearly an Arab as possible.  How many countries and
faiths has be adopted, I wonder?  Probably he was playing Arab to
himself all the time.  I remember he was a sixteenth-century duke
in Florence once for weeks together."

"Oh, that's Adriance," chuckled Everett.  "He is himself
barely long enough to write checks and be measured for his
clothes.  I didn't hear from him while he was an Arab; I missed
that."

"He was writing an Algerian suite for the piano then; it
must be in the publisher's hands by this time.  I have been too
ill to answer his letter, and have lost touch with him."

Everett drew a letter from his pocket.  "This came about a
month ago.  It's chiefly about his new opera, which is to be
brought out in London next winter.  Read it at your leisure."

"I think I shall keep it as a hostage, so that I may be sure
you will come again.  Now I want you to play for me.  Whatever
you like; but if there is anything new in the world, in mercy let
me hear it.  For nine months I have heard nothing but 'The
Baggage Coach Ahead' and 'She Is My Baby's Mother.'"

He sat down at the piano, and Katharine sat near him,
absorbed in his remarkable physical likeness to his brother and
trying to discover in just what it consisted.  She told herself
that it was very much as though a sculptor's finished work had
been rudely copied in wood.  He was of a larger build than
Adriance, and his shoulders were broad and heavy, while those of
his brother were slender and rather girlish.  His face was of the
same oval mold, but it was gray and darkened about the mouth by
continual shaving.  His eyes were of the same inconstant April
color, but they were reflective and rather dull; while Adriance's
were always points of highlight, and always meaning another thing
than the thing they meant yesterday.  But it was hard to see why
this earnest man should so continually suggest that lyric,
youthful face that was as gay as his was grave.  For Adriance,
though he was ten years the elder, and though his hair was
streaked with silver, had the face of a boy of twenty, so mobile
that it told his thoughts before he could put them into words.
A contralto, famous for the extravagance of her vocal
methods and of her affections, had once said to him that the
shepherd boys who sang in the Vale of Tempe must certainly have
looked like young Hilgarde; and the comparison had been
appropriated by a hundred shyer women who preferred to quote.


As Everett sat smoking on the veranda of the InterOcean
House that night, he was a victim to random recollections.  His
infatuation for Katharine Gaylord, visionary as it was, had been
the most serious of his boyish love affairs, and had long
disturbed his bachelor dreams.  He was painfully timid in
everything relating to the emotions, and his hurt had withdrawn
him from the society of women.  The fact that it was all so done
and dead and far behind him, and that the woman had lived her
life out since then, gave him an oppressive sense of age and
loss.  He bethought himself of something he had read about
"sitting by the hearth and remembering the faces of women without
desire," and felt himself an octogenarian.

He remembered how bitter and morose he had grown during his
stay at his brother's studio when Katharine Gaylord was working
there, and how he had wounded Adriance on the night of his last
concert in New York.  He had sat there in the box while his
brother and Katharine were called back again and again after the
last number, watching the roses go up over the footlights until
they were stacked half as high as the piano, brooding, in his
sullen boy's heart, upon the pride those two felt in each other's
work--spurring each other to their best and beautifully
contending in song.  The footlights had seemed a hard, glittering
line drawn sharply between their life and his; a circle of flame
set about those splendid children of genius.  He walked back to
his hotel alone and sat in his window staring out on Madison
Square until long after midnight, resolving to beat no more at
doors that he could never enter and realizing more keenly than
ever before how far this glorious world of beautiful creations
lay from the paths of men like himself.  He told himself that he
had in common with this woman only the baser uses of life.

Everett's week in Cheyenne stretched to three, and he saw no
prospect of release except through the thing he dreaded.  The
bright, windy days of the Wyoming autumn passed swiftly.  Letters
and telegrams came urging him to hasten his trip to the coast,
but he resolutely postponed his business engagements.  The
mornings he spent on one of Charley Gaylord's ponies, or fishing
in the mountains, and in the evenings he sat in his room writing
letters or reading.  In the afternoon he was usually at his post
of duty.  Destiny, he reflected, seems to have very positive
notions about the sort of parts we are fitted to play.  The scene
changes and the compensation varies, but in the end we usually
find that we have played the same class of business from first to
last.  Everett had been a stopgap all his life.  He remembered
going through a looking glass labyrinth when he was a boy and
trying gallery after gallery, only at every turn to bump his nose
against his own face--which, indeed, was not his own, but his
brother's.  No matter what his mission, east or west, by land or
sea, he was sure to find himself employed in his brother's
business, one of the tributary lives which helped to swell the
shining current of Adriance Hilgarde's.  It was not the first
time that his duty had been to comfort, as best he could, one of
the broken things his brother's imperious speed had cast aside
and forgotten.  He made no attempt to analyze the situation or to
state it in exact terms; but he felt Katharine Gaylord's need for
him, and he accepted it as a commission from his brother to help
this woman to die.  Day by day he felt her demands on him grow
more imperious, her need for him grow more acute and positive;
and day by day he felt that in his peculiar relation to her his
own individuality played a smaller and smaller part.  His power
to minister to her comfort, he saw, lay solely in his link with
his brother's life.  He understood all that his physical
resemblance meant to her.  He knew that she sat by him always
watching for some common trick of gesture, some familiar play of
expression, some illusion of light and shadow, in which he should
seem wholly Adriance.  He knew that she lived upon this and that
her disease fed upon it; that it sent shudders of remembrance
through her and that in the exhaustion which followed this
turmoil of her dying senses, she slept deep and sweet and
dreamed of youth and art and days in a certain old Florentine
garden, and not of bitterness and death.

The question which most perplexed him was, "How much shall I
know?  How much does she wish me to know?"  A few days after his
first meeting with Katharine Gaylord, he had cabled his brother
to write her.  He had merely said that she was mortally ill; he
could depend on Adriance to say the right thing--that was a part
of his gift.  Adriance always said not only the right thing, but
the opportune, graceful, exquisite thing.  His phrases took the
color of the moment and the then-present condition, so that they
never savored of perfunctory compliment or frequent usage.  He
always caught the lyric essence of the moment, the poetic
suggestion of every situation.  Moreover, he usually did the
right thing, the opportune, graceful, exquisite thing--except,
when he did very cruel things--bent upon making people happy
when their existence touched his, just as he insisted that his
material environment should be beautiful; lavishing upon those
near him all the warmth and radiance of his rich nature, all the
homage of the poet and troubadour, and, when they were no longer
near, forgetting--for that also was a part of Adriance's gift.

Three weeks after Everett had sent his cable, when he made
his daily call at the gaily painted ranch house, he found
Katharine laughing like a schoolgirl.  "Have you ever thought,"
she said, as he entered the music room, "how much these seances
of ours are like Heine's 'Florentine Nights,' except that I don't
give you an opportunity to monopolize the conversation as Heine
did?"  She held his hand longer than usual, as she greeted him,
and looked searchingly up into his face.  "You are the kindest
man living; the kindest," she added, softly.

Everett's gray face colored faintly as he drew his hand
away, for he felt that this time she was looking at him and not
at a whimsical caricature of his brother.  "Why, what have I done
now?" he asked, lamely.  "I can't remember having sent you any
stale candy or champagne since yesterday."

She drew a letter with a foreign postmark from between
the leaves of a book and held it out, smiling.  "You got him to
write it.  Don't say you didn't, for it came direct, you see, and
the last address I gave him was a place in Florida.  This deed
shall be remembered of you when I am with the just in Paradise.
But one thing you did not ask him to do, for you didn't know about
it.  He has sent me his latest work, the new sonata, the most
ambitious thing he has ever done, and you are to play it for me
directly, though it looks horribly intricate.  But first for the
letter; I think you would better read it aloud to me."

Everett sat down in a low chair facing the window seat in
which she reclined with a barricade of pillows behind her.  He
opened the letter, his lashes half-veiling his kind eyes, and saw
to his satisfaction that it was a long one--wonderfully tactful
and tender, even for Adriance, who was tender with his valet and
his stable boy, with his old gondolier and the beggar-women who
prayed to the saints for him.

The letter was from Granada, written in the Alhambra, as he
sat by the fountain of the Patio di Lindaraxa.  The air was
heavy, with the warm fragrance of the South and full of the sound
of splashing, running water, as it had been in a certain old
garden in Florence, long ago.  The sky was one great turquoise,
heated until it glowed.  The wonderful Moorish arches threw
graceful blue shadows all about him.  He had sketched an outline
of them on the margin of his notepaper.  The subtleties of Arabic
decoration had cast an unholy spell over him, and the brutal
exaggerations of Gothic art were a bad dream, easily forgotten. 
The Alhambra itself had, from the first, seemed perfectly
familiar to him, and he knew that he must have trod that court,
sleek and brown and obsequious, centuries before Ferdinand rode
into Andalusia.  The letter was full of confidences about his
work, and delicate allusions to their old happy days of study and
comradeship, and of her own work, still so warmly remembered and
appreciatively discussed everywhere he went.

As Everett folded the letter he felt that Adriance had
divined the thing needed and had risen to it in his own wonderful
way.  The letter was consistently egotistical and seemed to him
even a trifle patronizing, yet it was just what she had
wanted.  A strong realization of his brother's charm and intensity
and power came over him; he felt the breath of that whirlwind of
flame in which Adriance passed, consuming all in his path, and
himself even more resolutely than he consumed others.  Then he
looked down at this white, burnt-out brand that lay before him.
"Like him, isn't it?" she said, quietly.

"I think I can scarcely answer his letter, but when you see
him next you can do that for me.  I want you to tell him many
things for me, yet they can all be summed up in this: I want him
to grow wholly into his best and greatest self, even at the cost
of the dear boyishness that is half his charm to you and me.  Do
you understand me?"

"I know perfectly well what you mean," answered Everett,
thoughtfully.  "I have often felt so about him myself.  And yet
it's difficult to prescribe for those fellows; so little makes,
so little mars."

Katharine raised herself upon her elbow, and her face
flushed with feverish earnestness.  "Ah, but it is the waste of
himself that I mean; his lashing himself out on stupid and
uncomprehending people until they take him at their own estimate. 
He can kindle marble, strike fire from putty, but is it worth
what it costs him?"

"Come, come," expostulated Everett, alarmed at her excitement. 
"Where is the new sonata?  Let him speak for himself."

He sat down at the piano and began playing the first
movement, which was indeed the voice of Adriance, his proper
speech.  The sonata was the most ambitious work he had done up to
that time and marked the transition from his purely lyric vein to
a deeper and nobler style.  Everett played intelligently and with
that sympathetic comprehension which seems peculiar to a certain
lovable class of men who never accomplish anything in particular. 
When he had finished he turned to Katharine.

"How he has grown!" she cried.  "What the three last years have
done for him!  He used to write only the tragedies of passion; but
this is the tragedy of the soul, the shadow coexistent with the
soul.  This is the tragedy of effort and failure, the thing Keats
called hell.  This is my tragedy, as I lie here spent by the
racecourse, listening to the feet of the runners as they pass me. 
Ah, God!  The swift feet of the runners!"

She turned her face away and covered it with her straining
hands.  Everett crossed over to her quickly and knelt beside her. 
In all the days he had known her she had never before, beyond an
occasional ironical jest, given voice to the bitterness of her
own defeat.  Her courage had become a point of pride with him,
and to see it going sickened him.

"Don't do it," he gasped.  "I can't stand it, I really
can't, I feel it too much.  We mustn't speak of that; it's too
tragic and too vast."

When she turned her face back to him there was a ghost of the old,
brave, cynical smile on it, more bitter than the tears she could
not shed.  "No, I won't be so ungenerous; I will save that for the
watches of the night when I have no better company.  Now you may
mix me another drink of some sort.  Formerly, when it was not
if I should ever sing Brunnhilde, but quite simply when I
should sing Brunnhilde, I was always starving myself and
thinking what I might drink and what I might not.  But broken music
boxes may drink whatsoever they list, and no one cares whether they
lose their figure.  Run over that theme at the beginning again. 
That, at least, is not new.  It was running in his head when we
were in Venice years ago, and he used to drum it on his glass at
the dinner table.  He had just begun to work it out when the late
autumn came on, and the paleness of the Adriatic oppressed him,
and he decided to go to Florence for the winter, and lost touch
with the theme during his illness.  Do you remember those
frightful days?  All the people who have loved him are not strong
enough to save him from himself!  When I got word from Florence
that he had been ill I was in Nice filling a concert engagement. 
His wife was hurrying to him from Paris, but I reached him first. 
I arrived at dusk, in a terrific storm.  They had taken an old
palace there for the winter, and I found him in the library--a
long, dark room full of old Latin books and heavy furniture and
bronzes.  He was sitting by a wood fire at one end of the room,
looking, oh, so worn and pale!--as he always does when he is ill,
you know.  Ah, it is so good that you do know!  Even
his red smoking jacket lent no color to his face.  His first words
were not to tell me how ill he had been, but that that morning he
had been well enough to put the last strokes to the score of his
Souvenirs d'Automne.  He was as I most like to remember him:
so calm and happy and tired; not gay, as he usually is, but just
contented and tired with that heavenly tiredness that comes after
a good work done at last.  Outside, the rain poured down in
torrents, and the wind moaned for the pain of all the world and
sobbed in the branches of the shivering olives and about the walls
of that desolated old palace.  How that night comes back to me!
There were no lights in the room, only the wood fire which glowed
upon the hard features of the bronze Dante, like the reflection of
purgatorial flames, and threw long black shadows about us; beyond
us it scarcely penetrated the gloom at all, Adriance sat staring at
the fire with the weariness of all his life in his eves, and of all
the other lives that must aspire and suffer to make up one such
life as his.  Somehow the wind with all its world-pain had got into
the room, and the cold rain was in our eyes, and the wave came up
in both of us at once--that awful, vague, universal pain, that
cold fear of life and death and God and hope--and we were like
two clinging together on a spar in midocean after the shipwreck
of everything.  Then we heard the front door open with a great
gust of wind that shook even the walls, and the servants came
running with lights, announcing that Madam had returned, 'and in
the book we read no more that night.'"

She gave the old line with a certain bitter humor, and with
the hard, bright smile in which of old she had wrapped her
weakness as in a glittering garment.  That ironical smile, worn
like a mask through so many years, had gradually changed even the
lines of her face completely, and when she looked in the mirror
she saw not herself, but the scathing critic, the amused observer
and satirist of herself.  Everett dropped his head upon his hand
and sat looking at the rug.  "How much you have cared!" he said.

"Ah, yes, I cared," she replied, closing her eyes with a
long-drawn sigh of relief; and lying perfectly still, she went
on: "You can't imagine what a comfort it is to have you know how I
cared, what a relief it is to be able to tell it to someone.  I
used to want to shriek it out to the world in the long nights when
I could not sleep.  It seemed to me that I could not die with it. 
It demanded some sort of expression.  And now that you know, you
would scarcely believe how much less sharp the anguish of it is."

Everett continued to look helplessly at the floor.  "I was
not sure how much you wanted me to know," he said.

"Oh, I intended you should know from the first time I looked
into your face, when you came that day with Charley.  I flatter
myself that I have been able to conceal it when I chose, though I
suppose women always think that.  The more observing ones may
have seen, but discerning people are usually discreet and often
kind, for we usually bleed a little before we begin to discern. 
But I wanted you to know; you are so like him that it is almost
like telling him himself.  At least, I feel now that he will know
some day, and then I will be quite sacred from his compassion,
for we none of us dare pity the dead.  Since it was what my life
has chiefly meant, I should like him to know.  On the whole I am
not ashamed of it.  I have fought a good fight."

"And has he never known at all?" asked Everett, in a thick voice.

"Oh!  Never at all in the way that you mean.  Of course, he
is accustomed to looking into the eyes of women and finding love
there; when he doesn't find it there he thinks he must have been
guilty of some discourtesy and is miserable about it.  He has a
genuine fondness for everyone who is not stupid or gloomy, or old
or preternaturally ugly.  Granted youth and cheerfulness, and a
moderate amount of wit and some tact, and Adriance will always be
glad to see you coming around the corner.  I shared with the
rest; shared the smiles and the gallantries and the droll little
sermons.  It was quite like a Sunday-school picnic; we wore our
best clothes and a smile and took our turns.  It was his kindness
that was hardest.  I have pretty well used my life up at standing
punishment."

"Don't; you'll make me hate him," groaned Everett.

Katharine laughed and began to play nervously with her fan. 
"It wasn't in the slightest degree his fault; that is the most
grotesque part of it.  Why, it had really begun before I
ever met him.  I fought my way to him, and I drank my doom
greedily enough."

Everett rose and stood hesitating.  "I think I must go.  You ought
to be quiet, and I don't think I can hear any more just now."

