If this page has been of any value to you, we would appreciate if you help us by spreading the word. Join Fiction Writing Craft on Facebook Join Fiction Writing Craft on Twitter Follow Us

THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1921

AND THE

YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY

EDITED BY

EDWARD J. O'BRIEN

EDITOR OF "THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1915"
"THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1916"
"THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1917"
"THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1918"
"THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1919"
"THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1920"
"THE GREAT MODERN ENGLISH STORIES," ETC


BOSTON
SMALL, MAYNARD & COMPANY
PUBLISHERS


Copyright, 1920, by John T. Frederick, Charles J. Finger, The Dial Publishing Company, Inc., Charles Scribner's Sons, The International Magazine Company, Harper & Brothers, and Smart Set Company, Inc.

Copyright, 1921, by The Boston Transcript Company.

Copyright, 1921, by B.W. Huebsch, The Century Company, John T. Frederick, George H. Doran Company, The Dial Publishing Company, Inc., The Pictorial Review Company, The Curtis Publishing Company, The Crowell Publishing Company, Harper & Brothers, Charles Scribner's Sons, The International Magazine Company, and Smart Set Company, Inc.

Copyright, 1921, by Boni & Liveright, Inc.

Copyright, 1922, by Maxwell Struthers Burt, George H. Doran Co., Lincoln Colcord, Waldo Frank, Katharine Fullerton Gerould, Doubleday, Page & Co., Glasgow, Susan Glaspell Cook, Richard Matthews Hallet, Frances Noyes Hart, Fannie Hurst, Manuel Komroff, Frank Luther Mott, Vincent O'Sullivan, Wilbur Daniel Steele, Harriet Maxon Thayer, Charles Hanson Towne, and Mary Heaton Minor.

Copyright, 1922, by Small, Maynard & Company, Inc.

PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

PRESS OF THE MURRAY PRINTING COMPANY
KENDALL SQUARE, CAMBRIDGE


TO A.E. COPPARD


BY WAY OF ACKNOWLEDGMENT

Grateful acknowledgment for permission to include the stories and other material in this volume is made to the following authors, editors and publishers:

To the Editor of The Century Magazine, the Editor of The Bookman, the Editor of The Dial, the Editor of The Pictorial Review, the Editor of The Saturday Evening Post, the Editor of The American Magazine, the Editor of Scribner's Magazine, the Editor of Good Housekeeping, the Editor of Harper's Magazine, the Editor of The Cosmopolitan, the Editors of The Smart Set, The Editor of The Midland, Boni & Liveright, Inc., George H. Doran Co., B.W. Huebsch, Doubleday, Page & Co., Sherwood Anderson, Konrad Bercovici, Maxwell Struthers Burt, Irvin S. Cobb, Lincoln Colcord, Charles J. Finger, Waldo Frank, Katharine Fullerton Gerould, Ellen Glasgow, Susan Glaspell, Richard Matthews Hallet, Frances Noyes Hart, Fannie Hurst, Manuel Komroff, Frank Luther Mott, Vincent O'Sullivan, Wilbur Daniel Steele, Harriet Maxon Thayer, Charles Hanson Towne, and Mary Heaton Vorse.

Acknowledgments are specially due to The Boston Evening Transcript for permission to reprint the large body of material previously published in its pages.

I shall be grateful to my readers for corrections, and particularly for suggestions leading to the wider usefulness of this annual volume. In particular, I shall welcome the receipt, from authors, editors, and publishers, of stories printed during the period between October, 1921 and September, 1922 inclusive, which have qualities of distinction and yet are not printed in periodicals falling under my regular notice. Such communications may be addressed to me at Forest Hill, Oxfordshire, England.

E.J.O.


CONTENTS[1]

PAGE
Introduction.By the Editorxii
Brothers.By Sherwood Anderson3
(From The Bookman)
Fanutza.By Konrad Bercovici13
(From The Dial)
Experiment.By Maxwell Struthers Burt28
(From The Pictorial Review)
Darkness.By Irvin S. Cobb52
(From The Saturday Evening Post)
An Instrument of The Gods.By Lincoln Colcord82
(From The American Magazine)
The Lizard God.By Charles J. Finger109
(From All's Well)
Under The Dome.By Waldo Frank130
(From The Dial)
French Eva.By Katharine Fullerton Gerould142
(From Scribner's Magazine)
The Past.By Ellen Glasgow168
(From Good Housekeeping)
His Smile.By Susan Glaspell194
(From The Pictorial Review)
The Harbor Master.By Richard Matthews Hallet207
(From Harper's Magazine)
Green Gardens.By Frances Noyes Hart240
(From Scribner's Magazine)
She Walks in Beauty.By Fannie Hurst253
(From The Cosmopolitan)
The Little Master of the Sky.By Manuel Komroff288
(From The Dial)
The Man with the Good Face.By Frank Luther Mott300
(From The Midland)
Master of Fallen Years.By Vincent O'Sullivan321
(From The Smart Set)
The Shame Dance.By Wilbur Daniel Steele337
(From Harper's Magazine)
Kindred.By Harriet Maxon Thayer362
(From The Midland)
Shelby.By Charles Hanson Towne386
(From The Smart Set)
The Wallow of the Sea.By Mary Heaton Vorse401
(From Harper's Magazine)
The Yearbook of the American Short Story, October, 1920, to September, 1921419
Addresses of American and English Magazines Publishing Short Stories421
The Biographical Roll of Honor of American Short Stories424
The Roll of Honor of Foreign Short Stories in American Magazines428
The Best Books of Short Stories: A Critical Summary430
Volumes of Short Stories Published in the United States: An Index437
Volumes of Short Stories Published in England and Ireland Only440
Volumes of Short Stories Published in France442
Articles on the Short Story: An Index443
Index of Short Stories in Books457
I. American Authors458
II. English and Irish Authors461
III. Translations463
Magazine Averages466
Index of Short Stories Published in American Magazines469
I. American Authors471
II. English and Irish Authors500
III. Translations505

[Pg xii]


INTRODUCTION

I was talking the other day to Alfred Coppard, who has steered more successfully than most English story writers away from the Scylla and Charybdis of the modern artist. He told me that he had been reading several new novels and volumes of short stories by contemporary American writers with that awakened interest in the civilization we are framing which is so noticeable among English writers during the past three years. He asked me a remarkable question, and the answer which I gave him suggested certain contrasts which seemed to me of basic importance for us all. He said: "I have been reading books by Sherwood Anderson, Waldo Frank and Ben Hecht and Konrad Bercovici and Joseph Hergesheimer, and I can see that they are important books, but I feel that the essential point to which all this newly awakened literary consciousness is tending has somehow subtly eluded me. American and English writers both use the same language, and so do Scotch and Irish writers, but I am not puzzled when I read Scotch and Irish books as I am when I read these new American books. Why is it?"

I had to think for a moment, and then the obvious answer occurred to me. I told him that I thought the reason for his moderate bewilderment was due to the fact that the Englishman or the Scotchman or the Irishman living at home was writing out of a background of racial memory and established tradition which was very much all of one piece, and that all such an artist's unspoken implications and subtleties could be easily taken for granted by his readers, and more or less thoroughly understood, because they were elements in harmony with a tolerably fixed and ordered world.

I added that this was more or less true of the American[Pg xiii] writer up to a date roughly coinciding with that of the Chicago World's Fair in 1892. During the thirty years more or less which have elapsed since that date, there has been an ever widening seething maelstrom of cross currents thrusting into more and more powerful conflict from year to year the contributory elements brought to a new potential American culture by the dynamic creative energies, physical and spiritual, of many races.

My suggestion to Mr. Coppard was that gradually the Anglo-Saxon, to take the most readily understandable instance, was beginning to absorb large tracts of many other racial fields of memory, and to share the experience of Scandinavian and Russian and German and Italian, of Polish and Irish and African and Asian members of the body politic, and that all these widening tracts of remembered racial experience interacting upon one another under the tremendous pressure of our nervous, keen, and eager industrial civilization had set up a new chaos in many creative minds. I said that Mr. Anderson and the others, half consciously and half unconsciously, were trying to create worlds out of each separate chaos, living dangerously, as Nietzsche advised, and fusing their conceptions at a certain calculated temperature in artistic crucibles of their own devising.

Mr. Coppard said that he quite saw that, but added that the particular meaning in each case more or less escaped him. And then I ventured to suggest that these meanings were more important for Americans at the present stage than for Europeans, because American minds would grasp readily at suggestions that harmonized with their own spiritual pasts, and seize instinctive relations and congruities which had previously escaped them in their experience, and so begin to formulate from these books new intuitive laws. I suggested, moreover, that from the point of view of the great artist these books were all more or less magnificent failures which were creating, little by little, out of the shock of conflict an ultimate harmony, out of which the great book for which we are all waiting in America might come ten years from now, or five years, or even tomorrow.[Pg xiv]

To this he replied that he felt I had supplied the clue which had baffled him, and asked me if I did not discover a chaos of a different sort in English life and literature since the armistice. I agreed that I did discover such a chaos, but that it seemed to me a chaos which was an end rather than a beginning, a chaos in which the Tower of Babel had fallen, and men had come to babble with more and more complete dissociation of ideas, or else, on the other hand, were clinging desperately to such literary and social traditions as had been left, while their work froze into a new Augustanism comparable to that of the early years of the eighteenth century.

Next year, in conjunction with John Cournos, I shall begin in a parallel series of volumes with the present series, to present my annual study of the English case. Meanwhile, for the present, I deal once more with that American chaos in which I have unbounded and ultimate faith. From now on I should like to take as my motto almost the last paragraph written by Walt Whitman before he died: "The Highest said: Don't let us begin so low—isn't our range too coarse—too gross?—The Soul answer'd: No, not when we consider what it is all for—the end involved in Time and Space." Or, as the old Dutch flour-miller put it more briefly: "I never bother myself what road the folks come—I only want good wheat and rye."

To repeat what I have said in these pages in previous years, for the benefit of the reader as yet unacquainted with my standards and principles of selection, I shall point out that I have set myself the task of disengaging the essential human qualities in our contemporary fiction which, when chronicled conscientiously by our literary artists, may fairly be called a criticism of life. I am not at all interested in formulæ, and organized criticism at its best would be nothing more than dead criticism, as all dogmatic interpretation of life is always dead. What has interested me, to the exclusion of other things, is the fresh, living current which flows through the best American work, and the psychological and imaginative reality which American writers have conferred upon it.[Pg xv]

No substance is of importance in fiction, unless it is organic substance, that is to say, substance in which the pulse of life is beating. Inorganic fiction has been our curse in the past, and bids fair to remain so, unless we exercise much greater artistic discrimination than we display at present.

The present record covers the period from October 1920, to September 1921, inclusive. During this period, I have sought to select from the stories published in American magazines those which have rendered life imaginatively in organic substance and artistic form. Substance is something achieved by the artist in every act of creation, rather than something already present, and accordingly a fact or group of facts in a story only attain substantial embodiment when the artist's power of compelling imaginative persuasion transforms them into a living truth. The first test of a short story, therefore, in any qualitative analysis is to report upon how vitally compelling the writer makes his selected facts or incidents. This test may be conveniently called the test of substance.

But a second test is necessary if the story is to take rank above other stories. The true artist will seek to shape this living substance into the most beautiful and satisfying form, by skilful selection and arrangement of his materials, and by the most direct and appealing presentation of it in portrayal and characterization.

The short stories which I have examined in this study, as in previous years, have fallen naturally into four groups. The first consists of those stories which fail, in my opinion, to survive either the test of substance or the test of form. These stories are listed in the year book without comment or a qualifying asterisk. The second group consists of those stories which may fairly claim that they survive either the test of substance or the test of form. Each of these stories may claim to possess either distinction of technique alone, or more frequently, I am glad to say, a persuasive sense of life in them to which a reader responds with some part of his own experience. Stories included in this group are indi[Pg xvi]cated in the yearbook index by a single asterisk prefixed to the title.

The third group, which is composed of stories of still greater distinction, includes such narratives as may lay convincing claim to a second reading, because each of them has survived both tests, the test of substance and the test of form. Stories included in this group are indicated in the yearbook index by two asterisks prefixed to the title.

Finally, I have recorded the names of a small group of stories which possess, I believe, the even finer distinction of uniting genuine substance and artistic form in a closely woven pattern with such sincerity that these stories may fairly claim a position in American literature. If all of these stories by American authors were republished, they would not occupy more space than five novels of average length. My selection of them does not imply the critical belief that they are great stories. A year which produced one great story would be an exceptional one. It is simply to be taken as meaning that I have found the equivalent of five volumes worthy of republication among all the stories published during the period under consideration. These stories are indicated in the yearbook index by three asterisks prefixed to the title, and are listed in the special "Roll of Honor." In compiling these lists I have permitted no personal preference or prejudice to consciously influence my judgment. To the titles of certain stories, however, in the "Rolls of Honor," an asterisk is prefixed, and this asterisk, I must confess, reveals in some measure a personal preference, for which, perhaps, I may be indulged. It is from this final short list that the stories reprinted in this volume have been selected.

It has been a point of honor with me not to republish a story by an English author or by any foreign author. I have also made it a rule not to include more than one story by an individual author in the volume. The general and particular results of my study will be found explained and carefully detailed in the supplementary part of the volume.[Pg xvii]

In past years it has been my pleasure and honor to dedicate the best that I have found in the American magazines as the fruit of my labors to the American artist who, in my opinion, has made the finest imaginative contribution to the short story during the period considered. I take pleasure in recalling the names of Benjamin Rosenblatt, Richard Matthews Hallet, Wilbur Daniel Steele, Arthur Johnson, Anzia Yezierska, and Sherwood Anderson. In my opinion Sherwood Anderson has made this year once more the most permanent contribution to the American short story, but as last year's book is associated with his name, I am happy to dedicate this year's offering to a new and distinguished English artist, A.E. Coppard, to whom the future offers in my opinion a rich harvest of achievement.

EDWARD J. O'BRIEN.

Forest Hill, Oxon, England,
November 23, 1921


[Pg 1]

THE BEST SHORT STORIES OF 1921


[Pg 2]

Note.—The order in which the stories in this volume are printed is not intended as an indication of their comparative excellence; the arrangement is alphabetical by authors.


[Pg 3]

BROTHERS[2]

By SHERWOOD ANDERSON

(From The Bookman)

I am at my house in the country and it is late October. It rains. Back of my house is a forest and in front there is a road and beyond that open fields. The country is one of low hills, flattening suddenly into plains. Some twenty miles away, across the flat country, lies the huge city, Chicago.

On this rainy day the leaves of the trees that line the road before my window are falling like rain, the yellow, red, and golden leaves fall straight down heavily. The rain beats them brutally down. They are denied a last golden flash across the sky. In October leaves should be carried away, out over the plains, in a wind. They should go dancing away.

Yesterday morning I arose at daybreak and went for a walk. There was a heavy fog and I lost myself in it. I went down into the plains and returned to the hills and everywhere the fog was as a wall before me. Out of it trees sprang suddenly, grotesquely, as in a city street late at night people come suddenly out of the darkness into the circle of light under a street lamp. Above there was the light of day forcing itself slowly into the fog. The fog moved slowly. The tops of trees moved slowly. Under the trees the fog was dense, purple. It was like smoke lying in the streets of a factory town.

An old man came up to me in the fog. I know him well. The people here call him insane. "He is a little cracked," they say. He lives alone in a little house buried deep in[Pg 4] the forest and has a small dog he carries always in his arms. On many mornings I have met him walking on the road and he has told me of men and women who were his brothers and sisters, his cousins, aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law. The notion has possession of him. He cannot draw close to people near at hand so he gets hold of a name out of a newspaper and his mind plays with it. One morning he told me he was a cousin to the man named Cox who at the time when I write is a candidate for the presidency. On another morning he told me that Caruso the singer had married a woman who was his sister-in-law. "She is my wife's sister," he said, holding the little dog closely. His gray watery eyes looked appealingly up to me. He wanted me to believe. "My wife was a sweet slim girl," he declared. "We lived together in a big house and in the morning walked about arm in arm. Now her sister has married Caruso the singer. He is of my family now." As some one had told me the old man had never been married I went away wondering.

One morning in early September I came upon him sitting under a tree beside a path near his house. The dog barked at me and then ran and crept into his arms. At that time the Chicago newspapers were filled with the story of a millionaire who had got into trouble with his wife because of an intimacy with an actress. The old man told me the actress was his sister. He is sixty years old and the actress whose story appeared in the newspapers is twenty, but he spoke of their childhood together. "You would not realize it to see us now but we were poor then," he said. "It's true. We lived in a little house on the side of a hill. Once when there was a storm the wind nearly swept our house away. How the wind blew. Our father was a carpenter and he built strong houses for other people but our own house he did not build very strongly." He shook his head sorrowfully. "My sister the actress has got into trouble. Our house is not built very strongly," he said as I went away along the path.

For a month, two months, the Chicago newspapers, that are delivered every morning in our village, have been filled with the story of a murder. A man there has mur[Pg 5]dered his wife and there seems no reason for the deed. The tale runs something like this—

The man, who is now on trial in the courts and will no doubt be hanged, worked in a bicycle factory where he was a foreman, and lived with his wife and his wife's mother in an apartment in Thirty-Second Street. He loved a girl who worked in the office of the factory where he was employed. She came from a town in Iowa and when she first came to the city lived with her aunt who has since died. To the foreman, a heavy stolid-looking man with gray eyes, she seemed the most beautiful woman in the world. Her desk was by a window at an angle of the factory, a sort of wing of the building, and the foreman, down in the shop, had a desk by another window. He sat at his desk making out sheets containing the record of the work done by each man in his department. When he looked up he could see the girl sitting at work at her desk. The notion got into his head that she was peculiarly lovely. He did not think of trying to draw close to her or of winning her love. He looked at her as one might look at a star or across a country of low hills in October when the leaves of the trees are all red and yellow gold. "She is a pure, virginal thing," he thought vaguely. "What can she be thinking about as she sits there by the window at work?"

In fancy the foreman took the girl from Iowa home with him to his apartment in Thirty-Second Street and into the presence of his wife and his mother-in-law. All day in the shop and during the evening at home he carried her figure about with him in his mind. As he stood by a window in his apartment and looked out toward the Illinois Central railroad tracks and beyond the tracks to the lake, the girl was there beside him. Down below women walked in the street and in every woman he saw there was something of the Iowa girl. One woman walked as she did, another made a gesture with her hand that reminded of her. All the women he saw except only his wife and his mother-in-law were like the girl he had taken inside himself.

The two women in his own house puzzled and confused[Pg 6] him. They became suddenly unlovely and commonplace. His wife in particular was like some strange unlovely growth that had attached itself to his body.

In the evening after the day at the factory he went home to his own place and had dinner. He had always been a silent man and when he did not talk no one minded. After dinner he, with his wife, went to a picture show. When they came home his wife's mother sat under an electric light reading. There were two children and his wife expected another. They came into the apartment and sat down. The climb up two flights of stairs had wearied his wife. She sat in a chair beside her mother groaning with weariness.

The mother-in-law was the soul of goodness. She took the place of a servant in the home and got no pay. When her daughter wanted to go to a picture show she waved her hand and smiled. "Go on," she said. "I don't want to go. I'd rather sit here." She got a book and sat reading. The little boy of nine awoke and cried. He wanted to sit on the po-po. The mother-in-law attended to that.

After the man and his wife came home the three people sat in silence for an hour or two before bedtime. The man pretended to read a newspaper. He looked at his hands. Although he had washed them carefully grease from the bicycle frames left dark stains under the nails. He thought of the Iowa girl and of her white quick hands playing over the keys of a typewriter. He felt dirty and uncomfortable.

The girl at the factory knew the foreman had fallen in love with her and the thought excited her a little. Since her aunt's death she had gone to live in a rooming house and had nothing to do in the evening. Although the foreman meant nothing to her she could in a way use him. To her he became a symbol. Sometimes he came into the office and stood for a moment by the door. His large hands were covered with black grease. She looked at him without seeing. In his place in her imagination stood a tall slender young man. Of the foreman she saw only the gray eyes that began to burn with a strange fire.[Pg 7] The eyes expressed eagerness, a humble and devout eagerness. In the presence of a man with such eyes she felt she need not be afraid.

She wanted a lover who would come to her with such a look in his eyes. Occasionally, perhaps once in two weeks, she stayed a little late at the office, pretending to have work that must be finished. Through the window she could see the foreman, waiting. When every one had gone she closed her desk and went into the street. At the same moment the foreman came out at the factory door.

They walked together along the street, a half-dozen blocks, to where she got aboard her car. The factory was in a place called South Chicago and as they went along evening was coming on. The streets were lined with small unpainted frame houses and dirty-faced children ran screaming in the dusty roadway. They crossed over a bridge. Two abandoned coal barges lay rotting in the stream.

He went along by her side walking heavily, striving to conceal his hands. He had scrubbed them carefully before leaving the factory but they seemed to him like heavy dirty pieces of waste matter hanging at his side. Their walking together happened but a few times and during one summer. "It's hot," he said. He never spoke to her of anything but the weather. "It's hot," he said; "I think it may rain."

She dreamed of the lover who would some time come, a tall fair young man, a rich man owning houses and lands. The workingman who walked beside her had nothing to do with her conception of love. She walked with him, stayed at the office until the others had gone to walk unobserved with him, because of his eyes, because of the eager thing in his eyes that was at the same time humble, that bowed down to her. In his presence there was no danger, could be no danger. He would never attempt to approach too closely, to touch her with his hands. She was safe with him.

In his apartment in the evening the man sat under the electric light with his wife and his mother-in-law. In the next room his two children were asleep. In a short[Pg 8] time his wife would have another child. He had been with her to a picture show and presently they would get into bed together.

He would lie awake thinking, would hear the creaking of the springs of a bed from where, in another room, his mother-in-law was crawling under the sheets. Life was too intimate. He would lie awake eager, expectant—expecting what?

Nothing. Presently one of the children would cry. It wanted to get out of bed and sit on the po-po. Nothing strange or unusual or lovely would or could happen. Life was too close, intimate. Nothing that could happen in the apartment could in any way stir him. The things his wife might say, her occasional half-hearted outbursts of passion, the goodness of his stout mother-in-law who did the work of a servant without pay—

He sat in the apartment under the electric light pretending to read a newspaper—thinking. He looked at his hands. They were large, shapeless, a workingman's hands.

The figure of the girl from Iowa walked about the room. With her he went out of the apartment and walked in silence through miles of streets. It was not necessary to say words. He walked with her by a sea, along the crest of a mountain. The night was clear and silent and the stars shone. She also was a star. It was not necessary to say words.

Her eyes were like stars and her lips were like soft hills rising out of dim, star-lit plains. "She is unattainable, she is far off like the stars," he thought. "She is unattainable like the stars but unlike the stars she breathes, she lives, like myself she has being."

One evening, some six weeks ago, the man who worked as foreman in the bicycle factory killed his wife and he is now in the courts being tried for murder. Every day the newspapers are filled with the story. On the evening of the murder he had taken his wife as usual to a picture show and they started home at nine. In Thirty-Second Street, at a corner near their apartment building, the figure of a man darted suddenly out of an alleyway and[Pg 9] then darted back again. That incident may have put the idea of killing his wife into the man's head.

They got to the entrance to the apartment building and stepped into a dark hallway. Then quite suddenly and apparently without thought the man took a knife out of his pocket. "Suppose that man who darted into the alleyway had intended to kill us," he thought. Opening the knife he whirled about and struck his wife. He struck twice, a dozen times—madly. There was a scream and his wife's body fell.

The janitor had neglected to light the gas in the lower hallway. Afterward, the foreman decided that was the reason he did it, that and the fact that the dark slinking figure of a man darted out of an alleyway and then darted back again. "Surely," he told himself, "I could never have done it had the gas been lighted."

He stood in the hallway thinking. His wife was dead and with her had died her unborn child. There was a sound of doors opening in the apartments above. For several minutes nothing happened. His wife and her unborn child were dead—that was all.

He ran upstairs thinking quickly. In the darkness on the lower stairway he had put the knife back into his pocket and, as it turned out later, there was no blood on his hands or on his clothes. The knife he later washed carefully in the bathroom, when the excitement had died down a little. He told everyone the same story. "There has been a holdup," he explained. "A man came slinking out of an alleyway and followed me and my wife home. He followed us into the hallway of the building and there was no light." The janitor had neglected to light the gas. Well there had been a struggle and in the darkness his wife had been killed. He could not tell how it had happened. "There was no light. The janitor had neglected to light the gas," he kept saying.

For a day or two they did not question him specially and he had time to get rid of the knife. He took a long walk and threw it away into the river in South Chicago where the two abandoned coal barges lay rotting under the bridge, the bridge he had crossed when on the summer[Pg 10] evenings he walked to the street car with the girl who was virginal and pure, who was far off and unattainable, like a star and yet not like a star.

And then he was arrested and right away he confessed—told everything. He said he did not know why he had killed his wife and was careful to say nothing of the girl at the office. The newspapers tried to discover the motive for the crime. They are still trying. Some one had seen him on the few evenings when he walked with the girl and she was dragged into the affair and had her picture printed in the paper. That has been annoying for her, as of course she has been able to prove she had nothing to do with the man.


Yesterday morning a heavy fog lay over our village here at the edge of the city and I went for a long walk in the early morning. As I returned out of the lowlands into our hill country I met the old man whose family has so many and such strange ramifications. For a time he walked beside me holding the little dog in his arms. It was cold and the dog whined and shivered. In the fog the old man's face was indistinct. It moved slowly back and forth with the fog banks of the upper air and with the tops of trees. He spoke of the man who has killed his wife and whose name is being shouted in the pages of the city newspapers that come to our village each morning. As he walked beside me he launched into a long tale concerning a life he and his brother, who had now become a murderer, had once lived together. "He is my brother," he said over and over, shaking his head. He seemed afraid I would not believe. There was a fact that must be established. "We were boys together, that man and I," he began again. "You see we played together in a barn back of our father's house. Our father went away to sea in a ship. That is the way our names became confused. You understand that. We have different names but we are brothers. We had the same father. We played together in a barn back of our father's house. All day we lay together in the hay in the barn and it was warm there."[Pg 11]

In the fog the slender body of the old man became like a little gnarled tree. Then it became a thing suspended in air. It swung back and forth like a body hanging on the gallows. The face beseeched me to believe the story the lips were trying to tell. In my mind everything concerning the relationship of men and women became confused, a muddle. The spirit of the man who had killed his wife came into the body of the little old man there by the roadside. It was striving to tell me the story it would never be able to tell in the courtroom in the city, in the presence of the judge. The whole story of mankind's loneliness, of the effort to reach out to unattainable beauty tried to get itself expressed from the lips of a mumbling old man, crazed with loneliness, who stood by the side of a country road on a foggy morning holding a little dog in his arms.

The arms of the old man held the dog so closely that it began to whine with pain. A sort of convulsion shook his body. The soul seemed striving to wrench itself out of the body, to fly away through the fog down across the plain to the city, to the singer, the politician, the millionaire, the murderer, to its brothers, cousins, sisters, down in the city. The intensity of the old man's desire was terrible and in sympathy my body began to tremble. His arms tightened about the body of the little dog so that it screamed with pain. I stepped forward and tore the arms away and the dog fell to the ground and lay whining. No doubt it had been injured. Perhaps ribs had been crushed. The old man stared at the dog lying at his feet as in the hallway of the apartment building the worker from the bicycle factory had stared at his dead wife. "We are brothers," he said again. "We have different names but we are brothers. Our father you understand went off to sea."


I am sitting in my house in the country and it rains. Before my eyes the hills fall suddenly away and there are the flat plains and beyond the plains the city. An hour ago the old man of the house in the forest went past my door and the little dog was not with him. It may be[Pg 12] that as we talked in the fog he crushed the life out of his companion. It may be that the dog like the workman's wife and her unborn child is now dead. The leaves of the trees that line the road before my window are falling like rain—the yellow, red, and golden leaves fall straight down, heavily. The rain beats them brutally down. They are denied a last golden flash across the sky. In October leaves should be carried away, out over the plains, in a wind. They should go dancing away.


[Pg 13]

FANUTZA[3]

By KONRAD BERCOVICI

(From The Dial)

Light and soft, as though the wind were blowing the dust off the silver clouds that floated overhead, the first snow was falling over the barren lands stretching between the Danube and the Black Sea. A lowland wind, which had already hardened and tightened the marshes, was blowing the snow skywards. The fine silvery dust, caught between the two air currents, danced lustily, blown hither and thither until it took hold of folds and rifts in the frozen land and began to form rugged white ridges that stretched in soft silvery curves to meet other growing mountains of snow. The lowland wind, at first a mere breeze playfully teasing the north wind, like a child that kicks the bed-sheets before falling asleep, increased its force and swiftness, and scattered huge mountains of snow, but the steadily rising drone of the north wind soon mastered the situation. Like silver grain strewn by an unseen hand the snow fell obliquely in steady streams over the land. A great calm followed. The long Dobrudgean winter had started. In the dim steady light, in the wake of the great calm, travelling towards the Danube from the Black Sea, the "marea Neagra," four gipsy wagons, each drawn by four small horses, appeared on the frozen plains. The caravan was brought to a standstill within sight of the slowly moving river. The canvas-covered wagons ranged themselves, broadwise, in a straight line with the wind. Between the wagons enough space was allowed to stable the horses. Then, when that part of the business had been done, a dozen men, in furs from[Pg 14] head to toe, quickly threw a canvas that roofed the temporary quarters of the animals and gave an additional overhead protection from the snow and wind to the dwellers of the wheeled homes.

While the unharnessing and quartering of the horses and the stretching of the canvas roof proceeded, a number of youngsters jumped down from the wagons, yelling and screaming with all the power of their lusty lungs. They threw snowballs at one another as they ran, some in search of firewood and others, with wooden pails dangling from ends of curved sticks over the left shoulder, in search of water for the horses and for the cooking pots of their mothers.

Soon afterwards, from little crooked black chimneys that pointed downwards over the roofs of the wagons, thick black smoke told that the fires were already started. The youngsters came back; those with the full water pails marching erectly with legs well apart; the ones with bundles of firewood strapped to their shoulders leaning forward on knotted sticks so as not to fall under the heavy burden.

When everything had been done, Marcu, the tall gray-bearded chief, inspected the work. A few of the ropes needed tightening. He did it himself, shaking his head in disapproval of the way in which it had been done. Then he listened carefully to the blowing of the wind and measured its velocity and intensity. He called to his men. When they had surrounded him, he spoke a few words. With shovels and axes they set energetically to work at his direction, packing a wall of snow and wood from the ground up over the axles of the wheels all around the wagons so as to give greater solidity to the whole and to prevent the cold wind from blowing underneath.

By the time the early night settled over the marshes, the camp was quiet and dark. Even the dogs had curled up near the tired horses and had gone to sleep.

Early the following morning the whole thing could not be distinguished from one of the hundreds of mountains of snow that had formed over night. After the horses had been fed and watered, Marcu, accompanied by his daugh[Pg 15]ter, Fanutza, left the camp and went riverward, in search of the hut of the Tartar whose flat-bottomed boat was moored on the shore. Marcu knew every inch of the ground. He had camped there with his tribe twenty winters in succession. He sometimes arrived before, and at other times after, the first snow of the year. But every time he had gone to Mehmet Ali's hut and asked the Tartar to row him across the Danube, on the old Roumanian side, to buy there fodder for the horses and the men; enough to last until after the river was frozen tight and could be crossed securely with horses and wagon. He had always come alone to Mehmet's hut, therefore, the Tartar, after greeting Marcu and offering to do what his friend desired, inquired why the girl was beside the old chief.

"But this is my daughter, Fanutza, Mehmet Ali," Marcu informed.

"Who, Fanutza? She who was born here fourteen winters ago on the plains here?"

"The same, the same, my friend," Marcu answered as he smilingly appraised his daughter.

Mehmet Ali looked at the girl in frank astonishment at her size and full development; then he said as he took the oars from the corner of the hut: "And I, who thought that my friend had taken a new wife to himself! Allah, Allah! How fast these youngsters grow! And why do you take her along to the Giaour side, to the heathen side, of the river, friend?" he continued talking as he put heavy boots on his feet and measured Fanutza with his eyes as he spoke.

"For everything there is only one right time, say I, Marcu," the chief explained, in measured solemn voice. "And so now is the time for my daughter to get married. I have chosen her a husband from amongst the sons of my men, a husband who will become the chief when I am no longer here to come to your hut at the beginning of every winter. She shall marry him in the spring. I now go with her to the bazaars to buy silks and linens which the women of my tribe will fashion into new clothes for both. And may Allah be good to them."[Pg 16]

"Allah il Allah," Mehmet assured Marcu. "And who is he whom you have chosen from amongst your men?"

"I am old, Mehmet, I would otherwise have chosen a younger man for my daughter; but because I fear that this or the following winter will be the last one, I have chosen Stan, whose orphaned daughter is Fanutza's own age. He is good and true and strong. Young men never make careful chiefs."

"That be right and wise," remarked Mehmet, who was by that time ready for the trip. During the whole conversation the young gipsy girl had been looking to her father when he spoke and sidewise when Mehmet answered.

At fourteen Fanutza was a full-grown woman. Her hair, braided in tresses, was hanging from underneath a black fur cap she wore well over her forehead. Her eyes were large and brown, the long eyebrows were coal black. Her nose was straight and thin and the mouth full and red. Withal she was of a somewhat lighter hue than her father or the rest of the gipsy tribe. Yet there was something of a darker grain than the grain in her people that lurked beneath her skin. And she was light on her feet. Even trudging in the deep snow, she seemed more to float, to skim on top, than to walk.

Unconcerned she had listened to the conversation that had gone on between her father and the Tartar in the hut of the boatman. She had hardly been interested in the whole affair, yet, when Mehmet Ali mentioned casually as soon as he was outdoors that he knew a man who would pay twenty pieces of gold for such a wife as Fanutza was, she became interested in the conversation.

"I sell horses only," Marcu answered quietly.

"Yet my friend and others from his tribe have bought wives. Remember that beautiful Circassian girl?" the Tartar continued without raising or lowering his voice.

"Yes, Mehmet, we buy wives but we don't sell them."

"Which is not fair," Mehmet reflected aloud still in the same voice.

By that time they had reached the river shore. Mehmet, after rolling together the oil cloth that had covered the boat, helped the gipsy chief and his daughter to the stern.[Pg 17] With one strong push of the oar on the shore rock, the Tartar slid his boat a hundred feet towards the middle of the stream. Then he seated himself, face towards his passengers, and rowed steadily without saying a single word. The gipsy chief lit his short pipe and looked over his friend's head, trying to distinguish the other shore from behind the curtain of falling snow. The boat glided slowly over the thickening waters of the Danube. A heavy snowstorm, the heaviest of the year, lashed the river. When Mehmet had finally moored his boat to the Roumanian side of the Danube, he turned around to the gipsy chief and said:

"Be back before sundown. It shall be my last crossing of the year. For when the sun rises the waters will be frozen still. The gale blows from the land of the Russians."

"As you tell me, friend," answered Marcu while helping his daughter out of the boat.

When the two had gone a short distance Fanutza turned her head. Mehmet Ali was leaning on an oar and looking after them. A little later, a hundred paces further, she caught fragments of a Tartar song that reached her ears in spite of the shrill noises of the wind.

Marcu and his daughter entered the inn that stood a few hundred feet from the shore. The innkeeper, an old fat greasy Greek, Chiria Anastasidis, welcomed the gipsy chief. Not knowing the relationship between the old man and the girl, he feared to antagonize his customer by talking to the young woman. He pushed a white pine table near the big stove in the middle of the room and after putting two empty glasses on the table he inquired "White or red?"

"Red wine, Chiria. It warms quicker. I am getting old."

"Old!" exclaimed the Greek as he brought a small pitcher of wine. "Old! Why, Marcu, you are as young as you were twenty years ago."

"This is my daughter, Fanutza, Chiria, and not my wife."

"A fine daughter you have. Your daughter, eh?"

"Yes, and she is about to marry, too."[Pg 18]

After they had clinked glasses and wished one another health and long years the innkeeper inquired:

"All your men healthy?"

"All. Only one-eyed Jancu died. You remember him. He was well along in years."

"Bogdaproste. Let not a younger man than he was die," answered Anastasidis as he crossed himself.

After Marcu had declared himself warmed back to life by the fine wine he inquired of Anastasidis the price of oats and straw and hay. The innkeeper's store and his warehouse contained everything from a needle to an oxcart. The shelves were full of dry goods, socks, shirts, silks, belts, fur caps, coats, and trousers. Overhead, hanging from the ceiling, were heavy leather boots, shoes, saddles, harness of all kinds, fishers' nets, and even a red painted sleigh that swung on heavy chains. In one corner of the store blankets were piled high, while all over the floor were bags of dry beans and peas and corn and oats. At the door were bales of straw and hay, and outside, already half covered with snow, iron ploughs hobnobbed with small anchors, harrows, and bundles of scythes that leaned on the wall.

"Oats you wanted? Oats are very high this year, Marcu."

And the bargaining began. Fanutza sat listlessly on her chair and looked through the window. A few minutes later, the two men called one another thief and swindler and a hundred other names. Yet each time the bargain was concluded on a certain article they shook hands and repeated that they were the best friends on earth.

"Now that we have finished with the oats, Chiria, let's hear your price for corn? What? Three francs a hundred kilo? No. I call off the bargain on the oats. You are the biggest thief this side of the Danube."

"And you, you lowborn Tzigane, are the cheapest swindler on earth."

Quarrelling and shaking hands alternately and drinking wine Marcu and the Greek went on for hours. The gipsy chief had already bought all the food for his men and horses and a few extra blankets and had ordered it all carted to[Pg 19] the moored boat where Mehmet Ali was waiting, when Fanutza reminded her father of the silks and linen he wanted to buy.

"I have not forgotten, daughter, I have not forgotten." Fanutza approached the counter behind which the Greek stood ready to serve his customers.

"Show us some silks," she asked.

He emptied a whole shelf on the counter.

The old gipsy stood aside watching his daughter as she fingered the different pieces of coloured silk, which the shopkeeper praised as he himself touched the goods with thumb and forefinger in keen appreciation of the quality he offered. After she had selected all the colours she wanted and picked out the linen and neckerchiefs and ear-rings and tried on a pair of beautiful patent leather boots that reached over the knees and had stripes of red leather sewed on with yellow silk on the soft vamps, Fanutza declared that she had chosen everything she wanted. The bargaining between the Greek and the gipsy was about to start anew when Marcu looked outdoors thoughtfully, stroked his beard and said to the innkeeper:

"Put away the things my daughter has selected. I shall come again, alone, to bargain for them."

"If my friend fears he has not enough money—" suavely intervened Anastasidis, as he placed a friendly hand on the gipsy's arm.

"When Marcu has no money he does not ask his women to select silk," haughtily interrupted the gipsy. "It will be as I said it will be. I come alone in a day if the river has frozen. In a day or a week. I come alone."

"Shall I, then, not take all these beautiful things along with me, now?" asked Fanutza in a plaintive yet reproachful tone. "There is Marcia who waits to see them. I have selected the same silk basma for her. Have you not promised me, even this morning—?"

"A woman must learn to keep her mouth shut," shouted Marcu as he angrily stamped his right foot on the floor. He looked at his daughter as he had never looked at her before. Only a few hours ago she was his little girl, a[Pg 20] child! He was marrying her off so soon to Stan, although it was the customary age for gipsies, against his desire, but because of his will to see her in good hands and to give to Stan the succession to the leadership of his tribe.

Only a few hours ago! What had brought about the change? Was it in him or in her? That cursed Tartar, Mehmet Ali, with his silly offer of twenty gold pieces! He, he had done it. Marcu looked again at his daughter. Her eyelids trembled nervously and there was a little repressed twitch about her mouth. She returned his glance at first, but lowered her eyes under her father's steady gaze. "Already a shameless creature," thought the old gipsy. But he could not bear to think that way about his little daughter, about his Fanutza. He also feared that she could feel his thoughts. He was ashamed of what passed through his mind. Rapidly enough in self-defense he turned against her the sharp edge of the argument. Why had she given him all those ugly thoughts?

"It will be as I said, Anastasidis. In a day or a week. When the river has frozen, I come alone. And now, Fanutza, we go. Night is coming close behind us. Come, you shall have all your silks."

The Greek accompanied them to the door. The cart that had brought the merchandise to the boat of the waiting Mehmet was returning.

"The water is thickening," the driver greeted the gipsy and his daughter.

They found Mehmet Ali seated in the boat expecting his passengers.

"Have you bought everything you intended?" the Tartar inquired as he slid the oars into the hoops.

"Everything," Marcu answered as he watched his daughter from the corner of an eye.

Vigorously Mehmet Ali rowed till well out into the wide river without saying another word. His manner was so detached that the gipsy chief thought the Tartar had already forgotten what had passed between them in the morning. Sure enough. Why! He was an old man, Mehmet Ali. It was possible he had been commissioned by some Dobrudgean Tartar chief to buy him[Pg 21] a wife. He had been refused and now he was no longer thinking about her. He will look somewhere else, where his offer might not be scorned. That offer of Mehmet had upset him. He had never thought of Fanutza other than as a child. Of course he was marrying her to Stan—but it was more like giving her a second father!

Suddenly the old gipsy looked at the Tartar who had lifted his oars from the water and brought the boat to an abrupt standstill. Mehmet Ali laid the paddles across the width of the boat and looking steadily into the eyes of Marcu, he said:

"As I said this morning, Marcu, it is not fair that you should buy wives from us when you like our women and not sell us yours when we like them."

"It is as it is," countered the gipsy savagely.

"But it is not fair," argued Mehmet, slyly watching every movement of his old friend.

"If Mehmet is tired my arms are strong enough to help if he wishes," remarked Marcu.

"No, I am not tired, but I should like my friend to know that I think it is not fair."

There was a long silence during which the boat was carried downstream although it was kept in the middle of the river by skilful little movements of the boatman.

Fanutza looked at the Tartar. He was about the same age as Stan was. Only he was stronger, taller, broader, swifter. When he chanced to look at her his small bead-like eyes bored through her like gimlets. No man had ever looked at her that way. Stan's eyes were much like her own father's eyes. The Tartar's face was much darker than her own. His nose was flat and his upper lip curled too much noseward and the lower one chinward, and his bulletlike head rose from between the shoulders. There was no neck. No, he was not beautiful to look at. But he was so different from Stan! So different from any of the other men she had seen every day since she was born. Why! Stan—Stan was like her father. They were all like him in her tribe!

"And, as I said," Mehmet continued after a while, "as I said, it is not fair. My friend must see that. It[Pg 22] is not fair. So I offer you twenty gold pieces for the girl. Is it a bargain?"

"She is not for sale," yelled Marcu, understanding too well the meaning of the oars out of the water.

"No?" wondered Mehmet, "not for twenty pieces of gold? Well, then I shall offer five more. Sure twenty-five is more than any of your people ever paid to us for a wife. It would shame my ancestors were I to offer more for a gipsy girl than they ever received for one of our women."

"She is not for sale," roared the gipsy at the top of his voice.

By that time the Tartar knew that Marcu was not armed. He knew the chief too well not to know that a knife or a pistol would have been the answer to his second offer and the implied insult to the race of gipsies.

Twenty-five gold pieces! thought Fanutza. Twenty-five gold pieces offered for her by a Tartar at a second bid. She knew what that meant. She had been raised in the noise of continual bargaining between Tartars and gipsies and Greeks. It meant much less than a quarter of the ultimate sum the Tartar was willing to pay. Would Stan ever have offered that for her? No, surely not. She looked at the Tartar and felt the passion that radiated from him. How lukewarm Stan was! And here was a man. Stopped the boat midstream and bargained for her, fought to possess her. Endangered his life for her. For it was a dangerous thing to do what he did and facing her father. Yet—she will have to marry Stan because her father bids it.

"I don't mean to offend you," the boatman spoke again, "but you are very slow in deciding whether you accept my bargain or not. Night is closing upon us."

Marcu did not answer immediately. The boat was carried downstream very rapidly. They were at least two miles too far down by now. Mehmet looked at Fanutza and found such lively interest in her eyes that he was encouraged to offer another five gold pieces for her.

It was a proud moment for the girl. So men were willing[Pg 23] to pay so much for her! But her heart almost sank when her father pulled out his purse from his pocket and said:

"Mehmet Ali, who is my best friend, has been so good to me these twenty years that I have thought to give him twenty gold pieces that he might buy himself a wife to keep his hut warm during the long winter. What say he to my friendship?"

"That is wonderful! Only now, he is not concerned about that, but about the fairness of his friend who does not want to sell wives to the men whose women he buys. I offer five more gold pieces which makes thirty-five in all. And I do that not for Marcu but for his daughter that she may know that I will not harm her and will for ever keep her well fed and buy her silks and jewels."

"Silks!" It occurred to the gipsy chief to look at his daughter at that moment. She turned her head away from his and looked at the Tartar, from under her brows. How had he known?

"A bargain is a bargain only when two men agree on something, says the Koran," the gipsy chief reminded the Tartar boatman. "I don't want to sell her."

"So we will travel downstream for a while," answered Mehmet Ali and crossed his arms.

After a while the gipsy chief who had reckoned that they must be fully five miles away from his home across the water made a new offer.

"A woman, Mehmet Ali, is a woman. They are all alike after you have known them. So I offer you thirty-five pieces of gold with which you can buy for yourself any other woman you please whenever you want."

Fanutza looked at the Tartar. Though it was getting dark she could see the play of every muscle of his face. Hardly had her father finished making his offer, when Mehmet, after one look at the girl, said:

"I offer fifty gold pieces for the girl. Is it a bargain?"

Fanutza's eyes met the eyes of her father. She looked at him entreatingly, "Don't give in to the Tartar," her eyes spoke clearly, and Marcu refused the offer.

"I offer you fifty instead that you buy yourself another woman than my daughter."[Pg 24]

"No," answered the Tartar, "but I offer sixty for this one, here."

Quick as a flash Fanutza changed the encouraging glance she had thrown to the passionate man to a pleading look towards her father. "Poor, poor girl!" thought Marcu. "How she fears to lose me! How she fears I might accept the money and sell her to the Tartar!"

"A hundred gold pieces to row us across," he yelled, for the night was closing in upon them and the boat was being carried swiftly downstream. There was danger ahead of them. Marcu knew it.

"A hundred gold pieces is a great sum," mused Mehmet, "a great sum! It has taken twenty years of my life to save such a sum—yet, instead of accepting your offer, I will give you the same sum for the woman I want."

"Fool, a woman is only a woman. They are all alike," roared the gipsy.

"Not to me!" answered Mehmet Ali quietly. "I shall not say another word."

"Fool, fool, fool," roared the gipsy as he still tried to catch Fanutza's eye. It was already too dark.

"Not to me." The Tartar's words echoed in the girl's heart. "Not to me." Twenty years he had worked to save such a great sum. And now he refused an equal amount and was willing to pay it all for her. Would Stan have done that? Would anybody else have done that? Why should she be compelled to marry whom her father chose when men were willing to pay a hundred gold pieces for her? The old women of the camp had taught her to cook and to mend and to wash and to weave. She must know all that to be worthy of Stan, they had told her. And here was a man who did not know whether she knew any of these things who staked his life for her and offered a hundred gold pieces in the bargain! Twenty years of savings. Twenty years of work. It was not every day one met such a man. Surely, with one strong push of his arms he could throw her father overboard. He did not do it because he did not want to hurt her feelings. And as the silence continued Fanutza thought her father, too, was a fine man. It was fine of him to offer a hundred gold[Pg 25] pieces for her liberty. That was in itself a great thing. But did he do it only for her sake or wasn't it because of Stan, because of himself? And as she thought again of Mehmet's "Not to me," she remembered the fierce bitterness in her father's voice when he had yelled, "All women are alike." That was not true. If it were true why would Mehmet Ali want her and her only after having seen her only once? Then, too, all men must be alike! It was not so at all! Why! Mehmet Ali was not at all like Stan. And he offered a hundred pieces of gold. No. Stan was of the kind who think all women are alike. That was it. All her people were thinking all women were alike. That was it. Surely all the men in the tribe were alike in that. All her father had ever been to her, his kindness, his love was wiped away when he said those few words. The last few words of Mehmet Ali, "Not to me," were the sweetest music she had ever heard.

Marcu waited until it was dark enough for the Tartar not to see, when pressing significantly his daughter's foot, he said:

"So be it as you said. Row us across."

"It is not one minute too soon," Mehmet answered. "Only a short distance from here, where the river splits in three forks, is a great rock. Shake hands. Here. Now here is one oar. Pull as I count, Bir, icki, outch, dort. Again, Bir, icki, outch, dort. Lift your oar. Pull again. Two counts only. Bir, icki. So, now we row nearer to the shore. See that light there? Row towards it. Good. Marcu, your arm is still strong and steady and you can drive a good bargain."

Again and again the gipsy pressed the foot of his daughter as he bent over the oar. She should know of course that he never intended to keep his end of the bargain. He gave in only when he saw that the Tartar meant to wreck them all on the rocks ahead of them. Why had he, old and experienced as he was, having dealt with those devils of Tartars for so many years, not known better than to return to the boat after he had heard Mehmet say, "It is not fair!" And after he had reflected on the Tartar's words, why, after he had refused to buy[Pg 26] all the silks and linen on that reflection, not a very clear one at first, why had he not told Mehmet to row across alone and deliver the fodder and food. He could have passed the night in Anastasidis' inn and hired another boat the following morning if the river had not frozen meanwhile! He should have known, he who knew these passionate beasts so well. It was all the same with them; whether they set their eyes on a horse that captured their fancy or a woman. They were willing to kill or be killed in the fight for what they wanted. A hundred gold pieces for a woman! Twenty years' work for a woman!

The two men rowed in silence, each one planning how to outwit the other and each one knowing that the other was planning likewise. According to Tartar ethics the bargain was a bargain. When the boat had been pulled out of danger Mehmet hastened to fulfil his end. With one jerk he loosened a heavy belt underneath his coat and pulled out a leather purse which he threw to Marcu. As he did so he met Fanutza's proud eye.

"Here. Count it. Just one hundred."

"That's good enough," the gipsy chief answered as he put the purse in his pocket without even looking at it. "Row, I am cold. I am anxious to be home."

"It will not be before daylight, chief," remarked Mehmet Ali as he bent again over his oars and counted aloud, "Bir, icki, Bir, icki." An hour later, Fanutza had fallen asleep on the bags of fodder and was covered by the heavy fur coat of the Tartar. The two men rowed the whole night upstream against the current in the slushy heavy waters of the Danube. A hundred times floating pieces of ice had bent back the flat of the oar Marcu was handling, and every time Mehmet had saved it from breaking by a deft stroke of his own oar or by some other similar movement. He was a waterman and knew the ways of the water as well as Marcu himself knew the murky roads of the marshes. The gipsy could not help but admire the powerful quick movements of the Tartar—yet—to be forced into selling his daughter—that was another thing.

At daylight they were within sight of Mehmet's hut[Pg 27] on the shore. The storm had abated. Standing up on the bags of fodder Marcu saw the black smoke that rose from his camp. His people must be waiting on the shore. They were a dozen men. Mehmet was one alone. He will unload the goods first; then, when his men will be near enough, he will tell Fanutza to run towards them. Let Mehmet come to take her if he dare!

A violent jerk woke the gipsy girl from her sleep. She looked at the two men but said nothing. When the boat was moored, the whole tribe of gipsies, who had already mourned their chief yet hoped against hope and watched the length of the shore, surrounded the two men and the woman. There was a noisy welcome. While some of the men helped unload the boat a boy came running with a sleigh cart.

When all the bags were loaded on the sleigh Marcu threw the heavy purse Mehmet had given him to the Tartar's feet and grabbed the arm of his Fanutza.

"Here is your money, Mehmet. I take my daughter."

But before he knew what had happened, Fanutza shook off his grip and picking up the purse she threw it at her father, saying:

"Take it. Give it to Stan that he should buy with the gold another woman. To him all women are alike. But not to Mehmet Ali. So I shall stay with him. A bargain is a bargain. He staked his life for me."

Marcu knew it was the end. "All women are alike," he whined to Stan as he handed him the purse. "Take it. All women are alike," he repeated with bitterness as he made a savage movement towards his daughter.

"All, save the ones with blood of Chans in their veins," said Mehmet Ali who had put himself between the girl and the whole of her tribe. And the Tartar's words served as a reminder to Marcu that Fanutza's own mother had been the daughter of a Tartar chief and a white woman.


[Pg 28]

EXPERIMENT[4]

By MAXWELL STRUTHERS BURT

(From The Pictorial Review)

When she had reached that point of detachment where she could regard the matter more or less objectively, Mrs. Ennis, recalling memories of an interrupted but lifelong friendship, realized that Burnaby's behavior, outrageous or justifiable or whatever you choose to call it, at all events aberrational, was exactly what might have been expected of him, given an occasion when his instincts for liking or disliking had been sufficiently aroused. Moreover, there was about him always, she remembered, this additional exceptional quality: the rare and fortunate knowledge that socially he was independent; was not, that is, subject to retaliation. He led too roving a life to be moved by the threat of unpopularity; a grandfather had bequeathed him a small but unshakable inheritance.

As much, therefore, as any one can be in this world he was a free agent; and the assurance of this makes a man very brave for either kindness or unkindness, and, of course, extremely dangerous for either good or evil. You will see, after a while, what I am driving at. Meanwhile, without further comment, we can come directly to Mrs. Ennis, where she sat in her drawing room, and to the night on which the incident occurred.

Mrs. Ennis, small and blond, and in a white evening gown of satin and silver sequins that made her look like a lovely and fashionable mermaid, sat in her drawing room and stretched her feet out to the flames of a gentle woodfire.[Pg 29] It was seven o'clock of a late April night, and through an open window to her left came, from the little park beyond the house, a faint breeze that stirred lazily the curtains and brought to the jonquils, scattered about in numerous metal and crystal bowls, word of their brothers in the dusk without. The room was quiet, save for the hissing of the logs; remote, delicately lighted, filled with the subtle odor of books and flowers; reminiscent of the suave personalities of those who frequented it. On the diminutive piano in one corner, a large silver frame, holding the photograph of a man in French uniform, caught here and there on its surface high lights from the shaded wall-lamp above. In the shelter of white bookcases, the backs of volumes in red and tawny and brown gave the effect of tapestry cunningly woven. Mrs. Ennis stared at the logs and smiled.

It was an odd smile, reflective, yet anticipatory; amused, absent-minded, barely disturbing the lines of her beautifully modeled red lips. Had any of Mrs. Ennis's enemies, and they were not few in number, seen it, they would have surmised mischief afoot; had any of her friends, and there were even more of these than enemies, been present, they would have been on the alert for events of interest. It all depended, you see, upon whether you considered a taste for amateur psychology, indulged in, a wickedness or not. Mrs. Ennis herself would not have given her favorite amusement so stately a name; she was aware merely that she found herself possessed of a great curiosity concerning people, particularly those of forcible and widely different characteristics, and that she liked, whenever possible, to gather them together, and then see what would happen. Usually something did—happen, that is.

With the innocence of a child playing with fire-crackers (and it wasn't altogether innocent, either), in her rôle of the god in the machine she had been responsible for many things; several comedies, perhaps a tragedy or two. Ordinarily her parties were dull enough; complacent Washington parties; diplomats, long-haired Senators from the West, short-bearded Senators from[Pg 30] the East, sleek young men and women, all of whom sat about discussing grave nonsense concerning a country with which they had utterly lost touch, if ever they had had any; but every now and then, out of the incalculable shufflings of fate, appeared a combination that seemed to offer more excitement. Tonight such a combination was at hand. Mrs. Ennis was contented, in the manner of a blithe and beautiful spider.

Burnaby, undoubtedly, was the principal source of this contentment, for he was a young man—he wasn't really young, but you always thought of him as young—of infinite potentialities; Burnaby, just back from some esoteric work in Roumania, whither he had gone after the War, and in Washington for the night and greatly pleased to accept an invitation for dinner; but essential as he was, Burnaby was only part of the tableau arranged. To meet him, Mrs. Ennis had asked her best, for the time being, friend, Mimi de Rochefort—Mary was her right name—and Mimi de Rochefort's best, for the time being, friend, Robert Pollen. Nowadays Pollen came when Madame de Rochefort came; one expected his presence. He had been a habit in this respect for over six months; in fact, almost from the time Madame de Rochefort (she was so young that to call her Madame seemed absurdly quaint), married these five years to a Frenchman, had set foot once more upon her native land.

In the meeting of Pollen and Burnaby and Mary Rochefort, Mrs. Ennis foresaw contingencies; just what these contingencies were likely to be she did not know, but that an excellent chance for them existed she had no doubt, even if in the end they proved to be no more than the humor to be extracted from the reflection that a supposedly rational divinity had spent his time creating three people so utterly unalike.

The gilt clock on the mantelpiece chimed half-past seven. The jonquils on the piano shone in the polished mahogany like yellow water-lilies in a pool. Into the silence of the room penetrated, on noiseless feet, a fresh-colored man servant. Despite such days as the present, Mrs. Ennis had a way, irritating to her acquaintances,[Pg 31] of obtaining faithful attendance. Even servants seemed to be glad to wait upon her. Her husband, dead these six years, had been unfailingly precise in all matters save the one of drink.

"Mr. Burnaby!" announced the man servant.

Burnaby strode close on his heels. Mrs. Ennis had arisen and was standing with her back to the fireplace. She had the impression that a current of air followed the entrance of the two men. She remembered now that she had always felt that way with Burnaby; she had always felt as if he were bringing news of pine forests and big empty countries she had never seen but could dimly imagine. It was very exciting.

Burnaby paused and looked about the room doubtfully, then he chuckled and came forward. "I haven't seen anything like this for three years," he said. "Roumanian palaces are furnished in the very latest bad taste."

He took Mrs. Ennis's outstretched hand and peered down at her with narrowed eyelids. She received the further impression, an impression she had almost forgotten in the intervening years, of height and leanness, of dark eyes, and dark, crisp hair; a vibrant impression; something like a chord of music struck sharply. Unconsciously she let her hand rest in his for a moment, then she drew it away hastily. He was smiling and talking to her.

"Rhoda! You ought to begin to look a bit older! You're thirty-six, if you're a day! How do you do it? You look like a wise and rather naughty little girl."

"Hush!" said Mrs. Ennis. "I wear my hair parted on one side like a debutante to give me a head-start on all the knowing and subtle and wicked people I have to put up with. While they are trying to break the ice with an ingenue, I'm sizing them up."

Burnaby laughed. "Well, I'm not subtle," he said. He sank down into a big chair across the fireplace from her. "I'm only awfully glad to be back; and I'm good and simple and amenable, and willing to do nearly anything any good American tells me to do. I love Americans."

"You won't for very long," Mrs. Ennis assured him[Pg 32] dryly. "Particularly if you stay in Washington more than a day." She was wondering how even for a moment she had been able to forget Burnaby's vividness.

"No," laughed Burnaby, "I suppose not. But while the mood is on me, don't disillusion me."

Mrs. Ennis looked across at him with a smile. "You'll meet two very attractive people tonight, anyway," she said.

"Oh, yes!" He leaned forward. "I had forgotten—who are they?"

Mrs. Ennis spread her arms out along the chair. "There's Mary Rochefort," she answered, "and there's Robert Pollen, who's supposed to be the most alluring man alive."

"Is it doing him any good?"

"Well—" Mrs. Ennis looked up with a laugh.

"You don't like him? Or perhaps you do?"

Mrs. Ennis knit her brows in thought, her blue eyes dark with conjecture. "I don't know," she said at length. "Sometimes I think I do, and sometimes I think I don't. He's very good-looking in a tall, blond, pliable way, and he can be very amusing when he wants to be. I don't know."

"Why not?"

Mrs. Ennis wrinkled her nose in the manner of one who is being pushed to explanation.

"I am not so sure," she confided, "that I admire professional philanderers as much as I did. Although, so long as they leave me alone—"

"Oh, he's that, is he?"

Mrs. Ennis corrected herself hastily. "Oh, no," she protested. "I shouldn't talk that way, should I? Now you'll have an initial prejudice, and that isn't fair—only—" she hesitated "I rather wish he would confine his talents to his own equals and not conjure young married women at their most vulnerable period."

"Which is?"

"Just when," said Mrs. Ennis, "they're not sure whether they want to fall in love again with their own husbands or not." Then she stopped abruptly. She was surprised that she had told Burnaby these things; even[Pg 33] more surprised at the growing incisiveness of her voice. She was not accustomed to taking the amatory excursions of her friends too much to heart; she had a theory that it was none of her business, that perhaps some day she might want charity herself. But now she found herself perceptibly indignant. She wondered if it wasn't Burnaby's presence that was making her so. Sitting across from her, he made her think of directness and dependability and other traits she was accustomed to refer to as "primitive virtues." She liked his black, heavily ribbed evening stockings. Somehow they were like him. It made her angry with herself and with Burnaby that she should feel this way; be so moved by "primitive virtues." She detested puritanism greatly, and righteously, but so much so that she frequently mistook the most innocent fastidiousness for an unforgivable rigidity. "If they once do," she concluded, "once do fall in love with their husbands again, they're safe, you know, for all time."

She looked up and drew in her breath sharply. Burnaby was sitting forward in his chair, staring at her with the curious, far-sighted stare she remembered was characteristic of him when his interest was suddenly and thoroughly aroused. It was as if he were looking through the person to whom he was talking to some horizon beyond. It was a trifle uncanny, unless you were accustomed to the trick.

"What's the matter?" she asked. She had the feeling that back of her some one she could not see was standing.

Burnaby smiled. "Nothing," he said. He sank back into his chair. "That's an odd name—the name of this alluring fellow of yours, isn't it? What did you say it was—Pollen?"

"Yes. Robert Pollen. Why, do you know him?"

"No." Burnaby shook his head. He leaned over and lit a cigarette. "You don't mind, do you?" he asked. He raised his eyes. "So he's conjuring this Madame de Rochefort, is he?" he concluded.

Mrs. Ennis flushed. "I never said anything of the kind!" she protested. "It's none of our business, anyway."[Pg 34]

Burnaby smiled calmly. "I quite agree with you," he said. "I imagine that a Frenchwoman, married for a while, is much better able to conduct her life in this respect than even the most experienced of us."

"She isn't French," said Mrs. Ennis; "she's American. And she's only been married five years. She's just a child—twenty-six."

"Oh!" ejaculated Burnaby. "One of those hard-faced children! I understand—Newport, Palm Beach, cocktails—"

His voice was cut across by Mrs. Ennis's indignant retort. "You don't in the least!" she said. "She's not one of those hard-faced children; she's lovely—and I've come to the conclusion that she's pathetic. I'm beginning to rather hate this man Pollen. Back of it all are subtleties of personality difficult to fathom. You should know Blais Rochefort. I imagine a woman going about things the wrong way could break her heart on him like waves on a crystal rock. I think it has been a question of fire meeting crystal, and, when it finds that the crystal is difficult to warm, turning back upon itself. I said waves, didn't I? Well, I don't care if my metaphors are mixed. It's tragic, anyhow. And the principal tragedy is that Blais Rochefort isn't really cold—at least, I don't think he would be if properly approached—he is merely beautifully lucid and intelligent and exacting in a way no American understands, least of all a petted girl who has no family and who is very rich. He expects, you see, an equal lucidity from his wife. He's not to be won over by the fumbling and rather selfish and pretty little tricks that are all most of us know. But Mary, I think, would have learned if she had only held on. Now, I'm afraid, she's losing heart. Hard-faced child!" Mrs. Ennis grew indignant again. "Be careful my friend; even you might find her dangerously pathetic."

Burnaby's eyes were placidly amused. "Thanks," he observed. "You've told me all I wanted to know."

Mrs. Ennis waved toward the piano. "There's Blais Rochefort's photograph," she retorted in tones of good-humored exasperation. "Go over and look at it."[Pg 35]

"I will."

Burnaby's black shoulders, bent above the photograph, were for a moment the object of a pensive regard. Mrs. Ennis sighed. "Your presence makes me puritanical," she observed. "I have always felt that the best way for any one to get over Pollens was to go through with them and forget them."

Burnaby spoke without turning his head.

"He's good-looking."

"Very."

"A real man."

"Decidedly! Very brave and very cultivated."

"He waxes his mustache."

"Yes, even brave men do that occasionally."

"I should think," said Burnaby thoughtfully, putting the photograph down, "that he might be worth a woman's hanging on to."

Mrs. Ennis got up, crossed over to the piano, and leaned an elbow upon it, resting her cheek in the palm of her upturned hand and smiling at Burnaby.

"Don't let's be so serious," she said. "What business is it of ours?" She turned her head away and began to play with the petals of a near-by jonquil. "Spring is a restless time, isn't it?"

It seemed to her that the most curious little silence followed this speech of hers, and yet she knew that in actual time it was nothing, and felt that it existed probably only in her own heart. She heard the clock on the mantelpiece across the room ticking; far off, the rattle of a taxicab. The air coming through the open window bore the damp, stirring smell of early grass.

"Madame De Rochefort and Mr. Pollen!" announced a voice.

Mrs. Ennis had once said that her young friend, Mimi de Rochefort, responded to night more brilliantly than almost any other woman she knew. The description was apt. Possibly by day there was a pallor too lifeless, a nose a trifle too short and arrogant, lips, possibly, too full; but by night these discrepancies blended into something very near perfection, and back of them as well was[Pg 36] a delicate illumination as of lanterns hung in trees beneath stars; an illumination due to youth, and to very large dark eyes, and to dark, soft hair and red lips. Nor with this beauty went any of the coolness or abrupt languor with which the modern young hide their eagerness.

Mary Rochefort was quite simple beneath her habitual reserve; frank and appealing and even humorous at times, as if startled out of her usual mood of reflective quiet by some bit of wit, slowly apprehended, too good to be overlooked. Mrs. Ennis watched with a sidelong glance the effect of her entrance upon Burnaby. Madame de Rochefort! How absurd! To call this white, tall, slim child madame! She admired rather enviously the gown of shimmering dark blue, the impeccability of adolescence. Over the girl's white shoulder, too much displayed, Pollen peered at Burnaby with the vague, hostile smile of the guest not yet introduced to a guest of similar sex.

"Late as usual!" he announced. "Mimi kept me!" His manner was subtly domestic.

"You're really on the stroke of the clock," said Mrs. Ennis. "Madame de Rochefort—Mr. Burnaby—Mr. Pollen." She laughed abruptly, as if a thought had just occurred to her. "Mr. Burnaby," she explained to the girl, "is the last surviving specimen of the American male—he has all the ancient national virtues. Preserved, I suppose, because he spends most of his time in Alaska, or wherever it is. I particularly wanted you to meet him."

Burnaby flushed and laughed uncertainly. "I object—" he began.

The fresh-colored man servant entered with a tray of cocktails. Madame de Rochefort exclaimed delightedly. "I'm so glad," she said. "Nowadays one fatigues oneself before dinner by wondering whether there will be anything to drink or not. How absurd!" The careful choice of words, the precision of the young, worldly voice were in amusing contrast to the youthfulness of appearance. Standing before the fireplace in her blue gown, she resembled a tapering lily growing from the indigo shadows of a noon orchard.[Pg 37]

"Rhoda'll have cocktails when there aren't any more left in the country," said Pollen. "Trust Rhoda!"

Mary Rochefort laughed. "I always do," she said, "with reservations." She turned to Burnaby. "Where are you just back from?" she asked. "I understand you are always just back from some place, or on the verge of going."

"Usually on the verge," answered Burnaby. He looked at her deliberately, a smile in his dark eyes; then he looked at Pollen.

"Where were you—the War?"

"Yes—by way of Roumania in the end."

"The War!" Mary Rochefort's lips became petulant. One noticed for the first time the possibility of considerable petulance back of the shining self-control. "How sick of it I grew—all of us living over there! I'd like to sleep for a thousand years in a field filled with daffodils."

"They've plenty scattered about this room," observed Pollen. "Why don't you start now?"

The fresh-colored man servant announced dinner. "Shall we go down?" said Mrs. Ennis.

They left the little drawing-room, with its jonquils and warm shadows, and went along a short hall, and then down three steps and across a landing to the dining-room beyond. It, like the drawing-room, was small, white-paneled to the ceiling, with a few rich prints of Constable landscapes on the walls, and velvet-dark sideboards and tables that caught the light of the candles. In the center was a table of snowy drapery and silver and red roses.

Mrs. Ennis sank into her chair and looked about her with content. She loved small dinners beautifully thought out, and even more she loved them when, as on this night, they were composed of people who interested her. She stole a glance at Burnaby. How clean and brown and alert he was! The white table-cloth accentuated his look of fitness and muscular control. What an amusing contrast he presented to the rather languid, gesturing Pollen, who sat opposite him! And yet Pollen was con[Pg 38]siderable of a man in his own way; very conquering in the affairs of life; immensely clever in his profession of architecture. Famous, Mrs. Ennis had heard.

But Mrs. Ennis, despite her feminine approval of success, couldn't imagine herself being as much interested in him—dangerously interested—as she knew her friend Mary Rochefort to be. How odd! From all the world to pick out a tall, blond, willowy man like Pollen! On the verge of middle age, too! Perhaps it was this very willowiness, this apparent placidity that made him attractive. This child, Mary Rochefort, quite alone in the world, largely untrained, adrift, imperiously demanding from an imperious husband something to which she had not as yet found the key, might very naturally gravitate toward any one presenting Pollen's appearance of security; his attitude of complacence in the face of feminine authority. But was he complacent? Mrs. Ennis had her doubts. He was very vain; underneath his urbanity there might be an elastic hardness.

There were, moreover, at times indications of a rather contemptuous attitude toward a world less highly trained than himself. She turned to Pollen, trying to recollect what for the last few moments he had been saying to her. He perceived her more scrutinizing attention and faced toward her. From under lowered eyelids he had been watching, with a moody furtiveness, Mary Rochefort and Burnaby, who were oblivious to the other two in the manner of people who are glad they have met.

Mrs. Ennis found herself annoyed, her sense of good manners shocked. She had not suspected that Pollen could be guilty of such clumsiness; she questioned if matters had reached a point where such an attitude on his part would be justifiable under any circumstances. At all events, her doubts concerning his complacency had been answered. It occurred to Mrs. Ennis that her dinner-party was composed of more inflammable material, presented more dramatic possibilities, than even she had divined. She embraced Pollen with her smile.

"What have you been doing with yourself?" she asked.[Pg 39]

He lifted long eyebrows and smiled faintly.

"Working very hard," he said.

"Building behemoths for billionaires?"

"Yes."

"And the rest of the time?"

"Rather drearily going about."

She surveyed him with wicked innocence.

"Why don't you fall in love?" she suggested.

His expression remained unmoved. "It is so difficult," he retorted, "to find the proper subject. A man of my experience frightens the inexperienced: the experienced frighten me."

"You mean—?"

"That I have reached the age where the innocence no longer possible to me seems the only thing worth while."

Mrs. Ennis wrinkled her nose daintily. "Nonsense!" she observed, and helped herself to the dish the servant was holding out to her. "What you have said," she resumed, "is the last word of the sentimentalist. If I thought you really meant it, I would know at once that you were very cold and very cruel and rather silly."

"Thanks!"

"Oh, I'm talking more or less abstractly."

"Well, possibly I am all of those things."

"But you want me to be personal?"

Pollen laughed. "Of course! Doesn't everybody want you to be personal?"

For an instant Mrs. Ennis looked again at Burnaby and Mary Rochefort, and a slightly rueful smile stirred in her eyes. It was amusing that she, who detested large dinners and adored general conversation, should at the moment be so engrossed in preventing the very type of conversation she preferred. She returned to Pollen. What a horrid man he really was! Unangled and amorphous, and underneath, cold! He had a way of framing the woman to whom he was talking and then stepping back out of the picture. One felt like a model in all manner of dress and undress. She laughed softly. "Don't," she begged, "be so mysterious about yourself! Tell me—" she held him with eyes of ingratiating sapphire[Pg 40]—"I've always been interested in finding out just what you are, anyway."

Far back in Pollen's own eyes of golden brown a little spark slowly burst into flame. It was exactly as if a gnome had lighted a lantern at the back of an unknown cave. Mrs. Ennis inwardly shuddered, but outwardly was gay.

How interminably men talked when once they were launched upon that favorite topic, themselves! Pollen showed every indication of reaching a point of intellectual intoxication where his voice would become antiphonal. His objective self was taking turns in standing off and admiring his subjective self. Mrs. Ennis wondered at her own kindness of heart. Why did she permit herself to suffer so for her friends; in the present instance, a friend who would probably—rather the contrary—by no means thank her for her pains? She wanted to talk to Burnaby. She was missing most of his visit. She wanted to talk to Burnaby so greatly that the thought made her cheeks burn faintly. She began to hate Pollen. Mary Rochefort's cool, young voice broke the spell.

"You told me," she said accusingly, "that this man—this Mr. Burnaby, has all the primitive virtues; he is the wickedest man I have ever met."

"Good gracious!" said Mrs. Ennis.

"The very wickedest!"

Pollen's mouth twisted under his mustache. "I wouldn't have suspected it," he observed, surveying Burnaby with ironic amusement. There was just a hint of hidden condescension in his voice.

Burnaby's eyes drifted past him with a look of quiet speculation in their depths, before he smiled at Mrs. Ennis.

"Roumania has changed you," she exclaimed.

He chuckled. "Not in the least! I was simply trying to prove to Madame de Rochefort that hot-bloodedness, coolly conceived, is the only possible road to success. Like most innately moral people, she believes just the opposite—in cool-bloodedness, hotly conceived."

"I moral?" said Mary Rochefort, as if the thought had not occurred to her before.[Pg 41]

"Why, of course," said Burnaby. "It's a question of attitude, not of actual performance. The most moral man I ever knew was a habitual drunkard. His life was spent between debauch and disgust. Not, of course, that I am implying that with you—"

"Tell us what you meant in the first place," commanded Mrs. Ennis.

"Something," said Burnaby slowly, "totally un-American—in short, whole-heartedness." He clasped his sinewy, brown hands on the table-cloth. "I mean," he continued, "if, after due thought—never forget the due thought—you believe it to be the best thing to do to elope with another man's wife, elope; only don't look back. In the same way, if you decide to become, after much question, an ironmonger, be an ironmonger. Love passionately what you've chosen. In other words, life's like fox-hunting; choose your line, choose it slowly and carefully, then follow it 'hell-for-leather.'

"You see, the trouble with Americans is that they are the greatest wanters of cake after they've eaten it the world has ever seen. Our blood isn't half as mixed as our point of view. We want to be good and we want to be bad; we want to be a dozen utterly incompatible things all at the same time. Of course, all human beings are that way, but other human beings make their choices and then try to eradicate the incompatibilities. The only whole-hearted people we possess are our business men, and even they, once they succeed, usually spoil the picture by astounding open scandals with chorus-girls."

Mrs. Ennis shook her head with amused bewilderment. "Do you mean," she asked, "that a man or woman can have only one thing in his or her life?"

"Only one very outwardly important thing—publicly," retorted Burnaby. "You may be a very great banker with a very great background as a husband, but you can't be a very great banker and at the same time what is known as a 'very great lover.' In Europe, where they arrange their lives better, one chooses either banking or 'loving'." He smiled with frank good humor at Pollen; the first time, Mrs. Ennis reflected, he had done[Pg 42] so that night. A suspicion that Burnaby was not altogether ingenuous crossed her mind. But why wasn't he?

"You're a man, Pollen," he said; "tell them it's true."

Pollen, absorbed apparently in thoughts of his own stammered slightly. "Why—why, yes," he agreed hastily.

Mrs. Ennis sighed ruefully and looked at Burnaby with large, humorously reproachful eyes. "You have changed," she observed, "or else you're not saying but half of what you really think—and part of it you don't think at all."

"Oh, yes," laughed Burnaby, "you misunderstand me." He picked up a fork and tapped the table-cloth with it thoughtfully; then he raised his head. "I was thinking of a story I might tell you," he said, "but on second thoughts I don't think I will."

"Don't be foolish!" admonished Mrs. Ennis. "Your stories are always interesting. First finish your dessert."

Pollen smiled languidly. "Yes," he commented, "go on. It's interesting, decidedly. I thought people had given up this sort of conversation long ago."

For the third time Burnaby turned slowly toward him, only now his eyes, instead of resting upon the bland countenance for a fraction of a second, surveyed it lingeringly with the detached, absent-minded stare Mrs. Ennis remembered so well. "Perhaps I will tell it, after all," he said, in the manner of a man who has definitely changed his mind. "Would you like to hear it?" he asked, turning to Mary Rochefort.

"Certainly!" she laughed. "Is it very immoral?"

"Extremely," vouchsafed Burnaby, "from the accepted point of view."

"Tell it in the other room," suggested Mrs. Ennis. "We'll sit before the fire and tell ghost stories."

There was a trace of grimness in Burnaby's answering smile. "Curiously enough, it is a ghost story," he said.

They had arisen to their feet; above the candles their heads and shoulders were indistinct. For a moment Mrs. Ennis hesitated and looked at Burnaby with a new bewilderment in her eyes.[Pg 43]

"If it's very immoral," interposed Pollen, "I'm certain to like it."

Burnaby bowed to him with a curious old-fashioned courtesy. "I am sure," he observed, "it will interest you immensely."

Mrs. Ennis suddenly stared through the soft obscurity. "Good gracious," she said to herself, "what is he up to?"

In the little drawing room to which they returned, the jonquils seemed to have received fresh vigor from their hour of loneliness; their shining gold possessed the shadows. Mary Rochefort paused by the open window and peered into the perfumed night. "How ridiculously young the world gets every spring!" she said.

Mrs. Ennis arranged herself before the fire. "Now," she said to Burnaby, "you sit directly opposite. And you"—she indicated Pollen—"sit here. And Mimi, you there. So!" She nodded to Burnaby. "Begin!"

He laughed deprecatingly. "You make it portentous," he objected. "It isn't much of a story; it's—it's really only a parable."

"It's going to be a moral story, after all," interjected Mrs. Ennis triumphantly.

Burnaby chuckled and puffed at his cigarette. "Well," he said finally, "it's about a fellow named Mackintosh."

Pollen, drowsily smoking a cigar, suddenly stirred uneasily.

"Who?" he asked, leaning forward.

"Mackintosh—James Mackintosh! What are you looking for? An ash-tray? Here's one." Burnaby passed it over.

"Thanks!" said Pollen, relaxing. "Yes—go on!"

Burnaby resumed his narrative calmly. "I knew him—Mackintosh, that is—fifteen, no, it was fourteen years ago in Arizona, when I was ranching there, and for the next three years I saw him constantly. He had a place ten miles down the river from me. He was about four years older than I was—a tall, slim, sandy-haired, freckled fellow, preternaturally quiet; a trusty, if there ever was one. Unlike most preternaturally quiet people, however, it wasn't dulness that made him that way;[Pg 44] he wasn't dull a bit. Stir him up on anything and you found that he had thought about it a lot. But he never told me anything about himself until I had known him almost two years, and then it came out quite accidentally one night—we were on a spring round-up—when the two of us were sitting up by the fire, smoking and staring at the desert stars. All the rest were asleep." Burnaby paused. "Is this boring you?" he asked.

"Oh, no!" said Mrs. Ennis; she was watching intently Pollen's half-averted face.

Burnaby threw away his cigarette. "At first," he said, "it seemed to me like the most ordinary of stories—the usual fixed idea that the rejected lover carries around with him for a year or so until he forgets it; the idea that the girl will regret her choice and one day kick over the traces and hunt him up.

"But it wasn't the ordinary story—not by a long shot. You'll see. It seems he had fallen in love with a girl—had been in love with her for years—before he had left the East; a very young girl, nineteen, and of an aspiring family. The family, naturally, didn't look upon him with any favor whatsoever; he was poor and he didn't show the slightest inclination to engage in any of the pursuits they considered proper to the ambitions of a worthy young man. Rather a dreamer, I imagine, until he had found the thing he wanted to do. Not a very impressive figure in the eyes of whitespatted fatherhood. Moreover, he himself was shy about trying to marry a rich girl while she was still so young.

"'She was brought up all wrong,' he said. 'What could you expect? Life will have to teach her. She will have to get over her idea, as one gets over the measles, that money and houses and possessions are the main things.' But he knew she would get over it; he was sure that at the bottom of her heart was a well of honesty and directness. 'Some day,' he said, 'she'll be out here.'

"Apparently the upshot of the matter was that he went to the girl and told her—all these ideas of his; quit, came West; left the road open to the other man. Oh, yes, there was another man, of course; one thoroughly[Pg 45] approved of by the family. Quaint, wasn't it? Perhaps a little overly judicial. But then that was his way. Slow-moving and sure. He saw the girl at dusk in the garden of her family's country place; near a sun-dial, or some other appropriately romantic spot. She kissed him nobly on the forehead, I suppose—the young girl gesture; and told him she wasn't worthy of him and to forget her.