She put out her hand and took his playfully.  "You've put in
three weeks at this sort of thing, haven't you?  Well, it may
never be to your glory in this world, perhaps, but it's been the
mercy of heaven to me, and it ought to square accounts for a much
worse life than yours will ever be."

Everett knelt beside her, saying, brokenly: "I stayed because I
wanted to be with you, that's all.  I have never cared about other
women since I met you in New York when I was a lad.  You are a part
of my destiny, and I could not leave you if I would."

She put her hands on his shoulders and shook her head.  "No,
no; don't tell me that.  I have seen enough of tragedy, God
knows.  Don't show me any more just as the curtain is going down. 
No, no, it was only a boy's fancy, and your divine pity and my
utter pitiableness have recalled it for a moment.  One does not
love the dying, dear friend.  If some fancy of that sort had been
left over from boyhood, this would rid you of it, and that were
well.  Now go, and you will come again tomorrow, as long as there
are tomorrows, will you not?"  She took his hand with a smile that
lifted the mask from her soul, that was both courage and despair,
and full of infinite loyalty and tenderness, as she said softly:

     For ever and for ever, farewell, Cassius;
     If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
     If not, why then, this parting was well made.

The courage in her eyes was like the clear light of a star to him
as he went out.

On the night of Adriance Hilgarde's opening concert in Paris
Everett sat by the bed in the ranch house in Wyoming, watching
over the last battle that we have with the flesh before we are
done with it and free of it forever.  At times it seemed that the
serene soul of her must have left already and found some refuge
from the storm, and only the tenacious animal life were left to do
battle with death.  She labored under a delusion at once pitiful
and merciful, thinking that she was in the Pullman on her way to
New York, going back to her life and her work.  When she aroused
from her stupor it was only to ask the porter to waken her half an
hour out of Jersey City, or to remonstrate with him about the
delays and the roughness of the road.  At midnight Everett and the
nurse were left alone with her.  Poor Charley Gaylord had lain down
on a couch outside the door.  Everett sat looking at the sputtering
night lamp until it made his eyes ache.  His head dropped forward
on the foot of the bed, and he sank into a heavy, distressful
slumber.  He was dreaming of Adriance's concert in Paris, and of
Adriance, the troubadour, smiling and debonair, with his boyish
face and the touch of silver gray in his hair.  He heard the
applause and he saw the roses going up over the footlights until
they were stacked half as high as the piano, and the petals fell
and scattered, making crimson splotches on the floor.  Down this
crimson pathway came Adriance with his youthful step, leading his
prima donna by the hand; a dark woman this time, with Spanish eyes.

The nurse touched him on the shoulder; he started and awoke. 
She screened the lamp with her hand.  Everett saw that Katharine
was awake and conscious, and struggling a little.  He lifted her
gently on his arm and began to fan her.  She laid her hands
lightly on his hair and looked into his face with eyes that
seemed never to have wept or doubted.  "Ah, dear Adriance, dear,
dear," she whispered.

Everett went to call her brother, but when they came back
the madness of art was over for Katharine.

Two days later Everett was pacing the station siding,
waiting for the westbound train.  Charley Gaylord walked beside
him, but the two men had nothing to say to each other.  Everett's
bags were piled on the truck, and his step was hurried and his
eyes were full of impatience, as he gazed again and again up the
track, watching for the train.  Gaylord's impatience was not less
than his own; these two, who had grown so close, had now become
painful and impossible to each other, and longed for the
wrench of farewell.

As the train pulled in Everett wrung Gaylord's hand among
the crowd of alighting passengers.  The people of a German opera
company, en route to the coast, rushed by them in frantic haste
to snatch their breakfast during the stop.  Everett heard an
exclamation in a broad German dialect, and a massive woman whose
figure persistently escaped from her stays in the most improbable
places rushed up to him, her blond hair disordered by the wind,
and glowing with joyful surprise she caught his coat sleeve with
her tightly gloved hands.

"Herr Gott, Adriance, lieber Freund," she cried,
emotionally.

Everett quickly withdrew his arm and lifted  his hat,
blushing.  "Pardon me, madam, but I see that  you have mistaken
me for Adriance Hilgarde.  I am his brother," he said quietly,
and turning from the crestfallen singer, he hurried into the car.




The Garden Lodge

When Caroline Noble's friends learned that Raymond d'Esquerre was
to spend a month at her place on the Sound before he sailed to fill
his engagement for the London opera season, they considered it
another striking instance of the perversity of things.  That the
month was May, and the most mild and florescent of all the
blue-and-white Mays the middle coast had known in years, but added
to their sense of wrong.  D'Esquerre, they learned, was ensconced
in the lodge in the apple orchard, just beyond Caroline's glorious
garden, and report went that at almost any hour the sound of the
tenor's voice and of Caroline's crashing accompaniment could be
heard floating through the open windows, out among the snowy apple
boughs.  The Sound, steel-blue and dotted with white sails, was
splendidly seen from the windows of the lodge.  The garden to the
left and the orchard to the right had never been so riotous with
spring, and had burst into impassioned bloom, as if to accommodate
Caroline, though she was certainly the last woman to whom the
witchery of Freya could be attributed; the last woman, as her
friends affirmed, to at all adequately appreciate and make the most
of such a setting for the great tenor.

Of course, they admitted, Caroline was musical--well, she
ought to be!--but in that, as in everything, she was paramountly
cool-headed, slow of impulse, and disgustingly practical; in
that, as in everything else, she had herself so provokingly well
in hand.  Of course, it would be she, always mistress of herself
in any situation, she, who would never be lifted one inch from
the ground by it, and who would go on superintending her
gardeners and workmen as usual--it would be she who got him. 
Perhaps some of them suspected that this was exactly why
she did get him, and it but nettled them the more.

Caroline's coolness, her capableness, her general success,
especially exasperated people because they felt that, for the
most part, she had made herself what she was; that she had cold-
bloodedly set about complying with the demands of life and making
her position comfortable and masterful.  That was why, everyone
said, she had married Howard Noble.  Women who did not get
through life so well as Caroline, who could not make such good
terms either with fortune or their husbands, who did not find
their health so unfailingly good, or hold their looks so well, or
manage their children so easily, or give such distinction to all
they did, were fond of stamping Caroline as a materialist, and
called her hard.

The impression of cold calculation, of having a definite
policy, which Caroline gave, was far from a false one; but there
was this to be said for her--that there were extenuating
circumstances which her friends could not know.

If Caroline held determinedly to the middle course, if she
was apt to regard with distrust everything which inclined toward
extravagance, it was not because she was unacquainted with other
standards than her own, or had never seen another side of life. 
She had grown up in Brooklyn, in a shabby little house under the
vacillating administration of her father, a music teacher who
usually neglected his duties to write orchestral compositions for
which the world seemed to have no especial need.  His spirit was
warped by bitter vindictiveness and puerile self-commiseration,
and he spent his days in scorn of the labor that brought him
bread and in pitiful devotion to the labor that brought him only
disappointment, writing interminable scores which demanded of the
orchestra everything under heaven except melody.

It was not a cheerful home for a girl to grow up in.  The
mother, who idolized her husband as the music lord of the future,
was left to a lifelong battle with broom and dustpan, to
neverending conciliatory overtures to the butcher and grocer, to
the making of her own gowns and of Caroline's, and to the delicate
task of mollifying Auguste's neglected pupils.

The son, Heinrich, a painter, Caroline's only brother, had
inherited all his father's vindictive sensitiveness without his
capacity for slavish application.  His little studio on the third
floor had been much frequented by young men as unsuccessful as
himself, who met there to give themselves over to contemptuous
derision of this or that artist whose industry and stupidity had
won him recognition.  Heinrich, when he worked at all, did
newspaper sketches at twenty-five dollars a week.  He was too
indolent and vacillating to set himself seriously to his art, too
irascible and poignantly self-conscious to make a living, too
much addicted to lying late in bed, to the incontinent reading of
poetry, and to the use of chloral to be anything very positive
except painful.  At twenty-six he shot himself in a frenzy, and
the whole wretched affair had effectually shattered his mother's
health and brought on the decline of which she died.  Caroline
had been fond of him, but she felt a certain relief when he no
longer wandered about the little house, commenting ironically
upon its shabbiness, a Turkish cap on his head and a cigarette
hanging from between his long, tremulous fingers.

After her mother's death Caroline assumed the management of
that bankrupt establishment.  The funeral expenses were unpaid,
and Auguste's pupils had been frightened away by the shock of
successive disasters and the general atmosphere of wretchedness
that pervaded the house.  Auguste himself was writing a symphonic
poem, Icarus, dedicated to the memory of his son.  Caroline was
barely twenty when she was called upon to face this tangle of
difficulties, but she reviewed the situation candidly.  The house
had served its time at the shrine of idealism; vague, distressing,
unsatisfied yearnings had brought it low enough.  Her mother,
thirty years before, had eloped and left Germany with her music
teacher, to give herself over to lifelong, drudging bondage at the
kitchen range.  Ever since Caroline could remember, the law in the
house had been a sort of mystic worship of things distant,
intangible and unattainable.  The family had lived in successive
ebullitions of generous enthusiasm, in talk of masters and
masterpieces, only to come down to the cold facts in the case; to
boiled mutton and to the necessity of turning the dining-room
carpet.  All these emotional pyrotechnics had ended in petty
jealousies, in neglected duties, and in cowardly fear of the little
grocer on the corner.

From her childhood she had hated it, that humiliating and
uncertain existence, with its glib tongue and empty pockets, its
poetic ideals and sordid realities, its indolence and poverty
tricked out in paper roses.  Even as a little girl, when vague
dreams beset her, when she wanted to lie late in bed and commune
with visions, or to leap and sing because the sooty little trees
along the street were putting out their first pale leaves in the
sunshine, she would clench her hands and go to help her mother
sponge the spots from her father's waistcoat or press Heinrich's
trousers.  Her mother never permitted the slightest question
concerning anything Auguste or Heinrich saw fit to do, but from
the time Caroline could reason at all she could not help thinking
that many things went wrong at home.  She knew, for example, that
her father's pupils ought not to be kept waiting half an hour
while he discussed Schopenhauer with some bearded socialist over
a dish of herrings and a spotted tablecloth.  She knew that
Heinrich ought not to give a dinner on Heine's birthday, when the
laundress had not been paid for a month and when he frequently
had to ask his mother for carfare.  Certainly Caroline had served
her apprenticeship to idealism and to all the embarrassing
inconsistencies which it sometimes entails, and she decided to
deny herself this diffuse, ineffectual answer to the sharp
questions of life.

When she came into the control of herself and the house she
refused to proceed any further with her musical education.  Her
father, who had intended to make a concert pianist of her, set
this down as another item in his long list of disappointments and
his grievances against the world.  She was young and pretty, and
she had worn turned gowns and soiled gloves and improvised hats
all her life.  She wanted the luxury of being like other people,
of being honest from her hat to her boots, of having nothing to
hide, not even in the matter of stockings, and she was willing to
work for it.  She rented a little studio away from that house of
misfortune and began to give lessons.  She managed well and was
the sort of girl people liked to help.  The bills were
paid and Auguste went on composing, growing indignant only when
she refused to insist that her pupils should study his compositions
for the piano.  She began to get engagements in New York to play
accompaniments at song recitals.  She dressed well, made herself
agreeable, and gave herself a chance.  She never permitted herself
to look further than a step ahead, and set herself with all the
strength of her will to see things as they are and meet them
squarely in the broad day.  There were two things she feared even
more than poverty: the part of one that sets up an idol and the
part of one that bows down and worships it.

When Caroline was twenty-four she married Howard Noble, then
a widower of forty, who had been for ten years a power in Wall
Street.  Then, for the first time, she had paused to take breath. 
It took a substantialness as unquestionable as his; his money,
his position, his energy, the big vigor of his robust person, to
satisfy her that she was entirely safe.  Then she relaxed a
little, feeling that there was a barrier to be counted upon
between her and that world of visions and quagmires and failure.

Caroline had been married for six years when Raymond
d'Esquerre came to stay with them.  He came chiefly because
Caroline was what she was; because he, too, felt occasionally the
need of getting out of Klingsor's garden, of dropping down
somewhere for a time near a quiet nature, a cool head, a strong
hand.  The hours he had spent in the garden lodge were hours of
such concentrated study as, in his fevered life, he seldom got in
anywhere.  She had, as he told Noble, a fine appreciation of the
seriousness of work.

One evening two weeks after d'Esquerre had sailed, Caroline
was in the library giving her husband an account of the work she
had laid out for the gardeners.  She superintended the care of
the grounds herself.  Her garden, indeed, had become quite a part
of her; a sort of beautiful adjunct, like gowns or jewels.  It
was a famous spot, and Noble was very proud of it.

"What do you think, Caroline, of having the garden lodge torn down
and putting a new summer house there at the end of the arbor; a big
rustic affair where you could have tea served in midsummer?" he
asked.

"The lodge?" repeated Caroline looking at him quickly.  "Why, that
seems almost a shame, doesn't it, after d'Esquerre has used it?"

Noble put down his book with a smile of amusement.

"Are you going to be sentimental about it?  Why, I'd sacrifice the
whole place to see that come to pass.  But I don't believe you
could do it for an hour together."

"I don't believe so, either," said his wife, smiling.

Noble took up his book again and Caroline went into the
music room to practice.  She was not ready to have the lodge torn
down.  She had gone there for a quiet hour every day during the
two weeks since d'Esquerre had left them.  It was the sheerest
sentiment she had ever permitted herself.  She was ashamed of it,
but she was childishly unwilling to let it go.

Caroline went to bed soon after her husband, but she was not
able to sleep.  The night was close and warm, presaging storm. 
The wind had fallen, and the water slept, fixed and motionless as
the sand.  She rose and thrust her feet into slippers and,
putting a dressing gown over her shoulders, opened the door of
her husband's room; he was sleeping soundly.  She went into the
hall and down the stairs; then, leaving the house through a side
door, stepped into the vine-covered arbor that led to the garden
lodge.  The scent of the June roses was heavy in the still air,
and the stones that paved the path felt pleasantly cool through
the thin soles of her slippers.  Heat-lightning flashed
continuously from the bank of clouds that had gathered over the
sea, but the shore was flooded with moonlight and, beyond, the
rim of the Sound lay smooth and shining.  Caroline had the key of
the lodge, and the door creaked as she opened it.  She stepped
into the long, low room radiant with the moonlight which streamed
through the bow window and lay in a silvery pool along the waxed
floor.  Even that part of the room which lay in the shadow was
vaguely illuminated; the piano, the tall candlesticks, the
picture frames and white casts standing out as clearly in the
half-light as did the sycamores and black poplars of the garden
against the still, expectant night sky.  Caroline sat
down to think it all over.  She had come here to do just that
every day of the two weeks since d'Esquerre's departure, but,
far from ever having reached a conclusion, she had succeeded
only in losing her way in a maze of memories--sometimes
bewilderingly confused, sometimes too acutely distinct--where
there was neither path, nor clue, nor any hope of finality.  She
had, she realized, defeated a lifelong regimen; completely
confounded herself by falling unaware and incontinently into
that luxury of reverie which, even as a little girl, she had so
determinedly denied herself, she had been developing with
alarming celerity that part of one which sets up an idol and
that part of one which bows down and worships it.

It was a mistake, she felt, ever to have asked d'Esquerre to come
at all.  She had an angry feeling that she had done it rather in
self-defiance, to rid herself finally of that instinctive fear of
him which had always troubled and perplexed her.  She knew that she
had reckoned with herself before he came; but she had been equal to
so much that she had never really doubted she would be equal to
this.  She had come to believe, indeed, almost arrogantly in her
own malleability and endurance; she had done so much with herself
that she had come to think that there was nothing which she could
not do; like swimmers, overbold, who reckon upon their strength and
their power to hoard it, forgetting the ever-changing moods of
their adversary, the sea.

And d'Esquerre was a man to reckon with.  Caroline did not
deceive herself now upon that score.  She admitted it humbly
enough, and since she had said good-by to him she had not been
free for a moment from the sense of his formidable power.  It
formed the undercurrent of her consciousness; whatever she might
be doing or thinking, it went on, involuntarily, like her
breathing, sometimes welling up until suddenly she found herself
suffocating.  There was a moment of this tonight, and Caroline
rose and stood shuddering, looking about her in the blue
duskiness of the silent room.  She had not been here at night
before, and the spirit of the place seemed more troubled and
insistent than ever it had in the quiet of the afternoons. 
Caroline brushed her hair back from her damp forehead
and went over to the bow window.  After raising it she sat down
upon the low seat.  Leaning her head against the sill, and
loosening her nightgown at the throat, she half-closed her eyes
and looked off into the troubled night, watching the play of
the heat-lightning upon the massing clouds between the pointed
tops of the poplars.

Yes, she knew, she knew well enough, of what absurdities
this spell was woven; she mocked, even while she winced.  His
power, she knew, lay not so much in anything that he actually
had--though he had so much--or in anything that he actually was,
but in what he suggested, in what he seemed picturesque enough to
have or be and that was just anything that one chose to believe
or to desire.  His appeal was all the more persuasive and alluring
in that it was to the imagination alone, in that it was as
indefinite and impersonal as those cults of idealism which so
have their way with women.  What he had was that, in his mere
personality, he quickened and in a measure gratified that
something without which--to women--life is no better than
sawdust, and to the desire for which most of their mistakes and
tragedies and astonishingly poor bargains are due.

D'Esquerre had become the center of a movement, and the
Metropolitan had become the temple of a cult.  When he could be
induced to cross the Atlantic, the opera season in New York was
successful; when he could not, the management lost money; so much
everyone knew.  It was understood, too, that his superb art had
disproportionately little to do with his peculiar position. 
Women swayed the balance this way or that; the opera, the
orchestra, even his own glorious art, achieved at such a cost, were
but the accessories of himself; like the scenery and costumes and
even the soprano, they all went to produce atmosphere, were the
mere mechanics of the beautiful illusion.

Caroline understood all this; tonight was not the first time
that she had put it to herself so.  She had seen the same feeling
in other people, watched for it in her friends, studied it in the
house night after night when he sang, candidly putting herself
among a thousand others.

D'Esquerre's arrival in the early winter was the signal for
a feminine hegira toward New York.  On the nights when he sang
women flocked to the Metropolitan from mansions and hotels, from
typewriter desks, schoolrooms, shops, and fitting rooms.  They
were of all conditions and complexions.  Women of the world who
accepted him knowingly as they sometimes took champagne for its
agreeable effect; sisters of charity and overworked shopgirls,
who received him devoutly; withered women who had taken doctorate
degrees and who worshipped furtively through prism spectacles;
business women and women of affairs, the Amazons who dwelt afar
from men in the stony fastnesses of apartment houses.  They all
entered into the same romance; dreamed, in terms as various as
the hues of fantasy, the same dream; drew the same quick breath
when he stepped upon the stage, and, at his exit, felt the same
dull pain of shouldering the pack again.

There were the maimed, even; those who came on crutches, who
were pitted by smallpox or grotesquely painted by cruel birth
stains.  These, too, entered with him into enchantment.  Stout
matrons became slender girls again; worn spinsters felt their
cheeks flush with the tenderness of their lost youth.  Young and
old, however hideous, however fair, they yielded up their heat--
whether quick or latent--sat hungering for the mystic bread
wherewith he fed them at this eucharist of sentiment.

Sometimes, when the house was crowded from the orchestra to
the last row of the gallery, when the air was charged with this
ecstasy of fancy, he himself was the victim of the burning
reflection of his power.  They acted upon him in turn; he felt
their fervent and despairing appeal to him; it stirred him as the
spring drives the sap up into an old tree; he, too, burst into
bloom.  For the moment he, too, believed again, desired again, he
knew not what, but something.

But it was not in these exalted moments that Caroline had
learned to fear him most.  It was in the quiet, tired reserve,
the dullness, even, that kept him company between these outbursts
that she found that exhausting drain upon her sympathies which
was the very pith and substance of their alliance.  It was the
tacit admission of disappointment under all this glamour
of success--the helplessness of the enchanter to at all enchant
himself--that awoke in her an illogical, womanish desire to in
some way compensate, to make it up to him.

She had observed drastically to herself that it was her
eighteenth year he awoke in her--those hard years she had spent
in turning gowns and placating tradesmen, and which she had never
had time to live.  After all, she reflected, it was better to
allow one's self a little youth--to dance a little at the
carnival and to live these things when they are natural and
lovely, not to have them coming back on one and demanding arrears
when they are humiliating and impossible.  She went over tonight
all the catalogue of her self-deprivations; recalled how, in the
light of her father's example, she had even refused to humor her
innocent taste for improvising at the piano; how, when she began
to teach, after her mother's death, she had struck out one little
indulgence after another, reducing her life to a relentless
routine, unvarying as clockwork.  It seemed to her that ever
since d'Esquerre first came into the house she had been haunted
by an imploring little girlish ghost that followed her about,
wringing its hands and entreating for an hour of life.

The storm had held off unconscionably long; the air within
the lodge was stifling, and without the garden waited,
breathless.  Everything seemed pervaded by a poignant distress;
the hush of feverish, intolerable expectation.  The still earth,
the heavy flowers, even the growing darkness, breathed the
exhaustion of protracted waiting.  Caroline felt that she ought
to go; that it was wrong to stay; that the hour and the place
were as treacherous as her own reflections.  She rose and began
to pace the floor, stepping softly, as though in fear of
awakening someone, her figure, in its thin drapery, diaphanously
vague and white.  Still unable to shake off the obsession of the
intense stillness, she sat down at the piano and began to run
over the first act of the Walkure, the last of his roles
they had practiced together; playing listlessly and absently at
first, but with gradually increasing seriousness.  Perhaps it was
the still heat of the summer night, perhaps it was the heavy odors
from the garden that came in through the open windows; but as she
played there grew and grew the feeling that he was there, beside
her, standing in his accustomed place.  In the duet at the end of
the first act she heard him clearly: "Thou art the Spring for
which I sighed in Winter's cold embraces."  Once as he sang
it, he had put his arm about her, his one hand under her heart,
while with the other he took her right from the keyboard, holding
her as he always held Sieglinde when he drew her toward the
window.  She had been wonderfully the mistress of herself at the
time; neither repellent nor acquiescent.  She remembered that she
had rather exulted, then, in her self-control--which he had seemed
to take for granted, though there was perhaps the whisper of a
question from the hand under her heart.  "Thou art the Spring
for which I sighed in Winter's cold embraces."  Caroline lifted
her hands quickly from the keyboard, and she bowed her head in
them, sobbing.

The storm broke and the rain beat in, spattering her
nightdress until she rose and lowered the windows.  She dropped
upon the couch and began fighting over again the battles of other
days, while the ghosts of the slain rose as from a sowing of
dragon's teeth, The shadows of things, always so scorned and
flouted, bore down upon her merciless and triumphant.  It was not
enough; this happy, useful, well-ordered life was not enough.  It
did not satisfy, it was not even real.  No, the other things, the
shadows-they were the realities.  Her father, poor Heinrich, even
her mother, who had been able to sustain her poor romance and
keep her little illusions amid the tasks of a scullion, were
nearer happiness than she.  Her sure foundation was but made
ground, after all, and the people in Klingsor's garden were more
fortunate, however barren the sands from which they conjured
their paradise.

The lodge was still and silent; her fit of weeping over,
Caroline made no sound, and within the room, as without in the
garden, was the blackness of storm.  Only now and then a flash of
lightning showed a woman's slender figure rigid on the couch, her
face buried in her hands.

Toward morning, when the occasional rumbling of thunder was
heard no more and the beat of the raindrops upon the orchard
leaves was steadier, she fell asleep and did not waken
until the first red streaks of dawn shone through the twisted
boughs of the apple trees.  There was a moment between world and
world, when, neither asleep nor awake, she felt her dream grow
thin, melting away from her, felt the warmth under her heart
growing cold.  Something seemed to slip from the clinging hold
of her arms, and she groaned protestingly through her parted lips,
following it a little way with fluttering hands.  Then her eyes
opened wide and she sprang up and sat holding dizzily to the
cushions of the couch, staring down at her bare, cold feet, at
her laboring breast, rising and falling under her open nightdress.

The dream was gone, but the feverish reality of it still
pervaded her and she held it as the vibrating string holds a
tone.  In the last hour the shadows had had their way with
Caroline.  They had shown her the nothingness of time and space,
of system and discipline, of closed doors and broad waters. 
Shuddering, she thought of the Arabian fairy tale in which the
genie brought the princess of China to the sleeping prince of
Damascus and carried her through the air back to her palace at
dawn.  Caroline closed her eyes and dropped her elbows weakly
upon her knees, her shoulders sinking together.  The horror was
that it had not come from without, but from within.  The dream
was no blind chance; it was the expression of something she had
kept so close a prisoner that she had never seen it herself, it
was the wail from the donjon deeps when the watch slept.  Only as
the outcome of such a night of sorcery could the thing have been
loosed to straighten its limbs and measure itself with her; so
heavy were the chains upon it, so many a fathom deep, it was
crushed down into darkness.  The fact that d'Esquerre happened to
be on the other side of the world meant nothing; had he been
here, beside her, it could scarcely have hurt her  self-respect
so much.  As it was, she was without even the  extenuation of an
outer impulse, and she could scarcely have despised herself more
had she come to him here in the night three weeks ago and thrown
herself down upon the stone slab at the door there.

Caroline rose unsteadily and crept guiltily from the lodge
and along the path under the arbor, terrified lest the
servants should be stirring, trembling with the chill air, while
the wet shrubbery, brushing against her, drenched her nightdress
until it clung about her limbs.

At breakfast her husband looked across the table at her with
concern.  "It seems to me that you are looking rather fagged,
Caroline.  It was a beastly night to sleep.  Why don't you go up
to the mountains until this hot weather is over?  By the way, were
you in earnest about letting the lodge stand?"

Caroline laughed quietly.  "No, I find I was not very serious.  I
haven't sentiment enough to forego a summer house.  Will you tell
Baker to come tomorrow to talk it over with me?  If we are to have
a house party, I should like to put him to work on it at once."

Noble gave her a glance, half-humorous, half-vexed.  "Do you
know I am rather disappointed?" he said.  "I had almost hoped
that, just for once, you know, you would be a little bit foolish."

"Not now that I've slept over it," replied Caroline, and
they both rose from the table, laughing.




The Marriage of Phaedra

The sequence of events was such that MacMaster did not make his
pilgrimage to Hugh Treffinger's studio until three years after that
painter's death.  MacMaster was himself a painter, an American of
the Gallicized type, who spent his winters in New York, his summers
in Paris, and no inconsiderable amount of time on the broad waters
between.  He had often contemplated stopping in London on one of
his return trips in the late autumn, but he had always deferred
leaving Paris until the prick of necessity drove him home by the
quickest and shortest route.

Treffinger was a comparatively young man at the time of his
death, and there had seemed no occasion for haste until haste was
of no avail.  Then, possibly, though there had been some
correspondence between them, MacMaster felt certain qualms about
meeting in the flesh a man who in the flesh was so diversely
reported.  His intercourse with Treffinger's work had been so
deep and satisfying, so apart from other appreciations, that he
rather dreaded a critical juncture of any sort.  He had always
felt himself singularly inept in personal relations, and in this
case he had avoided the issue until it was no longer to be feared
or hoped for.  There still remained, however, Treffinger's great
unfinished picture, the Marriage of Phaedra, which had never
left his studio, and of which MacMaster's friends had now and again
brought report that it was the painter's most characteristic
production.

The young man arrived in London in the evening, and the next
morning went out to Kensington to find Treffinger's studio.  It
lay in one of the perplexing bystreets off Holland Road, and the
number he found on a door set in a high garden wall, the top of
which was covered with broken green glass and over which
a budding lilac bush nodded.  Treffinger's plate was still there,
and a card requesting visitors to ring for the attendant.  In
response to MacMaster's ring, the door was opened by a cleanly
built little man, clad in a shooting jacket and trousers that had
been made for an ampler figure.  He had a fresh complexion, eyes
of that common uncertain shade of gray, and was closely shaven
except for the incipient muttonchops on his ruddy cheeks.  He
bore himself in a manner strikingly capable, and there was a sort
of trimness and alertness about him, despite the too-generous
shoulders of his coat.  In one hand he held a bulldog pipe, and
in the other a copy of Sporting Life.  While MacMaster was
explaining the purpose of his call he noticed that the man surveyed
him critically, though not impertinently.  He was admitted into a
little tank of a lodge made of whitewashed stone, the back door
and windows opening upon a garden.  A visitor's book and a pile
of catalogues lay on a deal table, together with a bottle of ink
and some rusty pens.  The wall was ornamented with photographs
and colored prints of racing favorites.

"The studio is h'only open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays,"
explained the man--he referred to himself as "Jymes"--"but of
course we make exceptions in the case of pynters.  Lydy Elling
Treffinger 'erself is on the Continent, but Sir 'Ugh's orders was
that pynters was to 'ave the run of the place."  He selected a key
from his pocket and threw open the door into the studio which, like
the lodge, was built against the wall of the garden.

MacMaster entered a long, narrow room, built of smoothed
planks, painted a light green; cold and damp even on that fine
May morning.  The room was utterly bare of furniture--unless a
stepladder, a model throne, and a rack laden with large leather
portfolios could be accounted such--and was windowless, without
other openings than the door and the skylight, under which hung
the unfinished picture itself.  MacMaster had never seen so many
of Treffinger's paintings together.  He knew the painter had
married a woman with money and had been able to keep such of his
pictures as he wished.  These, with all of 182 his
replicas and studies, he had left as a sort of common legacy to
the younger men of the school he had originated.

As soon as he was left alone MacMaster sat down on the edge
of the model throne before the unfinished picture.  Here indeed
was what he had come for; it rather paralyzed his receptivity for
the moment, but gradually the thing found its way to him.

At one o'clock he was standing before the collection of studies
done for Boccaccio's Garden when he heard a voice at his
elbow.

"Pardon, sir, but I was just about to lock up and go to
lunch.  Are you lookin' for the figure study of Boccaccio
'imself?" James queried respectfully.  "Lydy Elling Treffinger
give it to Mr. Rossiter to take down to Oxford for some lectures
he's been agiving there."

"Did he never paint out his studies, then?" asked MacMaster
with perplexity.  "Here are two completed ones for this picture. 
Why did he keep them?"

"I don't know as I could say as to that, sir," replied James,
smiling indulgently, "but that was 'is way.  That is to say, 'e
pynted out very frequent, but 'e always made two studies to stand;
one in watercolors and one in oils, before 'e went at the final
picture--to say nothink of all the pose studies 'e made in pencil
before he begun on the composition proper at all.  He was that
particular.  You see, 'e wasn't so keen for the final effect as for
the proper pyntin' of 'is pictures.  'E used to say they ought to
be well made, the same as any other h'article of trade.  I can lay
my 'and on the pose studies for you, sir."  He rummaged in one of
the portfolios and produced half a dozen drawings, "These three,"
he continued, "was discarded; these two was the pose he finally
accepted; this one without alteration, as it were.

"That's in Paris, as I remember," James continued reflectively. 
"It went with the Saint Cecilia into the Baron H---'s
collection.  Could you tell me, sir, 'as 'e it still?  I
don't like to lose account of them, but some 'as changed 'ands
since Sir 'Ugh's death."

"H---'s collection is still intact, I believe," replied MacMaster. 
"You were with Treffinger long?"

"From my boyhood, sir," replied James with gravity.  "I was
a stable boy when 'e took me."

"You were his man, then?"

"That's it, sir.  Nobody else ever done anything around the studio. 
I always mixed 'is colors and 'e taught me to do a share of the
varnishin'; 'e said as 'ow there wasn't a 'ouse in England as could
do it  proper.  You ayn't looked at the Marriage yet, sir?"
he asked abruptly, glancing doubtfully at MacMaster, and indicating
with his thumb the picture under the north light.

"Not very closely.  I prefer to begin with something simpler;
that's rather appalling, at first glance," replied MacMaster.

"Well may you say that, sir," said James warmly.  "That one regular
killed Sir 'Ugh; it regular broke 'im up, and nothink will ever
convince me as 'ow it didn't bring on 'is second stroke."

When MacMaster walked back to High Street to take his bus
his mind was divided between two exultant convictions.  He felt
that he had not only found Treffinger's greatest picture, but
that, in James, he had discovered a kind of cryptic index to the
painter's personality--a clue which, if tactfully followed, might
lead to much.

Several days after his first visit to the studio, MacMaster
wrote to Lady Mary Percy, telling her that he would be in London
for some time and asking her if he might call.  Lady Mary was an
only sister of Lady Ellen Treffinger, the painter's widow, and
MacMaster had known her during one winter he spent at Nice.  He
had known her, indeed, very well, and Lady Mary, who was
astonishingly frank and communicative upon all subjects, had been
no less so upon the matter of her sister's unfortunate marriage.

In her reply to his note Lady Mary named an afternoon when
she would be alone.  She was as good as her word, and when
MacMaster arrived he found the drawing room empty.  Lady Mary
entered shortly after he was announced.  She was a tall woman,
thin and stiffly jointed, and her body stood out under the folds
of her gown with the rigor of cast iron.  This rather metallic
suggestion was further carried out in her heavily knuckled hands,
her stiff gray hair, and her long, bold-featured face,
which was saved from freakishness only by her alert eyes.