"'Oh, no, I won't,' he said. 'Not for a minute! And in five years—or ten—you'll come to me. You'll find out.' And then he added something else: 'Whenever things have reached their limit,' he said, 'think of me with all your might. Think hard! There's something in that sort of stuff, you know, where two people love each other. Think hard!' Then he went away."

A log snapped and fell with a soft thud to the ashes beneath. Burnaby was silent for a moment, staring at the fire.

When he spoke again, it was with a slow precision as if he were trying with extreme care to find the right words.

"You see," he said, "he had as an added foundation for his faith—perhaps as the main foundation for it—his knowledge of the other man's character; the character of the man the girl married. It was"—he spoke more hastily and, suddenly raising his head, looked at Mary Rochefort, who, sunk back in her chair, was gazing straight ahead of her—"an especial kind of character. I must dwell on it for a moment, and you must mark well what I say, for on it my parable largely depends. It was a character of the sort that to any but an odalisk means eventual shame; to any woman of pride, you understand, eventually of necessity a broken heart. It was a queer character, but not uncommon. Outwardly very attractive. Mackintosh described it succinctly, shortly, as we sat there by the fire. He spoke between his teeth—the faint wind stirring the desert sand sounded rather like his voice." Burnaby paused again and reached over for a cigarette and lit it deliberately.

"He was a man," he continued, "who apparently had the faculty of making most women love him and, in the[Pg 46] end, the faculty of making all women hate him. I imagine to have known him very well would have been to leave one with a mental shudder such as follows the touching of anguilliform material; snake-like texture. It would leave one ashamed and broken, for fundamentally he was contemptuous of the dignity of personality, particularly of the personalities of women. He was a collector, you understand, a collector of beauty, and women, and incidents—amorous incidents. He carried into his personal relationships the cold objectiveness of the artist. But he wasn't a very great artist, or he wouldn't have done so; he would have had the discrimination to control the artist's greatest peril. It's a flame, this cold objectiveness, but a flame so powerful that it must be properly shaded for intimate use. Otherwise it kills like violet rays. Women wore out their hearts on him, not like waves breaking on a crystal rock, but like rain breaking into a gutter."

"Good Lord!" murmured Mrs. Ennis involuntarily.

Burnaby caught her exclamation. "Bad, wasn't it?" he smiled. "But remember I am only repeating what Mackintosh told me. Well, there he was then—Mackintosh—hard at work all day trying to build himself up a ranch, and he was succeeding, too, and, at night, sitting on his porch, smoking and listening to the river, and apparently expecting every moment the girl to appear. It was rather eerie. He had such a convincing way; he was himself so convinced. You half expected yourself to see her come around the corner of the log house in the moonlight. There was about it all the impression that here was something that had a touch of the inevitability of the Greek idea of fate; something more arranged than the usual course of human events. Meanwhile, back in the East, was the girl, learning something about life."

He interrupted himself. "Want a cigarette?" he said to Pollen. "Here they are." He handed over the box. "What is it? A match? Wait a moment; I'll strike it for you. Keep the end of the thing steady, will you? All right." He resumed the thread of his narrative.

"In four years she had learned a lot," he said; "she[Pg 47] had become apparently almost a woman. On a certain hot evening in July—about seven o'clock, I imagine—she became one entirely; at least, for the moment, and, at least, her sort of woman. I am not defending what she did, remember; I am simply saying that she did it.

"It was very hot; even now when dusk was approaching. The girl had been feeling rather ill all day; feverish. She had not been able to get away to her country place as yet. Into the semidarkness of the room where she was came her husband. That night she had determined, as women will, upon a final test. She knew where he expected to dine; she asked him if he would dine with her.

"'I can't,' he said. 'I'm sorry—'

"Possibly nothing immediate would have happened had he not added an unspeakable flourish to his portrait. He reached out his arms and drew the girl to him and tried to kiss her condescendingly; but I suppose his hands found her, in her clinging gown, soft to their touch. At all events, they tightened upon her in an unmistakable way. She pulled herself away. 'Let me pass!' she said. 'You—you—!'—she could think of no words to suit him. You see, she understood him completely, now. He was a collector, but a collector so despicable that he was even unwilling to trade one article for another. He wanted to keep on his shelves, as it were, all the accumulation of his life, and take down from time to time whatever part of it suited his sudden fancy.

"The girl went up to her own room, and very carefully, not knowing precisely what she did, changed into a black street dress and removed all marks of identification. Her eyes swam with feverishness. While she was dressing, she bathed in hot water her arms where her husband's hands had been. She concluded that it was not what he had done—had constantly done—but what he was that made life unbearable. When she was through she went downstairs, and out of the front door, and walked slowly toward the center of the town and the railway station."

"And is that all?" asked Mary Rochefort, after a while.

"Oh, no," said Burnaby; "it's only the beginning.[Pg 48] Mackintosh was in the hills beyond his ranch, hunting horses. He was camped in a little valley by himself. On this particular day he had been out since sun-up and did not get back until just about dusk. He picketed the horse he had been riding, and built a small fire, and began to cook his supper. All around him, brooding and unreal, was the light you get in high mountain places. The fire shone like a tiny ruby set in topaz. Mackintosh raised his head and saw a woman coming out of the spur of aspen trees across the creek from him. He wasn't surprised; he knew right away who it was; he knew it was the girl. He watched her for a moment, and then he went over to her, and took her hand, and led her to the fire. They didn't speak at all."

"And you mean," asked Mrs. Ennis, "that she did that? That she came all the way out to him, like that?"

"No," retorted Burnaby, "of course not. How could she? She wasn't even sure where he was living. At the moment she was in a hospital out of her head. You see, I didn't know whether to believe Mackintosh or not when he said he saw her that night, although I am sure he believed he did—such things are beyond human proof—but what I do know is that he came straight down from the hills, and boarded a train, and went East, and found the girl, and, after a while, came back with her." He looked at the fire. "They were the most completely happy people I have ever seen," he continued. "They were so calm and determined about themselves. Everything immaterial had been burned away. They knew they were playing on the side of fate. And so," he concluded, "that's the end of my parable. What do you make of it?"

The curtains, stirred by the breeze, tip-tapped softly; in the silence the fire hissed gently. Pollen spoke first, but with some difficulty, as if in the long period of listening on his part his throat had become dry. "It's very interesting," he said; "very! But what's it all about? And you certainly don't believe it, do you?"

"Of course I do," answered Burnaby calmly. "You should, too; it's true."

Mary Rochefort looked up with an exclamation.[Pg 49] "Gracious!" she said. "I had no idea it was so late! My motor must be waiting." She got to her feet. She looked very white and her eyes were tired; the translucent quality of the earlier hours was gone. "I'm worn out," she explained. "I've been going about too much. I must rest." She held her hand out to Mrs. Ennis; over her shoulder she spoke to Pollen. "No," she said. "Don't bother. I'll take myself home, thanks."

"I'll see you to your car," he stammered.

She turned to Burnaby. "Good night!" she said. Her voice was lifeless, disinterested; her eyes met his for an instant and were withdrawn.

"Good night," he said.

Mrs. Ennis stood by the door for a moment before she walked slowly back to the fireplace. From the street outside came the whirring of a motor and the sound of Mary Rochefort's voice saying good-by to Pollen.

Mrs. Ennis rested an arm on the mantelpiece and kicked a log thoughtfully with a white-slippered foot; then she faced about on Burnaby.

"I suppose," she said, "you realize that you have spoiled my party?"

"I?" said Burnaby.

"Yes, you!" Her small, charming face was a study in ruefulness, and indecision whether to be angry or not, and, one might almost have imagined, a certain amused tenderness as well. "Don't you suppose those people knew of whom you were talking?"

Burnaby, peering down at her, narrowed his eyes and then opened them very wide. "They couldn't very well have helped it," he said, "could they? For, you see"—he paused—"the girl who came West was Mrs. Pollen."

Mrs. Ennis gasped in the manner of a person who is hearing too much. "Mrs. Pollen?"

"Yes. You knew he had been divorced, didn't you? Years ago."

"I'd heard it, but forgotten." Mrs. Ennis clasped her jeweled hand. "And you dared," she demanded, "to tell his story before him in that way?"

"Why not? It was rather a complete revenge upon[Pg 50] him of fate, wasn't it? You see, he couldn't very well give himself away, could he? His one chance was to keep quiet." Burnaby paused and smiled doubtfully at Mrs. Ennis. "I hope I made his character clear enough," he said. "That, after all, was the point of the story."

"How did you know it was this Pollen?" she asked, "and how, anyway, would Mary Rochefort know of whom you were talking?"

Burnaby grinned. "I took a chance," he said. "And as to the second, I told Madame de Rochefort at dinner—merely as a coincidence; at least, I let her think so—that I had once known in the West a Mrs. Pollen with a curious history. Perhaps I wouldn't have told it if Pollen hadn't been so witty." He picked up a silver dish from the mantelpiece and examined it carefully.

"One oughtn't to have such a curious name if one is going to lead a curious life, ought one?" he asked. He sighed. "You're right," he concluded; "your friend Mary Rochefort is a child."

Mrs. Ennis looked up at him with searching eyes.

"Why don't you stay longer in Washington?" she asked softly. "Just now, of course, Mary Rochefort hates you; but she won't for long—I think she was beginning to have doubts about Pollen, anyway."

Burnaby suddenly looked grave and disconcerted. "Oh, no!" he said, hastily. "Oh, no! I must be off tomorrow." He laughed. "My dear Rhoda," he said, "you have the quaintest ideas. I don't like philandering; I'm afraid I have a crude habit of really falling in love."

Mrs. Ennis's own eyes were veiled. "If you're going away so soon, sit down," she said, "and stay. You needn't go—oh, for hours!"

"I must," he answered. "I'm off so early."

She sighed. "For years?"

"One—perhaps two." His voice became gay and bantering again. "My dear Rhoda," he said, "I'm extremely sorry if I really spoiled your party, but I don't believe I did—not altogether, anyhow. Underneath, I think you enjoyed it." He took her small hand in his; he wondered why it was so cold and listless.[Pg 51]

At the door leading into the hall he paused and looked back "Oh," he said, "there was one thing I forgot to tell you! You see, part of my story wasn't altogether true. Mrs. Pollen—or rather, Mrs. Mackintosh—left Mackintosh after five years or so. She's in the movies—doing very well, I understand. She would; wouldn't she? Of course, she was no good to begin with. But that didn't spoil the point of my story, did it? Good-by, Rhoda, my dear." He was gone.

Mrs. Ennis did not move until she heard the street door close; she waited even a little longer, following the sound of Burnaby's footsteps as they died away into the night; finally she walked over to the piano, and, sitting down, raised her hands as if to strike the keys. Instead, she suddenly put both her arms on the little shelf before the music-rack and buried her head in them. The curtains tip-tapped on the window-sill; the room was entirely quiet.


[Pg 52]

DARKNESS[5]

By IRVIN S. COBB

(From The Saturday Evening Post)

There was a house in this town where always by night lights burned. In one of its rooms many lights burned; in each of the other rooms at least one light. It stood on Clay Street, on a treeless plot among flower beds, a small dull-looking house; and when late on dark nights all the other houses on Clay Street were black blockings lifting from the lesser blackness of their background, the lights in this house patterned its windows with squares of brilliancy so that it suggested a grid set on edge before hot flames. Once a newcomer to the town, a transient guest at Mrs. Otterbuck's boarding house, spoke about it to old Squire Jonas, who lived next door to where the lights blazed of nights, and the answer he got makes a fitting enough beginning for this account.

This stranger came along Clay Street one morning and Squire Jonas, who was leaning over his gate contemplating the world as it passed in review, nodded to him and remarked that it was a fine morning; and the stranger was emboldened to stop and pass the time of day, as the saying goes.

"I'm here going over the books of the Bernheimer Distilling Company," he said when they had spoken of this and that, "and you know, when a chartered accountant gets on a job he's supposed to keep right at it until he's done. Well, my work keeps me busy till pretty late. And the last three nights, passing that place yonder adjoining yours, I've noticed she was all lit up like as if for a wedding or a christening or a party or something. But[Pg 53] I didn't see anybody going in or coming out, or hear anybody stirring in there, and it struck me as blamed curious. Last night—or this morning, rather, I should say—it must have been close on to half-past two o'clock when I passed by, and there she was, all as quiet as the tomb and still the lights going from top to bottom. So I got to wondering to myself. Tell me, sir, is there somebody sick over there next door?"

"Yes, suh," stated the squire, "I figure you might say there is somebody sick there. He's been sick a powerful long time too. But it's not his body that's sick; it's his soul."

"I don't know as I get you, sir," said the other man in a puzzled sort of way.

"Son," stated the squire, "I reckin you've been hearin' 'em, haven't you, singin' this here new song that's goin' 'round about, 'I'm Afraid to Go Home in the Dark'? Well, probably the man who wrote that there song never was down here in these parts in his life; probably he just made the idea of it up out of his own head. But he might 'a' had the case of my neighbor in his mind when he done so. Only his song is kind of comical and this case here is about the most uncomic one you'd be likely to run acrost. The man who lives here alongside of me is not only afraid to go home in the dark but he's actually feared to stay in the dark after he gets home. Once he killed a man and he come clear of the killin' all right enough, but seems like he ain't never got over it; and the sayin' in this town is that he's studied it out that ef ever he gets in the dark, either by himself or in company, he'll see the face of that there man he killed. So that's why, son, you've been seein' them lights a-blazin'. I've been seein' 'em myself fur goin' on twenty year or more, I reckin 'tis by now, and I've got used to 'em. But I ain't never got over wonderin' whut kind of thoughts he must have over there all alone by himself at night with everything lit up bright as day around him, when by rights things should be dark. But I ain't ever asted him, and whut's more, I never will. He ain't the kind you could go to him astin' him personal questions about his own private affairs. We-all here in town just accept him[Pg 54] fur whut he is and sort of let him be. He's whut you might call a town character. His name is Mr. Dudley Stackpole."

In all respects save one, Squire Jonas, telling the inquiring stranger the tale, had the rights of it. There were town characters aplenty he might have described. A long-settled community with traditions behind it and a reasonable antiquity seems to breed curious types of men and women as a musty closet breeds mice and moths. This town of ours had its town mysteries and its town eccentrics—its freaks, if one wished to put the matter bluntly; and it had its champion story-teller and its champion liar and its champion guesser of the weight of livestock on the hoof.

There was crazy Saul Vance, the butt of cruel small boys, who deported himself as any rational creature might so long as he walked a straight course; but so surely as he came to where the road forked or two streets crossed he could not decide which turning to take and for hours angled back and forth and to and fro, now taking the short cut to regain the path he just had quitted, now retracing his way over the long one, for all the world like a geometric spider spinning its web. There was old Daddy Hannah, the black root-and-yarb doctor, who could throw spells and weave charms and invoke conjures. He wore a pair of shoes which had been worn by a man who was hanged, and these shoes, as is well known, leave no tracks which a dog will nose after or a witch follow, or a ha'nt. Small boys did not gibe at Daddy Hannah, you bet you! There was Major Burnley, who lived for years and years in the same house with the wife with whom he had quarreled and never spoke a word to her or she to him. But the list is overlong for calling. With us, in that day and time, town characters abounded freely. But Mr. Dudley Stackpole was more than a town character. He was that, it is true, but he was something else besides; something which tabbed him a mortal set apart from his fellow mortals. He was the town's chief figure of tragedy.

If you had ever seen him once you could shut your eyes and see him over again. Yet about him there was nothing[Pg 55] impressive, nothing in his port or his manner to catch and to hold a stranger's gaze. With him, physically, it was quite the other way about. He was a short spare man, very gentle in his movements, a toneless sort of man of a palish gray cast, who always wore sad-colored clothing. He would make you think of a man molded out of a fog; almost he was like a man made of smoke. His mode of living might testify that a gnawing remorse abode ever with him, but his hair had not turned white in a single night, as the heads of those suddenly stricken by a great shock or a great grief or any greatly upsetting and disordering emotion sometimes are reputed to turn. Neither in his youth nor when age came to him was his hair white. But for so far back as any now remembered it had been a dullish gray, suggesting at a distance dead lichens.

The color of his skin was a color to match in with the rest of him. It was not pale, nor was it pasty. People with a taste for comparisons were hard put to it to describe just what it was the hue of his face did remind them of, until one day a man brought in from the woods the abandoned nest of a brood of black hornets, still clinging to the pendent twig from which the insect artificers had swung it. Darkies used to collect these nests in the fall of the year when the vicious swarms had deserted them. Their shredded parchments made ideal wadding for muzzle-loading scatter-guns, and sufferers from asthma tore them down, too, and burned them slowly and stood over the smoldering mass and inhaled the fumes and the smoke which arose, because the country wiseacres preached that no boughten stuff out of a drug store gave such relief from asthma as this hornet's-nest treatment. But it remained for this man to find a third use for such a thing. He brought it into the office of Gafford's wagon yard, where some other men were sitting about the fire, and he held it up before them and he said:

"Who does this here hornet's nest put you fellers in mind of—this gray color all over it, and all these here fine lines runnin' back and forth and every which-a-way like wrinkles? Think, now—it's somebody you all know."

And when they had given it up as a puzzle too hard for them to guess he said:[Pg 56]

"Why, ain't it got percisely the same color and the same look about it as Mr. Dudley Stackpole's face? Why, it's a perfect imitation of him! That's whut I said to myself all in a flash when I first seen it bouncin' on the end of this here black birch limb out yonder in the flats."

"By gum, if you ain't right!" exclaimed one of the audience. "Say, come to think about it, I wonder if spendin' all his nights with bright lights burnin' round him is whut's give that old man that gray color he's got, the same as this wasp's nest has got it, and all them puckery lines round his eyes. Pore old devil, with the hags furever ridin' him! Well, they tell me he's toler'ble well fixed in this world's goods, but poor as I am, and him well off, I wouldn't trade places with him fur any amount of money. I've got my peace of mind if I ain't got anything else to speak of. Say, you'd 'a' thought in all these years a man would get over broodin' over havin' killed another feller, and specially havin' killed him in fair fight. Let's see, now, whut was the name of the feller he killed that time out there at Cache Creek Crossin's? I actually disremember. I've heard it a thousand times, too, I reckin, if I've heard it oncet."

For a fact, the memory of the man slain so long before only endured because the slayer walked abroad as a living reminder of the taking off of one who by all accounts had been of small value to mankind in his day and generation. Save for the daily presence of the one, the very identity even of the other might before now have been forgotten. For this very reason, seeking to enlarge the merits of the controversy which had led to the death of one Jesse Tatum at the hands of Dudley Stackpole, people sometimes referred to it as the Tatum-Stackpole feud and sought to liken it to the Faxon-Fleming feud. But that was a real feud with fence-corner ambuscades and a sizable mortality list and night-time assassinations and all; whereas this lesser thing, which now briefly is to be dealt with on its merits, had been no more than a neighborhood falling out, having but a solitary homicide for its climatic upshot. So far as that went, it really was not so much the death of the victim as the survival of his destroyer[Pg 57]—and his fashion of living afterwards—which made warp and woof for the fabric of the tragedy.

With the passage of time the actuating causes were somewhat blurred in perspective. The main facts stood forth clear enough, but the underlying details were misty and uncertain, like some half-obliterated scribble on a badly rubbed slate upon which a more important sum has been overlaid. One rendition had it that the firm of Stackpole Brothers sued the two Tatums—Harve and Jess—for an account long overdue, and won judgment in the courts, but won with it the murderous enmity of the defendant pair. Another account would have it that a dispute over a boundary fence marching between the Tatum homestead on Cache Creek and one of the Stackpole farm holdings ripened into a prime quarrel by reasons of Stackpole stubbornness on the one hand and Tatum malignity on the other. By yet a third account the lawsuit and the line-fence matter were confusingly twisted together to form a cause for disputation.

Never mind that part though. The incontrovertible part was that things came to a decisive pass on a July day in the late '80's when the two Tatums sent word to the two Stackpoles that at or about six o'clock of that evening they would come down the side road from their place a mile away to Stackpole Brothers' gristmill above the big riffle in Cache Creek prepared to fight it out man to man. The warning was explicit enough—the Tatums would shoot on sight. The message was meant for two, but only one brother heard it; for Jeffrey Stackpole, the senior member of the firm, was sick abed with heart disease at the Stackpole house on Clay Street in town, and Dudley, the junior, was running the business and keeping bachelor's hall, as the phrase runs, in the living room of the mill; and it was Dudley who received notice.

Now the younger Stackpole was known for a law-abiding and a well-disposed man, which reputation stood him in stead subsequently; but also he was no coward. He might crave peace, but he would not flee from trouble moving toward him. He would not advance a step to meet it, neither would he give back a step to avoid it. If it occurred to him to hurry in to the county seat and[Pg 58] have his enemies put under bonds to keep the peace he pushed the thought from him. This, in those days, was not the popular course for one threatened with violence by another; nor, generally speaking, was it regarded exactly as the manly one to follow. So he bided that day where he was. Moreover, it was not of record that he told any one at all of what impended. He knew little of the use of firearms, but there was a loaded pistol in the cash drawer of the mill office. He put it in a pocket of his coat and through the afternoon he waited, outwardly quiet and composed, for the appointed hour when single-handed he would defend his honor and his brother's against the unequal odds of a brace of bullies, both of them quick on the trigger, both smart and clever in the handling of weapons.

But if Stackpole told no one, some one else told some one. Probably the messenger of the Tatums talked. He currently was reputed to have a leaky tongue to go with his jimberjaws; a born trouble maker, doubtless, else he would not have loaned his service to such employment in the first place. Up and down the road ran the report that before night there would be a clash at the Stackpole mill. Peg-Leg Foster, who ran the general store below the bridge and within sight of the big riffle, saw fit to shut up shop early and go to town for the evening. Perhaps he did not want to be a witness, or possibly he desired to be out of the way of stray lead flying about. So the only known witness to what happened, other than the parties engaged in it, was a negro woman. She, at least, was one who had not heard the rumor which since early forenoon had been spreading through the sparsely settled neighborhood. When six o'clock came she was grubbing out a sorghum patch in front of her cabin just north of where the creek cut under the Blandsville gravel pike.

One gets a picture of the scene: The thin and deficient shadows stretching themselves across the parched bottom lands as the sun slid down behind the trees of Eden's swamp lot; the heat waves of a blistering hot day still dancing their devil's dance down the road like wriggling circumflexes to accent a false promise of coolness off there in the distance; the ominous emptiness of the landscape;[Pg 59] the brooding quiet, cut through only by the frogs and the dry flies tuning up for their evening concert; the bandannaed negress wrangling at the weeds with her hoe blade inside the rail fence; and, half sheltered within the lintels of the office doorway of his mill, Dudley Stackpole, a slim, still figure, watching up the crossroad for the coming of his adversaries.

But the adversaries did not come from up the road as they had advertised they would. That declaration on their part had been a trick and device, cockered up in the hope of taking the foe by surprise and from the rear. In a canvas-covered wagon—moving wagons, we used to call them in Red Gravel County—they left their house half an hour or so before the time set by them for the meeting, and they cut through by a wood lane which met the pike south of Foster's store; and then very slowly they rode up the pike toward the mill, being minded to attack from behind, with the added advantage of unexpectedness on their side.

Chance, though, spoiled their strategy and made these terms of primitive dueling more equal. Mark how: The woman in the sorghum patch saw it happen. She saw the wagon pass her and saw it brought to standstill just beyond where she was; saw Jess Tatum slide stealthily down from under the overhanging hood of the wagon and, sheltered behind it, draw a revolver and cock it, all the while peeping out, searching the front and the nearer side of the gristmill with his eager eyes. She saw Harve Tatum, the elder brother, set the wheel chock and wrap the lines about the sheathed whipstock, and then as he swung off the seat catch a boot heel on the rim of the wagon box and fall to the road with a jar which knocked him cold, for he was a gross and heavy man and struck squarely on his head. With popped eyes she saw Jess throw up his pistol and fire once from his ambush behind the wagon, and then—the startled team having snatched the wagon from before him—saw him advance into the open toward the mill, shooting again as he advanced.

All now in the same breath and in a jumble of shock and terror she saw Dudley Stackpole emerge into full sight, and standing clear a pace from his doorway return[Pg 60] the fire; saw the thudding frantic hoofs of the nigh horse spurn Harve Tatum's body aside—the kick broke his right leg, it turned out—saw Jess Tatum suddenly halt and stagger back as though jerked by an unseen hand; saw him drop his weapon and straighten again, and with both hands clutched to his throat run forward, head thrown back and feet drumming; heard him give one strange bubbling, strangled scream—it was the blood in his throat made this outcry sound thus—and saw him fall on his face, twitching and wriggling, not thirty feet from where Dudley Stackpole stood, his pistol upraised and ready for more firing.

As to how many shots, all told, were fired the woman never could say with certainty. There might have been four or five or six, or even seven, she thought. After the opening shot they rang together in almost a continuous volley, she said. Three empty chambers in Tatum's gun and two in Stackpole's seemed conclusive evidence to the sheriff and the coroner that night and to the coroner's jurors next day that five shots had been fired.

On one point, though, for all her fright, the woman was positive, and to this she stuck in the face of questions and cross-questions. After Tatum stopped as though jolted to a standstill, and dropped his weapon, Stackpole flung the barrel of his revolver upward and did not again offer to fire, either as his disarmed and stricken enemy advanced upon him or after he had fallen. As she put it, he stood there like a man frozen stiff.

Having seen and heard this much, the witness, now all possible peril for her was passed, suddenly became mad with fear. She ran into her cabin and scrouged behind the headboard of a bed. When at length she timorously withdrew from hiding and came trembling forth, already persons out of the neighborhood, drawn by the sounds of the fusillade, were hurrying up. They seemed to spring, as it were, out of the ground. Into the mill these newcomers carried the two Tatums, Jess being stone-dead and Harve still senseless, with a leg dangling where the bones were snapped below the knee, and a great cut in his scalp; and they laid the two of them side by side on the floor in the gritty dust of the meal tailings and the flour grindings.[Pg 61] This done, some ran to harness and hitch and to go to fetch doctors and law officers, spreading the news as they went; and some stayed on to work over Harve Tatum and to give such comfort as they might to Dudley Stackpole, he sitting dumb in his little, cluttered office awaiting the coming of constable or sheriff or deputy so that he might surrender himself into custody.

While they waited and while they worked to bring Harve Tatum back to his senses, the men marveled at two amazing things. The first wonder was that Jess Tatum, finished marksman as he was, and the main instigator and central figure of sundry violent encounters in the past, should have failed to hit the mark at which he fired with his first shot or with his second or with his third; and the second, a still greater wonder, was that Dudley Stackpole, who perhaps never in his life had had for a target a living thing, should have sped a bullet so squarely into the heart of his victim at twenty yards or more. The first phenomenon might perhaps be explained, they agreed, on the hypothesis that the mishap to his brother, coming at the very moment of the fight's beginning, unnerved Jess and threw him out of stride, so to speak. But the second was not in anywise to be explained excepting on the theory of sheer chance. The fact remained that it was so, and the fact remained that it was strange.

By form of law Dudley Stackpole spent two days under arrest; but this was a form, a legal fiction only. Actually he was at liberty from the time he reached the courthouse that night, riding in the sheriff's buggy with the sheriff and carrying poised on his knees a lighted lantern. Afterwards it was to be recalled that when, alongside the sheriff, he came out of his mill technically a prisoner he carried in his hand this lantern, all trimmed of wick and burning, and that he held fast to it through the six-mile ride to town. Afterwards, too, the circumstance was to be coupled with multiplying circumstances to establish a state of facts; but at the moment, in the excited state of mind of those present, it passed unremarked and almost unnoticed. And he still held it in his hand when, having been released under nominal bond and attended by cer[Pg 62]tain sympathizing friends, he walked across town from the county building to his home in Clay Street. That fact, too, was subsequently remembered and added to other details to make a finished sum of deductive reasoning.

Already it was a foregone conclusion that the finding at the coroner's inquest, to be held the next day, would absolve him; foregone, also, that no prosecutor would press for his arraignment on charges and that no grand jury would indict. So, soon all the evidence in hand was conclusively on his side. He had been forced into a fight not of his own choosing; an effort, which had failed, had been made to take him unfairly from behind; he had fired in self-defense after having first been fired upon; save for a quirk of fate operating in his favor, he should have faced odds of two deadly antagonists instead of facing one. What else then than his prompt and honorable discharge? And to top all, the popular verdict was that the killing off of Jess Tatum was so much good riddance of so much sorry rubbish; a pity, though, Harve had escaped his just deserts.

Helpless for the time being, and in the estimation of his fellows even more thoroughly discredited than he had been before, Harve Tatum here vanishes out of our recital. So, too, does Jeffrey Stackpole, heretofore mentioned once by name, for within a week he was dead of the same heart attack which had kept him out of the affair at Cache Creek. The rest of the narrative largely appertains to the one conspicuous survivor, this Dudley Stackpole already described.

Tradition ever afterwards had it that on the night of the killing he slept—if he slept at all—in the full-lighted room of a house which was all aglare with lights from cellar to roof line. From its every opening the house blazed as for a celebration. At the first, so the tale of it ran, people were of two different minds to account for this. This one rather thought Stackpole feared punitive reprisals under cover of night by vengeful kinsmen of the Tatums, they being, root and branch, sprout and limb, a belligerent and an ill-conditioned breed. That one suggested that maybe he took this method of letting all and sundry know he felt no regret for having gunned the[Pg 63] life out of a dangerous brawler; that perhaps thereby he sought to advertise his satisfaction at the outcome of that day's affair. But this latter theory was not to be credited. For so sensitive and so well-disposed a man as Dudley Stackpole to joy in his own deadly act, however justifiable in the sight of law and man that act might have been—why, the bare notion of it was preposterous! The repute and the prior conduct of the man robbed the suggestion of all plausibility. And then soon, when night after night the lights still flared in his house, and when on top of this evidence accumulated to confirm a belief already crystallizing in the public mind, the town came to sense the truth, which was that Mr. Dudley Stackpole now feared the dark as a timid child might fear it. It was not authentically chronicled that he confessed his fears to any living creature. But his fellow townsmen knew the state of his mind as though he had shouted of it from the housetops. They had heard, most of them, of such cases before. They agreed among themselves that he shunned darkness because he feared that out of that darkness might return the vision of his deed, bloodied and shocking and hideous. And they were right. He did so fear, and he feared mightily, constantly and unendingly.

That fear, along with the behavior which became from that night thenceforward part and parcel of him, made Dudley Stackpole as one set over and put apart from his fellows. Neither by daytime nor by night-time was he thereafter to know darkness. Never again was he to see the twilight fall or face the blackness which comes before the dawning or take his rest in the cloaking, kindly void and nothingness of the midnight. Before the dusk of evening came, in midafternoon sometimes, of stormy and briefened winter days, or in the full radiance of the sun's sinking in the summertime, he was within doors lighting the lights which would keep the darkness beyond his portals and hold at bay a gathering gloom into which from window or door he would not look and dared not look.

There were trees about his house, cottonwoods and sycamores and one noble elm branching like a lyre. He[Pg 64] chopped them all down and had the roots grubbed out. The vines which covered his porch were shorn away. To these things many were witnesses. What transformations he worked within the walls were largely known by hearsay through the medium of Aunt Kassie, the old negress who served him as cook and chambermaid and was his only house servant. To half-fearsome, half-fascinated audiences of her own color, whose members in time communicated what she told to their white employers, she related how with his own hands, bringing a crude carpentry into play, her master ripped out certain dark closets and abolished a secluded and gloomy recess beneath a hall staircase, and how privily he called in men who strung his ceilings with electric lights, although already the building was piped for gas; and how, for final touches, he placed in various parts of his bedroom tallow dips and oil lamps to be lit before twilight and to burn all night, so that though the gas sometime should fail and the electric bulbs blink out there still would be abundant lighting about him. His became the house which harbored no single shadow save only the shadow of morbid dread which lived within its owner's bosom. An orthodox haunted house should by rights be deserted and dark. This house, haunted if ever one was, differed from the orthodox conception. It was tenanted and it shone with lights.

The man's abiding obsession—if we may call his besetment thus—changed in practically all essential regards the manners and the practices of his daily life. After the shooting he never returned to his mill. He could not bring himself to endure the ordeal of revisiting the scene of the killing. So the mill stood empty and silent, just as he left it that night when he rode to town with the sheriff, until after his brother's death; and then with all possible dispatch he sold it, its fixtures, contents and goodwill, for what the property would fetch at quick sale, and he gave up business. He had sufficient to stay him in his needs. The Stackpoles had the name of being a canny and a provident family, living quietly and saving of their substance. The homestead where he lived, which his father before him had built, was free of[Pg 65] debt. He had funds in the bank and money out at interest. He had not been one to make close friends. Now those who had counted themselves his friends became rather his distant acquaintances, among whom he neither received nor bestowed confidences.

In the broader hours of daylight his ways were such as any man of reserved and diffident ways, having no fixed employment, might follow in a smallish community. He sat upon his porch and read in books. He worked in his flower beds. With flowers he had a cunning touch, almost like a woman's. He loved them, and they responded to his love and bloomed and bore for him. He walked downtown to the business district, always alone, a shy and unimpressive figure, and sat brooding and aloof in one of the tilted-back cane chairs under the portico of the old Richland House, facing the river. He took long solitary walks on side streets and byways; but it was noted that, reaching the outer outskirts, he invariably turned back. In all those dragging years it is doubtful if once he set foot past the corporate limits into the open country. Dun hued, unobtrusive, withdrawn, he aged slowly, almost imperceptibly. Men and women of his own generation used to say that save for the wrinkles ever multiplying in close cross-hatchings about his puckered eyes, and save for the enhancing of that dead gray pallor—the wasp's-nest overcasting of his skin—he still looked to them exactly as he had looked when he was a much younger man.

It was not so much the appearance or the customary demeanor of the recluse that made strangers turn about to stare at him as he passed, and that made them remember how he looked when he was gone from their sight. The one was commonplace enough—I mean his appearance—and his conduct, unless one knew the underlying motives, was merely that of an unobtrusive, rather melancholy seeming gentleman of quiet tastes and habits. It was the feeling and the sense of a dismal exhalation from him, an unhealthy and unnatural mental effluvium that served so indelibly to fix the bodily image of him in the brainpans of casual and uninformed passers-by. The brand of Cain was not on his brow. By every local stand[Pg 66]ard of human morality it did not belong there. But built up of morbid elements within his own conscience, it looked out from his eyes and breathed out from his person.

So year by year, until the tally of the years rolled up to more than thirty, he went his lone unhappy way. He was in the life of the town, to an extent, but not of it. Always, though it was the daylit life of the town which knew him. Excepting once only. Of this exceptional instance a story was so often repeated that in time it became permanently embalmed in the unwritten history of the place.

On a summer's afternoon, sultry and close, the heavens suddenly went all black, and quick gusts smote the earth with threats of a great windstorm. The sun vanished magically; a close thick gloaming fell out of the clouds. It was as though nightfall had descended hours before its ordained time. At the city power house the city electrician turned on the street lights. As the first great fat drops of rain fell, splashing in the dust like veritable clots, citizens scurrying indoors and citizens seeing to flapping awnings and slamming window blinds halted where they were to peer through the murk at the sight of Mr. Dudley Stackpole fleeing to the shelter of home like a man hunted by a terrible pursuer. But with all his desperate need for haste he ran no straightaway course. The manner of his flight was what gave added strangeness to the spectacle of him. He would dart headlong, on a sharp oblique from the right-hand corner of a street intersection to a point midway of the block—or square, to give it its local name—then go slanting back again to the right-hand corner of the next street crossing, so that his path was in the pattern of one acutely slanted zigzag after another. He was keeping, as well as he could within the circles of radiance thrown out by the municipal arc lights as he made for his house, there in his bedchamber to fortify himself about, like one beset and besieged, with the ample and protecting rays of all the methods of artificial illumination at his command—with incandescent bulbs thrown on by switches, with the flare of lighted gas jets, with the tallow dip's slim digit of flame, and with[Pg 67] the kerosene wick's three-finger breadth of greasy brilliance. As he fumbled, in a very panic and spasm of fear, with the latchets of his front gate Squire Jonas' wife heard him screaming to Aunt Kassie, his servant, to turn on the lights—all of them.

That once was all, though—the only time he found the dark taking him unawares and threatening to envelop him in thirty years and more than thirty. Then a time came when in a hospital in Oklahoma an elderly man named A. Hamilton Bledsoe lay on his deathbed and on the day before he died told the physician who attended him and the clergyman who had called to pray for him that he had a confession to make. He desired that it be taken down by a stenographer just as he uttered it, and transcribed; then he would sign it as his solemn dying declaration, and when he had died they were to send the signed copy back to the town from whence he had in the year 1889 moved West, and there it was to be published broadcast. All of which, in due course of time and in accordance with the signatory's wishes, was done.

With the beginning of the statement as it appeared in the Daily Evening News, as with Editor Tompkins' introductory paragraphs preceding it, we need have no interest. That which really matters began two-thirds of the way down the first column and ran as follows:

"How I came to know there was likely to be trouble that evening at the big-riffle crossing was this way"—it is the dying Bledsoe, of course, who is being quoted. "The man they sent to the mill with the message did a lot of loose talking on his way back after he gave in the message, and in this roundabout way the word got to me at my house on the Eden's Swamp road soon after dinnertime. Now I had always got along fine with both of the Stackpoles, and had only friendly feelings toward them; but maybe there's some people still alive back there in that county who can remember what the reason was why I should naturally hate and despise both the Tatums, and especially this Jess Tatum, him being if anything the more low-down one of the two, although the youngest. At this late day I don't aim to drag the name of any one else into this, especially a woman's name, and her now[Pg 68] dead and gone and in her grave; but I will just say that if ever a man had a just cause for craving to see Jess Tatum stretched out in his blood it was me. At the same time I will state that it was not good judgment for a man who expected to go on living to start out after one of the Tatums without he kept on till he had cleaned up the both of them, and maybe some of their cousins as well. I will not admit that I acted cowardly, but will state that I used my best judgment.

"Therefore and accordingly, no sooner did I hear the news about the dare which the Tatums had sent to the Stackpoles than I said to myself that it looked like here was my fitting chance to even up my grudge with Jess Tatum and yet at the same time not run the prospect of being known to be mixed up in the matter and maybe getting arrested, or waylaid afterwards by members of the Tatum family or things of such a nature. Likewise I figured that with a general amount of shooting going on, as seemed likely to be the case, one shot more or less would not be noticed, especially as I aimed to keep out of sight at all times and do my work from under safe cover, which it all of it turned out practically exactly as I had expected. So I took a rifle which I owned and which I was a good shot with and I privately went down through the bottoms and came out on the creek bank in the deep cut right behind Stackpole Brothers' gristmill. I should say offhand this was then about three o'clock in the evening. I was ahead of time, but I wished to be there and get everything fixed up the way I had mapped it out in my mind, without being hurried or rushed.

"The back door of the mill was not locked, and I got in without being seen, and I went upstairs to the loft over the mill and I went to a window just above the front door, which was where they hoisted up grain when brought in wagons, and I propped the wooden shutter of the window open a little ways. But I only propped it open about two or three inches; just enough for me to see out of it up the road good. And I made me a kind of pallet out of meal sacks and I laid down there and I waited. I knew the mill had shut down for the week, and I didn't figure on any of the hands being round the[Pg 69] mill or anybody finding out I was up there. So I waited, not hearing anybody stirring about downstairs at all, until just about three minutes past six, when all of a sudden came the first shot.

"What threw me off was expecting the Tatums to come afoot from up the road, but when they did come it was in a wagon from down the main Blandsville pike clear round in the other direction. So at this first shot I swung and peeped out and I seen Harve Tatum down in the dust seemingly right under the wheels of his wagon, and I seen Jess Tatum jump out from behind the wagon and shoot, and I seen Dudley Stackpole come out of the mill door right directly under me and start shooting back at him. There was no sign of his brother Jeffrey. I did not know then that Jeffrey was home sick in bed.

"Being thrown off the way I had been, it took me maybe one or two seconds to draw myself around and get the barrel of my rifle swung round to where I wanted it, and while I was doing this the shooting was going on. All in a flash it had come to me that it would be fairer than ever for me to take part in this thing, because in the first place the Tatums would be two against one if Harve should get back upon his feet and get into the fight; and in the second place Dudley Stackpole didn't know the first thing about shooting a pistol. Why, all in that same second, while I was righting myself and getting the bead onto Jess Tatum's breast, I seen his first shot—Stackpole's I mean—kick up the dust not twenty feet in front of him and less than halfway to where Tatum was. I was as cool as I am now, and I seen this quite plain.

"So with that, just as Stackpole fired wild again, I let Jess Tatum have it right through the chest, and as I did so I knew from the way he acted that he was done and through. He let loose of his pistol and acted like he was going to fall, and then he sort of rallied up and did a strange thing. He ran straight on ahead toward the mill, with his neck craned back and him running on tiptoe; and he ran this way quite a little ways before he dropped flat, face down. Somebody else, seeing him do that, might have thought he had the idea to tear into Dudley Stackpole with his bare hands, but I had done enough[Pg 70] shooting at wild game in my time to know that he was acting like a partridge sometimes does, or a wild duck when it is shot through the heart or in the head; only in such a case a bird flies straight up in the air. Towering is what you call it when done by a partridge. I do not know what you would call it when done by a man.

"So then I closed the window shutter and I waited for quite a little while to make sure everything was all right for me, and then I hid my rifle under the meal sacks, where it stayed until I got it privately two days later; and then I slipped downstairs and went out by the back door and came round in front, running and breathing hard as though I had just heard the shooting whilst up in the swamp. By that time there were several others had arrived, and there was also a negro woman crying round and carrying on and saying she seen Jess Tatum fire the first shot and seen Dudley Stackpole shoot back and seen Tatum fall. But she could not say for sure how many shots there were fired in all. So I saw that everything was all right so far as I was concerned, and that nobody, not even Stackpole, suspicioned but that he himself had killed Jess Tatum; and as I knew he would have no trouble with the law to amount to anything on account of it, I felt that there was no need for me to worry, and I did not—not worry then nor later. But for some time past I had been figuring on moving out here on account of this new country opening up. So I hurried up things, and inside of a week I had sold out my place and had shipped my household plunder on ahead; and I moved out here with my family, which they have all died off since, leaving only me. And now I am about to die, and so I wish to make this statement before I do so.

"But if they had thought to cut into Jess Tatum's body after he was dead, or to probe for the bullet in him, they would have known that it was not Dudley Stackpole who really shot him, but somebody else; and then I suppose suspicion might have fell upon me, although I doubt it. Because they would have found that the bullet which killed him was fired out of a forty-five-seventy shell, and Dudley Stackpole had done all of the shooting he done with a thirty-eight caliber pistol, which would[Pg 71] throw a different-size bullet. But they never thought to do so."

Question by the physician, Doctor Davis: "You mean to say that no autopsy was performed upon the body of the deceased?"

Answer by Bledsoe: "If you mean by performing an autopsy that they probed into him or cut in to find the bullet I will answer no, sir, they did not. They did not seem to think to do so, because it seemed to everybody such a plain open-and-shut case that Dudley Stackpole had killed him."

Question by the Reverend Mr. Hewlitt: "I take it that you are making this confession of your own free will and in order to clear the name of an innocent party from blame and to purge your own soul?"

Answer: "In reply to that I will say yes and no. If Dudley Stackpole is still alive, which I doubt, he is by now getting to be an old man; but if alive yet I would like for him to know that he did not fire the shot which killed Jess Tatum on that occasion. He was not a bloodthirsty man, and doubtless the matter may have preyed upon his mind. So on the bare chance of him being still alive is why I make this dying statement to you gentlemen in the presence of witnesses. But I am not ashamed, and never was, at having done what I did do. I killed Jess Tatum with my own hands, and I have never regretted it. I would not regard killing him as a crime any more than you gentlemen here would regard it as a crime killing a rattlesnake or a moccasin snake. Only, until now, I did not think it advisable for me to admit it; which, on Dudley Stackpole's account solely, is the only reason why I am now making this statement."

And so on and so forth for the better part of a second column, with a brief summary in Editor Tompkins' best style—which was a very dramatic and moving style indeed—of the circumstances, as recalled by old residents, of the ancient tragedy, and a short sketch of the deceased Bledsoe, the facts regarding him being drawn from the same veracious sources; and at the end of the article was a somewhat guarded but altogether sympathetic reference to the distressful recollections borne for[Pg 72] so long and so patiently by an esteemed townsman, with a concluding paragraph to the effect that though the gentleman in question had declined to make a public statement touching on the remarkable disclosures now added thus strangely as a final chapter to the annals of an event long since occurred, the writer felt no hesitancy in saying that appreciating, as they must, the motives which prompted him to silence, his fellow citizens would one and all join the editor of the Daily Evening News in congratulating him upon the lifting of this cloud from his life.

"I only wish I had the language to express the way that old man looked when I showed him the galley proofs of Bledsoe's confession," said Editor Tompkins to a little interested group gathered in his sanctum after the paper was on the streets that evening. "If I had such a power I'd have this Frenchman Balzac clear off the boards when it came to describing things. Gentlemen, let me tell you—I've been in this business all my life, and I've seen lots of things, but I never saw anything that was the beat of this thing.

"Just as soon as this statement came to me in the mails this morning from that place out in Oklahoma I rushed it into type, and I had a set of galley proofs pulled and I stuck 'em in my pocket and I put out for the Stackpole place out on Clay Street. I didn't want to trust either of the reporters with this job. They're both good, smart, likely boys; but, at that, they're only boys, and I didn't know how they'd go at this thing; and, anyway, it looked like it was my job.

"He was sitting on his porch reading, just a little old gray shell of a man, all hunched up, and I walked up to him and I says: 'You'll pardon me, Mr. Stackpole, but I've come to ask you a question and then to show you something. Did you,' I says, 'ever know a man named A. Hamilton Bledsoe?'

"He sort of winced. He got up and made as if to go into the house without answering me. I suppose it'd been so long since he had anybody calling on him he hardly knew how to act. And then that question coming out of a clear sky, as you might say, and rousing up bitter[Pg 73] memories—not probably that his bitter memories needed any rousing, being always with him, anyway—may have jolted him pretty hard. But if he aimed to go inside he changed his mind when he got to the door. He turned round and came back.

"'Yes,' he says, as though the words were being dragged out of him against his will, 'I did once know a man of that name. He was commonly called Ham Bledsoe. He lived near where'—he checked himself up, here—'he lived,' he says, 'in this county at one time. I knew him then.'

"'That being so,' I says, 'I judge the proper thing to do is to ask you to read these galley proofs,' and I handed them over and he read them through without a word. Without a word, mind you, and yet if he'd spoken a volume he couldn't have told me any clearer what was passing through his mind when he came to the main facts than the way he did tell me just by the look that came into his face. Gentlemen, when you sit and watch a man sixty-odd years old being born again; when you see hope and life come back to him all in a minute; when you see his soul being remade in a flash, you'll find you can't describe it afterwards, but you're never going to forget it. And another thing you'll find is that there is nothing for you to say to him, nothing that you can say, nor nothing that you want to say.

"I did manage, when he was through, to ask him whether or not he wished to make a statement. That was all from me, mind you, and yet I'd gone out there with the idea in my head of getting material for a long newsy piece out of him—what we call in this business heart-interest stuff. All he said, though, as he handed me back the slips was, 'No, sir; but I thank you—from the bottom of my heart I thank you.' And then he shook hands with me—shook hands with me like a man who's forgotten almost how 'twas done—and he walked in his house and shut the door behind him, and I came on away feeling exactly as though I had seen a funeral turned into a resurrection."

Editor Tompkins thought he had that day written the final chapter, but he hadn't. The final chapter he was[Pg 74] to write the next day, following hard upon a denouement, which to Mr. Tompkins, he with his own eyes having seen what he had seen, was so profound a puzzle that ever thereafter he mentally catalogued it under one of his favorite headlining phrases: "Deplorable Affair Shrouded in Mystery."

Let us go back a few hours. For a fact, Mr. Tompkins had been witness to a spirit's resurrection. It was as he had borne testimony—a life had been reborn before his eyes. Even so, he, the sole spectator to and chronicler of the glory of it, could not know the depth and the sweep and the swing of the great heartening swell of joyous relief which uplifted Dudley Stackpole at the reading of the dead Bledsoe's words. None save Dudley Stackpole himself was ever to have a true appreciation of the utter sweetness of that cleansing flood, nor he for long.

As he closed his door upon the editor, plans, aspirations, ambitions already were flowing to his brain, borne there upon that ground swell of sudden happiness. Into the back spaces of his mind long-buried desires went riding like chips upon a torrent. The substance of his patiently endured self-martyrdom was lifted all in a second, and with it the shadow of it. He would be thenceforth as other men, living as they lived, taking, as they did, an active share and hand in communal life. He was getting old. The good news had come late but not too late. That day would mark the total disappearance of the morbid lonely recluse and the rejuvenation of the normal-thinking, normal-habited citizen. That very day he would make a beginning of the new order of things.

And that very day he did; at least he tried. He put on his hat and he took his cane in his hand and as he started down the street he sought to put smartness and springiness into his gait. If the attempt was a sorry failure, he, for one, did not appreciate the completeness of the failure. He meant, anyhow, that his step no longer should be purposeless and mechanical; that his walk should hereafter have intent in it. And as he came down the porch steps he looked about him, but dully, with sick and uninforming eyes, but with a livened interest in all familiar homely things.[Pg 75]

Coming to his gate he saw, near at hand, Squire Jonas, now a gnarled but still sprightly octogenarian, leaning upon a fence post surveying the universe at large, as was the squire's daily custom. He called out a good morning and waved his stick in greeting toward the squire with a gesture which he endeavored to make natural. His aging muscles, staled by thirty-odd years of lack of practice at such tricks, merely made it jerky and forced. Still, the friendly design was there, plainly to be divined; and the neighborly tone of his voice. But the squire, ordinarily the most courteous of persons, and certainly one of the most talkative, did not return the salutation. Astonishment congealed his faculties, tied his tongue and paralyzed his biceps. He stared dumbly a moment, and then, having regained coherent powers, he jammed his brown-varnished straw hat firmly upon his ancient poll and went scrambling up his gravel walk as fast as two rheumatic underpinnings would take him, and on into his house like a man bearing incredible and unbelievable tidings.

Mr. Stackpole opened his gate and passed out and started down the sidewalk. Midway of the next square he overtook a man he knew—an elderly watchmaker, a Swiss by birth, who worked at Nagel's jewelry store. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of times he had passed this man upon the street. Always before he had passed him with averted eyes and a stiff nod of recognition. Now, coming up behind the other, Mr. Stackpole bade him a cheerful good day. At the sound of the words the Swiss spun on his heel, then gulped audibly and backed away, flinching almost as though a blow had been aimed at him. He muttered some meaningless something, confusedly; he stared at Mr. Stackpole with widened eyes like one who beholds an apparition in the broad of the day; he stepped on his own feet and got in his own way as he shrank to the outer edge of the narrow pavement. Mr. Stackpole was minded to fall into step alongside the Swiss, but the latter would not have it so. He stumbled along for a few yards, mute and plainly terribly embarrassed at finding himself in this unexpected company, and then with a muttered sound which might be inter[Pg 76]preted as an apology or an explanation, or as a token of profound surprise on his part, or as combination of them all, he turned abruptly off into a grassed side lane which ran up into the old Enders orchard and ended nowhere at all in particular. Once his back was turned to Mr. Stackpole, he blessed himself fervently. On his face was the look of one who would fend off what is evil and supernatural.

Mr. Stackpole continued on his way. On a vacant lot at Franklin and Clay Streets four small boys were playing one-eyed-cat. Switching his cane at the weed tops with strokes which he strove to make casual, he stopped to watch them, a half smile of approbation on his face. Pose and expression showed that he desired their approval for his approval of their skill. They stopped, too, when they saw him—stopped short. With one accord they ceased their play, staring at him. Nervously the batsman withdrew to the farther side of the common, dragging his bat behind him. The three others followed, casting furtive looks backward over their shoulders. Under a tree at the back of the lot they conferred together, all the while shooting quick diffident glances toward where he stood. It was plain something had put a blight upon their spirits; also, even at this distance, they radiated a sort of inarticulate suspicion—a suspicion of which plainly he was the object.

For long years Mr. Stackpole's faculties for observation of the motives and actions of his fellows had been sheathed. Still, disuse had not altogether dulled them. Constant introspection had not destroyed his gift for speculation. It was rusted, but still workable. He had read aright Squire Jonas' stupefaction, the watchmaker's ludicrous alarm. He now read aright the chill which the very sight of his altered mien—cheerful and sprightly where they had expected grim aloofness—had thrown upon the spirits of the ball players. Well, he could understand it all. The alteration in him, coming without prior warning, had startled them, frightened them, really. Well, that might have been expected. The way had not been paved properly for the transformation. It would be different when the Daily Evening News came out. He[Pg 77] would go back home—he would wait. When they had read what was in the paper people would not avoid him or flee from him. They would be coming into his house to wish him well, to reëstablish old relations with him. Why, it would be almost like holding a reception. He would be to those of his own age as a friend of their youth, returning after a long absence to his people, with the dour stranger who had lived in his house while he was away now driven out and gone forever.

He turned about and he went back home and he waited. But for a while nothing happened, except that in the middle of the afternoon Aunt Kassie unaccountably disappeared. She was gone when he left his seat on the front porch and went back to the kitchen to give her some instruction touching on supper. At dinnertime, entering his dining room, he had without conscious intent whistled the bars of an old air, and at that she had dropped a plate of hot egg bread and vanished into the pantry, leaving the spilt fragments upon the floor. Nor had she returned. He had made his meal unattended. Now, while he looked for her, she was hurrying down the alley, bound for the home of her preacher. She felt the need of his holy counsels and the reading of scriptural passages. She was used to queerness in her master, but if he were going crazy all of a sudden, why that would be a different matter altogether. So presently she was confiding to her spiritual adviser.

Mr. Stackpole returned to the porch and sat down again and waited for what was to be. Through the heat of the waning afternoon Clay Street was almost deserted; but toward sunset the thickening tides of pedestrian travel began flowing by his house as men returned homeward from work. He had a bowing acquaintance with most of those who passed.

Two or three elderly men and women among them he had known fairly well in years past. But no single one of those who came along turned in at his gate to offer him the congratulation he so eagerly desired; no single one, at sight of him, all poised and expectant, paused to call out kindly words across the palings of his fence. Yet they must have heard the news. He knew that they had[Pg 78] heard it—all of them—knew it by the stares they cast toward the house front as they went by. There was more, though, in the staring than a quickened interest or a sharpened curiosity.

Was he wrong, or was there also a sort of subtle resentment in it? Was there a sense vaguely conveyed that even these old acquaintances of his felt almost personally aggrieved that a town character should have ceased thus abruptly to be a town character—that they somehow felt a subtle injustice had been done to public opinion, an affront offered to civic tradition, through this unexpected sloughing off by him of the rôle he for so long had worn?

He was not wrong. There was an essence of a floating, formless resentment there. Over the invisible tendons of mental telepathy it came to him, registering emphatically.

As he shrank back in his chair he summoned his philosophy to give him balm and consolation for his disappointment. It would take time, of course, for people to grow accustomed to the change in him—that was only natural. In a few days, now, when the shock of the sensation had worn off, things would be different. They would forgive him for breaking a sort of unuttered communal law, but one hallowed, as it were, by rote and custom. He vaguely comprehended that there might be such a law for his case—a canon of procedure which, unnatural in itself, had come with the passage of the passing years to be quite naturally accepted.

Well, perhaps the man who broke such a law, even though it were originally of his own fashioning, must abide the consequences. Even so, though, things must be different when the minds of people had readjusted. This he told himself over and over again, seeking in its steady repetition salve for his hurt, overwrought feelings.

And his nights—surely they would be different! Therein, after all, lay the roots of the peace and the surcease which henceforth would be his portion. At thought of this prospect, now imminent, he uplifted his soul in a silent pæan of thanksgiving.

Having no one in whom he ever had confided, it followed naturally that no one else knew what torture he[Pg 79] had suffered through all the nights of all those years stretching behind him in so terribly long a perspective. No one else knew how he had craved for the darkness which all the time he had both feared and shunned. No one else knew how miserable a travesty on sleep his sleep had been, first reading until a heavy physical weariness came, then lying in his bed through the latter hours of the night, fitfully dozing, often rousing, while from either side of his bed, from the ceiling above, from the headboard behind him, and from the footboard, strong lights played full and flary upon his twitching, aching eyelids; and finally, towards dawn, with every nerve behind his eyes taut with pain and strain, awakening unrefreshed to consciousness of that nimbus of unrelieved false glare which encircled him, and the stench of melted tallow and the stale reek of burned kerosene foul in his nose. That, now, had been the hardest of all to endure. Endured unceasingly, it had been because of his dread of a thing infinitely worse—the agonized, twisted, dying face of Jess Tatum leaping at him out of shadows. But now, thank God, that ghost of his own conjuring, that wraith never seen but always feared, was laid to rest forever. Never again would conscience put him, soul and body, upon the rack. This night he would sleep—sleep as little children do in the all-enveloping, friendly, comforting dark.

Scarcely could he wait till a proper bedtime hour came. He forgot that he had had no supper; forgot in that delectable anticipation the disillusionizing experiences of the day. Mechanically he had, as dusk came on, turned on the lights throughout the house, and force of habit still operating, he left them all on when at eleven o'clock he quitted the brilliantly illuminated porch and went to his bedroom on the second floor. He undressed and he put on him his night wear, becoming a grotesque shrunken figure, what with his meager naked legs and his ashen eager face and thin dust-colored throat rising above the collarless neckband of the garment. He blew out the flame of the oil lamp which burned on a reading stand at the left side of his bed and extinguished the two candles which stood on a table at the right side.[Pg 80]

Then he got in the bed and stretched out his arms, one aloft, the other behind him, finding with the fingers of this hand the turncock of the gas burner which swung low from the ceiling at the end of a goose-necked iron pipe, finding with the fingers of that hand the wall switch which controlled the battery of electric lights round about, and with a long-drawn sigh of happy deliverance he turned off both gas and electricity simultaneously and sank his head toward the pillow.

The pæaned sigh turned to a shriek of mortal terror. Quaking in every limb, crying out in a continuous frenzy of fright, he was up again on his knees seeking with quivering hands for the switch; pawing about then for matches with which to relight the gas. For the blackness—that blackness to which he had been stranger for more than half his life—had come upon him as an enemy smothering him, muffling his head in its terrible black folds, stopping his nostrils with its black fingers, gripping his windpipe with black cords, so that his breathing stopped.

That blackness for which he had craved with an unappeasable hopeless craving through thirty years and more was become a horror and a devil. He had driven it from him. When he bade it return it returned not as a friend and a comforter but as a mocking fiend.

For months and years past he had realized that his optic nerves, punished and preyed upon by constant and unwholesome brilliancy, were nearing the point of collapse, and that all the other nerves in his body, frayed and fretted, too, were all askew and jangled. Cognizant of this he still could see no hope of relief, since his fears were greater than his reasoning powers or his strength of will. With the fear lifted and eternally dissipated in a breath, he had thought to find solace and soothing and restoration in the darkness. But now the darkness, for which his soul in its longing and his body in its stress had cried out unceasingly and vainly, was denied him too. He could face neither the one thing nor the other.

Squatted there in the huddle of the bed coverings, he reasoned it all out, and presently he found the answer. And the answer was this: Nature for a while forgets and[Pg 81] forgives offenses against her, but there comes a time when Nature ceases to forgive the mistreatment of the body and the mind, and sends then her law of atonement, to be visited upon the transgressor with interest compounded a hundredfold. The user of narcotics knows it; the drunkard knows it; and this poor self-crucified victim of his own imagination—he knew it too. The hint of it had that day been reflected in the attitude of his neighbors, for they merely had obeyed, without conscious realization or analysis on their part, a law of the natural scheme of things. The direct proof of it was, by this night-time thing, revealed and made yet plainer. He stood convicted, a chronic violator of the immutable rule. And he knew, likewise, there was but one way out of the coil—and took it, there in his bedroom, vividly ringed about by the obscene and indecent circle of his lights which kept away the blessed, cursed darkness while the suicide's soul was passing.


[Pg 82]

AN INSTRUMENT OF THE GODS[6]

By LINCOLN COLCORD

(From The American Magazine)

"You think the Chinese are prosaic," said Nichols from the darkness of his corner. "I've listened to you closely. You fellows have been discussing only superficialities. At heart, you and the Oriental are the same. The Chinese are romantic, I tell you; they are heroic. Yes, really. Let me tell you a tale."

Suddenly he laughed. "You won't be convinced. But strip my friend Lee Fu Chang naked, forget about that long silken coat of his; dress him in a cowboy's suit and locate him on the Western plains, and the game he played with Captain Wilbur won't seem so inappropriate. You merely won't expect a mandarin Chinaman to play it. You'll feel that China is too civilized for what he did.

"Some of you fellows must remember the notorious case of Captain Wilbur and the 'Speedwell;' but I'll briefly refresh your memories: He was a well-known shipmaster of the palmy days, and his vessel was one of the finest clippers ever launched on the shores of New England. But she was growing old; and Wilbur had suffered serious financial reverses, though the fact wasn't generally known.

"To make a long story short, he put the 'Speedwell' ashore in Ombay Pass, on a voyage from Singapore to New York, and abandoned her as she lay. Within a month after sailing, he was back again in Singapore with his ship's company in three long boats and a tale of a lost vessel. No hint of scandal was raised against the affair. The insurance companies stood the gaff, the business was closed up without a hitch, and the name of the 'Speedwell'[Pg 83] passed simultaneously from the 'Maritime Register' and from the books of her owners in America.

"Wilbur went immediately to Batavia, and there hired a schooner and crew with the proceeds of his personal holdings in the vessel. He sailed for Ombay Pass; after a period of magnificent sailorizing and superhuman effort he floated the ship and patched her so that she would stay afloat. When he appeared off Batavia roadstead with the 'Speedwell' under topgallant-sails, it was the sensation of the port; and when it transpired what he intended to do with her, the news flew like wildfire about the China Sea. For he proposed to hold the ship as salvage; and nothing, apparently, could be done about it. He found men willing to advance him credit, bought off his Lascar crew, took the 'Speedwell' to Hong Kong and put her in dry dock, and soon was ready for business with a fine ship of his own.

"I was off on a trading voyage while these events were taking place. I heard them first from Lee Fu Chang.

"'An extraordinary incident!' exclaimed Lee Fu in conclusion. 'I am deeply interested. It is a crowning stroke that he has not seen fit to change the name of the vessel. All is as it was before, when the well-known and reputable Captain Wilbur commanded his fine ship, the "Speedwell," on voyages to the East.'

"'Does the crowd have anything to do with him?' I asked.

"'None of his old associates speak in passing. He goes about like a man afflicted with a pestilence. Apparently, he is not disturbed by this treatment. He makes no protest, offers no excuse, takes no notice; in the face of outrageous insult he maintains an air of dignity and reserve, like a man conscious of inner rectitude.'

"'Did you talk with him, Lee Fu?'

"'Oh, yes. In fact, I cultivated his acquaintance. It relieved, as it were, the daily monotony of virtue. Do not think that he is a simple man. His heart in this matter is unfathomable, and well worth sounding.'

"'By Jove, I believe you liked him!'

"'No, not that.' Lee Fu folded his hands within the long sleeves of his embroidered coat and laid them across[Pg 84] his stomach in a characteristic attitude of meditation. 'No, quite the opposite. I abhorred him. He feels no remorse; he goes his way in peace from the betrayal of a sacred trust. He is an arch-criminal.'

"'Aren't you laying it on a little thick?' I laughed.

"Lee Fu smiled quietly, giving me a glance that was a mere flicker of the eyelids. 'Captain, let me tell you, murder is brave and honorable compared to this. Consider what he did: Trained to the sea and ships, after a lifetime of service to his traditions, he suddenly forsakes them utterly. It is blasphemy which he has committed; blasphemy against the gods who guide and sustain us, and without whose aid we cannot live. So I abhor him—and am fascinated. If you will believe me, Captain, I have not in all my talk with him received a single flash of illumination; no, not one! There is no clue to his design. He speaks of his ship as others do; he is a big, red-faced man with frank glances and open speech. I swear to you, his heart is untroubled. And that is horrible.'

"I was a little amused at my friend's moral fervor. 'Perhaps he's innocent,' I said.

"'You forget that he holds the vessel,' Lee Fu reminded me. 'To one of your race, if no blood flows, then it is not so bad. But bear in mind that a strong man within your circle has murdered the spirit—and wait until the actual blood flows.'

"'What do you mean. Lee Fu?'

"'I mean that Captain Wilbur will bear watching. In the meantime, do not fail to study him when opportunity offers. Thus we learn of heaven and hell.'

"A few years went by, while the case of Captain Wilbur and the 'Speedwell' was in its initial stages of being forgotten. Nothing succeeds like success; the man was growing rich, and there were many to whom the possession of a fine vessel covered a multitude of sins. Some of his old friends were willing after a while to let bygones be bygones. Little by little, one began to see him again on the quarter-deck of an evening, among the fleet captains. When, in time, it became unwise to start the story against him for fear of misconstruction of the motive, it was evident that he'd won his nefarious match against society.[Pg 85]

"I'd met him a number of times during this interval. Indeed, he compelled attention. That perfect urbanity, that air of unfailing dignity and confidence, that aura of a commanding personality, of an able shipmaster among his brethren, of a man whose position in the world was secure beyond peradventure; these could spring only from a quiet conscience or from a heart perfectly attuned to villainy. So unconscious was his poise that one often doubted the evidence of memory, and found one's self going back over the record, only to fetch up point-blank against the incontestable fact that he had stolen his ship and had betrayed his profession.

"'It is a triumph, a feat of character!' Lee Fu used to say, as we compared notes on the case from time to time. 'I think that he has not been guilty of a single minor error. His correctness is diabolical. It presages disaster, like too much fair weather in the typhoon season. Mark my word, Captain, when the major error comes it will be a great tragedy.'

"'Must there be an error?' I asked, falling into the mood of Lee Fu's exaggerated concern. 'He has carried it off so far with the greatest ease.'

"'Yes, with the greatest ease,' Lee Fu repeated thoughtfully. 'Yet I wonder if he has been properly put to the test. See how the world protects him! But he is not invulnerable. Life will yet challenge him—it must be. Can a man escape the gods? I wonder. That is why I concern myself with him—to know his destiny.'

"'You admit, then, that he may be merely a stupid fool?' I chaffed.

"'Not stupid,' said Lee Fu. 'Yet, on the other hand, not superior to life. Such faultless power of will is in itself no mean share of ability. He is, as you might say, self-centered—most accurately self-centered. But the challenge of the gods displaces the center of all. He will be like a top that is done spinning. A little breath may topple him. Wait and see.'

"Voyage followed voyage; and one time, when I had come in from Bangkok and was on my way to Lee Fu's office I passed Captain Wilbur on the opposite side of[Pg 86] Queen's Road. It flashed across my mind that I hadn't observed the 'Speedwell' in harbor.

"'The fact is, the successful Captain Wilbur has retired from active service on the sea,' Lee Fu explained with a quizzical smile, when I put the question. 'He is now a ship owner alone, and has favored Hong Kong above all other ports as the seat of his retirement. He resides in a fine house on Graham Terrace, and has chairmen in white livery edged with crimson. Captain Nichols, you should steal a ship.'

"'Who goes in the "Speedwell"?'

"'An old friend of ours, one Captain Turner,' said Lee Fu slowly, without looking in my direction.

"'Not Will Turner?'

"'The same.'

"I pursed up my mouth in a silent whistle. Will Turner in the 'Speedwell!' Poor old chap, he must have lost another ship. Hard luck seemed to pursue him, gave him no rest on land or sea. A capable sailor and an honest man, yet life had afforded him nothing but a succession of black eyes and heavy falls. Death and sorrow, too; he had buried a wife and child, swept off by cholera, in the Bay of Bengal. Turner and I had landed together in the China Sea; I knew his heart, his history, some of his secrets, and liked him tremendously for the man he was.

"Watching Lee Fu in silence, I thought of the relationship between Will Turner and this extraordinary Chinaman. I won't go into the story, but there were overwhelming reasons why they should think well of each other; why Lee Fu should respect and honor Turner, and why Turner should hold Lee Fu as his best friend.

"'I did not know of the plan until he had accepted,' Lee Fu was saying. 'I did everything in my power to dissuade him.'

"'Didn't Wilbur do the right thing?'

"'Oh, yes. But it is unthinkable, Captain, that he should command the "Speedwell." The jealous gods have not yet shown their hand.'

"'Nonsense, Lee Fu!' I exclaimed, a little irritated. 'Since the thing is done, hadn't we better try to be practical?'[Pg 87]

"'Exactly,' said Lee Fu. 'Let us be practical. Captain, is it impossible for the Caucasian to reason from cause to effect? There seems to be no logic in your design; which explains many curious facts of history. I have merely insisted that a man who would do one thing would do another, and that, sooner or later, life would present to him another thing to do.'

"'But I've known too many men to escape what you call destiny,' I argued peevishly.

"'Have you?' inquired Lee Fu.

"That year I went into the Malay Archipelago for an extended cruise, was gone seven months among the islands, and reached Hong Kong just ahead of a bad blow. Typhoon signals were flying from the Peak as I came in; the sky to the eastward had lowered and darkened like a shutter, and the breeze had begun to whip in vicious gusts across the harbor. I carried important communications for Lee Fu, so went ashore at once. The outer office was full of gathering gloom, although it was still early afternoon. Sing Toy immediately took in my name; and soon I was ushered into the familiar room, where my friend sat beside a shaded lamp, facing a teakwood desk inlaid with ivory, and invariably bare, save for a priceless Ming vase and an ornament of old green bronze.

"'I am glad to see you, Captain,' he said dispassionately. 'Sit down. I have bad news.'

"'Yes?' I queried, more than a little alarmed.

"Folding his hands across his stomach and slightly bowing his head, he gazed at me with a level upturned glance that, without betraying expression, carried by its very immobility a hint of deep emotion. 'It is as I told you,' he said at last. 'Now, perhaps, you will believe.'

"'For heaven's sake, what are you talking about?' I demanded.

"'We had another typhoon this season, a very early one. It was this typhoon into whose face our late friend Captain Turner took his ship, the "Speedwell," sailing from Hong Kong for New York some four months ago. Three days after sailing, he met the typhoon and was blown upon a lee shore two hundred miles along the China coast. In this predicament, he cut away his masts[Pg 88] and came to anchor. But his ship would not float, and accordingly sunk at the anchors.'

"'Sunk at her anchors!' I exclaimed. 'How could that be? A tight ship never did such a thing.'

"'Nevertheless, she sunk in the midst of the gale, and all on board perished. Afterwards the news was reported from shore, and the hull was discovered in ten fathoms of water. There has been talk of trying to save the ship; and Captain Wilbur himself, in a diver's suit, has inspected the wreck. Surely, he should know if it is possible to salve her! He says no, and it is reported that the insurance companies are in agreement with him.' Lee Fu's voice dropped to a rasping tone. 'The lives, of course, he cannot save.'

"I sat for some moments gazing at the green bronze dragon on the desk, stunned by what I had heard. Turner gone? Even between us, who had seen each other seldom in late years, there had been a bond. Weren't we known as the two Eastern wanderers?

"'That is not all,' said Lee Fu suddenly. 'What more?' I asked.

"'Listen, Captain, and pay close attention. Some weeks after the loss of the "Speedwell," it came to my ears that a man had a tale worth hearing. He was brought; he proved to be a common coolie who had been employed in the loading of the "Speedwell." This coolie had been gambling during the dinner hour, and had lost the small sum that he should have taken home as the result of several days' labor. Likewise, he feared his wife, and particularly her mother, who was a shrew. In a moment of desperation, as the lighter was preparing to leave for the night, he escaped and secreted himself in the hold of the vessel.

"'He had long been asleep that night when he was suddenly awakened by a sound on the ladder leading from the upper deck. It was a sound of careful steps, mingled with a faint metallic rattling. A moment later a foot descended on the floor of the between-decks, and lantern was cautiously lighted. The coolie retreated quickly into the lower hold, and from his post among the bales of merchandise was able to see all that went on.'[Pg 89]

"Again Lee Fu paused, as if lingering over the scene. 'It seems that this late and secret comer into the hold of the "Speedwell" was none other than her owner, Captain Wilbur,' he slowly resumed. 'The coolie knew him by face, and had seen him come on board that afternoon. Afterwards, through my inquiries, I learned that Captain Turner had spent that night on shore. It was Captain Wilbur's custom, it seems, frequently to sleep on board his ship when she lay in port. Have you ever been in the lower hold of the "Speedwell," Captain Nichols?'

"'No, I haven't.'

"'But you recall her famous ports?'

"'Yes, indeed.' The incident at once came back to me in detail. The 'Speedwell' once had carried a cargo of ironwood from Singapore for a temple up the Yangtse-kiang. In order to load the immense timbers, she had been obliged to cut bow ports of extraordinary size, fifty inches in depth, they were, and nearly seven feet in width, according to my recollection.

"'It has been my privilege,' said Lee Fu, 'to examine carefully the forepeak of this vessel. I had chartered her one time, and felt alarmed for her safety until I had seen the interior fastenings of these great windows that looked out into the deep sea. But my alarm was groundless. There was a most ingenious device for strengthening the bows where they had been weakened by the cutting of the ports. Four or five timbers had, of course, been severed; but these were reproduced on the port itself, and the whole was fashioned like a massive door. It lifted upward on immense wrought-iron hinges; when it was lowered in place gigantic bars of iron, fitted into brackets on the adjoining timbers, stretched across its face to hold it against the impact of the waves. Thus the port, when tightly caulked from without, became again an integral part of the hull; I was told that there had never keen a trace of leakage from her bows. And, most remarkable of all, I was told, when it became necessary to open these ports for use, the task could easily be accomplished by two or three men and a stout watch-tackle. This I am now prepared to believe.[Pg 90]

"'But, to resume the account of the coolie,' Lee Fu went on with exasperating deliberation. 'This is what he saw: Our friend Captain Wilbur descended into the lower hold and forward to the forepeak, where there was little cargo. There he worked with great effort for several hours. He had equipped himself with a short crowbar, and carried a light tackle wrapped beneath his coat. The tackle he loosened and hung to a hook above the middle of the port; it was merely for the purpose of lowering the iron crossbars so that they would make no noise. Had one fallen—'

"'Good God, Lee Fu, what are you trying to tell me?'

"'Merely an incident of the night. So, with the crowbar, Captain Wilbur pried loose the iron braces, slinging them in his tackle and dropping them softly one by one into the ship's bottom. It was a heavy task; the coolie said that sweat poured from the big man like rain. Last of all he covered the bars with dunnage, and rolled against the bow several bulky bales of matting to conceal the work. Captain, when the "Speedwell" sailed from Hong Kong in command of our honored friend, one of her great bow ports below the water hung on its hinges without internal fastenings, and held in place only by the tightness of the caulking. The first heavy weather—'

"'Can this be possible?' I said through clenched teeth.

"'Oh, yes, so easily possible that it happened,' answered Lee Fu.

"'But why should he do such a thing? Had he anything against Turner?'

"'Captain, you do not understand. He merely was tired of the vessel; and freights are becoming very poor. He wanted his insurance. He had no thought of disaster so he now assures himself; what he had in mind was for the ship to sink discreetly in pleasant weather. Yet he was willing enough to run the chance of wholesale murder.'

"I got up and began pacing the floor; the damnable affair had made me sick at heart, and a little sick at the stomach.

"'Thus the gods have struck,' said Lee Fu behind me, in that changeless voice that for a moment seemed[Pg 91] to concentrate the echo of the ages. 'There is blood at last, Captain—twenty-seven lives, and among them one dear to us—enough even to convince one of your race that a crime has been committed. But I was mistaken in much that I foresaw. The criminal, it seems, is destined not to suffer. He has escaped the gods.'

"Can't you bring him to a reckoning? Isn't there some way—'

"Lee Fu shook his head. 'No, Captain, he is amply protected. What could I accomplish in your courts with this fantastic tale, and for witnesses a coolie and a sampan man?'

"I continued to pace the floor, thinking dark thoughts. There was a way, of course, between man and man; but such things are no longer done in the heart of civilization, except in sudden passion or jealousy.

"Pacing rapidly, and oblivious to everything but the four walls of the room, I nearly ran into Sing Toy coming in with a message from the outer office. He whispered a word in Lee Fu's ear.

"'Ah!' exclaimed Lee Fu sharply. I started, whirled around. His voice had lost the level, passive tone; it had taken on the timbre of action.

"'Send him in,' he said in Chinese to Sing Toy.

"'Who is it?' I asked breathlessly.

"'The man we have been speaking of.'

"'Wilbur? What the devil does he want?'

"'Nothing,' answered Lee Fu, speaking swiftly. 'He merely came to make a call. So he thinks; but I think otherwise. Beware of word or glance. This chanced by arrangement. We are on the threshold of the gods.'

"Lee Fu remained standing as Captain Wilbur entered the room. His hurried admonition still rang in my ears: 'Keep silence—beware of word or glance!' But I couldn't have spoken intelligibly just then. To beware of glances was a different matter. I stood as if rooted to the floor, gazing point-blank at Wilbur with a stare that must have made him wonder as to my sanity.

"'Good afternoon, Captain Wilbur,' said Lee Fu blandly. 'I think you are acquainted with Captain Nichols, of the bark "Omega"?'[Pg 92]

"'Oh, how-do, Nichols,' said Wilbur, advancing down the room. 'I've missed you around town for a good while. Glad you're back. I suppose you had the usual assortment of adventures?'

"I drew back to escape shaking his hand.

"'No,' I answered, 'nothing like the adventure that awaited me here.'

"He settled himself in a chair, directly in range of the light, smiled, and lifted his eyebrows. 'So? Well, I can believe you. This office, you know, is the heart of all adventure.' He bowed toward Lee Fu, who had resumed his seat.

"'You honor me, Captain,' replied the Chinaman. 'Yet it is only life which may be called the heart of adventure—life, with its amazing secrets that one by one transpire into the day, and with its enormous burden of evil that weighs us down like slaves.'

"Wilbur laughed. 'Yes, that's it, no doubt. Good, too, Lee Fu, plenty of good. Don't be pessimistic. But I suppose you're right, in a way; the evil always does manage to be more romantic.'

"'Much more romantic,' said Lee Fu. 'And the secrets are more romantic still. Consider, for instance, the case of a dark secret, which by chance has already become known. How infinitely romantic! Though the man feels secure, yet inevitably it will be disclosed. When, and how? Such a case would be well worth watching—as the great writer had in mind when he wrote, "Murder will out."'

"The winged words made no impression on their mark. Wilbur met Lee Fu's glance frankly, innocently, with interest. By Jove, he was wonderful! The damned rascal hadn't a nerve in his body.

"I examined him closely. Above a trimmed brown beard his cheeks showed the ruddy color of health and energy; his eyes were steady; his mouth was strong and clean; a head of fine gray hair surmounted a high forehead; the whole aspect of his countenance was pleasing and dignified. Sitting at ease, dressed neatly in blue serge, with an arm thrown over the chair back and one ankle resting on the other knee, he presented a fine figure.

"He gave a hearty laugh. 'For the Lord's sake, come[Pg 93] out of the gloom!' he cried. 'I drop in for a chat, and find a couple of blue devils up to their ears in the sins of humanity. Nichols over there has hardly opened his mouth.'

"'It is the mood of the approaching storm,' interposed Lee Fu quietly.

"A fiercer squall than the last shook the building; it passed in a moment as if dropping us in mid-air. Wilbur was the first to speak. 'Yes, it's going to be a hummer, isn't it? A bad night to be on the water, gentlemen. I wouldn't care to be threshing around outside, now, as poor old Turner was such a short while ago.'

"I could have struck him across the mouth for his callousness.

"Lee Fu's voice fell like oil on a breaking sea. 'All signs point to another severe typhoon. It happened, Captain, that we were discussing the loss of the "Speedwell" when you came in.'

"'Too bad—too bad,' said Wilbur slowly, with a shake of the head. 'You were away, Nichols, weren't you? It was a bad week here, I can tell you, after the news came in. I shall never forget it. Well, we take our chances.'

"'Some of us do, and some of us don't,' I snapped.

"'That's just the way I feel about it,' he said simply. 'It came home hard to me.' My jaw fairly dropped as I listened. Was it possible that he liked to talk about the affair?

"'We were wondering,' observed Lee Fu, 'why it was that the "Speedwell" did not remain afloat. What is your opinion, Captain Wilbur?'

"'It isn't a matter of opinion,' Wilbur answered. 'Haven't I seen you since the inspection? Why, the starboard bow port is stove in. I've always been afraid of those big bow ports. When I heard the peculiar circumstances, I knew in my heart what had happened.'

"'Did you?' inquired Lee Fu, with a slight hardening of the voice. 'Captain, have you collected your insurance?'

"Wilbur frowned and glanced up sharply, very properly offended. The next moment he had decided to pass it off[Pg 94] as an instance of alien manners. 'I've just cleaned up today,' he replied brusquely. 'Had my last settlement with Lloyd's this morning—and did a silly thing, if you'll believe me. They had a package of large denomination bank notes, crisp, wonderful looking fellows; I took a sudden fancy and asked for my money in this form. To tell the truth, I've got it on me now; must get to the bank, too, before it closes.'

"'What is the amount of the bank notes which you have in your possession?' asked Lee Fu in a level tone that carried its own insult.

"Wilbur showed his astonishment. 'Amount? Well, if you want all the details, I've got about forty thousand dollars in my pocket.'

"Lee Fu turned and shot at me a blank stare full of meaning; it might have been a look of caution, or a glance of triumph. I knew that I was expected to understand something, to glimpse some pregnant purpose; but for the life of me I couldn't catch on.

"'I, also, knew in my heart what had happened,' said Lee Fu slowly, staring at Wilbur with a steady gaze. As he looked, he reached out with his right hand and opened the top drawer of the desk. Suddenly he stood up. The hand held a revolver, pointed at Wilbur's breast.

"'If you move from your chair, Captain, I will shoot you dead, and your end will never be known,' he said rapidly. 'It is time we came to an understanding for the day wanes.'

"Wilbur uncrossed his legs, leaned forward, and looked at Lee Fu narrowly. 'What's the joke?' he asked.

"'A joke that will be clear as time goes on—like one you played with bow ports on my friend. Captain, we are going on a journey. Will you join us, Captain Nichols, or will you remain on shore?'

"The question was perfunctory; Lee Fu knew well enough that my decision was in his hands. I stood up—for until now I had been chained to my chair by the amazing turn of the moment.

"'Bow ports?' Wilbur was saying. 'Put that gun down! What in hell do you mean?' He started to rise.

"'Sit down!' commanded Lee Fu. 'I mean that I[Pg 95] will shoot. This is not play.' Wilbur sank back, angry and confused.

"'Are you crazy, Lee Fu?' he demanded. 'What's the meaning of this, Nichols? Do you intend to rob me? Have both of you gone mad?'

"'Is it possible that you do not comprehend that I share your secret?' asked Lee Fu sternly. 'You were observed, Captain, that night in the forepeak of the "Speedwell;" and those details, also, are known to me. It is needless to dissemble.'

"'That night in the forepeak?—Lee Fu, for God's sake, what are you talking about?'

"'Ah!' exclaimed Lee Fu with evident satisfaction. 'You are worthy of the occasion, Captain. That is well. It will be most interesting.'

"He slapped his left palm sharply on the desk; Sing Toy appeared at the door as if by a mechanical arrangement. 'Bring oilskin coats and hats for three,' Lee Fu commanded. 'Also, send in haste to my cruising sampan, with orders to prepare for an immediate trip. Have water and food provided for a week. We come within the half hour and sail without delay.'

"'Master!' protested Sing Toy. 'Master, the typhoon!'

"'I know, fool,' answered Lee Fu. 'I am neither deaf nor blind. Have I not ordered oilskin coats? Do as I have said.'

"He sat down, resting the gun on the corner of the desk, and resumed the bland tone of conversation. 'I am sorry, gentlemen, that the rain has already come; but there is water also below, as Captain Wilbur should be aware. Yes, it was destined from the first to be a wet journey. Yet it will still be possible to breathe; and not so bad as solid water on all sides, where, after a grim struggle, one lies at rest, neither caring nor remembering—Captain Wilbur, listen to me. We go from this office to my sampan, which lies moored at the bulkhead not far away. During the walk, you will precede us. I will hold my revolver in my hand—and I am an excellent shot. If you attempt to escape, or to communicate with any passer-by, you will immediately be dead. Do not think that I would fear[Pg 96] the consequences; we will pass through Chinese streets, where action of mine would not be questioned.'

"'Damn you!' Wilbur burst out. 'What silly nonsense are you up to? Nichols, will you permit this? Where are you going to take me?'

"'Never mind,' replied Lee Fu. 'As for Captain Nichols, he, also, is at my mercy. Ah, here are the raincoats. Put one on, Captain Wilbur; you will need it sorely before your return. Now we must hurry. I would be clear of the harbor before darkness entirely falls.'

"Issuing from the doorway, the gale caught us with a swirl that carried us around the corner and down a side street. 'To the right!' Lee Fu shouted. Wilbur, lurching ahead, obeyed sullenly. We came about and made for the water front through the fringe of the Chinese quarter, the most remarkable trio, perhaps, that had ever threaded those familiar thoroughfares.

"Overhead, the sky had settled low on the slope of the Peak. We floundered on, enveloped in a gray gloom like that of an eclipse. When we reached the water front the face of the bay had undergone a sinister change, its yellow-green waters lashed into sickly foam and shrouded by an unnatural gleaming darkness. A distant moaning sound ran through the upper air, vague yet distinctly audible. The center of the typhoon was headed in our direction.

"As we staggered along the quay, my thoughts worked rapidly. I saw the plan now, and recognized the dangerous nature of the undertaking on which we'd embarked. It was to be a game of bluff, in which we would have to risk our lives if the other held his ground.

"I edged toward Lee Fu. 'Will you go on the water?' I asked in his ear.

"He nodded, keeping his eyes fixed on Wilbur ahead.

"'But it can't be done,' I told him. 'A boat won't live.'

"'There is always a definite alternative,' he replied abruptly.

"'Yes—that we sink.'

"'Exactly.'

"All at once, in a flash of enlightenment, the greatness of the occasion came to me. By Jove! He had taken the[Pg 97] matter in his own hands; he had stepped in when the gods had failed. But he had observed the divine proprieties; had seen that if he presumed to act for the gods he must throw his own life, as well, into the balance. He must run every risk. It was for them, after all, to make the final choice. He was only forcing action on the gods.

"I gazed at him in wonder. He advanced stiffly against the storm, walking like an automaton. Beneath the close pulled rim of a black sou'wester his smooth oval countenance looked ridiculously vacant, like the face of a placid moon. He was the only calm object on earth, sea or sky; against the lashing rain, the dancing boats, the scudding clouds, the hurried shadows of appearing and vanishing men, he stood out plainly, a different essence, a higher spirit, the embodiment of mind and will.

"And how was it with Wilbur, off there in the lead? He, too, walked stiffly, wrapped in thought. Once he turned, as if to come back and speak to us; then whirled with a violent movement of decision and plunged on into the rain. He knew, now, what it was all about, if not what to expect. He knew that his crime had been discovered. Yet he had made no break; in no particular had he given himself away. What had he decided? What had he been about to say? Would he confess, when he faced death on the water; or would he be confident enough to believe that he could beat the game?

"Observing his broad back, his commanding figure, that looked thoroughly at home in its oilskin coat and leaning against the storm, it came to me that he would put up a desperate defense before he succumbed. He, too, was a strong man, and no part of a coward; he, too, in a different way, was a superior being, the embodiment of mind and will.

"Then, for a moment, my own spirit went slump with the realization of what lay before us, and a great weakness overcame me. I edged again toward Lee Fu.

"'My God, what if the man really is innocent?' I cried. 'He hasn't turned a hair.'

"Lee Fu gave me a flash of the moon face beneath the sou'wester, 'Have no fear, my friend,' he reassured[Pg 98] me. 'I am completely satisfied, in regions where the soul dwells.'

"When we reached the sampan, lying under a weather shore beneath the bulkhead, we found a scene of consternation. Lee Fu's orders had arrived, and had been executed; yet the men couldn't believe that he actually meant to sail. Gathered in a panic-stricken group on the fore deck of the sampan, they chattered like a flock of magpies; as they caught sight of us, they swarmed across the bulkhead and fell at Lee Fu's feet, begging for mercy.

"'Up, dogs!' he cried. 'There is no danger. I shall steer, and it is necessary that we go. If any would remain, let them depart now, with no tale to tell. Let those who stay prepare at once for sea.'

"I found Wilbur beside me. 'What's this madness, Nichols?' he demanded for the third and last time.

"'I know no more about it than you do,' I answered shortly. 'He has told his crew to prepare for sea. If he goes, we all go.'

"A moment later we stood on the quarter-deck of the cruising sampan. Lee Fu took his station at the great tiller. The wind lulled, as the trough of a squall passed over; he gave a few sharp orders. Moorings were cast off, a pinch of sail was lifted forward. The big craft found her freedom with a lurch and a stagger; then pulled herself together and left the land with a steady rush, skimming dead before the wind across the smooth upper reach of the harbor and quickly losing herself in the murk and spray that hung off Kowloon Point. Lee Fu somehow managed to avoid the fleet at anchor off Wanchi; straight down the length of the bay he struck, and in an incredibly short time we had left the harbor behind and were whirling through the narrow gut of Lymoon Pass before a terrific squall, bound for the open sea.

"I watched Captain Wilbur. He stood carelessly at the rail during our race down the harbor, scanning the boat and the water with an air of confidence and unconcern. A sneer curled his lip; he had made up his mind to see the nonsense through. The sailor in him had quickly recognized that the craft would stand the weather in smooth water; he probably expected any minute that[Pg 99] Lee Fu would call it quits and put into some sheltered cove.

"But when we shot through Lymoon Pass, I saw him turn and scrutinize the Chinaman closely. Darkness was falling behind the murk, the real night now; and ahead of us lay a widening reach among the islands that opened abruptly on the main body of the China Sea. We were rapidly leaving the protection of Victoria Island. Soon we would be unable to see our way. Ten miles outside a high sea was running. And with every blast of wind that held in the same quarter, the center of the typhoon was bearing down on us with unerring aim.

"These things were as patent to Wilbur as to any of us. In fact, his knowledge was his undoing; had he been less of a sailor, or had he been entirely ignorant of sea matters, he could have resigned himself to the situation on the assumption that Lee Fu never would put himself in actual danger. Perhaps Lee Fu had foreseen this when he chose the sea as the medium of justice; perhaps he had glimpsed the profound and subtle truth that Wilbur couldn't properly be broken save in his native environment. He knew the sea, had trifled with it; then let him face the sea.

"The time came, just before we lost the loom of the land, when Wilbur could stand it no longer; as a sailor, used to responsibility and command, he had to speak his mind.

"He dropped aft beside Lee Fu, and put his hand to his mouth. 'You're running to your death!' he shouted. 'You've already lost Pootoy. If you can't haul up and make the lee of the Lema Islands—'

"'I intend to pass nowhere near them,' answered Lee Fu, keeping his eyes on the yawning bow of the sampan.

"'There's nothing to the eastward—no shelter.'

"'Of that I am aware.'

"'Do you know what that means?' Wilbur pointed above the stern rail into the face of the storm.

"'I think we will get the center, Captain, by tomorrow noon.'

"Wilbur made a move as if to grasp the tiller. 'Haul up, you fool!'

"A stray gleam in the gathering darkness caught the[Pg 100] barrel of the revolver, as Lee Fu steered for a moment with one hand.

"'Beware, Captain! You are the fool; would you broach us to, and end it now? One thing alone will send me to seek the last shelter; and for that thing I think you are not ready.'

"'What?'

"'To say that you sunk the "Speedwell."'

"Wilbur gathered his strength as if to strike; his face was distorted with passion.

"'You lie, you yellow hound!'

"'Exactly—Captain, be careful—come no nearer! Also, leave me alone. If you value your life, you will keep silence and stay a little forward. Go, quickly! Here I could shoot you with the greatest impunity.'"

Nichols paused. "Maybe some of you fellows haven't seen Lee Fu's cruising sampan," he remarked. "In reality, she's more of a junk than a sampan, a sizable craft of over a hundred tons, and the best product of the Chinese shipyard. Lee Fu had her built for trips along the coast, and many of his own ideas, born of an expert knowledge of ships of every nationality entered into her construction. The result is distinctly a Chinese creation, a craft that seems to reflect his personality, that responds to his touch and works with him. She's higher in the bows than an ordinary junk, and lower in the stern; a broad, shallow hull that needs a centerboard on the wind. Of course she's completely decked over for heavy weather. In charge of any of us, perhaps, she would be unmanageable; but in his hands, I can assure you, she's a sea boat of remarkable attainments.

"I had seen him handle her under difficult conditions, but never in such a pass as this. How he did it was inconceivable to me. The last I saw of him that night he had called two men to help him at the tiller; and, so far, he had kept the craft before the wind.

"For many hours I was surrounded by pitch blackness and the storm. I clung to a single stanchion, hardly changing my position during the night, drenched by rain and spray, seeing nothing, hearing no word. The gale roared above us with that peculiar tearing sound that[Pg 101] accompanies the body of a typhoon; a sound suggestive of unearthly anger and violence, as if elemental forces were ripping up the envelope of the universe. The wind gained steadily in volume; it picked up the sea in steep ridges of solid water that flung us like a chip from crest to crest, or caught us, burst above us and swallowed us whole, as if we had suddenly sunk in a deep well. Every moment I expected would be our last. Yet, as time wore on, I felt through the sampan's frantic floundering a hand of guidance, a touch of mastery. Lee Fu steered, and she was still in his control. A night to turn the hair gray, to shatter the mind.

"But we came through, and saw the dawn. A pale watery light little by little crept into the east, disclosing a scene of terror beyond description. The face of the sea was livid with flying yellow foam; the torn sky hung closely over it like the fringe of a mighty waterfall. In the midst of this churning cauldron our little craft seemed momently on the point of disappearing, engulfed by the wrath of the elements.

"In the lull of the storm my glance encountered Wilbur; for a long while I'd forgotten him entirely. He hung to the rail a little farther forward, gazing across the maelstrom with a fixed, exhausted expression. His face was haggard; the strain of the night had marked him with a ruthless hand. As I watched him, his eye turned slowly in my direction; he gave me an anxious look, then crawled along the rail to a place by my side.

"'Nichols, we're lost!' I heard him cry in my ear. The voice was almost plaintive; it suddenly made me angry, revived a few sparks of my own courage.

"'What of it?' I cried harshly. 'Turner was lost.'

"'You believe that, too?'

"I looked at him point-blank; his eyes shifted; he couldn't face me now. 'Yes, I do,' I told him. 'Why don't you own up, before—?'

"He moved away hastily, as if offended to the heart. But the strong man had gone, the air of perfect confidence had disappeared; he was shattered and spent—but not yet broken. Pride is more tenacious than courage; and men with hearts of water will continue to function through self-esteem.[Pg 102]

"Looking above his head, where the sky and the sea met in a blanket of flying spume, I caught sight for an instant of something that resembled the vague form of a headland. Watching closely, I soon saw it again—unmistakably the shadow of land to port, well forward, of the beam. Land! That meant that the wind had shifted to the southward, that we were being blown against the shore.

"I worked my way cautiously aft, where Lee Fu stood like a man of iron at the tiller, lashed to the heavy cross-rail that must have been constructed for such occasions. He saw me coming, leaned toward me.

"'Land!' I shouted, pointing on the port bow.

"He nodded vigorously, to show me that he'd already seen it. 'Recognize—' The rest of the answer was blown away by the wind.

"By pantomime, I called his attention to the shift of the storm. Again he nodded—then ducked his head in Wilbur's direction, and shouted something that I couldn't quite follow. 'Change our tactics—we must change our tactics—' was what I understood him to say.

"He beckoned me to come closer; grasping the cross-rail, I swung down beside him.

"'I know our position,' he cried in my ear. 'Have no alarm, my friend. There are two large islands, and a third, small like a button. Watch closely the button, while I steer. When it touches the high headland, give me the news instantly.'

"He had hauled the junk a trifle to port, and with every opportunity was edging toward the land. The tall headland that I'd first sighted grew plainer with every moment; soon I made out the island like a button and saw it closing rapidly on the land behind.

"'Now!' I shouted to Lee Fu, when the two had touched.

"He swung the sampan a couple of points to starboard, discovering close beneath our bows the tip of another reef that stretched toward the land diagonally across the path of the wind. In a moment we were almost abreast this point of reef; a hundred yards away, its spray lashed our decks as the low-lying black rocks caught the broken wash of the storm. Another swing of the great tiller, and we had[Pg 103] hauled up in the lee of the reef—in quiet water at last, but with the gale still screaming overhead like a defeated demon.

"It was like nothing but a return from hell. The wind held us in a solid blast; but to feel the deck grow quiet, to be able to speak, to hear—and then, to see the land close aboard. By Jove, we were saved!

"A voice spoke gruffly beside us. 'By God, I hope you're satisfied!' We turned to see Wilbur at the head of the cross-rail. A twitching face belied the nonchalance that he'd attempted to throw into the words.

"'I don't know how we lived!' he snarled. 'What in the name of God made you try it? Nothing but luck—and now the typhoon's leaving us. We can wait here till the blow dies down.'

"'Is that all, Captain, that you have to say?' inquired Lee Fu, his attention riveted on the course.

"Wilbur clutched the rail as if he would tear it from its fastenings. 'A damned sight more, you blackguard; but I'll save it for the authorities!'

"'You feel no thanks for your escape—and there is nothing on your mind?'

"'Nothing but sleep—why should there be? Let's wind up this farce and get to anchor somewhere; I'm fagged out.'

"'No, we are going on,' said Lee Fu calmly, making no move to come into the wind. 'No time for rest, Captain; the journey is not done.'

"'Going on?' He turned fiercely, and for a moment he and Lee Fu gazed deep into each other's eyes in a grapple that gave no quarter.

"'Yes, Captain!' cried Lee Fu sharply. 'We have not yet reached the spot where the "Speedwell" met her doom. Now go! I cannot waste time in talk.'

"Since this experience, I've many times examined the charts of the region," Nichols went on. "But they don't begin to show it all. Beyond the middle island stretched a larger island, distant some five miles from the other; and between them lay the most intricate, extraordinary and terrible nest of reefs ever devised by the mind of the Maker and the hand of geologic change.[Pg 104]

"The outlying fringe of reefs that had broken first approach ended at the middle island; beyond that to windward lay clear water, and the nest of reefs that I've mentioned received the full force of the wind and sea. Five miles of water stretched in mad confusion, a solid whiteness of spouting foam that seemed to hold a hideous illumination. Beyond the point of the middle island the long wind-swept rollers burst in tall columns of spray that shut off the view like a curtain as we drew near, where the rocks began in an unbroken wall.

"It was directly against this wall that Lee Fu was driving the sampan. The first lift of the outside swell had already caught us. I held my breath, as moment by moment we cut down the margin of safety. No use to interfere; perhaps he knew what he was doing; perhaps he actually had gone mad under the terrific strain. As he steered, he seemed to be watching intently for landmarks. Was it possible that he still knew his bearings, that there was a way through?

"Wilbur, at Lee Fu's command, had left us without a word. He stood at the rail, supporting himself by main strength, facing the frightful line of the approaching reefs; and on his back was written the desperate struggle he was having. It bent and twisted, sagging with sudden irresolution, writhing with stubborn obduracy, straightening and shaking itself at times in a wave of firmness and confidence, only to quail once more before the sight that met his eyes. He couldn't believe that Lee Fu would hold the course. 'Only another moment!' he kept crying to himself. 'Hold on a little longer!' Yet his will had been sapped by the long hours of the night and the terror of the dawn; and courage, which with him had rested only on the sands of ostentation, had crumbled long ago.

"I turned away, overcome by a sickening sensation; I couldn't look longer. Lee Fu waited tensely, peering ahead and to windward with lightning glances. A wave caught us, flung us forward. Suddenly I heard him cry out at my side in exultation as he bore down on the tiller. The cry was echoed from forward by a loud scream that shot like an arrow through the thunder. Wilbur had sunk beside the rail. The sampan fell off, carried high on the wave.[Pg 105]

"Then, in a moment like the coming of death, we plunged into the reef. I have no knowledge of what took place—and there are no words to tell the story. Solid water swamped us; the thunder of the surf stopped the mind. But we didn't touch, there was a way through, we had crossed the outer margin of the reef. We ran the terrible gauntlet of the reef, surrounded on every hand by towering breakers, lost in the appalling roar of the elements. Without warning, we were flung between a pair of jagged ledges and launched bodily on the surface of a concealed lagoon.

"A low rocky island lay in the center of the nest of reefs, with a stretch of open water to leeward of it, all completely hidden from view until that moment. The open water ran for perhaps a couple of miles; beyond it the surf began again in another unbroken line. It would take us ten minutes to cross the lagoon.

"'Bring Captain Wilbur,' said Lee Fu.

"I crept forward, where Wilbur lay beside the rail, his arm around a stanchion. He was moaning to himself as if he'd been injured. I kicked him roughly; he lifted an ashen face.

"'Come aft—you're wanted,' I cried.

"He followed like a dog. Lee Fu, at the tiller, beckoned us to stand beside him; I pulled Wilbur up by the slack of his coat, and pinned him against the cross-rail.

"'This is the end,' said Lee Fu, speaking in loud jerks, as he steered across the lagoon. 'There is no way out, except by the way we came. That way is closed. Here we can find shelter until the storm passes, if you will speak. If not, we shall go on. By this time. Captain, you know me to be a man of my word.'

"'You yellow devil!'

"'Beyond these reefs, Captain, lies the wreck of your ship the "Speedwell." There my friend met death at your hands. You have had full time to consider. Will you join him, or return to Hong Kong? A word will save you. And remember that the moments are passing very swiftly.'

"With a last flicker of obstinate pride, Wilbur pulled himself together and whirled on us. 'It's a damnable lie!'[Pg 106]

"'Very well, Captain. Go forward once more, and reserve your final explanation for the gods.'

"The flicker of pride persisted; Wilbur staggered off, holding by the rail. I waited beside Lee Fu. Thus we stood, watching the approach of the lagoon's leeward margin. Had Lee Fu spoken truthfully; was there no way out? I couldn't be certain; all I knew was that the wall of spouting surf was at our bows, that the jaws of death seemed opening again.

"Suddenly Wilbur's head snapped back; he flung up his arms in a gesture of finality, shaking clenched fists into the sky. He was at the point of surrender. The torture had reached his vitals. He floundered aft.

"'What is it I must say?' he cried hoarsely, in a voice that by its very abasement had taken on a certain dignity.

"'Say that you sunk the "Speedwell."'

"His face was shocking; a strong man breaking isn't a pleasant object. In a flash I realized how awful had been this struggle of the wills. He came to the decision as we watched, lost his last grip.

"'Of course I did it! You knew it all along! I had no intention—You madman! For God's sake, haul up, before you're in the breakers!'

"'Show me your insurance money.'

"Wilbur dug frantically in an inside pocket, produced a packet of bank notes, held them in a hand that trembled violently as the gale fluttered the crisp leaves.

"'Throw them overboard.'

"For the fraction of a second he hesitated; then all resolution went out in his eyes like a dying flame. He extended his arm and loosed the notes; they were gone down the wind before our eyes could follow them.

"In the same instant Lee Fu flung down the great tiller. The sampan came into the wind with a shock that threw us to the deck. Close under our lee quarter lay the breakers, less than a couple of hundred yards away. Lee Fu made frantic signals forward, where the crew were watching us in utter terror. I felt the centerboard drop; a patch of sail rose on the main. The boat answered, gathered headway, drove forward[Pg 107]

"Wilbur lay as he had fallen and made no move.

"Two nights later, under a clear starry sky, we slipped through Lymoon Pass on the tail of the land breeze. It fell flat calm before we reached Wanchi; the long sweeps were shipped, and the chattering crew, who'd never expected to see Hong Kong again, fell to work willingly. At length we rounded to against the bulkhead and settled into our berth, as if back from a late pleasure trip down the bay.

"A little forward, Wilbur rose to his feet. He hadn't spoken or touched food since that tragic hour under the reefs two nights before. Without a glance in our direction, he made for the side and stepped ashore. There was a bright light behind him; his form stood out plainly. It had lost the lines of vigor and alertness; it was the figure of a different and older man.

"A moment later he had lurched away, vanishing in the darkness of a side street. Three days later, we heard that he had taken the boat for Singapore. He hasn't been seen or heard of since that day.

"When he had gone, that night at the bulkhead, Lee Fu reached out a hand to help me to my feet. 'Thank you, Captain,' he said. 'For my part, it has been supremely interesting. For your part, I hope that you have been repaid?'

"'It's enough to be alive, just now,' I answered. 'I want a chart, Lee Fu. I want to see what you did. How you did it is quite beyond my comprehension.'

"'Oh, that? It was not much. The gods were always with us, as you must have observed. And I know that place pretty well.'

"'Evidently. Did the "Speedwell" fetch up among those reefs, or to leeward of them?'

"'The "Speedwell?" Captain, you did not believe my little pleasantry! We were nowhere near the wreck of the "Speedwell," as Captain Wilbur should have known had he retained his mind.'

"I smiled feebly. 'I didn't know it. Tell me another thing, Lee Fu. Were you bluffing, there at the last, or wasn't there really a hole through the reef?'

"'So far as I am aware, Captain, there was no passage,'[Pg 108] answered my imperturbable friend. 'I believe we were heading for the rocks when we came into the wind.'

"'Would you have piled us up?'

"'That is merely a hypothetical question. I knew that I would not be forced to do it. I was only afraid that, in the final anguish, Captain Wilbur would lose his sense of seamanship, and so would wait too long. That, I confess, would have been unfortunate. Otherwise, there was no doubt or especial danger.'

"'I'm glad to know it!' I exclaimed, with a shudder of recollection. 'It wasn't apparent at the time.'

"'No, perhaps not; time was very swift. In fact, he did wait too long. He was more willful than I had anticipated.'

"I gazed across the harbor, reviewing the experience. 'What did you have in mind,' I asked, 'before the typhoon shifted? Did you expect to catch the center?'

"'I had no plan; it is dangerous to plan. There was a task to be begun; the determination of its direction and result lay with the gods. It was plain that I had been called upon to act; but beyond that I neither saw nor cared to see.'

"I could believe him only because I'd witnessed his incredible calm. He waved a hand toward the city. 'Come, my friend, let us sleep,' he said. 'We have earned our rest. Learn from this never to plan, and always to beware of overconfidence. It is by straining to look into the future that men exhaust themselves for present duty; and it is by making their little plans that men bring down the wrath of the gods. We are their instruments, molding in faith and humility our various destinies. Perhaps you thought me unfeeling, but I was only happy. There constantly were too many propitious signs.'"


[Pg 109]

THE LIZARD GOD[7]

By CHARLES J. FINGER

(From All's Well)

It is not pleasant to have one's convictions disturbed, and that is why I wish I had never seen that man Rounds. He seems to have crossed my path only to shake my self-confidence. The little conversation we had has left me dissatisfied. I look upon my collection with less interest than I did. I am not as pleased with the result of my investigations as they appear in my monograph on "The Saurian Family of Equatorial America." Doubtless the mood that now possesses me will pass away, and I shall recover my equanimity. His story would have upset most men. Worse still was his unpleasant habit of interjecting strange opinions. Judge for yourself.

It was when passing through the Reptile room on my way to the study that I first saw him. I took him to be a mere common working man passing away an idle hour; one of the ordinary Museum visitors. Two hours later, I noticed that he was closely examining the lizard cases. Then later, he seemed interested in my collection of prints illustrating the living world of the ante-diluvian period. It was then that I approached him, and, finding him apparently intelligent, with, as it seemed, a bent towards lizards, and further, discovering that he had traveled in Peru and Colombia, took him to the study.

The man had some unusual habits. He was absolutely lacking in that sense of respect, as I may term it, usually accorded to one in my position. One who is a professor and curator becomes accustomed to a certain amount of, well, diffidence in laymen. The attitude is entirely natural. It is a tribute. But Rounds was not that way. He was perfectly at ease. He had an air of quiet self-possession.[Pg 110] He refused the chair I indicated, the chair set for visitors and students, and instead, walked to the window and threw up the lower sash, taking a seat on the sill, with one foot resting on the floor and the other swinging. Thus, he looked as though he were prepared to leap, or to jump or run. He gave me the impression of being on the alert. Without asking permission, he filled and lit his pipe, taking his tobacco from a queerly made pouch, and using but one hand in the process.

"What I was looking for," he said, "is a kind of lizard. Yet it is not a lizard. It is too hard and thin in the body to be that. It runs on its hind legs. It is white. Its bite is poisonous. It lives in the equatorial districts of Colombia."

"Have you seen one?" I asked.

"No," was the reply. Then after a moment he asked, "Why?"

"Because there is no such living creature," I said.

"How do you know?" he said abruptly.

"The lizard group is thoroughly classified," I said. "There is nothing answering to that description. In the first place—"

"Does that make it non-existent? Your classification of what you know?" he interrupted.

"I have made a study of the Saurians," I said.

"No you haven't," he said. "You have read what other men have written and that is not the same thing."

"Really," I began, but he broke in.

"I mean to say that you have never been in any new equatorial country," he said. "Your manner shows that. You are too quiet. Too easy. Too sedentary. You would have been killed because of your lack of vigilance."

That is, as nearly as I can repeat and remember, the opening of the conversation. There was an air of challenge about the man that I found unpleasant. Of course I admitted the fact that I was not an explorer myself, and that mine was the humbler if more tedious task of collecting and arranging data. At that he said that in his opinion, organized expeditions were little more than pleasure jaunts taken at the public expense. His viewpoint was most extraordinary.[Pg 111]

"Such an expedition," he said, "must fail in its main purpose because its very unwieldiness destroys or disperses the very things it was organized to study. It cannot penetrate the wilds; it cannot get into the dry lands. The very needs of the men and horses and dogs prevent that. It must keep to beaten tracks and in touch with the edge of civilization. The members of such an expedition are mere killers on a large scale, and to kill or to hunt a thing is to not know it at all. Further, the men in such expeditions are not hunters even. They are destroyers who destroy while keeping themselves in safety. They have their beaters. Their paid natives. Humbug! That's the only word to describe that kind of thing. Staged effects they have. Then they come back here to pose as heroes before a crowd of gaping city clerks."

I mentioned the remarkable results obtained by the Peary and Roosevelt expeditions and pointed to the fact that the specimens brought back and properly set up by efficient taxidermists, did, in fact, give the common people some notion of the wonders of animal life.

"Nothing of the kind," he said. "Look at that boa-constrictor you have out there. It is stuffed and in a glass case. Don't you know that in its natural surroundings you yourself would come mighty near stepping on one without seeing it? You would. If you had that thing set up as it should be, these museum visitors of yours would pass the case believing it was a mere collection of foliage. They wouldn't see the snake itself. See what I mean? Set up as they are in real life they'd come near being invisible."

The man walked up and down the study floor for half a minute or so, then paused at the desk and said:

"Don't let us get to entertaining one another though. But remember this, you only get knowledge at a cost. I mean to say that the man that would know something, can only get the knowledge at first hand. The people who wander around this junk shop that you call a museum, go out as empty headed as they came in. Consider. Say a Fiji islander came here and took back with him from the United States an electric light bulb, a stuffed possum, an old hat, a stalactite from the Mammoth cave, a sackful[Pg 112] of pecan nuts, a pair of handcuffs, half a dozen photographs and a dozen packing cases full of things gathered from here and there, and then set the whole junk pile up under a roof in the Fiji Islands, what would his fellow Fijians know from that of the social life of this country. Eh? Tell me that?"

"You exaggerate," I protested. "You take an extreme point of view."

"I don't," he said.

His contradictions would have made me angry, perhaps, were they not made in such a quiet tone of voice.

"Take anything from its natural surroundings," he went on, "and it is meaningless. The dull-eyed men and women that wander through this Museum of yours are just killing time. There's no education in that kind of thing. Besides, what they see are dead things, anyway, and you can't study human nature in a morgue."

He resumed his seat on the window sill, then took from an inner pocket a leather wallet, and drew from that a photograph which he tossed across so that it fell on the desk before me. I examined it carefully. It had been badly developed and badly printed, and what was worse, roughly handled. But still, one could distinguish certain features.

It pictured the interior of a building. It was roofless, and above the rear wall was what I recognized as tropical vegetation, mainly by its wild luxuriance. In the center of the rear wall was what seemed to be a giant stone lizard, standing on its hind legs. The one foreleg that showed was disproportionately short. The body, too, was more attenuated than that of any lizard. The thing was headless and the statue, idol or whatever it was, stood on a pedestal, and before that again, seemed to be a slab of stone. Then my attention was caught by the head of the thing, which was to be seen in a corner. It was shaped roughly triangular. The jaws were broad at the base and the thing had, even in the photograph, something of the same repulsive appearance as the head of a vampire bat.

"It is the result of the imagination of some Indian," I said. "No post-diluvian Saurian ever existed of that size."[Pg 113]

"Good God, man, you jump to conclusions," he said. "This is only a representation of the thing itself. Made in heroic size, so to say. But see here!"

He leaned over my shoulder and pointed to a kind of border that ran along the base of the pedestal. Examining closely, I made out a series of lizards running on their hind legs.

"They," he explained, "are cut into the stone. It is a sort of red sandstone. They are a little bigger than the thing itself as it is living. But look at this."

The particular spot to which he pointed was blurred and dirty, as though many fingers had pointed to it and I took the magnifying glass for closer inspection. Even then I only saw dimly as something that bore a resemblance to the carved figures.

"That," he said, "is as near as ever I came to seeing one of the little devils. I think it was one of them though I am not sure. I caught sight of it flashing across like a swiftly blown leaf. We took the picture by flashlight you see, so I'm not sure. Somerfield, of course, was too busy attending to his camera. He saw nothing."

"We might have another picture made," I said. "It would be interesting."

"D'ye think I'd be able to carry plunder around traveling as I was then?" he asked. "You see, I went down there for the Company I'm working for. I was looking out for rubber and hard woods. I'd worked from Buenaventura. From Buenaventura down to the Rio Caqueta and then followed that stream up to the water head, and then down the Codajaz. If you look at the map, you'll see it's no easy trip. No chance to pack much. All I wanted to carry was information. And there was only Somerfield along."

"But Somerfield—he, as I take it, was the photographer, was he not? Did he not take care of the negatives? It would not have been much for him to take care of."

"Well you see, he did take care of his negatives. But circumstances were different at the time. He had laid them away somewhere. After I killed him, I just brought away the camera and that was all."

Positively, I gasped at the audacity of the man. He[Pg 114] said the words "I killed him," so quietly, in so matter of fact a way, that for the moment I was breathless. Like most other men, I had never sat face to face with one who had taken the life of another. Even soldiers, though they, we suppose, kill men, do it in a machine-like way. The killing is impersonal. The soldier handles the machine and it is the machine that kills. The individual soldier does not know whether he kills or not. That is why we are able to make much of the soldier, perhaps, I have thought since, though it never appeared to me in that light before I met Rounds. Actually, we are repelled at the thought of a man who kills another deliberately. If it were not so, as Rounds pointed out, we would make a hero of the public executioner. He should be as heroic a figure as a general. But as I tell you, at the moment, when Rounds said, "when I killed him," I was shocked. I had never before realized how violence was a thing apart from my life. I had looked at the representation of murder on the stage. I had read novels with murder as the mainspring. I had seen shootings and stabbings in moving pictures. Yet, not until that moment had I any suspicion that violence was so rare a thing and that most of our lives are far, far removed from it. Actually, I have never struck a man, nor has any man ever lifted his hand against me in anger.

It was, therefore, a startling thing to hear Rounds confess to having killed a fellow man. It was awesome. And yet, let me say, that at once I was possessed of a great desire to learn all about it, and down in my heart I feared that he would decide he had said something that he should not have said, and would either deny his statement or modify it in some way. I wanted to hear all the details. I was hugely interested. Was it morbidity? Then I came to myself after what was a shock, and awoke to the fact that he was talking in his quiet, even way.

"But those Tlingas held the belief, and that was all there was to it," he was saying.

I came to attention and said, "Of course. It is natural," for I feared to have him know that I was inattentive even for that short space, and waited for elucidations.

"It seems," he went on, "that the tribe was dying[Pg 115] out. Helm, who first told me something of it at Buenaventura, was one of those scientists who have to invent a new theory for every new thing they were told of. He said it was either because of eating too much meat, or not enough. I forget which. There had been a falling off in the birth rate. The Tocalinian who had lived with them, and who joined us at the headwaters of the Codajaz, maintained that there had been too much inbreeding. So there was some arrangement by means of which they invited immigrants, as it were. Men from other neighboring tribes were encouraged to join the Tlingas. And they did. The Tlingas had a fat land and welcomed the immigrants. The immigrants on their part expected to have an easy time."

"That would make for racial improvement," I hazarded.

"Why?" he asked.

"The best from other lands would tend to improve their race. That was my idea when I spoke," I said.

He laughed quietly. "Something of the same idea that you foster here," he said. "I've laughed at that many's the time. America is this, that and the other; its people are inventive, intelligent, original, free, independent and all the rest of it because it is a result of the best blood of other lands. Eh? Lord, man, how you fool yourself! Can't you see that you would have a far better case if you deplored the fact that we are a result of the worse? All the fugitives, the poor, the ill-educated, the unfortunate, the ne'er-do-wells have been swarming here from Europe for two centuries. Can't you see that no man who could fight successfully against odds in his own country would emigrate? Can't you see that? If you said that we are a people that will allow any active minority to put anything over on us, because we are the result of generations of poor-spirited fugitives who couldn't fight for their personal freedom, you would be nearer the mark."

His argument of course was absurd, and at the moment I had no answer ready, though since I have thought of the thing I should have said. As Rounds talked, he grew quieter in his tone. He moved from his place on the[Pg 116] window sill and sat on the corner of my desk. I had forgotten my uneasiness at being in the presence of one who had taken his fellow's life. He went on:

"When there's a falling birth rate, things change. There are manners and customs evolved that would seem strange to you. There come laws and religions, all made to match current requirements. Celibacy and sterility become a crime. Virginity becomes a disgrace, a something to be ridiculed."

"It seems impossible," I said.

"No," he said. "You have that in part. You ridicule what you call old maids, don't you?"

Again I was too slow with my reply. If I ever meet him again, I shall show him the fallacy of many of his arguments.

"Men with most children had the most to say. The childless were penalized, were punished. The sterile were put to death. There grew up a religion and a priesthood, ceremonials, sacrifices and rituals. And they had their god, in the shape of this lizard thing. Of course, like most other gods, it was more of a malevolent creature than anything else. Gods generally are if you will consider a little. I don't care what creed or religion gets the upper hand, it's Fear that becomes the power. Look around and see if I'm not right.

"Well, Somerfield and I walked into that kind of thing. Now like me, he had worked for the Exploration Company a good few years and had been to all kinds of places prospecting. Torres Straits, the Gold Coast, Madagascar, Patagonia. We prospectors have to get around in queer corners and the life's a dull one. All monotony. But Somerfield had queer notions. He worked at the job because he could make more money than at anything else and that gave him a chance to keep his family in Ohio in comfort. He was mighty fond of his family. Besides, the job gave him more time with the wife and kids than the average man gets. When he was at home, he was at home three months on end at times. That's better than the ordinary man. A man in a city, for example, leaves home early and gets home late, and then he's too grouchy what with the close air and one thing and another to find[Pg 117] the children anything but an infernal nuisance. Now a man away from his home for a long spell on end really enjoys the company when he does get home, and they enjoy his company, too. Then, too, he does not get to messing into the affairs of the family. He's not the Lord Almighty and Supreme Court Judge all the time. Besides that, the wife and children get a kind of independence.

"Now this being so, Somerfield was what he was. He had ideas about religion. He was full of the notion that things are arranged so that if you live up to a certain code, you'll get a reward. 'Do right, and you'll come out right,' was one of his sayings. 'The wages of sin is death,' was another. Point out to him that virtue got paid in the same coin, and he'd argue. No use. In a way he was like a man who wouldn't walk under a ladder or spill salt. You know.

"Naturally, for him things were awkward at the Tlinga village. We stayed there quite a while, I should say. He lived in his own shack, cooking for himself and all that. He was full of ideas of duty to his wife and so on. I fell in with the local customs and took up with a sweetheart, and handled things so well that there was one of their ceremonials pretty soon in which I was central figure. Ista, it seems, made a public announcement. That would be natural enough with a tribe so concerned about the family birth rate. But it made me sorter mad to hear the natives everlastingly accusing Somerfield of being an undesirable. But they never let up trying to educate him and make him a Tlinga citizen. They were patient and persistent enough. On the other hand, I was looked on as a model young man, and received into the best society.

"About the time we were ready to strike west, Ista, that was my girl, told me that there would have to be a new ceremonial. She took my going in good part, for there was nothing more I could do. They were sensible enough to know that man was only an instrument in the great game as they understood it. Ista had led me out to a quiet place to put me next. I remember that vividly because of a little thing that happened that doesn't mean anything. I often wonder why resultless things sometimes stick in the mind. We were sitting at the base of a[Pg 118] tall tree and there was a certain bush close by with bright red berries when they were unripe. They look good to eat. But when they ripened, they grew fat and juicy, the size of a grape, and of a liverish color. I thought that one of them had fallen on my left forearm and went to flick it off. Instead of being that, the thing burst into a blood splotch as soon as I hit it. That was the first time I had been bitten by one of those bugs. They are about the size of a sheep tick when empty, but they get on you and suck and suck, till they are full of your blood and size of a grape. Queer things, but ugly. Ista laughed as you would laugh if you saw a nigger afraid of a harmless snake. It's queer that it should be considered a joke when one fears something that another does not.

"But that has nothing to do with the story. What has, is that Ista wanted to tell me about the ceremonial. She did not believe in it at all. Privately, she was a kind of atheist among her people, but kept her opinions to herself. You must not think that because you see, hear or read of savage rites, that all the savages believe in those things. No sir. There is as much disbelief amongst them as with us. Perhaps more. They think things out. I might say that in a way they think more than the average civilized man. You see, a civilized child thinks for itself up until it is six or seven or so, and then the schools get hold of it, and from then on, it's tradition and believing what it's told to believe. That goes on through school life. Then at work, the man who would dare to vary on his own account is not wanted. So independent thought is not possible there. Work finished, it's the evening paper and editorial opinions. So really, man does not get much of a chance to think straight at any time. I guess if he did, the whole scheme would fall to pieces. That's why I say civilized man does not only not think, but perhaps can't think. His brains are not trained to it. Give the average man something with real, straight, original, first-hand thought in it, and he's simply unable to tackle it. His brain has not been cultivated. He wilts mentally. It's like putting the work of a man on a boy. Catch what I mean? Now a savage gets more of a chance. It was that way with Ista. She had thought out things for her[Pg 119]self and had her own beliefs, but they were not the beliefs the Tlingas were supposed to hold. But after all she did not tell me much besides her own disbeliefs. When you think of it, no one can tell another much. What you know you have to discover alone. All she told me was what was going to be done, and that was about as disappointing as the information you might get about what would take place in initiation in a secret society. Some was lost in transmission.

"Well, at last the ceremonial started up with a great banging of drums and all that. It was a great scene, let me tell you, with the tumbled vegetation, glaringly colored as if a scene painter had gone crazy. There were the flashing birds—blood-colored and orange scarlet and yellow, gold and green. Butterflies, too,—great gaudy things that looked like moving flowers. And the noise and chatterings and whistlings in the trees of birds and insects. There were flowers and fruits, and eatings and speech-makings. As far as I could gather, the chief speakers were congratulating the hearers upon their luck in belonging to the Tlingas, which was the greatest tribe on earth and the favorite of Naol, the lizard god. We capered round the tribal pole, I capering with the rest of them of course. Somerfield took a picture of it. Then there was a procession of prospective mothers with Ista among them. Rotten, I thought it. Don't imagine female beauty, by the way, as some of the writers on savage life would have you imagine it. Nothing of the kind. White, black or yellow, I never saw a stark woman that looked beautiful yet. That's all bunk. Muscular and strong, yes. That's a kind of beauty in its way. True as God, I believe that one of the causes of unhappy marriages among white folk is that the lads are fed upon false notions about womanly beauty, and when they get the reality they think that they've captured a lemon.

"Presently the crowd quieted down and the men were set around in a semicircle with me and Somerfield at the end. Then a red-eyed old hag tottered out and began cursing Somerfield. She spat in his face and called him all outrageous names that came to her vindictive tongue. Luckily it was that he had been put next, and so, fore[Pg 120]warned, was able to grin and bear it. But Lord, how she did tongue-lash him. Then she took a flat piece of wood, shaped like a laurel leaf, which was fastened to a thin strip of hide, and showed him that. It was a kind of charm, and on it was cut one of the running lizards. She wanted him to rub it on his forehead. Of course with his notions of religion he wouldn't do it. That's natural. When she passed it to me, I did what she wanted done. I never was particular that way. Symbols mean nothing anyway and if fools are in the majority, it's no use stirring up trouble. It's playing a lie of course, but then that's the part of wisdom it seems to me, sometimes. It's in a line with protective coloring. You remember what I said about the proper mounting of your specimens don't you? Well, it's like that. That's why persecutions have never stamped out opinions nor prohibitions appetites. The wisest keep their counsel and go on as usual. The martyrs are the weak fools. But let's see. Where was I? Oh, yes. The old woman and the piece of wood.

"She began running from this one to that, kind of working herself up into a frenzy. Then she started to chant some old nonsense. There was a rhythm to it. She sang:

'Nao calls for the useless.'

"Then the rest of them would shout

'Nao calls. Nao calls.'

"There was a terrible lot of it. The main purport was that this Nao was the ruling devil or god of the place. It called for the sacrifice of the useless. Many men were needed so that the one should be born who would lead the Tlingas to victory. That was the tone of it, and at the end of every line she sang, the crowd joined in with the refrain.

'Nao calls. Nao calls.'

"Of course they became worked up. She handled them pretty much the same as a skillful speaker does things at a political meeting or an evangelist at a revival. The same spirit was there. Instead of a flag, there was the tribal[Pg 121] pole. There was the old gag of their nation or tribe being the chosen one. I don't care where you go, there is always the same thing. Every tribe and nation is cock-sure that theirs is the best. They have the bravest and the wisest men and the best women. But I kept nudging Somerfield. It was hard on him. He was the Judas and the traitor and all that. 'Damn-fool superstition,' he muttered to me time and again. But of course he was a bit nervous, and so was I. Being in the minority is awkward. The human brain simply isn't strong enough to encounter organized opposition. It wears. You spend too much energy being on the defensive.

"After a time, when the song was done, the old hag seemed pretty well played out. Then she passed the piece of wood I told you of to a big buck, and he started to whirling it round and round. He was a skillful chap at the trick, and in a little had it whirling and screaming. Then presently some of the birds fell to noise making just as you will hear canaries sing when some one whistles, or women talk when a piano commences to play. I saw something of the same down in Torres Straits. They call it the Twanyirika there. In the Malay Peninsula they use something of the kind to scare the elephants out of the plantations. They've got it on the Gold Coast as well. It's called the Oro there. Really it's all over the world. I've seen Scotch herd boys use something like it to scare the cattle, and Mexican sheep herders in Texas to make the sheep run together when they scatter too far. Of course there's really nothing to be scared of, but when it comes near you, you feel inclined to duck. To me, it was the feeling that the flat piece of wood would fly off and hit me. You always duck when you hear a whizzing. Still, the priests or medicine men trade on the head-ducking tendency. So, somehow, in the course of time, it gets so that those that listen have to bow down. Oh, yes! You say it's ridiculous and fanciful and all that sort of thing. I know. I have heard others say the same. It's only a noise and nothing to be scared of. But then, when you come to think of it, most men are scared of noise. They're like animals in that respect. What is a curse but a noise? Yet most men are secretly afraid of curses.[Pg 122] They're uneasy under them. Yet they know it's only noise. Then look at thunderings from the pulpit. Look at excommunications. Look at denunciations. All noises to be sure. But there's the threat of force behind some of them. The blow may come and again it may not.

"As I said, every one bowed down and of course so did I, on general principles. Somerfield didn't and the old buck whirled that bull-roarer over him ever so long, and the red-eyed hag cursed and spat at him, but he never budged. That sort of conduct is damned foolishness according to my notion. But then, you see, in a kind of a way he was backing his prejudices against theirs and prejudices are pretty solid things when you consider. Still, he took a hell of a chance.

"On the trail next day, for we left the following morning, I argued with him about that, but he couldn't be budged. He said he stood for truth and all that kind of thing. I put it to him that he would expect any foreigner to conform to his national customs. He'd expect a Turk to give up his polygamy, I said, no matter what heart-breakings it cost some of the family. But he had a kink in his thinking, holding that his people had the whole, solid, unchanging truth. Of course, the argument came down with a crash then, for it worked around to a question of what is truth. There you are. There was the limit. So we quit. As I tell you, the human brain is not constituted to do much thinking. It's been crippled by lack of use. We are mentally stunted in growth. I remember that I began to say something about the possibility of there being several gods, meaning that some time or other men with imagination had defied some natural thing, but it came to me that I was talking nonsense, so I quit. Yet I know right well that many tribes have made gods of things of which they were afraid. But it's small profit to theorize.

"It was near sundown when we came to that building shown in that photograph. The vegetation was so thick thereabouts that the temple, for I suppose it was that, appeared before us suddenly. One moment we were crawling like insects between the trunks of great jungle trees that shot upwards seventy feet or more without a[Pg 123] branch, as if they were racing for dear life skyward, and then everything fell away and there was the old building. It startled the both of us. We got the sensation that you get when you see a really good play. You forget your bodily presence and you are only a bundle of nerves. You walk or sit or stand, but without any effort or knowledge that you are doing it. We had been talking, and the sight of that building, so unexpected, startled us into silence. It would any one. Believe me, your imperturbable man with perfect, cool, self-possession does not exist. Man's a jumpy thing, given to nerves. You may deny it and talk about the unexcitability of the American citizen and all that bunk, but let me tell you that your journalists and moving picture producers and preachers and politicians have caught on to the fact that man is jumpy, and they trade on their discovery, believe me. They've got man on the hop every which way and keep him going.

"There had been a gateway there once, but for some reason or other it had become blocked with a rank vegetation. The old gap was chocked full with a thorny, flower-bearing bush so thick that a cat could not have passed through. Somerfield switched on one of his theories as soon as he got over his first surprise. Worshipers, he held, had brought flowers there and the seeds that had dropped had sprouted. It looked reasonable.

"Above the lintel was carved one of those running lizards. That you noticed early. You can't see that in the picture because we took that from the edge of a broken wall. You see, all the walls stood except that to the left of this doorway and that had partly fallen and what was left was chin high. We saw at a glance that the people who had built that temple were handy with tools. The stones of the wall were quite big—two feet or more square, and fitted closely. There was no mortar to hold them but the ends had been made with alternate grooves and projections that fitted well. The stone was a kind of red sandstone. But I told you that before.

"When we looked over the broken wall and saw that stone lizard, we had another shock. I don't care how you school yourself, there's a scare in every man. That's what annoys me, to see men posing and letting them[Pg 124]selves be written up and speechified over as fearless. Fearless General this and Admiral that. Our fearless boys in the trenches. It sickens me. Why the whole race has been fed up on fear for ages. Fearlessness is impossible. Hell-fire, boogermen, devils, witches, the wrath of God—it's all been fear. Things that we know nothing of and have no proof of have been added to things that we do know of that will hurt, and, on top of that there has been the everlasting 'cuidado' lest you say a word that will run foul of current opinion—so what wonder that man is scary? It's a wonder that he's sane.

"After we took that picture we debated for the first time where we should camp that night. A new scare possessed us. In the end, we decided to camp inside the temple because of the greater security afforded by the walls. The truth is that some half fear of a giant lizard had gotten hold of us. So, as it was the lizard that scared us, we decided to stay in the lizard temple. Man's built that way. He likes to keep close to the thing that he fears. I heard a man who was a banker once say that he always mistrusted the man who would not take a vacation. As I take it, his idea was that the man who knew some danger was nigh, wanted to be around where he could catch the first intimation of a crash. But then, too, besides that, there is a sense of comfort in being within walls, especially with a floor paved as this one was. Besides, it was a change from the trees with their wild-tangled vines and their snake-like lianas. So we decided on the temple.

"That night I was a long time getting to sleep. The memory of the old hag and the bull-roarer was in my mind. I kept thinking of Ista, too. It was a warmer night than usual, and, after the moon dropped, pitchy dark. I slept stripped as I generally do, with a light blanket across my legs so that I could find it if needed without waking up.

"I awoke presently, feeling something run lightly and swiftly across my face. I thought it was a spider. It seemed to run in a zig-zag. Then feeling nothing more I set it down to fancy and dropped off to sleep again, face[Pg 125] turned towards that idol. Later, I felt the same kind of thing run across my neck. I knew it was no fancy then, and my scare vanished because here was something to do. So I waited with my right hand poised to grab. I waited a long time, too, but I have lots of patience. Presently it ran down my body starting at my left shoulder and I brought down my hand at a venture, claw fashion, and caught the thing on the blanket. I felt the blanket raise and then fall again, just a little, of course, as I lifted my hand with the thing in it, and by that knew that it had claws. Yet bet I held tight. It seemed to be hard and smooth. It was a wiry, wriggling thing, somewhat like a lizard. But it was much more vigorous than any lizard. I tried to crush it, but could not. As to thickness, it seemed to be about the diameter of one of those lead pencils. It was like this I had it."

Rounds picked up a couple of lead pencils from the desk and took my hand in his. He told me to close my fist and then placed one pencil lengthwise so that an end of it was between my first and second finger and the rubber-tipped end lay across my wrist. The other pencil he thrust crosswise so that the pointed end stuck out between the second and third finger and the blunt end between the index finger and thumb.

"There you have it," he said. "That's how I held the little devil. Now grip hard and try to crush the pencils and you'll have something of the same sensation as I had. Holding it thus, I could feel its head jerking this way and that, violently, and its tail, long and lithe, lashing at my wrist. The little claws were trying to tear, but they were evidently softish. I could hear, or thought I could, the snap of its little jaws. It was about the nastiest sensation that I ever experienced. I don't know why I thought that it was venomous, but I did. I tried to smash the thing in my hand—tried again and again, and I have a good grip—but might just as well have tried to crush a piece of wire. There was no give to it. It tried to wriggle backwards but I had it under its jaws. So there we were: it wriggling, writhing and lashing and me laying there holding it at arms length. I felt the sweat start on me and the hair at the nap of my neck raise up,[Pg 126] and I did some quick and complicated thinking. Of course, I dared not throw it away, but I got to my feet and as I did so, tried to bend its head backwards against the stone floor. But the head slipped sideways. I called on Somerfield for a light then, and he struck one hurriedly and it went out immediately. All that I saw was that the thing was white and had a triangular shaped head.

"Somehow I ran against Somerfield before he got another match struck and he swore at me, saying that I had cut him. I knew that I had touched him with my outstretched hand that held the beast. I drew back my hand a little and remembered afterwards that I then felt a slight, elastic resistance as if the thing that I held had caught on to something, as it had before to my blanket. Afterwards I found that the thing had gotten Somerfield's neck. As he struck another match, I saw the low place in the wall and flung the thing away with a quick jerk. You know the kind of a motion you'd make getting rid of some unseen noxious thing like that. That's how I never really saw the beast and can only conjecture what it was like from the feel of it.

"On Somerfield's neck, just below the angle of the jaw, was a clean-cut little oval place about half an inch in length. It did not bleed much, but it seemed to pain him a lot. He maintained that the thing was some kind of rodent. Anyway we put a little chewed tobacco on the place and, after awhile, tried to sleep again. We didn't do much good at it, neither of us. He was tossing and grumbling like a man with the toothache.

"Next morning the bitten place had swollen up to the size of an apple and was a greenish yellow color. He was feeling sick and a bit feverish, so I made him comfortable after looking around to see whether there was anything to harm him in the courtyard, and went to hunt water. I remember that I gave the head of the idol a kick with the flat of my foot for spite, as I passed it. Like a kid, that was, wasn't it? Now I was running back and forth all the morning with the canteen, for he drank a terrible quantity. His eyes grew bright, too, and his skin flushed. Towards noon, he began to talk wild, imagining that he was at home. Then I judged it best to let him stay there[Pg 127] in the temple where he was, so to speak, corraled. Coming back shortly after from one water-hunting trip, I heard singing, and, looking over the wall, saw him sitting on the slab in front of the idol. He must have fancied that he had his kids before him for he was beating time with his hands and snapping his fingers and thumbs and singing:

'London bridge is fallen down,
Fallen down, fallen down.'

"It was rotten to hear that out there, but I was halfway glad to see him that way, knowing that he wasn't miserable. After a little, he quit babbling and took more water; emptied the canteen, in fact, so back I had to start for more.

"Returning, I found things changed. He was going around, crouched like a hunting Indian, peering here and there, behind the idol then across to the head as if seeking some one. He had the facon in his hand. 'Rounds stabbed me,' he was saying. 'It was Rounds, damn him, that killed me.' Over and over again he said that. He was talking to invisible people, creatures of his mad brain. One would have thought, if one had not seen, that the temple court was crowded with spectators. Then he rose to his feet and, with the knife held close to his breast, began walking round and round as if seeking an outlet. He passed me once, he on one side of the wall and I on the other, and he looked me square in the eye, but never saw me. So round and round he went with long strides, knees bent and heels never touching the ground. He eyes were fixed and staring and his teeth clenched. Now and then he made long, slashing stabs in the air with the facon.

"Suddenly he saw me, and there was a change. The blood lust was in his eyes. He was standing on the slab in front of the idol, then made a great leap and started for the broken wall where I was. I saw then that the lump on his neck had swollen to the size of a big goitre. His whole body was a-quiver. There was an animal-like celerity in his movements that made me shudder. Then I[Pg 128] knew that I dared not let him get on the same side of the wall as me. But he leaped at the gap from a distance that I would have thought no human could compass, and hung on to the wall with one arm over. He snarled like an animal. Then I smashed him over the head with the canteen, gripping the strap with my right hand. He fell back with the force of the blow, but immediately came at the gap again, then changed his mind and went to tearing around the chamber with great leaps. He was a panther newly caged. He sprang on to the head of the idol and from that to the pedestal, and then to the slab in front of it. Then he went across and across the floor, sometimes screaming and yelling, and then again moaning and groaning. One side of his face was all bloody where I had smashed it with the canteen. Seeing him so, a thing not human, but with all the furtive quickness of an animal and its strength, too, I felt sorry no more. I hated him with a wild hate. He was dangerous to me and I had to conquer him. That's fundamental. So I stood, gripping the strap of the canteen, watching, waiting. He came at me again, striding and leaping. That time he got one leg over with both hands gripping the top stones. The facon he dropped on my side of the wall, but I had no time to stoop for it just then. There were other things to do. He was getting over. It took some frantic beating with the canteen and he seemed to recover from the blows quicker than I could get the swing to strike again. But I beat him down at last, though I saw that he had lots more life in him than I, with that devil of madness filling him. So, when I saw him stumble, then recover and begin that running again, I picked up the knife and leaped over the wall to settle the matter once and for all. It was an ugly thing to do, but it had to be done and done quickly. At the root of things it's life against life."

Rounds ceased and fell to filling his pipe. I waited for him to recommence, but he made as if to leave, but paused a moment at my desk to pick up and examine a piece of malachite. I felt it incumbent upon me to say something to relieve the tension that I felt.

"I understand," said I. "It was a horrible necessity. It is a terrible thing to have to kill a fellow creature."[Pg 129]

"That wasn't a fellow creature," he said. "What I killed was not the partner I knew. Don't you understand?"

"Yes, I understand," I replied. Then I asked, "Did you bury him?"

"Bury him? What for? How?" Rounds seemed indignant. "How could I bury him in a stone-paved court? How could I lift a dead man over a wall chin high?"

"Of course. Of course," I said. "I had forgotten that. But to us who lead quiet lives, it seems terrible to leave a dead man unburied."

"Do you feel that way about that mummy you have out there?" he asked, indicating the museum with his thumb. "If not, why not? But if you want the story to the bitter end, I dragged him to the only clean spot in the place, which was that slab in front of the idol. There I left him, or it. But things take odd turns. By the time I got back to the Tlinga village, they knew all about it and the priests used the affair to their own advantage. Mine was incidental. Yet I did reap some benefit. According to the priests, I had accepted the whole blessed lizard theory, or religion or whatever it was, and had sacrificed the unbeliever to the lizard god. Ista helped things along, I suspect, for with me as a former mate, there was some fame for her. Anyway, they met and hailed me as a hero and brought tribute to me. Gold dust. I wanted them to quit their damned foolishness and tried to explain, but it was no use. You can't teach a mob to have sense. Well, adios. But remember this: Don't be too cocksure."


[Pg 130]

UNDER THE DOME[8]

By WALDO FRANK

(From the Dial)

They were two figures under the grey of the Dome—two straight faint figures of black; they were a man and woman with heads bowed, straight—under the surge of the Dome.

I

Friday night, when always he broke away in order to pray in the Schul, and when she sat in the shop and had to speak with the customers who came, these praying hours of Friday night. Shabbas morning at least he did not go also.—My heart tells me it is wrong. Lord, forgive me for Esther and for my little girl. Lord, you know it is for them I do not go to Schul on Shabbas morning.—But by God, you will keep the store those two hours Friday! Do you hear? By God, what else have I ever asked you for? Don't you sit around, do nothing all the day, and aren't Flora's clothes a filth? and hardly if you'll cook our meals. But this you will do: this you will do! Friday nights. Lord, why is there no light in Esther? What have I done, Lord? what have I not done?

She sat in a chair, always, near the side wall: her eyes lay burning against the cold glare of the gas.

Above her shoulder on the wall was a large sheet of fashions: women with wasp waists, smirking, rolling: stiff men, all clothes, with little heads. Under the table—where Meyer sits with his big feet so much to look at—Flora played, a soiled bundle, with a ball of yarn and a huge gleaming scizzors.—No one perhaps comes, and then I do not mind sitting and keeping the store. I saw[Pg 131] a dead horse in the street.—A dead horse, two days dead, rotting and stiff. Against the grey of the living street, a livid dead horse: a hot stink was his cold death against the street's clean-ness. There are two little boys, wrapped in blue coat, blue muffler, leather caps. They stand above the gaunt head of the horse and sneer at him. His flank rises red and huge. His legs are four strokes away from life. He is dead. The naughty boys pick up bricks. They stand, very close, above the head of the horse. They hurl down a brick. It strikes the horse's skull, falls sharp away. They hurl down a brick. It cuts the swollen nostril, falls soft away. The horse does not mind, the horse does not hurt. He is dead.

—Go away, you two! Throwing stones at a dead horse! Go away, I say! How would you like—When one is dead, stones strike one's skull and fall sharp away, one is moveless. When one is dead, stones strike the soft of one's throat and fall soft away, one is hurtless. When one is dead one does not hurt.

She sat and turned her eyes away from her child. Flora had smear on her face; her hands were grimed with the floor. One of her stockings was down: her little white knee was going to scrape on the floor, be black before it was bloody. So—A long shining table under a cold gas spurt. A store with clothes and a stove: no place for herself. A row of suits, all pressed and stiff with Meyer's diligence. A pile of suits, writhed with the wear of men, soiled, crumpled with traffic of streets, with bending of bodies in toil, in eating, in loving perhaps. Grimed living suits. Meyer takes an iron and it steams and it presses hard, it sucks up the grime. It sucks out the life from the suit. The suit is stiff and dead, now, ready to go once more over the body of a man and suck to itself his life.

The automatic bell clangs. There in the open door was a dark tall woman—customer.

Esther stood, too. She felt she was shorter and less tidy: more beautiful though.

Two women across the tailor-shop, seeing each other.

"I came for my husband's—for Mr. Breddan's dress suit. Mr. Lanich told him it would be ready at seven?"[Pg 132]

Esther Lanich moved, Sophie Breddan stood. Between slow dark curve, swift dark stroke of these two women, under a tailor's table the burn of a dirty child, mumbling intent with scizzors between her soiled frail legs, at play with loose hair.

"Is this the one?"

The curve and the stroke came near across the table.

"Yes."

Eyes met.—She is tidy and fresh, less beautiful, though, than I. She has no child. She has a flat with Sun and a swell husband who wears a swallow-tail and takes her out to parties. She has a diamond ring, her corsets are sweet. She has things to put into her time like candies into her mouth, like loved kisses into my mouth. She is all new with her smooth skin going below the collar of her suit.

—She has a child, and she lets her play dirty with scizzors under a tailor table. "How much is it?"—After a decent bedtime.

—Does she think I care about this? "Oh, no hurry. Better come in and pay my—Mr. Lanich. Any time."

The clang of the bell.

Esther is seated. Her grey tilted eyes seem sudden to stand upon the farther wall of her husband's shop, and to look upon her. Her eyes speak soft warm words that touch her hair, touch her lips, lie like caressing fingers upon the soft cloth that lies upon her breast.

—Less beautiful than I, though. My flesh is soft and sweat, it is the colour of cream. What for? My hair is like an autumn tree gleaming with sun. I can let it fall through the high channel of my breast against my stomach that does not bulge but lies soft and low like a cushion of silk. What for? My eyes see beauty. What for? O there is no God. If there is God, what for?—He will come back and work. He will eat and work. He is kind and good. What for? When he is excited with love, doesn't he make an ugly noise with his nose? What else does he make with his love?—Another like Flora? God forbid. What for?

She did not pull down the wide yellow shade, though it was night. The street was a ribbon of velvet blackness[Pg 133] laid beside the hurting and sharp brightness of the store. The yellow light was hard like grains of sand under the quick of her nails. She was afraid of the street. She was hurt in the store. But the brightness clamped her. She did not move.—O let no more customers come! "Keep quiet, Flora." I can not move.—She was clamped.

But the store moved, moved.

There was a black wheel with a gleaming axle—the Sun—that sent light dimming down its spokes as it spun. From the rim of the wheel where it was black, bright dust flung away as it spun. The store was a speck of bright dust. It flung straight. It moved along the velvet path of the street, touching, not merging with its night. It moved, it moved, she sat still in its moving. The store caught up with Meyer. He entered the store. He was there. He was there, scooped up from the path of the street by the store. Now her work was over. He was there. The store was a still store, fixed in a dirty house. Its brightness the spurt of two jets of gas. He was back from Schul.—That is all.

A man with blond hair, flat feet that shuffled, small tender hands. A man with a mouth gentle, slow; with eyes timid to see. "Come dear: that is no place."—Why she lets the child play with my shears!

Tender hands pull Flora from beneath the table. Flora comes blinking, unprotesting. Where her father's hands leave off from her, she stays. She sinks back to the floor. She looks at her little fists from which the scizzors are gone. She misses hard gleaming steel. She opens and shuts her fists and looks at them: she cries. But she does not move.—Her mother does not move.—Her father does not move. He squats on the table. His head sways with his thoughts. He knows that Flora will stop—what can he do?—in perhaps half an hour. It is a weak cry. Grows weaker. He is used to it. There is work.

He sews. 'A woman of valour who can find? For her price is far above rubies'—She will stay here, stay here silent. Flora should be in bed. Who to put his child in bed? Hard gas-light on her beloved hair? A wither, a wilt—'She is like the merchant ships; she bringeth her[Pg 134] food from afar'—He sews and rips.—What, Lord, have I left undone? I love my Esther.—He sews.—I love my little girl. Lord, I fear the Lord—'She looketh well to the ways of the household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.'—Lighten me, Lord, give me light. There is my daughter crying, who should sleep: and my wife sitting, who will not, who will never without me go home. She is afraid. She says she is afraid. She is sullen and silent. She is so fair and sweet against my heart. Lord! why did her hands that held my head speak a lie? and her silent lips that she let press upon my mouth, why were they lies? Lord, I cannot understand. Lord, I pray. I must sew bread for Esther and for my child. I go to Schul at least once each Shabbas, Lord—Do I not fill the deep ten Penitential Days from Rosh Ha Shonoh to Yom Ha Kippurim with seeking out of heart?—He sews, he rips. The weeping of his child is done. Long stitches, here. She has found a chair's leg to play with. Her moist fingers clasp at the shrill wood. The wooden chair and her soft flesh wrestle. Esther sits still. He sews.

'Her children arise, and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praiseth her;
—Many daughters have done valiantly,
But thou excellest them all.—
Grace is deceitful and beauty is vain;
But a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands;
And let her works praise her in the gates.'

II

In the door and the clang again of the bell, a boy with them. A boy they knew—son of their neighbours—big for his years and heavy, with fat lips, eyes clouded, hair black and low over his clouded eyes. Esther alone saw, as he lurched in, one foot dragging always slightly.

He went for little Flora with no greeting for them: familiarly as he knew he would find her, had come so, often.—He loves her. The man who squats on the table[Pg 135] and sews smiles on the boy who loves and plays with his child.

"Hello, kid," voice of a thick throat, "look—what I got for you here."

Flora lets the chair of her late love lurch against her back, strike her forward. She does not care. She watches two hands—grey-caked over red—unwrap from paper a dazzle of colours, place it to her eyes on the floor, pull with a string: it has little wheels, it moves!

"Quackle-duck," he announces.

Flora spreads out her hands, sinks on her rump, feels its green head that bobs with purple bill, feels its yellow tail.

"Quackle-duck—yours," says the boy.

She takes the string from his hand. With shoulder and stomach she swings her arm backward and pulls. The duck spurts, bobbing its green long head against her leg.

She plays. The boy on his knees with soiled thick drawers showing between his stockings and his pants plays with her.—

Meyer Lanich did not cease from work, nor his woman from silence. His face was warm in pleasure, watching his child who had a toy and a playmate.—I am all warm and full of love for Herbert Rabinowich: perhaps some day I can show him, or do something for his father. Now there was no way but to go on working, and smile so the pins in his mouth did not prick.

The eyes of Esther drew a line from these two children back to the birth of the one that was hers. She dwelt in a world about the bright small room like the night: in a world that roared and wailed, that reeled with despair of her hope.

She had borne this dirty child all clean beneath her heart. Her belly was sweet and white, it had borne her: her breasts were high and proud, they had emptied, they had come to sag for this dirty child on the floor—face and red lips on a floor that any shoes might step.

Had she not borne a Glory through the world, bearing this stir of perfect flesh? Had she not borne a song through the harsh city? Had she not borne another mite of pain, another fleck of dirt upon the city's shame-heaps?[Pg 136]

She lies in her bed burned in sweet pain. Pain wrings her body, wrings her soul like the word of the Lord within lips of Deborah. Her bed with white sheets, her bed with its pool of blood is an altar where she lays forth her Glory which she has walking carried like a song through the harsh city.—What have I mothered but dirt?—

A transfigured world she knows she will soon see. Yes: it is a flat of little light—and the bugs seep in from the other flats no matter how one cleans—it is a man of small grace, it is a world of few windows. But her child will be borne to smite life open wide. Her child shall leap above its father and its mother as the sun above forlorn fields.—She arose from her bed. She held her child in her arms. She walked through the reeling block with feet aflame. She entered the shop.—There—squatting with feet so wide to see—her man: his needle pressed by the selfsame finger. The world was not changed for her child. Behold her child changing—let her sit for ever upon her seat of tears—let her lay like fire to her breast this endless vision of her child changing unto the world.—

—I have no voice, I have no eyes. I am a woman who has lain with the world.
The world's voice upon my lips gave my mouth gladness.
The world's arms about my flanks gave my flesh glory.
I was big with gladness and glory.
Joyful I lost in love of my vision my eyes, in love of my song my voice.
I have borne another misery into the world.—

Meyer Lanich moves, putting away the trousers he has patched.—O Lord, why must I sew so many hours in order to reap my pain? Why must I work so long, heap the hard wither of so many hours upon my child who can not sleep till I do, in order that all of us may be unhappy?


The clang and the door open. The mother of the boy.

"Oh, here you are! Excuse me, friends. I was worrying over Herbert.—Well, how goes it?"

She smiled and stepped into the room: saw them all.[Pg 137]

"All well, Mrs. Rabinowich," said Meyer. "We are so glad when your Herbert comes to play with Florchen."

Mrs. Rabinowich turns the love of her face upon the children who do not attend her. A grey long face, bitterly pock-marked, in a glow of love.

"Look what your Herbert brought her," Meyer sews and smiles. "A toy. He shouldn't, now. Such a thing costs money."

Mrs. Rabinowich puts an anxious finger to her lips.

"Don't," she whispers. "If he wants to, he should. It is lovely that he wants to. There's money enough for such lovely wants.—Well, darling. Won't you come home to bed?"

Herbert does not attend.

His mother sighed—a sigh of great appeasement and of content.—This is my son! She turned to where Esther sat with brooding eyes. Her face was serious now, grey ever, warm with a grey sorrow. Her lips moved: they knew not what to say.

"How are you, Esther?"

"Oh, I am well, Mrs. Rabinowich. Thank you." A voice resonant and deep, a voice mellowed by long keeping in the breast of a woman.

"Why don't you come round, some time, Esther? You know, I should always be so glad to see you."

"Thank you, Mrs. Rabinowich."

"You know—we're just next door," the older woman smiled. "You got time, I think. More time than I."

"Oh, she got time all right!" The sharp words flash from the soft mouth of Meyer, who sews and seems in no way one with the sharp words of his mouth. Esther does not look. She takes the words as if like stones they had fallen in her lap. She smiles away. She is still. And Lotte Rabinowich is still, looking at her with a deep wonder, shaking her head, unappeased in her search.

She turns at last to her boy: relieved.

"Come Herbert, now. Now we really got to go."

She takes his hand that he lets limply rise. She pulls him gently.

"Good night, dear ones.—Do come, some time, Esther—yes?"[Pg 138]

"Thank you, Mrs. Rabinowich."

Meyer says: "Let the boy come when he wants. We love to have him."

His mother smiles.—Of course: who would not love to have him? Good heart, fine boy, dear child. "It's long past bedtime. Naughty!" She kisses him.

Herbert, a little like a horse, swings away his heavy head.

They are gone in the bell's jangle.


"What a good boy: what a big-hearted boy!" Meyer said aloud. "I like the boy. He will be strong and a success, you see."

Her words, "I saw him lift the skirt of Flora and peep up," she could not utter. She was silent, seeing the dull boy with the dirty mind, and his mother and Meyer through love thinking him good. What she saw in her silence hurt her.

Her hurt flowed out in fear. She saw her child: a great fear came on Esther.—Flora is small and white, the world is full of men with thick lips, hairy hands, of men who will lift her skirt and kiss her, of men who will press their hairiness against her whiteness.

—There is a Magic, Love, whereby this shame is sweet. Where is it? A world of men with hair and lips against her whiteness. Where is the magic against them? Esther was very afraid. She hated her daughter.

III

Meyer Lanich came down from his table and drew down the wide yellow shade and shut out the night. No more stray customers to enter. He turned the key of the door. He had his back to the door, seeing his work and his child who now sat vacant upon the floor and grimed her eyes with her fists too sleepy to hunt play—seeing his wife. He sought to see this woman who was his wife. To this end came his words, old words, old words he had tried often, often failed with, words that would come again since they were the words of his seeking to find the woman his wife.[Pg 139]

"Esther," he said, "it is nine o'clock and I have much work to do—a couple of hours of work.—"—I could work faster alone, it will be midnight so with this pain for ever in my eyes. "Esther won't you go home and put Florchen to bed?"

She looked at him with her full lovely eyes. Why since he saw them lovely could he not see them loving? He had said these words before, so often before. She looked at him.

"Esther," he said, "it is bad for a baby of four to be up so late. It is bad for her to sit around on the floor under the gas—smelling the gas and the gasoline and the steam of the clothes. Can't you consider Flora?"

"I am afraid."

"What is there to be afraid of? Can't you see? Why aren't you afraid of what will happen to Flora? Eh—that don't frighten you, does it? She's a baby. If my Mother could see—"

"Meyer, I can't. Meyer, I can't. You know that I can't."

He waved his hands. She was stiff. They came no nearer one to the other. About them each, two poles, swirled thoughts and feeling—a world that did not touch the other.

He clambered back to his work. The room was hot. The gaslight burned. Against his temples it beat harsh air, harsh light, the acrid smells of his work—against her temples.

Esther sat. The words of her man seeking the woman she was had not found for him but had stirred her. Her breast moved fast, but all else of her was stiff. Stiff, all she moved like a thick river drawn against its flow, drawn mounting to its head.—I cannot go home alone, to the empty hall alone, into the black rooms alone. Against their black the flicker of a match that may go out, the dare of a gas-light that is all white and shrieking with its fear of the black world it is in. She could not go home alone.—For, Esther, in your loneliness you will find your life. I am afraid of my life.

She was caught, she was trapped.—I am miserable. Let me only not move.—Since to move was to break[Pg 140] against walls of a trap. Here in the heart of movelessness a little space. Let her not stir where the walls and the roof of the black small trap will smite her!

IV

The room moves up the dimension of time. Hour and hour and hour. Bearing its freight toward sleep. Thick hot room, torn by the burr of two lights, choked by the strain of two bound souls, moving along the night. Writhing in dream. Singing.—

—My flesh sings for silk and rich jewels;
My flesh cries for the mouth of a king.
My hair, why is it not a canopy of love,
Why does it not cover sweet secrets of love?
My hair cries to be laid upon white linen.
I have brought misery into the world.—
I have lived with a small man and my dreams have shrunk him,
Who in my dreams enlarged the glory of princes.
He looks upon me with soft eyes, and my flesh is hard against them.
He beats upon me with warm heart, and my breasts do not rise up for him.
They are soft and forgetful of his beating heart.
My breasts dream far when he is near to them—
They droop, they die.
His hands are a tearful prayer upon my body—
I sit: there is no way between my man and my dream,
There is no way between my life and life,
There is no way between my love and my child.
I lie: and my eyes are shut. I sleep: and they open.
A world of mountains
Plunges against my sleep.—

—Lord, Lord: this is my daughter before me, her cheeks that have not bloomed are wilting. Preserve her, Lord. This is my wife before me, her love that has not lived is dead.—Time is a barren field that has no end.[Pg 141] I see no horizon. My feet walk endlessly, I see no horizon.—I am faithful, Lord.—


The tailor-shop is black. It has moved up three hours into midnight. It is black.

Esther and Meyer walk the grey street. In the arms of the man sleeps Flora. His arm aches. He dares not change her to his other arm. Lest she wake.

He has undressed her. Gentle hands of a man. He holds her little body, naked, near his eyes. Her face and her hands, her feet and her knees are soiled. The rest of her body is white—very white—no bloom upon her body. He kisses her black hair.

He lays her away beneath her coverlet.

There is his wife before him. She is straight. Her naked body rises, column of white flame, from her dun skirt. Esther—his love—she is in a case of fire. Within her breasts as within hard jewels move the liquids of love. Within her body, as within a case, lies her soul, pent, which should pour forth its warmth upon them.

He embraces her.

"Esther.—Esther—" He can say no more.

His lips are at her throat. Can he not break her open?

She sways back, yielding. Her eyes swerve up. They catch the cradle of her child.

—Another child—another agony of glory—another misery to the world?

She is stiff in the unbroken case of a vast wound all about her.

So they lie down in bed. So they sleep.


She has cooked their breakfast.

They walk, a man and a woman, down the steep street to work. A child between them, holding the hand of a man.

They are grey, they are sullen. They are caught up in the sullen strife of their relentless life. There is no let to them. Time is a barren field with no horizon.


[Pg 142]

FRENCH EVA[9]

By KATHARINE FULLERTON GEROULD

(From Scribner's Magazine)

The real dramatis personæ are three (for Schneider was only a sign-post pointing): Follet, the remittance-man, Stires, and French Eva. Perhaps I should include Ching Po—but I hate to. I was the man with his hands in his pockets who saw the thing steadily and saw it whole—to filch a windy phrase. I liked Stires, who had no social standing, even on Naapu, and disliked Follet, who had all the standing there was. Follet dined with magnates; and, believe me, the magnates of Naapu were a multicolored lot. A man might have been made by copra or by pearls—or by blackbirding. We were a plutocracy; which means that so long as a man had the house and the drinks, you asked no questions. The same rule holds—allowing for their dizzier sense of figures—in New York and Chicago. On the whole, I think we were more sensible. There is certainly more difference between good food and bad than between five millions and fifty (which, I take it, is a figure that buys immunity over here). I don't think any man's hospitality would have ranked him permanently on Naapu if his dinners had been uneatable. Though perhaps—to be frank—drinks counted more than food as a measuring-rod of aristocracy.