"Really," said Lady Mary, taking a seat beside him and
giving him a sort of military inspection through her nose
glasses, "really, I had begun to fear that I had lost you
altogether.  It's four years since I saw you at Nice, isn't it?  I
was in Paris last winter, but I heard nothing from you."

"I was in New York then."

"It occurred to me that you might be.  And why are you in London?"

"Can you ask?" replied MacMaster gallantly.

Lady Mary smiled ironically.  "But for what else, incidentally?"

"Well, incidentally, I came to see Treffinger's studio and
his unfinished picture.  Since I've been here, I've decided to
stay the summer.  I'm even thinking of attempting to do a
biography of him."

"So that is what brought you to London?"

"Not exactly.  I had really no intention of anything so serious
when I came.  It's his last picture, I fancy, that has rather
thrust it upon me.  The notion has settled down on me like a thing
destined."

"You'll not be offended if I question the clemency of such a
destiny," remarked Lady Mary dryly.  "Isn't there rather a
surplus of books on that subject already?"

"Such as they are.  Oh, I've read them all"--here MacMaster
faced Lady Mary triumphantly.  "He has quite escaped your amiable
critics," he added, smiling.

"I know well enough what you think, and I daresay we are not
much on art," said Lady Mary with tolerant good humor.  "We leave
that to peoples who have no physique.  Treffinger made a stir for
a time, but it seems that we are not capable of a sustained
appreciation of such extraordinary methods.  In the end we go
back to the pictures we find agreeable and unperplexing.  He was
regarded as an experiment, I fancy; and now it seems that he was
rather an unsuccessful one.  If you've come to us in a missionary
spirit, we'll tolerate you politely, but we'll laugh in our
sleeve, I warn you."

"That really doesn't daunt me, Lady Mary," declared
MacMaster blandly.  "As I told you, I'm a man with a mission."

Lady Mary laughed her hoarse, baritone laugh.  "Bravo!  And
you've come to me for inspiration for your panegyric?"

MacMaster smiled with some embarrassment.  "Not altogether
for that purpose.  But I want to consult you, Lady Mary, about
the advisability of troubling Lady Ellen Treffinger in the
matter.  It seems scarcely legitimate to go on without asking her
to give some sort of grace to my proceedings, yet I feared the
whole subject might be painful to her.  I shall rely wholly upon
your discretion."

"I think she would prefer to be consulted," replied Lady
Mary judicially.  "I can't understand how she endures to have the
wretched affair continually raked up, but she does.  She seems to
feel a sort of moral responsibility.  Ellen has always been
singularly conscientious about this matter, insofar as her light
goes,--which rather puzzles me, as hers is not exactly a
magnanimous nature.  She is certainly trying to do what she
believes to be the right thing.  I shall write to her, and you
can see her when she returns from Italy."

"I want very much to meet her.  She is, I hope, quite
recovered in every way," queried MacMaster, hesitatingly.

"No, I can't say that she is.  She has remained in much the
same condition she sank to before his death.  He trampled over
pretty much whatever there was in her, I fancy.  Women don't
recover from wounds of that sort--at least, not women of Ellen's
grain.  They go on bleeding inwardly."

"You, at any rate, have not grown more reconciled," MacMaster
ventured.

"Oh I give him his dues.  He was a colorist, I grant you;
but that is a vague and unsatisfactory quality to marry to; Lady
Ellen Treffinger found it so."

"But, my dear Lady Mary," expostulated MacMaster, "and just
repress me if I'm becoming too personal--but it must, in the
first place, have been a marriage of choice on her part as well
as on his."

Lady Mary poised her glasses on her large forefinger and
assumed an attitude suggestive of the clinical lecture room as
she replied.  "Ellen, my dear boy, is an essentially
romantic person.  She is quiet about it, but she runs deep.  I
never knew how deep until I came against her on the issue of that
marriage.  She was always discontented as a girl; she found
things dull and prosaic, and the ardor of his courtship was
agreeable to her.  He met her during her first season in town. 
She is handsome, and there were plenty of other men, but I grant
you your scowling brigand was the most picturesque of the lot. 
In his courtship, as in everything else, he was theatrical to the
point of being ridiculous, but Ellen's sense of humor is not her
strongest quality.  He had the charm of celebrity, the air of a
man who could storm his way through anything to get what he
wanted.  That sort of vehemence is particularly effective with
women like Ellen, who can be warmed only by reflected heat, and
she couldn't at all stand out against it. He convinced her of his
necessity; and that done, all's done."

"I can't help thinking that, even on such a basis, the marriage
should have turned out better," MacMaster remarked reflectively.

"The marriage," Lady Mary continued with a shrug, "was made
on the basis of a mutual misunderstanding.  Ellen, in the nature
of the case, believed that she was doing something quite out of
the ordinary in accepting him, and expected concessions which,
apparently, it never occurred to him to make.  After his marriage
he relapsed into his old habits of incessant work, broken by
violent and often brutal relaxations.  He insulted her friends
and foisted his own upon her--many of them well calculated to
arouse aversion in any well-bred girl.  He had Ghillini
constantly at the house--a homeless vagabond, whose conversation
was impossible.  I don't say, mind you, that he had not
grievances on his side.  He had probably overrated the girl's
possibilities, and he let her see that he was disappointed in
her.  Only a large and generous nature could have borne with him,
and Ellen's is not that.  She could not at all understand that
odious strain of plebeian pride which plumes itself upon not
having risen above its sources.

As MacMaster drove back to his hotel he reflected that Lady
Mary Percy had probably had good cause for dissatisfaction
with her brother-in-law.  Treffinger was, indeed, the last man who
should have married into the Percy family.  The son of a small
tobacconist, he had grown up a sign-painter's apprentice; idle,
lawless, and practically letterless until he had drifted into the
night classes of the Albert League, where Ghillini sometimes
lectured.  From the moment he came under the eye and influence of
that erratic Italian, then a political exile, his life had swerved
sharply from its old channel.  This man had been at once incentive
and guide, friend and master, to his pupil.  He had taken the raw
clay out of the London streets and molded it anew.  Seemingly he
had divined at once where the boy's possibilities lay, and had
thrown aside every canon of orthodox instruction in the training of
him.  Under him Treffinger acquired his superficial, yet facile,
knowledge of the classics; had steeped himself in the monkish Latin
and medieval romances which later gave his work so naive and remote
a quality.  That was the beginning of the wattle fences, the cobble
pave, the brown roof beams, the cunningly wrought fabrics that gave
to his pictures such a richness of decorative effect.

As he had told Lady Mary Percy, MacMaster had found the imperative
inspiration of his purpose in Treffinger's unfinished picture, the
Marriage of Phaedra.  He had always believed that the key to
Treffinger's individuality lay in his singular education; in the
Roman de la Rose, in Boccaccio, and Amadis, those works
which had literally transcribed themselves upon the blank soul of
the London street boy, and through which he had been born into the
world of spiritual things.  Treffinger had been a man who lived
after his imagination; and his mind, his ideals and, as MacMaster
believed, even his personal ethics, had to the last been colored by
the trend of his early training.  There was in him alike the
freshness and spontaneity, the frank brutality and the religious
mysticism, which lay well back of the fifteenth century.  In the
Marriage of Phaedra MacMaster found the ultimate expression
of this spirit, the final word as to Treffinger's point of view.

As in all Treffinger's classical subjects, the conception
was wholly medieval.  This Phaedra, just turning from her husband
and maidens to greet her husband's son, giving him her
first fearsome glance from under her half-lifted veil, was no
daughter of Minos.  The daughter of heathenesse and the
early church she was; doomed to torturing visions and scourgings,
and the wrangling of soul with flesh.  The venerable Theseus
might have been victorious Charlemagne, and Phaedra's maidens
belonged rather in the train of Blanche of Castile than at the
Cretan court.  In the earlier studies Hippolytus had been done
with a more pagan suggestion; but in each successive drawing the
glorious figure bad been deflowered of something of its serene
unconsciousness, until, in the canvas under the skylight, he
appeared a very Christian knight.  This male figure, and the face
of Phaedra, painted with such magical preservation of tone under
the heavy shadow of the veil, were plainly Treffinger's highest
achievements of craftsmanship.  By what labor he had reached the
seemingly inevitable composition of the picture--with its twenty
figures, its plenitude of light and air, its restful distances
seen through white porticoes--countless studies bore witness.

From James's attitude toward the picture MacMaster could
well conjecture what the painter's had been.  This picture was
always uppermost in James's mind; its custodianship formed, in
his eyes, his occupation.  He was manifestly apprehensive when
visitors--not many came nowadays--lingered near it.  "It was the
Marriage as killed 'im," he would often say, "and for the
matter 'o that, it did like to 'av been the death of all of us."

By the end of his second week in London MacMaster had begun the
notes for his study of Hugh Treffinger and his work.  When his
researches led him occasionally to visit the studios of
Treffinger's friends and erstwhile disciples, he found their
Treffinger manner fading as the ring of Treffinger's personality
died out in them.  One by one they were stealing back into the
fold of national British art; the hand that had wound them up was
still.  MacMaster despaired of them and confined himself more and
more exclusively to the studio, to such of Treffinger's letters
as were available--they were for the most part singularly negative
and colorless--and to his interrogation of Treffinger's man.

He could not himself have traced the successive steps
by which he was gradually admitted into James's confidence. 
Certainly most of his adroit strategies to that end failed
humiliatingly, and whatever it was that built up an understanding
between them must have been instinctive and intuitive on both
sides.  When at last James became anecdotal, personal, there was
that in every word he let fall which put breath and blood into
MacMaster's book.  James had so long been steeped in that
penetrating personality that he fairly exuded it.  Many of his
very phrases, mannerisms, and opinions were impressions that he
had taken on like wet plaster in his daily contact with
Treffinger.  Inwardly he was lined with cast-off epitheliums, as
outwardly he was clad in the painter's discarded coats.  If the
painter's letters were formal and perfunctory, if his expressions
to his friends had been extravagant, contradictory, and often
apparently insincere--still, MacMaster felt himself not entirely
without authentic sources.  It was James who possessed
Treffinger's legend; it was with James that he had laid aside his
pose.  Only in his studio, alone, and face to face with his work,
as it seemed, had the man invariably been himself.  James had
known him in the one attitude in which he was entirely honest;
their relation had fallen well within the painter's only
indubitable integrity.  James's report of Treffinger was
distorted by no hallucination of artistic insight, colored by no
interpretation of his own.  He merely held what he had heard and
seen; his mind was a sort of camera obscura.  His very
limitations made him the more literal and minutely accurate.

One morning, when MacMaster was seated before the Marriage
of Phaedra, James entered on his usual round of dusting.

"I've 'eard from Lydy Elling by the post, sir," he remarked,
"an' she's give h'orders to 'ave the 'ouse put in readiness.  I
doubt she'll be 'ere by Thursday or Friday next."

"She spends most of her time abroad?" queried MacMaster; on
the subject of Lady Treffinger James consistently maintained a
very delicate reserve.

"Well, you could 'ardly say she does that, sir.  She finds
the 'ouse a bit dull, I daresay, so durin' the season she stops
mostly with Lydy Mary Percy, at Grosvenor Square.  Lydy
Mary's a h'only sister."  After a few moments he continued,
speaking in jerks governed by the rigor of his dusting: "H'only
this morning I come upon this scarfpin," exhibiting a very
striking instance of that article, "an' I recalled as 'ow Sir
'Ugh give it me when 'e was acourting of Lydy Elling.  Blowed if
I ever see a man go in for a 'oman like 'im!  'E was that gone,
sir.  'E never went in on anythink so 'ard before nor since,
till 'e went in on the Marriage there--though 'e mostly
went in on things pretty keen; 'ad the measles when 'e was
thirty, strong as cholera, an' come close to dyin' of 'em. 
'E wasn't strong for Lydy Elling's set; they was a bit too stiff
for 'im.  A free an' easy gentleman, 'e was; 'e liked 'is dinner
with a few friends an' them jolly, but 'e wasn't much on what you
might call big affairs.  But once 'e went in for Lydy Elling 'e
broke 'imself to new paces; He give away 'is rings an' pins, an'
the tylor's man an' the 'aberdasher's man was at 'is rooms
continual.  'E got 'imself put up for a club in Piccadilly; 'e
starved 'imself thin, an' worrited 'imself white, an' ironed
'imself out, an' drawed 'imself tight as a bow string.  It was a
good job 'e come a winner, or I don't know w'at'd 'a been to
pay."

The next week, in consequence of an invitation from Lady
Ellen Treffinger, MacMaster went one afternoon to take tea with
her.  He was shown into the garden that lay between the residence
and the studio, where the tea table was set under a gnarled pear
tree.  Lady Ellen rose as he approached--he was astonished to
note how tall she was-and greeted him graciously, saying that she
already knew him through her sister.  MacMaster felt a certain
satisfaction in her; in her reassuring poise and repose, in the
charming modulations of her voice and the indolent reserve of her
full, almond eyes.  He was even delighted to find her face so
inscrutable, though it chilled his own warmth and made the open
frankness he had wished to permit himself impossible.  It was a
long face, narrow at the chin, very delicately featured, yet
steeled by an impassive mask of self-control.  It was behind just
such finely cut, close-sealed faces, MacMaster reflected, that
nature sometimes hid astonishing secrets.  But in spite of this
suggestion of hardness he felt that the unerring taste that
Treffinger had always shown in larger matters had not deserted
him when he came to the choosing of a wife, and he admitted that
he could not himself have selected a woman who looked more as
Treffinger's wife should look.

While he was explaining the purpose of his frequent visits
to the studio she heard him with courteous interest.  "I have
read, I think, everything that has been published on Sir Hugh
Treffinger's work, and it seems to me that there is much left to
be said," he concluded.

"I believe they are rather inadequate," she remarked vaguely.  She
hesitated a moment, absently fingering the ribbons of her gown,
then continued, without raising her eyes; "I hope you will not
think me too exacting if I ask to see the proofs of such chapters
of your work as have to do with Sir Hugh's personal life.  I have
always asked that privilege."

MacMaster hastily assured her as to this, adding, "I mean to touch
on only such facts in his personal life as have to do directly with
his work--such as his monkish education under Ghillini."

"I see your meaning, I think," said Lady Ellen, looking at
him with wide, uncomprehending eyes.

When MacMaster stopped at the studio on leaving the house he
stood for some time before Treffinger's one portrait of himself,
that brigand of a picture, with its full throat and square head;
the short upper lip blackened by the close-clipped mustache, the
wiry hair tossed down over the forehead, the strong white teeth
set hard on a short pipestem.  He could well understand what
manifold tortures the mere grain of the man's strong red and
brown flesh might have inflicted upon a woman like Lady Ellen. 
He could conjecture, too, Treffinger's impotent revolt against
that very repose which had so dazzled him when it first defied
his daring; and how once possessed of it, his first instinct had
been to crush it, since he could not melt it.

Toward the close of the season Lady Ellen Treffinger left
town.  MacMaster's work was progressing rapidly, and he and James
wore away the days in their peculiar relation, which by this time
had much of friendliness.  Excepting for the regular visits of a
Jewish picture dealer, there were few intrusions upon their
solitude.  Occasionally a party of Americans rang at the
little door in the garden wall, but usually they departed speedily
for the Moorish hall and tinkling fountain of the great show
studio of London, not far away.

This Jew, an Austrian by birth, who had a large business in
Melbourne, Australia, was a man of considerable discrimination,
and at once selected the Marriage of Phaedra as the object
of his especial interest.  When, upon his first visit, Lichtenstein
had declared the picture one of the things done for time, MacMaster
had rather warmed toward him and had talked to him very freely. 
Later, however, the man's repulsive personality and innate
vulgarity so wore upon him that, the more genuine the Jew's
appreciation, the more he resented it and the more base he somehow
felt it to be.  It annoyed him to see Lichtenstein walking up and
down before the picture, shaking his head and blinking his watery
eyes over his nose glasses, ejaculating: "Dot is a chem, a chem! 
It is wordt to gome den dousant miles for such a bainting, eh?  To
make Eurobe abbreciate such a work of ardt it is necessary to take
it away while she is napping.  She has never abbreciated until she
has lost, but," knowingly, "she will buy back."

James had, from the first, felt such a distrust of the man
that he would never leave him alone in the studio for a moment. 
When Lichtenstein insisted upon having Lady Ellen Treffinger's
address James rose to the point of insolence.  "It ayn't no use
to give it, noway.  Lydy Treffinger never has nothink to do with
dealers."  MacMaster quietly repented his rash confidences,
fearing that he might indirectly cause Lady Ellen annoyance from
this merciless speculator, and he recalled with chagrin that
Lichtenstein had extorted from him, little by little, pretty much
the entire plan of his book, and especially the place in it which
the Marriage of Phaedra was to occupy.

By this time the first chapters of MacMaster's book were in
the hands of his publisher, and his visits to the studio were
necessarily less frequent.  The greater part of his time was now
employed with the engravers who were to reproduce such of
Treffinger's pictures as he intended to use as illustrations.

He returned to his hotel late one evening after a long
and vexing day at the engravers to find James in his room, seated
on his steamer trunk by the window, with the outline of a great
square draped in sheets resting against his knee.

"Why, James, what's up?" he cried in astonishment, glancing
inquiringly at the sheeted object.

"Ayn't you seen the pypers, sir?" jerked out the man.

"No, now I think of it, I haven't even looked at a paper.  I've
been at the engravers' plant all day.  I haven't seen anything."

James drew a copy of the Times from his pocket and handed it
to him, pointing with a tragic finger to a paragraph in the
social column.  It was merely the announcement of Lady Ellen
Treffinger's engagement to Captain Alexander Gresham.

"Well, what of it, my man?  That surely is her privilege."

James took the paper, turned to another page, and silently pointed
to a paragraph in the art notes which stated that Lady Treffinger
had presented to the X--gallery the entire collection of paintings
and sketches now in her late husband's studio, with the exception
of his unfinished picture, the Marriage Of Phaedra, which
she had sold for a large sum to an Australian dealer who had come
to London purposely to secure some of Treffinger's paintings.

MacMaster pursed up his lips and sat down, his overcoat
still on.  "Well, James, this is something of a--something of a
jolt, eh?  It never occurred to me she'd really do it."

"Lord, you don't know 'er, sir," said James bitterly, still
staring at the floor in an attitude of abandoned dejection.

MacMaster started up in a flash of enlightenment, "What on
earth have you got there, James?  It's not-surely it's not--"

Yes, it is, sir," broke in the man excitedly.  "It's the
Marriage itself.  It ayn't agoing to H'Australia, no'ow!"

"But man, what are you going to do with it?  It's
Lichtenstein's property now, as it seems."

It ayn't, sir, that it ayn't.  No, by Gawd, it ayn't!"
shouted James, breaking into a choking fury.  He controlled
himself with an effort and added supplicatingly: "Oh, sir, you
ayn't agoing to see it go to H'Australia, w'ere they send
convic's?"  He unpinned and flung aside the sheets as though to
let Phaedra plead for herself.

MacMaster sat down again and looked sadly at the doomed
masterpiece.  The notion of James having carried it across London
that night rather appealed to his fancy.  There was certainly a
flavor about such a highhanded proceeding.  "However did you get
it here?" he queried.

"I got a four-wheeler and come over direct, sir.  Good job I
'appened to 'ave the chaynge about me."

"You came up High Street, up Piccadilly, through the
Haymarket and Trafalgar Square, and into the Strand?" queried
MacMaster with a relish.

"Yes, sir.  Of course, sir, " assented James with surprise.

MacMaster laughed delightedly.  "It was a beautiful idea,
James, but I'm afraid we can't carry it any further."

"I was thinkin' as 'ow it would be a rare chance to get you to take
the Marriage over to Paris for a year or two, sir, until the
thing blows over?" suggested James blandly.

"I'm afraid that's out of the question, James.  I haven't
the right stuff in me for a pirate, or even a vulgar smuggler,
I'm afraid."  MacMaster found it surprisingly difficult to say
this, and he busied himself with the lamp as he said it. He heard
James's hand fall heavily on the trunk top, and he discovered
that he very much disliked sinking in the man's estimation.

"Well, sir," remarked James in a more formal tone, after a
protracted silence; "then there's nothink for it but as 'ow I'll
'ave to make way with it myself."

"And how about your character, James?  The evidence would be
heavy against you, and even if Lady Treffinger didn't prosecute
you'd be done for."

"Blow my character!--your pardon, sir," cried James, starting to
his feet.  "W'at do I want of a character?  I'll chuck the 'ole
thing, and damned lively, too.  The shop's to be sold out, an' my
place is gone any'ow.  I'm agoing to enlist, or try the gold
fields.  I've lived too long with h'artists; I'd never give
satisfaction in livery now.  You know 'ow it is yourself, sir;
there ayn't no life like it, no'ow."

For a moment MacMaster was almost equal to abetting James in
his theft.  He reflected that pictures had been whitewashed, or
hidden in the crypts of churches, or under the floors of palaces
from meaner motives, and to save them from a fate less
ignominious.  But presently, with a sigh, he shook his head.

"No, James, it won't do at all.  It has been tried over and
over again, ever since the world has been agoing and pictures
amaking.  It was tried in Florence and in Venice, but the
pictures were always carried away in the end.  You see, the
difficulty is that although Treffinger told you what was not to
be done with the picture, he did not say definitely what was to
be done with it.  Do you think Lady Treffinger really understands
that he did not want it to be sold?"

"Well, sir, it was like this, sir," said James, resuming his seat
on the trunk and again resting the picture against his knee.  "My
memory is as clear as glass about it.  After Sir 'Ugh got up from
'is first stroke, 'e took a fresh start at the Marriage. 
Before that 'e 'ad been working at it only at night for a while
back; the Legend was the big picture then, an' was under the
north light w'ere 'e worked of a morning.  But one day 'e bid me
take the Legend down an' put the Marriage in its
place, an' 'e says, dashin' on 'is jacket, 'Jymes, this is a start
for the finish, this time.'

"From that on 'e worked at the night picture in the mornin'--a
thing contrary to 'is custom.  The Marriage went wrong, and
wrong--an' Sir 'Ugh agettin' seedier an' seedier every day.  'E
tried models an' models, an' smudged an' pynted out on account of
'er face goin' wrong in the shadow.  Sometimes 'e layed it on the
colors, an' swore at me an' things in general.  He got that
discouraged about 'imself that on 'is low days 'e used to say to
me: 'Jymes, remember one thing; if anythink 'appens to me, the
Marriage is not to go out of 'ere unfinished.  It's worth
the lot of 'em, my boy, an' it's not agoing to go shabby for lack
of pains.' 'E said things to that effect repeated.

"He was workin' at the picture the last day, before 'e went
to 'is club.  'E kept the carriage waitin' near an hour while 'e
put on a stroke an' then drawed back for to look at it, an' then
put on another, careful like.  After 'e 'ad 'is gloves on,
'e come back an' took away the brushes I was startin' to clean, an'
put in another touch or two.  'It's acomin', Jymes,' 'e says, 'by
gad if it ayn't.' An' with that 'e goes out.  It was cruel sudden,
w'at come after.

"That night I was lookin' to 'is clothes at the 'ouse when
they brought 'im 'ome.  He was conscious, but w'en I ran
downstairs for to 'elp lift 'im up, I knowed 'e was a finished
man.  After we got 'im into bed 'e kept lookin' restless at me
and then at Lydy Elling and ajerkin' of 'is 'and.  Finally 'e
quite raised it an' shot 'is thumb out toward the wall.  'He
wants water; ring, Jymes,' says Lydy Elling, placid.  But I
knowed 'e was pointin' to the shop.

"'Lydy Treffinger,' says I, bold, 'he's pointin' to the studio.  He
means about the Marriage; 'e told me today as 'ow 'e never
wanted it sold unfinished.  Is that it, Sir 'Ugh?'

"He smiled an' nodded slight an' closed 'is eyes.  'Thank
you, Jymes,' says Lydy Elling, placid.  Then 'e opened 'is eyes
an' looked long and 'ard at Lydy Elling.

"'Of course I'll try to do as you'd wish about the picture,
'Ugh, if that's w'at's troublin' you,' she says quiet.  With that
'e closed 'is eyes and 'e never opened 'em.  He died unconscious
at four that mornin'.

"You see, sir, Lydy Elling was always cruel 'ard on the
Marriage.  From the first it went wrong, an' Sir 'Ugh was
out of temper pretty constant.  She came into the studio one day
and looked at the picture an 'asked 'im why 'e didn't throw it up
an' quit aworriting 'imself.  He answered sharp, an' with that she
said as 'ow she didn't see w'at there was to make such a row
about, no'ow.  She spoke 'er mind about that picture, free; an'
Sir 'Ugh swore 'ot an' let a 'andful of brushes fly at 'is study,
an' Lydy Elling picked up 'er skirts careful an' chill, an'
drifted out of the studio with 'er eyes calm and 'er chin 'igh. 
If there was one thing Lydy Elling 'ad no comprehension of, it
was the usefulness of swearin'.  So the Marriage was a sore
thing between 'em.  She is uncommon calm, but uncommon bitter, is
Lydy Elling.  She's never come anear the studio since that day she
went out 'oldin' up of 'er skirts.  W'en 'er friends goes over she
excuses 'erself along o' the strain.  Strain--Gawd!"  James ground
his wrath short in his teeth.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, James, and it's our only hope.  I'll
see Lady Ellen tomorrow.  The Times says she returned today.
You take the picture back to its place, and I'll do what I can
for it.  If anything is done to save it, it must be done through
Lady Ellen Treffinger herself, that much is clear.  I can't think
that she fully understands the situation.  If she did, you know,
she really couldn't have any motive--" He stopped suddenly. 
Somehow, in the dusky lamplight, her small, close-sealed face
came ominously back to him.  He rubbed his forehead and knitted
his brows thoughtfully.  After a moment he shook his head and
went on: "I am positive that nothing can be gained by highhanded
methods, James.  Captain Gresham is one of the most popular men
in London, and his friends would tear up Treffinger's bones if he
were annoyed by any scandal of our making--and this scheme you
propose would inevitably result in scandal.  Lady Ellen has, of
course, every legal right to sell the picture.  Treffinger made
considerable inroads upon her estate, and, as she is about to
marry a man without income, she doubtless feels that she has a
right to replenish her patrimony."

He found James amenable, though doggedly skeptical.  He went
down into the street, called a carriage, and saw James and his
burden into it.  Standing in the doorway, he watched the carriage
roll away through the drizzling mist, weave in and out among the
wet, black vehicles and darting cab lights, until it was
swallowed up in the glare and confusion of the Strand.  "It is
rather a fine touch of irony," he reflected, "that he, who is so
out of it, should be the one to really care.  Poor Treffinger,"
he murmured as, with a rather spiritless smile, he turned back
into his hotel.  "Poor Treffinger; sic transit gloria."

The next afternoon MacMaster kept his promise.  When he
arrived at Lady Mary Percy's house he saw preparations for a
function of some sort, but he went resolutely up the steps,
telling the footman that his business was urgent.  Lady Ellen
came down alone, excusing her sister.  She was dressed for
receiving, and MacMaster had never seen one so beautiful. 
The color in her cheeks sent a softening glow over her small,
delicately cut features.

MacMaster apologized for his intrusion and came unflinchingly
to the object of his call.  He had come, he said, not only to offer
her his warmest congratulations, but to express his regret that a
great work of art was to leave England.

Lady Treffinger looked at him in wide-eyed astonishment. 
Surely, she said, she had been careful to select the best of the
pictures for the X--- gallery, in accordance with Sir Hugh
Treffinger's wishes.

"And did he--pardon me, Lady Treffinger, but in mercy set my
mind at rest--did he or did he not express any definite wish
concerning this one picture, which to me seems worth all the
others, unfinished as it is?"

Lady Treffinger paled perceptibly, but it was not the pallor
of confusion.  When she spoke there was a sharp tremor in her
smooth voice, the edge of a resentment that tore her like pain. 
"I think his man has some such impression, but I believe it to be
utterly unfounded.  I cannot find that he ever expressed any wish
concerning the disposition of the picture to any of his friends. 
Unfortunately, Sir Hugh was not always discreet in his remarks to
his servants."

"Captain Gresham, Lady Ellingham, and Miss Ellingham,"
announced a servant, appearing at the door.

There was a murmur in the hall, and MacMaster greeted the
smiling Captain and his aunt as he bowed himself out.

To all intents and purposes the Marriage of Phaedra was
already entombed in a vague continent in the Pacific, somewhere
on the other side of the world.




A Wagner Matinee

I received one morning a letter, written in pale ink on
glassy, blue-lined notepaper, and bearing the postmark of a
little Nebraska village.  This communication, worn and rubbed,
looking as though it had been carried for some days in a coat
pocket that was none too clean, was from my Uncle Howard and
informed me that his wife had been left a small legacy by a
bachelor relative who had recently died, and that it would be
necessary for her to go to Boston to attend to the settling of
the estate.  He requested me to meet her at the station and
render her whatever services might be necessary.  On examining
the date indicated as that of her arrival I found it no later
than tomorrow.  He had characteristically delayed writing until,
had I been away from home for a day, I must have missed the good
woman altogether.

The name of my Aunt Georgiana called up not alone her own
figure, at once pathetic and grotesque, but opened before my feet
a gulf of recollection so wide and deep that, as the letter
dropped from my hand, I felt suddenly a stranger to all the
present conditions of my existence, wholly ill at ease and out of
place amid the familiar surroundings of my study.  I became, in
short, the gangling farm boy my aunt had known, scourged with
chilblains and bashfulness, my hands cracked and sore from the
corn husking.  I felt the knuckles of my thumb tentatively, as
though they were raw again.  I sat again before her parlor organ,
fumbling the scales with my stiff, red hands, while she, beside
me, made canvas mittens for the huskers.

The next morning, after preparing my landlady somewhat, I
set out for the station.  When the train arrived I had some
difficulty in finding my aunt.  She was the last of
the passengers to alight, and it was not until I got her into the
carriage that she seemed really to recognize me.  She had come
all the way in a day coach; her linen duster had become black
with soot, and her black bonnet gray with dust, during the
journey.  When we arrived at my boardinghouse the landlady put
her to bed at once and I did not see her again until the next
morning.

Whatever shock Mrs. Springer experienced at my aunt's
appearance she considerately concealed.  As for myself, I saw my
aunt's misshapen figure with that feeling of awe and respect with
which we behold explorers who have left their ears and fingers
north of Franz Josef Land, or their health somewhere along the
Upper Congo.  My Aunt Georgiana had been a music teacher at the
Boston Conservatory, somewhere back in the latter sixties.  One
summer, while visiting in the little village among the Green
Mountains where her ancestors had dwelt for generations, she had
kindled the callow fancy of the most idle and shiftless of all
the village lads, and had conceived for this Howard Carpenter one
of those extravagant passions which a handsome country boy of
twenty-one sometimes inspires in an angular, spectacled woman of
thirty.  When she returned to her duties in Boston, Howard
followed her, and the upshot of this inexplicable infatuation was
that she eloped with him, eluding the reproaches of her family
and the criticisms of her friends by going with him to the
Nebraska frontier.  Carpenter, who, of course, had no money, had
taken a homestead in Red Willow County, fifty miles from the
railroad.  There they had measured off their quarter section
themselves by driving across the prairie in a wagon, to the wheel
of which they had tied a red cotton handkerchief, and counting
off its revolutions.  They built a dugout in the red hillside,
one of those cave dwellings whose inmates so often reverted to
primitive conditions.  Their water they got from the lagoons
where the buffalo drank, and their slender stock of provisions
was always at the mercy of bands of roving Indians.  For thirty
years my aunt had not been further than fifty miles from the
homestead.

But Mrs. Springer knew nothing of all this, and must have
been considerably shocked at what was left of my kinswoman. 
Beneath the soiled linen duster which, on her arrival, was the most
conspicuous feature of her costume, she wore a black stuff dress,
whose ornamentation showed that she had surrendered herself
unquestioningly into the hands of a country dressmaker.  My poor
aunt's figure, however, would have presented astonishing
difficulties to any dressmaker.  Originally stooped, her shoulders
were now almost bent together over her sunken chest.  She wore no
stays, and her gown, which trailed unevenly behind, rose in a sort
of peak over her abdomen.  She wore ill-fitting false teeth, and
her skin was as yellow as a Mongolian's from constant exposure to
a pitiless wind and to the alkaline water which hardens the most
transparent cuticle into a sort of flexible leather.