Well, Follet trained with the people who received consignments of champagne and good whiskey. And Stires did not. Anyhow, Stires was a temperance man: he took only one or two drinks a day, and seldom went beyond a modest gin-fizz. With the remarkable native punch, compounded secretly and by unknown ways, but purchasable,[Pg 143] and much esteemed by the knowing, he never would have anything to do. Stires looked like a cowboy and was, in truth, a melancholy New Englander with a corner-grocery outlook on life, and a nasal utterance that made you think of a barrel of apples and a corn-cob pipe. He was a ship-chandler in a small—a very small—way. Follet lived at the ramshackle hotel, owned by the ancient Dubois and managed, from roof to kitchen-midden, by Ching Po. French Eva dwelt alone in a thatched cottage built upon poles, and sold eggs and chickens and fish. The poultry she raised herself; for the fish, she was a middleman between fishermen and householders. As she owned a gramophone and one silk dress, it was clear that her business prospered. Even Ching Po bought eggs of her, though there was a nameless, uninterpreted hostility between them.

Let me give you, at once, the few facts I could gather about French Eva. There were rumors a-plenty, but most of them sifted down to a little residual malice. I confined my questionings to the respectable inhabitants of Naapu; they were a very small circle. At last, I got some sort of "line" on French Eva.

None within our ken fathered or mothered her. Old Dubois knew most about her, but old Dubois, a semi-paralyzed colossus, "doped" most of the time, kept his thick lips closed. "An excellent girl" was all that any one could wring from him. As she had begun life on Naapu by being dame de comptoir for him, he had some right to his judgment. She had eventually preferred independence, and had forsaken him; and if he still had no quarrel with her, that speaks loudly for her many virtues. Whether Dubois had sent for her originally, no one knew. His memory was clouded by opium, and you could get little out of him. Besides, by the time I arrived on Naapu, French Eva belonged to the landscape and to history. She was generally supposed to be pure French, and her accent supported the theory, though she was in a small way a linguist. Her English was as good as any one's—on Naapu, where we were by no means academic. She could speak the native tongue after a fashion, and her bêche-de-mer was at least fluent.[Pg 144]

I had heard of the lady before I ever saw her, and had wondered why Naapu chose to distinguish a female fish-vender—even if she had begun with old Dubois. As soon as I clapped eyes on her, I perceived her distinction, her "difference"—the reason for the frequent "Mam'selle." She was, at first glimpse, unusual. To begin with, never was so white a face matched with hair and brows and eyes so black. In the ordinary pursuit of her business she wore her hair half loose, half braided, down her back; and it fell to her knees like a heavy crape veil. A bad simile, you will say; but there are no words to express the unrelieved blackness of her hair. There were no lights in it; no "reflets," to use the French phrase. It might have been "treated" with ink. When, on rare occasions—not often, for the weight of it, as she freely explained, made her head ache—she put it up in coils, it was like a great mourning bonnet under which her white face seemed to shrink away. Her eyes were nearly as black as her hair. Her figure was very lovely, whether in forming the loose native garment or laced into her silk dress.

You will say that I have painted for you a person who could not, by any possibility, be beautiful; and yet French Eva was beautiful. You got used to that dull curtain of her hair; it made Madame Maür's lustrous raven locks look oily. It came to seem, after a time, all that hair should be. Her features were nearly perfect from our finicking European point of view, and she grew in grace even while I, a newcomer, watched; for the effect of the tropic sun upon her skin was curious and lovely: it neither blotched nor reddened nor tanned her, but rather gilded her pallor, touching it with the faintest brown in the world. I must, in the interests of truth, mention one more fact. Mam'selle Eva was the sort of woman who has a direct effect on the opposite sex. Charm hardly expresses it; magnetism, rather, though that is a poor word. A man simply wanted to be near her. She intrigued you, she drew you on, she assailed your consciousness in indefinable ways—all without the sweep of an eyelash or the pout of a lip. French Eva was a good girl, and went her devious ways with reticent feet. But[Pg 145] she was not in "society," for she lived alone in a thatched hut, and attended native festivals, and swore—when necessary—at the crews of trading barques. I am not sure that she did not, of all tongues possible to her, prefer bêche-de-mer; which is not, at its most innocent, an elegant language. She had no enemies except Ching Po—for reasons unknown; and she paid her occasional respects to any and all religions that Naapu boasted. When there was a row, she was always, of course, on the European side; though she would stretch a point now and then in favor of the native constabulary.

So much for French Eva—who was by no means so important in the Naapu scheme of things as my long description may imply. She had her eminently respectable, her perfectly recognized niche, and we all bought eggs and fish of her when we could. She was a curious figure, to be sure; but you must remember that on Naapu every one, nearly, was unaverage, if not abnormal. Even the agents and officials were apt to be the least promising of their kind—or they would have been somewhere else. It was a beautiful refuge for utter bounders and men who, though not bounders, had a very low limit of achievement. The jetsam of officialdom was washed up on that lonely, lovely shore. The magnates of Naapu were not to be trusted. Naapu was a rich island, the richest of its group; and, being off the main lines of traffic, was an excellent field for the unscrupulous. Tourists did not bother us, for tourists do not like eighty-ton schooners; maps did not particularly insist upon us; we were well known in places where it was profitable to know us, and not much talked about anywhere. Our copra was of the best; there were pearls to be had in certain waters if you could bribe or fight your way to them; and large groups of natives occasionally disappeared over night from one of the surrounding islands. Naapu was, you might say, the clasp of a necklace. How could we be expected to know what went on in the rest of the string—with one leaky patrol-boat to ride those seas? Sometimes there were fights down by the docks; strangers got arrested and were mysteriously pardoned out; there were always a good many people in the land[Pg 146]scape who had had too much square-face. We were very far away from everything, and in spite of all these drawbacks we were happy, because the climate was, most of the year, unexceptionable. When you recall what most civilized climates are like, "unexceptionable," that cold and formal word, may well take your breath away. Lest any one should suspect me of blackbirding or gin-selling, I will say at once that I had come to Naapu by accident and that I stayed because, for reasons that I will not go into here, I liked it. I lived in a tiny bungalow with an ex-ship's cook whom I called Joe, and several thousand cockroaches. I had hired Joe to cook for me, but his chief duty soon became to keep the cockroaches out of my bedroom. As a matter of fact, I usually dined at Dubois's hotel or at some private house.

Why so idle a person as I should have looked down—as I did, from the first—on Follet, I cannot explain. The money I lived on was certainly not of my own making. But, strictly speaking, I could have gone home if I had chosen, and I more than suspected that Follet could not have. Follet was not enamoured of Naapu, and talked grandiloquently of Melbourne and Batavia and Hong-Kong. He continued, however, to be a resident of the island, and none of his projects of removal to a better place ever went beyond mere frothy talk. He lived at Dubois's, but spent much of his time with the aforesaid magnates. He had an incorruptible manner; some grace that had been bred in him early never forsook him, and the ladies of Naapu liked him. Even good Madame Maür, who squinted, squinted more painfully at Follet than at any one else. But his idleness was beginning to tell on him; occasionally he had moody fits, and there were times when he broke out and ran amuck among beach-combers and tipsy natives along the water-front. More than once, Ching Po sought him out and fetched him home.

My first intimation of trouble came from Stires. I had nothing to do with this particular Yankee in the way of business, but I lingered occasionally by his door in the cool of the afternoon, just to feed my eyes on his brawn and my ears on his homely and pleasant nasality. Stires's eyes were that disconcerting gray-blue which seems to[Pg 147] prevail among men who have lived much in the desert or on the open sea. You find it in Arizona; and in the navies of all the northern countries. It added to his cowboy look. I knew nothing about Stires—remember that on Naapu we never asked a man questions about himself—but I liked him. He sat about on heaps of indescribable junk—things that go into the bowels of ships—and talked freely. And because Follet and I were both in what Naapu would have called its best circles, I never talked about Follet, though I liked him no better than Stires did. I say it began with Stires; but it began really with Schneider, introduced by Stires into our leisurely conversation. This is Schneider's only importance: namely, that, mixing himself up in French Eva's context, he made other men speak of her.

The less said about Schneider, the better; which means always that there is a great deal to say. In this case, there was perhaps less to say than to surmise. He did not give himself away—to us. Schneider had turned up on a trading schooner from Melbourne, was stopping at the hotel in one of the best rooms, and had a general interest in the potentialities of Naapu. I say potentialities advisedly, for he was not directly concerned, so far as I know, with any existing business there. He frequented everybody, and asked questions in the meticulous German way. He wandered all over the island—islands, I should say, for once or twice I saw him banging off in a creaky motor-boat to the other jewels of the necklace. Guesses as to his real business were free and frequent. He was a pearl-smuggler; the agent of a Queensland planter; a fugitive from justice; a mad scientist; a servant of the Imperial German Government. No one presumed to certitude—which was in itself a tribute to German efficiency. Schneider was blond and brush-haired and thick-lipped; he was unpleasant from the crown of his ill-shaped head to the soles of his ill-shaped shoes; but, though lacking in every charm, he was not sinister. He had seen curious places and amusing things, and could cap most adventures with something relevant; but his type and temperament prevented him from being a "good mixer," and he was not popular.[Pg 148]

Stires, however, had his own grievance, and his judgment of Schneider went deep. He did not mind the shape of Schneider's skull, or the hint of goose-step in Schneider's gait; but he minded, very much, the kind of interest that Schneider took in French Eva. He told me that, straight, emphasizing his statements with a rusty spanner, which he wielded in a curious, classical way, like a trident. According to him, Schneider was bothering the life out of the girl. "Always asking her to dress up and come over to chow with him at the hotel." And the spanner went down as if Neptune were rebuking the seas.

"Does she go?"

"No."

"Well, then—can't you leave the lady to discourage him in her own way?"

"She won't go to the ho-tel, because she hates Ching Po. But she walks out with him Sunday afternoons. He gives her gimcracks."

"Then she likes him?"

"There's no telling. She's a real lady." And the discouraged Stires beat, with his spanner, a refrain to his involuntary epigram.

"She can take care of herself, can't she?" I had watched her deal with a drunken Solomon Islander, and did not see how Schneider could be a match for her.

"I don't know." Stires's lazy drawl challenged the sunset.

"Anything I can do?" I asked as I rose.

"Unless you go in and cut him out," he meditated with a grin.

"But I'm not in love with her," I protested.

"You might take her to church."

But I refused. Philandering was not my forte, and church, in any case, was the last thing I should venture to propose.

"Why don't you go in yourself?"

Stires scratched his head. The trident trailed upon the ground. "It's serious or nothing with me, I guess. And she's got something against me. I don't know what. Thinks I don't blarney the Kanakas enough, perhaps. Then there's Follet."[Pg 149]

"Oh, is he in it?" I forgot to go.

"He's more in it than I am, and I'm darned if I know what she's up to with the three of us. I'm playing 'possum, till I find out."

"If you can stand Follet butting in, why can't you stand Schneider? Safety in numbers, you know."

"Well, Mr. Follet belongs here. I can have it out with him any time. He'll have to play the game. But if I know Schneider, there's no wedding bells in his. And Mam'selle Eva hasn't, as you might say, got a chaperon."

The spectacle of "Mam'selle Eva," as I had last seen her, perspiring, loosely girdled, buying a catch of fish at a fair price from three mercenary natives adorned with shark's-tooth necklaces, rose before me.

"Man alive, you don't have to chaperon her," I cried. "She's on to everything."

The sun-and-wind-whipt eyes flashed at me. The spanner trembled a little.

"Don't misunderstand me," I insisted. "But it stands to reason that, here on Naapu, she's learned a good many things they don't teach in little red schoolhouses. I have a great respect for her, and, between you and me, I shouldn't wonder if she had sized Schneider up already."

The eyes were appeased. "Maybe, maybe," he grunted. "But lies come easy to him, I guess. Miss Eva wouldn't be the first he'd fooled."

"Do you know anything about him?"

"Not a thing, except what sticks out all over him. For a man's eyes, that is. You never can tell what a woman will see."

I left him poking in the dust with his spanner.

I dined that night at Lockerbie's. There was no Mrs. Lockerbie, and it was a man's party. Follet was there, of course, and Schneider, too, his teeth and his clothes whiter than the rest of ours. I was surprised to see Schneider, for Lockerbie had suspected the Teuton of designs on his very privately and not too authentically owned lagoon. Lockerbie did a fair business in pearls; no great beauties or values among them, but a good marketable cheap product. But no one held out very long against any one on Naapu.[Pg 150]

Schneider was drunk before he ever got to Lockerbie's that night. It was part of the Naapu ritual not to drink just before you reached your host's house, and that ritual, it soon became evident, Schneider had not observed. I saw Lockerbie scowl, and Follet wince, and some of the others stare. I could not help being amused, for I knew that no one would object to his being in that condition an hour later. The only point was that he should not have arrived like that. If Schneider had had anything resembling a skin, he would have felt about as comfortable as Mother Eve at a woman's club. Lockerbie's scowl was no joke; and Follet had a way of wriggling his backbone gracefully.—It was up to me to save Schneider, and I did. The honor of Naapu was nothing to me; and by dint of almost embracing him, I made myself a kind of absorbent for his worst breaks. It was not a pleasant hour for me before the rest began to loosen up.

In my eagerness to prevent Lockerbie from insulting his guest, I drank nothing, myself, after the first cocktail. So it came to pass that by the time I could safely leave Schneider to the others, I found myself unwontedly incarnating the spirit of criticism.

They were a motley crowd, coalesced for the moment into a vinous solidarity. Follet spat his words out very sweetly; his poisonous grace grew on him in his cups. Lockerbie, warmed by wine, was as simple—and charming—as a wart-hog. Old Maskell, who had seen wind-jammer days and ways and come very close, I suspected, to piracy, always prayed at least once. Pasquier, the successful merchant who imported finery for the ladies of Naapu, rolled out socialistic platitudes—he was always flanked, at the end of the feast, by two empty chairs. Little Morlot began the endless tale of his conquests in more civilized lands: all patchouli and hair-oil. Anything served as a cue for all of them to dive into the welter of their own preoccupations. Just because they knew each other and Naapu so well, they seemed free to wander at will in the secret recesses of their predilections and their memories. I felt like Circe—or perhaps Ulysses; save that I had none of that wise man's wisdom.

The reward of my abstinence, I found, was to be the[Pg 151] seeing home of Schneider. It would have come more naturally to Follet, who also lived at Dubois's, but Follet was fairly snarling at Schneider. French Eva's name had been mentioned. On my word, as I saw Follet curving his spinal column, and Schneider lighting up his face with his perfect teeth, I thought with an immense admiration of the unpolished and loose-hung Stires amid the eternal smell of tar and dust. It was a mere discussion of her hair, incoherent and pointless enough. No scandal, even from Schneider. There had been some sense, of a dirty sort, in his talk to me; but more wine had scattered his wits.

I took Schneider home, protesting to myself that I would never be so caught again. He lurched rather stiffly along, needing my help only when we crossed the unpaved roads in the darkness. Follet went ahead, and I gave him a good start. When we reached the hotel, Ching Po surged up out of the black veranda and crooked his arm for Schneider to lean upon. They passed into the building, silently, like old friends.

A stupid indisposition housed me for a little after Lockerbie's feast. I resented the discomfort of temporary illness, but rather liked being alone, and told Joe to refuse me to callers—even the Maürs, who were more like friends and neighbors than any one else in the place. My own affairs should not obtrude on this tale at all; and I will not go into them more than to say that I came to the end of my dosing and emerged upon the world after three days. The foolish thought came to me that I would have a look at French Eva's hair, of which little Morlot had spoken in such gallant hiccoughs.

The lady was not upon her veranda, nor yet in her poultry-yard, as I paced past her dwelling. I had got nearly by, when I heard myself addressed from the unglazed window.

"Monsieur!"

I strolled back, wondering if at last I should be invited to hear the gramophone—her chiefest treasure. The mass of hair spread out of the crude opening in the bamboo wall, for all the world like Rapunzel's. I faced a great curtain of black. Then hands appeared and made a rift in it, and a face showed in the loose black frame.[Pg 152]

"Monsieur, what is the German for 'cochon'?"

My German is scanty, and I reflected. "'Schweinhund' will do, I think," I answered after consideration.

"A thousand thanks." The face disappeared, and the hair was pulled after it.

I waited. I could hear nothing distinctly, but in a moment Schneider came running quickly and stiffly down the creaky ladder from the door. He saw me—of that I am sure—but I did not blame him for not greeting one who had doubtless been giving aid and comfort to the enemy. I squatted on the low railing of French Eva's compound, but she herself was not forthcoming. After ten minutes I heard a commotion in the poultry yard, and found her at the back among her chickens. Her hair was piled up into an amazing structure: it looked as if some one had placed the great pyramid on top of the sphinx.

"Do you need my further services?"

She smiled. "Not in the least. But I like to speak to animals, when possible, in their own language. It saves time." By way of illustration, she clucked to a group of hens. She turned her back to me, and I was dismissed from her barefoot presence.

Stires was my logical goal after that, and I found him busy with the second mate of a tramp just in from Papua and bound for the Carolines. After the man had gone, I informed Stires of the episode. For a man who had damned Schneider up and down for making presents to a lady, Stires reacted disappointingly.

"He got his, eh?" was all he said.

"Evidently. You don't seem to be much affected."

"So long as she's shipped him, that's all right," he drawled.

"I can't make out what your interest in the matter is," I suggested.

"Sure you can't," Stires began to whistle creakily, and took up some nameless object to repair.

"How long is Schneider staying round these parts?"

"Not long, I guess. I heard he was leaving on the Sydney packet next week."

"So you're only up against Follet?" I pressed him.[Pg 153]

"I ain't up against anybody. Miss Eva'll settle her own affairs."

"Excuse me." And I made the gesture of withdrawing.

"Don't get het up under the collar," he protested. "Only I never did like this discussing ladies. She don't cotton to me for some reason. I'm free to say I admire her very much. I guess that's all."

"Nothing I can do for you, then?"

Stires lighted a pipe. "If you're so set on helping me, you might watch over Ching Po a little."

"What is he up to?"

"Don't know. But it ain't like him to be sitting round idle when there's harm to be done. He's got something up his sleeve—and a Chink's sleeve's big enough to hold a good-sized crime," he finished, with a grim essay of humor.

"Are these mere suspicions on your part, or do you know that something's up?"

"Most things happen on Naapu before there's been any time for suspicion," he rejoined, squinting at his pipe, which had stopped drawing. "These folks lie low and sing little songs, and just as you're dropping off there's a knife somewhere.—Have you heard anything about the doings up yonder?" He indicated the mountain that rose, sharply cut and chasmed, back of the town.

"Trouble with the natives? No."

"This is the time o' year when the heathen begin to feel their oats. Miss Eva, she's interested in their superstitions. They don't usually come to anything—just a little more work for the police if they get drunk and run amuck. The constabulary is mostly off on the spree. They have gods of wood and stone up in the caves yonder, you know. But it's always a kind of uneasy feel to things till they settle down again."

I leaned against a coil of rope and pursued the subject. "But none of the people you and I are interested in are concerned with native orgies. We are all what you might call agnostics."

"Speak for yourself, sir. I'm a Methodist. 'Tain't that they mix themselves up in the doings. But—well, you haven't lived through the merry month of May on[Pg 154] Naapu. I tell you, this blessed island ain't big enough to hold all that froth without everybody feeling it. Just because folks don't know what's going on up yonder it kind of relaxes 'em. I don't say the Kanakas do anything they shouldn't, except get drunk, and joy-ride down waterfalls, and keep up an infernal tom-toming. But it sort of gets on your nerves. And I wouldn't call Naapu straitlaced, either. Everybody seems to feel called on to liquor up, this time o' year. If it isn't one pretext it's another. Things folks have been kind of hesitating over, in the name of morals, they start out and perform, regardless. The authorities, they get worried because a Kanaka's spree lands him, like as not, in a blackbirder. Mighty queer craft hang round at this season. There ain't supposed to be anything doing in these blessed islands that ain't aboveboard, but 'tisn't as though the place was run by Americans."

"And I am to watch Ching Po? Where does he come in?"

"I wish't I knew. He makes money out of it somehow. Dope, I suppose. Old man Dubois ain't his only customer, by a long shot."

"Ching Po isn't likely to go near French Eva, is he? They don't speak, I've noticed."

"No, they don't. But that Chink's little ways are apt to be indirect. She's afraid of him—afraid of the dust under her feet, as you might say."

Stires puffed meditatively at his pipe. Then a piratical-looking customer intervened, and I left.

Leisurely, all this, and not significant to the unpeeled eye. And then, within twenty-four hours of the time when I had left Stires, things began to happen. It was as if a tableau had suddenly decided to become a "movie." All those fixed types began to dash about and register the most inconvenient emotions. Let me set down a few facts diary fashion.

To begin with, when I got up the next morning, Joe had disappeared. No sign of breakfast, no smell of coffee. It was late for breakfast at Dubois's, and I started out to get my own. There were no eggs, and I sauntered over to French Eva's to purchase a few. The town looked[Pg 155] queer to me as I walked its grassy streets. Only when I turned into the lane that led to French Eva's did I realize why. It was swept clean of natives. There weren't any. Not a stevedore, not a fisherman, not a brown fruit-vender did I see.

French Eva greeted me impatiently. She was not doing business, evidently, for she wore her silk dress and white canvas shoes. Also, a hat. Her face was whiter than ever, and, just offhand, I should have said that something had shaken her. She would not let me in, but made me wait while she fetched the eggs. I took them away in a little basket of plaited palm-fronds, and walked through the compound as nonchalantly as I could, pretending that I had not seen what I knew I had seen—Ching Po's face within, a foot or two behind the window opening. It startled me so much that I resolved to keep away from Stires: I wished to digest the phenomenon quite alone.

At ten o'clock, my breakfast over, I opened my door to a knock, and Follet's bloodshot eyes raked me eagerly. He came in with a rush, as if my hit-or-miss bungalow were sanctuary. I fancied he wanted a drink, but I did not offer him one. He sat down heavily—for all his lightness—like a man out of breath. I saw a pistol-butt sticking out of his pocket and narrowed my eyes upon him. Follet seldom looked me up in my own house, though we met frequently enough in all sorts of other places. It was full five minutes before he came to the point. Meanwhile I remarked on Joe's defection.

"Yes," he said, "the exodus has begun."

"Is there really anything in that?"

"What?" he asked sharply.

"Well—the exodus."

"Oh, yes. They do have some sort of shindy—not interesting to any one but a folk-lorist. Chiefly an excuse, I fancy, for drinking too much. Schneider says he's going to investigate. I rather wish they'd do him in."

"What have you got against him—except that he's an unpleasant person?"

By this roundabout way Follet had reached his point. "He's been trying to flirt with my lady-love."[Pg 156]

"French Eva?"

"The same." His jauntiness was oppressive, dominated as it was by those perturbed and hungry eyes.

"Oh—" I meditated. But presently I decided. "Then why do you let Ching Po intrude upon her in her own house?"

"Ching Po?" He quivered all over as if about to spring up from his chair, but he did not actually rise. It was just a supple, snake-like play of his body—most unpleasant.

"I saw him there an hour ago—when I fetched my eggs. My cook's off, you see."

Still that play of muscles underneath the skin, for a moment or two. Then he relaxed, and his eyes grew dull. Follet was not, I fancy, what the insurance men call a good risk.

"She can take care of herself, I expect," he said. They all seemed surer of that than gentlemen in love are wont to be.

"She and Ching Po don't hit it off very well, I've noticed."

"No, they don't." He admitted it easily, as if he knew all about it.

"I wonder why." I had meant to keep my hands off the whole thing, but I could not escape the tension in the Naapu air. Those gods of wood and stone were not without power—of infection, at the least.

"Better not ask." He bit off the words and reached for a cigarette.

"Does any one know?"

"An old inhabitant can guess. But why she should be afraid of him—even the old inhabitant doesn't know. There's Dubois; but you might as well shriek at a corpse as ask Dubois anything."

"You don't think that I'd better go over and make sure that Ching Po isn't annoying her?"

Follet's lips drew back over his teeth in his peculiar smile. "If I had thought he could annoy her, I'd have been over there myself a short time ago. If he really annoyed French Eva any day, he'd be nothing but a neat pattern of perforations, and he knows it."[Pg 157]

"Then what has the oldest inhabitant guessed as to the cause of the quarrel?" I persisted. Since I was in it—well, I hate talk that runs in circles.

"She hasn't honored me with her confidence. But, for a guess, I should say that in the happy time now past he had perhaps asked her to marry him. And—Naapu isn't Europe, but, you know, even here a lady might resent that."

"But why does she let him into her house?"

"That I can't tell you. But I can almost imagine being afraid of Ching Po myself."

"Why don't you settle it up, one way or the other?" I was a newcomer, you see.

Follet laughed and took another cigarette. "We do very well as we are, I think. And I expect to go to Auckland next year." His voice trailed off fatuously in a cloud of smoke, and I knew then just why I disliked him. The fibre was rotten. You couldn't even hang yourself with it.

I was destined to keep open house that day. Before Follet's last smoke-puff had quite slid through the open window, Madame Maür, who was perpetually in mourning, literally darkened my doorway. Seeing Follet she became nervous—he did affect women, as I have said. What with her squint and her smile, she made a spectacle of herself before she panted out her staccato statement. Doctor Maür was away with a patient on the other side of the island; and French Eva had been wringing her hands unintelligibly on the Maürs' porch. She—Madame Maür—couldn't make out what the girl wanted.

Now, this was nothing to break in on me for; and Madame Maür, in spite of her squint and her smile, was both sensible and good—broke, moreover, to the ridiculous coincidences and unfathomable dramas of Naapu. Why hadn't she treated the girl for hysterics? But I gathered presently that there was one element in it that she couldn't bear. That element, it appeared, was Ching Po, perfectly motionless in the public road—no trespasser, therefore—watching. She had got Eva into the house to have her hysterics out in a darkened room. But Ching Po never stirred. Madame Maür thought he never would stir. She couldn't order him off the public thorough[Pg 158]fare, and there was no traffic for him to block. He was irreproachable and intolerable. After half an hour of it, she had run out across her back garden to ask my help. He must go away or she, too, would have hysterics. And Madame Maür covered the squint with a black-edged handkerchief. If he would walk about, or whistle, or mop his yellow face, she wouldn't mind. But she was sure he hadn't so much as blinked, all that time. If a man could die standing up, she should think he was dead. She wished he were. If he stayed there all day—as he had a perfect right to do—she, Madame Maür, would have to be sent home to a maison de santé.—And she began to make guttural noises. As Félicité Maür had seen, in her time, things that no self-respecting maison de santé would stand for, I began to believe that I should have to do something. I rose reluctantly. I was about fed up with Ching Po, myself.

I helped Madame Maür out of her chair, and fetched my hat. Then I looked for Follet, to apologize for leaving him. I had neither seen nor heard him move, but he was waiting for us on the porch. He could be as noiseless on occasion as Ching Po.

"You'd better not come into this," I suggested; for there was no staying power, I felt, in Follet.

He seemed to shiver all over with irritation. "Oh, damn his yellow soul, I'll marry her!" He spat it out—with no sweetness, this time.

Madame Maür swung round to him like a needle to the pole. "You may save yourself the corvée. She won't have you. Not if any of the things she has been sobbing out are true. She loves the other man—down by the docks. Your compatriot." She indicated me. Her French was clear and clicking, with a slight provincial accent.

"Oh—" He breathed it out at great length, exhaling. Yet it sounded like a hiss. "Stires, eh?" And he looked at me.

I had been thinking, as we stood on the steps. "How am I to move Ching Po off?" I asked irritably. It had suddenly struck me that, inspired by Madame Maür, we were embarking on sheer idiocy.[Pg 159]

"I'll move him," replied Follet with a curious intonation.

At that instant my eye lighted again on the pistol. "Not with that." I jerked my chin ever so slightly in the direction of his pocket.

"Oh, take it if you want it. Come on." He thrust the weapon into my innocent hand and began to pull at my bougainvillea vine as if it were in his way. Some of the splendid petals fluttered about Madame Maür's head.

We reached the Maürs' front porch by a circuitous route—through the back garden and the house itself—and paused to admire the view. Yes, we looked for Ching Po as if we were tourists and he were Niagara.

"He hasn't moved yet." This was Madame Maür's triumphant whimper. Inarticulate noises somewhere near indicated that French Eva was still in sanctuary.

Follet grunted. Then he unleashed his supple body and was half way to the gate in a single arrow flight. I followed, carrying the pistol still in my hand. My involuntary haste must have made me seem to brandish it. I heard a perfectly civilized scream from Madame Maür, receding into the background—which shows that I was, myself, acquiring full speed ahead. By the time Follet reached the gate, Ching Po moved. I saw Follet gaining on him, and then saw no more of them; for my feet acting on some inspiration of their own which never had time to reach my brain, took a short cut to the water front. I raced past French Eva's empty house, pounding my way through the gentle heat of May, to Stires's establishment. I hoped to cut them off. But Ching Po must have had a like inspiration, for when I was almost within sight of my goal—fifty rods ahead—the Chinaman emerged from a side lane between me and it. He was running like the wind. Follet was nowhere to be seen. Ching Po and I were the only mites on earth's surface. The whole population, apparently, had piously gone up the mountain in order to let us have our little drama out alone. I do not know how it struck Ching Po; but I felt very small on that swept and garnished scene.

I was winded; and with the hope of reaching Stires well dashed, my legs began to crumple. I sank down for a few[Pg 160] seconds on the low wall of some one's compound. But I kept a keen eye out for Follet. I thought Stires could look out for himself, so long as it was just Ching Po. It was the triangular mix-up I was afraid of; even though I providentially had Follet's pistol. And, for that matter, where was Follet? Had he given up the chase? Gone home for that drink, probably.

But in that I had done him injustice; for in a few moments he debouched from yet a third approach. Ching Po had evidently doubled, somehow, and baffled him.

I rose to meet him, and he slowed down to take me on. By this time the peaceful water front had absorbed the Chinaman; and if Stires was at home, the two were face to face. I made this known to Follet.

"Give me back my pistol," he panted.

"Not on your life," I said, and jammed it well into my pocket.

"What in hell have you got to do with it?" he snarled.

"Stires is a friend of mine." I spoke with some difficulty, for though we were not running, we were hitting up a quick pace. Follet was all colors of the rainbow, and I looked for him to give out presently, but he kept on.

"Ching Po, too?" he sneered.

"Not a bit of it. But they won't stand for murder in open daylight—even your friends."

We were very near Stires's place by this time. There was no sign of any one in the yard; it was inhabited solely by the familiar rusty monsters of Stires's trade. As we drew up alongside, I looked through the window. Stires and Ching Po were within, and from the sibilant noise that stirred the peaceful air, I judged that Ching Po was talking. Their backs were turned to the outer world. I pushed open the door, and Follet and I entered.

For the first time I found myself greeted with open hostility by my fellow countryman. "What the devil are you doing here?" I was annoyed. The way they all dragged me in and then cursed me for being there! The Chinaman stood with his hands folded in his wicked sleeves, his eyes on the ground. In the semi-gloom of Stires's warehouse, his face looked like a mouldy orange.[Pg 161] He was yellower even than his race permitted—outside and in.

"If I can't be of any service to you or Miss Eva, I should be only too glad to go home," I retorted.

"What about her?" asked Stires truculently. He advanced two steps towards me.

"I'm not looking for trouble—" It seemed to me just then that I hated Naapu as I had never hated any place in the world. "She's having hysterics up at Madame Maür's. I fancy that's why we're here. Your yellow friend there seems to have been responsible for the hysterics. This other gentleman and I"—I waved a hand at Follet, who stood, spent and silent, beside me—"resented it. We thought we would follow him up."

How much Ching Po understood of plain English, I do not know. One always conversed with him in the pidgin variety. But he certainly looked at peace with the world: much as the devil must have looked, gazing at Pompeii in the year '79.

"You can do your resenting somewheres else," snapped Stires. "Both of you."

"I go," murmured Ching Po. He stepped delicately towards the door.

"No, you don't!" Follet's foot shot out to trip him. But the Chinaman melted past the crude interruption.

"I go," he repeated, with ineffable sadness, from the threshold.

The thing was utterly beyond me. I stood stock-still. The two men, Follet and Stires, faced each other for an instant. Then Follet swung round and dashed after Ching Po. I saw him clutch the loose black sleeve and murmur in the flat ear.

Stires seemed to relent towards me now that Follet was gone. "Let 'em alone," he grunted. "The Chink won't do anything but tell him a few things. And like as not, he knows 'em already, the—" The word indicated his passionate opinion of Follet.

"I was called in by Madame Maür," I explained weakly. "Ching Po wouldn't leave the road in front of her compound. And—Miss Eva was inside, having hysterics. Ching Po had been with her earlier. Now you[Pg 162] know all I know, and as I'm not wanted anywhere, I'll go. I assure you I'm very glad to."

I was not speaking the strictest truth, but I saw no reason to pour out Madame Maür's revelations just then upon Stires's heated soul. Nor would I pursue the subject of Follet.

Stires sank down on something that had once been an office-chair. Thence he glowered at me. I had no mind to endure his misdirected anger, and I turned to go. But in the very instant of my turning from him I saw tragedy pierce through the mask of rage. The man was suffering; he could no longer hold his eyes and lips to the expression of anger. I spoke to him very gently.

"Has Miss Eva really anything to fear from that miserable Chinaman?"

Stires bowed his head on his hands. "Not a thing, now. He's done his damnedest. It only took a minute for him to spit it out."

"Will he spit it out to Follet?"

"You bet he will. But I've got a kind of a hunch Follet knew all along."

"I'm sure he didn't—whatever it is."

"Well, he does by now. They must be nearly back to the ho-tel. I'm kind of busy this morning"—he waved his hand round that idle scene—"and I guess—"

"Certainly. I'm going now." I spared him the effort of polishing off his lie. The man wanted to be alone with his trouble, and that was a state of mind I understood only too well.

The circumstantial evidence I had before me as I walked back to my own house led inevitably to one verdict. I could almost reconstruct the ignoble pidgin-splutter in which Ching Po had told Stires, and was even now telling Follet. The wonder to me was that any one believed the miserable creature. Truth wouldn't be truth if it came from Ching Po. Yet if two men who were obviously prepossessed in the lady's favor were so easily to be convinced by his report, some old suspicions, some forgotten facts must have rushed out of the dark to foregather with it. French Eva had been afraid of the Chinaman; yet even Follet had pooh-poohed her fears; and her[Pg 163] reputation was—or had been—well-nigh stainless on Naapu, which is, to say the least, a smudgy place. Still—there was only one road for reason to take, and in spite of these obstacles it wearily and doggedly took it.

Joe, of course, was still absent; and though I was never more in need of food, my larder was empty. I would not go to Dubois's and encounter Follet and Ching Po. Perhaps Madame Maür would give me a sandwich. I wanted desperately to have done with the whole sordid business; and had there been food prepared for me at home, I think I should have barricaded myself there. But my hunger joined hands with a lurking curiosity. Between them they drove me to Madame Maür's.

The lady bustled about at once to supply my needs. Her husband was still away, and lunch there was not in any proper sense. But she fed me with odd messes and endless cups of coffee. Hunger disappeared leaving curiosity starkly apparent.

"How's Eva?" I asked.

Madame Maür pursed her lips. "She went away an hour ago."

"Home?"

The lady shrugged her shoulders. "It looked like it. I did not ask her. She would go—with many thanks, but with great resolution.—What has happened to you?" she went on smoothly.

I deliberated. Should I tell madame anything or should I not? I decided not to. "Ching Po went back to the hotel," I said. "I don't believe he meant to annoy you."

She let the subject drop loyally. And, indeed, with Ching Po and French Eva both out of the way, she had become quite normal again. Of course, if I would not let her question me, I could not in fairness question her. So we talked on idly, neither one, I dare say, quite sure of the other, and both ostensibly content to wait. Or she may have had reasons as strong as mine for wishing to forget the affair of the morning.

I grew soothed and oblivious. The thing receded. I was just thinking of going home when Follet appeared at the gate. Then I realized how futile had been our common reticence.[Pg 164]

"Is Eva here?" he shouted before he reached us.

"She went home long ago." Madame Maür answered quietly, but I saw by her quick shiver that she had not been at peace, all this time.

"She's not there. The place is all shut up."

"Doesn't she usually attend these festivities up the hill?" I asked.

His look went through me like a dagger. "Not today, you fool!"

"Well, why worry about her?" It was I who put it calmly. Six hours before, I had not been calm; but now I looked back at that fever with contempt.

"She's been to Stires's," he went on; and I could see the words hurt him.

"Well, then, ask him."

"He was asleep. She left her beloved gramophone there. He found it when he waked."

"Her gramophone?" I ejaculated. "Where is Stires?"

"Looking for her—and hoping he won't find her, curse him!"

Follet took hold of me and drew me down the steps. "Come along," he said. Then he turned to Madame Maür. "Sorry, madame. This is urgent. We'll tell you all about it later."

Félicité Maür did not approve of Follet, but he could do no wrong when she was actually confronted with him. She took refuge in a shrug and went within.

When we were outside the gate, I stood still and faced Follet. "What did Ching Po tell you and Stires?"

"Don't you know?" Sheer surprise looked out at me from his eyes.

"Of course, I think I know. Do you really want to tear the place up, looking for her?"

"It's not that!" he shouted. "If it had been, every one would have known it long since. Ching Po got it out of old Dubois. I shook Dubois out of his opium long enough to confirm it. I had to threaten him.—Ching Po's a dirty beast, but, according to the old man he told the truth. Ching Po did want to marry her once. She wouldn't, of course, and he's just been waiting to spike her guns. When he found out she really wanted that[Pg 165] impossible Yankee, he said he'd tell. She had hysterics. He waited for her outside the Maürs', hoping, I suppose, it would work out another way. When we appeared, he decided to get his work in. He probably thought she had sent for us. And he was determined no one should stop him from telling. Now do you see? Come on." He pulled at my arm.

"In heaven's name, man, what did he tell?" I almost shrieked.

"Just the one thing you Yankees can't stand," Follet sneered. "A touch of the tar-brush. She wasn't altogether French, you see. Old Dubois knows her pedigree. Her grandmother was a mulatto, over Penang way. She knew how Stires felt on the subject—a damn, dirty ship-chandler no self-respecting officer deals with—"

"None of that!" I said sharply. "He's a good man, Stires. A darned sight too good for the Naapu grafters. A darned sight too good to go native—" Then I stopped, for Follet was hardly himself, nor did I like the look of myself as a common scold.

We did not find Stires, and after an hour or two we gave up the search. By dusk, Follet had got to the breaking-point. He was jumpy. I took him back myself to the hotel, and pushed him viciously into Ching Po's arms. The expressionless Chinese face might have been a mask for all the virtues; and he received the shaking burden of Follet as meekly as a sister of charity.

I bought some tinned things for my dinner and took my way home. I should not, I felt sure, be interrupted, and I meant to turn in early. Madame Maür would be telling the tale to her husband; Follet would, of a certainty, be drunk; and Stires would be looking, I supposed, for French Eva. French Eva, I thought, would take some finding; but Stires was the best man for the job. It was certainly not my business to notify any one that night. So I chowed alone, out of the tins, and smoked a long time—alone—in the moonlight.


It was not Stires, after all, who found her, though he must have hunted the better part of that night. It was three days before she was washed ashore. She was dis[Pg 166]covered by a crew of fishermen whom she had often beaten down in the way of business. They brought her in from the remote cove, with loud lamentations and much pride. She must have rocked back and forth between the shore and the reef, for when they found her, her body was badly battered. From the cliff above, they said, she looked at first like a monstrous catch of seaweed on the sand Her hair—

Follet had treated himself to a three days' drinking-bout, and only emerged, blanched and palsied, into a town filled with the clamor of her funeral. Stires had shut up his junk-shop for a time and stayed strictly at home. I went to see him, the day after they found her. His face was drawn and gloomy, but it was the face of a man in his right mind. I think his worst time was that hour after Follet had followed Ching Po out of his warehouse. He never told me just how things had stood between French Eva and him, but I am sure that he believed Ching Po at once, and that, from the moment Ching Po spoke, it was all over. It was no longer even real to him, so surely had his inborn prejudice worked. Stires was no Pierre Loti.

In decency we had to mention her. There was a great to-do about it in the town, and the tom-toms had mysteriously returned from the hillsides.

"I've been pretty cut up about it all," he admitted. "But there's no doubt it's for the best. As I look back on it, I see she never was comfortable in her mind. On and off, hot and cold—and I took it for flightiness. The light broke in on me, all of a sudden, when that dirty yellow rascal began to talk. But if you'll believe me, sir, I used to be jealous of Follet. Think of it, now." He began to whittle.

Evidently her ravings to Madame Maür had not yet come to his ears. Madame Maür was capable of holding her tongue; and there was a chance Follet might hold his. At all events, I would not tell Stires how seriously she had loved him. He was a very provincial person, and I think—considering her pedigree—it would have shocked him.

French Eva's cerebrations are in some ways a mystery to me, but I am sure she knew what she wanted. I fancy[Pg 167] she thought—but, as I say, I do not know—that the mode of her passing would at least make all clear to Stires. Perhaps she hoped for tardy regrets on his part; an ex-post-facto decision that it didn't matter. The hot-and-cold business had probably been the poor girl's sense of honor working—though, naturally, she couldn't have known (on Naapu) the peculiar impregnability of Stires's prejudices. When you stop to think of it, Stires and his prejudices had no business in such a place, and nothing in earth or sky or sea could have foretold them to the population of that landscape. Perhaps when she let herself go, in the strong seas, she thought that he would be at heart her widower. Don't ask me. Whatever poor little posthumous success of the sort she may have hoped for, she at least paid for it heavily—and in advance. And, as you see, her ghost never got what her body had paid for. It is just as well: why should Stires have paid, all his life? But if you doubt the strength of her sincerity, let me tell you what every one on Naapu was perfectly aware of: she could swim like a Kanaka; and she must have let herself go on those familiar waters, against every instinct, like a piece of driftwood. Stires may have managed to blink that fact; but no one else did.

Lockerbie gave a dinner-party at the end of the week, and Follet got drunk quite early in the evening. He embarrassed every one (except me) by announcing thickly, at dessert, that he would have married French Eva if she hadn't drowned herself. I believed it no more the second time than I had believed it the first. Anyhow, she wouldn't have had him. Schneider left us during those days. We hardly noticed his departure. Ching Po still prospers. Except Stires, we are not squeamish on Naapu.


[Pg 168]

THE PAST[10]

By ELLEN GLASGOW

(From Good Housekeeping)

I had no sooner entered the house than I knew something was wrong. Though I had never been in so splendid a place before—it was one of those big houses just off Fifth Avenue—I had a suspicion from the first that the magnificence covered a secret disturbance. I was always quick to receive impressions, and when the black iron doors swung together behind me, I felt as if I were shut inside of a prison.

When I gave my name and explained that I was the new secretary, I was delivered into the charge of an elderly lady's maid, who looked as if she had been crying. Without speaking a word, though she nodded kindly enough, she led me down the hall, and then up a flight of stairs at the back of the house to a pleasant bedroom in the third story. There was a great deal of sunshine, and the walls, which were painted a soft yellow, made the room very cheerful. It would be a comfortable place to sit in when I was not working, I thought, while the sad-faced maid stood watching me remove my wraps and hat.

"If you are not tired, Mrs. Vanderbridge would like to dictate a few letters," she said presently, and they were the first words she had spoken.

"I am not a bit tired. Will you take me to her?" One of the reasons, I knew, which had decided Mrs. Vanderbridge to engage me was the remarkable similarity of our handwriting. We were both Southerners, and though she was now famous on two continents for her beauty, I couldn't forget that she had got her early[Pg 169] education at the little academy for young ladies in Fredericksburg. This was a bond of sympathy in my thoughts at least, and, heaven knows, I needed to remember it while I followed the maid down the narrow stairs and along the wide hall to the front of the house.

In looking back after a year, I can recall every detail of that first meeting. Though it was barely four o'clock, the electric lamps were turned on in the hall, and I can still see the mellow light that shone over the staircase and lay in pools on the old pink rugs, which were so soft and fine that I felt as if I were walking on flowers. I remember the sound of music from a room somewhere on the first floor, and the scent of lilies and hyacinths that drifted from the conservatory. I remember it all, every note of music, every whiff of fragrance; but most vividly I remember Mrs. Vanderbridge as she looked round, when the door opened, from the wood fire into which she had been gazing. Her eyes caught me first. They were so wonderful that for a moment I couldn't see anything else; then I took in slowly the dark red of her hair, the clear pallor of her skin, and the long, flowing lines of her figure in a tea-gown of blue silk. There was a white bearskin rug under her feet, and while she stood there before the wood fire, she looked as if she had absorbed the beauty and colour of the house as a crystal vase absorbs the light. Only when she spoke to me, and I went nearer, did I detect the heaviness beneath her eyes and the nervous quiver of her mouth, which drooped a little at the corners. Tired and worn as she was, I never saw her afterwards—not even when she was dressed for the opera—look quite so lovely, so much like an exquisite flower, as she did on that first afternoon. When I knew her better, I discovered that she was a changeable beauty, there were days when all the colour seemed to go out of her, and she looked dull and haggard, but at her best no one I've ever seen could compare with her.

She asked me a few questions, and though she was pleasant and kind, I knew that she scarcely listened to my responses. While I sat down at the desk and dipped my pen into the ink, she flung herself on the couch before the fire with a movement which struck me as hopeless.[Pg 170] I saw her feet tap the white fur rug, while she plucked nervously at the lace on the end of one of the gold-coloured sofa cushions. For an instant the thought flashed through my mind that she had been taking something—a drug of some sort—and that she was suffering now from the effects of it. Then she looked at me steadily, almost as if she were reading my thoughts, and I knew that I was wrong. Her large radiant eyes were as innocent as a child's.

She dictated a few notes—all declining invitations—and then, while I still waited pen in hand, she sat up on the couch with one of her quick movements, and said in a low voice, "I am not dining out to-night, Miss Wrenn. I am not well enough."

"I am sorry for that." It was all I could think of to say, for I did not understand why she should have told me.

"If you don't mind, I should like you to come down to dinner. There will be only Mr. Vanderbridge and myself."

"Of course I will come if you wish it." I couldn't very well refuse to do what she asked me, yet I told myself, while I answered, that if I had known she expected me to make one of the family, I should never, not even at twice the salary, have taken the place. It didn't take me a minute to go over my slender wardrobe in my mind and realize that I had nothing to wear that would look well enough.

"I can see you don't like it," she added after a moment, almost wistfully, "but it won't be often. It is only when we are dining alone."

This, I thought, was even queerer than the request—or command—for I knew from her tone, just as plainly as if she had told me in words, that she did not wish to dine alone with her husband.

"I am ready to help you in any way—in any way that I can," I replied, and I was so deeply moved by her appeal that my voice broke in spite of my effort to control it. After my lonely life I dare say I should have loved any one who really needed me, and from the first moment that I read the appeal in Mrs. Vanderbridge's face I felt that I was willing to work my fingers to the bone for her.[Pg 171] Nothing that she asked of me was too much when she asked it in that voice, with that look.

"I am glad you are nice," she said, and for the first time she smiled—a charming, girlish smile with a hint of archness. "We shall get on beautifully, I know, because I can talk to you. My last secretary was English, and I frightened her almost to death whenever I tried to talk to her." Then her tone grew serious. "You won't mind dining with us. Roger—Mr. Vanderbridge—is the most charming man in the world."

"Is that his picture?"

"Yes, the one in the Florentine frame. The other is my brother. Do you think we are alike?"

"Since you've told me, I notice a likeness." Already I had picked up the Florentine frame from the desk, and was eagerly searching the features of Mr. Vanderbridge. It was an arresting face, dark, thoughtful, strangely appealing, and picturesque—though this may have been due, of course, to the photographer. The more I looked at it, the more there grew upon me an uncanny feeling of familiarity; but not until the next day, while I was still trying to account for the impression that I had seen the picture before, did there flash into my mind the memory of an old portrait of a Florentine nobleman in a loan collection last winter. I can't remember the name of the painter—I am not sure that it was known—but this photograph might have been taken from the painting. There was the same imaginative sadness in both faces, the same haunting beauty of feature, and one surmised that there must be the same rich darkness of colouring. The only striking difference was that the man in the photograph looked much older than the original of the portrait, and I remembered that the lady who had engaged me was the second wife of Mr. Vanderbridge and some ten or fifteen years younger, I had heard, than her husband.

"Have you ever seen a more wonderful face?" asked Mrs. Vanderbridge. "Doesn't he look as if he might have been painted by Titian?"

"Is he really so handsome as that?"

"He is a little older and sadder, that is all. When we[Pg 172] were married it was exactly like him." For an instant she hesitated and then broke out almost bitterly, "Isn't that a face any woman might fall in love with, a face any woman—living or dead—would not be willing to give up?"

Poor child, I could see that she was overwrought and needed some one to talk to, but it seemed queer to me that she should speak so frankly to a stranger. I wondered why any one so rich and so beautiful should ever be unhappy—for I had been schooled by poverty to believe that money is the first essential of happiness—and yet her unhappiness was as evident as her beauty, or the luxury that enveloped her. At that instant I felt that I hated Mr. Vanderbridge, for whatever the secret tragedy of their marriage might be, I instinctively knew that the fault was not on the side of the wife. She was as sweet and winning as if she were still the reigning beauty in the academy for young ladies. I knew with a knowledge deeper than any conviction that she was not to blame, and if she wasn't to blame, then who under heaven could be at fault except her husband?

In a few minutes a friend came in to tea, and I went upstairs to my room, and unpacked the blue taffeta dress I had bought for my sister's wedding. I was still doubtfully regarding it when there was a knock at my door, and the maid with the sad face came in to bring me a pot of tea. After she had placed the tray on the table, she stood nervously twisting a napkin in her hands while she waited for me to leave my unpacking and sit down in the easy chair she had drawn up under the lamp.

"How do you think Mrs. Vanderbridge is looking?" she asked abruptly in a voice, that held a breathless note of suspense. Her nervousness and the queer look in her face made me stare at her sharply. This was a house, I was beginning to feel, where everybody, from the mistress down, wanted to question me. Even the silent maid had found voice for interrogation.

"I think her the loveliest person I've ever seen," I answered after a moment's hesitation. There couldn't be any harm in telling her how much I admired her mistress.[Pg 173]

"Yes, she is lovely—every one thinks so—and her nature is as sweet as her face." She was becoming loquacious. "I have never had a lady who was so sweet and kind. She hasn't always been rich, and that may be the reason she never seems to grow hard and selfish, the reason she spends so much of her life thinking of other people. It's been six years now, ever since her marriage, that I've lived with her, and in all that time I've never had a cross word from her."

"One can see that. With everything she has she ought to be as happy as the day is long."

"She ought to be." Her voice dropped, and I saw her glance suspiciously at the door, which she had closed when she entered. "She ought to be, but she isn't. I have never seen any one so unhappy as she has been of late—ever since last summer. I suppose I oughtn't to talk about it, but I've kept it to myself so long that I feel as if it was killing me. If she was my own sister, I couldn't be any fonder of her, and yet I have to see her suffer day after day, and not say a word—not even to her. She isn't the sort of lady you could speak to about a thing like that."

She broke down, and dropping on the rug at my feet, hid her face in her hands. It was plain that she was suffering acutely, and while I patted her shoulder, I thought what a wonderful mistress Mrs. Vanderbridge must be to have attached a servant to her so strongly.

"You must remember that I am a stranger in the house, that I scarcely know her, that I've never even seen her husband," I said warningly, for I've always avoided, as far as possible, the confidences of servants.

"But you look as if you could be trusted." The maid's nerves, as well as the mistress's, were on edge, I could see. "And she needs somebody who can help her. She needs a real friend—somebody who will stand by her no matter what happens."

Again, as in the room downstairs, there flashed through my mind the suspicion that I had got into a place where people took drugs or drink—or were all out of their minds. I had heard of such houses.

"How can I help her? She won't confide in me, and even if she did, what could I do for her?"[Pg 174]

"You can stand by and watch. You can come between her and harm—if you see it." She had risen from the floor and stood wiping her reddened eyes on the napkin. "I don't know what it is, but I know it is there. I feel it even when I can't see it."

Yes, they were all out of their minds; there couldn't be any other explanation. The whole episode was incredible. It was the kind of thing, I kept telling myself, that did not happen. Even in a book nobody could believe it.

"But her husband? He is the one who must protect her."

She gave me a blighting look. "He would if he could. He isn't to blame—you mustn't think that. He is one of the best men in the world, but he can't help her. He can't help her because he doesn't know. He doesn't see it."

A bell rang somewhere, and catching up the tea-tray, she paused just long enough to throw me a pleading word, "Stand between her and harm, if you see it."

When she had gone I locked the door after her, and turned on all the lights in the room. Was there really a tragic mystery in the house, or were they all mad, as I had first imagined? The feeling of apprehension, of vague uneasiness, which had come to me when I entered the iron doors, swept over me in a wave while I sat there in the soft glow of the shaded electric light. Something was wrong. Somebody was making that lovely woman unhappy, and who, in the name of reason, could this somebody be except her husband? Yet the maid had spoken of him as "one of the best men in the world," and it was impossible to doubt the tearful sincerity of her voice. Well, the riddle was too much for me. I gave it up at last with a sigh—dreading the hour that would call the downstairs to meet Mr. Vanderbridge. I felt in every nerve and fibre of my body that I should hate him the moment I looked at him.

But at eight o'clock, when I went reluctantly downstairs, I had a surprise. Nothing could have been kinder than the way Mr. Vanderbridge greeted me, and I could tell as soon as I met his eyes that there wasn't anything vicious or violent in his nature. He reminded me more[Pg 175] than ever of the portrait in the loan collection, and though he was so much older than the Florentine nobleman, he had the same thoughtful look. Of course I am not an artist, but I have always tried, in my way, to be a reader of personality; and it didn't take a particularly keen observer to discern the character and intellect in Mr. Vanderbridge's face. Even now I remember it as the noblest face I have ever seen; and unless I had possessed at least a shade of penetration, I doubt if I should have detected the melancholy. For it was only when he was thinking deeply that this sadness seemed to spread like a veil over his features. At other times he was cheerful and even gay in his manner; and his rich dark eyes would light up now and then with irrepressible humour. From the way he looked at his wife I could tell that there was no lack of love or tenderness on his side any more than there was on hers. It was obvious that he was still as much in love with her as he had been before his marriage, and my immediate perception of this only deepened the mystery that enveloped them. If the fault wasn't his and wasn't hers, then who was responsible for the shadow that hung over the house?

For the shadow was there. I could feel it, vague and dark, while we talked about the war and the remote possibilities of peace in the spring. Mrs. Vanderbridge looked young and lovely in her gown of white satin with pearls on her bosom, but her violet eyes were almost black in the candlelight, and I had a curious feeling that this blackness was the colour of thought. Something troubled her to despair, yet I was as positive as I could be of anything I had ever been told that she had breathed no word of this anxiety or distress to her husband. Devoted as they were, a nameless dread, fear, or apprehension divided them. It was the thing I had felt from the moment I entered the house; the thing I had heard in the tearful voice of the maid. One could scarcely call it horror, because it was too vague, too impalpable, for so vivid a name; yet, after all these quiet months, horror is the only word I can think of that in any way expresses the emotion which pervaded the house.

I had never seen so beautiful a dinner table, and I was[Pg 176] gazing with pleasure at the damask and glass and silver—there was a silver basket of chrysanthemums, I remember, in the centre of the table—when I noticed a nervous movement of Mrs. Vanderbridge's head, and saw her glance hastily toward the door and the staircase beyond. We had been talking animatedly, and as Mrs. Vanderbridge turned away, I had just made a remark to her husband, who appeared to have fallen into a sudden fit of abstraction, and was gazing thoughtfully over his soup-plate at the white and yellow chrysanthemums. It occurred to me, while I watched him, that he was probably absorbed in some financial problem, and I regretted that I had been so careless as to speak to him. To my surprise, however, he replied immediately in a natural tone, and I saw, or imagined that I saw, Mrs. Vanderbridge throw me a glance of gratitude and relief. I can't remember what we were talking about, but I recall perfectly that the conversation kept up pleasantly, without a break, until dinner was almost half over. The roast had been served, and I was in the act of helping myself to potatoes, when I became aware that Mr. Vanderbridge had again fallen into his reverie. This time he scarcely seemed to hear his wife's voice when she spoke to him, and I watched the sadness cloud his face while he continued to stare straight ahead of him with a look that was almost yearning in its intensity.

Again I saw Mrs. Vanderbridge, with her nervous gesture, glance in the direction of the hall, and to my amazement, as she did so, a woman's figure glided noiselessly over the old Persian rug at the door, and entered the dining-room. I was wondering why no one spoke to her, why she spoke to no one, when I saw her sink into a chair on the other side of Mr. Vanderbridge and unfold her napkin. She was quite young, younger even than Mrs. Vanderbridge, and though she was not really beautiful, she was the most graceful creature I had ever imagined. Her dress was of gray stuff, softer and more clinging than silk, and of a peculiar misty texture and colour, and her parted hair lay like twilight on either side of her forehead. She was not like any one I had ever seen before—she appeared so much frailer, so much more[Pg 177] elusive, as if she would vanish if you touched her. I can't describe, even months afterwards, the singular way in which she attracted and repelled me.

At first I glanced inquiringly at Mrs. Vanderbridge, hoping that she would introduce me, but she went on talking rapidly in an intense, quivering voice, without noticing the presence of her guest by so much as the lifting of her eyelashes. Mr. Vanderbridge still sat there, silent and detached, and all the time the eyes of the stranger—starry eyes with a mist over them—looked straight through me at the tapestry on the wall. I knew she didn't see me and that it wouldn't have made the slightest difference to her if she had seen me. In spite of her grace and her girlishness I did not like her, and I felt that this aversion was not on my side alone. I do not know how I received the impression that she hated Mrs. Vanderbridge—never once had she glanced in her direction—yet I was aware from the moment of her entrance, that she was bristling with animosity, though animosity is too strong a word for the resentful spite, like the jealous rage of a spoiled child, which gleamed now and then in her eyes. I couldn't think of her as wicked any more than I could think of a bad child as wicked. She was merely wilful and undisciplined and—I hardly know how to convey what I mean—elfish.

After her entrance the dinner dragged on heavily. Mrs. Vanderbridge still kept up her nervous chatter, but nobody listened, for I was too embarrassed to pay any attention to what she said, and Mr. Vanderbridge had never recovered from his abstraction. He was like a man in a dream, not observing a thing that happened before him, while the strange woman sat there in the candlelight with her curious look of vagueness and unreality. To my astonishment not even the servants appeared to notice her, and though she had unfolded her napkin when she sat down, she wasn't served with either the roast or the salad. Once or twice, particularly when a course was served, I glanced at Mrs. Vanderbridge to see if she would rectify the mistake, but she kept her gaze fixed on her plate. It was just as if there were a conspiracy to ignore the presence of the stranger, though[Pg 178] she had been, from the moment of her entrance, the dominant figure at the table. You tried to pretend she wasn't there, and yet you knew—you knew vividly that she was gazing insolently straight through you.

The dinner lasted, it seemed, for hours, and you may imagine my relief when at last Mrs. Vanderbridge rose and led the way back into the drawing-room. At first I thought the stranger would follow us, but when I glanced round from the hall she was still sitting there beside Mr. Vanderbridge, who was smoking a cigar with his coffee.

"Usually he takes his coffee with me," said Mrs. Vanderbridge, "but tonight he has things to think over."

"I thought he seemed absent-minded."

"You noticed it, then?" She turned to me with her straightforward glance. "I always wonder how much strangers notice. He hasn't been well of late, and he has these spells of depression. Nerves are dreadful things, aren't they?"

I laughed. "So I've heard, but I've never been able to afford them."

"Well, they do cost a great deal, don't they?" She had a trick of ending her sentences with a question. "I hope your room is comfortable, and that you don't feel timid about being alone on that floor. If you haven't nerves, you can't get nervous, can you?"

"No, I can't get nervous." Yet while I spoke, I was conscious of a shiver deep down in me, as if my senses reacted again to the dread that permeated the atmosphere.

As soon as I could, I escaped to my room, and I was sitting there over a book, when the maid—her name was Hopkins, I had discovered—came in on the pretext of inquiring if I had everything I needed. One of the innumerable servants had already turned down my bed, so when Hopkins appeared at the door, I suspected at once that there was a hidden motive underlying her ostensible purpose.

"Mrs. Vanderbridge told me to look after you," she began. "She is afraid you will be lonely until you learn the way of things."[Pg 179]

"No, I'm not lonely," I answered. "I've never had time to be lonely."

"I used to be like that; but time hangs heavy on my hands now. That's why I've taken to knitting." She held out a gray yarn muffler. "I had an operation a year ago, and since then Mrs. Vanderbridge has had another maid—a French one—to sit up for her at night and undress her. She is always so fearful of overtaxing us, though there isn't really enough work for two lady's-maids, because she is so thoughtful that she never gives any trouble if she can help it."

"It must be nice to be rich," I said idly, as I turned a page of my book. Then I added almost before I realized what I was saying, "The other lady doesn't look as if she had so much money."

Her face turned paler if that were possible, and for a minute I thought she was going to faint. "The other lady?"

"I mean the one who came down late to dinner—the one in the gray dress. She wore no jewels, and her dress wasn't low in the neck."

"Then you saw her?" There was a curious flicker in her face as if her pallor came and went.

"We were at the table when she came in. Has Mr. Vanderbridge a secretary who lives in the house?"

"No, he hasn't a secretary except at his office. When he wants one at the house, he telephones to his office."

"I wondered why she came, for she didn't eat any dinner, and nobody spoke to her—not even Mr. Vanderbridge."

"Oh, he never speaks to her. Thank God, it hasn't come to that yet."

"Then why does she come? It must be dreadful to be treated like that, and before the servants, too. Does she come often?"

"There are months and months when she doesn't. I can always tell by the way Mrs. Vanderbridge picks up. You wouldn't know her, she is so full of life—the very picture of happiness. Then one evening she—the Other One, I mean—comes back again, just as she did tonight, just as she did last summer, and it all begins over from the beginning."[Pg 180]

"But can't they keep her out—the Other One? Why do they let her in?"

"Mrs. Vanderbridge tries hard. She tries all she can every minute. You saw her tonight?"

"And Mr. Vanderbridge? Can't he help her?"

She shook her head with an ominous gesture. "He doesn't know."

"He doesn't know she is there? Why, she was close by him. She never took her eyes off him except when she was staring through me at the wall."

"Oh, he knows she is there, but not in that way. He doesn't know that any one else knows."

I gave it up, and after a minute she said in a suppressed voice, "It seems strange that you should have seen her. I never have."

"But you know all about her."

"I know and I don't know. Mrs. Vanderbridge lets things drop sometimes—she gets ill and feverish very easily—but she never tells me anything outright. She isn't that sort."

"Haven't the servants told you about her—the Other One?"

At this, I thought, she seemed startled. "Oh, they don't know anything to tell. They feel that something is wrong; that is why they never stay longer than a week or two—we've had eight butlers since autumn—but they never see what it is."

She stooped to pick up the ball of yarn which had rolled under my chair. "If the time ever comes when you can stand between them, you will do it?" she asked.

"Between Mrs. Vanderbridge and the Other One?"

Her look answered me.

"You think, then, that she means harm to her?"

"I don't know. Nobody knows—but she is killing her."

The clock struck ten, and I returned to my book with a yawn, while Hopkins gathered up her work and went out, after wishing me a formal good night. The odd part about our secret conferences was that as soon as they were over, we began to pretend so elaborately to each other that they had never been.[Pg 181]

"I'll tell Mrs. Vanderbridge that you are very comfortable," was the last remark Hopkins made before she sidled out of the door and left me alone with the mystery. It was one of those situations—I am obliged to repeat this over and over—that was too preposterous for me to believe even while I was surrounded and overwhelmed by its reality. I didn't dare face what I thought, I didn't dare face even what I felt; but I went to bed shivering in a warm room, while I resolved passionately that if the chance ever came to me I would stand between Mrs. Vanderbridge and this unknown evil that threatened her.

In the morning Mrs. Vanderbridge went out shopping, and I did not see her until the evening, when she passed me on the staircase as she was going out to dinner and the opera. She was radiant in blue velvet, with diamonds in her hair and at her throat, and I wondered again how any one so lovely could ever be troubled.

"I hope you had a pleasant day, Miss Wrenn," she said kindly. "I have been too busy to get off any letters, but tomorrow we shall begin early." Then, as if from an afterthought, she looked back and added, "There are some new novels in my sitting-room. You might care to look over them."

When she had gone, I went upstairs to the sitting-room and turned over the books, but I couldn't, to save my life, force an interest in printed romances after meeting Mrs. Vanderbridge and remembering the mystery that surrounded her. I wondered if "the Other One," as Hopkins called her, lived in the house, and I was still wondering this when the maid came in and began putting the table to rights.

"Do they dine out often?" I asked.

"They used to, but since Mr. Vanderbridge hasn't been so well, Mrs. Vanderbridge doesn't like to go without him. She only went tonight because he begged her to."

She had barely finished speaking when the door opened, and Mr. Vanderbridge came in and sat down in one of the big velvet chairs before the wood fire. He had not noticed us, for one of his moods was upon him, and I was about to slip out as noiselessly as I could when I saw that the Other One was standing in the patch of firelight[Pg 182] on the hearth rug. I had not seen her come in, and Hopkins evidently was still unaware of her presence, for while I was watching, I saw the maid turn towards her with a fresh log for the fire. At the moment it occurred to me that Hopkins must be either blind or drunk, for without hesitating in her advance, she moved on the stranger, holding the huge hickory log out in front of her. Then, before I could utter a sound or stretch out a hand to stop her, I saw her walk straight through the gray figure and carefully place the log on the andirons.

So she isn't real, after all, she is merely a phantom, I found myself thinking, as I fled from the room, and hurried along the hall to the staircase. She is only a ghost, and nobody believes in ghosts any longer. She is something that I know doesn't exist, yet even, though she can't possibly be, I can swear that I have seen her. My nerves were so shaken by the discovery that as soon as I reached my room I sank in a heap on the rug, and it was here that Hopkins found me a little later when she came to bring me an extra blanket.

"You looked so upset I thought you might have seen something," she said. "Did anything happen while you were in the room?"

"She was there all the time—every blessed minute. You walked right through her when you put the log on the fire. Is it possible that you didn't see her?"

"No, I didn't see anything out of the way." She was plainly frightened. "Where was she standing?"

"On the hearthrug in front of Mr. Vanderbridge. To reach the fire you had to walk straight through her, for she didn't move. She didn't give way an inch."

"Oh, she never gives way. She never gives way living or dead."

This was more than human nature could stand. "In Heaven's name," I cried irritably, "who is she?"

"Don't you know?" She appeared genuinely surprised. "Why, she is the other Mrs. Vanderbridge. She died fifteen years ago, just a year after they were married, and people say a scandal was hushed up about her, which he never knew. She isn't a good sort, that's what I think of her, though they say he almost worshipped her."[Pg 183]

"And she still has this hold on him?"

"He can't shake it off, that's what's the matter with him, and if it goes on, he will end his days in an asylum. You see, she was very young, scarcely more than a girl, and he got the idea in his head that it was marrying him that killed her. If you want to know what I think, I believe she puts it there for a purpose."

"You mean—?" I was so completely at sea that I couldn't frame a rational question.

"I mean she haunts him purposely in order to drive him out of his mind. She was always that sort, jealous and exacting, the kind that clutches and strangles a man, and I've often thought, though I've no head for speculation, that we carry into the next world the traits and feelings that have got the better of us in this one. It seems to me only common sense to believe that we're obliged to work them off somewhere until we are free of them. That is the way my first lady used to talk anyhow, and I've never found anybody that could give me a more sensible idea."

"And isn't there any way to stop it? What has Mrs. Vanderbridge done?"

"Oh, she can't do anything now. It has got beyond her, though she has had doctor after doctor, and tried everything she could think of. But, you see, she is handicapped because she can't mention it to her husband. He doesn't know that she knows."

"And she won't tell him?"

"She is the sort that would die first—just the opposite from the Other One—for she leaves him free, she never clutches and strangles. It isn't her way." For a moment she hesitated, and then added grimly—"I've wondered if you could do anything?"

"If I could? Why, I am a perfect stranger to them all."

"That's why I've been thinking it. Now, if you could corner her some day—the Other One—and tell her up and down to her face what you think of her."

The idea was so ludicrous that it made me laugh in spite of my shaken nerves. "They would fancy me out of my wits! Imagine stopping an apparition and telling it what you think of it!"[Pg 184]

"Then you might try talking it over with Mrs. Vanderbridge. It would help her to know that you see her also."

But the next morning, when I went down to Mrs. Vanderbridge's room, I found that she was too ill to see me. At noon a trained nurse came on the case, and for a week we took our meals together in the morning-room upstairs. She appeared competent enough, but I am sure that she didn't so much as suspect that there was anything wrong in the house except the influenza which had attacked Mrs. Vanderbridge the night of the opera. Never once during that week did I catch a glimpse of the Other One, though I felt her presence whenever I left my room and passed through the hall below. I knew all the time as well as if I had seen her that she was hidden there, watching, watching—

At the end of the week Mrs. Vanderbridge sent for me to write some letters, and when I went into her room, I found her lying on the couch with a tea table in front of her. She asked me to make the tea because she was still so weak, and I saw that she looked flushed and feverish, and that her eyes were unnaturally large and bright. I hoped she wouldn't talk to me, because people in that state are apt to talk too much and then to blame the listener; but I had hardly taken my seat at the tea table before she said in a hoarse voice—the cold had settled on her chest:

"Miss Wrenn, I have wanted to ask you ever since the other evening—did you—did you see anything unusual at dinner? From your face when you came out I thought—I thought—"

I met this squarely. "That I might have? Yes, I did see something."

"You saw her?"

"I saw a woman come in and sit down at the table, and I wondered why no one served her. I saw her quite distinctly."

"A small woman, thin and pale, in a grey dress?"

"She was so vague and—and misty, you know what I mean, that it is hard to describe her; but I should know her again anywhere. She wore her hair parted and drawn[Pg 185] down over her ears. It was very dark and fine—as fine as spun silk."

We were speaking in low voices, and unconsciously we had moved closer together while my idle hands left the tea things.

"Then you know," she said earnestly, "that she really comes—that I am not out of my mind—that it is not an hallucination?"

"I know that I saw her. I would swear to it. But doesn't Mr. Vanderbridge see her also?"

"Not as we see her. He thinks that she is in his mind only." Then after an uncomfortable silence, she added suddenly, "She is really a thought, you know. She is his thought of her—but he doesn't know that she is visible to the rest of us."

"And he brings her back by thinking of her?"

She leaned nearer while a quiver passed over her features and the flush deepened in her cheeks. "That is the only way she comes back—the only way she has the power to come back—as a thought. There are months and months when she leaves us in peace because he is thinking of other things, but of late, since his illness, she has been with him almost constantly." A sob broke from her, and she buried her face in her hands. "I suppose she is always trying to come—only she is too vague—and she hasn't any form that we can see except when he thinks of her as she used to look when she was alive. His thought of her is like that, hurt and tragic and revengeful. You see, he feels that he ruined her life because she died when the child was coming—a month before it would have been born."

"And if he were to see her differently, would she change? Would she cease to be revengeful if he stopped thinking her so?"

"God only knows. I've wondered and wondered how I might move her to pity."

"Then you feel that she is really there? That she exists outside of his mind?"

"How can I tell? What do any of us know of the world beyond? She exists as much as I exist to you or you to me. Isn't thought all that there is—all that we know?"[Pg 186]

This was deeper than I could follow; but in order not to appear stupid, I murmured sympathetically.

"And does she make him unhappy when she comes?"

"She is killing him—and me. I believe that is why she does it."

"Are you sure that she could stay away? When he thinks of her isn't she obliged to come back?"

"Oh, I've asked that question over and over! In spite of his calling her so unconsciously, I believe she comes of her own will. I have always the feeling—it has never left me for an instant—that she could appear differently if she would. I have studied her for years until I know her like a book, and though she is only an apparition, I am perfectly positive that she wills evil to us both. Don't you think he would change that if he could? Don't you think he would make her kind instead of vindictive if he had the power?"

"But if he could remember her as loving and tender?"

"I don't know. I give it up—but it is killing me."

It was killing her. As the days passed I began to realize that she had spoken the truth. I watched her bloom fade slowly and her lovely features grow pinched and thin like the features of a starved person. The harder she fought the apparition, the more I saw that the battle was a losing one, and that she was only wasting her strength. So impalpable yet so pervasive was the enemy that it was like fighting a poisonous odour. There was nothing to wrestle with, and yet there was everything. The struggle was wearing her out—was, as she had said, actually "killing her"; but the physician who dosed her daily with drugs—there was need now of a physician—had not the faintest idea of the malady he was treating. In those dreadful days I think that even Mr. Vanderbridge hadn't a suspicion of the truth. The past was with him so constantly—he was so steeped in the memories of it that the present was scarcely more than a dream to him. It was, you see, a reversal of the natural order of things; the thought had become more vivid to his perceptions than any object. The phantom had been victorious so far, and he was like a man recovering from the effects of a narcotic. He was only half awake, only half alive[Pg 187] to the events through which he lived and the people who surrounded him. Oh, I realize that I am telling my story badly!—that I am slurring over the significant interludes! My mind has dealt so long with external details that I have almost forgotten the words that express invisible things. Though the phantom in the house was more real to me than the bread I ate or the floor on which I trod, I can give you no impression of the atmosphere in which we lived day after day—of the suspense, of the dread of something we could not define, of the brooding horror that seemed to lurk in the shadows of the firelight, of the feeling always, day and night, that some unseen person was watching us. How Mrs. Vanderbridge stood it without losing her mind, I have never known; and even now I am not sure that she could have kept her reason if the end had not come when it did. That I accidentally brought it about is one of the things in my life I am most thankful to remember.

It was an afternoon in late winter, and I had just come up from luncheon, when Mrs. Vanderbridge asked me to empty an old desk in one of the upstairs rooms. "I am sending all the furniture in that room away," she said, "it was bought in a bad period, and I want to clear it out and make room for the lovely things we picked up in Italy. There is nothing in the desk worth saving except some old letters from Mr. Vanderbridge's mother before her marriage."

I was glad that she could think of anything so practical as furniture, and it was with relief that I followed her into the dim, rather musty room over the library, where the windows were all tightly closed. Years ago, Hopkins had once told me, the first Mrs. Vanderbridge had used this room for a while, and after her death her husband had been in the habit of shutting himself up alone here in the evenings. This, I inferred, was the secret reason why my employer was sending the furniture away. She had resolved to clear the house of every association with the past.

For a few minutes we sorted the letters in the drawers of the desk, and then, as I expected, Mrs. Vanderbridge became suddenly bored by the task she had undertaken.[Pg 188] She was subject to these nervous reactions, and I was prepared for them even when they seized her so spasmodically. I remember that she was in the very act of glancing over an old letter when she rose impatiently, tossed it into the fire unread, and picked up a magazine she had thrown down on a chair.

"Go over them by yourself, Miss Wrenn," she said, and it was characteristic of her nature that she should assume my trustworthiness. "If anything seems worth saving you can file it—but I'd rather die than have to wade through all this."

They were mostly personal letters, and while I went on, carefully filing them, I thought how absurd it was of people to preserve so many papers that were entirely without value. Mr. Vanderbridge I had imagined to be a methodical man, and yet the disorder of the desk produced a painful effect on my systematic temperament. The drawers were filled with letters evidently unsorted, for now and then I came upon a mass of business receipts and acknowledgements crammed in among wedding invitations or letters from some elderly lady, who wrote interminable pale epistles in the finest and most feminine of Italian hands. That a man of Mr. Vanderbridge's wealth and position should have been so careless about his correspondence amazed me until I recalled the dark hints Hopkins had dropped in some of her midnight conversations. Was it possible that he had actually lost his reason for months after the death of his first wife, during that year when he had shut himself alone with her memory? The question was still in my mind when my eyes fell on the envelope in my hand, and I saw that it was addressed to Mrs. Roger Vanderbridge. So this explained, in a measure at least, the carelessness and the disorder! The desk was not his, but hers, and after her death he had used it only during those desperate months when he barely opened a letter. What he had done in those long evenings when he sat alone here it was beyond me to imagine. Was it any wonder that the brooding should have permanently unbalanced his mind?

At the end of an hour I had sorted and filed the papers, with the intention of asking Mrs. Vanderbridge if she[Pg 189] wished me to destroy the ones that seemed to be unimportant. The letters she had instructed me to keep had not come to my hand, and I was about to give up the search for them, when, in shaking the lock of one of the drawers, the door of a secret compartment fell open and I discovered a dark object, which crumbled and dropped apart when I touched it. Bending nearer, I saw that the crumbled mass had once been a bunch of flowers, and that a streamer of purple ribbon still held together the frail structure of wire and stems. In this drawer some one had hidden a sacred treasure, and moved by a sense of romance and adventure, I gathered the dust tenderly in tissue paper, and prepared to take it downstairs to Mrs. Vanderbridge. It was not until then that some letters tied loosely together with a silver cord caught my eyes, and while I picked them up, I remember thinking that they must be the ones for which I had been looking so long. Then, as the cord broke in my grasp and I gathered the letters from the lid of the desk, a word or two flashed back at me through the torn edges of the envelopes, and I realized that they were love letters written, I surmised, some fifteen years ago, by Mr. Vanderbridge to his first wife.

"It may hurt her to see them," I thought, "but I don't dare destroy them. There is nothing I can do except give them to her."

As I left the room, carrying the letters and the ashes of the flowers, the idea of taking them to the husband instead of to the wife, flashed through my mind. Then—I think it was some jealous feeling about the phantom that decided me—I quickened my steps to a run down the staircase.

"They would bring her back. He would think of her more than ever," I told myself, "so he shall never see them. He shall never see them if I can prevent it." I believe it occurred to me that Mrs. Vanderbridge would be generous enough to give them to him—she was capable of rising above her jealousy, I knew—but I determined that she shouldn't do it until I had reasoned it out with her. "If anything on earth would bring back the Other One for good, it would be his seeing[Pg 190] these old letters," I repeated as I hastened down the hall.

Mrs. Vanderbridge was lying on the couch before the fire, and I noticed at once that she had been crying. The drawn look in her sweet face went to my heart, and I felt that I would do anything in the world to comfort her. Though she had a book in her hand, I could see that she had not been reading. The electric lamp on the table by her side was already lighted, leaving the rest of the room in shadow, for it was a grey day with a biting edge of snow in the air. It was all very charming in the soft light; but as soon as I entered I had a feeling of oppression that made me want to run out into the wind. If you have ever lived in a haunted house—a house pervaded by an unforgettable past—you will understand the sensation of melancholy that crept over me the minute the shadows began to fall. It was not in myself—of this I am sure, for I have naturally a cheerful temperament—it was in the space that surrounded us and the air we breathed.

I explained to her about the letters, and then, kneeling on the rug in front of her, I emptied the dust of the flowers into the fire. There was, though I hate to confess it, a vindictive pleasure in watching it melt into the flames and at the moment I believe I could have burned the apparition as thankfully. The more I saw of the Other One, the more I found myself accepting Hopkins' judgment of her. Yes, her behaviour, living and dead, proved that she was not "a good sort."

My eyes were still on the flames when a sound from Mrs. Vanderbridge—half a sigh, half a sob—made me turn quickly and look up at her.

"But this isn't his handwriting," she said in a puzzled tone. "They are love letters, and they are to her—but they are not from him." For a moment or two she was silent, and I heard the pages rustle in her hands as she turned them impatiently. "They are not from him," she repeated presently, with an exultant ring in her voice. "They are written after her marriage, but they are from another man." She was as sternly tragic as an avenging fate. "She wasn't faithful to him while she lived. She wasn't faithful to him even while he was hers—"[Pg 191]

With a spring I had risen from my knees and was bending over her.

"Then you can save him from her. You can win him back? You have only to show him the letters, and he will believe."

"Yes, I have only to show him the letters." She was looking beyond me into the dusky shadows of the firelight, as if she saw the Other One standing there. "I have only to show him the letters," I knew now that she was not speaking to me, "and he will believe."

"Her power over him will be broken," I cried out. "He will think of her differently. Oh, don't you see? Can't you see? It is the only way to make him think of her differently. It is the only way to break for ever the thought that draws her back to him."

"Yes, I see, it is the only way," she said slowly; and the words were still on her lips when the door opened and Mr. Vanderbridge entered.

"I came for a cup of tea," he began, and added with playful tenderness, "What is the only way?"

It was the crucial moment, I realized—it was the hour of destiny for these two—and while he sank wearily into a chair, I looked imploringly at his wife and then at the letters lying scattered loosely about her. If I had had my will I should have flung them at him with a violence which would have startled him out of his lethargy. Violence, I felt was what he needed—violence, a storm, tears, reproaches—all the things he would never get from his wife.