I owed to this woman most of the good that ever came my way
in my boyhood, and had a reverential affection for her.  During
the years when I was riding herd for my uncle, my aunt, after
cooking the three meals--the first of which was ready at six
o'clock in the morning-and putting the six children to bed, would
often stand until midnight at her ironing board, with me at the
kitchen table beside her, hearing me recite Latin declensions and
conjugations, gently shaking me when my drowsy head sank down
over a page of irregular verbs.  It was to her, at her ironing or
mending, that I read my first Shakespeare', and her old textbook
on mythology was the first that ever came into my empty hands. 
She taught me my scales and exercises, too--on the little parlor
organ, which her husband had bought her after fifteen years,
during which she had not so much as seen any instrument, but an
accordion that belonged to one of the Norwegian farmhands.  She
would sit beside me by the hour, darning and counting while I
struggled with the "Joyous Farmer," but she seldom talked to me
about music, and I understood why.  She was a pious woman; she
had the consolations of religion and, to her at least, her
martyrdom was not wholly sordid.  Once when I had been doggedly
beating out some easy passages from an old score of
Euryanthe I had found among her music books, she came up to
me and, putting her hands over my eyes, gently drew my head back
upon her shoulder, saying tremulously, "Don't love it so well,
Clark, or it may be taken from you.  Oh, dear boy, pray that
whatever your sacrifice may be, it be not that."

When my aunt appeared on the morning after her arrival she
was still in a semi-somnambulant state.  She seemed not to realize
that she was in the city where she had spent her youth, the place
longed for hungrily half a lifetime.  She had been so wretchedly
train-sick throughout the journey that she bad no recollection of
anything but her discomfort, and, to all intents and purposes,
there were but a few hours of nightmare between the farm in Red
Willow County and my study on Newbury Street.  I had planned a
little pleasure for her that afternoon, to repay her for some of
the glorious moments she had given me when we used to milk
together in the straw-thatched cowshed and she, because I was
more than usually tired, or because her husband had spoken
sharply to me, would tell me of the splendid performance of the
Huguenots she had seen in Paris, in her youth.  At two
o'clock the Symphony Orchestra was to give a Wagner program, and I
intended to take my aunt; though, as I conversed with her I grew
doubtful about her enjoyment of it.  Indeed, for her own sake, I
could only wish her taste for such things quite dead, and the
long struggle mercifully ended at last.  I suggested our visiting
the Conservatory and the Common before lunch, but she seemed
altogether too timid to wish to venture out.  She questioned me
absently about various changes in the city, but she was chiefly
concerned that she had forgotten to leave instructions about
feeding half-skimmed milk to a certain weakling calf, "old
Maggie's calf, you know, Clark," she explained, evidently having
forgotten how long I had been away.  She was further troubled
because she had neglected to tell her daughter about the freshly
opened kit of mackerel in the cellar, which would spoil if it
were not used directly.

I asked her whether she had ever heard any of the Wagnerian
operas and found that she had not, though she was perfectly
familiar with their respective situations, and had once possessed
the piano score of The Flying Dutchman.  I began to think it
would have been best to get her back to Red Willow County without
waking her, and regretted having suggested the concert.

From the time we entered the concert hall, however, she was
a trifle less passive and inert, and for the first time seemed to
perceive her surroundings.  I had felt some trepidation lest she
might become aware of the absurdities of her attire, or might
experience some painful embarrassment at stepping suddenly into
the world to which she had been dead for a quarter of a century. 
But, again, I found how superficially I had judged her.  She sat
looking about her with eyes as impersonal, almost as stony, as
those with which the granite Rameses in a museum watches the
froth and fret that ebbs and flows about his pedestal-separated
from it by the lonely stretch of centuries.  I have seen this
same aloofness in old miners who drift into the Brown Hotel at
Denver, their pockets full of bullion, their linen soiled, their
haggard faces unshaven; standing in the thronged corridors as
solitary as though they were still in a frozen camp on the Yukon,
conscious that certain experiences have isolated them from their
fellows by a gulf no haberdasher could bridge.

We sat at the extreme left of the first balcony, facing the
arc of our own and the balcony above us, veritable hanging
gardens, brilliant as tulip beds.  The matinee audience was made
up chiefly of women.  One lost the contour of faces and figures--
indeed, any effect of line whatever-and there was only the color
of bodices past counting, the shimmer of fabrics soft and firm,
silky and sheer: red, mauve, pink, blue, lilac, purple, ecru,
rose, yellow, cream, and white, all the colors that an
impressionist finds in a sunlit landscape, with here and there
the dead shadow of a frock coat.  My Aunt Georgiana regarded them
as though they had been so many daubs of tube-paint on a palette.

When the musicians came out and took their places, she gave
a little stir of anticipation and looked with quickening interest
down over the rail at that invariable grouping, perhaps the first
wholly familiar thing that had greeted her eye since she had left
old Maggie and her weakling calf.  I could feel how all those
details sank into her soul, for I had not forgotten how they had
sunk into mine when.  I came fresh from plowing forever and
forever between green aisles of corn, where, as in a treadmill,
one might walk from daybreak to dusk without perceiving a shadow
of change.  The clean profiles of the musicians, the gloss of
their linen, the dull black of their coats, the beloved shapes of
the instruments, the patches of yellow light thrown by the green-
shaded lamps on the smooth, varnished bellies of the cellos and
the bass viols in the rear, the restless, wind-tossed forest of
fiddle necks and bows-I recalled how, in the first orchestra I
had ever heard, those long bow strokes seemed to draw the heart
out of me, as a conjurer's stick reels out yards of paper ribbon
from a hat.

The first number was the Tannhauser overture.  When the
horns drew out the first strain of the Pilgrim's chorus my Aunt
Georgiana clutched my coat sleeve.  Then it was I first realized
that for her this broke a silence of thirty years; the
inconceivable silence of the plains.  With the battle between the
two motives, with the frenzy of the Venusberg theme and its
ripping of strings, there came to me an overwhelming sense of the
waste and wear we are so powerless to combat; and I saw again the
tall, naked house on the prairie, black and grim as a wooden
fortress; the black pond where I had learned to swim, its margin
pitted with sun-dried cattle tracks; the rain-gullied clay banks
about the naked house, the four dwarf ash seedlings where the
dishcloths were always hung to dry before the kitchen door.  The
world there was the flat world of the ancients; to the east, a
cornfield that stretched to daybreak; to the west, a corral that
reached to sunset; between, the conquests of peace, dearer bought
than those of war.

The overture closed; my aunt released my coat sleeve, but
she said nothing.  She sat staring at the orchestra through a
dullness of thirty years, through the films made little by little
by each of the three hundred and sixty-five days in every one of
them.  What, I wondered, did she get from it?  She had been a good
pianist in her day I knew, and her musical education had been
broader than that of most music teachers of a quarter of a
century ago.  She had often told me of Mozart's operas and
Meyerbeer's, and I could remember hearing her sing, years ago,
certain melodies of Verdi's.  When I had fallen ill with a fever
in her house she used to sit by my cot in the evening--when the
cool, night wind blew in through the faded mosquito netting
tacked over the window, and I lay watching a certain bright star
that burned red above the cornfield--and sing "Home to our
mountains, O, let us return!" in a way fit to break the heart of
a Vermont boy near dead of homesickness already.

I watched her closely through the prelude to Tristan and
Isolde, trying vainly to conjecture what that seething turmoil
of strings and winds might mean to her, but she sat mutely staring
at the violin bows that drove obliquely downward, like the
pelting streaks of rain in a summer shower.  Had this music any
message for her?  Had she enough left to at all comprehend this
power which had kindled the world since she had left it?  I was
in a fever of curiosity, but Aunt Georgiana sat silent upon her
peak in Darien.  She preserved this utter immobility throughout
the number from The Flying Dutchman, though her fingers
worked mechanically upon her black dress, as though, of themselves,
they were recalling the piano score they had once played.  Poor old
hands!  They had been stretched and twisted into mere tentacles to
hold and lift and knead with; the palms unduly swollen, the
fingers bent and knotted--on one of them a thin, worn band that
had once been a wedding ring.  As I pressed and gently quieted
one of those groping hands I remembered with quivering eyelids
their services for me in other days.

Soon after the tenor began the "Prize Song," I heard a quick
drawn breath and turned to my aunt.  Her eyes were closed, but
the tears were glistening on her cheeks, and I think, in a moment
more, they were in my eyes as well.  It never really died, then--
the soul that can suffer so excruciatingly and so interminably;
it withers to the outward eye only; like that strange moss which
can lie on a dusty shelf half a century and yet, if placed in
water, grows green again.  She wept so throughout the development
and elaboration of the melody.

During the intermission before the second half of the concert, I
questioned my aunt and found that the "Prize Song" was not new to
her.  Some years before there had drifted to the farm in Red Willow
County a young German, a tramp cowpuncher, who had sung the chorus
at Bayreuth, when he was a boy, along with the other peasant boys
and girls.  Of a Sunday morning he used to sit on his
gingham-sheeted bed in the hands' bedroom which opened off the
kitchen, cleaning the leather of his boots and saddle, singing the
"Prize Song," while my aunt went about her work in the kitchen. 
She had hovered about him until she had prevailed upon him to join
the country church, though his sole fitness for this step, insofar
as I could gather, lay in his boyish face and his possession of
this divine melody.  Shortly afterward he had gone to town on the
Fourth of July, been drunk for several days, lost his money at a
faro table, ridden a saddled Texan steer on a bet, and disappeared
with a fractured collarbone.  All this my aunt told me huskily,
wanderingly, as though she were talking in the weak lapses of
illness.

"Well, we have come to better things than the old Trovatore
at any rate, Aunt Georgie?" I queried, with a well-meant effort
at jocularity.

Her lip quivered and she hastily put her handkerchief up to
her mouth.  From behind it she murmured, "And you have been
hearing this ever since you left me, Clark?"  Her question was the
gentlest and saddest of reproaches.

The second half of the program consisted of four numbers from the
Ring, and closed with Siegfried's funeral march.  My
aunt wept quietly, but almost continuously, as a shallow vessel
overflows in a rainstorm.  From time to time her dim eyes looked
up at the lights which studded the ceiling, burning softly under
their dull glass globes; doubtless they were stars in truth to
her.  I was still perplexed as to what measure of musical
comprehension was left to her, she who had heard nothing but the
singing of gospel hymns at Methodist services in the square frame
schoolhouse on Section Thirteen for so many years.  I was wholly
unable to gauge how much of it had been dissolved in soapsuds, or
worked into bread, or milked into the bottom of a pail.

The deluge of sound poured on and on; I never knew what she
found in the shining current of it; I never knew how far it bore
her, or past what happy islands.  From the trembling of her face
I could well believe that before the last numbers she had been
carried out where the myriad graves are, into the gray,
nameless burying grounds of the sea; or into some world of death
vaster yet, where, from the beginning of the world, hope has lain
down with hope and dream with dream and, renouncing, slept.

The concert was over; the people filed out of the hall
chattering and laughing, glad to relax and find the living level
again, but my kinswoman made no effort to rise.  The harpist
slipped its green felt cover over his instrument; the flute
players shook the water from their mouthpieces; the men of the
orchestra went out one by one, leaving the stage to the chairs
and music stands, empty as a winter cornfield.

I spoke to my aunt.  She burst into tears and sobbed pleadingly. 
"I don't want to go, Clark, I don't want to go!"

I understood.  For her, just outside the door of the concert
hall, lay the black pond with the cattle-tracked bluffs; the
tall, unpainted house, with weather-curled boards; naked as a
tower, the crook-backed ash seedlings where the dishcloths hung
to dry; the gaunt, molting turkeys picking up refuse about the
kitchen door.




Paul's Case

A Study in Temperament

It was Paul's afternoon to appear before the faculty of the
Pittsburgh High School to account for his various misdemeanors. 
He had been suspended a week ago, and his father had called at
the Principal's office and confessed his perplexity about his
son.  Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling.  His
clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar
of his open overcoat was frayed and worn; but for all that there
was something of the dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in
his neatly knotted black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his
buttonhole.  This latter adornment the faculty somehow felt was
not properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy
under the ban of suspension.

Paul was tall for his age and very thin, with high, cramped
shoulders and a narrow chest.  His eyes were remarkable for a
certain hysterical brilliancy, and he continually used them in a
conscious, theatrical sort of way, peculiarly offensive in a boy. 
The pupils were abnormally large, as though he were addicted to
belladonna, but there was a glassy glitter about them which that
drug does not produce.

When questioned by the Principal as to why he was there Paul
stated, politely enough, that he wanted to come back to school. 
This was a lie, but Paul was quite accustomed to lying; found it,
indeed, indispensable for overcoming friction.  His teachers were
asked to state their respective charges against him, which they
did with such a rancor and aggrievedness as evinced that this was
not a usual case, Disorder and impertinence were among the
offenses named, yet each of his instructors felt that it was
scarcely possible to put into words the real cause of the trouble,
which lay in a sort of hysterically defiant manner of the boy's; in
the contempt which they all knew he felt for them, and which he
seemingly made not the least effort to conceal.  Once, when he
had been making a synopsis of a paragraph at the blackboard, his
English teacher had stepped to his side and attempted to guide
his hand.  Paul had started back with a shudder and thrust his
hands violently behind him.  The astonished woman could scarcely
have been more hurt and embarrassed had he struck at her.  The
insult was so involuntary and definitely personal as to be
unforgettable. in one way and another he had made all his
teachers, men and women alike, conscious of the same feeling of
physical aversion.  In one class he habitually sat with his hand
shading his eyes; in another he always looked out of the window
during the recitation; in another he made a running commentary on
the lecture, with humorous intention.

His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was
symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower,
and they fell upon him without mercy, his English teacher leading
the pack.  He stood through it smiling, his pale lips parted over
his white teeth. (His lips were continually twitching, and be had
a habit of raising his eyebrows that was contemptuous and
irritating to the last degree.) Older boys than Paul had broken
down and shed tears under that baptism of fire, but his set smile
did not once desert him, and his only sign of discomfort was the
nervous trembling of the fingers that toyed with the buttons of
his overcoat, and an occasional jerking of the other hand that
held his hat.  Paul was always smiling, always glancing about
him, seeming to feel that people might be watching him and trying
to detect something.  This conscious expression, since it was as
far as possible from boyish mirthfulness, was usually attributed
to insolence or "smartness."

As the inquisition proceeded one of his instructors repeated
an impertinent remark of the boy's, and the Principal asked him
whether he thought that a courteous speech to have made a
woman.  Paul shrugged his shoulders slightly and his eyebrows
twitched.

"I don't know," he replied.  "I didn't mean to be polite or
impolite, either.  I guess it's a sort of way I have of saying
things regardless."

The Principal, who was a sympathetic man, asked him whether
he didn't think that a way it would be well to get rid of.  Paul
grinned and said he guessed so.  When he was told that he could
go he bowed gracefully and went out.  His bow was but a
repetition of the scandalous red carnation.

His teachers were in despair, and his drawing master voiced
the feeling of them all when he declared there was something
about the boy which none of them understood.  He added: "I don't
really believe that smile of his comes altogether from insolence;
there's something sort of haunted about it.  The boy is not
strong, for one thing.  I happen to know that he was born in
Colorado, only a few months before his mother died out there of a
long illness.  There is something wrong about the fellow."

The drawing master had come to realize that, in looking at
Paul, one saw only his white teeth and the forced animation of
his eyes.  One warm afternoon the boy had gone to sleep at his
drawing board, and his master had noted with amazement what a
white, blue-veined face it was; drawn and wrinkled like an old
man's about the eyes, the lips twitching even in his sleep, and
stiff with a nervous tension that drew them back from his teeth.

His teachers left the building dissatisfied and unhappy;
humiliated to have felt so vindictive toward a mere boy, to have
uttered this feeling in cutting terms, and to have set each other
on, as it were, in the gruesome game of intemperate reproach. 
Some of them remembered having seen a miserable street cat set at
bay by a ring of tormentors.

As for Paul, he ran down the hill whistling the "Soldiers' Chorus"
from Faust, looking wildly behind him now and then to see
whether some of his teachers were not there to writhe under his
lightheartedness.  As it was now late in the afternoon and Paul
was on duty that evening as usher at Carnegie Hall, he decided
that he would not go home to supper.  When he reached the
concert hall the doors were not yet open and, as it was chilly
outside, he decided to go up into the picture gallery--always
deserted at this hour--where there were some of Raffelli's gay
studies of Paris streets and an airy blue Venetian scene or two
that always exhilarated him.  He was delighted to find no one in
the gallery but the old guard, who sat in one corner, a newspaper
on his knee, a black patch over one eye and the other closed.
Paul possessed himself of the peace and walked confidently up and
down, whistling under his breath.  After a while he sat down before
a blue Rico and lost himself.  When he bethought him to look at his
watch, it was after seven o'clock, and he rose with a start and ran
downstairs, making a face at Augustus, peering out from the cast
room, and an evil gesture at the Venus de Milo as he passed her on
the stairway.