For a minute or two she sat there, with the letters before her, and watched him with her thoughtful and tender gaze. I knew from her face, so lovely and yet so sad, that she was looking again at invisible things—at the soul of the man she loved, not at the body. She saw him, detached and spiritualized, and she saw also the Other One—for while we waited I became slowly aware of the apparition in the firelight—of the white face and the cloudy hair and the look of animosity and bitterness in the eyes. Never before had I been so profoundly convinced of the malignant will veiled by that thin figure. It was as if the visible form were only a spiral of grey smoke covering a sinister purpose.[Pg 192]

"The only way," said Mrs. Vanderbridge, "is to fight fairly even when one fights evil." Her voice was like a bell, and as she spoke, she rose from the couch and stood there in her glowing beauty confronting the pale ghost of the past. There was a light about her that was almost unearthly—the light of triumph. The radiance of it blinded me for an instant. It was like a flame, clearing the atmosphere of all that was evil, of all that was poisonous and deadly. She was looking directly at the phantom, and there was no hate in her voice—there was only a great pity, a great sorrow and sweetness.

"I can't fight you that way," she said, and I knew that for the first time she had swept aside subterfuge and evasion, and was speaking straight to the presence before her. "After all, you are dead and I am living, and I cannot fight you that way. I give up everything. I give him back to you. Nothing is mine that I cannot win and keep fairly. Nothing is mine that belongs really to you."

Then, while Mr. Vanderbridge rose, with a start of fear, and came towards her, she bent quickly, and flung the letters into the fire. When he would have stooped to gather the unburned pages, her lovely flowing body curved between his hands and the flames; and so transparent, so ethereal she looked, that I saw—or imagined that I saw—the firelight shine through her. "The only way, my dear, is the right way," she said softly.

The next instant—I don't know to this day how or when it began—I was aware that the apparition had drawn nearer, and that the dread and fear, the evil purpose, were no longer a part of her. I saw her clearly for a moment—saw her as I had never seen her before—young and gentle and—yes, this is the only word for it—loving. It was just as if a curse had turned into a blessing, for, while she stood there, I had a curious sensation of being enfolded in a kind of spiritual glow and comfort—only words are useless to describe the feeling because it wasn't in the least like anything else I had ever known in my life. It was light without heat, glow without light—and yet it was none of these things. The nearest I can come to it is to call it a sense of blessedness[Pg 193]—of blessedness that made you at peace with everything you had once hated.

Not until afterwards did I realize that it was the victory of good over evil. Not until afterwards did I discover that Mrs. Vanderbridge had triumphed over the past in the only way that she could triumph. She had won, not by resisting, but by accepting, not by violence, but by gentleness, not by grasping, but by renouncing. Oh, long, long afterwards, I knew that she had robbed the phantom of power over her by robbing it of hatred. She had changed the thought of the past, in that lay her victory.

At the moment I did not understand this. I did not understand it even when I looked again for the apparition in the firelight, and saw that it had vanished. There was nothing there—nothing except the pleasant flicker of light and shadow on the old Persian rug.


[Pg 194]

HIS SMILE[11]

By SUSAN GLASPELL

(From The Pictorial Review)

Laura stood across the street waiting for the people to come out from the picture-show. She couldn't have said just why she was waiting, unless it was that she was waiting because she could not go away. She was not wearing her black; she had a reason for not wearing it when she came on these trips, and the simple lines of her dark-blue suit and the smart little hat Howie had always liked on her, somehow suggested young and happy things. Two soldiers came by; one of them said, "Hello, there, kiddo," and the other, noting the anxiety with which she waited, assured her, "You should worry." She looked at them, and when he saw her face the one who had said, "You should worry," said, in sheepish fashion, "Well, I should worry," as if to get out of the apology he didn't know how to make. She was glad they had gone by. It hurt so to be near the soldiers.

The man behind her kept saying, "Pop-corn! Pop-corn right here." It seemed she must buy pop-corn if she stood there. She bought some. She tried to do the thing she was expected to do—so she wouldn't be noticed.

Then the people came pushing out from the theater. They did it just as they did it in the other towns. A new town was only the same town in a different place; and all of it was a world she was as out of as if it were passing before her in a picture. All of it except that one thing that was all she had left! She had come so far to have it tonight. She wouldn't be cheated. She crossed the street, and as the last people were coming out of the theater she went in.[Pg 195]

A man, yawning, was doing something to a light. He must belong to the place. His back was to her, and she stood there trying to get brave enough to speak. It had never been easy for her to open conversations with strangers. For so many years it was Howie who had seemed to connect her with the world. And suddenly she thought of how sorry Howie would be to see her waiting around in this dismal place after every one else had gone, trying to speak to a strange man about a thing that man wouldn't at all understand. How well Howie would understand it! He would say, "Go on home, Laura." "Don't do this, sweetheart." Almost as if he had said it, she turned away. But she turned back. This was her wedding anniversary.

She went up to the man. "You didn't give all of the picture tonight, did you?" Her voice was sharp; it mustn't tremble.

He looked round at her in astonishment. He kept looking her up and down as if to make her out. Her trembling hands clutched the bag of pop-corn and some of it spilled. She let it all fall and put one hand to her mouth.

A man came down from upstairs. "Lady here says you didn't give the whole show tonight," said the first man.

The young man on the stairs paused in astonishment. He, too, looked Laura up and down. She took a step backward.

"What was left out wasn't of any importance, lady," said the man, looking at her, not unkindly, but puzzled.

"I think it was!" she contended in a high, sharp voice. They both stared at her. As she realized that this could happen, saw how slight was her hold on the one thing she had, she went on, desperately, "You haven't any right to do this! It's—it's cheating."

They looked then, not at her, but at each other—as the sane counsel together in the presence of what is outside their world. Oh, she knew that look! She had seen her brother and his wife doing it when first she knew about Howie.

"Now I'll tell you, lady," said the man to whom she[Pg 196] had first spoken, in the voice that deals with what has to be dealt with carefully, "you just let me give you your money back, then you won't have the feeling that you've been cheated." He put his hand in his pocket.

"I don't want my money back!" cried Laura. "I—want to see what you left out!"

"Well, I'll tell you what I'll do," proposed the young man, taking his cue from the older one. "I'll tell you just exactly what happened in the part that was left out."

"I know exactly what happened," cut in Laura. "I—I want to see—what happened."

It was a cry from so deep that they didn't know what to do.

"Won't you do it for me?" she begged of the young man, going up to him. "What you left out—won't you show it for me—now?"

He just stood there staring at her.

"It means—! It—" But how could she tell them what it meant? She looked from one to the other, as if to see what chance there was of their doing it without knowing what it meant. When she couldn't keep sobs back, she turned away.

Even in her room at the hotel she had to try to keep from crying. She could hear the man moving around in the next room—so he, of course, could hear her, too. It was all as it was in the pictures—people crowded together, and all of it something that seemed life and really wasn't. Even that—the one thing, the one moment—really wasn't life. But it was all she had! If she let herself think of how little that all was—it was an emptiness she was afraid of.

The people who had tried to comfort her used to talk of how much she had had. She would wonder sometimes why they were talking on her side instead of their own. For if you have had much—does that make it easy to get along with nothing? Why couldn't they see it? That because of what Howie had been to her—and for ten years!—she just didn't know any way of going on living without Howie!

Tonight made fresh all her wedding anniversaries—brought happiness to life again. It almost took her in.[Pg 197] And because she had been so near the dear, warm things in which she had lived, when morning came she couldn't get on the train that would take her back to that house to which Howie would never come again. Once more it all seemed slipping from her. There must be something. As a frightened child runs for home, she turned to that place where—for at least a moment—it was as if Howie were there.

She went to the telegraph office and wired the company that sent out "The Cross of Diamonds," asking where that film could be seen. She had learned that this was the way to do it. She had known nothing about such things at first; it had been hard to find out the ways of doing. It was a world she didn't know the ways of.

When she got her answer, and found that the place where "The Cross of Diamonds" would be shown that night was more than a hundred miles away—that it meant going that much farther away from home—she told herself this was a thing she couldn't do. She told herself this must stop—that her brother was right in the things he said against it. It wouldn't do. He hadn't said it was crazy, but that was what he meant—or feared. She had told him she would try to stop. Now was the time to do it—now when she would have to go so much farther away. But—it was going farther away—this glimpse of Howie—all that was left of Howie was moving away from her! And after the disappointment of the night before—She must see him once more! Then—yes, then she would stop.

She was excited when she had decided to do this. It lifted her out of the nothingness. From this meager thing her great need could in a way create the feeling that she was going to meet Howie. Once more she would see him do that thing which was so like him as to bring him back into life. Why should she turn from it? What were all the other things compared with this thing? This was one little flash of life in a world that had ceased to be alive.

So again that night, in the clothes he had most liked, she went for that poor little meeting with her husband—so pitifully little, and yet so tremendous because it was all she would ever have. Again she sat in a big,[Pg 198] noisy place with many jostling, laughing people—and waited to see Howie. She forgot that the place had ugly red walls and sickly green lights; she could somehow separate herself from harsh voices and smells—for she was here to meet Howie!

She knew just the part of the house to sit in. Once she had sat where she couldn't see him as he passed from sight! After that she had always come very early. So she had to sit there while other people were coming in. But she didn't much mind that; it was like sitting in a crowded railway station when the person you love is coming soon.

But suddenly something reached over that gulf between other people and her. A word. A terrible word. Behind her some one said "munitions." She put her hand to her eyes and pressed tight. Not to see. That was why she had to keep coming for this look at Howie. She had to see him—that she might shut out that—the picture of Howie—blown into pieces.

She hated people. They were always doing something like this to her. She hated all these people in the theater. It seemed they were all, somehow, against her. And Howie had been so good to them! He was so good to people like the people in this theater. It was because he was so good and kind to them that he was—that he was not Howie now. He was always thinking of people's comfort—the comfort of people who had to work hard. From the time he went into his father's factory he had always been thinking up ways of making people more comfortable in their work. To see girls working in uncomfortable chairs, or standing hour after hour at tables too low or too high for them—he couldn't pass those things by as others passed them by. He had a certain inventive faculty, and his kindness was always making use of that. His father used to tell him he would break them all up in business if his mind went on working in that direction. He would tell him if he was going to be an inventor he had better think up some money-making inventions. Howie would laugh and reply that he'd make it all up some day. And at last one of the things he had thought out to make it better for people was really going to make it better for Howie. It was a certain kind of shade for[Pg 199] the eyes. It had been a relief to the girls in their little factory, and it was being tried out elsewhere. It was even being used a little in one of the big munition plants. Howie was there seeing about it. And while he was there—He went in there Howie. There wasn't even anything to carry out.

The picture had begun. She had to wait until almost half of it had passed before her moment came. The story was a tawdry, meaningless thing about the adventures of two men who had stolen a diamond cross—a strange world into which to come to find Howie. Chance had caught him into it—he was one of the people passing along a street which was being taken for the picture. His moment was prolonged by his stopping to do the kind of thing Howie would do, and now it was as if that one moment was the only thing saved out of Howie's life. They who made the picture had apparently seen that the moment was worth keeping—they left it as a part of the stream of life that was going by while the detective of their story waited for the men for whom he had laid a trap. The story itself had little relation to real things—yet chance made it this vehicle for keeping something of the reality that had been Howie—a disclosing moment captured unawares.

She was thinking of the strangeness of all this when again the people seated back of her said a thing that came right to her. They were saying "scrap-heap." She knew—before she knew why—that this had something to do with her. Then she found that they were talking about this film. It was ready for the scrap-heap. It was on its last legs. They laughed and said perhaps they were seeing its "last appearance."

She tried to understand what it meant. Then even this would cease to be in the world. She had known she ought to stop following the picture around, she had even told herself this would be the last time she would come to see it—but to feel it wouldn't any longer be there to be seen—that even this glimpse of Howie would go out—go out as life goes out—scrap-heap! She sat up straight and cleared her throat. She would have to leave. She must get air. But she looked to see where they were. Not far[Pg 200] now. She might miss Howie! With both hands she took hold of the sides of the seat. She was not going to fall forward! Not suffocating. Not until after she had seen him.

Now. The detective has left the hotel—he is walking along the street. He comes to the cigar-store door, and there steps in to watch. And there comes the dog! Then it was not going to be cut out tonight! Along comes the little dog—pawing at his muzzle. He stops in distress in front of the cigar-store. People pass and pay no attention to the dog—there on the sidewalk. And then—in the darkened theater her hands go out, for the door has opened—and she sees her husband! Howie. There. Moving as he always moved! She fights back the tears that would blur him. That dear familiar way he moves! It is almost as if she could step up and meet him, and they could walk away together.

He starts to go the other way. Then he sees the dog. He goes up to him; he is speaking to him, wanting to know what is the matter. She can fairly hear the warmth and kindness of his voice as he speaks to the little dog. He feels of the muzzle—finds it too tight; he lets it out a notch. Dear Howie. Of course he would do that. No one else had cared, but he would care. Then he speaks to the dog—pats him—tells him he is all right now. Then Howie turns away.

But the dog thinks he will go with this nice person! Howie laughs and tells him he can't come. A little girl has come across the street. Howie tells her to keep the dog from following him. Then again he turns to go. But just before he passes from sight the child calls something to him, and he looks back over his shoulder and smiles. She sees again the smile that has been the heart of her life. Then he passes from sight.

And he always leaves friends behind him—just as he always did leave friends behind him. There will be little murmurs of approval; sometimes there is applause. Tonight a woman near Laura said, "Say, I bet that's an awful nice fellow."

She never left her seat at once, as if moving would break a spell. For a little while after she had seen it, his[Pg 201] smile would stay with her. Then it would fade, as things fade in the motion pictures. Somehow she didn't really have it. That was why she had to keep coming—constantly reaching out for something that was not hers to keep.

When her moment had gone, she rose and walked down the aisle. It was very hard to go away tonight. There had been all the time the fear that what happened the night before would happen again—that she would not see Howie, after all. That made her so tense that she was exhausted now. And then "munitions"—and "scrap-heap." Perhaps it was because of all this that tonight her moment had been so brief. Only for an instant Howie's smile had brought her into life. It was gone now. It had passed.

She was so worn that when, at the door, her brother Tom stepped up to her she was not much surprised or even angry. Tom had no business to be following her about. She had told him that she would have to manage it her own way—that he would have to let her alone. Now here he was again—to trouble her, to talk to her about being brave and sane—when he didn't know—when he didn't have any idea what he was talking about! But it didn't matter—not tonight. Let him do things—get the tickets—and all that. Even let him talk to her. That didn't matter either.

But he talked very little. He seemed to think there was something wrong with her. He looked at her and said, "O, Laura!" reproachfully, but distressed.

"I thought you weren't going to do this any more, Laura," he said gently, after they had walked a little way.

"How did you know I was here?" she asked listlessly.

"They sent me word you had left home. I traced you."

"I don't see why you should trace me," she said, but not as if it mattered.

"O, Laura!" he said again. "Well, I must say I don't think Mrs. Edmunds was much of a friend!"

It was Mrs. Edmunds who had told Laura that there was this glimpse of her husband in "The Cross of Dia[Pg 202]monds." She had hesitated about telling her, but had finally said it was so characteristic and beautiful a moment she felt Laura should see it.

From the first Tom had opposed her seeing it, saying it would be nothing but torture to her. Torture it was, but it was as if that torture were all there was left of life.

Tonight everything was as a world of shadows. She knew that her brother was taking her to his home instead of back to her own. He had wanted to do this before, but she had refused. There was nothing in her now that could refuse. She went with him as if she were merely moving in a picture and had no power of her own to get out of it.

And that was the way it was through the next few weeks. Tom and his wife would talk to her about trying to interest herself in life. She made no resistance, she had no argument against this; but she had no power to do it. They didn't know—they didn't know how it had been with her and Howie.

She herself had never been outgoing. It was perhaps a habit of reserve built out of timidity, but she had been a girl whose life did not have a real contact with other lives. Perhaps there were many people like that—perhaps not; she did not know. She only knew that before Howie came the life in her was more as a thing unto itself than a part of the life of the world.

Then Howie came! Howie, who could get on with any one, who found something to like in every one; and in the warmth and strength of his feeling for people he drew her into that main body of life where she had not been before. It had been like coming into the sunshine!

Now he was gone; and they asked her to be alone what she had been through him. It was like telling one to go into the sunshine when the sun is not shining.

And the more these others tried to reach her, the more alone she felt, for it only made her know they could not reach her. When you have lived in the sunshine, days of cold mist may become more than you can bear. After a long struggle not to do so, she again went to the long-distance telephone to find out where that picture[Pg 203] was being shown—that picture into which was caught one moment of Howie's life as he moved through the world.

Worn by the struggle not to do what she was doing, and tormented by the fear that she had waited too long, that this one thing which was left to her might no longer be, she had to put every bit of her strength into establishing this connection with the people who could tell her what she must know. Establishing the connection with living was like this. She was far off and connected only by a tenuous thing which might any moment go into confusion and stop.

At the other end some one was making fun of her. They doubted if "The Cross of Diamonds" could be seen anywhere at all. "The Cross of Diamonds" had been double-crossed. Wasn't it too much of a cross, anyway, to see "The Cross of Diamonds"?

Finally another man came to the phone. "The Cross of Diamonds" could be seen at a certain town in Indiana. But she'd better hurry! And she'd better look her last look. Why did she want to see it—might he ask? But Laura hung up the receiver. She must hurry!

All the rest of it was a blur and a hurry. Through the unreal confusion drove the one idea—she must get there in time! And that whole life of the world seemed pitted against her—it was as if the whole of that main body of life was thrown in between her and Howie. The train was late. It was almost the hour for pictures to begin when she got down at that lonely, far-away station. And the town, it seemed, was a mile from the station! There was a bus she must take. Every nerve of her being was hurrying that bus on—until that very anxiety made it seem it was Howie himself she would see if only she could get there in time.

And being late, the downstairs at the theater was full. "Balcony only," said a man as she came in. "Oh, won't you find me a good seat?" Laura besought him. "Like to know how I'll find you a seat when there ain't no seat," was the answer—the whole big life of the world in between her and Howie!

Upstairs, too, it was hard to find a place. And all[Pg 204] those people seated there—for them it meant only a few hours' silly entertainment!

But after a moment a man directed her to a seat. There was another place beside it, and just as Laura was being seated a woman came along with two children. "We can't all sit together," she was saying, "so you just sit in here, Mamie. You sit right in here—beside the nice lady."

The mother looked at Laura, as if expecting her to welcome her child. Laura did nothing. She must be alone. She was there to be with Howie.

She was not as late as she had feared. There would be time for getting ready—getting ready for Howie! She knew this would be the last time she would see Howie as he had moved through the world. For the last time she would see his face light to a smile. If she did not reach him tonight, she would never reach him. She had a feeling that she could reach him, if only something in her—if only something in her—

She could not finish that; it brought her to a place into which she could not reach, but as never before she had a feeling that he could be reached. And so when the little girl beside her twisted in her seat and she knew that the child was looking up at her she tried not to know this little girl was there—tried not to know that any of those people were there. If only she could get them all out of the way—she could reach into the shadow and feel Howie near!

But there was one thing she kept knowing—try her best not to know it! The little girl beside her, too young to be there, was going to sleep. When it came right up to the moment for her to see Howie, she was knowing that that little girl had fallen asleep in an uncomfortable position. Her head had been resting on the side of the seat—the side next Laura—and as she fell asleep it slipped from its support in a way that—Could she help it if this child was not comfortable? Angry, she tried to brush this from her consciousness as we brush dust from our eyes. This was her moment with Howie—her chance.

But when her moment came, a cruel thing happened.[Pg 205] Something was wrong with the machine that was showing the picture. At just that moment—of all the moments!—the worn-out film seemed to be going to pieces before her eyes. After the little dog came along, and just as Howie should come out from the cigar-store, there was a flash—a blur—a jumble of movements. It was like an earthquake—it looked like life ceasing to be life. "No!" she gasped under her breath. "No!" The people around her were saying things of a different sort. "Cut it!" "What you givin' us?" "Whoa, boy!" They laughed. They didn't care. It got a little better; she could make out Howie bending down to fix the dog's muzzle—but it was all dancing crazily—and people were laughing. And then—then the miracle! It was on Howie's smile the picture steadied—that smile back over his shoulder after he had turned to go. And, as if to bring to rights what had been wrong, the smile was held, and it was as if Howie lingered, as if in leaving life he looked back over his shoulder and waited—waited for his smile to reach Laura. Out of the jumble and blur—out of the wrong and meaningless—Howie's beautiful steady smile making it all right.

She could not have told how it happened. As Howie passed, she turned to the little girl beside her whose head was without support and, not waking her, supported the child's head against her own arm. And after she had done this—it was after she had done it that she began to know, as if doing it let down bars.

Now she was knowing. She had wanted to push people aside and reach into the shadows for Howie. She began to see that it was not so she would reach him. It was in being as he had been—kind, caring—that she could have a sense of him near. Here was her chance—among the people she had thought stood between her and her chance. Howie had always cared for these people. On his way through the world with them he had always stopped to do the kind thing—as he stopped to make it right for the badly muzzled dog. Then there was something for her to do in the world. She could do the kind things Howie would be doing if he were there! It would somehow—keep him. It would—fulfill him. Yes,[Pg 206] fulfill him. Howie had made her more alive—warmer and kinder. If she became as she had been before—Howie would have failed. She moved so that the little girl who rested against her could rest the better. And as she did this—it was as if Howie had smiled. The one thing the picture had never given her—the sense that it was hers to keep—that stole through her now as the things come which we know we can never lose. For the first moment since she lost him, she had him. And all the people in that theater, and all the people in the world—here was the truth! It cleared and righted as Howie's smile had righted the picture. In so far as she could come close to others she would come closer to him.


[Pg 207]

THE HARBOR MASTER[12]

By RICHARD MATTHEWS HALLET

(From Harper's Magazine)

Coming ashore one summer's night from Meteor Island, Jethro Rackby was met by Peter Loud—Deep-water Peter he was called, because even so early he had gone one foreign voyage. Peter was going round with a paper containing the subscription to a dance.

"Come, Harbor Master," he said; "put your thumb mark in the corner along with the rest of us."

Rackby drew back. "Why should I dance?" he muttered.

He was town clerk as well as harbor master—a scholarly man with visionary, pale eyes, and a great solitary, as Peter knew.

"Why? I'll tell you why," said Peter. "To bring joy to Caddie Sill's heart, if nothing more. The girl would throw all the rest of us in a heap tomorrow for a firm hold of you, Rackby."

He winked at Zinie Shadd, who swayed on his heels soberly.

Rackby turned his eyes toward the black mound of Meteor, which lay like a shaggy stone Cerberus at the harbor's mouth.

The star-pointed harbor was quiet at his feet. Shadows in the water were deep and languid, betokening an early fall of rain through the still air. But from the rim of the sea, where the surf was seen only as a white glow waxing and waning, a constant drone was borne in to them—a thunder of the white horses' hoofs trampling on Pull-an'-be-Damned; the vindictive sound of seas falling down one after another on wasted rocks, on shifting sand[Pg 208] bars—a powerful monotone seeming to increase in the ear with fuller attention. The contrast was marked between the heavy-lying peace of the inner harbor and that hungry reverberation from without of waters seeking fresh holds along a mutilated coast. On damp nights when the wind hauled to the southeast, men stood still in their tracks, and said, simply, "There's the Old Roke," as if it was the Old Man of the Sea himself. The sound was a living personality in their ears.—Women whom the sea had widowed shivered and rattled irons when the Old Roke came close to their windows; but the men listened, as if they had been called—each by his own name.

"What's the ringle jingle of feet by the side of that?" Rackby said, his mystified face turned toward the water. "I'm a man for slow tunes, Peter. No, no, no; put your paper up again."

"No? You're a denying sort of a crab, and no mistake. Always seeing how fast you can crawl backward out of pleasure."

"I mistrust women."

"You cleave to the spirit and turn from the flesh, that I know. But here's a woman with a voice to waken the dead."

"That's the voice on the seaward side of Meteor," answered Rackby.

"Cad Sills is flesh and blood of the Old Roke, I'm agreed," said Deep-water Peter. "She's a seafaring woman, that's certain. Next door to ending in a fish's tail, too, sometimes I think, when I see her carrying on—Maybe you've seen her sporting with the horse-shoe crabs and all o' that at Pull-an'-be-Damned?"

"No, I can't say that."

"No, it wasn't to be expected, you with your head and shoulders walking around in a barrel of jam."

The harbor master smiled wistfully.

"More I don't require," he said.

"Ah, so you say now—Well, marry the sea, then. It's a slippery embrace, take the word of a man who has gone foreign voyages."

"I mistrust the sea," said Jethro.[Pg 209]

"So you do.—You mistrust the sea and the like o' that, and you mistrust women and the like o' that. There's too much heaving and tossing in such waters for a harbor master, hey?"

"I'm at home here, that's a fact," said Jethro. "I know the tides and the buoys. I can find my way in the dark, where another man would be at a total loss. I'm never suffering for landmarks."

"Landmarks!" roared Deep-water Peter. "What's a landmark good for but to take a new departure?"

To the sea-goers, tilted on a bench in the shadow of the Customs House, he added, "What life must be without a touch of lady fever is more than I can tell."

A red-bearded viking at the end of the bench rose and took Peter's shoulders in a fearful grip.

"What's all this talk of lady fever?"

"Let be, Cap'n Dreed!" cried Peter. His boisterousness failed him like wind going out of a sail. He twisted out of the big seaman's grip and from a distance shouted, "If you weren't so cussed bashful, you might have had something more than a libel pinned to your mainmast by now, with all this time in port."

There was a general shifting along the bench, to make room for possible fray. It was a sore point with Sam Dreed that the ship chandler had that day effected a lien for labor on his ship, and the libel was nailed to the mast.

"Now they'll scandalize each other," murmured Zinie Shadd.

They were turned from that purpose only by the sudden passing at their backs of the woman in question, Caddie Sills.

Quiet reigned. The older men crossed their legs, sat far down on their spines, and narrowed their eyes. The brick wall of the Customs House, held from collapsing by a row of rusty iron stars, seemed to bulge more than its wont for the moment—its upper window, a ship's deadlight, round and expressionless as the eye of a codfish.

Cad Sills ran her eye over them deftly, as if they were the separate strings of an instrument which could afford gratification to her only when swept lightly all at one[Pg 210] time by her tingling finger tips, or, more likely, by the intangible plectrum in her black eye.

The man she selected for her nod was Sam Dreed, however.

Peter Loud felt the walls of his heart pinch together with jealousy.

It was all in a second's dreaming. "Gape and swallow," as Zinie Shadd said, from his end of the bench. The woman passed with a supercilious turn of her head away from them.

"That's a foot-loose woman if ever there was one."

With all her gift of badinage, she was a solitary soul. The men feared no less than they admired her. They were shy of that wild courage, fearful to put so dark a mystery to the solution. The women hated her, backbit and would not make friends, because of the fatal instantaneous power she wielded to spin men's blood and pitch their souls derelict on that impassioned current. Who shall put his finger on the source of this power? There were girls upon girls with eyes as black, cheeks as like hers as fruit ripened on the same bough, hair as thick and lustrous—yet at the sound of Caddie Sills's bare footfall eyes shifted and glowed, and in the imaginations of these men the women of their choice grew pale as the ashes that fringe a fallen fire.

"She's a perilous woman," muttered the collector of the port. "Sticks in the slant of a man's eye like the shadow of sin. Ah! there he goes, like the leaves of autumn."

Samuel Dreed trod the dust of the road with a wonderful swaying of his body, denominated the Western Ocean roll. He was a mighty man, all were agreed; not a nose of wax, even for Cad Sills to twist.

"Plump she'll go in his canvas bag, along with his sea boots and his palm and needle, if she's not precious careful, with her shillyshallying," said Zinie Shadd. "I know the character of the man, from long acquaintance, and I know that what he says he'll do he'll do, and no holding off at arm's length, either, for any considerable period of time."

Such was the situation of Cad Sills. A dark, lush,[Pg 211] ignorant, entrancing woman, for whose sake decent men stood ready to drop their principles like rags—yes, at a mere secret sign manifested in her eye, where the warmth of her blood was sometimes seen as a crimson spark alighted on black velvet. She went against the good government of souls.

Even Rackby had taken note of her once, deep as his head was in the clouds by preference and custom. It was a day in late November. No snow had fallen, and she floated past him like a cloud shadow as he plodded in the yellow road which turned east at the Preaching Tree. She passed, looked back, slashed a piece of dripping kelp through the air so close that salt drops stung his pale eyes, laughed aloud, and at the top of her laugh, broke into a wild, sweet song unfamiliar to him. It was a voice unlike the flat voices of women thereabouts—strong, sweet, sustained, throbbing with a personal sense of the passion which lurked in the warm notes.

Her foot was bare, and more shapely in consequence than if she had had a habit of wearing shoes. Its shape was the delicate shape of strength native to such a foot, and each toe left its print distinct and even in the dust. With his eye for queer details, he remembered that print and associated with it the yellow-rutted road, the rusty alders in the meadow beyond, and the pale spire of the church thrust into a November sky.

He called this to mind when on the night of the dance information came to his ear that she had sold her pearls to lift the lien on Cap'n Sam Dreed's ship, with her own hands tearing down the libel from the mast and grinding it under her heel.

No man whom she had once passed and silently interrogated could quite forget her, not even Jethro Rackby. The harbor master swayed on his oars, collected himself, and looked forward across the dimpled floor of his harbor, which in its quietude was like a lump of massy silver or rich ore, displaying here and there a spur of light, a surface sparkle. The serenity of his own soul was in part a reflection of this nightly calm, when the spruce on the bank could not be known from its fellow in the water by a man standing on his head. Moreover, to maintain this[Pg 212] calm was the plain duty of the harbor master. For five years he had held that office by an annual vote of the town meeting. With his title went authority to say where were the harbor lines, to order the removal of hulks, to provide for keeping open a channel through winter ice—in a word, to keep the peace. This peace was of his own substance.

It was rudely shattered. On the night following the dance Cad Sills put herself in his path for the second time and this time she gave him short shrift. He was pushing forward, near sundown, to take the impulse of an eddy at the edge of Pull-an'-be-Damned when he saw that predatory, songful woman balanced knee-deep in rushing water, her arms tossing.

"She's drowning herself after her quarrel with Sam Dreed," was his first thought. He had just heard a fine tale of that quarrel. The truth was not quite so bold. She had been caught by the tide, which, first peering over the rim of that extended flat, had then shot forth a frothy tongue, and in a twinkling lapped her up.

Jethro presently brought up the webs of his two thumbs hard at her armpits, and took her into his boat, dripping.

"She's not so plump as she was ashore," he said to himself with a vague astonishment. She was as lean as a man at the hips, and finned away like a mermaid, as became a daughter of the Old Roke.

"Steady now, my girl—. Heave and away."

There they stood confronting each other. Enraptured, life given into her hand again, Cad Sills flung her arms about his neck and kissed him—a moist, full-budded, passionate, and salty kiss. Even on the edge of doom, it was plain, she would not be able to modulate, tone, or contain these kisses, each of which launched a fiery barb into the recipient's bosom.

The little fisherman had not known what elemental thing was in a kiss before. He bit his lip and fell back slowly. Then, after a second's vain reflection, he seized the butts of his oars, which had begun to knock together. Caddie Sills sank across a thwart and shivered a little to mark the crowding together of white horses at the very place where she had stood. Contrary currents caused[Pg 213] the tide to horse in strongly over Pull-an'-be-Damned.

"What a ninny!" she whispered. "Was I sick with love, I wonder?"

The harbor master answered with the motion of his oars.

She glanced at him shrewdly, then struck her hands together at her breast, which she caused to rise and fall stormily. She was, in fact, a storm petrel in the guise of woman.

"You have saved my life," she cried out, "when not another man in all this world would have lifted so much as his little finger. Do what you will with me after this. Let me be your slave, your dog—. I am a lost woman if you will not take pity on me."

Rackby's heart came into his throat with the slow surge of a sculpin on a hook.

"Nothing—. Nothing at all. Nothing in the world. I happened along—. Just a happen so."

The girl stood up, looked at him long and long, cried, "Thank you for nothing, then, Mr. Happen-so," and from the humility of gratitude she went to the extreme of impudence, and laughed in his face—a ringing, brazen laugh, with the wild sweetness in it which he had noted in the song she sang on that November hillside.

"You're a caution, little man, you're a caution," she said, slanting her lashes. "You certainly are. I've heard of you. Yes, I have, only this morning. I'm a solitary like yourself. See here. You and I could set the world on fire if we joined hands. Do you know that?"

The little man was struck dumb at his oars for very fear of the boldness of her advance. He recognized this for an original and fearsome, not to say delectable, vein of talk. She came on like the sea itself, impetuous and all-embracing. Unfathomed, too. Could fancy itself construct a woman so, pat to his hand?

"Is it true that you despise women as they say?" she whispered. She breathed close, and electrified the tip of his ear with a tendril of hair. He saw that she wore coral now, in place of the pearls. But her lips were redder than the coral. He raised his head.

"Yesterday morning you sold pearls for the benefit of Sam Dreed," he said, in dull tones. "And here you are with your brimstone fairly in my boat."[Pg 214]

He looked at her as if the Old Roke himself had clambered into the boat, with his spell of doom.

"I am not afraid of helping honest men in trouble that I know of," said Cad Sills, sucking in her lower lip. "But do you throw that up to me?"

Jethro felt the wickedness of his position like a breath of fire fanning his cheek. Perilously tempted, he sagged back on the oars without a word.

"Soho! you're setting me ashore," said that dark woman, laughing. "I don't wear very well in the eye and that's a plain conclusion."

She laid a finger to her breast, and her eye mocked him. This brazen hardness put him from his half-formed purpose. He addressed himself to the oars, and the dory grated on the shore.

"Good-bye, then, little man," she said, springing past him.

But even now she lingered and looked back, biting the coral and letting it fall, intimating that a word, a whispered syllable, might lay her low.

He sat like a man crushed to earth. When he raised his head she was gone.

Was this the voice from the seaward side of Meteor? True, the sea had yielded this wild being up, but did she speak with the sea's voice? She had at least the sea's inconstancy, the sea's abandonment.

Her words were hot and heavy in little Rackby's heart. Serene harbor master that he was, the unearthly quiet of his harbor was an affront upon him in his present mood. Now that she was lost to him, he could not, by any makeshift of reason, be rid of the impulse that had come upon him to jump fairly out of his own skin in an effort to recapture that tormenting woman—.

He drifted down upon Meteor Island, bowed and self-reproachful, like a spirit approaching the confines of the dead. He stepped ashore and passed the painter of his dory through its ring.

On the crest of the island, at the very spot where, scientists averred, a meteorite had fallen in some prehistoric age, there stood a thick grove, chiefly of hemlock trees. Here on this night he paused. A strange inertness filled[Pg 215] all nature. Not a whisper from the branches overhead, not a rustle from the dark mold underfoot. Moonlight in one place flecked the motionless leaves of an alder. Trunk and twigs were quite dissolved in darkness—nothing but the silver pattern of the leaves was shown in random sprays. He felt for an instant disembodied, like these leaves—as if, taking one step too many, he had floated out of his own body and might not return.

"Bear and forbear," he thought. "You wouldn't have stirred, let her say what she would," his heart whispered to the silver leaves.

But he could not forget that wild glance, the wet hand clinging to his wrist, the laugh repeated like an echo from the symphony of that November hillside. He reproached himself withal. What was known of Cad Sills? Little known, and nothing cared to be known. A waif, pursuing him invisibly with a twinkle or flare from her passionate eyes. She was the daughter of a sea captain by his fifth wife. He had escaped the other four. They had died or been deserted in foreign ports, but this one he could not escape. Tradition had it that he lost the figurehead from his ship on the nuptial voyage, attributed this disaster to his bride, and so left her at Rosario, only to find her, after all sail was set, in the forechains, at the very stem of his ship, half drowned, her arms outstretched, a living figurehead. She had swum after him. She outlived him, too, and died in giving birth to Cad Sills, whose blood had thus a trace of sea water—.

He entered his house. In his domestic arrangements he was the very figure of a bachelor. His slimsy silver spoon, dented with toothmarks of an ancestor who had died in a delirium, was laid evenly by his plate. The hand lamps on the shelf wore speckled brown-paper bags inverted over their chimneys. A portrait of a man playing the violin hung out, in massive gilt, over the table, like a ship's figurehead projecting over a wharf's end. His red couch bore northeast and southwest, so that he might not lose good sleep by opposing his body to the flow of magnetic currents.

On this night he drew out from a hole in the upholstery of the couch a bag of stenciled canvas, which chinked. It[Pg 216] was full of money, in gold and silver pieces. He counted it, and sat thoughtful. Later he went out of the house and stood looking at the sea as if for a sign. But the sea gave him no sign; and on that night at least had no voice.

It was three days before he came up with Cad Sills again. Then he spied her at nightfall, reclining under the crab-apple tree at Hannan's Landing.

The little man came close enough to tread on her shadow, cleared his throat, and almost shouted:

"Did you mean what you said? Did you mean what you said, girl?"

She laughed and threw the core of an apple in his direction.

"I did when I said it, Mr. Happen-so. I did when I said it."

"I'm ready—. I'm ready now. We'll be married tomorrow, if you don't mind."

"But will I sell my cabbages twice, I wonder? I've had a change of heart since, if I must tell you."

"Surely not in this short space of time," Rackby gasped, dismayed.

A light throbbed in her eye. "Well, perhaps I haven't."

The storm petrel hovered high, swooped close, her lips parted. Her teeth shone with a native luster, as if she had lived on roots and tough things all her life. Again little Rackby felt that glow of health and hardness in her person, as if one of the cynical and beautiful immortals of the Greeks confronted him. He was heartily afraid of her mystifying power of enchantment, which seemed to betray him to greater lengths than he had dreamed. Even now perhaps all was lost.

"I will meet you tonight, then—at the top of the hill. See? By the Preaching Tree."

She nodded her head toward the church corner. "At eight sharp, by the west face of the clock. And, mind you, Mr. Man, not one jot late or early."

Although he heard the quick fall of her feet in the dust grow fainter, it pleased him not to turn. There was a prickling above his heart and at the cords of his throat. The harbor was as blue as a map suddenly unrolled at his feet. Clouds with a purple warp were massing in the east.[Pg 217]

The harbor master stared hard at the low ridge of an outlying island where a cow had been put to pasture. The hillocky back of that lone ruminant grew black as ink in the glow of sunset. The creature exhibited a strange fixity of outline, as if it had been a chance configuration of rocks. Rackby in due time felt a flaming impatience shoot upward from his heels. Water soughed and chuckled at the foot of the crab-apple tree, but these eager little voices could no longer soothe or even detain him with their familiar assurances.

He jumped up and stared hard at the west face of the clock, whose gilt hands were still discernible in the fading light. It was five minutes of eight.

When he slipped into the shadow of the Preaching Tree it had grown dark. Fitful lightning flashed. In the meadow fireflies were thick. They made him think of the eager beating of many fiery little hearts, exposed by gloom, lost again in that opalescent glare on the horizon against which the ragged leaves of elm and maple were hung like blobs of ink or swarms of bees.

He breathed fast; he heard mysterious fluted calls. A victim of torturing uncertainty, he strained his ear for that swift footfall. Suddenly he felt her come upon him from behind, buoyant, like a warm wave, and press firm hands over his eyelids. Her hair stung his cheek like wire.

"Guess three times."

Rackby felt the strong beat of that adventurous heart like drums of conquest. He crushed her in his arms until she all but cried out. There was nothing he could say. Her breath carried the keen scent of crushed checkerberry plums. She had been nibbling at tender pippins by the way, like a wild thing.

The harbor master remembered later that he seemed to have twice the number of senses appointed to mortals in that hour. A heavy fragrance fell through the dusk out of the thick of the horse-chestnut tree. A load of hay went by, the rack creaking, the driver sunk well out of sight. He heard the dreaming note of the tree toad; frogs croaked in the lush meadow, water babbled under the crazy wooden sidewalk.—The meadow was one vast[Pg 218] pulse of fireflies. He felt this industrious flame enter his own wrists.

Then the birches over the way threshed about in a gust of wind. Almost at once rain fell in heavy drops; blinds banged to and fro, a strong smell of dust was in his nostrils, beat up from the road by driving rain.

The girl first put the palm of her hand hard against his cheek, then yielded, with a pliant and surprising motion of the whole body. Her eyes were full of a strange, bright wickedness. Like torches they seemed to cast a crimson light on the already glowing cheek.

Fascinated by this thought, Rackby bent closer. The tented leaves of the horse-chestnut did not stir. Surely the dusky cheek had actually a touch of crimson in the gloom.

This effect, far from being an illusion was produced by a lantern in the fist of a man swinging toward them with vast strides. And now the clock, obeying its north face, struck eight.

Before the last stroke had sounded the girl was made aware of the betraying light. She whirled out of Rackby's arms and ran toward Sam Dreed. The big viking stood with his feet planted well apart, and a mistrustful finger in his beard.

"Touch and go!" cried Caddie Sills, falling on his neck. "Do we go at the top of the tide, mister?"

"What hellion is that under the trees?" he boomed at her, striking the arm down savagely.

"You will laugh when you see," said Cad Sills, wrung with pain, but returning to him on the instant.

"On the wrong side of my face, maybe."

"Can't you see? It's the little harbor master."

"Ah! and standing in the same piece of dark with you, my girl."

Cad Sills laughed wildly. "Did ever I look for more thanks than this from any mortal man? Then I'm not disappointed. But let me ask you, have you taken your ship inside the island to catch the tide?"

"Yes."

"Oh, you have. And would you have done that with the harbor master looking on? Hauled short across the[Pg 219] harbor lines? Maybe you think I have a whole chest of pearls at your beck and call, Sam Dreed. Oh, what vexation! Here I hold the little man blindfolded by my wiles—and this is my thanks!"

The voice was tearful with self-pity.

"Is that so, my puss?" roared the seaman, melted in a flash. He swung the girl by the waist with his free arm. "You have got just enough natural impudence for the tall water and no mistake. Come along."

"Wait!" cried Jethro Rackby. He stepped forward. He felt the first of many wild pangs in thus subjecting himself to last insult. "Where are you going?"

The words had the pitiful vacuity of a detaining question. For what should it matter to Jethro where she went, if she went in company with Sam Dreed?

"How can I tell you that, little man?" Cad Sills flung over her shoulder at him. "The sea is wide and uncertain."

Her full cheek, with its emphatic curve, was almost gaunt in the moment when she fixed her eyes on the wolfish face of that tousle-headed giant who encircled her. Her shoulder blades were pinched back; the line of the marvelous full throat lengthened; she devoured the man with a vehemence of love, brief and fierce as the summer lightning which played below the dark horizon.

She was gone, planting that aerial foot willfully in the dust. Raindrops ticked from one to another of the broad, green leaves over the harbor master's head. Water might be heard frothing in a nearby cistern.

Suddenly the moon glittered on the parson's birch-wood pile, and slanted a beam under the Preaching Tree. Sunk in the thick dust which the rain had slightly stippled in slow droppings, he saw the tender prints of a bare foot and the cruel tracks of the seaman's great, square-toed boots pointing together toward the sea.

He raised his eyes only with a profound effort. They encountered a blackboard affixed to the fat trunk of the Preaching Tree, on which from day to day the parson wrote the text for its preachments in colored chalk. The moon was full upon it, and Rackby saw in crimson lettering the words, "Woman, hath no man damned thee?" The[Pg 220] rest of the text he had rubbed out with his own shoulders in turning to take the girl into his arms.

"I damn ye!" he cried, raising his arms wildly. "Yes, by the Lord, I damn ye up and down. May you burn as I burn, where the worm dieth not, and the fires are not quenched."

So saying, he set his foot down deliberately on the first of the light footprints she had made in springing from his side—as if he might as easily as that blot out the memory of his enslavement.

Thereafter the Customs House twitted him, as if it knew the full extent of his shame. Zinie Shadd called after him to know if he had heard that voice from the sea yet, in his comings and goings.

"Peter Loud was not so easy hung by the heels," that aged loiterer affirmed, "shipping as he did along with the lady herself, as bo's'n for Cap'n Sam Dreed."

Jethro Rackby took to drink somewhat, to drown these utterances, or perhaps to quench some stinging thirst within him which he knew not to be of the soul.

When certain of the elders asked him why he did not cut the drink and take a decent wife, he laughed like a demon, and cried out:

"What's that but to swap the devil for a witch?"

Others he met with a counter question:

"Do you think I will tie a knot with my tongue that I can't untie with my teeth?"

So he sat by himself at the back windows of a water-front saloon, and when he caught a glimpse of the water shining there low in its channels he would shut his lips tight.—Who could have thought that it would be the sea itself to throw in his path the woman who had set this blistering agony in his soul? There it lay like rolled glass; the black piles under the footbridge were prolonged to twice their length by their own shadows, so that the bridge seemed lifted enormously high out of water. Beyond the bridge the seine pockets of the mackerel men hung on the shrouds like black cobwebs, and the ships had a blighting look of funeral ships.—

He had mistrusted the sea. It was life; it was death; flow, slack, and ebb—and his pulse followed it.[Pg 221]

Officials of the Customs House could testify that for better than a year, if he mentioned women at all, it was in a tone to convey that his fingers had been sorely burned in that flame and smarted still.

The second autumn, from that moment under the Preaching Tree, found him of the same opinion still. He trod the dust a very phantom, while little leaves of cardinal red spun past his nose like the ebbing heart's blood of full-bodied summer. The long leaves of the sumach, too, were like guilty fingers dipped in blood. But the little man paid no heed to the analogies which the seasons presented to his conscience in their dying. Though he thought often of his curse, he had not lifted it. But when he saw a cluster of checkerberry plums in spring gleam withered red against gray moss, on some stony upland, he stood still and pondered.

Then, on a night when the fall wind was at its mightiest, and shook the house on Meteor Island as if clods of turf had been hurled against it, he took down his Bible from its stand. At the first page to which he turned, his eye rested on the words, "Woman, hath no man damned thee?"

He bent close, his hand shook, and his blunt finger traced the remainder of that text which he and Cad Sills together had unwittingly erased from the Preaching Tree.

"No man, Lord."—"Neither do I damn thee: go, and sin no more."

He left the Bible standing open and ran out-of-doors.

The hemlock grove confronted him a mass of solid green. Night was coming on, as if with an ague, in a succession of coppery cold squalls which had not yet overtaken the dying west. In that quarter the sky was like a vast porch of crimson woodbine.

When this had sunk, night gave a forlorn and indistinguishable look to everything. A spark of ruddy light glowed deep in the valley. The rocking outlines of the hills were lost in rushing darkness. At his back sounded the pathetic clatter of a dead spruce against its living neighbor, bespeaking the deviltry of woodland demons.—It was the hour which makes all that man can do seem as nothing in the mournful darkness, causing his works to vanish and be as if they had not been.[Pg 222]

At this hour the heart of man may be powerfully stirred, by an anguish, a prayer, or perhaps—a fragrance.

The harbor master, uttering a brief cry, dropped to his knees and remained mute, his arms extended toward the sea in a gesture of reconcilement.

On that night the Sally Lunn, Cap'n Sam Dreed, was wrecked on the sands of Pull-an'-be-Damned.

Rackby, who had fallen into a deep sleep, lying northeast and southwest, was awakened by a hand smiting his door in, and a wailing outside of the Old Roke busy with his agonies. In a second his room was full of crowding seamen, at their head Peter Loud, bearing in his arms the dripping form of Caddie Sills. He laid her gently on the couch.

"Where did you break up?" whispered Rackby. He trembled like a leaf.

"Pull-an'-be-Damned," said Deep-water Peter. "The Cap'n's gone. He didn't come away. Men can say what they like of Sam Dreed; he wouldn't come into the boat. I'll tell all the world that."

The crew of the wrecked ship stood heaving and glittering in their oils, plucking their beards with a sense of trespass, hearing the steeple clock tick, and water drum on the worn floor.

"All you men clear out," said Caddie Sills, faintly. "Leave me here with Jethro Rackby."

They set themselves in motion, pushing one against the other with a rasp and shriek of oilskins—and Peter Loud last of all.

The harbor master, not knowing what to say, took a step away from her, came back, and, looking into her pale face, cried out, horror-struck, "I damned ye." He dropped on his knees. "Poor girl! I damned ye out and out."

"Hold your horses, Mr. Happen-so," said Cad Sills. "There's no harm in that. I was damned and basted good and brown before you ever took me across your little checkered apron."

She looked at him almost wistfully, as if she had need of him. With her wet hair uncoiling to the floor, she looked as if she had served, herself, for a fateful living figurehead,[Pg 223] like her mother before her. The bit of coral was still slung round her throat. The harbor master recalled with what a world of meaning she had caught it between her teeth on the night of his rescue—the eyes with a half-wistful light as now.

"Come," she said, "Harbor Master. I wasn't good to you, that's true; but still you have done me a wrong in your turn, you say?"

"I hope God will forgive me," said the harbor master.

"No doubt of that, little man. But maybe you would feel none the worse for doing me a favor, feeling as you do."

"Yes, yes."

Her hand sought his. "You see me—how I am. I shall not survive my child, for my mother did not before me. Listen. You are town clerk. You write the names of the new born on a sheet of ruled paper and that is their name?"

Rackby nodded.

"So much I knew—Come. How would it be if you gave my child your name—Rackby? Don't say no to me. Say you will. Just the scratching of a pen, and what a deal of hardship she'll be saved not to be known as Cad Sills over again."

Her hand tightened on his wrist. Recollecting how they had watched the tide horse over Pull-an'-be-Damned thus, he said, eagerly, "Yes, yes, if so be 'tis a she," thinking nothing of the consequences of his promise.

"Now I can go happy," murmured Cad Sills.

"Where will you go?" said the harbor master, timorously, feeling that she was whirled out of his grasp a second time.

"How should I know?" lisped Caddie Sills, with a remembering smile. "The sea is wide and uncertain, little man."

The door opened again. A woman appeared and little Rackby was thrust out among the able seamen.

Three hours later he came and looked down on Cad Sills again. Rain still beat on the black windows. Her lips were parted, as if she were only weary and asleep. But in one glance he saw that she had no need to lie[Pg 224] northeast and southwest to make certain of unbroken sleep.

To the child born at the height of the storm the harbor master gave a name, his own—Rackby. He was town clerk, and he gave her this name when he came to register her birth on the broad paper furnished by the government. And for a first name, Day, as coming after that long night of his soul, perhaps.

When this was known, he was fined by the government two hundred dollars. Such is the provision in the statutes, in order that there may be no compromise with the effects of sin.

The harbor master did not regret. He reckoned his life anew from that night when he sat in the dusk with the broad paper before him containing the names of those newly born.

So the years passed, and Day Rackby lived ashore with her adoptive father. When she got big enough they went by themselves and reopened the house on Meteor Island.

The man was still master of the harbor, but he could not pretend that his authority extended to the sea beyond. There he lost himself in speculation, sometimes wondering if Deep-water Peter had found a thing answering his quest. But Peter did not return to satisfy him on this point.

The harbor master was content to believe that he had erred on the side of the flesh, and that the sea, a jealous mistress, had swept him into the hearing of the gods, who were laughing at him.

As for the child of Cad Sills, people who did not know her often said that her eyes were speaking eyes. Well if it were so, since this voice in the eyes was all the voice she had. She could neither speak nor hear from birth. It was as if kind nature had sealed her ears against those seductive whisperings which—so the gossips said—had been the ruination of her mother.

As she grew older, they said behind their hands that blood would tell, in spite of all. Then, when they saw the girl skipping along the shore with kelp in her hands they said, mistrustfully, that she was "marked" for the sea, beyond the shadow of a doubt.[Pg 225]

"She hears well enough, when the sea speaks," Zinie Shadd averred. He had caught her listening in a shell with an intent expression.

"She will turn out to be a chip of the old block," said Zinie Shadd's wife, "or I shall never live to see the back of my neck."

Jethro Rackby heard nothing of such prophecy. He lived at home. Here in his estimation was a being without guile, in whose innocence he might rejoice. His forethought was great and pathetic. He took care that she should learn to caress him with her finger tips alone. He remembered the fatal touch of Cad Sills's kiss at Pull-an'-be-Damned, which had as good as drawn the soul out of his body in a silver thread and tied it in a knot.

Once, too, he had dreamed of waking cold in the middle of the night and finding just a spark on the ashes of his hearth. This he nursed to flame; the flame sprang up waist-high, hot and yellow. Fearful, he beat it down to a spark again. But then again he was cold. He puffed at this spark, shivering; the flame grew, and this time, with all he could do, it shot up into the rafters of his house and devoured it.—

So it was that the passion of Cad Sills lived with him still.

He taught the child her letters with blue shells, and later to take the motion of his lips for words. She waylaid him everywhere—on the rocks, on the sands, in the depths of the hemlock grove, on tiny antlers of gray caribou moss, with straggling little messages and admonishings of love. Her apron pocket was never without its quota of these tiny shells of brightest peacock blue. They trailed everywhere. He ground them under heel at the threshold of his house. From long association they came to stand for so many inquisitive little voices in themselves, beseeching, questioning, defying.

But for his part, he grew to have a curious belief, even when her head was well above his shoulder, that the strong arch of her bosom must ring out with wild sweet song one day, like that which he had heard on the November hillside, when Caddie Sills had run past him at the Preaching Tree. This voice of Day's was like the voice sleeping[Pg 226] in the great bronze horn hanging in a rack, which his father had used to call the hands to dinner. A little wind meant no sound, but a great effort, summoning all the breath in the body, made the brazen throat ring out like a viking's horn, wild and sweet.

So with Day, if an occasion might be great enough to call it forth.

"He always was a notional little man," the women said, on hearing this. The old bachelor was losing his wits. Such doctrine as he held made him out not one whit better off than Zinie Shadd, who averred that the heart of man was but a pendulum swaying in his bosom—though how it still moved when he stood on his head was more than even Zinie Shadd could fathom, to be sure.

"It's the voice of conscience he's thinking of, to my judgment," said one. "That girl is deafer than a haddock and dumb as the stone."

Untouched by gossip, the harbor master felt with pride that his jewel among women was safe, and that here, within four humble walls, he treasured up a being literally without guile, one who grew straight and white as a birch sapling. "Pavilioned in splendor" were the words descriptive of her which he had heard thunderously hymned in church. The hair heavy on her brow was of the red gold of October.

If they might be said to be shipmates sailing the same waters, they yet differed in the direction of their gaze. The harbor master fixed his eyes upon the harbor; but little Day turned hers oftenest upon the blue sea itself, whose mysterious inquietude he had turned from in dismay.

True, the harbor was not without its fascination for her. Leaning over the side of his dory, the sea girl would shiver with delight to descry those dismal forests over which they sailed, dark and dizzying masses full of wavering black holes, through which sometimes a blunt-nosed bronze fish sank like a bolt, and again where sting ray darted, and jellyfish palpitated with that wavering of fringe which produced the faintest of turmoil at the surface of the water.

This would be at the twilight hour when warm airs[Pg 227] alternated with cold, like hopes with despairs. Sparbuoys of silver gray were duplicated in the water, wrinkled like a snout at the least ripple from the oars. Boats at anchor seemed twice their real size by reason of their dark shadows made one with them. One by one the yellow riding lights were hung, far in. They shone like new-minted coins; the harbor was itself a purse of black velvet, to which the harbor master held the strings. The quiet—the immortal quiet—operated to restore his soul. But at such times Day would put the tips of her fingers mysteriously to her incarnadined dumb lips and appear to hearken on the seaward side. If a willful light came sometimes in her eyes he did not see it.

But even on the seaward side there would not be heard, on such nights, the slightest sound to break the quiet, unless that of little fish jumping playfully in the violet light, and sending out great circles to shimmer toward the horizon.

So it drew on toward Day Rackby's eighteenth birthday.

One morning in October they set out from Meteor for the village. A cool wind surged through the sparkling brown oak leaves of the oaks at Hannan's Landing.

"They die as the old die," reflected Jethro Rackby, "gnarled, withered, still hanging on when they are all but sapless."

Despite the melancholy thought, his vision was gladdened by a magic clarity extending over all the heavens, and even to the source of the reviving winds. The sea was blown clear of ships. In the harbor a few still sat like seabirds drying plumage. Against the explosive whiteness of wind clouds, their sails looked like wrinkled parchment, or yellowing Egyptian cloth; the patches were mysterious hieroglyphs.

Day sat sleepily in the stern of the dory, her shoulders pinched back, her heavy braid overside and just failing the water, her eyes on the sway of cockles in the bottom of the boat.

Rackby puckered his face, when the square bell tower of the church, white as chalk, came into view, dazzling against the somber green upland. The red crown of a maple showed as if a great spoke of the rising sun had[Pg 228] passed across that field and touched the tree to fire with its brilliant heat.

So he had stood—so he had been touched. His heart beat fast, and now he stood under the Preaching Tree again, and drew a whiff of warm hay, clover-spiced, as it went creaking past, a square-topped load, swishing and dropping fragrant tufts.—This odor haunted him, as if delights forgotten, only dreamed, or enjoyed in other lives, had drifted past him.—Then the vivid touch of Cad Sills's lips.

He glanced up, and at once his oars stumbled, and he nearly dropped them in his fright. For the fraction of a second he had, it seemed, surprised Cad Sills herself looking at him steadily out of those blue, half-shut lazy eyes of his scrupulously guarded foster child. The flesh cringed on his body. Was she lurking there still? Certainly he had felt again, in that flash, the kiss, the warm tumult of her body, the fingers dove-tailed across his eyes; and even seen the scented hay draw past him, toppling and quivering.

He stared more closely at the girl. She looked nothing like the wild mother. There was no hint of Cad Sills in that golden beauty unless, perhaps, in a certain charming bluntness of sculpturing at the very tip of her nose, a deft touch. Nevertheless, some invisible fury had beat him about the head with her wings there in the bright sunshine.

Disquieted, he resumed the oars. They had drifted close to the bank, and a shower of maple leaves, waxen red, all but fell into the boat.

"These die as the young die," thought the harbor master, sadly. "They delight to go, these adventurers, swooping down at a breath. They are not afraid of the mystery of mold."

His glance returned to the wandlike form of his daughter, whose eyes now opened upon his archly.

"So she would adventure death," he reflected. "Almost at as light a whisper from the powers of darkness, too."

They were no sooner ashore than the girl tugged at his hand to stay him. The jeweler's glass front had intrigued her eye, for there, displayed against canary[Pg 229] plush, was a string of pearls, like winter moons for size and luster. Her speaking eye flashed on them and her slim fingers twisted and untwisted at her back. She lifted her head and with her forefinger traced a pleading circle round her throat.

A dark cloud came over Rackby's features. These were the pearls, he knew at once, which Caddie Sills had sold in the interest of Cap'n Dreed so long ago. They were a luckless purchase on the part of the jeweler. All the women were agreed that such pearls had bad luck somewhere on the string, and no one had been found to buy.

"Why does he display them at this time of all times, in the face and eyes of everybody?" thought the harbor master.

A laugh sounded behind him. It was Deep-water Peter, holding a gun in one hand, and a dead sheldrake in the other. The red wall of the Customs House bulged over him.

"Ah, there, Jethro!" he said. "Have you married the sea at last and taken a mermaid home to live?"

"This is my daughter, if you please," said Jethro Rackby. An ugly glint was in his usually gentle eye, but he did not refuse the outstretched hand. "You have prospered seemingly."

"Oh, I have enough to carry me through," said Peter. "I picked up a trifle here, and a trifle there, and a leetle pinch from nowhere, just to salt it down. And so all this time you've been harbor master here?"

His tone was between contempt and tolerance, as befitted the character formed in a harder school, and the harbor master was bitterly silent.

Day had turned from the jewels and was coming toward her father. When she saw the strange man beside him she stopped short and averted her face, not before observing that Rackby might have passed for Peter's father.

"Not so shy—not so shy," murmured Deep-water Peter, as if she had been a wild filly coming up to his hand.

"She cannot hear you," Rackby interposed. The gleam of triumph in his eye was plain.

"Can't hear?"[Pg 230]

"Neither speak nor hear."

Peter Loud turned toward the girl again—and this time her blue eye met his, and a spark was struck, not dying out instantly, such a spark as might linger on the surface of a flint struck by steel.

Was it a certain trick of movement, or only the quickened current of his blood that made Deep-water Peter know the truth?

"This is strange," he said.

That wind-blown voice of his, with its deepwater melodiousness, had dropped to a whisper.

"Even providential," the harbor master returned, and his eye glittered.

Peter would have said something to that, but Rackby, with a stern hand at his daughter's elbow, passed out of hearing.

Peter Loud was promptly taken in the coils of that voiceless beauty whose speaking eye had met his so squarely. The mother had played him false, as she had Jethro—but with Peter these affairs were easier forgotten.

Within the week, as he was striding over the bare flats of Pull-an'-be-Damned, he saw the flash of something white inside a weir. The sun was low and dazzled him. He came close and saw that this was Rackby's daughter. She had slipped into the weir to tantalize a crab with the sight of her wriggling toes and so had stepped on a sharp shell and cut her foot to the bone.

Peter cried amazedly. The shadow of the weir net on her face and body trembled, but she uttered no slightest sound. It was as if some wild swan had fallen from the azure.

In falling she had hurt her leg and could not walk. Peter tore the sleeves from her arms and bound the foot, then bent eagerly and lifted her out of the weir.

Immediately she hid her cheek in his coat, shivered, set her damp lips with their flavor of sweet salt, full against his.

Deep-water Peter held her tighter yet. How could he know that here, on Pull-an'-be-Damned, within a biscuit's toss of the weirs, Cad Sills had served the same fare to[Pg 231] Rackby. He turned and ran, holding her close, and the tide hissed at his heels like a serpent.

The harbor master, lately returned from evening inspection of the harbor, heard the rattle of oars under his wharf, and in no great while he saw Peter advancing with Day limp in his arms.

The sailor brushed past him into the kitchen, and laid the girl down, as he had laid her mother, northeast and southwest. Rackby at his side muttered:

"How come you here like this? How come you?"

A fearful misgiving caused him to drop to his knees. The girl opened her eyes; a new brilliance danced there. With a shiver, the harbor master perceived those signs of a fire got beyond control which had consumed the mother.

"She has cut her foot, friend Rackby," said Peter. "I took the liberty to bring her here—so."

Wrath seized the little man. "Thank you for nothing, Peter Loud!" he cried, and these again were the very words Cad Sills had hurled at him when he had saved her life at Pull-an'-be-Damned.

"That's as you say," said Deep-water Peter.

"You have done your worst now," said Jethro. "If I find you here again I will shoot you down like a dog."

Peter laughed very bitterly. "You have got what is yours, Harbor Master," he said, "and it takes two to make a quarrel."

But as he was going through the door he looked back. The girl unclosed her eyes, and a light played out of them that followed him into the dark and streamed across the heavens like the meteorite that had once fallen on Meteor Island.

Peter had taken a wreath of fire to his heart. The girl attended him like something in the corner of his eye. Times past count, he plied his oars among the cross currents to the westward of that island, hoping to catch a glimpse of his siren on the crags.

Sometimes for long moments he lay on his oars, hearing the blue tide with a ceaseless motion heave and swirl and gutter all round its rocky border, and the serpents' hiss come from some Medusa's head of trailing weed uttered[Pg 232] in venomous warning. Under flying moons the shaggy hemlock grove was like a bearskin thrown over the white and leprous nakedness of stony flanks. At the approach of storm the shadows stealing forth from that sullen, bowbacked ridge were blue-filmed, like the languid veil which may be seen to hang before blue, tear-dimmed eyes.

Deep-water Peter felt from the first that he could not dwell for long on the mysteries of that island without meeting little Rackby's mad challenge. Insensibly he drew near—and at last set foot on its shores again. Late on a clear afternoon he landed in the very lee of the island, at a point where the stone rampart was fifty feet in height, white as a bone, and pitted like a mass of grout. This cliff was split from top to bottom, perhaps by frosts, perhaps by the fall of the buried meteor. A little cove lay at the base of this crevasse, and here a bed of whitest sand had sifted in, rimmed by a great heap of well-sanded, bright-blue shells of every size and shape. This was the storehouse from which Day Rackby drew her speaking shells.

He looped the painter of his dory under a stone and ascended the rock. His heart was in his throat. All the world hitherto had not proffered him such choice adventure, if he had read the signs aright. As if directed by the intuition of his heart, he slipped into the shadows of the grove. Fragrance was broadcast there, the clean fragrance of nature at her most alone. Crows whirred overhead; their hoarse plaint, with its hint of desolation, made a kind of emptiness in the wood, and he went on, step by step, as in a dream, wrapt, expectant. Was she here? Could Rackby's will detain her here, a presence so swift, mischievous, and aerial? Such a spirit could not be held in the hollow of a man's hand. He remembered how in his youth a man had tried to keep wild foxes on this same island, for breeding purposes, but they had whisked their brushes in his face and swum ashore.

The green dusk was multiplied many times now by tiny spruces, no thicker than a man's thumb, which grew up in racks and created a dense blackness, its edges pierced by quivering shafts of the sun, some of which, as if by special providence, fell between all the outer saplings,[Pg 233] and struck far in. A certain dream sallowness was manifested in that sunlit glimpse. The air was quiet. Minutest things seemed to marshal themselves as if alone and unobserved, so that it was strange to spy them out.

"She is not here," he thought. His footfall was nothing on the soft mold. Portly trunks of the hemlocks began to bar his way. The thick shade entreated secrecy; he stood still, and saw his dryad, a green apparition, kneeling at the foot of a beech tree, and looking down. In the stillness, which absorbed all but the beating of his heart, he heard the dry tick, tick of a beech leaf falling. Those that still clung to the sleek upper boughs were no more than a delicate yellow cloud or glowing autumnal atmosphere suffusing the black bole of the tree with a light of pure enchantment. He was surprised that anything so vaporous and colorful should come from the same sap that circulated through the bark and body of the thick tree itself. But then he reflected that, after all, the crown and flame of Sam Dreed's life was Day Rackby.

Had she, perhaps, descended from that yellow cloud above her? Deep-water Peter had a moment of that speechless joy which comes when all the doors in the house of vision are flung open at one time.

His feet sank unheeded in a patch of mold. He saw now that her eye was on the silent welling of a spring into a sunken barrel. She had one hand curled about the rim. The arm was of touching whiteness against that cold, black round, which faithfully reflected the silver sheen of the flesh on its under parts. Red and yellow leaves, crimped and curled, sat or drifted to her breath in the pool, as if they had been gaudy little swans.

Suddenly the sun sent a pale shaft, tinctured with lustrous green, through the hemlock shades. This shaft of light moved over the forest floor, grew ruddy, spied out a secret sparkle hidden in a fallen leaf, shone on twisting threads of gossamer-like lines of running silver on which the gloom was threaded, and, last of all, blazing in the face of that fascinating dryad, caused her to draw back.

Peter, as mute as she, stretched out his arms. She darted past him in a flash, putting her finger to her lips[Pg 234] and looking back. The light through the tiny spruces dappled her body; she stopped as if shot; he came forward, humble and adoring, thinking to crush into this moment, within these arms, all that mortal beauty, the ignis fatuus of romance.

His lips were parted. He seemed now to have her with her back against a solid wall of rock outcropping, green-starred; but next instant she had slipped into a cleft where his big shoulders would not go. Her eyes shone like crystals in that inviting darkness.

"What can I do for you?" said Peter, voicelessly.

Day Rackby pinched her shoulders back, leaned forward, and drew a mischievous finger round her throat.


On that night Jethro stole more than one look at the girl while she was getting supper. Of late, when she came near him, she adopted a beloved-old-fool style of treatment which was new to him.

She was more a woman than formerly, perhaps. He did not understand her whimsies. But still they had talked kindly to each other with their eyes. They communed in mysterious ways—by looks, by slight pressures, by the innumerable intuitions which had grown up, coral-wise, from the depths of silence.

But this intercourse was founded upon sympathy. That once gone, she became unfathomable and lost to him, as much so as if visible bonds had been severed.—

A certain terror possessed him at the waywardness she manifested. Evidently some concession must be made.

"Come," he said, turning her face toward him with a tremulous hand. "I will make you a little gift for your birthday. What shall it be?"

She stood still—then made the very gesture to her bosom and around her neck, which had already sent Peter scurrying landward.

The movement evoked a deadly chill in Rackby's heart. Was the past, then, to rise against him, and stretch out its bloodless hands to link with living ones? That sinister co-tenant he had seen peering at him through the blue eyes would get the better of him yet.

Conscious of his mood, she leaped away from him like[Pg 235] a fawn. A guilty light was in her eye, and she ran out of the house.

Rackby followed her in terror, not knowing which way to go in the lonely darkness to come up with her. In his turn he remembered the man who had tried to keep wild foxes on Meteor.

The harbor was calm, wondrous calm, with that blackness in the water which always precedes the rigor mortis of winter itself. All calm, all in order—not a ship of all those ships displaying riding lights to transgress the harbor lines he had decreed. How, then, should his own house not be in order?

But this was just what he had thought when Caddie Sills first darted the affliction of love into his bosom. Somewhere beyond the harbor mouth were the whispers of the tide's unrest, never to be quite shut out. Let him turn his back on that prospect as he would, the Old Roke would scandalize him still.

A man overtaken by deadly sickness, he resolved upon any sacrifice to effect a cure. On the morrow he presented himself at the jeweler's and asked to be shown the necklace.

"It is sold at last," said the jeweler, going through the motions of washing his hands.

"Sold? Who to?"

"To Peter Loud," said the jeweler.

Jethro Rackby pressed the glass case hard with his finger ends. What should Deep-water Peter be doing with a string of pearls? He must go at once. Yet he must not return empty-handed. He bought a small pendant, saw it folded into its case, and dropped the case into his pocket.

When he came to the harbor's edge he found a fleecy fog had stolen in. The horn at the harbor's mouth groaned like a sick horse. As he pulled toward Meteor the fog by degrees stole into his very brain until he could not rightly distinguish the present from the past, and Caddie Sills, lean-hipped and dripping, seemed to hover in the stern.

At one stroke he pulled out of the fog. Then he saw a strong, thick rainbow burning at the edge of the fog,[Pg 236] a jewel laid in cotton wool. Its arch just reached the top of the bank, and one brilliant foot was planted on Meteor Island.

"That signifies that I shall soon be out of my trouble," he thought, joyfully.

The fog lifted; the green shore stood out again mistily, then more vividly, like a creation of the brain. He saw the black piles of the herring wharf, and next the west face of the church clock, the hands and numerals glittering like gold.

The harbor was now as calm as a pond, except for the pink and dove color running vaporously on the back of a long swell from the south. A white light played on the threshold of the sea, and the dark bank of seaward-rolling fog presently revealed that trembling silver line in all its length, broken only where the sullen dome of Meteor rose into it.

High above, two wondrous knotty silver clouds floated, whose image perfectly appeared in the water.

"Glory be!" said Jethro Rackby, aloud. He hastened his stroke.

Rackby, returning to the gray house with his purchase, peered past its stone rampart before going in. His eye softened in anticipation of welcome. Surely no angel half so lovely was ever hidden at the heart of night.

The kitchen was empty. So were all the rooms of the house, he soon enough found out. Not a sound but that of the steeple clock on the kitchen shelf, waddling on at its imperfect gait, loud for a few seconds, and then low.

Jethro went outside. The stillness rising through the blue dusk was marvelous, perfect. But an icy misgiving raced through his frame. He began to walk faster, scanning the ground. At first in his search he did not call aloud, perhaps because all his intercourse with her had been silent, as if she were indeed only the voice of conscience in a radiant guise. And when at length he did cry out, it was only as agony may wring from the lips a cry to God.

He called on her in broken phrases to come back. Let her only come, she might be sure of forgiveness. He was an old man now, and asked for nothing but a corner in her house. Then again, he had here a little surprise[Pg 237] for her. Ah! Had she thought of that? Come; he would not open the package without a kiss from her finger ends.

He hurried forward, hoarse breathing. A note of terrible joy cracked his voice when the thought came to him that she was hiding mischievously. That was it—she was hiding—just fooling her old father. Come; it wouldn't do to be far from his side on these dark nights. The sea was wide and uncertain—wide and uncertain.

But he remembered that ominous purchase of the pearls by Deep-water Peter, and shivered. His voice passed into a wail. Little by little he stumbled through the hemlock grove, beseeching each tree to yield up out of obdurate shadow that beloved form, to vouchsafe him the lisp of flying feet over dead beech leaves. But the trees stood mournfully apart, unanswering, and rooted deep.

Now he was out upon the pitted crags, calling madly. She should have all his possessions, and the man into the bargain. Yes, his books, his silver spoons, that portrait of a man playing on the violin which she had loved.

With a new hope, he pleaded with her to speak to him, if only once, to cry out. Had he not said she would, one day? Yes, yes, one little cry of love, to show that she was not so voiceless as people said.—

He stood with awful expectation, a thick hand bending the lobe of his ear forward. Then through silver silences a muttering was borne to him, a great lingering roar made and augmented by a million little whispers.—The Old Roke himself, taking toll at the edge of his dominions.

Nothing could approach the lonely terror of that utterance. He ran forward and threw himself on his knees at the very brink of that cracked and mauled sea cliff.

It was true that Peter, in his absence, had disembarked a second time on Meteor—a fit habitation for such a woman as Day Rackby. But did that old madman think that he could coop her up here forever? How far must he be taken seriously in his threat?

Peter advanced gingerly. Blue water heaved eternally all round that craggy island, clucked and jabbered in long corridors of faulted stone, while in its lacy edge winked and sparkled new shells of peacock blue, coming[Pg 238] from the infinite treasury of the sea to join those already on deposit here.

What, then, was he about? He loved her. What was love? What, in this case, but an early and late sweetness, a wordless gift, a silent form floating soft by his side—something seeking and not saying, hoping and not proving, burning and as yet scarce daring—and so, perhaps, dying.

Then he saw her.

She lay in an angle of the cover, habited in that swimming suit she had plagued Jethro into buying, for she could swim like a dog. There, for minutes or hours, she had lain prone upon the sands, nostrils wide, legs and arms covered with grains of sand in black and gold glints. Staring at the transfigured flesh, she delighted in this conversion of herself into a beautiful monster.—

Suddenly the sea spoke in her blood, as the gossips had long prophesied, or something very like it. Lying with her golden head in her arms, the splendid shoulders lax, she felt a strong impulse toward the water shoot through her form from head to heel at this wet contact with the naked earth. She felt that she could vanish in the tide and swim forever.

At that moment she heard Peter's step, and sprang to her feet. She could not be mistaken. Marvelous man, in whose arms she had lain; fatal trespasser, whom her father had sworn to kill for some vileness in his nature. What could that be? Surely, there was no other man like Peter. She interpreted his motions no less eagerly than his lips.

The sun sank while they stared at each other. Flakes of purple darkness seemed to scale away from the side of the crag whose crest still glowed faintly red. It would be night here shortly. Deep-water Peter gave a great sigh, fumbled with his package, and next the string of pearls swayed from his finger.

"Yours," he uttered, holding them toward her.

Silence intervened. A slaty cloud raised its head in the east, and against that her siren's face was pale. Her blue eyes burned on the gems with a strange and haunted light. There was wickedness here, she mistrusted, but how could it touch her?[Pg 239]

Peter came toward her, bent over her softly as that shadow in whose violet folds they were wrapped deeper moment by moment. His fingers trembled at the back of her neck and could not find the clasp. Her damp body held motionless as stone under his attempt.

"It is done," he cried, hoarsely.

She sprang free of him on the instant.

"Is this all my thanks?" Peter muttered.

She stooped mischievously and dropped a handful of shells deftly on the sand, one by one. Peter, stooping, read what was written there; he cried for joy, and crushed her in his arms, as little Rackby had crushed her mother, once, under the Preaching Tree.

A strong shudder went through her. The yellow hair whipped about her neck. Then for one instant he saw her eyes go past him and fix themselves high up at the top of that crag. Peter loosened his hold with a cry almost of terror at the light in those eyes. He thought he had seen Cad Sills staring at him.

There was no time to verify such notions. Day Rackby had seen Jethro on his knees, imploring her, voicelessly, with his mysterious right reason, which said, plainer than words, that the touch of Peter's lips was poison to her soul. It seemed to Jethro in that moment that a ringing cry burst from those dumb lips, but perhaps it was one of the voices of the surf. The girl's arms were lifted toward him; she whirled, thrust Peter back, and fled over soft and treacherous hassocks of the purple weed. In another instant she flashed into the dying light on the sea beyond the headland, poised.

The weed lifted and fell, seething, but the cry, even if the old man had heard it once, was not repeated.


[Pg 240]

GREEN GARDENS[13]

By FRANCES NOYES HART

(From Scribner's Magazine)

Daphne was singing to herself when she came through the painted gate in the back wall. She was singing partly because it was June, and Devon, and she was seventeen, and partly because she had caught a breath-taking glimpse of herself in the long mirror as she had flashed through the hall at home, and it seemed almost too good to be true that the radiant small person in the green muslin frock with the wreath of golden hair bound about her head, and the sea-blue eyes laughing back at her, was really Miss Daphne Chiltern. Incredible, incredible luck to look like that, half Dryad, half Kate Greenaway—she danced down the turf path to the herb-garden, swinging her great wicker basket and singing like a small mad thing.

"He promised to buy me a bonnie blue ribbon,"

carolled Daphne, all her own ribbons flying,

"He promised to buy me a bonnie blue ribbon,
He promised to buy me a bonnie blue ribbon
To tie up—"

The song stopped as abruptly as though some one had struck it from her lips. A strange man was kneeling by the beehive in the herb-garden. He was looking at her over his shoulder, at once startled and amused, and she saw that he was wearing a rather shabby tweed suit and that his face was oddly brown against his close-cropped, tawny hair. He smiled, his teeth a strong flash of white.

"Hello!" he greeted her, in a tone at once casual and friendly.

Daphne returned the smile uncertainly. "Hello," [Pg 241]she replied gravely. The strange man rose easily to his feet, and she saw that he was very tall and carried his head rather splendidly, like the young bronze Greek in Uncle Roland's study at home. But his eyes—his eyes were strange—quite dark and burned out. The rest of him looked young and vivid and adventurous—but his eyes looked as though the adventure were over, though they were still questing.

"Were you looking for any one?" she asked, and the man shook his head, laughing.

"No one in particular, unless it was you."

Daphne's soft brow darkened. "It couldn't possibly have been me," she said in a rather stately small voice, "because, you see, I don't know you. Perhaps you didn't know that there is no one living in Green Gardens now?"

"Oh, yes, I knew. The Fanes have left for Ceylon, haven't they?"

"Sir Harry left two weeks ago, because he had to see the old governor before he sailed, but Lady Audrey only left last week. She had to close the London house, too, so there was a great deal to do."

"I see. And so Green Gardens is deserted?"

"It is sold," said Daphne, with a small quaver in her voice, "just this afternoon. I came over to say good-by to it, and to get some mint and lavender from the garden."

"Sold?" repeated the man, and there was an agony of incredulity in the stunned whisper. He flung out his arm against the sun-warmed bricks of the high wall as though to hold off some invader. "No, no; they'd never dare to sell it."

"I'm glad you mind so much," said Daphne softly. "It's strange that nobody minds but us, isn't it? I cried at first—and then I thought that it would be happier if it wasn't lonely and empty, poor dear—and then, it was such a beautiful day, that I forgot to be unhappy."

The man bestowed a wretched smile on her. "You hardly conveyed the impression of unrelieved gloom as you came around that corner," he assured her.

"I—I haven't a very good memory for being unhappy," Daphne confessed remorsefully, a lovely and[Pg 242] guilty rose staining her to her brow at the memory of that exultant chant.

He threw back his head with a sudden shout of laughter.

"These are glad tidings! I'd rather find a pagan than a Puritan at Green Gardens any day. Let's both have a poor memory. Do you mind if I smoke?"

"No," she replied, "but do you mind if I ask you what you are doing here?"

"Not a bit." He lit the stubby brown pipe, curving his hand dexterously to shelter it from the little breeze. He had the most beautiful hands that she had ever seen, slim and brown and fine—they looked as though they would be miraculously strong—and miraculously gentle. "I came to see—I came to see whether there was 'honey still for tea,' Mistress Dryad!"

"Honey—for tea?" she echoed wonderingly; "was that why you were looking at the hive?"

He puffed meditatively, "Well—partly. It's a quotation from a poem. Ever read Rupert Brooke?"

"Oh, yes, yes." Her voice tripped in its eagerness. "I know one by heart—

"'If I should die think only this of me:
(That there's some corner of a foreign field
(That is forever England. There shall be—"

He cut in on the magical little voice roughly.

"Ah, what damned nonsense! Do you suppose he's happy, in his foreign field, that golden lover? Why shouldn't even the dead be homesick? No, no—he was sick for home in Germany when he wrote that poem of mine—he's sicker for it in Heaven, I'll warrant." He pulled himself up swiftly at the look of amazement in Daphne's eyes. "I've clean forgotten my manners," he confessed ruefully. "No, don't get that flying look in your eyes—I swear that I'll be good. It's a long time—it's a long time since I've talked to any one who needed gentleness. If you knew what need I had of it, you'd stay a little while, I think."

"Of course, I'll stay," she said. "I'd love to, if you want me to."

"I want you to more than I've ever wanted anything that I can remember." His tone was so matter-of-fact[Pg 243] that Daphne thought that she must have imagined the words. "Now, can't we make ourselves comfortable for a little while? I'd feel safer if you weren't standing there ready for instant flight! Here's a nice bit of grass—and the wall for a back—"

Daphne glanced anxiously at the green muslin frock. "It's—it's pretty hard to be comfortable without cushions," she submitted diffidently.

The man yielded again to laughter. "Are even Dryads afraid to spoil their frocks? Cushions it shall be. There are some extra ones in the chest in the East Indian room, aren't there?"

Daphne let the basket slip through her fingers, her eyes black through sheer surprise.

"But how did you know—how did you know about the lacquer chest?" she whispered breathlessly.

"'Oh, devil take me for a blundering ass!" He stood considering her forlornly for a moment, and then shrugged his shoulders, with the brilliant and disarming smile. "The game's up, thanks to my inspired lunacy! But I'm going to trust you not to say that you've seen me. I know about the lacquer chest because I always kept my marbles there."

"Are you—are you Stephen Fane?"

At the awed whisper the man bowed low, all mocking grace, his hand on his heart—the sun burnishing his tawny head.

"Oh-h!" breathed Daphne. She bent to pick up the wicker basket, her small face white and hard.

"Wait!" said Stephen Fane. His face was white and hard too. "You are right to go—entirely, absolutely right—but I am going to beg you to stay. I don't know what you've heard about me—however vile it is, it's less than the truth—"

"I have heard nothing of you," said Daphne, holding her gold-wreathed head high, "but five years ago I was not allowed to come to Green Gardens for weeks because I mentioned your name. I was told that it was not a name to pass decent lips."

Something terrible leaped in those burned-out eyes—and died.[Pg 244]

"I had not thought they would use their hate to lash a child," he said. "They were quite right—and you, too. Good night."

"Good night," replied Daphne clearly. She started down the path, but at its bend she turned to look back—because she was seventeen, and it was June, and she remembered his laughter. He was standing quite still by the golden straw beehive, but he had thrown one arm across his eyes, as though to shut out some intolerable sight. And then, with a soft little rush she was standing beside him.

"How—how do we get the cushions?" she demanded breathlessly.

Stephen Fane dropped his arm, and Daphne drew back a little at the sudden blaze of wonder in his face.

"Oh," he whispered voicelessly. "Oh, you Loveliness!" He took a step toward her, and then stood still, clinching his brown hands. Then he thrust them deep in his pockets, standing very straight. "I do think," he said carefully, "I do think you had better go. The fact that I have tried to make you stay simply proves the particular type of rotter that I am. Good-by—I'll never forget that you came back."

"I am not going," said Daphne sternly. "Not if you beg me. Not if you are a devil out of hell. Because you need me. And no matter how many wicked things you have done, there can't be anything as wicked as going away when some one needs you. How do we get the cushions?"

"Oh, my wise Dryad!" His voice broke on laughter, but Daphne saw that his lashes were suddenly bright with tears. "Stay, then—why, even I cannot harm you. God himself can't grudge me this little space of wonder—he knows how far I've come for it—how I've fought and struggled and ached to win it—how in dirty lands and dirty places I've dreamed of summer twilight in a still garden—and England, England!"

"Didn't you dream of me?" asked Daphne wistfully, with a little catch of reproach.

He laughed again, unsteadily. "Why, who could ever dream of you, my Wonder? You are a thousand, thousand dreams come true."[Pg 245]

Daphne bestowed on him a tremulous and radiant smile. "Please let us get the cushions. I think I am a little tired."

"And I am a graceless fool! There used to be a pane of class cut out in one of the south casement windows. Shall we try that?"

"Please, yes. How did you find it, Stephen?" She saw again that thrill of wonder on his face, but his voice was quite steady.

"I didn't find it; I did it! It was uncommonly useful, getting in that way sometimes, I can tell you. And, by the Lord Harry, here it is. Wait a minute, Loveliness—I'll get through and open the south door for you—no chance that way of spoiling the frock." He swung himself up with the swift, sure grace of a cat, smiled at her—vanished—it was hardly a minute later that she heard the bolts dragging back in the south door, and he flung it wide.

The sunlight streamed into the deep hall and stretched hesitant fingers into the dusty quiet of the great East Indian room, gilding the soft tones of the faded chintz, touching very gently the polished furniture and the dim prints on the walls. He swung across the threshold without a word, Daphne tiptoeing behind him.

"How still it is," he said in a hushed voice. "How sweet it smells!"

"It's the potpurri in the Canton jars," she told him shyly. "I always made it every summer for Lady Audrey—she thought I did it better than any one else. I think so too." She flushed at the mirth in his eyes, but held her ground sturdily. "Flowers are sweeter for you if you love them—even dead ones," she explained bravely.

"They would be dead indeed, if they were not sweet for you." Her cheeks burned bright at the low intensity of his voice, but he turned suddenly away. "Oh, there she sails—there she sails still, my beauty. Isn't she the proud one though—straight into the wind!" He hung over the little ship model, thrilled as any child. "The Flying Lady—see where it's painted on her? Grandfather gave it to me when I was seven—he had it from his father when he was six. Lord, how proud I was!"[Pg 246] He stood back to see it better, frowning a little. "One of those ropes is wrong; any fool could tell that—" His hands hovered over it for a moment—dropped. "No matter—the new owners are probably not seafarers! The lacquer chest is at the far end, isn't it? Yes, here. Are three enough—four? We're off!" But still he lingered, sweeping the great room with his dark eyes. "It's full of all kinds of junk—they never liked it—no period, you see. I had the run of it—I loved it as though it were alive; it was alive, for me. From Elizabeth's day down, all the family adventurers brought their treasures here—beaten gold and hammered silver—mother-of-pearl and peacock feathers, strange woods and stranger spices, porcelains and embroideries and blown glass. There was always an adventurer somewhere in each generation—and however far he wandered, he came back to Green Gardens to bring his treasures home. When I was a yellow-headed imp of Satan, hiding my marbles in the lacquer chest, I used to swear that when I grew up I would bring home the finest treasure of all, if I had to search the world from end to end. And now the last adventurer has come home to Green Gardens—and he has searched the world from end to end—and he is empty-handed."

"No, no," whispered Daphne. "He has brought home the greatest treasure of all, that adventurer. He has brought home the beaten gold of his love, and the hammered silver of his dreams—and he has brought them from very far."

"He had brought greater treasures than those to you, lucky room," said the last of the adventurers. "You can never be sad again—you will always be gay and proud—because for just one moment he brought you the gold of her hair and the silver of her voice."

"He is talking great nonsense, room," said a very small voice, "but it is beautiful nonsense, and I am a wicked girl, and I hope that he will talk some more. And please, I think we will go into the garden and see."

All the way back down the flagged path to the herb-garden they were quiet—even after he had arranged the cushions against the rose-red wall, even after he had[Pg 247] stretched out at full length beside her and lighted another pipe.

After a while he said, staring at the straw hive: "There used to be a jolly little fat brown one that was a great pal of mine. How long do bees live?"

"I don't know," she answered vaguely, and after a long pause, full of quiet, pleasant odors from the bee-garden, and the sleepy happy noises of small things tucking themselves away for the night, and the faint but poignant drift of tobacco smoke, she asked: "What was it about 'honey still for tea'?"

"Oh, that!" He raised himself on one elbow so that he could see her better. "It was a poem I came across while I was in East Africa; some one sent a copy of Rupert Brooke's things to a chap out there, and this one fastened itself around me like a vise. It starts where he's sitting in a cafe in Berlin with a lot of German Jews around him, swallowing down their beer; and suddenly he remembers. All the lost, unforgettable beauty comes back to him in that dirty place; it gets him by the throat. It got me, too.

"'Ah, God! to see the branches stir
Across the moon at Grantchester!
To smell the thrilling-sweet and rotten
Unforgettable, unforgotten
River-smell, and hear the breeze
Sobbing in the little trees.
Oh, is the water sweet and cool,
Gentle and brown, above the pool?
And laughs the immortal river still
Under the mill, under the mill?
Say, is there Beauty yet to find?
And Certainty? and Quiet kind?
Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain?—oh, yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?'"

"That's beautiful," she said, "but it hurts."

"Thank God you'll never know how it hurts, little Golden Heart in quiet gardens. But for some of us, caught like rats in the trap of the ugly fever we called living, it[Pg 248] was black torture and yet our dear delight to remember the deep meadows we had lost—to wonder if there was honey still for tea."

"Stephen, won't you tell me about it—won't that help?"

And suddenly some one else looked at her through those haunted eyes—a little boy, terrified and forsaken. "Oh, I have no right to soil you with it. But I came back to tell some one about it—I had to, I had to. I had to wait until father and Audrey went away. I knew they'd hate to see me—she was my stepmother, you know, and she always loathed me, and he never cared. In East Africa I used to stay awake at night thinking that I might die, and that no one in England would ever care—no one would know how I had loved her. It was worse than dying to think that."

"But why couldn't you come back to Green Gardens—why couldn't you make them see, Stephen?"

"Why, what was there to see? When they sent me down from Oxford for that dirty little affair, I was only nineteen—and they told me I had disgraced my name and Green Gardens and my country—and I went mad with pride and shame, and swore I'd drag their precious name through the dirt of every country in the world. And I did—and I did."

His head was buried in his arms, but Daphne heard. It seemed strange indeed to her that she felt no shrinking and no terror; only great pity for what he had lost, great grief for what he might have had. For a minute she forgot that she was Daphne, the heedless and gay-hearted, and that he was a broken and an evil man. For a minute he was a little lad, and she was his lost mother.

"Don't mind, Stephen," she whispered to him, "don't mind. Now you have come home—now it is all done with, that ugliness. Please, please don't mind."

"No, no," said the stricken voice, "you don't know, you don't know, thank God. But I swear I've paid—I swear, I swear I have. When the others used to take their dirty drugs to make them forget, they would dream of strange paradises, unknown heavens—but through the haze and mist that they brought, I would remember[Pg 249]—I would remember. The filth and the squalor and vileness would fade and dissolve—and I would see the sun-dial, with the yellow roses on it, warm in the sun, and smell the clove pinks in the kitchen border, and touch the cresses by the brook, cool and green and wet. All the sullen drums and whining flutes would sink to silence, and I would hear the little yellow-headed cousin of the vicar's singing in the twilight, singing, 'There is a lady, sweet and kind' and 'Weep you no more, sad fountains' and 'Hark, hark, the lark.' And the small painted yellow faces and the little wicked hands and perfumed fans would vanish and I would see again the gay beauty of the lady who hung above the mantel in the long drawing-room, the lady who laughed across the centuries in her white muslin frock, with eyes that matched the blue ribbon in her wind-blown curls—the lady who was as young and lovely as England, for all the years! Oh, I would remember, I would remember! It was twilight, and I was hurrying home through the dusk after tennis at the rectory; there was a bell ringing quietly somewhere and a moth flying by brushed against my face with velvet—and I could smell the hawthorn hedge glimmering white, and see the first star swinging low above the trees, and lower still, and brighter still, the lights of home.—And then before my very eyes, they would fade, they would fade, dimmer and dimmer—they would flicker and go out, and I would be back again, with tawdriness and shame and vileness fast about me—and I would pay."

"But now you have paid enough," Daphne told him. "Oh, surely, surely—you have paid enough. Now you have come home—now you can forget."

"No," said Stephen Fane. "Now I must go."

"Go?" At the small startled echo he raised his head.

"What else?" he asked. "Did you think that I would stay?"

"But I do not want you to go." Her lips were white, but she spoke very clearly.

Stephen Fane never moved but his eyes, dark and wondering, rested on her like a caress.

"Oh, my little Loveliness, what dream is this?"[Pg 250]

"You must not go away again, you must not."

"I am baser than I thought," he said, very low. "I have made you pity me, I who have forfeited your lovely pity this long time. It cannot even touch me now. I have sat here like a dark Othello telling tales to a small white Desdemona, and you, God help me, have thought me tragic and abused. You shall not think that. In a few minutes I will be gone—I will not have you waste a dream on me. Listen—there is nothing vile that I have not done—nothing, do you hear? Not clean sin, like murder—I have cheated at cards, and played with loaded dice, and stolen the rings off the fingers of an Argentine Jewess who—" His voice twisted and broke before the lovely mercy in the frightened eyes that still met his so bravely.

"But why, Stephen?"

"So that I could buy my dreams. So that I could purchase peace with little dabs of brown in a pipe-bowl, little puffs of white in the palm of my hand, little drops of liquid on a ball of cotton. So that I could drug myself with dirt—and forget the dirt and remember England."

He rose to his feet with that swift grace of his, and Daphne rose too, slowly.

"I am going now; will you walk to the gate with me?"

He matched his long step to hers, watching the troubled wonder on her small white face intently.

"How old are you, my Dryad?"

"I am seventeen."

"Seventeen! Oh, God be good to us, I had forgotten that one could be seventeen. What's that?"

He paused, suddenly alert, listening to a distant whistle, sweet on the summer air.

"Oh, that—that is Robin."

"Ah—" His smile flashed, tender and ironic. "And who is Robin?"

"He is—just Robin. He is down from Cambridge for a week, and I told him that he might walk home with me."

"Then I must be off quickly. Is he coming to this gate?"

"No, to the south one."[Pg 251]

"Listen to me, my Dryad—are you listening?" For her face was turned away.

"Yes," said Daphne.

"You are going to forget me—to forget this afternoon—to forget everything but Robin whistling through the summer twilight."

"No," said Daphne.

"Yes; because you have a very poor memory about unhappy things! You told me so. But just for a minute after I have gone, you will remember that now all is very well with me, because I have found the deep meadows—and honey still for tea—and you. You are to remember that for just one minute—will you? And now good-by—"

She tried to say the words, but she could not. For a moment he stood staring down at the white pathos of the small face, and then he turned away. But when he came to the gate, he paused and put his arms about the wall, as though he would never let it go, laying his cheek against the sun-warmed bricks, his eyes fast closed. The whistling came nearer, and he stirred, put his hand on the little painted gate, vaulted across it lightly, and was gone. She turned at Robin's quick step on the walk.

"Ready, dear? What are you staring at?"

"Nothing! Robin—Robin, did you ever hear of Stephen Fane?"

He nodded grimly.

"Do you know—do you know what he is doing now?"

"Doing now?" He stared at her blankly. "What on earth do you mean? Why, he's been dead for months—killed in the campaign in East Africa—only decent thing he ever did in his life. Why?"

Daphne never stirred. She stood quite still, staring at the painted gate. Then she said, very carefully: "Some one thought—some one thought that they had seen him—quite lately."

Robin laughed comfortingly. "No use looking so scared about it, my blessed child. Perhaps they did. The War Office made all kinds of ghastly blunders—it was a quick step from 'missing in action' to 'killed.' And he'd probably would have been jolly glad of a chance to[Pg 252] drop out quietly and have every one think he was done for."

Daphne never took her eyes from the gate. "Yes," she said quietly, "I suppose he would. Will you get my basket, Robin? I left it by the beehive. There are some cushions that belong in the East Indian room, too. The south door is open."

When he had gone, she stood shaking for a moment, listening to his footsteps die away, and then she flew to the gate, searching the twilight desperately with straining eyes. There was no one there—no one at all—but then the turn in the lane would have hidden him by now. And suddenly terror fell from her like a cloak.

She turned swiftly to the brick wall, straining up, up on tiptoes, to lay her cheek against its roughened surface, to touch it very gently with her lips. She could hear Robin whistling down the path but she did not turn. She was bidding farewell to Green Gardens—and the last adventurer.


[Pg 253]

SHE WALKS IN BEAUTY[14]

By FANNIE HURST

(From The Cosmopolitan)

By that same mausolean instinct that was Artimesia's when she mourned her dear departed in marble and hieroglyphics; by that same architectural gesture of grief which caused Jehan at Agra to erect the Taj Mahal in memory of a dead wife and a cold hearthstone, so the Bon Ton Hotel, even to the pillars with red-freckled monoliths and peacock-backed lobby chairs, making the analogy rather absurdly complete, reared its fourteen stories of "Elegantly furnished suites, all the comforts and none of the discomforts of home."

A mausoleum to the hearth. And as true to form as any that ever mourned the dynastic bones of an Augustus or a Hadrian.

It is doubtful if in all its hothouse garden of women the Hotel Bon Ton boasted a broken finger-nail or that little brash place along the forefinger that tattles so of potato peeling or asparagus scraping.

The fourteenth story, Manicure, Steam-bath, and Beauty Parlors, saw to all that. In spite of long bridge-table, lobby-divan and table d'hote séances, "tea" where the coffee was served with whipped cream and the tarts built in four tiers and mortared in mocha filling, the Bon Ton Hotel was scarcely more than an average of fourteen pounds over-weight.

Forty's silhouette, except for that cruel and irrefutable place where the throat will wattle, was almost interchangeable with eighteen's. Indeed, Bon Ton grandmothers with backs and French heels that were twenty years younger than their throats and bunions, vied with twenty's profile.[Pg 254]

Whistler's kind of mother, full of sweet years that were richer because she had dwelt in them, but whose eyelids were a little weary, had no place there.

Mrs. Gronauer, who occupied an outside, southern-exposure suite of five rooms and three baths, jazz-danced on the same cabaret floor with her granddaughters.

Fads for the latest personal accoutrements gripped the Bon Ton in seasonal epidemics.

The permanent wave swept it like a tidal one.

The beaded bag, cunningly contrived, needleful by needleful, from little colored strands of glass caviar, glittered its hour.

Filet lace came then, sheerly, whole yokes of it for crepe de Chine nightgowns and dainty scalloped edges for camisoles.

Mrs. Samstag made six of the nightgowns that winter, three for herself and three for her daughter. Peach-blowy pink ones with lace yokes that were scarcely more to the skin than the print of a wave edge running up sand, and then little frills of pink satin ribbon, caught up here and there with the most delightful and unconvincing little blue satin rosebuds.

It was bad for her neuralgic eye, the meanderings of the filet pattern, but she liked the delicate threadiness of the handiwork, and Mr. Latz liked watching her.

There you have it! Straight through the lacy mesh of the filet to the heart interest!

Mr. Louis Latz, who was too short, slightly too stout, and too shy of likely length of swimming arm ever to have figured in any woman's inevitable visualization of her ultimate Leander, liked, fascinatedly, to watch Mrs. Samstag's nicely manicured fingers at work. He liked them passive, too. Best of all, he would have preferred to feel them between his own, but that had never been.

Nevertheless, that desire was capable of catching him unawares. That very morning as he had stood, in his sumptuous bachelor's apartment, strumming on one of the windows that overlooked an expensive tree and lake vista of Central Park, he had wanted very suddenly and very badly to feel those fingers in his and to kiss down on them. He liked their taper and the rosy pointedness, those fingers,[Pg 255] and the dry, neat way they had of slipping in between the threads.

On this, one of a hundred such typical evenings in the Bon Ton lobby, Mr. Latz, sighing out a satisfaction of his inner man, sat himself down on a red velvet chair opposite Mrs. Samstag. His knees wide-spread, taxed his knife-pressed gray trousers to their very last capacity, but he sat back in none the less evident comfort, building his fingers up into a little chapel.

"Well, how's Mr. Latz this evening?" asked Mrs. Samstag, her smile encompassing the question.

"If I was any better I couldn't stand it"—relishing her smile and his reply.

The Bon Ton had just dined, too well, from fruit-flip à la Bon Ton, mulligatawny soup, filet of sole, sauté, choice of, or both, Poulette émincé and spring lamb grignon and on through to fresh strawberry ice-cream in fluted paper boxes, petit fours and demi-tasse. Groups of carefully corseted women stood now beside the invitational plush divans and peacock chairs, paying twenty minutes after-dinner standing penance. Men with Wall Street eyes and blood pressure, slid surreptitious celluloid toothpicks, and gathered around the cigar stand. Orchestra music flickered. Young girls, the traditions of demure sixteen hanging by one inch shoulder-straps and who could not walk across a hardwood floor without sliding the last three steps, teetered in bare arm-in-arm groups, swapping persiflage with pimply, patent-leather haired young men who were full of nervous excitement and eager to excel in return badinage.

Bell hops scurried with folding tables. Bridge games formed.

The theater group got off, so to speak. Showy women and show-off men. Mrs. Gronauer, in a full length mink coat that enveloped her like a squaw, a titillation of diamond aigrettes in her Titianed hair and an aftermath of scent as tangible as the trail of a wounded shark, emerged from the elevator with her son and daughter-in-law.

"Foi!" said Mr. Latz, by way of—somewhat unduly perhaps—expressing his own kind of cognizance of the scented trail.[Pg 256]

"Fleur de printemps," said Mrs. Samstag in quick olfactory analysis. "Eight ninety-eight an ounce." Her nose crawling up to what he thought the cunning perfection of a sniff.

"Used to it from home—not? She is not. Believe me, I knew Max Gronauer when he first started in the produce business in Jersey City and the only perfume he had was seventeen cents a pound, not always fresh killed at that. Cold storage de printemps."

"Max Gronauer died just two months after my husband," said Mrs. Samstag, tucking away into her beaded hand-bag her filet lace handkerchief, itself guilty of a not inexpensive attar.

"Thu-thu," clucked Mr. Latz for want of a fitting retort.

"Heigh-ho! I always say we have so little in common, me and Mrs. Gronauer. She revokes so in bridge, and I think it's terrible for a grandmother to blondine so red; but we've both been widows for almost eight years. Eight years," repeated Mrs. Samstag on a small scented sigh.

He was inordinately sensitive to these allusions, reddening and wanting to seem appropriate.

"Poor, poor little woman!"

"Heigh-ho," she said, and again, "Heigh-ho."

It was about the eyes that Mrs. Samstag showed most plainly whatever inroads into her clay the years might have gained. There were little dark areas beneath them like smeared charcoal and two unrelenting sacs that threatened to become pouchy.

Their effect was not so much one of years, but they gave Mrs. Samstag, in spite of the only slightly plump and really passable figure, the look of one out of health.

What ailed her was hardly organic. She was the victim of periodic and raging neuralgic fires that could sweep the right side of her head and down into her shoulder blade with a great crackling and blazing of nerves. It was not unusual for her daughter Alma to sit up the one or two nights that it could endure, unfailing, through the wee hours, with hot applications.

For a week sometimes, these attacks heralded their comings with little jabs, like the pricks of an exploring[Pg 257] needle. Then the under-eyes began to look their muddiest. They were darkening now and she put up two fingers with little pressing movement to her temple.

"You're a great little woman," reiterated Mr. Latz, rather riveting even Mrs. Samstag's suspicion that here was no great stickler for variety of expression.

"And a great sufferer, too," he said, noting the pressing fingers.

She colored under this delightful impeachment.

"I wouldn't wish one of my neuralgia spells to my worst enemy, Mr. Latz."

"If you were mine—I mean—if—the—say—was mine, I wouldn't stop until I had you to every specialist in Europe. I know a thing or two about those fellows over there. Some of them are wonders."

Mrs. Samstag looked off, her profile inclined to lift and fall as if by little pulleys of emotion.

"That's easier said than done, Mr. Latz, by a—a widow who wants to do right by her grown daughter and living so—high since the war."

"I—I—" said Mr. Latz, leaping impulsively forward on the chair that was as tightly upholstered in effect as he in his modish suit, then clutching himself there as if he had caught the impulse on the fly—"I just wish I could help."

"Oh!" she said, and threw up a swift, brown look from the lace making.

He laughed, but from nervousness.

"My little mother was an ailer too."

"That's me, Mr. Latz. Not sick—just ailing. I always say that it's ridiculous that a woman in such perfect health as I am should be such a sufferer."

"Same with her and her joints."

"Why, I can outdo Alma when it comes to dancing down in the grill with the young people of an evening, or shopping."

"More like sisters than any mother and daughter I ever saw."

"Mother and daughter, but which is which from the back, some of my friends put it," said Mrs. Samstag, not without a curve to her voice, then hastily: "But the best[Pg 258] child, Mr. Latz. The best that ever lived. A regular little mother to me in my spells."

"Nice girl, Alma."

"It snowed so the day of—my husband's funeral. Why, do you know that up to then I never had an attack of neuralgia in my life. Didn't even know what a headache was. That long drive. That windy hill-top with two men to keep me from jumping into the grave after him. Ask Alma. That's how I care when I care. But of course, as the saying is, time heals. But that's how I got my first attack. Intenseness is what the doctors called it. I'm terribly intense."

"I—guess when a woman like you—cares like—you—cared, it's not much use hoping you would ever—care again. That's about the way of it, ain't it?"

If he had known it, there was something about his own intensity of expression to inspire mirth. His eyebrows lifted to little gothic arches of anxiety, a rash of tiny perspiration broke out over his blue shaved face and as he sat on the edge of his chair, it seemed that inevitably the tight sausage-like knees must push their way through mere fabric.

"That's about the way of it, ain't it?" he said again into the growing silence.

"I—when a woman cares for—a man like—I did—Mr. Latz, she'll never be happy until—she cares again—like that. I always say, once an affectionate nature, always an affectionate nature."

"You mean," he said, leaning forward the imperceptible half-inch that was left of chair, "you mean—me?"

The smell of bay rum came out greenly then as the moisture sprang out on his scalp.

"I—I'm a home woman, Mr. Latz. You can put a fish in water but you cannot make him swim. That's me and hotel life."

At this somewhat cryptic apothegm Mr. Latz's knee touched Mrs. Samstag's, so that he sprang back full of nerves at what he had not intended.

"Marry me, Carrie," he said more abruptly than he might have, without the act of that knee to immediately justify.[Pg 259]

She spread the lace out on her lap.

Ostensibly to the hotel lobby, they were casual as, "My mulligatawny soup was cold tonight" or "Have you heard the new one that Al Jolson pulls at the Winter Garden?" But actually, the roar was high in Mrs. Samstag's ears and he could feel the plethoric red rushing in flashes over his body.

"Marry me, Carrie," he said, as if to prove that his stiff lips could repeat their incredible feat.

With a woman's talent for them, her tears sprang.

"Mr. Latz—"

"Louis," he interpolated, widely eloquent of posture.

"You're proposing—Louis!" She explained rather than asked, and placed her hand to her heart so prettily that he wanted to crush it there with his kisses.

"God bless you for knowing it so easy, Carrie. A young girl would make it so hard. It's just what has kept me from asking you weeks ago, this getting it said. Carrie, will you?"

"I'm a widow, Mr. Latz—Louis—"

"Loo—"

"L—Loo. With a grown daughter. Not one of those merry widows you read about."

"That's me! A bachelor on top but a home-man underneath. Why, up to five years ago, Carrie, while the best little mother a man ever had was alive, I never had eyes for a woman or—"

"It's common talk what a grand son you were to her, Mr. La—Louis—"

"Loo!"

"Loo."

"I don't want to seem to brag, Carrie, but you saw the coat that just walked out on Mrs. Gronauer? My little mother, she was a humpback, Carrie, not a real one, but all stooped from the heavy years when she was helping my father to get his start. Well, anyway, that little stooped back was one of the reasons why I was so anxious to make it up to her. Y'understand?"

"Yes—Loo."

"But you saw that mink coat? Well, my little mother, three years before she died, was wearing one like that in[Pg 260] sable. Real Russian. Set me back eighteen thousand, wholesale, and she never knew different than that it cost eighteen hundred. Proudest moment of my life when I helped my little old mother into her own automobile in that sable coat."

"I had some friends lived in the Grenoble Apartments when you did—the Adelbergs. They used to tell me how it hung right down to her heels and she never got into the auto that she didn't pick it up so as not to sit on it."

"That there coat is packed away in cold storage, now, Carrie, waiting, without me exactly knowing why, I guess, for—the one little woman in the world besides her I would let so much as touch its hem."

Mrs. Samstag's lips parted, her teeth showing through like light.

"Oh," she said, "sable. That's my fur, Loo. I've never owned any, but ask Alma if I don't stop to look at it in every show window. Sable!"

"Carrie—would you—could you—I'm not what you would call a youngster in years, I guess, but forty-four ain't—"

"I'm—forty-one, Louis. A man like you could have younger."

"No. That's what I don't want. In my lonesomeness, after my mother's death, I thought once that maybe a young girl from the West, nice girl with her mother from Ohio—but I—funny thing, now I come to think about it—I never once mentioned my little mother's sable coat to her. I couldn't have satisfied a young girl like that or her me, Carrie, any more than I could satisfy Alma. It was one of those mama-made matches that we got into because we couldn't help it and out of it before it was too late. No, no, Carrie, what I want is a woman near to my own age."

"Loo, I—I couldn't start in with you even with the one little lie that gives every woman a right to be a liar. I'm forty-three, Louis—nearer to forty-four. You're not mad, Loo?"

"God love it! If that ain't a little woman for you! Mad? Just doing that little thing with me raises your stock fifty per cent."[Pg 261]

"I'm—that way."

"We're a lot alike, Carrie. At heart, I'm a home man, Carrie, and unless I'm pretty much off my guess, you are, too—I mean a home woman. Right?"

"Me all over, Loo. Ask Alma if—"

"I've got the means, too, Carrie, to give a woman a home to be proud of."

"Just for fun, ask Alma, Loo, if one year since her father's death I haven't said, 'Alma, I wish I had the heart to go back housekeeping.'"

"I knew it!"

"But I ask you, Louis, what's been the incentive? Without a man in the house I wouldn't have the same interest. That first winter after my husband died I didn't even have the heart to take the summer-covers off the furniture. You can believe me or not, but half the time with just me to eat it, I wouldn't bother with more than a cold snack for supper and every one knew what a table we used to set. But with no one to come home evenings expecting a hot meal—"

"You poor little woman. I know how it is. Why, if I used to so much as telephone that I couldn't get home for supper right away I knew my little mother would turn out the gas under what was cooking and not eat enough herself to keep a bird alive."

"Housekeeping is no life for a woman alone. On the other hand, Mr. Latz—Louis—Loo, on my income, and with a daughter growing up, and naturally anxious to give her the best, it hasn't been so easy. People think I'm a rich widow and with her father's memory to consider and a young lady daughter, naturally I let them think it, but on my seventy-four hundred a year it has been hard to keep up appearances in a hotel like this. Not that I think you think I'm a rich widow, but just the same, that's me every time. Right out with the truth from the start."

"It shows you're a clever little manager to be able to do it."

"We lived big and spent big while my husband lived. He was as shrewd a jobber in knit underwear as the business ever saw, but—well, you know how it is. Pneumonia.[Pg 262] I always say he wore himself out with conscientiousness."

"Maybe you don't believe it, Carrie, but it makes me happy what you just said about money. It means I can give you things you couldn't afford for yourself. I don't say this for publication, Carrie, but in Wall Street alone, outside of my brokerage business, I cleared eighty-six thousand last year. I can give you the best. You deserve it, Carrie. Will you say yes?"

"My daughter, Loo. She's only eighteen, but she's my shadow—I lean on her so."

"A sweet, dutiful girl like Alma would be the last to stand in her mother's light."

"She's my only. We're different natured. Alma's a Samstag through and through, quiet, reserved. But she's my all, Louis. I love my baby too much to—to marry where she wouldn't be as welcome as the day itself. She's precious to me, Louis."

"Why, of course. You wouldn't be you if she wasn't. You think I would want you to feel different?"

"I mean—Louis—no matter where I go, more than with most children, she's part of me, Loo. I—why that child won't so much as go to spend the night with a girl friend away from me. Her quiet ways don't show it, but Alma has character! You wouldn't believe it, Louis, how she takes care of me."

"Why, Carrie, the first thing we pick out in our new home will be a room for her."

"Loo!"

"Not that she will want it long the way I see that young rascal Friedlander sits up to her. A better young fellow and a better business head you couldn't pick for her. Didn't that youngster go out to Dayton the other day and land a contract for the surgical fittings for a big new hospital out there before the local firms even rubbed the sleep out of their eyes? I have it from good authority, Friedlander & Sons doubled their excess-profits tax last year."

A white flash of something that was almost fear seemed to strike Mrs. Samstag into a rigid pallor.

"No! No! I'm not like most mothers, Louis, for marrying their daughters off. I want her with me. If marrying her off is your idea, it's best you know it now in the begin[Pg 263]ning. I want my little girl with me—I have to have my little girl with me!"

He was so deeply moved that his eyes were moist.

"Why, Carrie, every time you open your mouth, you only prove to me further what a grand little woman you are."

"You'll like Alma, when you get to know her, Louis."

"Why, I do now. Always have said she's a sweet little thing."

"She is quiet and hard to get acquainted with at first, but that is reserve. She's not forward like most young girls nowadays. She's the kind of a child that would rather sit upstairs evenings with a book or her sewing than here in the lobby. She's there now."

"Give me that kind every time, in preference to all these gay young chickens that know more they oughtn't to know about life before they start than my little mother did when she finished."

"But do you think that girl will go to bed before I come up? Not a bit of it. She's been my comforter and my salvation in my troubles. More like the mother, I sometimes tell her, and me the child. If you want me, Louis, it's got to be with her too. I couldn't give up my baby—not my baby."

"Why, Carrie, have your baby to your heart's content. She's got to be a fine girl to have you for a mother and now it will be my duty to please her as a father. Carrie will you have me?"

"Oh, Louis—Loo!"

"Carrie, my dear!"

And so it was that Carrie Samstag and Louis Latz came into their betrothal.

None the less, it was with some misgivings and red lights burning high on her cheek-bones that Mrs. Samstag, at just after ten that evening, turned the knob of the door that entered into her little sitting-room, but in this case, a room redeemed by an upright piano with a green silk and gold-lace shaded floor lamp glowing by it. Two gilt-framed photographs and a cluster of ivory knickknacks on the white mantel. A heap of hand-made cushions. Art editions of the gift-poets and some circulating library[Pg 264] novels. A fireside chair, privately owned and drawn up, ironically enough, beside the gilded radiator, its head rest worn from kindly service to Mrs. Samstag's neuralgic brow.

From the nest of cushions in the circle of lamp glow, Alma sprang up at her mother's entrance. Sure enough she had been reading and her cheek was a little flushed and crumpled from where it has been resting in the palm of her hand.

"Mama," she said, coming out of the circle of light and switching on the ceiling bulbs, "you stayed down so late."

There was a slow prettiness to Alma. It came upon you like a little dawn, palely at first and then pinkening to a pleasant consciousness that her small face was heart-shaped and clear as an almond, that the pupils of her gray eyes were deep and dark like cisterns and to young Leo Friedlander, rather apt his comparison, too, her mouth was exactly the shape of a small bow that had shot its quiverful of arrows into his heart.

And instead of her eighteen she looked sixteen. There was that kind of timid adolescence about her, yet when she said, "Mama, you stayed down so late," the bang of a little pistol-shot was back somewhere in her voice.

"Why—Mr. Latz—and I—sat and talked."

An almost imperceptible nerve was dancing against Mrs. Samstag's right temple. Alma could sense, rather than see the ridge of pain.

"You're all right, mama?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Samstag, and plumped rather than sat herself down on a divan, its naked greenness relieved by a thrown scarf of black velvet, stenciled in gold.

"You shouldn't have remained down so long if your head is hurting," said her daughter, and quite casually took up her mother's beaded hand-bag where it had fallen in her lap, but her fingers feeling lightly and furtively as if for the shape of its contents.

"Stop that," said Mrs. Samstag, jerking it back, a dull anger in her voice.

"Come to bed, mama. If you're in for neuralgia, I'll fix the electric pad."

Suddenly Mrs. Samstag shot out her arm, rather slim[Pg 265] looking in the invariable long sleeve she affected, drawing Alma back toward her by the ribbon sash of her pretty chiffon frock.

"Alma, be good to mama tonight! Sweetheart—be good to her."

The quick suspecting fear that had motivated Miss Samstag's groping along the beaded hand-bag shot out again in her manner.

"Mama—you haven't?"

"No, no. Don't nag me. It's something else, Alma. Something mama is very happy about."

"Mama, you've broken your promise again."

"No. No. No. Alma, I've been a good mother to you, haven't I?"

"Yes, mama, yes, but what—"

"Whatever else I've been hasn't been my fault—you've always blamed Heyman."

"Mama, I don't understand."

"I've caused you worry, Alma—terrible worry. But everything is changed now. Mama's going to turn over a new leaf that everything is going to be happiness in this family."

"Dearest, if you knew how happy it makes me to hear you say that."

"Alma, look at me."

"Mama, you—you frighten me."

"You like Louis Latz, don't you, Alma?"

"Why yes, mama. Very much."

"We can't all be young and handsome like Leo, can we?"

"You mean—"

"I mean that finer and better men than Louis Latz aren't lying around loose. A man who treated his mother like a queen and who worked himself up from selling newspapers on the street to a millionaire."

"Mama?"

"Yes, baby. He asked me tonight. Come to me, Alma, stay with me close. He asked me tonight."

"What?"

"You know. Haven't you seen it coming for weeks? I have."[Pg 266]

"Seen what?"

"Don't make mama come out and say it. For eight years I've been as grieving a widow to a man as a woman could be. But I'm human, Alma, and he—asked me tonight."

There was a curious pallor came over Miss Samstag's face, as if smeared there by a hand.

"Asked you what?"

"Alma, it don't mean I'm not true to your father as I was the day I buried him in that blizzard back there, but could you ask for a finer, steadier man than Louis Latz? It looks out of his face."

"Mama, you—what—are you saying?"

"Alma?"

There lay a silence between them that took on the roar of a simoon and Miss Samstag jumped then from her mother's embrace, her little face stiff with the clench of her mouth.

"Mama—you—no—no. Oh, mama—Oh—"

A quick spout of hysteria seemed to half strangle Mrs. Samstag, so that she slanted backward, holding her throat.

"I knew it. My own child against me. Oh, God! Why was I born? My own child against me!"

"Mama—you can't marry him. You can't marry—anybody."

"Why can't I marry anybody? Must I be afraid to tell my own child when a good man wants to marry me and give us both a good home? That's my thanks for making my child my first consideration—before I accepted him."

"Mama, you didn't accept him. Darling, you wouldn't do a—thing like that!"

Miss Samstag's voice thickened up then, quite frantically, into a little scream that knotted in her throat and she was suddenly so small and stricken, that with a gasp for fear she might crumple up where she stood, Mrs. Samstag leaned forward, catching her again by the sash.

"Alma!"

It was only for an instant, however. Suddenly Miss Samstag was her coolly firm little self, the bang of authority back in her voice.

"You can't marry Louis Latz."[Pg 267]

"Can't I? Watch me."

"You can't do that to a nice, deserving fellow like him!"

"Do what?"

"That!"

Then Mrs. Samstag threw up both her hands to her face, rocking in an agony of self-abandon that was rather horrid to behold.

"Oh, God, why don't you put me out of it all? My misery! I'm a leper to my own child!"

"Oh—mama—"

"Yes, a leper. Hold my misfortune against me. Let my neuralgia and Doctor Heyman's prescription to cure it ruin my life. Rob me of what happiness with a good man there is left in it for me. I don't want happiness. Don't expect it. I'm here just to suffer. My daughter will see to that. Oh, I know what is on your mind. You want to make me out something—terrible—because Dr. Heyman once taught me how to help myself a little when I'm nearly wild with neuralgia. Those were doctor's orders. I'll kill myself before I let you make me out something terrible. I never even knew what it was before the doctor gave his prescription. I'll kill—you hear—kill myself."

She was hoarse, she was tear splotched so that her lips were slippery with them, and while the ague of her passion shook her, Alma, her own face swept white and her voice guttered with restraint, took her mother into the cradle of her arms, and rocked and hushed her there.

"Mama, mama, what are you saying? I'm not blaming you, sweetheart. I blame him—Dr. Heyman—for prescribing it in the beginning. I know your fight. How brave it is. Even when I'm crossest with you, I realize. Alma's fighting with you, dearest, every inch of the way until—you're cured! And then—maybe—some day—anything you want! But not now. Mama, you wouldn't marry Louis Latz now!"

"I would. He's my cure. A good home with a good man and money enough to travel and forget myself. Alma, Mama knows she's not an angel—sometimes when she thinks what she's put her little girl through this last year,[Pg 268] she just wants to go out on the hill-top where she caught the neuralgia and lay down beside that grave out there and—"

"Mama, don't talk like that!"

"But now's my chance, Alma, to get well. I've too much worry in this big hotel trying to keep up big expenses on little money and—"

"I know it, mama. That's why I'm so in favor of finding ourselves a sweet, tiny little apartment with kitch—"

"No! Your father died with the world thinking him a rich man and it will never find out from me that he wasn't. I won't be the one to humiliate his memory—a man who enjoyed keeping up appearances the way he did. Oh, Alma, Alma, I'm going to get well now. I promise. So help me God, if I ever give in to—to it again."

"Mama, please. For God's sake, you've said the same thing so often only to break your promise."

"I've been weak, Alma; I don't deny it. But nobody who hasn't been tortured as I have, can realize what it means to get relief just by—"

"Mama, you're not playing fair this minute. That's the frightening part. It isn't only the neuralgia any more. It's just desire. That's what's so terrible to me, mama. The way you have been taking it these last months. Just from—desire."

Mrs. Samstag buried her face, shuddering down into her hands.

"Oh, God, my own child against me!"

"No, mama. Why, sweetheart, nobody knows better than I do how sweet and good you are when you are away—from it. We'll fight it together and win! I'm not afraid. It's been worse this last month because you've been nervous, dear. I understand now. You see, I—didn't dream of you and—Louis Latz. We'll forget—we'll take a little two room apartment of our own, darling, and get your mind on housekeeping and I'll take up stenography or social ser—"

"What good am I anyway? No good. In my own way. In my child's way. A young man like Leo Friedlander crazy to propose and my child can't let him come to the point because she is afraid to leave her mother. Oh, I[Pg 269] know—I know more than you think I do. Ruining your life! That's what I am, and mine too!"

Tears now ran in hot cascades down Alma's cheeks.

"Why, mama, as if I cared about anything—just so you—get well."

"I know what I've done. Ruined my baby's life and now—"

"No!"

"Then help me, Alma. Louis wants me for his happiness. I want him for mine. Nothing will cure me like having a good man to live up to. The minute I find myself getting the craving for—it—don't you see, baby, fear that a good husband like Louis could find out such a thing about me would hold me back. See, Alma?"

"That's a wrong basis to start married life on—"

"I'm a woman who needs a man to baby her, Alma. That's the cure for me. Not to let me would be the same as to kill me. I've been a bad, weak woman, Alma, to be so afraid that maybe Leo Friedlander would steal you away from me. We'll make it a double wedding, baby!"

"Mama, mama, I'll never leave you."

"All right then, so you won't think your new father and me want to get rid of you. The first thing we'll pick out in our new home, he said it himself tonight, is Alma's room."

"I tell you it's wrong. It's wrong!"

"The rest with Leo can come later, after I've proved to you for a little while that I'm cured. Alma, don't cry! It's my cure. Just think, a good man. A beautiful home to take my mind off—worry. He said tonight he wants to spend a fortune if necessary to cure—my neuralgia."

"Oh, mama, mama, if it were only—that!"

"Alma, if I promise on my—my life! I never felt the craving so little as I do—now."

"You've said that before—and before."

"But never, with such a wonderful reason. It's the beginning of a new life. I know it. I'm cured!"

"Mama, if I thought you meant it."

"I do. Alma, look at me. This very minute I've a real jumping case of neuralgia. But I wouldn't have[Pg 270] anything for it except the electric pad. I feel fine. Strong! Alma, the bad times with me are over."

"Oh, mama, mama, how I pray you're right."

"You'll thank God for the day that Louis Latz proposed to me. Why, I'd rather cut off my right hand than marry a man who could ever live to learn such a—thing about me."

"But it's not fair. We'll have to explain to him, dear that we hope you're cured now, but—"

"If you do—if you do—I'll kill myself! I won't live to bear that! You don't want me cured. You want to get rid of me, to degrade me until I kill myself! If I was ever anything else than what I am now—to Louis Latz—anything but his ideal—Alma, you won't tell! Kill me, but don't tell—don't tell!"

"Why, you know I wouldn't, sweetheart, if it is so terrible to you. Never."

"Say it again."

"Never."

"As if it hasn't been terrible enough that you should have to know. But it's over, Alma. Your bad times with me are finished. I'm cured."

"But wait a little while, mama, just a year."

"No. No."

"A few months."

"Now. He wants it soon. The sooner the better at our age. Alma, mama's cured! What happiness. Kiss me, darling. So help me God, to keep my promises to you. Cured, Alma, cured."

And so in the end, with a smile on her lips that belied almost to herself the little run of fear through her heart, Alma's last kiss to her mother that night was the long one of felicitation.

And because love, even the talk of it, is so gamey on the lips of woman to woman, they lay in bed that night heart-beat to heart-beat, the electric pad under her pillow warm to the hurt of Mrs. Samstag's brow and talked, these two, deep into the stillness of the hotel night.

"My little baby, who's helped me through such bad times, it's your turn now, Alma, to be care-free, like other girls."[Pg 271]

"I'll never leave you mama, even if—he shouldn't want me."

"He will, darling, and does! Those were his words. 'A room for Alma.'"

"I'll never leave you!"

"You will! Much as Louis and me want you with us every minute, we won't stand in your way! That's another reason I'm so happy, Alma. I'm not alone, any more now. Leo's so crazy over you, just waiting for the chance to—pop—"

"Shh-sh-h-h."

"Don't tremble so, darling. Mama knows. He told Mrs. Gronauer last night when she was joking him to buy a ten dollar carnation for the Convalescent Home Bazaar, that he would only take one if it was white, because little white flowers reminded him of Alma Samstag."

"Oh, mama—"

"Say, it is as plain as the nose on your face. He can't keep his eyes off you. He sells goods to Doctor Gronauer's clinic and he says the same thing about him. It makes me so happy, Alma, to think you won't have to hold him off any more."

"I'll never leave you. Never!"

None the less she was the first to drop off to sleep, pink, there in the dark, with the secret of her blushes.

Then for Mrs. Samstag the travail set in. Lying there with her raging head tossing this way and that on the heated pillow, she heard with cruel awareness, the minutiæ, all the faint but clarified noises that can make a night seem so long. The distant click of the elevator, depositing a night-hawk. A plong of the bed spring. Somebody's cough. A train's shriek. The jerk of plumbing. A window being raised. That creak which lies hidden in every darkness, like a mysterious knee-joint. By three o'clock she was a quivering victim to these petty concepts, and her pillow so explored that not a spot but what was rumpled to the aching lay of her cheek.

Once Alma, as a rule supersensitive to her mother's slightest unrest, floated up for the moment out of her young sleep, but she was very drowsy and very tired[Pg 272] and dream-tides were almost carrying her back, as she said:

"Mama, are you all right?"

Simulating sleep, Mrs. Samstag lay tense until her daughter's breathing resumed its light cadence.

Then at four o'clock, the kind of nervousness that Mrs. Samstag had learned to fear, began to roll over her in waves, locking her throat and curling her toes and her fingers, and her tongue up dry against the roof of her mouth.

She must concentrate now—must steer her mind away from the craving!

Now then: West End Avenue. Louis liked the apartments there. Luxurious. Quiet. Residential. Circassian walnut or mahogany dining room? Alma should decide. A baby-grand piano. Later to be Alma's engagement gift from, "Mama and—Papa." No, "Mama and Louis." Better so.

How her neck and her shoulder-blade, and now her elbow, were flaming with the pain! She cried a little, far back in her throat with the small hissing noise of a steam-radiator, and tried a poor futile scheme for easing her head in the crotch of her elbow.

Now then: She must knit Louis some neckties. The silk-sweater-stitch would do. Married in a traveling-suit. One of those smart dark-blue twills like Mrs. Gronauer Junior's. Top-coat—sable. Louis' hair thinning. Tonic. Oh God, let me sleep. Please, God. The wheeze rising in her closed throat. That little threatening desire that must not shape itself! It darted with the hither and thither of a bee bumbling against a garden wall. No. No. Ugh! The vast chills of nervousness. The flaming, the craving chills of desire!

Just this last giving-in. This once. To be rested and fresh for him tomorrow. Then never again. The little beaded handbag. Oh God, help me. That burning ache to rest and to uncurl of nervousness. All the thousand, thousand little pores of her body, screaming each one, to be placated. They hurt the entire surface of her. That great storm at sea in her head; the crackle of lightning down that arm[Pg 273]

Let me see—Circassian walnut—baby-grand—the pores demanding, crying—shrieking—

It was then that Carrie Samstag, even in her lovely pink night-dress, a crone with pain, and the cables out dreadfully in her neck, began by infinitesimal processes to swing herself gently to the side of the bed, unrelaxed inch by unrelaxed inch, softly and with the cunning born of travail.

It was actually a matter of fifteen minutes, that breathless swing toward the floor, the mattress rising after her with scarcely a whisper of its stuffings and her two bare feet landing patly into the pale blue room-slippers, there beside the bed.

Then her bag, the beaded one on the end of the divan. The slow taut feeling for it and the floor that creaked twice, starting the sweat out over her.

It was finally after more tortuous saving of floor creaks and the interminable opening and closing of a door that Carrie Samstag, the beaded bag in her hand, found herself face to face with herself in the mirror of the bathroom medicine chest.

She was shuddering with one of the hot chills, the needle and little glass piston out of the hand-bag and with a dry little insuck of breath, pinching up little areas of flesh from her arm, bent on a good firm perch, as it were.

There were undeniable pock-marks on Mrs. Samstag's right forearm. Invariably it sickened her to see them. Little graves. Oh, oh, little graves. For Alma. Herself. And now Louis. Just once. Just one more little grave—

And Alma, answering her somewhere down in her heart-beats: "No, mama, no, mama. No. No. No."

But all the little pores gaping. Mouths! The pinching up of the skin. Here, this little clean and white area.

"No, mama. No, mama. No. No. No."

"Just once, darling?" Oh—oh—graves for Alma and Louis. No. No. No.

Somehow, some way, with all the little mouths still parched and gaping and the clean and quite white area unblemished, Mrs. Samstag found her way back to bed. She was in a drench of sweat when she got there and the conflagration of neuralgia curiously enough, was now[Pg 274] roaring in her ears so that it seemed to her she could hear her pain.

Her daughter lay asleep, with her face to the wall, her flowing hair spread in a fan against the pillow and her body curled up cozily. The remaining hours of the night, in a kind of waking faint she could never find the words to describe, Mrs. Samstag, with that dreadful dew of her sweat constantly out over her, lay with her twisted lips to the faint perfume of that fan of Alma's flowing hair her toes curling in and out. Out and in. Toward morning she slept. Actually, sweetly and deeply as if she could never have done with deep draughts of it.

She awoke to the brief patch of sunlight that smiled into their apartment for about eight minutes of each forenoon.

Alma was at the pretty chore of lifting the trays from a hamper of roses. She places a shower of them on her mother's coverlet with a kiss, a deeper and dearer one somehow, this morning.

There was a card and Mrs. Samstag read it and laughed:

Good morning, Carrie.

Louis.

They seemed to her, poor dear, these roses, to be pink with the glory of the coming of the dawn.


On the spur of the moment and because the same precipitate decisions that determined Louis Latz's successes in Wall Street determined him here, they were married the following Thursday in Greenwich, Connecticut, without even allowing Carrie time for the blue twill traveling suit. She wore her brown velvet instead, looking quite modish, and a sable wrap, gift of the groom, lending genuine magnificence.

Alma was there, of course, in a beautiful fox scarf, also gift of the groom, and locked in a white kind of tensity that made her seem more than ever like a little white flower to Leo Friedlander, the sole other attendant, and who during the ceremony yearned at her with his gaze. But her eyes were squeezed tight against his, as if to forbid herself the consciousness that life seemed suddenly so richly sweet to her—oh, so richly sweet![Pg 275]

There was a time during the first months of the married life of Louis and Carrie Latz, when it seemed to Alma, who in the sanctity of her lovely little ivory bedroom all appointed in rose-enamel toilet trifles, could be prayerful with the peace of it, that the old Carrie, who could come pale and terrible out of her drugged nights, belonged to some grimacing and chimeric past. A dead past that had buried its dead and its hatchet.

There had been a month at Hot Springs in the wintergreen heart of Virginia, and whatever Louis may have felt in his heart, of his right to the privacy of these honeymoon days, was carefully belied on his lips, and at Alma's depriving him now and then of his wife's company, packing her off to rest when he wanted a climb with her up a mountain slope or a drive over piny roads, he could still smile and pinch her cheek.

"You're stingy to me with my wife, Alma," he said to her upon one of these provocations. "I don't believe she's got a daughter at all, but a little policeman instead."

And Alma smiled back, out of the agony of her constant consciousness that she was insinuating her presence upon him, and resolutely, so that her fear for him should always subordinate her fear of him, she bit down her sensitiveness in proportion to the rising tide of his growing, but still politely held in check, bewilderment.

One day, these first weeks of their marriage, because she saw the dreaded signal of the muddy pools under her mother's eyes and the little quivering nerve beneath the temple, she shut him out of her presence for a day and a night, and when he came fuming up every few minutes from the hotel veranda, miserable and fretting, met him at the closed door of her mother's darkened room and was adamant.

"It won't hurt if I tiptoe in and sit with her," he pleaded.

"No, Louis. No one knows how to get her through these spells like I do. The least excitement will only prolong her pain."

He trotted off then down the hotel corridor with a strut to his resentment that was bantam and just a little fighty.[Pg 276]

That night as Alma lay beside her mother, fighting sleep and watching, Carrie rolled her eyes sidewise with the plea of a stricken dog in them.

"Alma," she whispered, "for God's sake. Just this once. To tide me over. One shot—darling. Alma, if you love me?"

Later, there was a struggle between them that hardly bears relating. A lamp was overturned. But toward morning, when Carrie lay exhausted, but at rest in her daughter's arms, she kept muttering in her sleep:

"Thank you, baby. You saved me. Never leave me, Alma. Never—never—never. You saved me Alma."

And then the miracle of those next months. The return to New York. The happily busy weeks of furnishing and the unlimited gratifications of the well-filled purse. The selection of the limousine with the special body that was fearfully and wonderfully made in mulberry upholstery with mother-of-pearl caparisons. The fourteen-room apartment on West End Avenue, with four baths, drawing-room of pink brocaded walls and Carrie's Roman bathroom that was precisely as large as her old hotel sitting room, with two full length wall-mirrors, a dressing table canopied in white lace over white satin and the marble bath itself, two steps down and with the rubber curtains that swished after.

There were evenings when Carrie, who loved the tyranny of things with what must have been a survival within her of the bazaar instinct, would fall asleep almost directly after dinner her head back against her husband's shoulder, roundly tired out after a day all cluttered up with matching the blue upholstery of their bedroom with taffeta bed hangings.

Latz liked her so, with her fragrantly coiffured head, scarcely gray, back against his shoulder and with his newspapers—Wall Street journals and the comic weeklies which he liked to read—would sit an entire evening thus, moving only when his joints rebelled, and his pipe smoke carefully directed away from her face.

Weeks and weeks of this and already Louis Latz's trousers were a little out of crease and Mrs. Latz after[Pg 277] eight o'clock and under cover of a very fluffy and very expensive négligée, would unhook her stays.

Sometimes friends came in for a game of small-stake poker, but after the second month they countermanded the standing order for Saturday night musical comedy seats. So often they discovered it was pleasanter to remain at home. Indeed, during these days of household adjustment, as many as four evenings a week Mrs. Latz dozed there against her husband's shoulder, until about ten, when he kissed her awake to forage with him in the great, white porcelain refrigerator and then to bed.

And Alma. Almost, she tiptoed through these months. Not that her scorching awareness of what must have crouched low in Louis' mind ever diminished. Sometimes, although still never by word, she could see the displeasure mount in his face.

If she entered in on a tête-à-tête, as she did once, when by chance she had sniffed the curative smell of spirits of camphor on the air of a room through which her mother had passed, and came to drag her off that night to share her own lace-covered and ivory bed.

Again: upon the occasion of an impulsively planned motor trip and week-end to Lakewood, her intrusion had been so obvious.

"Want to join us, Alma?"

"O—yes—thank you, Louis."

"But I thought you and Leo were—"

"No, no, I'd rather go with you and mama, Louis."

Even her mother had smiled rather strainedly. Louis' invitation, politely uttered, had said so plainly: "Are we two never to be alone. Your mother and I?"

Oh, there was no doubt that Louis Latz was in love and with all the delayed fervor of first youth.

There was something rather throat-catching about his treatment of her mother that made Alma want to cry.

He would never tire of marveling, not alone at the wonder of her, but at the wonder that she was his.

"No man has ever been as lucky in women as I have, Carrie," he told her once in Alma's hearing. "It seemed to me that after—my little mother, there couldn't ever be another—and now you! You!"[Pg 278]

At the business of sewing some beads on a lamp-shade, Carrie looked up, her eyes dewy.

"And I felt that way about one good husband," she said, "and now I see there could be two."

Alma tiptoed out.

The third month of this, she was allowing Leo Friedlander his two evenings a week. Once to the theater in a modish little sedan car which Leo drove himself. One evening at home in the rose and mauve drawing-room. It delighted Louis and Carrie slyly to have in their friends for poker over the dining-room table these evenings, leaving the young people somewhat indirectly chaperoned until as late as midnight. Louis' attitude with Leo was one of winks, quirks, slaps on the back and the curving voice of innuendo.

"Come on in, Leo, the water's fine!"

"Louis!" This from Alma stung to crimson and not arch enough to feign that she did not understand.

"Loo, don't tease," said Carrie, smiling, but then closing her eyes as if to invoke help to want this thing to come to pass.

But Leo was frankly the lover, kept not without difficulty on the edge of his ardor. A city youth with gymnasium bred shoulders, fine, pole vaulter's length of limb and a clean tan skin that bespoke cold drubbings with Turkish towels.

And despite herself, Alma, who was not without a young girl's feelings for nice detail, could thrill to this sartorial svelteness and to the patent-leather lay of his black hair which caught the light like a polished floor.

The kind of sweetness he found in Alma he could never articulate even to himself. In some ways she seemed hardly to have the pressure of vitality to match his, but on the other hand, just that slower beat to her may have heightened his sense of prowess. His greatest delight seemed to lie in her pallid loveliness. "White Honeysuckle," he called her and the names of all the beautiful white flowers he knew. And then one night, to the rattle of poker chips from the remote dining-room, he jerked her to him without preamble, kissing her mouth down tightly against her teeth.[Pg 279]

"My sweetheart. My little, white carnation sweetheart. I won't be held off any longer. I'm going to carry you away for my little moon-flower wife."

She sprang back prettier than he had ever seen her in the dishevelment from where his embrace had dragged at her hair.

"You mustn't," she cried, but there was enough of the conquering male in him to read easily into this a mere plating over her desire.

"You can't hold me at arm's length any longer. You've maddened me for months. I love you. You love me. You do. You do," and crushed her to him, but this time his pain and his surprise genuine as she sprang back, quivering.

"You—I—mustn't!" she said, frantic to keep her lips from twisting, her little lacy fribble of a handkerchief a mere string from winding.

"Mustn't what?"

"Mustn't," was all she could repeat and not weep her words.

"Won't—I—do?"

"It's—mama."

"What?"

"You see—I—she's all alone."

"You adorable, she's got a brand-new husky husband."

"No—you don't—understand."

Then, on a thunder-clap of inspiration, hitting his knee, "I have it. Mama-baby! That's it. My girlie is a cry-baby, mama-baby!" And made to slide along the divan toward her, but up flew her two small hands, like fans.

"No," she said with the little bang back in her voice which steadied him again. "I mustn't! You see, we're so close. Sometimes it's more as if I were the mother and she my little girl."

Misery made her dumb.

"Why don't you know, dear, that your mother is better able to take care of herself than you are. She's bigger and stronger. You—you're a little white flower."

"Leo—give me time. Let me think."

"A thousand thinks, Alma, but I love you. I love you and want so terribly for you to love me back."[Pg 280]

"I—do."

"Then tell me with kisses."

Again she pressed him to arm's length.

"Please, Leo. Not yet. Let me think. Just one day. Tomorrow."

"No, no. Now."

"Tomorrow."

"When?"

"Evening."

"No, morning."

"All right Leo—tomorrow morning—"

"I'll sit up all night and count every second in every minute and every minute in every hour."

She put up her soft little fingers to his lips.

"Dear boy," she said.

And then they kissed and after a little swoon to his nearness she struggled like a caught bird and a guilty one.

"Please go, Leo," she said, "leave me alone—"

"Little mama-baby sweetheart," he said. "I'll build you a nest right next to hers. Good night, little White Flower. I'll be waiting, and remember, counting every second of every minute and every minute of every hour."

For a long time she remained where he had left her, forward on the pink divan, her head with a listening look to it, as if waiting an answer for the prayers that she sent up.

At two o'clock that morning, by what intuition she would never know, and with such leverage that she landed out of bed plump on her two feet, Alma, with all her faculties into trace like fire-horses, sprang out of sleep.

It was a matter of twenty steps across the hall. In the white tiled Roman bathroom, the muddy circles suddenly out and angry beneath her eyes, her mother was standing before one of the full-length mirrors—snickering.

There was a fresh little grave on the inside of her right fore arm.

Sometimes in the weeks that followed, a sense of the miracle of what was happening would clutch at Alma's throat like a fear.

Louis did not know.

That the old neuralgic recurrences were more frequent[Pg 281] again, yes. Already plans for a summer trip abroad, on a curative mission bent, were taking shape. There was a famous nerve specialist, the one who had worked such wonders on his little mother's cruelly rheumatic limbs, reassuringly foremost in his mind.

But except that there were not infrequent and sometimes twenty-four hour sieges when he was denied the sight of his wife, he had learned with a male's acquiescence to the frailties of the other sex, to submit, and with no great understanding of pain, to condone.

And as if to atone for these more or less frequent lapses there was something pathetic, even a little heart-breaking, in Carrie's zeal for his wellbeing. No duty too small. One night she wanted to unlace his shoes and even shine them, would have, in fact, except for his fierce catching of her into his arms and for some reason, his tonsils aching as he kissed her.

Once after a "spell" she took out every garment from his wardrobe and kissing them piece by piece, put them back again and he found her so, and they cried together, he of happiness.

In his utter beatitude, even his resentment of Alma continued to grow but slowly. Once, when after forty-eight hours she forbade him rather fiercely an entrance into his wife's room, he shoved her aside almost rudely, but at Carrie's little shriek of remonstrance from the darkened room, backed out shamefacedly and apologized next day in the conciliatory language of a tiny wrist-watch.

But a break came, as she knew and feared it must.

One evening during one of these attacks, when for two days Carrie had not appeared at the dinner table, Alma, entering when the meal was almost over, seated herself rather exhaustedly at her mother's place opposite her stepfather.

He had reached the stage when that little unconscious usurpation in itself could annoy him.

"How's your mother?" he asked, dourly for him.

"She's asleep."

"Funny. This is the third attack this month and each time it lasts longer. Confound that neuralgia."

"She's easier now."[Pg 282]

He pushed back his plate.

"Then I'll go in and sit with her while she sleeps."

She who was so fastidiously dainty of manner, half rose, spilling her soup.

"No," she said, "you mustn't! Not now!" And sat down again hurriedly, wanting not to appear perturbed.

A curious thing happened then to Louis. His lower lip came pursing out like a little shelf and a hitherto unsuspected look of pigginess fattened over his rather plump face.

"You quit butting into me and my wife's affairs, you, or get the hell out of here," he said, without changing his voice or his manner.

She placed her hand to the almost unbearable flutter of her heart.

"Louis! You mustn't talk like that to—me!"

"Don't make me say something I'll regret. You! Only take this tip, you! There's one of two things you better do. Quit trying to come between me and her or—get out."

"I—she's sick."

"Naw, she ain't. Not as sick as you make out. You're trying, God knows why, to keep us apart. I've watched you. I know your sneaking kind. Still water runs deep. You've never missed a chance since we're married to keep us apart. Shame!"

"I—she—"

"Now mark my word, if it wasn't to spare her, I'd have invited you out long ago. Haven't you got any pride?"

"I have. I have," she almost moaned and could have crumpled up there and swooned in her humiliation.

"You're not a regular girl. You're a she-devil. That's what you are! Trying to come between your mother and me. Ain't you ashamed? What is it you want?"

"Louis—I don't—"

"First you turn down a fine fellow like Leo Friedlander, so he don't come to the house any more and then you take out on us whatever is eating you, by trying to come between me and the finest woman that ever lived. Shame. Shame."

"Louis," she said. "Louis," wringing her hands in a[Pg 283] dry wash of agony, "can't you understand? She'd rather have me. It makes her nervous trying to pretend to you that she's not suffering when she is. That's all, Louis. You see, she's not ashamed to suffer before me. Why, Louis—that's all. Why should I want to come between you and her? Isn't she dearer to me than anything in the world and haven't you been the best friend to me a girl could have? That's all—Louis."

He was placated and a little sorry and did not insist further upon going into the room.

"Funny," he said. "Funny," and adjusting his spectacles, snapped open his newspaper for a lonely evening.

The one thing that perturbed Alma almost more than anything else, as the dreaded cravings grew, with each siege her mother becoming more brutish and more given to profanity, was where she obtained the drug.

The well-thumbed old doctor's prescription she had purloined even back in the hotel days, and embargo and legislation were daily making more and more furtive and prohibitive the traffic in narcotics.

Once Alma, mistakenly too, she thought later, had suspected a chauffeur of collusion with her mother and abruptly dismissed him. To Louis' rage.

"What's the idea," he said out of Carrie's hearing, of course. "Who's running this shebang anyway?"

Once after Alma had guarded her well for days, scarcely leaving her side, Carrie laughed sardonically up into her daughter's face, her eyes as glassy and without swimming fluid as a doll's.

"I get it! But wouldn't you like to know where? Yah!"

And to Alma's horror she slapped her quite roundly across the cheek.

And then one day, after a long period of quiet, when Carrie had lavished her really great wealth of contrite love upon her daughter and husband, spending on Alma and loading her with gifts of jewelry and finery to somehow express her grateful adoration of her; paying her husband the secret penance of twofold fidelity to his well-being and every whim, Alma, returning from a trip, taken reluctantly, and at her mother's bidding, down to the basement trunk room, found her gone, a modish black-[Pg 284]lace hat and the sable coat missing from the closet.

It was early afternoon, sunlit and pleasantly cold.

The first rush of panic and the impulse to dash after, stayed, she forced herself down into a chair, striving with the utmost difficulty for coherence of procedure.

Where in the half hour of her absence had her mother gone? Matinee? Impossible! Walking. Hardly probable. Upon inquiry in the kitchen neither of the maids had seen nor heard her depart. Motoring? With a hand that trembled in spite of itself, Alma telephoned the garage. Car and chauffeur were there. Incredible as it seemed, Alma, upon more than one occasion had lately been obliged to remind her mother that she was becoming careless of the old pointedly rosy hand. Manicurist? She telephoned the Bon Ton Beauty Parlor. No! Where, oh God, where? Which way to begin? That was what troubled her most. To start right, so as not to lose a precious second.

Suddenly, and for no particular reason, Alma began a hurried search through her mother's dresser-drawers of lovely personal appointments.

A one-inch square of newspaper clipping apparently gouged from the sheet with a hairpin, caught her eye from the top of one of the gold-backed hair-brushes. Dawningly, Alma read.

It described in brief detail the innovation of a newly equipped Narcotic Clinic on the Bowery below Canal Street, provided to medically administer to the pathological cravings of addicts.

Fifteen minutes later Alma emerged from the subway at Canal Street and with three blocks toward her destination ahead, started to run.

At the end of the first block she saw her mother, in the sable coat and the black-lace hat, coming toward her.

Her first impulse was to run faster and yoo-hoo, but she thought better of it and by biting her lips and digging her fingernails, was able to slow down to a casual walk.

Carrie's fur coat was flaring open and because of the quality of her attire down there where the bilge waters of the city-tide flow and eddy, stares followed her.

Once, to the stoppage of Alma's heart, she halted and said a brief word to a truckman as he crossed the sidewalk[Pg 285] with a bill of lading. He hesitated, laughed and went on.

Then she quickened her pace and went on, but as if with sense of being followed, because constantly as she walked, she jerked a step, to look back, and then again, over her shoulder.

A second time she stopped, this time to address a little nub of a woman without a hat and lugging one-sidedly a stack of men's basted waistcoats, evidently for homework in some tenement. She looked and muttered her un-understanding of whatever Carrie had to say and shambled on.

Then Mrs. Latz spied her daughter, greeting her without surprise or any particular recognition.

"Thought you could fool me! Heh, Louis? Alma."

"Mama, it's Alma. It's all right. Don't you remember, we had this appointment? Come, dear."

"No, you don't! That's a man following. Shh-h-h-h, Louis. I was fooling. I went up to him (snicker) and I said to him, 'Give you five dollars for a doctor's certificate.' That's all I said to him, or any of them. He's in a white carnation, Louis. You can find him by the—it's on his coat lapel. He's coming! Quick—"

"Mama, there's no one following. Wait, I'll call a taxi!"

"No, you don't! He tried to put me in a taxi, too. No, you don't!"

"Then the subway, dearest. You'll sit quietly beside Alma in the subway, won't you, Carrie. Alma's so tired."

Suddenly Carrie began to whimper.

"My baby! Don't let her see me. My baby. What am I good for? I've ruined her life. My precious sweetheart's life. I hit her once—Louis—in the mouth. God won't forgive me for that."

"Yes, He will, dear, if you come."

"It bled. Alma, tell him mama lost her doctor's certificate. That's all I said to him—give you five dollars for a doctor's certificate—he had a white carnation—right lapel—stingy! Quick! He's following!"

"Sweetheart, please, there's no one coming."

"Don't tell! Oh, Alma darling—mama's ruined your life. Her sweetheart baby's life."

"No, darling, you haven't. She loves you if you'll[Pg 286] come home with her, dear, to bed, before Louis gets home and—"

"No. No. He mustn't see. Never this bad—was I, darling—oh—oh—"

"No, mama—never—this bad. That's why we must hurry."

"Best man that ever lived. Best baby. Ruin. Ruin."

"Mama, you—you're making Alma tremble so that she can scarcely walk if you drag her back so. There's no one following, dear. I won't let any one harm you. Please, sweetheart—a taxicab."

"No. I tell you he's following. He tried to put me into a taxicab."

"Then mama, listen. Do you hear! Alma wants you to listen. If you don't—she'll faint. People are looking. Now I want you to turn square around and look. No, look again. You see now, there's no one following. Now, I want you to cross the street over there to the subway. Just with Alma, who loves you. There's nobody following. Just with Alma who loves you."

And then Carrie, whose lace hat was crazily on the back of her head, relaxed enough so that through the enormous maze of the traffic of trucks and the heavier drags of the lower city, she and her daughter could wind their way.

"My baby. My poor Louis," she kept saying. "The worst I've ever been. Oh—Alma—Louis—waiting—before we get there—Louis."

It was in the tightest tangle of the crossing and apparently on this conjuring of her husband, that Carrie jerked suddenly free of Alma's frailer hold.

"No—no—not home—now. Him. Alma!" And darted back against the breast of the down side of the traffic.

There was scarcely more than the quick rotation of her arm around with the spoke of a truck wheel, so quickly she went down.

It was almost a miracle, her kind of death, because out of all that jam of tonnage, she carried only one bruise, a faint one, near the brow.

And the wonder was that Louis Latz in his grief was so proud.[Pg 287]

"To think," he kept saying over and over again and unabashed at the way his face twisted, "to think they should have happened to me. Two such women in one lifetime, as my little mother—and her. Fat little old Louis to have had those two. Why just the memory of my Carrie—is almost enough—to think old me should have a memory like that—it is almost enough—isn't isn't it, Alma?"

She kissed his hand.

That very same, that dreadful night, almost without her knowing it, her throat-tearing sobs broke loose, her face to the waistcoat of Leo Friedlander.

He held her close. Very, very close.

"Why sweetheart," he said, "I could cut out my heart to help you. Why, sweetheart. Shh-h-h, remember what Louis says. Just the beautiful memory—of—her—is—wonderful—"

"Just—the b-beautiful—memory—you'll always have it too—of her—my mama—won't you, Leo? Won't you?"

"Always," he said, when the tight grip in his throat had eased enough.

"Say—it again—Leo."

"Always."

She could not know how dear she became to him then, because not ten minutes before, from the very lapel against which her cheek lay pressed, he had unpinned a white carnation.


[Pg 288]

THE LITTLE MASTER OF THE SKY[15]

By MANUEL KOMROFF

(From The Dial)

Even idiots it seems have their place and purpose in society, or as a chess player would say tapping his fingers on the board—"That pawn may cost you your queen." The little village of M—— only realized this after it was too late.

The police of M—— all knew that Peter, a half-wit, or "Silly Peter" as he was called, was perfectly harmless; even though at times he would litter the streets and market-place with bread crumbs. But the pigeons of M—— soon cleared the walks.

Peter, it seems, had at an early age dedicated his silly life to the pigeons. All his cares and sorrows were bound up in the lives of the birds. In fact it seemed as though he himself became birdlike. He could flap his arms to his sides and produce that same dull penetrating note that was given only to this particular species of bird when they flapped their wings.

At an early age he was left without parents and managed to grow up among the horses and cows in the barns. But these larger animals were entirely out of his sphere—he did not understand them.

One day when the lad was about seven years old, the village folks suddenly noticed that he was lame. When asked about it, all he would reply was: "The pigeons made me lame."

Luba, a farmer's fat cook, once told at the market-place how Peter became lame. She told of how the boy[Pg 289] stood on the roof of her master's barn flapping his arms in imitation of the birds encircling his head; how he sprang in the air in a mad attempt to fly, and fell to the ground. But Luba had a reputation for being a liar, and none believed her although all enjoyed listening. "Such good imagination," they would say, after she was gone.

Peter grew up a little lame, but this defect seemed only to add to his nimbleness. He could climb a telegraph pole sideways like a parrot walking up a stick. Once on top he would swing his good leg around the cross beam and wave his hat—and from below a flight of flapping and fluttering birds would arise.

In this way he lived and grew to the age of sixteen, although his small, protruding bones and round, child-like eyes kept him looking younger. Where he slept and where he ate, all remained a mystery to the village folk; but this mystery was not near as great as another—

The schoolmaster once noticed that at times the pigeons seemed all grey, and at other times the greater number of them carried large pink breasts; also at times there were few, while on other days the streets and market-place were thickly dotted with nodding, pecking birds; also that never could they find the very young ones.

It seemed as though only Peter knew the secret—but when asked about it he would show a silly grin and shy away, pretending to be much occupied chasing the birds that ever flocked about him.

He would travel about from barn to barn collecting the feed that fell from the bins of careless animals. He would sometimes travel along the back yards, twist his mouth and call to nobody in particular: "A few crumbs for the birdies, lady?" And presently through an open window a crust would fly, and with this buried in his hat he would be off.

Only among the poor would he hobble about. He never ventured up the hill where the better people lived; and it is perhaps for this reason that he was seldom disturbed.


To himself Silly Peter was monarch of the air. In his own distorted mind he was master of all creatures[Pg 290] that flew. Worldly cares he left to those who had inherited worldly material; as for himself, he was concerned only with the aerial strata and with the feathery creatures thereof. Nobody wanted it; so he acquired it as he acquired the cast-off hat that he wore. He fathomed it, tasted it, drank it, navigated his creatures through it, and even fanned life into it by flapping his bony arms.

He understood the air and the sky, and it all belonged to him. Every atom of sky that poured itself over the village of M—— belonged to Silly Peter. It seemed as though he purposely limped lightly over the ground that was foreign to his nature; for he was captain and master of the sky.

II

"We must first loosen the ground," said a petty officer. "If the soil is too hard, then the action will drag. And quick action and a brisk finish always make for a better picture."

"Hey, you!" commanded the Captain. "Go get another shovel and help dig."

While two soldiers stood digging in a rectangular plot in the market-place, the camera-men had set up and were adjusting a motion picture apparatus. Twenty-five feet away stood six soldiers leaning on their rifles talking and laughing.

"Enough digging!" shouted the Captain. "Turn the loose earth back into the pit." The soldiers obeyed.

"Are you ready?" he said as he turned to the camera-men.

"All ready," came the reply.

"Now," said the Captain winking maliciously to two of his men. "You run around and pick me up a beggar."

The soldiers started off, pushing their way through the sheepish crowd and into a side street. After walking a few hundred paces one remarked to the other: "When you don't need them, a hundred are upon you. When you want them—the devil take it."

At last they came upon Silly Peter and decided that he would answer.[Pg 291]

"Come along, boy; the Captain wants you," they said, taking hold of his arms.

"Let me go!" The boy struggled. "I did nothing."

"Come along, you fool!"

They brought Silly Peter to the square, placed him on the spot that smelled fresh with upturned earth, placed a shovel in his hands and told him to dig his grave.

When they stepped aside, the terrified boy could see the camera before him and the six soldiers standing at attention a few paces away. Already the clicking handles started turning.

"Dig!" shouted the Captain.

"I don't want a grave," whimpered the frightened creature as several pigeons approached. "I don't want a grave," as he turned up the loose earth with trembling shovel-strokes. "I don't want a grave," and tears ran in trickling rivulets down his silly face.

Even an idiot could understand. At one side of him he was confronted with death for no apparent reason at all. And on the other side of him flew his pigeons.

Suddenly the signal was given; the six rifles were raised, and a volley of blank cartridges shot at the boy. The frightened birds flew into the air as the twisted frame of Silly Peter sank into the soft, upturned earth.

When the smoke had cleared, a soldier came up and shouted: "Hey fool? Get up!—You're not dead." But the boy only sobbed, with his face beside the shovel in the fresh earth.

The soldiers were dismissed, and the Captain climbed into his carriage and drove away. The sheep-like inhabitants of the village of M—— feared to venture near the spot of military manœuvre.

Presently an old farmer, driving his horse across the square, stopped, lifted the boy, and said: "Don't cry, Peter. It is only a little joke. See, you're not dead—here, pick up your hat. See all the pigeons are around us—you're not dead."

The boy seemed numb and twisted like the limb of a tree as the old man following his horse helped him across the market-place and through the lane.

"Don't be foolish, Peter. You're not dead. See the[Pg 292] pigeons; see the sky. Look, here is Luba—she will bring us soup."

But the boy squinted at the sun through a film of tears and with his one-sided mouth mumbled: "I don't want a grave."

III

The Captain lit a cigarette as he leaned back in the carriage. The horses snorted as they drew up the hill. "Why," he asked himself, "are people afraid of dying? For many, life can hold little attraction, yet even an imbecile fears death as though it were the devil himself. Yet each man nurses his own pet fears."

The carriage rocked from side to side as it climbed the hill, and the Captain turned his mind to his young wife. "It's all imagination; that's what I think," he said to himself. "It's all in her mind. Now she's afraid of this and afraid of that, and in this way she worries herself ill.

"And the doctor thinks he knows it all, but he knows nothing. He should have given her iron, she's too pale. Now we shall have to call him again. It is all a trick that doctors have. Yes, each man looks out for himself. But I will call him again and say to him: 'Don't you think a little iron would be good for her, she is so pale?' And he will reply: 'Yes, it can't harm.' But I would have to say this to the doctor when he is putting on his coat in the hallway so that Vera does not hear.

"No. Vera must not hear that I think her pale. It would worry her and she might become worse. Then she would have to go to bed again, the doctor would come again, and the servants would do as they pleased. And Vera would grow worse and more nervous and—"

"Here we are!" called the coachman, and the Captain stepped out upon his own lawn.

The house was built of stone, and although its architecture was plain, it had the solidity of a castle. Even the vines that grew up the lattice-work and walls seemed to intertwine their curly branches into a living network that helped fortify the stone nest of the Captain and his beautiful Vera.[Pg 293]

The lovely creature was passing her hands lightly over the keyboard of the piano as the Captain entered.

"It is only I," he called, but she was startled nevertheless.

"I am glad you came," she said as she rose to meet him, and placing her pale head on his decorated breast added—"I am afraid to remain here alone."

"But where are the servants, my dear?"

"Oh, servants don't count."

"Well, well, my darling," spoke the Captain, petting her. "You have nothing to fear. It is all imagination."

"But I am so nervous."

"Come, my dear. Let's have tea and I will tell you a funny story."

Presently they were seated at the table drinking tea, and the Captain began his story.