When Paul reached the ushers' dressing room half a dozen
boys were there already, and he began excitedly to tumble into
his uniform.  It was one of the few that at all approached
fitting, and Paul thought it very becoming-though he knew that
the tight, straight coat accentuated his narrow chest, about
which he was exceedingly sensitive.  He was always considerably
excited while be dressed, twanging all over to the tuning of the
strings and the preliminary flourishes of the horns in the music
room; but tonight he seemed quite beside himself, and he teased
and plagued the boys until, telling him that he was crazy, they
put him down on the floor and sat on him.

Somewhat calmed by his suppression, Paul dashed out to the
front of the house to seat the early comers.  He was a model
usher; gracious and smiling he ran up and down the aisles;
nothing was too much trouble for him; he carried messages and
brought programs as though it were his greatest pleasure in life,
and all the people in his section thought him a charming boy,
feeling that he remembered and admired them.  As the house
filled, he grew more and more vivacious and animated, and the
color came to his cheeks and lips.  It was very much as though
this were a great reception and Paul were the host. just as the
musicians came out to take their places, his English teacher
arrived with checks for the seats which a prominent
manufacturer had taken for the season.  She betrayed some
embarrassment when she handed Paul the tickets, and a hauteur
which subsequently made her feel very foolish.  Paul was
startled for a moment, and had the feeling of wanting to put her
out; what business had she here among all these fine people and
gay colors?  He looked her over and decided that she was not
appropriately dressed and must be a fool to sit downstairs in
such togs.  The tickets had probably been sent her out of
kindness, he reflected as he put down a seat for her, and she had
about as much right to sit there as he had.

When the symphony began Paul sank into one of the rear seats
with a long sigh of relief, and lost himself as he had done
before the Rico.  It was not that symphonies, as such, meant
anything in particular to Paul, but the first sigh of the
instruments seemed to free some hilarious and potent spirit
within him; something that struggled there like the genie in the
bottle found by the Arab fisherman.  He felt a sudden zest of
life; the lights danced before his eyes and the concert hall
blazed into unimaginable splendor.  When the soprano soloist came
on Paul forgot even the nastiness of his teacher's being there
and gave himself up to the peculiar stimulus such personages
always had for him.  The soloist chanced to be a German woman, by
no means in her first youth, and the mother of many children; but
she wore an elaborate gown and a tiara, and above all she had
that indefinable air of achievement, that world-shine upon her,
which, in Paul's eyes, made her a veritable queen of Romance.

After a concert was over Paul was always irritable and
wretched until he got to sleep, and tonight he was even more than
usually restless.  He had the feeling of not being able to let
down, of its being impossible to give up this delicious
excitement which was the only thing that could be called living
at all.  During the last number he withdrew and, after hastily
changing his clothes in the dressing room, slipped out to the
side door where the soprano's carriage stood.  Here he began
pacing rapidly up and down the walk, waiting to see her come out.

Over yonder, the Schenley, in its vacant stretch, loomed big and
square through the fine rain, the windows of its twelve stories
glowing like those of a lighted cardboard house under a Christmas
tree.  All the actors and singers of the better class stayed there
when they were in the city, and a number of the big manufacturers
of the place lived there in the winter.  Paul had often hung about
the hotel, watching the people go in and out, longing to enter and
leave schoolmasters and dull care behind him forever.

At last the singer came out, accompanied by the conductor, who
helped her into her carriage and closed the door with a cordial
auf wiedersehen which set Paul to wondering whether she
were not an old sweetheart of his.  Paul followed the carriage
over to the hotel, walking so rapidly as not to be far from the
entrance when the singer alighted, and disappeared behind the
swinging glass doors that were opened by a Negro in a tall hat
and a long coat.  In the moment that the door was ajar it seemed
to Paul that he, too, entered.  He seemed to feel himself go
after her up the steps, into the warm, lighted building, into an
exotic, tropical world of shiny, glistening surfaces and basking
ease.  He reflected upon the mysterious dishes that were brought
into the dining room, the green bottles in buckets of ice, as he
had seen them in the supper party pictures of the Sunday
World supplement.  A quick gust of wind brought the rain down
with sudden vehemence, and Paul was startled to find that he was
still outside in the slush of the gravel driveway; that his boots
were letting in the water and his scanty overcoat was clinging wet
about him; that the lights in front of the concert hall were out
and that the rain was driving in sheets between him and the
orange glow of the windows above him.  There it was, what be
wanted--tangibly before him, like the fairy world of a Christmas
pantomime--but mocking spirits stood guard at the doors, and, as
the rain beat in his face, Paul wondered whether he were destined
always to shiver in the black night outside, looking up at it.

He turned and walked reluctantly toward the car tracks.  The
end had to come sometime; his father in his nightclothes at the
top of the stairs, explanations that did not explain, hastily
improvised fictions that were forever tripping him up,
his upstairs room and its horrible yellow wallpaper, the creaking
bureau with the greasy plush collarbox, and over his painted
wooden bed the pictures of George Washington and John Calvin, and
the framed motto, "Feed my Lambs," which had been worked in red
worsted by his mother.

Half an hour later Paul alighted from his car and went
slowly down one of the side streets off the main thoroughfare. 
It was a highly respectable street, where all the houses were
exactly alike, and where businessmen of moderate means begot and
reared large families of children, all of whom went to Sabbath
school and learned the shorter catechism, and were interested in
arithmetic; all of whom were as exactly alike as their homes, and
of a piece with the monotony in which they lived.  Paul never
went up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing.  His home
was next to the house of the Cumberland minister.  He approached
it tonight with the nerveless sense Of defeat, the hopeless
feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness that
he had always had when he came home.  The moment he turned into
Cordelia Street he felt the waters close above his head.  After
each of these orgies of living he experienced all the physical
depression which follows a debauch; the loathing of respectable
beds, of common food, of a house penetrated by kitchen odors; a
shuddering repulsion for the flavorless, colorless mass of
everyday existence; a morbid desire for cool things and soft
lights and fresh flowers.

The nearer he approached the house, the more absolutely
unequal Paul felt to the sight of it all: his ugly sleeping
chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked
mirror, the dripping spiggots; his father, at the top of the
stairs, his hairy legs sticking out from his nightshirt, his feet
thrust into carpet slippers.  He was so much later than usual
that there would certainly be inquiries and reproaches.  Paul
stopped short before the door.  He felt that he could not be
accosted by his father tonight; that he could not toss again on
that miserable bed.  He would not go in.  He would tell his
father that he had no carfare and it was raining so hard he had
gone home with one of the boys and stayed all night.

Meanwhile, he was wet and cold.  He went around to the back
of the house and tried one of the basement windows, found it
open, raised it cautiously, and scrambled down the cellar wall to
the floor.  There he stood, holding his breath, terrified by the
noise he had made, but the floor above him was silent, and there
was no creak on the stairs.  He found a soapbox, and carried it
over to the soft ring of light that streamed from the furnace
door, and sat down.  He was horribly afraid of rats, so he did
not try to sleep, but sat looking distrustfully at the dark,
still terrified lest he might have awakened his father.  In such
reactions, after one of the experiences which made days and
nights out of the dreary blanks of the calendar, when his senses
were deadened, Paul's head was always singularly clear.  Suppose
his father had heard him getting in at the window and had come
down and shot him for a burglar?  Then, again, suppose his father
had come down, pistol in hand, and he had cried out in time to
save himself, and his father had been horrified to think how
nearly he had killed him?  Then, again, suppose a day should come
when his father would remember that night, and wish there had
been no warning cry to stay his hand?  With this last supposition
Paul entertained himself until daybreak.

The following Sunday was fine; the sodden November chill was
broken by the last flash of autumnal summer.  In the morning Paul
had to go to church and Sabbath school, as always.  On seasonable
Sunday afternoons the burghers of Cordelia Street always sat out
on their front stoops and talked to their neighbors on the next
stoop, or called to those across the street in neighborly
fashion.  The men usually sat on gay cushions placed upon the
steps that led down to the sidewalk, while the women, in their
Sunday "waists," sat in rockers on the cramped porches, pretending
to be greatly at their ease.  The children played in the
streets; there were so many of them that the place resembled the
recreation grounds of a kindergarten.  The men on the steps--all
in their shirt sleeves, their vests unbuttoned--sat with their
legs well apart, their stomachs comfortably protruding, and
talked of the prices of things, or told anecdotes of the sagacity
of their various chiefs and overlords.  They occasionally looked
over the multitude of squabbling children, listened
affectionately to their high-pitched, nasal voices, smiling to
see their own proclivities reproduced in their offspring, and
interspersed their legends of the iron kings with remarks about
their sons' progress at school, their grades in arithmetic, and
the amounts they had saved in their toy banks.

On this last Sunday of November Paul sat all the afternoon
on the lowest step of his stoop, staring into the street, while
his sisters, in their rockers, were talking to the minister's
daughters next door about how many shirtwaists they had made in
the last week, and bow many waffles someone had eaten at the last
church supper.  When the weather was warm, and his father was in
a particularly jovial frame of mind, the girls made lemonade,
which was always brought out in a red-glass pitcher, ornamented
with forget-me-nots in blue enamel.  This the girls thought very
fine, and the neighbors always joked about the suspicious color
of the pitcher.

Today Paul's father sat on the top step, talking to a young
man who shifted a restless baby from knee to knee.  He happened
to be the young man who was daily held up to Paul as a model, and
after whom it was his father's dearest hope that he would
pattern.  This young man was of a ruddy complexion, with a
compressed, red mouth, and faded, nearsighted eyes, over which he
wore thick spectacles, with gold bows that curved about his ears. 
He was clerk to one of the magnates of a great steel corporation,
and was looked upon in Cordelia Street as a young man with a
future.  There was a story that, some five years ago--he was now
barely twenty-six--he had been a trifle dissipated, but in order
to curb his appetites and save the loss of time and strength that
a sowing of wild oats might have entailed, he had taken his
chief's advice, oft reiterated to his employees, and at twenty-
one had married the first woman whom he could persuade to share
his fortunes.  She happened to be an angular schoolmistress, much
older than he, who also wore thick glasses, and who had now borne
him four children, all nearsighted, like herself.

The young man was relating how his chief, now cruising in
the Mediterranean, kept in touch with all the details of
the business, arranging his office hours on his yacht just as
though he were at home, and "knocking off work enough to keep two
stenographers busy."  His father told, in turn, the plan his
corporation was considering, of putting in an electric railway
plant in Cairo.  Paul snapped his teeth; he had an awful
apprehension that they might spoil it all before he got there. 
Yet he rather liked to hear these legends of the iron kings that
were told and retold on Sundays and holidays; these stories of
palaces in Venice, yachts on the Mediterranean, and high play at
Monte Carlo appealed to his fancy, and he was interested in the
triumphs of these cash boys who had become famous, though he had
no mind for the cash-boy stage.

After supper was over and he had helped to dry the dishes,
Paul nervously asked his father whether he could go to George's
to get some help in his geometry, and still more nervously asked
for carfare.  This latter request he had to repeat, as his
father, on principle, did not like to hear requests for money,
whether much or little.  He asked Paul whether he could not go to
some boy who lived nearer, and told him that he ought not to
leave his schoolwork until Sunday; but he gave him the dime.  He
was not a poor man, but he had a worthy ambition to come up in
the world.  His only reason for allowing Paul to usher was that
he thought a boy ought to be earning a little.

Paul bounded upstairs, scrubbed the greasy odor of the
dishwater from his hands with the ill-smelling soap he hated, and
then shook over his fingers a few drops of violet water from the
bottle he kept hidden in his drawer.  He left the house with his
geometry conspicuously under his arm, and the moment he got out
of Cordelia Street and boarded a downtown car, he shook off the
lethargy of two deadening days and began to live again.

The leading juvenile of the permanent stock company which played at
one of the downtown theaters was an acquaintance of Paul's, and the
boy had been invited to drop in at the Sunday-night rehearsals
whenever he could.  For more than a year Paul had spent every
available moment loitering about Charley Edwards's dressing room. 
He had won a place among Edwards's following not only because the
young actor, who could not afford to employ a dresser, often found
him useful, but because he recognized in Paul something akin to
what churchmen term "vocation."

It was at the theater and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really
lived; the rest was but a sleep and a forgetting.  This was
Paul's fairy tale, and it had for him all the allurement of a
secret love.  The moment he inhaled the gassy, painty, dusty odor
behind the scenes, he breathed like a prisoner set free, and felt
within him the possibility of doing or saying splendid,
brilliant, poetic things.  The moment the cracked orchestra beat
out the overture from Martha, or jerked at the serenade from
Rigoletto, all stupid and ugly things slid from him, and his
senses were deliciously, yet delicately fired.

Perhaps it was because, in Paul's world, the natural nearly
always wore the guise of ugliness, that a certain element of
artificiality seemed to him necessary in beauty.  Perhaps it was
because his experience of life elsewhere was so full of Sabbath-
school picnics, petty economies, wholesome advice as to how to
succeed in life, and the inescapable odors of cooking, that he
found this existence so alluring, these smartly clad men and
women so attractive, that he was so moved by these starry apple
orchards that bloomed perennially under the limelight.

It would be difficult to put it strongly enough how
convincingly the stage entrance of that theater was for Paul the
actual portal of Romance.  Certainly none of the company ever
suspected it, least of all Charley Edwards.  It was very like the
old stories that used to float about London of fabulously rich
Jews, who had subterranean halls there, with palms, and
fountains, and soft lamps and richly appareled women who never
saw the disenchanting light of London day.  So, in the midst of
that smoke-palled city, enamored of figures and grimy toil, Paul
had his secret temple, his wishing carpet, his bit of blue-and-
white Mediterranean shore bathed in perpetual sunshine.

Several of Paul's teachers had a theory that his imagination
had been perverted by garish fiction, but the truth was that he
scarcely ever read at all.  The books at home were not such as
would either tempt or corrupt a youthful mind, and as for reading
the novels that some of his friends urged upon him--well, he got
what he wanted much more quickly from music; any sort of music,
from an orchestra to a barrel organ.  He needed only the spark, the
indescribable thrill that made his imagination master of his
senses, and he could make plots and pictures enough of his own.  It
was equally true that he was not stagestruck-not, at any rate, in
the usual acceptation of that expression.  He had no desire to
become an actor, any more than he had to become a musician.  He
felt no necessity to do any of these things; what he wanted was
to see, to be in the atmosphere, float on the wave of it, to be
carried out, blue league after blue league, away from everything.

After a night behind the scenes Paul found the schoolroom
more than ever repulsive; the bare floors and naked walls; the
prosy men who never wore frock coats, or violets in their
buttonholes; the women with their dull gowns, shrill voices, and
pitiful seriousness about prepositions that govern the dative. 
He could not bear to have the other pupils think, for a moment,
that he took these people seriously; he must convey to them that
he considered it all trivial, and was there only by way of a
jest, anyway.  He had autographed pictures of all the members of
the stock company which he showed his classmates, telling them
the most incredible stories of his familiarity with these people,
of his acquaintance with the soloists who came to Carnegie Hall,
his suppers with them and the flowers he sent them.  When these
stories lost their effect, and his audience grew listless, he
became desperate and would bid all the boys good-by, announcing
that he was going to travel for a while; going to Naples, to
Venice, to Egypt.  Then, next Monday, he would slip back,
conscious and nervously smiling; his sister was ill, and he
should have to defer his voyage until spring.

Matters went steadily worse with Paul at school.  In the
itch to let his instructors know how heartily he despised them
and their homilies, and how thoroughly he was appreciated
elsewhere, he mentioned once or twice that he had no time to fool
with theorems; adding--with a twitch of the eyebrows and a touch
of that nervous bravado which so perplexed them--that he was
helping the people down at the stock company; they were old
friends of his.

The upshot of the matter was that the Principal went to
Paul's father, and Paul was taken out of school and put to work. 
The manager at Carnegie Hall was told to get another usher in his
stead; the doorkeeper at the theater was warned not to admit him
to the house; and Charley Edwards remorsefully promised the boy's
father not to see him again.

The members of the stock company were vastly amused when
some of Paul's stories reached them--especially the women.  They
were hardworking women, most of them supporting indigent husbands
or brothers, and they laughed rather bitterly at having stirred
the boy to such fervid and florid inventions.  They agreed with
the faculty and with his father that Paul's was a bad case.


The eastbound train was plowing through a January snowstorm;
the dull dawn was beginning to show gray when the engine whistled
a mile out of Newark.  Paul started up from the seat where he had
lain curled in uneasy slumber, rubbed the breath-misted window
glass with his hand, and peered out.  The snow was whirling in
curling eddies above the white bottom lands, and the drifts lay
already deep in the fields and along the fences, while here and
there the long dead grass and dried weed stalks protruded black
above it.  Lights shone from the scattered houses, and a gang of
laborers who stood beside the track waved their lanterns.