"You know, my dear," he said; "we are going to put an end to all this foolish political talk and people's committees. Any beggar forms a committee, and they do what they like. Civil authorities and military authorities are all alike to them."

"Oh, I am so afraid of beggars," interrupted the beautiful Vera.

"Well, my dear; soon there will be nothing to be afraid of; a propaganda council was organized at headquarters this morning, and what do you think? This morning two men arrived with a moving picture camera to take pictures of our orderly town, and in the afternoon we took an object-lesson picture. I marched the soldiers into the square and we dug up a plot so that the earth might be soft.

"Then we had a beggar dig his own grave as we took the picture. When he had dug enough, I gave the signal and the firing squad drew up their rifles and blazed away."

"Why did you kill him?"

"No, my dear; we only pretended to kill him. I myself was careful to see that the leads were taken off the cartridge. But you see we could not tell the beggar that he was not going to die because we wanted to make the picture look realistic—he might have run away in the middle and ruined the film.[Pg 294]

"Well, my dear, to make a long story short, the fool beggar fell into the pit, believing himself really killed. It will make a fine picture. It will be shown in all the surrounding towns as an object lesson, and before the picture itself appears on the screen it will be entitled—I suggested it myself—it will read—'This is what happened to a fool who thought he could oppose the military authorities,' and then will be shown the picture of the beggar digging his own grave.

"It will be a great lesson and education to the people whose heads have been turned. It will be sent all over the country and if the results are favourable and it pleases headquarters who can say," at this point he clasped his wife's pale hand, "who can say that I will not receive another decoration, or perhaps a promotion? Who can tell, my dear? Things move so quickly these days."

In the evening as they were eating, Vera looked up from her plate and spoke: "You know, if it happened to me, I think I should die."

"Don't talk nonsense," replied the Captain angered by the idea. "How could it happen to you?"

"Well, supposing the revolutionists took control, and then—"

"Supposing! Supposing the sky should fall," he interrupted, and smiled on his lovely and delicate Vera.

IV

Silly Peter refused to eat the bowl of soup that Luba placed out for him, but he went aloft in the barn and cried in his dull, monotonous tone: "I don't want a grave—I don't want a grave," until he fell asleep.

Then over his simple, slumbering brain came a vision.

He saw himself standing on an elevated place and over him rested the great ultramarine dome of sky. About him he could see the horizon as though it were a white circle of foam.

Gradually this circle grew smaller and smaller and rose up like a sparkling and living halo. As it came nearer, he discovered that the circle was composed of hundreds of white doves.[Pg 295]

Soon they were close over him encircling the elevation on which he stood, and he could hear the wild beating of the wings as though they were rolling a tattoo on muffled drums. Then suddenly the circle broke, and rose like a puff of smoke against a sky of blue.

With startling rapidity it rose until it rent and perforated the sky, and was lost from sight. Only a large oval opening of light-grey nothingness remained overhead—a hole in the sky—an opening to heaven.

Then from all quarters came a loud uproar; a thousand piercing, whistling yells; a rackety, rumbling, rattling commotion mixed with the beat and swish of wings. This was followed by an upward rush which darkened the sky.

Peter saw himself standing like a monarch reviewing his nation from an elevated platform. Around him flew the feathered tribes of the air. From the fluttering starling to the giant albatross, all were liberated and each paid homage to him—the master of the sky, before they shot upward and through the oval opening in the rent heaven. It was a grand and colourful sight to behold.

Finally they were all gone and he saw himself take a last look about him as he stood alone on his elevation. He then craned his neck and turned his face to the oval nothingness—flapped his arms, and with a thrilling sensation flew heavenward. His body went through the air a little sideways—but it flew, and the rest did not matter.

Poor Peter awoke to find himself in the loft of the barn among his cages of pigeons, confronted with the sordidness of material reality. He opened a small window and then flung open the cages.

Through the night he limped from barn to barn, darting under wagons, and between the legs of slumbering horses, opening doors, boxes, and even barrels. He was liberating the imprisoned, full-breasted creatures.

The little village of M—— slept soundly as it was being flooded with fluttering birds. Only the hypersensitive Vera was disturbed by the monotonous beating of restless wings.

No longer was there any mystery regarding the pigeons.[Pg 296]

V

In the morning the streets were covered with pink-breasted birds as well as grey. Besides this, there were breeds and species of pigeons that the villagers of M—— had never seen before. Wherever one turned, one saw pigeons. They were on the ground and in the sky, as well as upon the roofs. Their colours were mixed, and their leaders were lost.

Silly Peter ran joyfully about the streets waving a little white flag at the disorganized flying tribes, waving a white flag as though it were a truce to the sky.

For some reason or other, an extra large number of birds took refuge on the gable and chimney of the Captain's stone house on the hill.

Late in the afternoon, as the charming Vera was playing at the piano, a dark shadow crept over her page of music, and this was accompanied by a scrambling noise from outside. As she turned about, she could see through the corner of her eye a struggling figure across the window, clambering on the vines. The body was silhouetted against the sky.

One glance was sufficient—her throat let loose a piercing scream as she ran from the room into the kitchen. "A man! A man is climbing up the house—quick, send for the police!" she shouted breathlessly to the servants.

Holding her throbbing temples with both hands, she waited with the servants in the kitchen. Soon two policemen arrived, having been told that a robber had entered the house, but they found nothing excepting Silly Peter on top of the roof, propped against the chimney, waving his flag and signalling to his birds.

"He's harmless," said the officer. "I can't make him come down, madam. I'm a policeman, not a fireman." And with this they went away, leaving Vera with her servants and Peter with his pigeons.

Presently the Captain came home, raved and shouted as he swung his arms—but Peter sat with his back against the chimney, making bubbles with his mouth and holding two new-born birds close to his face in order that they might prick the bubbles with their little soft beaks and drink.[Pg 297]

"Come down from my house, you beggar!" But this did not even frighten the birds that flocked about Silly Peter in ever increasing numbers.

At length he came into the house, and took a rifle from his case. "Just wait till it grows dark," he mumbled. But the lovely Vera jumped from her chair and, with tears in her eyes, cried: "No! No! God will see you. He will never forgive us. After all, what harm does the boy do? He did not intend to frighten me, I am sure, put it away, my dear—God will never forgive us if you don't."

Who could resist a pleading tear from lovely Vera? Surely not the Captain.

"You are right, my dear. He can do us no harm," he finally allowed.

At night there was a noise and commotion on the roof. Vera awoke, but then all was silent again. A fearful silence hung over the house, interrupted only by the heavy breathing of her devoted soldier husband.

She remained awake until morning and was glad when she heard the servants stir. Then thinking that a little music might be restful, she dressed herself lightly and went down to the drawing room, opened the piano and finally opened the shutter. There beneath her on the ground lay Peter, with his face up—dead. His round child-like eyes stared heavenward as his birds sat about in mournful groups of twos and fours.

The unfortunate Vera again rushed into the kitchen and sent for the police before she ran, terrified by the sight she had just beheld, to awaken her husband. In about an hour, although it seemed longer, the poor folk of the village arrived and carried the body from the yard. Fat Luba insisted upon halting the procession long enough so that she could kiss the white forehead of the little dead master of the sky. A ring of pigeons swirled around the procession as it marched down the hill.

Vera nursed up a little fever for herself and was put to bed, while Luba, the cook, stood in the market-place and with tears in her eyes told everybody that the Captain killed her little Major of the Birds—"and now nobody will look after them, and they will make dirt everywhere.[Pg 298] And people will have to move away. And he is such a bad man to take the crumbs away from little doves. And if he has any children, I wish them the best of everything for they surely will be unfortunate."

Marking the spot where Peter fell were two new-born birds crushed beside the stone house on the hill. Through the air swung a grand flight describing an oval in the sky. At each end of the oval the pigeons beat their wings as they rounded the curve. With mournful thuds they beat, as they circled over the old farmer's house and again over the solid stone house on the hill.

All day they flapped a tattoo with their wings and beat their sorrowful dead sounds into lovely Vera's ears. In the evening the Captain sent for the doctor.

All night long the uncontrollable feathery tribes encircled the town with their monotonous beating and swishing of wings.

The next day Vera grew worse, as Luba in the market place kept insisting that the Captain killed her Little Master of the Birds; until a committee of three working-men took it upon themselves to investigate. They started for the hill, but stopped off in order to induce the schoolmaster to join them.

The schoolmaster, however, did not allow himself to be disturbed. He was playing chess with a friend, and kept tapping the dull-sounding table with his fingers, and repeating in a monotone: "If he disturbs that pawn, he may lose his queen."

As the committee went on to the hill, they were overtaken by the doctor in his carriage. At last they arrived at the stone house and found the doctor walking briskly up and down the drawing room smoking a cigarette—he had not yet told the Captain.

Upstairs they could hear the Captain in Vera's darkened room, kneel down beside the bed.

"Do you know, my darling," he spoke. "I have never kept anything from you—but the other day when I told you about the beggar, I should have told you that he was—Are you listening, my dear? I should have told you that he was the same boy—the poor boy that lived with the pigeons.[Pg 299]

"See; we have already been—are you listening, my dear? God has already punished us—now you can get better and we will go away from here. We will go to some quiet place.—Are you listening, my dear? We will go to some—do you hear me, Vera? My darling girl, don't sleep now. Tell me, what did the doctor say? Wake up Vera."—But the hand of death had already passed over Vera.

The Little Master of the Sky didn't need a grave and didn't want one. But they dug one for him just the same, at the end of the town. While his pigeons encircled the sky and swished the air, the villagers straightened his twisted, little body and slipped it into a narrow box, and lowered him down. The poor folk gave him a little grave, but he doesn't need it for he never uses it.


[Pg 300]

THE MAN WITH THE GOOD FACE[16]

By FRANK LUTHER MOTT

(From The Midland)

A subway express train roared into the Fourteenth Street Station and came to a full stop, and the doors slid open. It was just at the lull of traffic before the rush of the late afternoon, and the cars were only comfortably filled. As the train stopped, a small, unobtrusive man, sitting near one end of the third car, quickly rose from his seat on the side of the car facing the station platform, and peered through the opposite windows. All the way up from Wall Street this little man had sat quietly observing through his deep-set grey eyes every man or woman who had entered or left the car. His figure was slight, and the office pallor that overspread his serious face seemed to give to his eyes a singular intensity of gaze. Now he peered intently out at the people on the Fourteenth Street platform.

Suddenly his eyes dilated; he leaned toward the window, and raised both hands as if to shade his eyes. Then he turned and ran toward the door, which was sliding shut. The little man's face was white as chalk; his eyes were round and blazing with excitement. Against the protests of the guard, he squeezed through the door and made his escape just as the train was beginning to move. Heedless of the commotion he caused, the man dodged wildly across the platform toward a local, which stood there, gongs ringing and doors closing. For all his haste, the little man was too late to enter. He pounded on the glass of one of the closed doors imperiously.[Pg 301]

"Next train," said the guard shortly.

"Let me on!" demanded the little man, waving his arms wildly. "Let me on! You have time!"

"Next train," repeated the guard.

The train began to move swiftly. The little man ran alongside, peering in through the windows at something or somebody inside.

"Look out!" called the guard, watching him.

The man, however, paid no attention to the warning. It is strange that he was not hurt as he ran blindly alongside the train. Perilously near the end of the platform he stopped short and put his hand to his head. The train thundered away, its colored rear-lights vanishing far-off in the black tunnel. Oblivious to the interest of the spectators, oblivious to all the hurrying and running and crowding as other trains roared into the underground station, the little man leaned limply against a pillar.

"He's gone!" he muttered to himself. "He's gone!"

For upward of twenty years Mr. James Neal had been a clerk in the offices of Fields, Jones & Houseman on Lower Broadway. Every day of these twenty-odd years, if we except Sundays and holidays, Mr. Neal had spent an hour and a half on subway trains. An hour and a half every day for more than twenty years he had spent in the great underground system of the Interborough. Its ceaseless roar benumbed his senses as he was hurtled from the Bronx, where he had a room, to the Imperial Building, where he worked, and back again. This, as he had often computed, amounted to fifty-eight and a half working days each year, or about two months' time. Such was the fee he paid to Time for the privilege of using other hours for working and living. It had seemed a cruel loss at first—this hour and a half from every working day—but that was in the early days of his experience in the city. Then he had been driven by boundless energy and hope—the same energy and the same hope that had brought him here from his little mid-western community in the first place. Year by year, however, as custom calloused him to the only part in life he seemed fit to play, he forgot about the waste of time in the Interborough cars. Destiny, he said to himself, had hollowed out the[Pg 302] subway as the rut in which his life was ordained to travel; destiny had condemned him inescapably to an underground roar.

He never confessed to anyone that he held the subway as the sign and symbol of the rut into which his life had grown. There was, indeed, nobody to whom he might impart such thoughts as he had about the deeper meanings of life. When Mr. Neal first came to Fields, Jones & Houseman's, timid and green from the country, he had been repelled by the lack of interest in his new problems on the part of his fellow clerks, and he had then put on for the first time that armor of indifference which now clung to him with the familiarity of an accustomed garment. Nor did he feel a greater kinship with the family in the Bronx with which he lodged. They were at pains not to annoy him; he kept apart from them.

Perhaps the pallid little clerk with the large grey eyes would have become very lonesome if he had not eventually found a real interest in life. This, then, was the manner and substance of his finding.

As he traveled back and forth on the subway morning and evening, day in and day out, week after week, he wasted the hours much more completely than most of his fellow travelers. The average subway passenger reads his newspaper and forgets the world; he knows by some sixth sense when the train has arrived at his station, and only then does he look up from his reading. Mr. Neal seldom read newspapers. The blatancy, the crassness of the daily prints revolted him. Perhaps there was another reason, too, which Mr. Neal himself did not realize; perhaps the settled selfishness which his manner of life had fixed upon him had destroyed a natural craving for the so-called "human interest" that is spread over the pages of the journals of the metropolis. He despised the little brawls aired in the papers, the bickerings of politics, the fights and strikes and broils of all humanity reflected in daily mirrors.

Self-deprived of the newspapers, it was natural that he should fall to watching the people on the cars. He got to studying faces. At first he did it unconsciously, and he had probably been analyzing features idly for years[Pg 303] before he discovered and fully realized how extremely interesting this occupation was becoming. One half holiday he went up to the library and read a book on physiognomy, and after that he laid out his course of study carefully, classifying and laying away in his memory the various types of faces that he saw. He pursued his investigations in the detached, careful spirit of the scientist, but as time passed he was absorbingly interested. Every morning and every evening he worked in his laboratory—the subway trains.

He never had to stand up in the cars, for he boarded them, whether at one end of his trip or the other, before they were crowded; but as soon as crowds began to fill up the aisles he always gave up his seat. This naturally gained him repeated credit for courtesy, but the real reason for his apparent gallantry was that he could not see people's faces when he was sitting while others stood in the aisles. But when he hung to a strap and looked at the window in front of him, the blackness outside combined with the bright light of the car to make the glass of the windows an excellent mirror to reflect the faces of those who stood near him.

To classify faces according to nationality was not easy in the polyglot crowds of this East Side line. But Mr. Neal devised many schemes to help him. He watched the papers they read: everybody read papers! He even ventured when greatly curious, to ask a question of the object of his interest, so that the man might reveal his origin. Usually he was rebuffed, but sometimes he was successful. He read all the books on immigrants he could get his hands on. More than once he even followed a rare specimen—shadowed him to his work and there made guarded inquiries. Such investigations had several times made him late to work, so that his chief had made sarcastic remarks. The chief clerk at Fields, Jones & Houseman's was a tall, gaunt, old-young man with a hawk-like nose that carried eyeglasses perched perilously astride it, and he had a tongue that spit caustic. But the chief clerk's ugly words did not annoy Mr. Neal if his inquiry had been successful.

At length he became so skillful that he could separate[Pg 304] the Slavic types into their various nationalities, and he could tell Polish, Lithuanian and Roumanian Jews apart. He could name the provinces from which Italians and Germans came with few errors.

But the most interesting set of categories, according to which he filed away the various faces he saw was that of their ruling passions. There was the scholar, the sport, the miser, the courtesan, the little shopkeeper, the clerk, the housewife, the artist, the brute, the hypocrite, the clergyman, the bar-hound, the gambler. The charm of this classification was that the categories were not mutually exclusive, and permitted infinite variation.

Mr. Neal became as devoted to this fascinating game as ever any enthusiast has been to billiards, golf, baseball or poker. He looked forward all day, while in the midst of the ancient grind of Fields, Jones & Houseman, to the moment when he could establish himself in a position of vantage on a subway car, and get back to his study of faces. All night long he dreamed of faces—faces wise and foolish, good and evil.

Yet more and more the ugliness in the subway faces oppressed Mr. Neal. Sometimes he looked into faces loosened by liquor and saw such an empty foulness looking out at him that he was heartsick. Then he would look at all the faces about him and see sin in manifold guise marking all of them. The sodden eyes of disillusion, the protruding underlip of lust, the flabby wrinkles of dissipation, the vacuous faces of women: it was a heart-breaking picture gallery.

Every face was stamped with the little passion peculiar to it—the mark of its peculiar spirit. The mouths, especially, betrayed the souls within. Somewhere Mr. Neal had once read weird stories of souls seen to escape from the bodies of dying persons, and always they had been seen to issue from the open mouths of the corpses. There was a singular appropriateness in this phenomenon, it seemed to Mr. Neal, for the soul stamped the mouth even before it marked the eyes. Lewd mouths, and cunning mouths, and hateful mouths there were aplenty. Even the mouths of children were old in evil.

"I'm sorry I've learned it," breathed Mr. Neal one[Pg 305] day. "Now I must always look into a man's soul when I look into his face."

It was true. Men who could hide secret sins from bosom friends—even from their wives—were defenseless against this little clerk hanging to a strap—this man with the serious pale face and the large grey eyes who had learned by years of systematic observation to pierce every barrier of reserve.

His study and classification went on for several years before it occurred to him that there was one kind of face that he never saw—one type that he never found in all the Manhattan crowds. When he had first discovered that this face was missing he had called it "the good face;" and though he realized the insufficiency of this designation he could not think of a better, and the term stuck. It was not that he never saw faces with good qualities stamped upon them: he sometimes saw faces marked with benevolence, honesty and resolution, for example, and these were all good faces in a way. But they were not what Mr. Neal was looking for—what he searched for more intently with the passing months. He remembered the face of his own mother dimly through the years; it was a little like what he wanted to see here in the subway. He searched for simplicity, for transparent truth, for depth of spirituality, for meek strength and gentle power. But simplicity in the subway? Guileless transparency of any sort? Spirituality? Mockery!

The face he never saw became an obsession with Mr. Neal. He hunted for it in various parts of the city. He tried the Broadway line of the subway where the faces are notably pleasanter, more prosperous, and smugger. But neither there nor about the Universities on Morningside Heights and on the banks of the Harlem, nor in Brooklyn, nor anywhere he looked, did he find the face he sought. He could always see it when he closed his eyes. At night he dreamed of it continuously—of meeting it on the subway and looking into eyes of ineffable kindness.

It came finally to affect his life—this search for the unseen face. It gradually altered his attitude toward all his subway folk. He came to have a great pity for the ignorant, and pain filled his heart at all the marks of[Pg 306] Cain he saw. He came to have an inexpressible hunger for the sight of spiritual quality lighting the faces of the people of the subway crowds. He did not express his hunger in words, as people do when they want to make a thing definite and tangible. It was perfectly clear and distinct to him when he closed his eyes; then he saw the face.

The time came when Mr. Neal could not sleep of nights for the evil faces that leered at him from every side out of the darkness. It was only when he slept that he could see, in his dreams, the "good face." Finally, he was driven to make a resolution. He would consciously seek for the good faces; evil ones he would pass over quickly. Thenceforward he was happier. As his train roared through the tunnels of night under New York, his eyes dwelt most upon the faces that were marked, however lightly, with the qualities that reached their united culmination in the "good face." He found his old faith in the perfectibility of man renewed, and often he would keep his eyes closed for many minutes together, so that he could see the face of his dreams.

So months went on, and joined together into years.

Then, one day in the subway, with his eyes full open, James Neal suddenly saw the face! He had been going home from work in the evening quite as usual. The express train on which he was riding was about to leave Fourteenth Street Station when a tall man who was about to enter the local train standing at the other side of the station platform turned and looked directly at him. Mr. Neal's heart almost stopped beating. His eyes were blinded, and yet he saw the face so distinctly that he could never forget it. It was just as he had known it would be, and yet gentler and stronger. A moment Mr. Neal stood spellbound. The door of his own car was sliding shut; he leaped toward it, and, as we have already seen, squeezed through and ran toward the other train. Though he was too late to get in, still he could see the face within the moving car. Thinking about it later, as he did very, very often, he realized that he could not tell how the man with the "good face" was dressed; he could see only his face, and that for a moment only, as the local[Pg 307] moved swiftly out of the station. Suddenly he found himself alone and disconsolate.

He went home sick in spirit. As he lay in his bed that night, trying to go to sleep, he said to himself that if ever he should see the face again—and he prayed that he might—no merely physical barriers should keep him from seeking out the rare spirit that animated such features. Ah, but it had been much even to have seen that face; even that had been worth living for. At last he fell asleep peacefully.

The next morning Mr. Neal entered upon a new life. He had seen the face; it had not been a dream after all. He felt young again—not young with the ambition he had once felt so strongly, but glad and cleansed and strengthened by a sure faith in the supremacy of truth and goodness in the world. A happy smile lighted his serious face that morning; a faint flush touched the pallor of his cheeks; and his deep grey eyes were unusually luminous.

Even the roar of the subway did not pull his spirits down, and when he briskly entered the office of Fields, Jones & Houseman, the old-fashioned high desks and stools and all the worn, dingy furniture of the room seemed to the little clerk with the shining face to be strangely new. The chief clerk, sitting at a dusty old roll-top desk in the corner, looked up at Mr. Neal sharply as he entered. The chief clerk always looked up sharply. There was a preternatural leanness about the chief clerk which was accentuated by his sharp hawk's nose, and when he looked up quickly from his position hunched over his desk, his sharp little eyes pierced his subordinate through and through, and his glasses, perched halfway down his nose, trembled from the quickness of his movements.

"Morning!" he said briefly, and dived down again into his work, with his shoulders humped.

But Mr. Neal was more expansive.

"Good morning!" he called, so cheerily that the whole office felt the effect of his good humor.

A young man with a very blond pompadour was just slipping into a worn office coat.[Pg 308]

"Well, Mr. Neal!" he exclaimed. "I swear you're getting younger every day!"

Mr. Neal laughed happily as he changed his own coat and climbed upon his familiar stool. His desk neighbor turned and regarded him good-naturedly.

"He'll be running off and getting married pretty soon," prophesied the neighbor, for the benefit of the whole office force.

Mr. Neal laughed again.

"You're judging me by your own case, Bob," he rejoined. Then in a lower tone, "That romance of yours now—how is it coming?"

That was enough to cause the young man to pour into Mr. Neal's willing ear all the latest developments of Bob's acquaintance with the only girl in the world.

For a long time Mr. Neal lived in daily hope of seeing the face again. He got into the habit of changing to a local at Fourteenth Street because it was at that station he had seen the face before, but he caught not a glimpse of any face resembling the one that he could see at any time he closed his eyes. Yet he was not discouraged. He was happy, because he felt that something big and noble had come into his life—that now he had something to live for. It was only a question of time, he told himself, until he should find the face. It was but a question of time—and he could wait.

So the weeks and months passed by. Mr. Neal never relaxed his search for the face; it had become a part of his life. There was no monotony in his great game. He always found new faces interesting to classify, some unusual combination, some degree of emotional development he had not seen before. But the face never.

Until one Saturday half holiday in December. This is the way it happened.

Mr. Neal employed this particular half holiday at Columbus Park. Long ago he had found this park, adjoining Chatham Square and near Chinatown, Mulberry Bend and the Bowery, a great gathering place for the lower types of humanity, and such half holidays as he did not spend at the library studying Lombroso, Darwin, Piderit, Lavater, and other physiognomists, he usually[Pg 309] employed at Columbus Park. Sometimes he wandered over to Hester Street, or up Orchard or some other Ghetto street off Delancey, or sometimes he spent a few hours in Battery Park or in the tenement district of the lower West Side. On this particular Saturday he found Columbus Park less populous than it had been on his last visit a month before, for many of its habitues had sought warmer climes. The weather was seasonably cold, and Mr. Neal felt really sorry for some of the old, broken-down men and women he saw.

Toward the end of the short December afternoon, he found an old man, shaking with the cold, huddled up on one of the benches of the park. The haggard, unshaven face told the usual story of the derelict, but something in the face—perhaps the abject fear that glowered in the eyes—sounded before he knew it the depths of pity in the little clerk's heart. Mr. Neal tried to talk to him, but there was no ready beggar's tale to be poured into the ears of benevolence; there was only fear of the cold, and of misery, and of death. Yielding suddenly to an impulse so strong that it bore down all thoughts of prudence, Mr. Neal slipped out of his own overcoat and put it about the man's threadbare shoulders, and then hurried off toward the Worth Street Station of the subway.

The wintry breeze chilled him as he hastened along, a slight figure in worn business suit, leaning against the wind, but his heart was warm and light within him. Down he hurried into the subway station, and dropped his tithe of tribute into the multiple maw of the Interborough. The train was thundering in, its colored lights growing momentarily brighter as they came down the black tunnel. The train was crammed to the doors, for it was the rush hour and even down here the trains were crowded. Mr. Neal edged into the nearest door and then squirmed over to a place against the opposite door in the vestibule, where he could see people as they came out.

The train shot again into the dark tunnels. A thousand men and women were being hurtled at terrific thundering speed, by some strange power but half understood, through the black corridors of the night that reigned[Pg 310] under old Manhattan, to some unseen goal. It was magnificent; it was colossal; but it was uncanny. Mr. Neal had always been moved by the romance of the subway, but tonight, in his elevation of spirit, it seemed something of epic quality, full of a strange, unreal grandeur. Faint red lights here and there revealed nothing of the tunnel; they but lent mystery to dimly seen arches and darkling bastions, fleeting by the roaring train.

They stopped a minute at Canal Street, and more people pushed into the overcrowded car, and then the train was off again. The man pushing against Mr. Neal was heavy-jowled as a prize-fighter, but if ever he had followed the ring his fighting days were over now. Good feeding had done for him; he breathed heavily in the fetid atmosphere of the car. He was almost squeezing the breath out of the little man with a heavy red mustache who stood just behind him. The red mustache made the little man's face seem out of proportion; there was not enough of chin to make a proper balance.

At Spring Street two women struggled to get off.

"Let 'em off!" came the familiar admonition of the guard.

Those about the women made every effort to give them room, but at the best they had a hard fight to make their way out. Both the women were modishly dressed, and their complexions were correctly made. There was, too, that hardness about the mouths of both of them that Mr. Neal found in the faces of most of the women he saw—a hardness that even the stress of their effort to get out of the car could not disturb. When they finally got out, others crowded in.

Mr. Neal was happy, and he looked about him to find other happy faces. But they were nowhere to be seen; the faces were stolid, or indifferent, or intent, or vacuous. None of them were glad. If their mouths would only turn up at the corners! Well, it was the same old story. Mouths that turned up at the corners were seldom met with in Mr. Neal's book of subway faces.

Bleecker Street, and a worse jam than ever, but there was encouragement in the thought that Fourteenth Street would soon relieve the pressure. Two girls crowded[Pg 311] on at Bleecker, amid shrill laughter and many smothered exclamations. Their lips were carmined and their eyes bold. Every swerve of the train brought fresh giggles or stifled screams from them.

As the train was slowing down for Astor Place Station an express train passed it, speeding for Fourteenth Street. Mr. Neal turned with an effort (for he was wedged in tightly) and looked through the glass door at the brightly lighted cars as they passed, and then slowly gained upon, his own train. The express was crowded too, with people standing in the aisles, hanging to straps. The faces were very clearly distinguishable in the bright light; and Mr. Neal, strangely excited at this rapid panorama of faces, saw each one distinctly. Suddenly he leaned forward, close to the glass. He saw it! The face! It was there! But it was gone in a moment. It had been like a flash in the dark tunnel. His own train had come to a jarring stop, and the express was only thunder in the distance.

Mr. Neal felt that he must rush out of the car, must get out into the open. But the big prize-fighter still pressed against him, and in a moment they were rushing on again into the darkness.

Now the clerk had no eyes for the occupants of his car. His face was pressed against the glass door. He saw, out there in the darkness, that serenely beautiful face, beatific, transcendent. And even as he looked, he saw again the rear-lights of the express. They were going to overtake it—to pass it again. It had been halted by the block signals of the train ahead, perhaps—at any rate it was now moving very slowly. As the local shot by, the panorama of faces was unfolded much more rapidly than it had been before, but Mr. Neal caught a glimpse of the face once more. It looked directly at him, as it had before, and he thought it smiled upon him a little.

The little clerk was greatly excited. As soon as the local had come to a stop at the Fourteenth Street Station and the doors had been opened, he darted out and hurried to the other side of the platform. There he stood leaning out to watch for the approach of the express. In a moment it came, rumbling in quite as usual, mechanically and[Pg 312] regularly, and the doors slid open to allow the flood of people to pour out. Mr. Neal squirmed through the crowd, looking in at the windows and watching the people coming out; but he did not see the face, and frantic lest he should lose it once more, he crowded into one of the cars again at the last minute. He tried at first to pass through the train searching for the man with the "good face," but the guards rebuffed him, and the usually good-natured crowd was provoked to impatience by his squirming efforts; and he himself soon became so exhausted in his attempt that he gave it up. At Grand Central Station he again hurried out upon the platform to watch the crowds getting off. The gong had begun to ring again when he caught sight of a tall figure mounting a short flight of stairs toward the upper platform, and he immediately knew that there was the man he sought. The face was turned away, yet he thought he could not be mistaken. He rushed toward the stairway, bumping into others so many times in his haste that he really made little speed. When he reached the top of the stairs he looked about. For one heartsick moment he thought he had lost the man after all. Then, away across the station, near one of the exits, he saw the tall figure again. The man was leaving the station, and as he passed out, for a moment he turned his face toward the crowd within; and Mr. Neal knew then that he had not been mistaken.

To the little clerk it seemed an age before he could reach the exit through which the tall figure had passed. He ran around people and dodged and ducked, oblivious of the curious watching of the crowd. At last he gained the exit. The tall man was nowhere to be seen.

Mr. Neal found himself on Forty-Second Street, east of Fourth Avenue. It was night, and the December wind pierced his clothing and cut to his very bones like a knife. He buttoned his sack coat up tightly and turned up the collar. He decided to walk east down Forty-Second Street, in the hope of seeing the face again. He walked very rapidly, impelled both by the desire to keep as warm as possible, and the thought that whatever chance he had of finding the man would be lost if he did not hurry.[Pg 313]

As he stood for a moment on the curb before crossing Lexington Avenue, halted by a long string of passing automobiles, he thought he saw the tall man at about the middle of the next block. Taking his life in his hands, he scurried across the street, dodging in and out among the vehicles with the curses of drivers in his ears. But he got across safely, and now he was certain that he had been right: there was the tall figure he could not mistake. Now he gained on the man, who turned south into Third Avenue. As Mr. Neal breathlessly turned the corner he saw the tall man mounting the stoop of a shabby four-story apartment house a little way down the street. About to enter, he turned his face toward the running clerk, and even by the dim light at the entrance to the dingy house, Mr. Neal could see how ineffably spiritual and strong the face was. Joy filled the little clerk's heart so full that tears came to his eyes. At last he was to meet the man with the "good face"—after so long! He managed to find breath to call out.

"I say!" he shouted.

But he was too late, for the door had closed almost before the words left his mouth.

Leaping up the steps, he found that the door was not locked, and he entered a dark hallway. He heard a step on the landing above, and called out again, but there was no answer. He hurried up the creaking stairs, but he was just in time to see the first door on his left closed silently but firmly.

Mr. Neal hesitated. He took off his hat and wiped his forehead, which was damp with perspiration. Then he rang the bell.

The hallway was dimly lighted with one small gas jet over against the discolored wall. Mr. Neal waited. Presently he heard footsteps. Then the door was opened and a flood of warm light poured into the dim little hall. A short, white-bearded old man stood in the doorway. He seemed the very personification of serene happiness, and over his shoulder peered an old lady whose face was lighted by the same kindly joy. There was an atmosphere of quiet goodness about them both; it flooded out into the hallway as sensibly as the glow of light itself. The[Pg 314] old couple looked questioningly at Mr. Neal. The little clerk was somewhat embarrassed.

"I—I wanted to see the gentleman who just came in here," he said.

The white-bearded old man seemed surprised.

"Why, nobody has come in here," he said in a gentle voice. "Not since I came home over an hour ago."

"Oh, the tall man, with—with—"

"But nobody has come in, sir," reiterated the old man.

"Just now, you know," insisted Mr. Neal. "A tall man—"

A shadow crossed the old man's face—a shade of alarm. The woman withdrew a little. Some of the happiness seemed to leave their faces, allowing the wrinkles of age to show themselves.

"I don't know what you mean, sir," the old man said slowly, "but we two are alone here. There is no tall man here, I assure you. Please—"

"But haven't you a lodger?" asked Mr. Neal hopefully. "This was a very tall man; that was the reason I could see him so well in the subway. He has a good face—a really wonderful face—"

Mr. Neal hesitated a moment, realizing that he had been led to reveal his secret to one who might not understand.

Pity came into the old gentleman's eyes.

"Ah," he said, and nodded. "If I could be of any help to you—Would you come in?"

"Didn't he come in here, really? Hasn't a tall man been here?"

"Nobody is here, sir, but us. But if I could do anything for you, I'd be glad to."

Mr. Neal saw that the old gentleman thought he was dealing with a demented man; he saw, too, that the denial was an honest one.

"Thank you," said Mr. Neal. "No. I must be going. I am very sorry I troubled you."

The old man bade him a cheery good-night, but he looked after Mr. Neal in solicitude as the clerk went slowly down the steps.

The air was bitter cold outside, and Mr. Neal realized[Pg 315] for the first time that he did not have his overcoat. He shivered.

Hunching his shoulders up against the blast, he hurried back to the subway.

Heartbreaking though his disappointment was, Mr. Neal was not embittered. There was one thing that he knew now beyond all cavil or doubt: he knew that he should find the man with the good face. He knew that he should eventually meet him somewhere, sometime, and come to know him. How Mr. Neal longed for that time words cannot describe, but his settled faith that his desire would one day be fulfilled kept him tranquil and happy. Why should he be impatient? Perhaps today, or tomorrow—perhaps in this car he was entering, perhaps just around the next corner—he would see the face.

"It will be soon," he would say to himself. "I know it will be soon."

The beggars in front of the Imperial building came to know the little clerk and thank him in advance for his alms. The elevator men and the newsies came to watch for him. Mr. Neal himself took an interest in everybody. He formed the habit of watching crowds wherever they were greatest, partly because thereby his chance of discovering the face was enhanced, and partly because crowds thrilled him. What a tremendous mass of emotions—hopes, fears, ambitions, joys, sorrows—were in these thousand faces swirling about him in ceaseless tide! They were all individuals; that was the wonder of it! All were individuals with personalities of their own, with their own lives to live and their own problems to think out. He would like to help them all.

Mr. Neal at last formed the acquaintance of the members of the family with whom he had lodged so long. One evening just outside his room he met a red-cheeked boy whom he supposed to be the son of his landlord, and it came to him with a shock that he scarcely knew these people under whose roof he had lived for many years. The boy seemed surprised and a little frightened when Mr. Neal tried to talk to him, and the clerk resolved there and then to make amends for past neglect. The very next evening he made an excuse to visit the father of the house[Pg 316]hold. A fine hearty fellow he found him, sitting in the kitchen with his stockinged feet up on a chair, smoking an old clay pipe and reading the evening paper. Mr. Neal learned he was a hard-working teamster. The man seemed pleased with his lodger's attentions, and invited him to come again, and Mr. Neal did come again and often, for he liked his landlord from the start. There were three children, two of them pictures of health, but the third thin and pale and unable to romp about because of a twisted leg.

Mr. Neal became a veritable member of the household, and when he discovered from a chance remark of the father that they were saving money, penny by penny, to buy a brace for the crooked leg, he insisted on "loaning" the money to make up the balance still lacking.

"Funny thing," commented the teamster one evening. "We used to think you wasn't human exactly." He laughed heartily. "Gotta get acquainted with a guy, ain't you?"

Then his wife, a thin, washed-out little woman, embarrassed the little clerk greatly by saying gravely:

"Mr. Neal, you're a good man."

Her eyes were on the little cripple.

In the same vein was the comment of the office force at Fields, Jones & Houseman's on the occasion of Arnold's injury in the elevator accident, when Mr. Neal took up a collection for the injured man, heading the subscription himself.

"Funny thing," exclaimed the chief clerk to a stenographer as they were leaving the office that afternoon. "Funny thing: when I first came here James Neal was close as a clam; never a word out of him. Paid no attention to anybody, all gloom. Now look at him helping everybody! Best old scout in the office!"

As he nodded his head in emphasis, his eyeglasses trembled on his nose—but they stuck.

"I've not got a better friend in the whole town than James Neal, and I know it," he added, "and I guess that's true of everybody in the office!"

It was true that Mr. Neal and the chief clerk had become fast friends. They had come to spend their[Pg 317] Sundays together, and even to share confidences, and so it was natural that when Mr. Neal saw the face for the third time he should be moved to tell his friend about it. This telling of his secret was epochal in Mr. Neal's life.

The two men sat on a bench in a more or less secluded part of Bronx Park. Mr. Neal looked off among the trees as he told the story of the face hesitatingly, often in difficulty for the right word, the light of the mystic in his glowing eyes. The chief clerk listened attentively, his cane across his knees, his lean face serious. His eyes bored into the very mind of his friend with their keen gaze. When Mr. Neal told of his failure to find the man with the good face in the house on Third Avenue, his friend shook his head definitely.

"No!" he said. "No! I'll tell you what it is: it is what they call a hallucination."

"Oh, no," replied Mr. Neal calmly. "It is real, John. There's no doubt it's real."

The chief clerk shook his head sharply again, and there was a pause.

"I felt I must tell you," resumed Mr. Neal at length, "because I saw him again last night."

His friend looked quickly at the little clerk, who gazed away among the trees, his eyes luminous.

"I saw him in the Pennsylvania subway station, and I followed him out. There was no doubt about it: I saw his face. He went down Eighth Avenue, and I saw him turn in at a door. I wasn't far behind him. The door was right next to a pawnshop. It was unlatched, and I went in. I found myself in a dark hallway, but toward the other end there was light coming from a half opened door. I was excited, John. Tremendously. You see, John, it was the great experience of my life—no wonder I was trembling.

"I stepped quietly back to where the light was, and looked into the room that it came from. What do you think I saw, John? There was a young mother and two fresh-cheeked boys; one of the boys was reading at the table, and the other one sat in a low chair at his mother's knee and she was talking to him—telling him stories, I think. The room was poor, John, but the mother's face![Pg 318] It was wonderful! It reminded me of my own mother's. There is just one word to describe it, John: it was a Madonna's face—a Madonna of Eighth Avenue!"

Mr. Neal paused and glanced at his friend. The chief clerk said nothing, but dug at the turf with his stick.

"But the tall man was not there," resumed Mr. Neal. "I knocked at the door and asked about him. The woman didn't know; no man was in their rooms, she said. She was a poor widow. She wanted to know how I got in. I could see I was frightening her, so I left, and I could hear the door locked behind me."

The little clerk sighed, and passed his hand over his eyes.

His friend rose suddenly.

"Come," he said. "Let's walk—and talk about something else."

This was but the first of many talks the two clerks had about the face. Mr. Neal's friend became more and more sympathetic toward the quest. One afternoon Mr. Neal detained the chief clerk as he was leaving the office after work. The little clerk's eyes were very serious, and his voice was low as he said:

"John, I know that I am going to find him very soon. I know it."

"How do you know it?" asked the chief clerk. "Something—well—psychic?"

"Oh, no. It's not mysterious. It's just a—a certainty, John. I know I shall find him very, very soon."

"Well, you know—" and the chief clerk looked at Mr. Neal steadily, "you know that I—I should like to know him, too."

Mr. Neal wrung his friend's hand. They went down together in the elevator, and parted. Mr. Neal hurried down into his subway station. There were not many waiting on the platforms. Far down the black tunnels in either direction the little white lights glimmered. The echoing silence of a great cave was in the station. Then suddenly the red and green lights of a train appeared far away; then a rumble and a roar, the doors of the train slid open and Mr. Neal stepped in. All the way home he kept his eyes shut. The hurtling roar, the crush of people growing greater as they approached the great business[Pg 319] sections, the calls of the guards, did not disturb Mr. Neal. He kept his eyes closed so he might see the face.

It was about one o'clock of the next day that the accident occurred of which James Neal was the victim. He had been trying to cross the street in defiance of traffic regulations, and had been struck by a heavily loaded truck and knocked down, with some injury to his skull. He had been taken, unconscious, to St. Cecilia's Hospital.

Little work was done by the clerks of Fields, Jones & Houseman that afternoon. One of the clerks had seen the accident; indeed he had been talking to Mr. Neal just before the latter had rushed into the street. He had seen the little clerk suddenly raise his hand and point across the street.

"I see it! There he is!" Mr. Neal had said in a voice exultant with joy, and then he had dodged into the traffic, reckless of life and limb.

The chief clerk was greatly distressed. He could not work. He would sit with his lank form huddled up in his office chair, gazing fixedly over his eyeglasses at nothing in particular. About two o'clock he bethought himself to look up the family with which Mr. Neal lodged in the telephone directory and to inform them of the accident. The whole office force listened to the conversation over the telephone, and heard the chief's voice break as he told of the seriousness of the injury. Then the chief clerk shut his books sharply, clapped on his street coat and rusty straw hat, and set out for the hospital.

Long before the chief clerk arrived at the hospital, a white-coated doctor, standing momentarily in a doorway of the ward in which Mr. James Neal lay, met a nurse coming out. The doctor's face was such a one as would have delighted Mr. Neal if he had been able to see it. It was a benevolent face. A profound knowledge of the problems of humanity had marked it with depth of understanding, and withal, a kindliness and sympathy, that made it worthy a second and a third glance in any company, however distinguished.

"How about the skull fracture?" asked the doctor in a low voice, as the nurse was passing out.[Pg 320]

"He is dead," said the nurse.

"When?" asked the doctor.

"Just now. I just left him."

"There was no chance," said the doctor.

The nurse was about to pass on when the doctor detained her.

"That tall man," he said, "who was with him: where has he gone?"

The nurse looked at the doctor in surprise.

"There was no one with him but me," she said.

"Oh, yes," said the doctor. "I saw a man bending over the bed—a very tall man with a remarkable face. I wondered who he could be."

The nurse turned, and with the doctor looked over toward the bed where the body of James Neal lay.

"That is strange," said the nurse.

"I saw him there," said the doctor, "just as you were leaving the patient; now he is gone."

"Queer! I saw no one," said the nurse, and moved away to attend to other duties.

The doctor walked over to the bed where the body of the little clerk lay.

"It is strange," he mused. "I surely saw him.—The most beautiful face I ever saw."

Then he looked down at what had been James Neal.

"He was very fortunate," said the doctor in a low tone, "to die with a face like that looking into his."

There was a smile on the death-white lips of the little clerk.


[Pg 321]

MASTER OF FALLEN YEARS[17]

By VINCENT O'SULLIVAN

(From The Smart Set)

Several years ago, I was intimately acquainted with a young man named Augustus Barber. He was employed in a paper-box manufacturer's business in the city of London. I never heard what his father was. His mother was a widow and lived, I think, at Godalming; but of this I am not sure. It is odd enough that I should have forgotten where she lived, for my friend was always talking about her. Sometimes he seemed immensely fond of her; at other times almost to hate her; but whichever it was, he never left her long out of his conversation. I believe the reason I forget is that he talked so much about her that I failed at last to pay attention to what he said.

He was a stocky young man, with light-coloured hair and a pale, rather blotchy complexion. There was nothing at all extraordinary about him on either the material or spiritual side. He had rather a weakness for gaudy ties and socks and jewelry. His manners were a little boisterous; his conversation, altogether personal. He had received some training at a commercial school. He read little else than the newspapers. The only book I ever knew him to read was a novel of Stevenson's, which he said was "too hot for blisters."

Where, then, in this very commonplace young man, were hidden the elements of the extraordinary actions and happenings I am about to relate? Various theories offer; it is hard to decide. Doctors, psychologists whom I have consulted, have given different opinions; but upon one point they have all agreed—that I am not[Pg 322] able to supply enough information about his ancestry. And, in fact, I know hardly anything about that.

This is not, either, because he was uncommunicative. As I say, he used to talk a lot about his mother. But he did not really inspire enough interest for anybody to take an interest in his affairs. He was there; he was a pleasant enough fellow; but when he had gone you were finished with him till the next time. If he did not look you up, it would never occur to you to go and see him. And as to what became of him when he was out of sight, or how he lived—all that, somehow, never troubled our heads.

What illustrates this is that when he had a severe illness a few years after I came to know him, so little impression did it make on anyone that I cannot now say, and nobody else seems able to remember, what the nature of the illness was. But I remember that he was very ill indeed; and one day, meeting one of his fellow clerks in Cheapside, he told me that Barber's death was only a question of hours. But he recovered, after being, as I heard, for a long time in a state of lethargy which looked mortal.

It was when he was out again that I—and not only myself but others—noticed for the first time that his character was changing. He had always been a laughing, undecided sort of person; he had a facile laugh for everything; he would meet you and begin laughing before there was anything to laugh at. This was certainly harmless, and he had a deserved reputation for good humor.

But his manners now became subject to strange fluctuations, which were very objectionable while they lasted. He would be overtaken with fits of sullenness in company; at times he was violent. He took to rambling in strange places at night, and more than once he appeared at his office in a very battered condition. It is difficult not to think that he provoked the rows he got into himself. One good thing was that the impulses which drove him to do such actions were violent rather than enduring; in fact, I often thought that if the force and emotion of these bouts ever came to last longer, he would be a very dangerous character. This was not only my opinion;[Pg 323] it was the opinion of a number of respectable people who knew him as well as I did.

I recollect that one evening, as three or four of us were coming out of a music hall, Barber offered some freedom to a lady which the gentleman with her—a member of Parliament, I was told—thought fit to resent. He turned fiercely on Barber with his hand raised—and then suddenly grew troubled, stepped back, lost countenance. This could not have been physical fear, for he was a strongly built, handsome man—a giant compared to the insignificant Barber. But Barber was looking at him, and there was something not only in his face, but, so to speak, encompassing him—I can't well describe it—a sort of abstract right—an uncontrolled power—a command of the issues of life and death, which made one quail.

Everybody standing near felt it; I could see that from their looks. Only for a moment it lasted, and then the spell was broken—really as if some formidable spectacle had been swept away from before our eyes; and there was Barber, a most ordinary looking young man, quiet and respectable, and so dazed that he scarcely heeded the cuff which the gentleman managed to get in before we could drag our friend off—

It was about this time that he began to show occasionally the strangest interest in questions of art—I mean, strange in him whom we had never known interested in anything of the kind. I am told, however, that this is not so very remarkable, since not a few cases have been observed of men and women, after some shock or illness, developing hitherto unsuspected aptitude for painting or poetry or music. But in such cases the impulse lasts continuously for a year or two, and now and then for life.

With Barber the crisis was just momentary, never lasting more than half an hour, often much less. In the midst of his emphatic and pretentious talk, he would break off suddenly, remain for a minute lost and dreaming, and then, after spying at us suspiciously to see if we had noticed anything strange, he would give an undecided laugh and repeat a joke he had read in some comic paper.

His talk on these art subjects was without sense or[Pg 324] connection, so far as I could discover. Sometimes he spoke of painting, but when we put to him the names of famous painters, he had never heard of them, and I don't believe he had ever been in an art gallery in his life. More often he spoke of theatrical matters. Coming back from a theatre, he would sometimes fall to abusing the actors, and show the strongest jealousy, pointing out how the parts should have been played, and claiming roundly that he could have played them better. Of course, there were other times—most times—when he was alike indifferent to plays and players, or summed them up like the rest of us, as just "ripping" or "rotten." It was only when the play had much excited him that he became critical, and at such times none of us seemed willing to dispute with him, though we hardly ever agreed with what he was saying.

Sometimes, too, he would talk of his travels, telling obvious lies, for we all knew well enough that he had never been outside the home counties, except once on a week-end trip to Boulogne-sur-mer. On one occasion he put me to some confusion and annoyed me considerably before a gentleman whom I had thoughtlessly brought him with me to visit. This gentleman had long resided in Rome as agent for an English hosiery firm, and he and his wife were kindly showing us some photographs, picture post-cards, and the like, when, at the sight of a certain view, Barber bent over the picture and became absorbed.

"I have been there," he said.

The others looked at him with polite curiosity and a little wonder. To pass it off I began to mock.

"No," he persisted, "I have seen it."

"Yes, at the moving-pictures."

But he began to talk rapidly and explain. I could see that the gentleman and his wife were interested and quite puzzled. It would seem that the place he described—Naples, I think it was—resembled broadly the place they knew, but with so many differences of detail as to be almost unrecognizable. It was, as Mrs. W. said afterward, "like a city perceived in a dream—all the topsy-turvydom, all the mingling of fantasy and reality."[Pg 325]

After outbursts of this kind, he was generally ill—at least he kept his bed and slept much. As a consequence, he was often away from the office; and whenever I thought of him in those days, I used to wonder how he managed to keep his employment.

One foggy evening in January, about eight o'clock, I happened to be walking with Barber in the West End. We passed before a concert hall, brilliantly lighted, with a great crowd of people gathered about the doors, and I read on a poster that a concert of classical music was forward at which certain renowned artists were to appear. I really cannot give any sort of reason why I took it into my head to go in. I am rather fond of music, even of the kind which requires a distinct intellectual effort; but I was not anxious to hear music that night, and in any case, Barber was about the last man in the world I should have chosen to hear it with. When I proposed that we should take tickets, he strongly objected.

"Just look me over," he said. "I ain't done anything to you that you want to take my life, have I? I know the kind of merry-go-round that goes on in there, and I'm not having any."

I suppose it was his opposition which made me stick to the project, for I could not genuinely have cared very much, and there was nothing to be gained by dragging Barber to a concert against his will. Finally, seeing I was determined, he yielded, though most ungraciously.

"It'll be the chance of a lifetime for an hour's nap," he said as we took our seats, "if they only keep the trombone quiet."

I repeat his trivial sayings to show how little there was about him in manner or speech to prepare me for what followed.

I remember that the first number on the programme was Beethoven's Seventh Symphony. This work, as is well known, is rather long, and so, at the end of the third movement, I turned and looked at Barber to see if he was asleep. But his eyes were wide open, feverish, almost glaring; he was twining and untwining his fingers and muttering excitedly. Throughout the fourth movement he continued to talk incoherently.[Pg 326]

"Shut up!" I whispered fiercely. "Just see if you can't keep quiet, or we shall be put out."

I was indeed very much annoyed, and some people near by were turning in their chairs and frowning.—

I do not know whether he heard what I said: I had no chance to talk to him. The applause had hardly died away at the end of the symphony when a singer appeared on the stage. Who he was, or what music he sang, I am utterly unable to say; but if he is still alive it is impossible that he should have forgotten what I relate. If I do not remember him, it is because all else is swallowed up for me in that extraordinary event.

Scarcely had the orchestra ceased preluding and the singer brought out the first notes of his song, than Barber slowly rose from his seat.

"That man is not an artist," he said in a loud and perfectly final voice, "I will sing myself."

"Sit down, for God's sake!—The management—the police"—

Some words like these I gasped, foreseeing the terrible scandal which would ensue, and I caught him by the arm. But he shook himself free without any difficulty, without even a glance at me, and walked up the aisle and across the front of the house toward the little stairs at the side which led up to the platform. By this time the entire audience was aware that something untoward was happening. There were a few cries of "Sit down! Put him out!" An usher hastened up as Barber was about to mount the steps.

Then a strange thing happened.

As the usher drew near, crying out angrily, I saw Barber turn and look at him. It was not, as I remember, a fixed look or a determined look; it was the kind of untroubled careless glance a man might cast over his shoulder who heard a dog bark. I saw the usher pause, grow pale and shamefaced feel like a servant who has made a mistake; he made a profound bow and then—yes, he actually dropped on his knees. All the people saw that. They saw Barber mount the platform, the musicians cease, the singer and the conductor give way before him. But never a word was said—there was a perfect[Pg 327] hush. And yet, so far as my stunned senses would allow me to perceive, the people were not wrathful or even curious; they were just silent and collected as people generally are at some solemn ceremonial. Nobody but me seemed to realize the outrageousness and monstrosity of the vulgar-looking, insignificant Barber there on the platform, holding up the show, stopping the excellent music we had all paid to hear.

And in truth I myself was rapidly falling into the strangest confusion. For a certain time—I cannot quite say how long—I lost my hold on realities. The London concert hall, with its staid, rather sad-looking audience, vanished, and I was in a great white place inundated with sun—some vast luminous scene. Under a wide caressing blue sky, in the dry and limpid atmosphere, the white marble of the buildings and the white-clad people appeared as against a background of an immense blue veil shot with silver. It was the hour just before twilight, that rapid hour when the colors of the air have a supreme brilliance and serenity, and a whole people, impelled by some indisputable social obligation, seemed to be reverently witnessing the performance of one magnificent man of uncontrollable power, of high and solitary grandeur.—

Barber began to sing.

Of what he sang I can give no account. The words seemed to me here and there to be Greek, but I do not know Greek well, and in such words as I thought I recognized, his pronunciation was so different from what I had been taught that I may well have been mistaken.

I was so muddled, and, as it were, transported, that I cannot say even if he sang well. Criticism did not occur to me; he was there singing and we were bound to listen. As I try to hear it, now, it was a carefully trained voice. A sound of harps seemed to accompany the singing; perhaps the harpists in the orchestra touched their instruments.—

How long did it last? I have no idea. But it did not appear long before all began to waver. The spell began to break; the power by which he was compelling us to listen to him was giving out. It was exactly as if some[Pg 328]thing, a mantle or the like, was falling from Barber.

The absurdity of the whole thing began to dawn on me. There was Barber, an obscure little Londoner, daring to interrupt a great musical performance so that the audience might listen to him instead! Probably because I was the only one on the spot personally acquainted with Barber, I was perceiving the trick put upon us sooner than the rest of the audience; but they, too, were becoming a little restless, and it would not be long ere they fully awoke. One thing I saw with perfect clearness and some terror, and that was that Barber himself realized that his power was dying within him. He appeared to be dwindling, shrinking down; in his eyes were suffering and a terrible panic—the distress of a beaten man appealing for mercy. The catastrophe must fall in a minute—

With some difficulty I rose from my place and made for the nearest exit. My difficulty came, not from the crowd or anything like that, but from an inexplicable sensation that I was committing some crime by stirring while Barber was on the stage, and even risking my life.

Outside it was raining.

I walked away rapidly, for although I was, to a certain extent, under the influence of the impression I have just described, some remains of common sense urged me to put a long distance between myself and the concert hall as soon as possible. I knew that the hoots and yells of fury and derision had already broken loose back there. Perhaps Barber would be taken to the police station. I did not want to be mixed up in the affair—

But suddenly I heard the steps of one running behind me. As I say, it was a wet night, and at that hour the street was pretty empty. Barber ran up against me and caught my arm. He was panting and trembling violently.

"You fool!" I cried furiously. "Oh, you fool!" I shook myself free of his hold. "How did you get out?"

"I don't know," he panted. "They let me go—that is, as soon as I saw that I was standing up there before them all, I jumped off the stage and bolted. Whatever made me do it? My God, what made me do it? I heard a shout. I think they are after me."

I hailed a passing cab and shoved Barber inside, and[Pg 329] then got in myself. I gave the cabman a fictitious address in Kensington.

"Yes," I said fiercely. "What made you do it?"

He was bunched in a corner of the cab, shuddering like a man who has just had some great shock, or who has been acting under the influence of a drug which has evaporated and left him helpless. His words came in gasps.

"If you can tell me that!—God, I'm frightened! I'm frightened! I must be crazy. Whatever made me do it? If they hear of it at the office I'll lose my job."

"They'll hear of it right enough, my boy," I sneered, "and a good many other people too. You can't do these little games with impunity."

I caught sight of the clock at Hyde Park corner. It was near a quarter to ten.

"Why," I said, "you must have been up there over twenty minutes. Think of that!"

"Don't be so hard on me," said Barber miserably. "I couldn't help it."

And he added in a low voice: "It was the Other."

I paid off the cab, and we took a 'bus which passed by the street where Barber lived. All the way I continued to reproach him. It was not enough for him to play the fool on his own account, but he must get me into a mess, too. I might lose my work through him.

I walked with him to his door. He looked extremely ill. His hand trembled so badly that he could not fit his latchkey. I opened the door for him.

"Come up and sit with a fellow," he ventured.

"Why?"

"I'm frightened.—"

"I believe," I said roughly, "that you've been drinking—or drugging."

I shoved him inside the house, pulled the door closed, and walked away down the street. I was very angry and disturbed, but I felt also the need to treat Barber with contempt so as to keep myself alive to the fact that he was really a mere nothing, a little scum on the surface of London, of no more importance than a piece of paper on the pavement. For—shall I confess it?—I was even[Pg 330] yet so much under the emotion of the scene back there in the concert hall that I could not help regarding him still with some mixture of respect and—yes, absurd as it may sound, of fear.

It was nearly a year before I saw Barber again. I heard that he had lost his place at his office. The cashier there, who told me this, said that although the young man was generally docile and a fair worker, he had in the last year become very irregular, and was often quarrelsome and impudent. He added that Barber could now and then influence the management—"when he was not himself," as the cashier put it—or they would not have tolerated him so long.

"But this was only momentary," said the cashier. "He was more often weak and feeble, and they took a good opportunity to get rid of him. He was uncanny," ended the cashier significantly.

I cannot imagine how Barber existed after he lost his place. Perhaps his mother was able to help a little. On the day I met him, by mere chance in the street, he looked sick and miserable; his sallow face was more blotchy than ever. Whether he saw me or not I don't know, but he was certainly making as if to go by when I stopped him. I told him he looked weak and unwell.

"Trust you to pass a cheery remark!" And he continued irritably:

"How can you expect a chap to look well if he has something inside him stronger than himself forcing him to do the silliest things? It must wear him out. I never know when it will take me next. I'm here in London looking for a job today, but even if I find one, I'm sure to do some tom-fool thing that will get me the sack."

He passed his hand across his face. "I'd rather not think about it."

I took pity on him, he looked so harassed, and I asked him to come on to a Lyons restaurant with me and have a bit of lunch. As we walked through the streets, we fell in with a great crowd, and then I remembered that some royal visitors were to proceed in great state to the Mansion House. I proposed to Barber that we should go and look at the procession, and he agreed more readily than I expected.[Pg 331]

In fact, after a while, the crowd, and the rumor, and stirring of troops as they fell into position, evidently wrought on him to a remarkable degree. He began to talk loud and rather haughtily, to study his gestures; there was infinite superiority and disdain in the looks he cast on the people. He attracted the attention and, I thought, the derision of those close to us, and I became rather ashamed and impatient of those ridiculous airs. Yet I could not help feeling sorry for him. The poor creature evidently suffered from megalomania—that was the only way to account for his pretentious notions of his own importance, seeing that he was just a needy little clerk out of work.—

The place from which we were watching the procession was a corner of Piccadilly Circus. The street lay before our eyes bleached in the sun, wide and empty, looking about three times as large as usual, bordered with a line of soldiers and mounted police, and the black crowd massed behind. In a few minutes the procession of princes would sweep by. There was a hush over all the people.

What followed happened so quickly that I can hardly separate the progressive steps. Barber continued to talk excitedly, but all my attention being on the scene before me, I took no heed of what he said. Neither could I hear him very plainly. But it must have been the ceasing of his voice which made me look around, when I saw he was no longer by my side.

How he managed, at that moment, to get out there I never knew, but suddenly in the broad vacant space, fringed by police and soldiery, I saw Barber walking alone in the sight of all the people.

I was thunderstruck. What a madman! I expected to hear the crowd roar at him, to see the police ride up and drag him away.

But nobody moved; there was a great stillness; and before I knew it my own feelings blended with the crowd's. It seemed to me that Barber was in his right place there: this mean shabby man, walking solitary, was what we had all come to see. For his passage the street had been cleared, the guards deployed, the houses decked.

It all sounds wild, I know, but the whole scene made so[Pg 332] deep an impression on my mind that I am perfectly certain as to what I felt while Barber was walking there. He walked slowly, with no trace of his usual shuffling uncertain gait, but with a balanced cadenced step, and as he turned his head calmly from side to side his face seemed transfigured. It was the face of a genius, an evil genius, unjust and ruthless—a brutal god. I felt, and no doubt everyone in the crowd felt, that between us and that lonely man there was some immense difference and distance of outlook and will and desire.

I could follow his progress for several yards. Then I lost sight of him. Almost immediately afterward I heard a tumult—shouts and uproar—

Then the royal procession swept by.

I said to Mr. G.M., "Whether he was arrested that day, or knocked down by the cavalry and taken to a hospital, I don't know. I have not seen or heard of him till I got that letter on Wednesday."

Mr. G.M., who is now one of the managers of a well-known tobacconist firm, had been in the same office as Barber, and notwithstanding the disparity of age and position, had always shown a kindly interest in him and befriended him when he could. Accordingly, when I received a letter from Barber begging in very lamentable terms to visit him at an address in Kent, I thought it prudent to consult this gentleman before sending any reply. He proposed very amiably that we should meet at Charing Cross Station on the following Saturday afternoon and travel in to Kent together. In the train we discussed Barber's case. I related all I knew of the young man and we compared our observations.

"Certainly," said Mr. G.M., "what you tell me is rather astonishing. But the explanation is simple as far as poor Barber is concerned. You say he has been often ill lately? Naturally, this has affected his brain and spirits. What is a little more difficult to explain is the impression left by his acts on you and other spectators. But the anger you always experienced may have clouded your faculties for the time being. Have you inquired of anybody else who was present on these occasions?"

I replied that I had not. I had shrunk from being identi[Pg 333]fied in any way with Barber. I had to think of my wife and children. I could not afford to lose my post.

"No," rejoined Mr. G.M., "I can quite understand that. I should probably have acted myself as you did. Still, the effect his performances have had on you, and apparently on others, is the strangest element in Barber's case. Otherwise, I don't see that it offers anything inexplicable. You say that Barber acts against his will—against his better judgment. We all do that. All men and women who look back over their lives must perceive the number of things they have done which they had no intention of doing. We obey some secret command; we sail under sealed orders. We pass by without noticing it some tiny fact which, years later, perhaps, influences the rest of our lives. And for all our thinking, we seldom can trace this tiny fact. I myself cannot tell to this day why I did not become a Baptist minister. It seems to me I always intended to do this, but one fine afternoon I found I had ended my first day's work in a house of business.

"Much of our life is unconscious; even the most wide-awake of us pass much of our lives in dreams. Several hours out of every twenty-four we pass in a dream state we cannot help carrying some of those happy or sinister adventures into our waking hours. It is really as much our habit to dream as to be awake. Perhaps we are always dreaming. Haven't you ever for a moment, under some powerful exterior shock, become half conscious that you should be doing something else from what you are actually doing? But with us this does not last; and as life goes on such intimations become dimmer and dimmer. With subjects like Barber, on the other hand, the intimations become stronger and stronger, till at last they attempt to carry their dreams into action. That is the way I explain this case."

"Perhaps you are right."

The house where Barber was lodging stood high up on the side of a hill. We reached it after a rather breathless climb in the rain. It was a shepherd's cottage, standing quite lonely. Far down below the village could be seen with the smoke above the red roofs.[Pg 334]

The woman told us that Barber was in, but she thought he might be asleep. He slept a lot.

"I don't know how he lives," she said. "He pays us scarce anything. We can't keep him much longer."

He was fast asleep, lying back in a chair with his mouth half open, wrapped in a shabby overcoat. He looked very mean; and when he awoke it was only one long wail on his hard luck. He couldn't get any work. People had a prejudice against him; they looked at him askance. He had a great desire for sleep—couldn't somehow keep awake.

"If I could tell you the dreams I have!" he cried fretfully. "Silliest rotten stuff. I try to tell 'em to the woman here or her husband sometimes, but they won't listen. Shouldn't be surprised if they think I'm a bit off. They say I'm always talking to myself. I'm sure I'm not.—I wish I could get out of here. Can't you get me a job?" he asked, turning to Mr. G.M.

"Well, Gus, I'll see. I'll do my best."

"Lummy!" exclaimed Barber excitedly, "you ought to see the things I dream. I can't think where the bloomin' pictures come from. And yet I've seen it all before. I know all those faces. They are not all white. Some are brown like Egyptians, and some are quite black. I've seen them somewhere. Those long terraces and statues and fountains and marble courts, and the blue sky and the sun, and those dancing girls with the nails of their hands and feet stained red, and the boy in whose hair I wipe my fingers, and the slave I struck dead last night—"

His eyes were delirious, terrible to see.

"Ah," he cried hoarsely, "I am stifling here. Let us go into the air."

And indeed he was changing so much—not essentially in his person, though his face had become broader, intolerant, domineering and cruel—but there was pouring from him so great an emanation of power that it seemed to crack and break down the poor little room. Mr. G.M. and myself had no desire to thwart him, and it never occurred to us to do so. We should as soon have thought of stopping a thunderstorm. We followed him[Pg 335] outside on to the space of level ground before the house and listened humbly while he spoke.

As well as I can recollect, he was lamenting some hindrance to his impulses, some flaw in his power. "To have the instincts of the ruler and no slaves to carry out my will. To wish to reward and punish and to be deprived of the means. To be the master of the world, but only in my own breast—Oh, fury! The ploughboy there is happy, for he has no longings outside of his simple round life. While I—if I had the earth in my hand, I should want a star. Misery! Misery!"

He leaned upon a low stonewall and looked down on the town, over the pastures blurred with rain.

"And those wretches down there," he pronounced slowly, "who jeer at me when I pass and insult me with impunity, whose heads should be struck off, and I cannot strike them off! I loathe that town. How ugly it is! It offends my eyes."

He turned and looked us full in the face and our hearts became as water.

"Burn it," he said.

Then he turned away again and bowed his head in his arms on the wall.

I don't remember anything clearly till a long time afterward, when I found myself walking with Mr. G.M. in the wet night on a deserted road on the outskirts of the town. We were carrying some inflammable things, flax, tar, matches, etc., which we must have purchased.

Mr. G.M. stopped and looked at me. It was exactly like coming out of a fainting fit.

"What are we doing with this gear?" he said in a low voice.

"I don't know."

"Better chuck it over a hedge.—"

We made our way to the station in silence. I was thinking of that desolate figure up there on the hill, leaning over the wall in the dark and the rain.

We caught the last train to London. In the carriage Mr. G.M. began to shiver as though he were cold.

"Brrr! that fellow got on my nerves," he said; and we made no further allusion to the matter.[Pg 336]

But as the train, moving slowly, passed a gap which brought us again in sight of the town, we saw a tongue of flame stream into the sky.


[Pg 337]

THE SHAME DANCE[18]

By WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

(From Harper's Magazine)

"Stories of New York life preferable."

Well, then, here is a story of New York. A tale of the night heart of the city, where the vein of Forty-Second touches the artery of Broadway; where, amid the constellations of chewing-gum ads and tooth paste and memory methods, rise the incandescent façades of "dancing academies" with their "sixty instructresses," their beat of brass and strings, their whisper of feet, their clink of dimes.—Let a man not work away his strength and his youth. Let him breathe a new melody, let him draw out of imagination a novel step, a more fantastic tilt of the pelvis, a wilder gesticulation of the deltoid. Let him put out his hand to the Touch of Gold.—

It is a tale of this New York. That it didn't chance to happen in New York is beside the point. Where? It wouldn't help you much if I told you. Taai. That island. Take an imaginary ramrod into Times Square, push it straight down through the center of the earth; where it comes out on the other side will not be very many thousand miles wide of that earth speck in the South Seas. Some thousands, yes; but out here a few thousand miles and a month or so by schooner make less difference than they do where the trains run under the ground.—

"Glauber's Academy"—"Einstein's Restaurant"—"Herald Square"—

I can't tell you how bizarrely those half-fabulous names fell from Signet's lips in the turquoise and gold of the afternoon. It was like the babble of some monstrous and harmless mythology. And all the while, as he kicked[Pg 338] his bare heels on the deckhouse and harassed me with his somnolent greed for "talk," one could see him wondering, wondering, in the back of his mind. So he would have been wondering through all the hours of weeks, months—it had come to the dignity of years, on the beach, in the bush—wondering more than ever under the red iron roof of the Dutchman: "What in hell am I doing here? What in hell?"

A guttersnipe, pure and simple. That's to say, impure and unpleasantly complex. It was extraordinary how it stuck. Even with nothing on but a pair of cotton pants swimming out to me among the flashing bodies of the islanders, men, women, girls, youths, who clung to the anchor cable and showed their white teeth for pilot biscuit, condensed milk, and gin—especially gin—even there you could see Signet, in imagination, dodging through the traffic on Seventh Avenue to pick the Telegraph Racing Chart out of the rubbish can under the Elevated.—

I hadn't an idea who the fellow was. He burst upon me unheralded. I sail out of west-coast ports, but once I had been in New York. That was enough for him. He was "pals" in ten minutes; in fifteen, from his eminence on the deckhouse, with a biscuit in one hand and a tumbler of much-diluted Hollands in the other, he gazed down at his erstwhile beach fellows with almost the disdainful wonder of a tourist from a white ship's rail.—

"Gi' me an article you can retail at a nickel—any little thing everybody needs—or gi' me a song with a catchy chorus—something you can turn out on them ten-cent records.—That makes me. Don't want any Wall Street stuff. That's for Rockefeller and the boobs. But just one time le' me catch on with one little old hunch that'll go in vaudeville or the pi'tures—get Smith and Jones diggin' for the old nickel.—That makes me. Then the line can move up one. That's the thing about New York. Say, man, len' me a cigarette.—But that's the thing about Broadway. When you make, you make big. I know a guy turned out a powder-puff looked like a lor'nette—a quarter of a dollar. You know how the Janes'll fall for a thing like that—"[Pg 339]

It was completely preposterous, almost uncomfortable. It made a man look around him. On the schooner's port side spread the empty blue of the South Pacific; the tenuous snowdrift of the reef, far out, and the horizon. On the starboard hand, beyond the little space of the anchorage, curved the beach, a pink-white scimitar laid flat. Then the scattering of thatched and stilted huts, the red, corrugated-iron store, residence and godowns of the Dutch trader, the endless Indian-file of coco palms, the abrupt green wall of the mountain.—A twelve-year-old girl, naked as Eve and, I've no doubt, thrice as handsome, stood watching us from the mid-decks in a perfection of immobility, an empty milk tin propped between her brown palms resting on her breast. Twenty fathoms off a shark fin, blue as lapis in the shadow, cut the water soundlessly. The hush of ten thousand miles was disturbed by nothing but that grotesque, microscopic babbling:

"Say you play in bad luck. Well, you can't play in bad luck f'rever. Not if you're wise. One time I get five good wheezes. Good ones! Sure fire! One of 'em was the old one about the mother-'n-law and the doctor, only it had a perfectly novel turn to it. Did I make? I did not. Why? Well, a good friend o' mine lifts them five wheezes, writes a vaudeville turn around 'em, and makes big. Big! What does that learn me? Learns me to go bear on friendship. So next time I get an idea—"

The girl had put the milk tin down between her toes on deck and turned her head.

"Digger!" I called to the mate. "Clear the vessel! Shove them all overboard! Here comes the Dutchman!"

Before the advance of the trader's canoe, painted vermillion like his establishment and flying over the water under the paddle strokes of his six men, Signet took himself hastily overboard with the rest. There was no question of protest or false pride. Over he went. Rising and treading water under the taffrail, and seeing the trader still some fathoms off, he shook the wet from the rag of a beard with which long want of a razor had blurred his peaked chin and gathered up the ends of the conversation:[Pg 340]

"No, Dole, you can't play in bad luck f'rever. One sure-fire hunch, that's all. That makes me. When I get back to Broadway—"

A paddle blade narrowly missed his head. He dived.

The Dutchman told me more about him that evening. I dined at the trader's house. He was a big-bodied tow-haired man who spoke English with the accent of a east-coast Scot, drank like a Swede, and viewed life through the eyes of a Spaniard—that is, he could be diabolical without getting red in the face.

"No, my dear sir, that Signet shall not 'get back to Broadway.' Too many have I seen. He is too tired. Quite too tired."

"But how in the world did he ever come here, Mynheer?"

"That is simple. This Signet got drunk in Papeete. He was on his way to Australia with a pugilist. How should he be in a pugilist's company, this crab? Because he plays a good game of pinochle—to keep the pugilist's mind bright. At any event, the steamship stops at Tahiti. This Signet gets drunk. 'Soused!' And the steamship is gone without him. No more pinochle for the pugilist, what?—From then, my dear sir, it is what it shall always be; one island throws him to another island. Here he shall stay for a while—"

"Till you decide to 'throw' him to another island, eh, Mynheer?"

"No, but I am alone. Sometimes to amuse myself I will invite him to dine with me. I put on him a suit of the evening clothes which belong to my nephew who is dead. But I will not allow him the razor, since his absurd beard is amusing to me. Afterward, however, I take away the evening clothes and I will kick him out. But he is talking continuously."

"I believe you, Mynheer."

"But at last I will say: 'My dear sir, suppose that you should have the most brilliant idea; that "hunch" of yours. "Sure-fire." What advantage will it do you here in the island of Taai? You are not here on Broadway. You are too many thousand miles. You cannot come here. You are too tired. It takes money. Now, my dear[Pg 341] sir, I am putting a trench about the godowns. If you wish, I will let you work for me.'"

"What does he say to that, Mynheer?"

"He says, 'Do you take me for an Italian?'

"Then I will say: 'No; you see you are too tired. Also you are too soft. You are a criminal. That's natural to you. But you think of police. You have a wish, say. Well my dear sir, but would you kill a man—three—ten men—to have that wish? No, you are too tired, and you must have the police. But here there are no police. I am the police. Why do you not kill me? Ha-ha-ha! Then you could take my property. Then you would "make big," as you say. My dear sir, that is a "hunch!" That is "sure fire!" Ha-ha-ha!'—Then I will kick him out in his coolie cotton pants."

After coffee the trader said: "One gallon of the Hollands which you sent me ashore has disappeared. The kitchen boys are 'careless.' Also I wink one eye when a schooner arrives. Of course they will dance tonight, however. You would care to go up, my dear sir?"

Of course we went. There's no other amusement in an islet like Taai but the interminable native dance. The Dutchman led the way up a narrow, bushy ravine, guiding me by sound rather than by sight.

"Up this same very path," I heard him, "has gone one uncle of mine. They pulled him to the advance with one rope around his arms. Then they cut him up and ate him. But that was many years ago, my dear sir. Now I am the law. Maybe there shall come, now and then, a Dutch gunboat to have a look-in. I raise up that flag. The captain shall dine with me. All is good. But, my dear sir, I am the law."

The "music" began to be heard, a measured monotone of drums, a breath of voices in a recitative chant, slightly impassioned by that vanished gallon. The same old thing, indeed; one of the more than fifty-seven varieties of the island hula. Then that had died away.

The light from the "place" grew among the higher leaves. And the trader, becoming visible, halted. I saw him standing, listening.

"No, my dear sir, but that is a new thing."[Pg 342]

He started forward. He stopped again. I heard it now. Out of the familiar, hollow tautophony of drumbeats there began to emerge a thread of actual melody—an untraditional rise and fall of notes—a tentative attack as it were, on the chromatic scale of the west. No he-goat's skin stretched on bamboo would do that.

We pushed on, curious. We came out into the "place." The scene under the candlenut torches was as familiar to us as the Ohio River of Uncle Tom to the small-town schoolboy; the meager rows of three-quarter naked Kanakas, yellow with saffron and blue with tattooer's ink; the old women in the background of sultry lights and enormous shadows compounding endless balls of popoi for the feast; the local and desceptered chieftain squatting on his hams and guarding the vanished gallon between his knees; this was all as it should have been. This was the convention.—But what was really happening on that sylvan, torchlit stage that night was something as new as anything can be under the sun, because it was something that had not happened for ten thousand years.—

We who are worn with novelty can never reconquer for ourselves the thrill of an unmitigated wonder. We have sold the birthright. But imagine the toppling of a hundred centuries! You could have seen it in the eyes of those watchers, in their rapt, rapacious attention, in the conflict that went on within them visibly; traitorous applause pent and pitted against all the instinctive protest of an established art.—

"Yes, but this isn't dancing!"

Yet their bodies, one here, one there, would begin to sway—

Three Kanaka men, strangers to the island, sat cross-legged on the turf. One had taken over a drum from a local musician. The other two had instruments fashioned of dried gourds with fingering pieces of bamboo and strings of gut—barbaric cousins to the mandolin. So, on this one night in history, the music of another tribe had come to Taai. It just escaped being an authentic "tune." How it escaped was indefinable. The sophisticated ear would almost have it, and abruptly it had got away in some provoking lapse, some sudden and bizarre disintegra[Pg 343]tion of tone. And the drumbeat, bringing it back, ran like a fever pulse in a man's blood.

In the center of the sward, her back to the musicians, a solitary female danced; a Kanaka woman, clothed in a single shift of the sheerest crimson cotton, tied at one shoulder and falling to mid-thigh. Not from Taai did this woman come; one saw that; not from any near island or group. Her beauty was extraordinary, like that of the Marquesans, with that peculiar straightness of all the lines, at once Grecian, austere, and incalculably voluptuous.—

The dance, as I saw it for the first time that night, I will not speak of. I have traded to many islands in many groups—even the Low Archipelago—but the island where that dance was indigenous I am sure I've never touched. Compared with any of the hulas, set and fixed in each locality as the rites of Rome, it was sophisticated; it gave an illusion of continuous invention and spontaneity; it was flesh swept by a wind and shattered; it ravished the eyes.

I don't know how long I watched; how long all the immortal flame in me lent itself to the histrionic purposes of that woman. But I shall never forget it. Never! Never!

I looked away. I saw two faces. One of them hung over my shoulder. It was the trader's. It was the face of a man who has lived a very long while wielding power of life and death over unsatisfying satisfactions. A man awakened! The toppling of a hundred centuries, indeed.

The other was Signet's. Scarred by leaf shadows, thrust like a swimmer's from the meager sea of heads and naked shoulders, it held as still as a death mask, minute by minute, except that, in the penumbra cast by the veil of goat tuft on his chin, the Adam's apple was convulsed at intervals, as if he were swallowing, as if the man were drinking!

The night grew. The torches were consumed, the "place" deserted. Somewhere the amazing voyagers had taken themselves to rest. A half moon mutilated the island—long stripes of palms, shadow scars of defiles, mottles of bushes. It was like a sleeping animal, a[Pg 344] tiger of deep blue and blue-white, an enormous leopard.

We sat on the veranda at the Residence, the trader and I. By and by, soft-footed, Signet was there, occupying the lowermost step.

The Dutchman talked. Like the able administrator he was, he had already all the data to be procured. Into his ears had poured the whispered trickles of a score of informants.

"You are right, my dear sir. Marquesan. You have been there?"

"No."

"She is called in Polynesian, 'Queen Daughter.' My people, who know nothing as a rule, of course—but they tell me the woman is in actuality the daughter of a queen. But what is a Kanaka queen? After all, Signet, my dear sir, down there, what is one queen, out here?"

The trader was obviously in a good humor. He had not been excited for years. The man was alive. I've said he was like a Spaniard in that he could be diabolical without getting red in the face. Diabolically devious and strategic! Before he resumed he blew three mouthfuls of cigar smoke out into the moonlight, where they burst from the shadow under the roof like mute cannon shots, round and silvery. Beneath them, from the step, Signet's eyes were fixed upon the trader's face, dry, rapt, glazed with some imperious preoccupation.