Paul had slept very little, and he felt grimy and uncomfortable. 
He had made the all-night journey in a day coach, partly because he
was ashamed, dressed as he was, to go into a Pullman, and partly
because he was afraid of being seen there by some Pittsburgh
businessman, who might have noticed him in Denny & Carson's office. 
When the whistle awoke him, he clutched quickly at his breast
pocket, glancing about him with an uncertain smile.  But the
little, clay-bespattered Italians were still sleeping, the
slatternly women across the aisle were in open-mouthed oblivion,
and even the crumby, crying babies were for the nonce stilled. 
Paul settled back to struggle with his impatience as best he could.

When he arrived at the Jersey City station he hurried through his
breakfast, manifestly ill at ease and keeping a sharp eye about
him.  After he reached the Twenty-third Street station, he
consulted a cabman and had himself driven to a men's-furnishings
establishment that was just opening for the day.  He spent upward
of two hours there, buying with endless reconsidering and great
care.  His new street suit he put on in the fitting room; the frock
coat and dress clothes he had bundled into the cab with his linen. 
Then he drove to a hatter's and a shoe house.  His next errand was
at Tiffany's, where he selected his silver and a new scarf pin.  He
would not wait to have his silver marked, he said.  Lastly, he
stopped at a trunk shop on Broadway and had his purchases packed
into various traveling bags.

It was a little after one o'clock when he drove up to the
Waldorf, and after settling with the cabman, went into the
office.  He registered from Washington; said his mother and
father had been abroad, and that he had come down to await the
arrival of their steamer.  He told his story plausibly and had no
trouble, since he volunteered to pay for them in advance, in
engaging his rooms; a sleeping room, sitting room, and bath.

Not once, but a hundred times, Paul had planned this entry
into New York.  He had gone over every detail of it with Charley
Edwards, and in his scrapbook at home there were pages of
description about New York hotels, cut from the Sunday papers. 
When he was shown to his sitting room on the eighth floor he saw
at a glance that everything was as it should be; there was but
one detail in his mental picture that the place did not realize,
so he rang for the bellboy and sent him down for flowers.  He
moved about nervously until the boy returned, putting away his
new linen and fingering it delightedly as he did so. When the
flowers came he put them hastily into water, and then tumbled
into a hot bath.  Presently he came out of his white bathroom,
resplendent in his new silk underwear, and playing with the
tassels of his red robe.  The snow was whirling so fiercely
outside his windows that he could scarcely see across the street,
but within the air was deliciously soft and fragrant.  He put the
violets and jonquils on the taboret beside the couch, and threw
himself down, with a long sigh, covering himself with a Roman
blanket.  He was thoroughly tired; he had been in such haste, he
had stood up to such a strain, covered so much ground in the last
twenty-four hours, that he wanted to think how it had all come
about.  Lulled by the sound of the wind, the warm air, and the
cool fragrance of the flowers, he sank into deep, drowsy
retrospection.

It had been wonderfully simple; when they had shut him out
of the theater and concert hall, when they had taken away his
bone, the whole thing was virtually determined.  The rest was a
mere matter of opportunity.  The only thing that at all surprised
him was his own courage-for he realized well enough that he had
always been tormented by fear, a sort of apprehensive dread that,
of late years, as the meshes of the lies he had told closed about
him, had been pulling the muscles of his body tighter and
tighter.  Until now he could not remember the time when he had
not been dreading something.  Even when he was a little boy it
was always there--behind him, or before, or on either side. 
There had always been the shadowed corner, the dark place into
which he dared not look, but from which something seemed always
to be watching him--and Paul had done things that were not pretty
to watch, he knew.

But now he had a curious sense of relief, as though he had
at last thrown down the gauntlet to the thing in the corner.

Yet it was but a day since he had been sulking in the
traces; but yesterday afternoon that he had been sent to the bank
with Denny & Carson's deposit, as usual--but this time he was
instructed to leave the book to be balanced.  There was above two
thousand dollars in checks, and nearly a thousand in the bank
notes which he had taken from the book and quietly transferred to
his pocket.  At the bank he had made out a new deposit slip.  His
nerves had been steady enough to permit of his returning to the
office, where he had finished his work and asked for a full day's
holiday tomorrow, Saturday, giving a perfectly reasonable
pretext.  The bankbook, be knew, would not be returned before
Monday or Tuesday, and his father would be out of town for the
next week.  From the time he slipped the bank notes into his
pocket until he boarded the night train for New York, he
had not known a moment's hesitation.  It was not the first time
Paul had steered through treacherous waters.

How astonishingly easy it had all been; here he was, the
thing done; and this time there would be no awakening, no figure
at the top of the stairs.  He watched the snowflakes whirling by
his window until he fell asleep.

When he awoke, it was three o'clock in the afternoon.  He
bounded up with a start; half of one of his precious days gone
already!  He spent more than an hour in dressing, watching every
stage of his toilet carefully in the mirror.  Everything was
quite perfect; he was exactly the kind of boy he had always
wanted to be.

When he went downstairs Paul took a carriage and drove up
Fifth Avenue toward the Park.  The snow had somewhat abated;
carriages and tradesmen's wagons were hurrying soundlessly to and
fro in the winter twilight; boys in woolen mufflers were
shoveling off the doorsteps; the avenue stages made fine spots of
color against the white street.  Here and there on the corners
were stands, with whole flower gardens blooming under glass
cases, against the sides of which the snowflakes stuck and
melted; violets, roses, carnations, lilies of the valley--somehow
vastly more lovely and alluring that they blossomed thus
unnaturally in the snow.  The Park itself was a wonderful stage
winterpiece.

When he returned, the pause of the twilight had ceased and
the tune of the streets had changed.  The snow was falling
faster, lights streamed from the hotels that reared their dozen
stories fearlessly up into the storm, defying the raging Atlantic
winds.  A long, black stream of carriages poured down the avenue,
intersected here and there by other streams, tending
horizontally.  There were a score of cabs about the entrance of
his hotel, and his driver had to wait.  Boys in livery were
running in and out of the awning stretched across the sidewalk,
up and down the red velvet carpet laid from the door to the
street.  Above, about, within it all was the rumble and roar, the
hurry and toss of thousands of human beings as hot for pleasure
as himself, and on every side of him towered the glaring
affirmation of the omnipotence of wealth.

The boy set his teeth and drew his shoulders together in a
spasm of realization; the plot of all dramas, the text of all
romances, the nerve-stuff of all sensations was whirling about
him like the snowflakes.  He burnt like a faggot in a tempest.

When Paul went down to dinner the music of the orchestra
came floating up the elevator shaft to greet him.  His head
whirled as he stepped into the thronged corridor, and he sank
back into one of the chairs against the wall to get his breath. 
The lights, the chatter, the perfumes, the bewildering medley of
color--he had, for a moment, the feeling of not being able to
stand it.  But only for a moment; these were his own people, he
told himself.  He went slowly about the corridors, through the
writing rooms, smoking rooms, reception rooms, as though he were
exploring the chambers of an enchanted palace, built and peopled
for him alone.

When he reached the dining room he sat down at a table near a
window.  The flowers, the white linen, the many-colored
wineglasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of
corks, the undulating repetitions of the Blue Danube from
the orchestra, all flooded Paul's dream with bewildering radiance. 
When the roseate tinge of his champagne was added--that cold,
precious, bubbling stuff that creamed and foamed in his glass--
Paul wondered that there were honest men in the world at all. 
This was what all the world was fighting for, he reflected; this
was what all the struggle was about.  He doubted the reality of
his past.  Had he ever known a place called Cordelia Street, a
place where fagged-looking businessmen got on the early car; mere
rivets in a machine they seemed to Paul,--sickening men, with
combings of children's hair always hanging to their coats, and
the smell of cooking in their clothes.  Cordelia Street--Ah, that
belonged to another time and country; had he not always been
thus, had he not sat here night after night, from as far back as
he could remember, looking pensively over just such shimmering
textures and slowly twirling the stem of a glass like this one
between his thumb and middle finger?  He rather thought he had.

He was not in the least abashed or lonely.  He had no
especial desire to meet or to know any of these people; all
he demanded was the right to look on and conjecture, to watch the
pageant.  The mere stage properties were all he contended for. 
Nor was he lonely later in the evening, in his lodge at the
Metropolitan.  He was now entirely rid of his nervous misgivings,
of his forced aggressiveness, of the imperative desire to show
himself different from his surroundings.  He felt now that his
surroundings explained him.  Nobody questioned the purple; he had
only to wear it passively.  He had only to glance down at his
attire to reassure himself that here it would be impossible for
anyone to humiliate him.

He found it hard to leave his beautiful sitting room to go
to bed that night, and sat long watching the raging storm from
his turret window.  When he went to sleep it was with the lights
turned on in his bedroom; partly because of his old timidity, and
partly so that, if he should wake in the night, there would be no
wretched moment of doubt, no horrible suspicion of yellow
wallpaper, or of Washington and Calvin above his bed.

Sunday morning the city was practically snowbound.  Paul
breakfasted late, and in the afternoon he fell in with a wild San
Francisco boy, a freshman at Yale, who said he had run down for a
"little flyer" over Sunday.  The young man offered to show Paul
the night side of the town, and the two boys went out together
after dinner, not returning to the hotel until seven o'clock the
next morning.  They had started out in the confiding warmth of a
champagne friendship, but their parting in the elevator was
singularly cool.  The freshman pulled himself together to make
his train, and Paul went to bed.  He awoke at two o'clock in the
afternoon, very thirsty and dizzy, and rang for icewater, coffee,
and the Pittsburgh papers.

On the part of the hotel management, Paul excited no suspicion. 
There was this to be said for him, that he wore his spoils with
dignity and in no way made himself conspicuous.  Even under the
glow of his wine he was never boisterous, though he found the stuff
like a magician's wand for wonder-building.  His chief greediness
lay in his ears and eyes, and his excesses were not offensive ones. 
His dearest pleasures were the gray winter twilights in his sitting
room; his quiet enjoyment of his flowers, his clothes, his wide
divan, his cigarette, and his sense of power.  He could not
remember a time when he had felt so at peace with himself.  The
mere release from the necessity of petty lying, lying every day and
every day, restored his self-respect.  He had never lied for
pleasure, even at school; but to be noticed and admired, to assert
his difference from other Cordelia Street boys; and he felt a good
deal more manly, more honest, even, now that he had no need for
boastful pretensions, now that he could, as his actor friends used
to say, "dress the part."  It was characteristic that remorse did
not occur to him.  His golden days went by without a shadow, and he
made each as perfect as he could.

On the eighth day after his arrival in New York he found the whole
affair exploited in the Pittsburgh papers, exploited with a wealth
of detail which indicated that local news of a sensational nature
was at a low ebb.  The firm of Denny & Carson announced that the
boy's father had refunded the full amount of the theft and that
they had no intention of prosecuting.  The Cumberland minister had
been interviewed, and expressed his hope of yet reclaiming the
motherless lad, and his Sabbath-school teacher declared that she
would spare no effort to that end.  The rumor had reached
Pittsburgh that the boy had been seen in a New York hotel, and his
father had gone East to find him and bring him home.

Paul had just come in to dress for dinner; he sank into a
chair, weak to the knees, and clasped his head in his hands.  It
was to be worse than jail, even; the tepid waters of Cordelia
Street were to close over him finally and forever.  The gray
monotony stretched before him in hopeless, unrelieved years;
Sabbath school, Young People's Meeting, the yellow-papered room,
the damp dishtowels; it all rushed back upon him with a sickening
vividness.  He had the old feeling that the orchestra had
suddenly stopped, the sinking sensation that the play was over. 
The sweat broke out on his face, and he sprang to his feet,
looked about him with his white, conscious smile, and winked at
himself in the mirror, With something of the old childish belief
in miracles with which he had so often gone to class, all his
lessons unlearned, Paul dressed and dashed whistling down the
corridor to the elevator.

He had no sooner entered the dining room and caught the
measure of the music than his remembrance was lightened by his
old elastic power of claiming the moment, mounting with it, and
finding it all-sufficient.  The glare and glitter about him, the
mere scenic accessories had again, and for the last time, their
old potency.  He would show himself that he was game, he would
finish the thing splendidly.  He doubted, more than ever, the
existence of Cordelia Street, and for the first time he drank his
wine recklessly.  Was he not, after all, one of those fortunate
beings born to the purple, was he not still himself and in his
own place?  He drummed a nervous accompaniment to the Pagliacci
music and looked about him, telling himself over and over that it
had paid.

He reflected drowsily, to the swell of the music and the
chill sweetness of his wine, that he might have done it more
wisely.  He might have caught an outbound steamer and been well
out of their clutches before now.  But the other side of the
world had seemed too far away and too uncertain then; he could
not have waited for it; his need had been too sharp.  If he had
to choose over again, he would do the same thing tomorrow.  He
looked affectionately about the dining room, now gilded with a
soft mist.  Ah, it had paid indeed!

Paul was awakened next morning by a painful throbbing in his
head and feet.  He had thrown himself across the bed without
undressing, and had slept with his shoes on. His limbs and hands
were lead heavy, and his tongue and throat were parched and
burnt.  There came upon him one of those fateful attacks of
clearheadedness that never occurred except when he was physically
exhausted and his nerves hung loose.  He lay still, closed his
eyes, and let the tide of things wash over him.

His father was in New York; "stopping at some joint or
other," he told himself.  The memory of successive summers on the
front stoop fell upon him like a weight of black water.  He had
not a hundred dollars left; and he knew now, more than ever, that
money was everything, the wall that stood between all he loathed
and all he wanted.  The thing was winding itself up; he
had thought of that on his first glorious day in New York, and
had even provided a way to snap the thread.  It lay on his
dressing table now; he had got it out last night when he came
blindly up from dinner, but the shiny metal hurt his eyes, and he
disliked the looks of it.

He rose and moved about with a painful effort, succumbing now and
again to attacks of nausea.  It was the old depression exaggerated;
all the world had become Cordelia Street.  Yet somehow he was not
afraid of anything, was absolutely calm; perhaps because he had
looked into the dark corner at last and knew.  It was bad enough,
what he saw there, but somehow not so bad as his long fear of it
had been.  He saw everything clearly now.  He had a feeling that he
had made the best of it, that he had lived the sort of life he was
meant to live, and for half an hour he sat staring at the revolver. 
But he told himself that was not the way, so he went downstairs and
took a cab to the ferry.

When Paul arrived in Newark he got off the train and took
another cab, directing the driver to follow the Pennsylvania
tracks out of the town.  The snow lay heavy on the roadways and
had drifted deep in the open fields.  Only here and there the
dead grass or dried weed stalks projected, singularly black,
above it.  Once well into the country, Paul dismissed the
carriage and walked, floundering along the tracks, his mind a
medley of irrelevant things.  He seemed to hold in his brain an
actual picture of everything he had seen that morning.  He
remembered every feature of both his drivers, of the toothless
old woman from whom he had bought the red flowers in his coat,
the agent from whom he had got his ticket, and all of his fellow
passengers on the ferry.  His mind, unable to cope with vital
matters near at hand, worked feverishly and deftly at sorting and
grouping these images.  They made for him a part of the ugliness
of the world, of the ache in his head, and the bitter burning on
his tongue.  He stooped and put a handful of snow into his mouth
as he walked, but that, too, seemed hot.  When he reached a
little hillside, where the tracks ran through a cut some twenty
feet below him, he stopped and sat down.

The carnations in his coat were drooping with the cold, he
noticed, their red glory all over.  It occurred to him that all
the flowers he had seen in the glass cases that first night must
have gone the same way, long before this.  It was only one
splendid breath they had, in spite of their brave mockery at the
winter outside the glass; and it was a losing game in the end, it
seemed, this revolt against the homilies by which the world is
run.  Paul took one of the blossoms carefully from his coat and
scooped a little hole in the snow, where he covered it up.  Then
he dozed awhile, from his weak condition, seemingly insensible to
the cold.

The sound of an approaching train awoke him, and he started
to his feet, remembering only his resolution, and afraid lest he
should be too late.  He stood watching the approaching
locomotive, his teeth chattering, his lips drawn away from them
in a frightened smile; once or twice he glanced nervously
sidewise, as though he were being watched.  When the right moment
came, he jumped.  As he fell, the folly of his haste occurred to
him with merciless clearness, the vastness of what he had left
undone.  There flashed through his brain, clearer than ever
before, the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of Algerian sands.

He felt something strike his chest, and that his body was
being thrown swiftly through the air, on and on, immeasurably far
and fast, while his limbs were gently relaxed.  Then, because the
picture-making mechanism was crushed, the disturbing visions
flashed into black, and Paul dropped back into the immense design
of things.



THE END





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