"But they tell me this woman has danced in a great many islands. She will go from here to another island to dance. The three men are her husbands. But she is no wife. A maid, that woman! They have the hardihood to tell me that. Ha-ha-ha! But, then, she is daughter to a queen. With those 'husbands' she crosses a hundred leagues of sea in her sailing canoe. That royal canoe! To dance at another island.—"

As the Dutchman talked, blowing his smoke bursts into the moonlight, the vision of that Marquesan woman came again before me. I perceived her, under the heavy procession of his words, a figure of astounding romance, an adventuress incomparable, a Polynesian bacchante. No, I saw her as the missionary of a strange thing, crossing oceans, daring thirst and gale and teeth of sharks, harrying[Pg 345] deeper and deeper into the outseas of mystery that small, devoted, polyandrous company of husbands, at once her paddlers, cooks, flunkies, watchdogs, music makers. "Queen Daughter!" Royal and self-anointed priestess of that unheard-of dance, the tribal dance, no doubt, of some tiny principality rearing a cone in the empty hugeness of the sea.—I couldn't get away from my time and race. I found myself wondering what she got out of it—in some jungle-bowered, torch-lit "high place," to feel again the toppling of ten thousand years? Was it something to feel the voluptuous and abominable beauty of that rhythm going out of her flesh, beat by beat, and entering into the flesh of those astounded and half-hostile watchers? Perhaps.—

"They tell me that she has also danced at Papeete—before the white men of the steamships," the Dutchman was informing us.

At that, from the step, from the moon-blue huddle of the castaway, there came a sound. With a singular clarity of divination I built up the thought, the doubt, the bitter perturbation in the fellow's mind. The woman had danced then at Papeete, the cross roads, the little Paris of mid-seas. And before the white men from steamers—the white men that go back!

Moved by projects deeper and more devious than ours, the Dutchman made haste to cover up what seemed to have been an overshot. Frankly, he turned his attention to the outcast.

"By the God, then, my dear Signet, have you considered?"

He knew well enough that Signet had "considered." He could see as well as I that Signet was a changed man. But he must "pile it on."

"There, my dear sir, you have it. That 'hunch!' That 'sure fire!' Do you think I do not know that New York of yours? Such a dance as that! You must believe me. If you were but a man of energy, now—" With the utmost deliberation he launched upon a tirade of abuse. "But, no, you are not a man of energy, not a man to take things in your hands. The obstacles are too big. Those three husbands! You might even take that woman, that[Pg 346] lovely, royal dancing woman—you, my dear sir, a common street snipe. What would a woman like that, with that novel, impassioned, barbaric, foreign dance, be worth to a man on your Broadway? Eh? But obstacles! Obstacles! You have her not on Broadway. It is too many thousand miles, and you have no money. But see, if you were a man to grasp things, a man to 'hit the nail in the head,' to 'boost,' to 'go big'—then would not a man like me, who turns everything to gold—would he not say to you quickly enough, 'See here, my dear sir, but let me put so much money into the undertaking myself?'"

Under the explosions of cigar smoke, Signet continued to hold the trader with his eyes; seemed to consume him with the fixed, dry fire of his gaze. Not fathoming, as with a singular intuition I had fathomed, the profound purposes of the Dutchman, Signet saw only the implied promise in his words.—The trader broke out once more with a sardonic and calculated spleen:

"But, no! Obstacles! A sniveling little animal sees only obstacles. The obstacle not to be mounted over—those three husbands. There they lie tonight on Nakokai's platform—this beautiful, incredible 'Queen Daughter'—this gold goddess of the 'Shame Dance'—and about her those three husbands. Ah, my dear sir, but their big, lithe muscles! That is too much! To imagine them leaping up at the alarm in the moonlight, the overpowering and faithful husbands. No, he cannot put out his hand to take the gift. Pah! He is a criminal in nature, but he is afraid of the police, even here. He is not a man for the big life in these islands. He will never do anything. Those faithful, strong watch-dogs of husbands! Those strong, destructive muscles! Dear, good God, that is too much to think of—Look, my dear sir!"

He was speaking to me, as if Signet were less than the very pebbles at the step. He got up, striking the floor heavily with his boots, and I followed him into the house, where he took a lighted candle from a stand. Buried in our shadows, silent footed, Signet pursued us as the trader had meant him to do. I persist in saying that I perceived the thing as a whole. From the first I had divined the maneuver of the Dutchman.[Pg 347]

"Look!" he repeated, flinging open a door and thrusting in the candle to cast its light over ranks and ranges of metal. It was the gun room of the Residence. Here dwelt the law. Shotguns, repeating rifles, old-style revolvers, new, blue automatics. An arsenal!

"Big brown muscles!" he cried, with a ponderous disdain. "What are they? What is the strongest brown man? Puff! To a man of purpose and indomitable will like me! Obstacles? Three husbands? Puff-puff-puff! Like that!—But all that will never be of use to him. That Signet! No, he is a street snipe who will steal a pocketbook and call it a crime. He is afraid to grasp.—But it is close in here, is it not?"

It was too bald. He stepped across the floor, unlatched and threw open the blind of the window, letting the candlelight stream forth upon a mass of bougainvillaea vine without.

"I keep this door locked; you can imagine that," he laughed, returning and shutting us out of the gun room. He twisted the key; put it in his pocket. And there, at the back, that window blind stood open.

He stared at Signet, as if the beach comber were just discovered.

"You are hopeless, my dear sir."

"Let us have a drink," he shifted.

For Signet he poured out a tumblerful of raw gin. The fellow took it like a man in a daze—the daze of a slowly and fiercely solidifying resolution. It shivered in his hand. A habit of greed sucked his lips. Into his mouth he took a gulp of the spirits. He held it there. His eyes searched our faces with a kind of malignant defiance. Of a sudden he spat the stuff out, right on the floor. He said nothing. It was as if he said: "By God! if you think I need that! No! You don't know me!"

He stalked out of the door. When we followed as far as the veranda we saw him making off into the striped light to the left.—

"Why did you call it the 'Shame Dance,' Mynheer?" We were seated again.

"Of course, my dear sir, it is not that, but it has a sound so when the Kanakas speak it. The woman spoke[Pg 348] the name. If it is a Polynesian word I have not heard it before. 'Shemdance.' Like that."

"A good name, though. By jingo! a darn good name. Eh, Mynheer?"

But the trader's head was turned in an attitude of listening. Triumphant listening—at the keyhole of the striped, moonlit night. I heard it, too—a faint disturbance of bougainvillaea foliage around two sides of the house, near the window standing open to the gun room.

Of course the amazing thing was that the man fooled us. In the Dutchman's heart, I believe, there was nothing but astonishment at his own success. Signet, on the face of it, was the typical big talker and little doer; a flaw in character which one tends to think imperishable. He fitted so precisely into a certain pigeonhole of human kind.—What we had not counted on was the fierceness of the stimulus—like the taste of blood to a carnivore or, to the true knight, a glimpse of the veritable Grail.

All the following day I spent on board, overseeing the hundred minor patchings and calkings a South Sea trader will want in port. When I went ashore that evening, after sundown, I found the Dutchman sitting in the same chair on the veranda, blowing smoke out into the afterglow. There was the illusion of perfect continuity with the past. Yesterday, today, tomorrow. Life flowed like a sleeping river, it would seem.

But this was the status of affairs. The three brown music makers, sons-in-law to an island queen, lay on a platform somewhere within the edge of the bush, heavier by ounces with thirty-two caliber slugs, awaiting burial. And Signet, guttersnipe, beach comber, and midnight assassin, was lodged in the "calaboose," built stoutly in a corner of the biggest and reddest of the Dutchman's godowns. As for the royal dancing woman, I was presently in the trader's phrase, to "have a look at her."

At his solicitation I followed around the house, past the gun-room window (locked fast enough now, you may be sure), and up steeply through a hedged, immaculate garden, which witnessed to the ordered quality of the owner's mind. At the upper end, under a wall of volcanic tufa, we came to a summerhouse done in the native style,[Pg 349] stilts below, palmite thatch above, and walled on three sides only with hanging screens of bamboo. Striking through this screen from the west, the rose and green of the afterglow showed the woman as in a semi-luminous cavern, seated cross-legged in the center of the platform, her hands drooped between her knees, and her large, dark eyes fixed upon the sea beyond the roof of the Residence below.

Was it the perfect immobility of defiance and disdain? Not once did her transfixed gaze take us in. Was it the quiescence of defeat and despair—that level brooding over the ocean which had been to her, first and last, a cradle and roadway for her far, adventurious pilgrimages? She sat there before our peering eyes, the sudden widow, the daughter of potentates brought low, the goddess of an exuberant and passionate vitality struck with quietude; mute, astounded by catastrophe, yet unbowed. The beauty of that golden-skinned woman abashed me.

It did not abash the Dutchman. His was another and more indomitable fiber. It is fine to succeed, beyond expectation, detail by detail of strategy. His hands were clean. He remained the perfect administrator. Had there been no other way, he would not have flinched at any necessary lengths of wholesale or retail butchery. Still, it was nice to think that his hands were spotless. For instance, if that gunboat, with its purple-whiskered Amsterdammer of a captain, should just now happen in.

His face glowed in the dusk. His eyes shone with frank calculations. Fists on hips, head thrust out, one saw him casting up the sum of his treasure-trove.—But he was an epicure. He could wait. It was even delightful to wait. When I turned away he came down with me, his hands still on his hips and his eyes on the gently emerging stars.

The man was extraordinary. Sitting on the veranda, bombarding the direction of the foreshore with that huge deliberate fusillade of cigar smoke, he talked of home, of his boyhood on the dike at Volendam, and of his mother, who, bless her! was still alive to send him cheeses at Christmas-time.

It was midnight and the moon was rising when I got[Pg 350] away and moved down toward the beach where the dinghy waited. The horizontal ray struck through the grating of the "calaboose" at the corner of the godown I was skirting. I saw the prisoner. The upright shadow of an iron bar cut his face in two, separating the high, soiled cheeks, each with an eye.

"You mustn't leave him get at her!"

I tell you it was not the same man that had come swimming and sniveling out to the schooner less than forty hours before. Here was a fierce one, a zealot, a flame, the very thin blade of a fine sword.

"Listen, Dole, if you leave that devil get at her—"

His eyes burned through me. He failed completely to accept the fact that he was done. His mind, ignoring the present, ran months ahead. With a flair of understanding, thinking of those three travesties of husbands and the wife who was no wife, I perceived what he meant.

I left him. He was a wild man, but the quality of his wildness showed itself in the fact that he squandered none of it in shaking the bars, shouting, or flinging about. His voice to the last, trailing me around the next corner, held to the same key, almost subdued.

"By God! if that—gets at her, I'll—I'll—"

"You'll what?" I mused. You see, even now I couldn't get rid of him as the drifter, the gutter Hamlet, the congenital howler against fate. "You'll what?" I repeated under my breath, and I had to laugh.

I got the vessel under way as soon as I came aboard. The Dutchman's shipment of copra was arranged for—a week, two, three weeks (as the wind allowed)—and I was to return from the lower islands, where my present cargo was assigned, and take it on.

As we stood offshore under the waxing moonlight, as I watched the island, gathering itself in from either extremity, grow small and smaller on the measureless glass of the sea, the whole episode seemed to swell up in my mind, explode, and vanish. It was too preposterous. Thirty-eight hours chosen at random out of ten thousand empty Polynesian years—that in that wink of eternity five human lives should have gone to pot simultaneously—a man wasn't to be taken in by that sort of thing.[Pg 351]

Through twelve days it remained at that. Discharging cargo in the furnace of Coco Inlet, if my thoughts went back to Taai, it was almost with the deprecating amusement a man will feel who has been had by a hoax. If those minstrel husbands were murdered and buried; if that Broadway imp sweated under the red-hot roof of the godown; if that incomparable, golden-skinned heiress of cannibal emperors sat staring seaward from the gilded cage of the Dutchman, awaiting (or no longer waiting) the whim of the epicure—if indeed any one of them all had ever so much as set foot upon that microscopic strand lost under the blue equator—then it was simply because some one had made it up in his head to while me away an empty hour. I give you my word, when at noon of the thirteenth day the mountain of Taai stood up once more beyond the bows, I was weary of the fantasy. I should have been amazed, really, to find a fellow named Signet housed in the Dutchman's private jail.

As a matter of fact, Signet was not in the jail.

When I went ashore in mid afternoon, wondering a little why no naked biscuit-beggars or gin swallowers had swum out to bother me that day, I found the trader of Taai sitting on his veranda, blowing puffs of smoke from those fine Manila Club perfectos out into the sunshine. Beside him leaned a shiny, twelve-gauge pump gun which he jostled with an elbow as he bade me by word and gesture to make myself at home.

I'm quite certain I looked the fool. My eyes must have stuck out. Half a dozen times I started to speak. With some vacant, fatuous syllable I tried to break the ice. Strange as it sounds, I was never so embarrassed in my life.—For the trader of Taai, the blatantly obvious proprietor of the island's industry and overlord of its destinies—sitting there before me now with a pump gun touching his elbow—was this fellow Signet.

Till now I don't know precisely what had happened; that is to say, none of the details of the act, horrid or heroic as they may have been. All I seemed to have was a memory of the Dutchman's voice: "Why do you not kill me? Ha-ha-ha! Then you could take my property." And again an echo of his disdainful laughter at that fool,[Pg 352] "Ha-ha-ha!" as, on some midnight, he had kicked his dinner guest and his "coolie cotton pants" out into the rain.—Why not, indeed? But who now was the "fool?"

Signet, in the course of the afternoon, brought forth gravely a bill of sale, making over in an orderly fashion to B.R. Signet, New York, U.S.A., the real and personal property of the trading station at Taai, and "signed" in the identical, upright, Fourteenth Street grammar-school script, by "the Dutchman."—I understood Signet. Signet understood me. The thing was not even an attempt at forgery. It was something solely formal—as much as to say: "This is understood to be the basis of our mutual dealings. You will see I am owner of this place."

As for the Dutchman:

"Oh, the Dutchman? Well, he decided to go away. Go home."

Before the incalculable sang-froid of this rail bird, movie usher, alley dodger, and hanger-on at dancing academies, I could not so much as summon up the cheek to ask what he had done with the body. You'll say I ought to have acted; that I ought at least to have got up and left him. That shows two things—first, that you've never been a trader in the islands; second, that you cannot at all comprehend how—well, how stunning he was. Sitting there, a single fortnight removed from cotton pants and the beach, crime-stained, imperturbable, magnificent! Spawn of the White Lights! Emperor of an island! How's that?

"It's a rich island," he impressed upon me with an intention I was yet to plumb. "Dole," he exclaimed, "it's a gold mine!"

"Is—is she here?" I ventured to demand at last.

"Is she? Say! Come and have a look."

I was between laughing and wincing at that "have a look."

Going up the garden, Signet let me know that the woman was in love with him. I might believe it or not. She would do anything for him.

"Anything!" he exclaimed, standing squarely still in the path. And in his eyes I was somehow relieved to find a trace of wonder.[Pg 353]

Obstacles! All his life had been a turning back from small, insurmountable obstacles. Of a sudden he beheld really vast obstacles tumbling down, verily at a touch. Here was just one more of them. By a lucky chance this "Queen Daughter" did not know by whose hand she had been made thrice a widow; it was the simplest thing to suppose it the trader, the same big, blond, European man who had presently removed her "for safety" to the summer house behind the Residence.—And from the trader, by a gesture of melodramatic violence, the other and slighter man had set her free.—Perhaps even that would not have intrigued her essentially barbaric interest as much as it did had it not been for his amazing attitude of, well, let's say, "refrainment." His almost absurdly fastidious concern for what the West would call "the sanctity of her person." You can imagine—to a Marquesan woman! That! She was not ugly!

As her gaze, from the platform, dwelt upon the shrewd, blade-sharp features of the man beside me, the elementary problem in her eyes seemed to redouble the peculiar, golden, Aryan beauty of her face. Let me tell you I am human. Perhaps Signet was human, too. Standing there, encompassed by the light of that royal and lovely woman's eyes, there was surely about him a glow—and a glow not altogether, it seemed to me, of "Smith's nickel and Jones's dime." I could have laughed. I could have kicked him. The impostor! Even yet I had failed to measure the man.

Back on the veranda again, dinner eaten, and dusk come down, Signet brought out an old guitar from among the Dutchman's effects (it had belonged probably to that defunct nephew of the dress clothes), and as he talked he picked at the thing with idle fingers. Not altogether idle, though, I began to think. Something began to emerge by and by from the random fingerings—a rhythm, a tonal theme.—Then I had it, and there seemed to stand before me again the swarded "high place," with torches flaring over upturned faces and mounting walls of green. Almost I sensed again the beat in my blood, the eye-ravishing vision of that gold-brown flame of motion, that voluptuous priestess.

"Oh, yes. That!" I murmured. "It's got something[Pg 354]—something—that tune.—But how can you remember it?"

"She helps me out. I'm trying to put it in shape."

Indeed, when I left that night and before my oarsmen had got me a cable's length from the beach I heard the strumming resumed, very faintly, up in the dark behind the Residence; still tentatively, with, now and then through the flawless hush of the night, the guiding note of a woman's voice. (A woman profoundly mystified.)

A rehearsal? For what? For that almost mythical Broadway half around the bulge of the world? Had the fool, then, not got beyond that? Yet?

Here he was, lord of the daughter of a queen, proprietor of a "gold mine." For Signet was not to be hoodwinked about the commercial value of Taai. All afternoon and evening, as through the two days following, while my promised cargo was getting ferried out under the shining authority of the pump gun, he scarcely let a minute go by without some word or figure to impress upon me the extent of his "possessions." To what end?

Well, it all came out in a burst on the third evening, my last there. He even followed me to the beach; actually, regardless of the Dutchman's nephew's boots and trouser legs, he pursued me out into the shadows.

"A gold mine! Don't be a damned boob, Dole. You can see for yourself, a big proposition for a guy like you, with a ship and everything—"

Upon me he would heap all those priceless "possessions." Me! And in exchange he would ask only cabin passage for two from Taai beach to the Golden Gate. Only deck passage! Only anything!

"Set us down there, me and her, that's all. I'll give you a bill of sale. Why, from where you look at it, it's a find! It's a lead-pipe cinch! It's taking candy away from a baby, man!"

"Why don't you keep it, then?"

The soul of his city showed through. I saw him again as I had seen him swimming in his cotton pants, with that low-comedy whisker and that consuming little greedy nickel hope of paradise. Even the gestures.

"No, but can't you see, Dole? I got a bigger thing[Pg 355] up my sleeve. God'l'mighty, d'you think I'm a farmer? You could go big here; I don't go at all. I ain't that kind. But put me down in New York with that woman there and that there dance—and that tune—Say! You don't understand. You can't imagine. Money? Say! And not only money. Say! I could take that up to Glauber's Academy, and I could say to Glauber, 'Glauber,' I could say—"

I had to leave him standing there, up to his knees in the inky water, heaping me frankly with curses. I shall not repeat the curses. At the end of them he bawled after me:

"But I'll get there! You watch me all the same, all the same, you damn—"

The reason I didn't up-anchor and get out that night was that, when I came aboard I discovered not far from my berth the unobtrusive loom of that Dutch gunboat, arrived for a "look-in" at last.

The only thing for me to do was to sit tight. If, when the state of the island's affairs had been discovered, there should be want of explanation or corroboration, it would be altogether best for me to give it. I wasn't yet through trading in those waters, you understand.

But Signet was no fool. He, too, must have seen the discreet shade of the visitor. When the morning dawned, neither he nor the royal dancer from the Marquesas was to be found. Some time in that night, from the windward beach, ill-manned and desperate, the royal sailing canoe must have set forth tumultuously upon its pilgrimage again.

I sat in a place in Honolulu. Soft drinks were served, and somewhere beyond a tidy screen of palm fronds a band of strings was playing. Even with soft drinks, the old instinct of wanderers and lone men to herd together had put four of us down at the same table. Two remain vague—a fattish, holiday-making banker and a consumptive from Barre, Vermont. For reasons to appear, I recall the third more in detail.

He let me know somewhere in the give-and-take of talk that he was a railway telegraph operator, and that, given his first long vacation, an old impulse, come down[Pg 356] from the days of the Hawaiian hula phonograph records, had brought him to the isle of delight. He was disappointed in it. One could see in his candid eyes that he felt himself done out of an illusion, an illusion of continuous dancing by girls in rope skirts on moonlit beaches. It was an intolerable waste of money. Here, come so far and so expensively to the romantic goal, he was disturbed to find his imagination fleeing back to the incredible adventure of a Rock Island station, an iron-red dot on the bald, high plain of eastern Colorado—to the blind sun flare of the desert—to the immensity of loneliness—to the thundering nightly crisis of the "Eleven-ten," sweeping monstrous and one-eyed out of the cavern of the West, grating, halting, glittering, gossiping, yawning, drinking with a rush and gurgle from the red tank—and on again with an abrupt and always startling clangor into the remote night of the East.

He shifted impatiently in his chair and made a dreary face at the screening fronds.

"For the love o' Mike! Even the rags they play here are old."

The consumptive was telling the banker about the new coöperative scheme in Barre, Vermont.

"For the love o' Mike!" my friend repeated. "That ain't a band; it's a historical s'ciety. Dead and buried! Next they'll strike up that latest novelty rage, 'In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree!'—Now will you listen to that. Robbin' the cemetery!"

He needn't have asked me to listen. As a matter of fact I had been listening for perhaps a hundred seconds; listening, not as if with the ears, but with the deeper sensatory nerves. And without consciously grasping what the air was I had suffered an abrupt voyage through space. I saw a torch-lit sward, ringed with blue and saffron faces and high forest walls; I saw the half-nude, golden loveliness of a Polynesian woman shaken like a windy leaf. And the beat of a goat-hide drum was the beat of my blood. I felt my shoulders swaying.

I looked at the young man. His face expressed a facetious weariness, but his shoulders, too, were swaying.

"What tune is that?" I asked, in a level tone.[Pg 357]

His contemptuous amazement was unfeigned.

"Holy Moses! man. Where you been?"

He squinted at me. After all, I might be "stringing him."

"That," he said, "is as old as Adam. It was run to death so long ago I can't remember. That? That's 'Paragon Park.' That is the old original first 'Shimmie' dance—with whiskers two foot long—"

"The original what?"

"Shimmie! Shimmie! Say, honest to God, don't you know—?" And with his shoulders he made a wriggling gesture in appeal to my wits, the crudest burlesque, it seemed, of a divinely abominable gesture in my memory.—"That?" he queried. "Eh?"

"Shimmie," I echoed, and, my mind skipping back: "Shemdance! Shame Dance!—I see!"

"Why?" he demanded, intrigued by my preoccupation.

"Nothing. It just reminded me of something."

Then he lifted a hand and smote himself on the thigh. "Me, too! By jinks! Say, I'd almost forgot that."

He hitched his chair upon me; held me down with a forefinger.

"Listen. That was funny. It was one night—last fall. It was just after Number Seventeen had pulled out, westbound, about one-forty in the morning. There wasn't anything else till six-one. Them are always the hardest hours. A fellow's got to stay awake, see, and nothin' to keep him—unless maybe a coyote howlin' a mile off, or maybe a bum knockin' around among the box cars on the sidin', or, if it's cold, the stove to tend. That's all. Unless you put a record on the old phonograph and hit 'er up a few minutes now and then. Dead? Say, boy!"

"Well, this night it was a bum. I'm sittin' there in the coop, countin' my fingers and listenin' to Limon calling off car numbers to Denver—just like that I'm sittin'—when I hear somethin' out in the waitin' room. Not very loud.—Well, I go out there, and there's the bum. Come right into the waitin' room.

"Bum! If he wasn't the father and mother and brother and sister of the original bum, I'll eat my hat. Almost[Pg 358] a Jew-lookin' guy, and he'd saw hard service. But he's got a kind o' crazy glitter in his eye.

"'Well,' says I, just like that, 'Well, what do you want?'

"He don't whine; he don't handle the pan. He's got that look in his eye.

"'My woman is out in them box cars,' says he. 'I'm goin' to bring her in here where it's warm.' That's what he says. Not 'can I bring her in?' but 'goin' to bring her in!' From a hobo!

"Can you imagine? It makes me think. It comes to me the guy is really off his trolley. To keep him calm I says, 'Well—'

"He goes out. 'I'm shed o' him,' I says to myself. Not a bit. About three minutes and here he comes trottin' back, sure enough, bringin' a woman with him. Now Mister—What's-y'r-name—prepare to laugh. That there woman—listen—make up your face—she's a nigger!

"He says she ain't a nigger.

"'Mexican?' says I.

"'No,' says he.

"I give her another look, but I can't make much out of her, except she's some kind of a nigger, anyhow. She's sittin' on the bench far away from the light, and she's dressed in a second-hand horse blanket, a feed sack, and a bran' new pair of ar'tics. And she don't say a word.

"'Well,' says I, 'if she ain't some kind of nigger, I'll eat my—'

"But there he is, all of a sudden, squarin' off in front o' me, his mug stuck up and his eyes like a couple o' headlights. Imagine! The guy ain't got enough meat on his bones for a rest'rant chicken. Honest to God, he looked like he'd been through a mile o' sausage mill. But crazy as a bedbug. And there's somethin' about a crazy man—

"'Hold y'r gab!' says he. To me! That gets my goat.

"'Just for that,' says I, 'you can get out o' this station. And don't forget to take your woman along with you. Get out!'

"'Get out—hell!' says he. He sticks his mug right in my face.[Pg 359]

"'That woman you speak so light of,' says he, 'is a queen. A Canuck queen,' say he.

"I had to laugh. 'Since when was there queens in Canada?' says I. 'And since when has the Canuck queens been usin' stove polish for talcum powder?'

"The guys grabs me by the coat. Listen. He was strong as a wire. He was deceivin'. A wire with ten thousand volts into it.

"'Look at me!' says he, breathin' hard between his teeth. 'And take care!' says he. 'I'm a man no man can monkey with. I'm a man that'll go through. I'm stained with crime. I've waded through seas o' blood. Nothin' in heaven or earth or hell can stop me. A month from now rubes like you'll be glad to crawl at my feet—an' wipe their dirty mugs on the hem o' that there woman's skirt.—Now listen,' says he. 'Get the hell into that there box o' yourn over there and be quiet.'

"Crazy as a loon. I hope to die! the guy was dangerous. I see that. It come to me it's best to humor him, and I go into the coop again. I sit there countin' my fingers and listenin' to Denver tellin' back them car numbers to Limon again. By and by I'm jumpy as a cat. I get up and stick a record in the old machine.—That's what brings the whole thing back to mind. That record is this 'Paragon Park.'

"First thing I know I'm out in the waitin' room again. And what you think I see? I give you a hundred guesses."

"I'll take one," I said to him. "What you saw was the finest exhibition of the 'Shimmie' you ever clapped an eye upon. Am I right?"

The young fellow's mouth hung open. He stared at me.

"Half undressed! Honest! That nigger woman! Horse blanket, feed sack, ar'tics—where was they? Shimmie? Say! Can you imagine, in that there prairie depot at three in the mornin', and a wind howlin' under the floor? Say! Well, I can't tell you, but talk about Shimmie! Say, she's like a dead one come to life."

"Yes," I agreed, "yes.—But what about the man?"

"Well, that man, now. The record's comin' to the end and I go back in to start it over. And, here's this hobo, come in behind me.[Pg 360]

"'What's that?' says he, pointin' to the record I got in my hand.

"Then he grabs it and looks it over. He keeps turnin' it round and round and round, starin' at it.

"'I hope you'll know it again,' says I, with a laugh.

"My laugh seems to set him off into a shiver. Then down he throws that record o' mine onto the floor and stamps on it; busts it into a million pieces under his boots. I been tellin' you he's crazy.

"'Here there!' I yell at him.

"He looks at me. Looks right through me, it seems and beyond, with them there red-rimmed eyes.

"'Seas o' blood,' says he. That's all. 'Seas o' blood!'

"Then he turns around, walks out into the waitin' room, and sits down in a heap in the farthest corner. Never another peep. There he sits till daylight, and the nigger woman, with the horse blanket on again, she sits there beside him, holdin' his hand.

"'What's up with him?' I ask her.

"She says somethin' in Mexican—or some language, anyway. But I see she don't know any more 'n me.—It's just like this. The current's gone out o' the wire.—Last I ever see of 'em, she's leadin' him off in the sunrise toward the box cars—leadin' him by the hand.—Now did you ever hear a funnier experience than that to happen to a man?"

"No," I said, "I never did."

"You had to pity him," he added.

"Yes," I agreed.—And I could think of her leading him by the hand.

I saw Signet again. It was on my first and last voyage to the Marquesas. Under the shadow of a mountain, on a stone platform facing the sea, sat Signet, quite nude save for a loin cloth, and with an unequivocal black beard falling down on his breast. There was a calmness about him.

"How did you come here?" I asked, at length.

"She wanted it," he said.

"She's a wonderful woman," he said to me, "a wonderful woman. She would do anything for me, Dole. Anything! We've got a kid."[Pg 361]

I made shift to get in a question I had carried long in mind. "Somebody beat you out at Papeete, then, after all?"

He turned upon me a faintly quizzical look.

"I mean, somebody saw her—some tourist—that time she danced at Papeete—Remember?—and got away with it?"

The thing seemed already so remote that he had to grope back. Then he laughed.

"Lord, no. Look here, Dole. It was her herself seen the thing at Papeete. On board a tourist boat. I found out about it since I learned her language good. Her and some others went aboard to dance the hula—same as always, you know. Then some of them, the tourists, understand—Well, they had to spring the latest thing from Broadway. And then this woman of mine—Well, you can imagine. Like a woman with a new hat. Got to run right off and show it to the whole damn length and breadth of the South Seas. That's all.—And once upon a time I thought I was bright.—"

Out of the half house at the rear of the platform came the daughter of a queen, bearing under one arm a prince of this island valley, and in the other hand a bowl of coconut wine for the visitor. And for her lord. For you will see that at last, despite the malignant thrusts and obstacles of destiny, this gutter snipe of Gotham had come to a certain estate.

When I left, he accompanied me slowly to the beach.

"You ought to like it here," I said. "After all, the city could never have given you so much."

"No," he said. Wide-eyed, he took in the azure immensity of the sea. "No. Here a guy has got time to think, think, without any hurry or worry.—I been thinking, Dole, a lot. I ain't going to say nothing about it, but Dole, I b'lieve I got an idea coming along. No flivver this time. A real, sure-fire hunch. Something that'll go big in the city. Big!"

And so I left him there in the shadow of the mountain, staring at the impassable sea.


[Pg 362]

KINDRED[19]

By HARRIET MAXON THAYER

(From The Midland)

If I had had a less positive sense of revulsion for him, I might have been able to treat him with more contempt, certainly with more indifference. It was a part of Con Darton's power that those who knew him should waver in their judgments of him, should in turn reproach themselves for their hardness of heart and then grow angry at their own lack of assuredness. Perhaps it was the disquieted gray eyes in the lean leathery face, or the thin-lipped mouth that I had seen close so foxly after some sanctimonious speech, or the voice which, when not savage with recrimination, could take on a sustained and calculated intonation of appeal,—perhaps these things aroused my interest as well as my disgust. Certain it is that other men of a like feather, sly, irascible, gone to seed in a disorderly Illinois town, I should have avoided. I made the excuse of Lisbeth, and it was true that her welfare, first as his daughter and later as the wife of my friend, was very dear to my heart. Yet that could not explain the hypnotism the man had for me, befogging, as it sometimes did, an honest estimate.

There were, of course, moments of certainty. I recalled village anecdotes of bitter wrangles among the Dartons with Con always coming out best. They were a quarreling pack of sentimentalists. From all accounts Miss Etta must have been at that time a rugged girl of twenty-eight, of striking, if ungentle, appearance; and only the unsteadied sensibilities and the too-ready acrimony could have foreshadowed the large blatant woman she was to become, a woman who alternated between a generous[Pg 363] flow of emotion on the one hand and an unimaginative hardness on the other. Only Lin Darton could have given promise then of the middle-class, semi-prosperous business man who was to justify the Darton tradition. But from all that I could gather of those younger days, before Con's marriage to Selma Perkins, he was the cock of the walk, holding the reins over them all by virtue of his shrewdness, apparently understanding the robust, over-blooded strains of their temperament and not unwilling to sound these at his pleasure.

My own experience dates back to the first time that he stood out for me a vivid picture in that sagging barn-like old farmhouse behind the elms. I was ten years old then, and I was already beginning to think highly of my father's profession, which that winter had sent him into a nest of small asthma-ridden towns. It was my privilege to trot by his side, carrying his worn black medicine case and endeavoring vainly to keep pace with his long jerky strides. On this particular occasion he had been summoned suddenly to the Dartons'; and, being unable to leave promptly, had sent me ahead postehaste with instructions, and an envelope of white pills to be taken "only in case of extreme pain."

Arriving at the farmhouse, the peaked façade of which, built to suggest an unbegotten third story, looked more hideous than ever among the bare branches, I knocked with reddened knuckles at the door. There was no response; at last, my half-frozen hand smarting with the contact of the wood, I pushed open the door and went in.

It was very still inside—a strange unnatural stillness. Even Grega and Martie, the two little plain-faced girls, were not to be seen; the drab, rose-patterned carpet muffled my footsteps, which, for some inexplicable reason, I made as light as possible. The room, faded, and scrubbed to the point of painfulness, gave only two signs of disorder, a crumpled book of verse open on the table and a Bible lying face down on the worn, orange-colored sofa. But there was something vaguely uncanny about the whole house; the very air seemed thin, like the atmosphere of approaching death. An unnameable terror took hold of[Pg 364] me. I waited, fearing to call out. A door shut upstairs. There were footsteps, and the sound of voices,—a man's and a woman's—whispering. Then more footsteps. This time some one was taking no trouble to walk lightly.

"Quietly now," the woman's voice cautioned.

"Ye said it was a boy?" This was Mr. Darton's voice, unmistakable now.

"I didn't say," the woman's whisper floated down to me as a door creaked open. "But it is—a girl. You must be ver—"

Her words were cut off by the report of a door banging shut. There was the sibilant sound of a breath being drawn in and, at the same moment, Mr. Darton's voice again.

"What the hell made ye think I'd want to see another girl for?" he growled.

A pause followed, the emptier for the preceding stridor of his voice. Then—"You c'n get along now—we ain't got no more call fur neighbors."

With that he came stamping down the stairs and slouched into the front room, where, upon his catching sight of me, a frightened look crossed his face, followed, almost instantly, by a queer expression, a mixture of relief and cunning that gave his face a grotesqueness that I can recall to this very day.

"Well, boy," he said in that low drawl and wavelike inflection of the voice that I was to learn to know so well, "yer father sent ye, did he?"

I proffered the note and the pills, and he frowned at them a second before pocketing them.

"Come—he-re." He seemed to pull at the words, giving each a retarded emphasis. As I approached, he drew me towards him, where he had sunk on the dingy, orange-fringed sofa. "N-ow, y're a nice young fellow—a bit scrawny, though. Ye—gotta horse?"

I shook my head.

"N-ow, then—ye aughtta have a h-orse. Yer pappy should see to't."

His gray eyes, then almost blue against the loose brown skin of his face, held me speechless.

"N-ow I gotta horse—a fine horse fur a boy. Ye[Pg 365] might ride her—like to? Then, if yer pappy wanted, he cou'd buy her fur ye?"

I looked at him in doubt.

"Yes, he could. Yer pappy has more money than anyone hereabouts, and it ain't right—I tell you, it ain't right to have a little boy like you and not give him—eve-ry thing he wants!"

His last words ended in that slow climactic inflection that made whatever he said so indisputable. It was not unlike the minister's voice, I thought; and, my glance chancing to fall on the opened Bible, I was about to question him, when the door was pushed back hurriedly, admitting my father's lank, wiry figure along with a stream of chilling air.

"G-ood morning, Mr. Breighton—a f-ine morning."

"Morning, Darton," said my father crisply. "Can I go directly upstairs?"

"No hurry n-ow, Doctor. It's all over. Mrs. Carn's been here all morning and—"

It was at this moment that Mrs. Carn, her eyelids red from weeping, an old bumpy, red worsted shawl over her head, came nervously into the room; and, without so much as even a nod to any of us, edged quicky out of the front door.

"Well—" began my father, his clear, scrutinizing eyes fixed on Darton.

"A-nother sign," expostulated Mr. Darton, "of what ye might call the smallness of human van-ity. We must forgive 'er. Ye see Selma was gettin' so upset with her rancorous gossipin'—perhaps I should have been more careful—but it was a question of Selma and—"

"Quite right, Darton," my father nodded to him. "I'm going up for a moment."

I had walked to the front window with its starched, lacy curtain; and stood still, looking out in a puzzled maze at the strangeness of the morning's happenings, a certain sense of disconsolateness stealing over me. Beyond the row of dark, spare trees I could see a gaunt figure in a black skirt and a bumpy red shawl moving along the road; and the picture of her, scurrying away, remained, as such apparently unimportant figures often[Pg 366] will, sharply engraven on my mind. As I recall it in late years, I often wonder how my father could have mistaken the lying, rancorous woman of Con Darton's description for this stern-lipped creature, who had gone by wordlessly, shutting the door gently behind her, a door that she was never to re-open.

I turned to find myself alone in the room. Mr. Darton had disappeared as unexpectedly but more quietly than he had entered. I could hear my father's footsteps going softly about upstairs; and his voice, which though quick and crisp, had a soothing quality, talking in a gentle monotone to some one. After about ten minutes he came to the head of the steps and called to me.

"Mrs. Darton says will you come up, Tom?"

Knees quivering with the queerness of it all as well as with the icy frigidity of the hallway, I mounted the uncarpeted stairs.

Following in the direction of the voices, I came to a dark, low-ceilinged room with a pine bed, on which lay a withered-looking woman with sparsely lashed eyelids and fine, straight, straw-colored hair. Near her was a small oblong bundle, wrapped round with a bright patch-work quilt; and out of this bundle a cry issued. As I peered into it, a red weazened face stared back at me, the eyes opening startlingly round. I looked long in wonder. The woman sighed; and, my gaze reverting to her, I thought suddenly of what a neighbor had once said to my father, "Selma Perkins used to be the prettiest girl in school. She was like the first arbutus flowers." Surely this woman with her pallid skin and her faded spiritless eyes could not have been the one they meant!

There was some talk between my Father and his patient, the gist of which I could not get, absorbed as I was with the face inside the patch-work quilt. We went out silently, after I had taken a last, long look into the bundle.—Lisbeth had come into my world.


Some twenty years were to go by before I was to realize the significance of the scene that I had witnessed that winter morning at the old frame farmhouse. It was the year of my return to America with Jim Shepherd, whose[Pg 367] career as a rising young painter had just begun to be heralded, that I felt impelled to revisit the place of my childhood. Not my least interest lay in seeing Lisbeth again. I remembered her as a fragile upstanding girl of twelve with soft hair the color of dead leaves and gray inquiring eyes. But whatever it was that I was to find I was conscious that I would see it with new appreciation of values. For if my eight years of medical work abroad had sharpened my discernment, even more had my intimacy with Jim Shepherd swept my mind clean of prejudice and casuistry.

To strangers Jim must often have appeared naive and undevious. The fact was that his passion for truth-probing and his worship of the undiscovered loveliness of life had obscured whatever self-consciousness had been born in him. Meeting him for the first time was like entering another element. It left you a little flat. That candor and eagerness of his at first balked you, it made negligible your traditions of thought and speech. One ended by loving him.

On our arrival at the sparse little village I told him of the Dartons. I had had no news of them for the past four years, and inquiries among the neighbors left me only the more at sea. Lisbeth they seldom saw, they said; she never went to church or meetings; and, especially since her mother, in an unprecedented flare of rebellion, had gone to live with a married sister in town, she had grown silent and taciturn. As for old Con Darton, he was going to seed, in spite of the remnants of an earlier erudition that still clung to him. That is, though he went about unshaven and in slovenly frayed clothing, he still quoted fluently from the Bible and Gray's "Elegy." Among the villagers he had come to have the reputation of a philosopher and an ill-used man. He was poor, it seemed, so poor that he had abandoned the white farmhouse and had come to live in a box-like, unpainted shack at the foot of the hill, the new boarding of which stood out harshly against the unturfed soil. Built just across the way from a disused mill, near the creek, it had become known as the "mill house." In spite of this thriftiness, Con always had money for a new horse, which he would[Pg 368] soon trade off for a better; although these transactions had, of late, become fewer, as Con was feared as a "shrewd one." The fact seemed to call forth his neighbors' admiration, just as the tale that he had been "deserted" called forth their pity. Lisbeth, they averred, who had stuck to him, was "a hard piece to get close to."

She was standing at the bottom of the hill where the creek ran between the deserted mill and the new shack; and, as I came down the hill, I felt a sharp twinge of pain at the contrast of the fragile line of her profile against the coarse, dark sweater, at the slender grace of her body against that dead, barn-sprinkled background. I could observe her easily without her knowledge, for she was looking up, as we so often used to at twilight, to the old plank high above the sagging mill, where the turkeys fly to roost towards evening, so awkwardly and comically, with a great breathless whirring of wings. I saw her lift her arms to them with a swift, urging gesture, as though to steady their ungainly flight, and I could not be certain that she was not talking to them. Again a pang for the contracting loneliness of those bitter winters that she had lived through and must still live through, stabbed me.

She turned with a low cry and a momentary flush of gladness. But I noticed, as I questioned her as an old friend might, that the flush melted into a level pallor, and her eyes, deeper and more unquiet than I had remembered them, either wandered up the road or reverted to the last of the turkeys soaring heavily to rest.

"I used to do all those things, Tom," she said in answer to my question.

"Used to?" I laughed. "Why, it's only five years ago I was hearing that you were the best little lady on skis and skates at the West-Highlands."

Her eyelids quivered at the word.

"That year—yes," she said and averted her face.

"You mean—" I had to prod, there was no other way about it—"that you only stayed—one year?"

She nodded.

"My Freshman year prep school."

"And then—?"[Pg 369]

"I was needed here."

"Your father—?"

"Yes,—he needed me."

"There was Grega," I insisted. "She was the man of the family."

"She's married, you know."

I recalled having heard of an unsatisfactory marriage. So she had escaped!

"And Martie?"

"Working at a store in town."

A dull rage charred at the inner fibres of my being. Here was Lisbeth, the most delicate and responsible of them all, with, I supposed, much of her mother's early gentleness and beauty, interred in this—. I did not like to dwell on it. I switched back to skating.

"Come now. One does not forget these things at twenty or twenty-one."

She smiled at me ever so faintly, a smile that sent the winter chill of that arid spot scurrying into my veins.

"One grows old fast—in the country," was all she said.

I thought of the flying figures that I had met in Norway and Sweden. It was a moment before I spoke, and then I said the wrong thing.

"But it's this very sort of air, they say, that makes for vigor—and—"

"Yes," she said thinly, "those who live in cities—say so."

She turned, her meagre dress flapping about her knees like a flag. But at the foot of the rickety outer steps that ran across the bare front of the shack crookedly, like a broken arm, I caught her by the wrist.

"You'll be going to Mrs. Carn's funeral tomorrow, Lisbeth?"

She shook her head and I thought she paled.

It was an unheard of thing for the whole population not to turn out for the funeral of one of the villagers, and Mrs. Carn, I knew, had befriended Lisbeth, in spite of Old Con's displeasure. She must have noted my surprise, for she turned on me squarely, facing me with what seemed at the time an unnecessary display of staunchness.[Pg 370]

"Perhaps you didn't know," she said very softly, "that the Minister—couldn't come—and—"

She paused, while I made some inadequate reply, for I, too, seemed caught in the sort of mirthless evasion that engulfed her.

"He—" she made a slight backwards motion of the head towards the upper room of the shack—"is going to—preach."

My startled exclamation must have disclosed all the horror I felt at this announcement, but, before I could speak again, she had gone swiftly up the rickety steps and pushed shut the flimsy board door behind her.

The next afternoon was one that I have never been able to erase from my mind, for even more vividly than my earlier impressions of Con Darton, it marked the wizardry as well as the fearfulness of his power. A hundred times during that burial service the sound of a banged door and a rasped voice sounded in my ears and the sight of a tense, hurrying figure in a black dress and a bumpy red shawl moved before my eyes. The thin figure was lying there now and over it, his rusty black coat tails curving in the wind, like wings bent to trap the air, his gray eyes misty with emotion, hovered the man whose door she had never entered since that fateful day of Lisbeth's birth. I could not but feel that the vision of him standing there told the story of his triumphs more grimly than any recital.

The service began in a sharp, fine drizzle of rain, through which his voice sang in shifting cadences, now large and full, now drooping to a premonitory whisper with an undeniably dramatic quality. In spite of myself the words stirred within me. As he read and spoke he laid aside the turns of speech that had become his through years of association with country folk. Almost he was another man.

"Man that is born of woman—"

The words reached down through the overlying structure of thought and habit. I felt a giving and a drawing away; saw the crowd sway to his will.

"In the midst of life we are—in death."

Again the tones woke me to a sharper sense of the[Pg 371] scene. Tears stood in many eyes. The people had melted at his touch. They were his. For a while I lost myself in watching them, until again a changed intonation drew me back to the man before us.

"We therefore commit her body to the ground—earth to earth—ashes to ashes—dust to dust—"

My will was powerless to resist the beautifully delivered lines, to doubt the integrity of the man who uttered them. The little lumps of wet earth that he threw against the coffin struck against my heart with a sense of the futility of all things. And then as suddenly, drawn by something compellingly alive and pervading, I glanced at Jim, who stood next to me; and catching the slant of his vision followed it to the edge of the crowd, where, her thin dress clinging to her knees, her face almost blue with cold, stood Lisbeth; and there was across her eyes and mouth an expression of contempt and loathing such as I had never seen in a girl so young. Jim was watching her intently, noting, with that certain appraisal of his, the etched profile; and, with all an artist's sensibility, reading life into the line of head and shoulders. What if—the idea went through my mind with the intensity of sudden pain—what if Jim and Lisbeth—? The sound of sobbing broke in upon my reverie. Con Darton was delivering the funeral oration.

"My friends," I heard him saying through the streams of thought that encompassed me, "we are here out of respect for a woman all of ye knew,—and whose life—and whose character—ye all—knew." He paused to give more weight to what he was about to say. "Margaret Carn was like the rest of us. She had her qualities—and she had her—failings. I want to say to you today that there's a time fur knowing these things—and a time fur—forgettin' them." His voice on the last words dropped abruptly away. There was the sound of rain spattering among the loosened lumps of clay. "Such a time is now." His left hand dropped heavily to his side. "I tell you there is more rejoicing in Heaven over one sinner who repenteth than over ninety-and-nine—"

I grabbed Jim's arm to assure myself of something warm and human. But his eyes were still fixed on Lisbeth,[Pg 372] whose gaze was in turn riveted on her father's face. It occurred to me with a swift sense of helplessness that she and I were probably the only two who could even vaguely realize any of the inner motives of Con Darton's mind, as we certainly were the only persons who knew how great a wrong had been done to Margaret Carn's memory that day. To the rest she was stamped forever as a lying gossip, forgiven by the very man she had striven to harm. I shuddered; and Jim, feeling it, turned to me and drew me towards Lisbeth. Outside of the scattering crowd she saw us and greeted me gravely; then gave her hand to Jim with a little quickening gesture of trust.

We went down the road together, taking the longest way to the foot of the hill, Jim loquacious, eager; Lisbeth silent. The rain had melted into a soft mist, and through it her face took on a greater remoteness, a pallid, elfin quality. At the foot of the hill, which had to be climbed again to reach the old farmhouse, she stopped, glancing up to the plank where the turkeys were already roosting.

"Not going up the hill, Lisbeth?" I asked.

She shook her head.

"We live here now," she said.

"Not—?"

"All the year round.—It's cheaper," she added with that little touch of staunchness that had become hers.

"But it's too—"

I was cut short by the look of anguish in her eyes, the most poignant sign of emotion that I had seen her show since my return. There was an awkward silence, while I stood looking at her, thinking of nothing so much as how her head would look against a worn, gold Florentine background, instead of silhouetted against these flat unchanging stretches of unbending roads and red barns. It seemed that she and Jim were saying something to each other. Then just as she turned to go, he stopped her.

"You'll forgive me, because I'm an old friend of Tom's," he was urging, "if I ask you to drive to town with Tom and myself for supper."

There was an incongruity in the request that could not have escaped either of them. I could see the color mounting to her temples and then ebbing away, leaving[Pg 373] her whiter than before. Her lips parted to answer, but closed again sturdily.

"It couldn't—be arranged. If it could, I should have liked to," she supplemented stiffly.

It was a stiffness that made me want to cry out to the hilltops in rebellion.

"But suppose it could be arranged?" suggested Jim.

She looked away from us.

"It couldn't be," she replied in that same inflectionless voice.

It was her voice that cut so sharply. I reflected that it was only in the very old that we could bear that look of dead desire, that absence of all seeking, that was settling over her face.

"But you'll try," insisted Jim. "You won't say no now?"

With one reddened hand she smoothed the surface of her dress. "I'll try," she promised faintly.

Dinner over, prompted perhaps by a desire to look the old place over by myself, perhaps half inclined to pay a visit to Con, I left Jim in the library to his own devices, and stepped out alone along the road. The air was clear now, and the sleet had frozen to a thin crystal layer, a presage of winter, which glistened under the clear stars and sent them shivering up at me again. As I neared the mill house, I could hear voices through its scanty boarding, and decided, for the moment, to go on, following the bed of the creek, when an intonation, oddly familiar, brought me up like the crack of a whip. It is strange the power that sounds have to transport us, and again I saw a withered woman with straw-colored hair and a small, oblong bundle in a patch-work quilt. But, as I drew nearer, my thoughts were all for Lisbeth.

"Have my girl in town with that young puppy!" Old Con was rasping at her. "I know these artist-fellows, I tell you and—"

He ripped out an oath that took me bounding up the steps. My hand on the front door knob, however, I paused, catching sight of Lisbeth through the window. She was standing with her back towards the inner door her moth-like dress blending oddly with the pallor of her[Pg 374] cheeks, the smudgy glow of the lamp light laying little warm patches on her hair. But it was her eyes, wide and dark, that stopped me. There was pain in them, and purport, a certain fierce intention, that made me wonder if I could not serve her better where I was. And, as I waited, her voice seeped thinly through the boarding.

"I don't believe it."—Her voice came quietly, almost without intonation. "Tom Breighton wouldn't be his friend then.—They're both fine and straight—and—"

"They are, are they?" he jeered. "Ye've learned to tell such things out here in th' country, I suppose—"

"There are things," she retorted, "I've learned."

He began drawling his words again, as he always did when he had got himself under control.

"I suppose ye're insinuatin' ye don't like it here—don't like what ye're pore ol' Father c'n do fur ye?"

Her look of contempt would have cut short another man.

"Ye—wantta—go?" he finished.

She nodded mutely. And at that he flared at her terribly.

"It's like ye," he shouted, "like yere mother, like all the Perkinses. Word-breakers! cowards! shirkers!"

The words seared. The careful articulation of the afternoon was gone.

"Promised—if I sent ye to school, ye'd stay here winters to look after ye're pore ol' Father—didn't ye?" He looked at her through narrow, reddish lids, where she had backed against the door. "Didn't ye?" he repeated. "But soon's he's done fur—soon's his money's gone—"

"Stop!" she cried. "Stop i—" Her breath caught.

He stared at her, the words shaken from him by the sheer force of her. She had not moved, but, somehow, as she stood there against the unvarnished door facing him, fists at her side, eyes brilliant, she appeared to tower over him.

"I'll stay," she was saying in a queer, fierce monotone, "I'll stay here this winter anyhow if I freeze for it! I'll scrub and cook and haul wood for ye till I've paid ye back—paid ye," she repeated more softly, "till no one can say the Perkinses don't keep their word! And then[Pg 375]—in the spring—I'm going—it'll be for good—. For always," she added, and turned limply towards the door.

To my surprise he sank heavily into the rickety chair by the stove.

"Go then," he muttered. "It's all I c'ld expect."

The door closed on her and still he sat there before the fire, head bent forward, as though he had an audience. I shrank back closer into the shadows, drawing my coat collar more snugly about my throat. It was incredible that he should play a part before her—and now alone! His very posture suggested a martyred, deserted old man. I felt myself in the presence of something inexplicable.—Then, in a frenzy of suppressed rancor, such as I had never felt before, I climbed the hill, the lumps of mud and ice seeming to cling against my footsteps as I went.


The winter was a bitter one that year, such as only the winters in that Northern, prostrate land can be. The countryside appeared to crouch under a passive, laden-colored sky. Then the snow came settling in deeper and deeper layers, and, as it packed down, a coating of thin ice formed on its surface. One could walk on it at times, this crust that had grown over the land like a new skin.

We smuggled sweaters and coats to Lisbeth, making them old lest Con suspect us. But, even with all we could do for her, her suffering must have been without comparison. There was no fire in the shack except that in the old rusty cook stove which she tended, and the cold made an easy entrance through the loose carpentry of the walls. With it all there were the loneliness and the mental agony. At first, when she did not know how deep was Jim's devotion, there must have been times when life held out no promise to her except that of escape.

All this time the rest of the Dartons gave no sign. Old Con, I discovered, made occasional obscure trips to the city where he saw Lin Darton and Miss Etta, the former established as a second-rate real-estate dealer, the latter, as buyer for a large department store. Later it became more apparent that it was after these trips of his that he was able to purchase another horse. He quoted more and more frequently from the Bible and the[Pg 376] "Elegy." Such feeling as any of the neighbors may have had for Lisbeth was now completely turned aside by her tight-lipped reticence and her deft evasion of all references to her situation. Old Con was thoroughly established as a brilliant fellow, ruined by his family.

From the first I saw that the winter had to be endured like a famine. Keep Jim away of course I could not, though I did persuade him, by dint of much argument, that it would be for Lisbeth's good to meet her away from the mill house; and what pleading he may have had with her to leave all and come with him, then and there, I could only imagine. Each time Lisbeth came back from these encounters a little paler, her lips a little firmer, her eyes burning with a steadier purpose. But it was the sort of purpose that robs instead of giving life, that strikes back on itself while it still clings to a sort of bitter triumph. Knowing her, I knew that it had to be so, for to despoil her of this high integrity would be to take from her something as essentially hers as was her sensitive spirit, her fine sureness of vision.

So we kept silence until, as the first signs of spring came on again, while the country alternately was flooded or lay under rigid pools of ice, the line of her mouth seemed to soften and a glow crept into her eyes and a dreaming. I held my breath and waited. Thin she was, like something worn to the thread. The fine color had given place to a blue tint in the cold, and to a colorless gray as she bent over the old stove within. But the exquisitely moulded line of cheek and chin, the grace of motion and the deep questing light in her eyes nothing could destroy. I believe that, to Jim, she grew more lovely as she appeared to fade.

At last the day came when the water ran in yellowed torrents in the creek or stood in stagnant pools under a new sun, when the blood bounded, overwarm, in the tired body. That day Old Con caught sight of them, walking arm in arm at the top of the hill, looking down as though to find a footing, and talking earnestly. They had never before ventured so near the mill. Catching sight of them from some distance, I foresaw the meeting before I could reach them. When I came close enough to see,[Pg 377] Lisbeth was trembling visibly, as though from a chill, and Jim stood glowering down at Old Con.

Suddenly Lisbeth edged herself sidewise between them, shouldering Jim away.

"Don't touch him!" she cried. "It's what he's waiting for you to do! Can't you see the look on his face—that wronged look of a man that's done nothing but wrong all his life?"

She stopped, the words swelling within her, too big for utterance. Jim put a quieting arm about her; and just then Old Con made an abrupt motion towards her wrist.

"I guess," he said, "that a father—"

But she was before him.

"Father! He's not my father, d'ye hear? I've kept my word to him and now I'm going to keep it to myself! You see that sun over the hills?"—She turned to Con.—"It's the spring sun—it's summer—summer, d'ye hear? And it's mine—and I'm going to have it, before I'm dead like my mother died with her body still living! You're no more my father than that dead tree the sun can't ever warm again!—It's for good—I said it would be for good—and it is!"

We took her, sobbing dryly, between us, up the road.

That night in our house Lisbeth was married to Jim. A deep serenity seemed to hang about her as though for the moment the past had been shut away from her by a mist. As for Jim, there was a wonder in his eyes, not unlike that I had seen when he came upon an old Lippo Lippi, and a great comprehending reverence. There were tears at the back of my eyes—then the beauty of the scene drove all else back before it.


There is one more episode in the life of Con Darton and Lisbeth. Knowing him, it would be incredible that there should not be. It happened some five years later and I was concerned in it from the moment that I was summoned unexpectedly to Mr. Lin Darton's office in the city, a dingy though not unprosperous menage located in the cheaper part of the down town district. I found him sitting amid an untidy litter of papers at the table, talking through the telephone to some one who later[Pg 378] developed to be Miss Etta; and I had at once a feeling of suffocation and closeness, due not alone, I believe, to the barred windows and the steaming radiator. The family resemblance that Mr. Lin Darton bore to Old Con threw into relief the former's honesty, and made more bearable his heavy sentimentalism, upon which Con had played as surely as on a bagpipe, sounding its narrow range with insistent evenness of response.

"I want to talk to you about Con," he said gravely, as soon as the receiver had been hung up, "and—Lisbeth." He uttered his niece's name as though it were a thing of which he could not but be ashamed.

I said nothing to this, and waited.

"As you are still in touch with her; and, as the situation is probably already partly known to you, I thought you might be able—willing—" He hesitated, paused; and a grieved look came into his eyes that was quite genuine. I realized the fact coldly.

"Whatever I can do," I assured him, "I shall be glad to."

"None of us," he continued, "have seen Lisbeth since that terrible night four years ago, when she turned Con away from her house."

I hesitated for a moment and then said: "It was three o'clock in the morning, if I remember, and he had written that he was coming to take her little son into the country, to give him a chance," I added bitingly, "of some real country air."

"It was a cold night," continued Lin Darton, as though he had not heard me, "and she has all she needs—while he—"

"To my mind, he had no business there!" I flared.

"He was her father."

He stared at me hard, as though he had uttered the final, indisputable word.

"He forfeited all right to that title years ago."

"When?" demanded Mr. Darton.

"On the day of her birth," I snapped back at him.

"I do not understand you," he said coldly. And, when I remained silent, he added: "There is no greater crime than that of a child towards a father."[Pg 379]

"Unless it be, perhaps, that of a father towards a child."

His sadness seemed to weigh him against the desk. I relented.

"To go against one's ownagainst one's own," he repeated, "and Con so sick now—"

"You must forgive me, Mr. Darton, for my views," I said more gently, "and tell me what I can do."

He pulled himself together at that.

"Con's all gone to pieces, you know—at the old mill house—no money—no one to care for him. We wanted you to come out with us. Perhaps medical care might, even now—We thought maybe," he interrupted himself hastily, "that you could get Lisbeth to help out too—and maybe come herself—"

"Come herself!" I repeated, and my voice must have sounded the sick fear that struck me.

"Money's not the only thing that counts when it comes to one's own blood," he said sententiously.

There were no two ways about it, that was his final stand. So, having assumed them of my services that afternoon, I went straight to Lisbeth.

I found her bending over the youngest baby, and, when I told her, her body became rigid for an instant, then she stooped lower that I might not see the shadow that had fallen across her face. Finally she left the child and came to me with that old look of misery in her face that I had not seen there for so long, but with far more gentleness.

"Sit down here, Tom," she said, leading me to the window seat, where the strands of sunlight struck against her head, giving fire to her dull-brown hair. She had changed but slightly in appearance, I thought, from the girl that I had known five years before; still there was a change, a certain assurance was there, and a graciousness that came from the knowledge that she was loved.

"I think you know," she began, her eyes looking not at me but straight ahead, "that I've been happy—these five years—though perhaps not how happy. But in spite of it all—there is always that something—that fear here—clutching at me—that it may not all be real—that it can't last."[Pg 380]

Again she looked at me and turned away, but not before I had caught a flash of terror in her eyes.

"Even with them all against me, Tom, I've stuck to it—to what I feel is my right. This is my home—and it's Jim's home—and the children's as well as it's mine—and, in a way, it's—inviolate. I've sworn that nothing ugly shall come into it—nothing shall ruin it—the way our lives were ruined out there!"

Her voice trembled, but her eyes, as she turned to me at the last, were steady.

"I'll send something, of course," she said; "you will take it to them. But I'll—not go."

With her message and her money I sought out Lin Darton and Miss Etta, and together we rambled in their open Ford along those flat, dead Illinois roads that I had not seen for so long.

It is a doctor's profession to save life, and there was a life to be saved, if it were possible. But he was nearer to the end than I had thought. Grega was there in that same barren room of the mill-house, doing things in a stolid, undeft sort of way. The bed had been pulled near the stove and the room was stuffier, more untidy than in the days when Lisbeth had been there. The creaky bed, the unvarnished walls, and the rusty alarm clock, that ticked insistently, all added to the sense of flaccidity. The afternoon was late and already dark; sagging clouds had gathered, shutting out what was left of the daylight. Miss Etta lit a smudgy lamp, sniffling as she did so.

From under the torn quilt the man stared back at me, with much of his old penetration, despite the fever that racked him.

"I—want—Lisbeth," were his first words to me.

I shook my head. "She cannot come just now," I told him, hand on his wrist. "But we are here to do everything for you."

"Tel-e-phone her," he said with his old emphasis on each syllable, "and tell—her that I'm—dy-ing. Don't answer me. You know that—I—am dy-ing and I—want—her."

Miss Etta, the tears streaming over her large face, went to do his bidding. I could hear her lumbersome[Pg 381] footsteps going down the crazy outside stairway. He gave me a triumphant look as I lifted his arm, then abruptly he drew away from me. He had an ingrained fear of drugs of any sort. There was no gainsaying his fierce refusals, so I made him as comfortable as I could while we waited. The end was very near. His face, thin almost to emaciation, was flushed to a deep, feverish red, but his lips took on a more unbending line than ever and his eyes burned like bits of phosphorescence in the semidarkness. For an hour he lay there motionless with only the shadow of a smile touching his lips at intervals.

Miss Etta had returned, letting in a gust of damp air, but bringing no definite answer from Lisbeth. Would she come? I remembered her unyielding decision, her unflinching sincerity. The rain broke now suddenly, and came roaring down the hill towards the creek. Outside the branches of elms dragged, with a snapping of twigs, across the brittle roof. A rusty stream of water crawled sizzling down the pipe of the stove. It was hot—hot with the intolerable hotness of steam. The patchwork quilt looked thick and unsmoothed. I reflected that it never could look smoothed. And how their personalities bore down upon one with a swamping sensation! Miss Etta and Grega and Mr. Lin Darton were gathered into a corner of the room and an occasional whispering escaped them. The oppression was terrific. I began to want Lisbeth, to long for her to come, as she would come, like a cool blade cutting through density. And yet—I was not sure. I found myself staring through the black, shiny surface of the window, seeking relief in the obscuring dark. It gave little vision, except its own distorted reflections, but I could distinguish vaguely the outlines of the old mill with the shadowly raft in the high branches and the smudgy round spots that I knew to be the turkeys roosting.

A fiercer current tore at the framework of the mill-house. The water rapped pitilessly against the pane. The brownish stream thickened, as it made its way down the stovepipe and fell in flat puddles on the tin plate beneath it.—Would she come?[Pg 382]

"If she doesn't come now!" whimpered Miss Etta. "An awful girl—awful!"

I began hoping of a sudden that she would not come. Though I craved her presence in that insufferable room, I was afraid for her. A sort of nameless terror had seized me that would not be dismissed. Yet what worse thing than she had already endured could come from that bundle of loose clothes on the bed? The figure moved uneasily under the covers and made an indefinite motion. I could only guess at the words addressed to Miss Etta as she bent over him. She shook her head.

"No," she said audibly, "not yet."

With one brown, fleshless hand, that lay outside the covers, he made a gesture of resignation, but the gray eyes, turning towards me, burned black.

I could make out fragmentary bits of conversation that issued from the corner of the room.

"When it comes to one's own blood—"

The rest was lost in a surge of wind and rain.

"An awful girl—"

"She ought to be—"

A low rumble came down the hill, followed by a more terrific onslaught of rain. Outside the clap of a door came as a relief. There were steps, then, just as I had expected, the door was thrust back and she stood there letting in the fresh air of heaven, a slender sheaf of gray in her long coat and small fur toque.

A satirical gleam of triumph gleamed across the sick man's face and vanished, leaving him a wronged and silently passive creature.

"You can shut the door tight, now you've come," said Miss Etta. "A draft won't do him any good."

With this greeting she turned her back. There was a moment's silence, while Lisbeth pushed shut the flimsy door, and I, to cover her embarrassment, helped her make it fast. I noticed then that she was carrying a small leather case.

"Thermos bottles," she explained, as an aroma of comfort escaped them. But the man on the bed shook his head, as she approached.

"Not now," he said plaintively. His look reproached[Pg 383] her. Tears stood thickly in Miss Etta's eyes. She pulled Lisbeth aside with a series of jerks at her elbow.

"Too late for that now," I heard her whisper sententiously. And then: "You had your chance."

I saw the hand, that disengaged Miss Etta's clutch, tremble; and for an instant I thought the girl would break down under the benumbing thickness of their emotion. But she merely unfastened her coat, walking towards the window as though seeking composure, as I had, in the cold shadows without, in the blurred outlines of the old mill and the intrepid row of turkeys.

He beckoned to her, but she did not see him. Rapidly failing as he was, I was certain that he was by no means without power of speech. I touched her on the arm. His words came finally in monotonous cadences.

"I am dy-ing," he said. "You will—pray?"

I saw her catch her breath. My own hung in my throat and choked me. He was watching her intently now with overweighted gray eyes, that could not make one entirely forget the long cunning line of the mouth. What courage did she have to withstand this? He was dying—of that there could be little doubt. She had grown white to the roots of her hair.

"I do not pray," she said steadily.

His eyebrows met. "You—do not pray? Who—taught—you—not to p—ray?"

"You did," she said quietly.

He lay back with a sigh.

"Outrageous!" murmured Miss Etta through her tears. "An awful girl—awful!"

The man on the bed smiled. He lifted his hand and let it fall back on the cover.

"It's all right—all right—all—right." The reddish-brown eyelids closed slowly.

Involuntarily a wave of pity shook me. It was consummate acting. That a man should play a part upon the very edge of life held in it something awesome, compelling attention. I drew myself together, feeling his eyes, sharp for all their floating sadness, upon me. Was he—? Was I—?—A crackling of thunder shook the ground. When it had passed, the rain came down straight and[Pg 384] hard and windless like rapier thrusts. The room seemed, if possible, closer, more suffocating. He beckoned to Lisbeth and she went and stood near him. He was to put her through a still harder ordeal.

"You have never cared for me," he whispered.

There was no sound except for the steady pour outside and the rustle of Miss Etta's garments as she made angry motions to Lisbeth. Even at this moment, I believe, had he shown sign of any honest wish for affection, she would have given all she had.

"Not for many years," she said, and for the first time her voice shook.

"Ah—h!" His breath went inwards.

Suddenly he began to fumble among the bed clothes.

"The picture," he said incoherently, "your mother's picture. Pick it up," he ordered, his eyelids drooping strangely. "No—no—under the bed."

Before I could stop her she had dropped to her knees and was fumbling among the rolls of dust under the bed. An overpowering dread had clutched at me, forcing the air from my lungs. But in that instant he had raised himself, by what must have been an almost incredible exercise of will, and grabbed her by the throat.

"Curse you!" he cried, shaking her as one would a rat, "you and your mother—cur—"

His hands dropped away, limp and brittle like withered leaves. He fell back.—


Of course they will always find excuses for the dead, and eulogies. Even as I helped her into Jim's small curtained car and took my place at the wheel, I knew that the things that they would say about her would be more than I could bear. We plunged forward, and a moment later, rounding a curve, our headlights came full upon the outlines of the old farm with its hideous false façade. I could not resist glancing at her, though I said nothing. Her eyes were on her hands, held loosely in her lap. She did not look at me until, with another lurch, we had swung about again, and all but the road in front of us was drawn back swiftly into obscurity. I found that she had turned towards me then, and, as I laid one hand[Pg 385] across her arm, I felt her relax to a relieved trembling. Before us the night crowded down over the countryside, masking its ugliness like a film, through which our lights cut a white fissure towards town.


[Pg 386]

SHELBY[20]

By CHARLES HANSON TOWNE

(From The Smart Set.)

When I sit down to write of Shelby—Lucien Atterwood Shelby, the author, whose romantic books you must have read, or at least heard of—I find myself at some difficulty to know where to begin. I knew him so well at one time—so little at another; and men, like houses, change with the years. Today's tenant in some old mansion may not view the garden as you did long ago; and the friend of a man's later years may not hold the same opinions the acquaintance of an earlier period once formed.

I think it best to begin with the time I met Shelby on the newspaper where we both, as cub reporters, worked. That was exactly twenty years ago.

The boys didn't take to Shelby. He was too dapper, too good-looking, and he always carried a stick, as he called it; we were unregenerate enough to say cane. And, most loathsome of all, he had an English accent—though he was born in Illinois, we afterwards learned. You can imagine how this accent nettled us, for we were all unassuming lads—chaps, Shelby would have called us—and we detested "side."

But how this new acquisition to the staff could write! It bothered us to see him hammer out a story in no time, for most of us had to work over our copy, and we made Hanscher, the old managing editor, raving mad sometimes with our dilatoriness. I am afraid that in those sadly distant days we frequented too many bars, and no doubt we wasted some of our energy and decreased our efficiency. But every young reporter drank more or less;[Pg 387] and when Shelby didn't mix with us, and we discovered that he took red wine with his dinner at Mouqin's—invariably alone—we hated him more than ever.

I remember well how Stanton, the biggest-hearted fellow the Lord ever let live, announced one night in the copy room that he was going to get Shelby tight or die in the attempt, and how loud a laugh went up at his expense.

"It can't be done," was the verdict.

The man hadn't enough humanity, we figured. He was forever dramatizing himself, forever attitudinizing. And those various suits of his—how they agonized us! We were slouches, I know, with rumpled hair and, I fear not overparticular as to our linen during the greater part of the week. Some of us had families to support, even in those young days—or at least a father or a mother up the State to whom we had to send a monthly cheque out of our meagre wages.

I can't say that we were envious of Shelby because of his single-blessedness—he was only twenty-two at that time; but it hurt us to know that he didn't really have to work in Herald Square, and that he had neat bachelor quarters down in Gramercy Park, and a respectable club or two, and week-ended almost where he chose. His blond hair was always beautifully plastered over a fine brow, and he would never soil his forehead by wearing a green shade when he bent over his typewriter late at night. That would have robbed him of some of his dignity, made him look anything but the English gentleman he was so anxious to appear.

I think he looked upon us as just so much dust beneath his feet. He would say "Good evening" in a way that irritated every one of us—as though the words had to be got out somehow, and he might as well say them and get them over with, and as though he dreaded any reply. You couldn't have slapped him on the back even if you had felt the impulse; he wasn't the to-be-slapped kind. And of course that means that he wouldn't have slapped any of us, either. And he was the type you couldn't call by his first name.

Looking back, I sometimes think of all that he missed[Pg 388] in the way of good-fellowship; for we were the most decent staff in New York, as honest and generous and warmly human a bunch as anyone could hope to find. We were ambitious, too, mostly college men, and we had that passion for good writing, perhaps not in ourselves, but in others, which is so often the newspaper man's special endowment. We were swift to recognize a fine passage in one another's copy; and praise from old Hanscher meant a royal little dinner at Engel's with mugs of cream ale, and an hour's difference in our arrival at the office next day. Oh, happy, vanished times! Magic moments that peeped through the grayness of hard work, and made the whole game so worth while.

Well, Stanton won out. He told us about it afterwards.

On the pretext that he wanted to ask Shelby's advice about some important personal matter, he urged him to let him give him as good a meal as Mouqin could provide, with a certain vintage of French wine which he knew Shelby was fond of. There were cocktails to begin with, though Shelby had intimated more than once that he abominated the bourgeois American habit of indulging in such poison. And there was an onion soup au gratin, a casserole, and artichokes, and special coffee, and I don't know what else.

"He got positively human," Stanton put it, later, as we clustered round him in the copy room. (Shelby hadn't turned up.) "I don't like him, you know; and at first it was hard to get through the soup; but I acted up, gave him a song and dance about my mythical business matter—I think he feared I was going to 'touch him'—and finally got a little tipsy myself. From then on it was easy. It was like a game."

It seems that afterwards, arm in arm, they walked out into Sixth Avenue in the soft snow—it was winter, and the Burgundy had done the trick—and Shelby, his inhibitions completely gone, began to weep.

"Why are you crying?" Stanton asked, his own voice thick.

"Because you fellers don't like me!" Shelby choked out.

The accent and the stick went together into the gutter,[Pg 389] Stanton laughingly told us. An immortal moment! The poseur with his mask off, at last! Beneath all that grease-paint and charlatanism there was a solid, suffering, lonely man; and even in his own dazed condition Stanton was quick to recognize it, and to rejoice in the revelation.

Moreover, he was flattered, as we always are, when our judgments have proved right. Stanton had deliberately set out to find the real Shelby—and he had.

"A man who can write as he can has something in him—that I know," he had said generously more than once. He made us see that he had not been wrong.

But it was not the real Shelby that returned to the office. That is where he missed his great opportunity. Back strutted the pompous, stained-glass, pitiful imitation of an Englishman, in a louder suit than ever, and with a big new cane that made the old one look flimsy.

We despised him more than ever. For we would have taken him within our little circle gladly after Stanton's sure report; and there would have been chance after chance for him to make good with us. But no; he preferred the pose of aloofness, and his face betrayed that he was ashamed of that one night's weakness. He never alluded to his evening with Stanton; and when Minckle, who was certain the ice had been broken, put his arm around his shoulder the next day, he looked and drawled,

"I say, old top, I wish you wouldn't."

Of course that finished him with us.

"He can go to the devil," we said.

We wanted him fired, obliterated; but the very next evening there was a murder in Harlem, and old Hanscher sent Shelby to cover it, and his first-page story was the talk of the town. We were sports enough to tell him what a wonderful thing he had done. He only smiled, said "Thanks," and went on at his typewriter.

II

It was shortly after this that Marguerite Davis assailed New York with her beauty—a young actress with a wealth of hair and the kind of eyes you dream of. She captured the critics and the public alike. Her name was[Pg 390] on every lip and the Broadway theater where she starred in "The Great Happiness" was packed to the doors. Such acclaim was never received by any young woman. We heard that Shelby went every night for a week to see some part of the play—he couldn't, because of his assignments, view the entire performance; and it was Minckle who, after the piece had been running a month in New York, found a photograph of the star in the top drawer of Shelby's desk. He had gone there for a match—you know how informal we newspaper men are. Moreover, the picture had been autographed.

"I wish you wouldn't touch that." It was Shelby's voice. Of course he had come in at the very moment poor Minckle made his startling discovery.

With quiet dignity, and with a flush on his cheeks, Shelby took the photograph from Minckle's hand, and replaced it in the drawer.

"I always keep matches on top of my desk—when I have any," he said, in a voice like ice.

There was no denying his justified anger. No man likes to have his heart secrets disclosed; and Shelby knew that even the Associated Press could not give more publicity to the discovery than Minckle could. He dreaded—and justly, I think—the wagging of heads that would be noticed from now on, the pitiless interest in his amour.

Stanton was the only one of us, except myself, later, who ever was privileged, if you care to put it that way, to visit Shelby's apartment—diggings, Shelby always called them. There, on the walls, he told us, were innumerable photographs of Miss Davis, in every conceivable pose. They looked out at one from delicate and heavy frames; and some were stuck informally in the mirror of his dresser, as though casually placed there to lighten up the beginning of each day, or perhaps because there was no other space for them.

"You must know her awfully well," Stanton ventured once.

"I have never met the lady," was all Shelby said; and Stanton told me there was a sigh that followed the remark.[Pg 391]

"What!" this full-blooded young American reporter cried, astounded. "You've never met this girl, and yet you have all these—all these pictures of her?"

"I don't want to lose my dream, my illusion," was Shelby's answer.

A man who would not meet the toast of Broadway—and Fifth Avenue, for that matter—if he could, was, to Stanton and the rest of us, inconceivable.

It was at the close of that winter that Shelby left us. Some there were who said he was suffering from a broken heart. At any rate, he began to free-lance; and the first of those fascinating romantic short stories that he did so well appeared in one of the magazines. There was always a poignant note in them. They dealt with lonely men who brooded in secret on some unattainable woman of dreams. This sounds precious; but the tales were saved from utter banality by a certain richness of style, a flow and fervour that carried the reader on through twenty pages without his knowing it. They struck a fresh note, they were filled with the fire of youth, and the scenes were always laid in some far country, which gave them, oddly enough, a greater reality. Shelby could pile on adjectives as no other writer of his day, I always thought, and he could weave a tapestry, or create an embroidery of words that was almost magical.

He made a good deal of money, I believe, during those first few months after he went away from Herald Square. Apparently he had no friends, and, as I have said, invariably he seemed to dine alone at Mouqin's, at a corner table. Afterwards, he would go around to the Café Martin, then in its glory, where Fifth Avenue and Broadway meet, for his coffee and a golden liqueur and a cigarette. That flaming room, which we who were fortunate enough to have our youth come to a glorious fruition in 1902, attracted us all like a magnet. Here absinthe dripped into tall glasses, and the seats around the sides, the great mirrors and the golden curtains, which fluttered in summer and remained austerely in place in winter, made a little heaven for us all, and life one long cry of joy. Here women, like strange flowers that bloomed only at night, smiled and laughed the hours away; and the[Pg 392] low whirr of Broadway drifted in, while the faint thunder of Fifth Avenue lent an added mystery to the place, as though the troubled world were shut out but could be reached again in an instant, if you wished to reach it.

Shelby liked to be seen in such places. He said he felt that he was on the Continent, and he liked to get nervously excited over a liqueur and a mazagan of coffee, and then flee to his cozy lodgings in Gramercy Park and produce page after page of closely written manuscript.

The pictures of Marguerite Davis remained a part of the furnishings of those rooms of his—that we heard; and I knew it directly shortly after this. For I, too, left the newspaper, and went into the magazine-editing game. I found a berth on that same popular periodical to which Shelby was then contributing his matchless stories; and part of my job was to see him frequently, take him to luncheon or dinner, talk over his future plans with him, discuss the possibility of his doing a novelette which later he could expand into a full-sized volume and thereby gain an added vogue.

It was during this period that I came to know him so well—came to know him, that is, as intimately as he wished to be known. Always there was a cloak of reserve which he put on with me, as with every one. I tried to broaden his horizon, to have him meet other men—and women. He would go with me once or twice to some party, for he was clever enough to see that he must not offend me, just as he knew that I must not offend him. We were too valuable to each other, and in that odd mixing up of our affairs in this world here we were, after so brief an interval, in the relationship of editor and contributor.

He knew, however, that I had always admired his literary gifts; but I confess that the feet of clay began to creep into view when he told me, one night at the Martin, that his favorite novelist of all time was—Marion Crawford! That explained so much to me that I had not understood before. I smiled tolerantly, for my own taste ran much higher; and I seemed from then on to sense a certain cheapness in Shelby's mind, as if I had lifted the[Pg 393] cloth over a chair and discovered cherrywood where I had hoped to find Chippendale. It is through such marginalia that we come to know people. I could not reconcile Shelby's delicate style with so forlorn a taste for other literary dishes. I said then that he would never become a great writer. He would simply mark time, artistically speaking, after reaching a certain point. Thereafter everything he produced would be but repetition.

I was right. His virgin novel proved a rank failure. The man could do nothing sustained. He was essentially a person of brilliant flashes. The book, called, as you may remember, "The Shadow and the Substance," was a tour de force in vapid writing, and it almost severed his literary jugular vein. All the reviewers, delighted with a chance to play upon his title, said it contained far more shadow than substance.

Shelby had had easy sailing up till that time. His pride was hurt by the reception of the book; and he told me he was going to flee to London—which he straightway did. Then I heard of him in his beloved England; and from there he sent me several short manuscripts filled with his old grace and charm of style—a sort of challenge to his critics. But always we waited for the story with a punch; for the story that would show there was a soul in the fellow. These pale blossoms were all very well—as magazine bait to capture the young girl reader of our smart periodical; but too many of them cloyed. It was as though you served a banquet and made hors d'œuvres the main dish.

Yet his popularity with our readers was tremendous. Letters, addressed in feminine handwriting, came to him in our care every day, from all over the land; and he was no doubt flattered by silly women who were fascinated even more by his fiction after we printed his romantic photograph. For he had a profile that captivated many a girl, eyes that seemed to speak volumes; and no doubt there were numerous boudoirs that contained his picture, just as his rooms contained so many likenesses of Marguerite Davis.

I next heard of him in Egypt, where he said he was[Pg 394] gathering colour for a new romance. He stayed away several months, and then blew in one morning, better-looking than ever, brown and clear-eyed. He had been all over the Orient, and he said his note-book was full of material. Now he could sit down quietly and write. He had so much to put on paper, he told me.

But he hadn't. He dreamed adventure, he craved adventure; but nothing ever happened to him. His trips were invariably on glassy seas. He traveled by himself—he hadn't even one chum whom he cared to have share his joys; and though he penetrated the jungles of Africa at one time, the lions remained mysteriously in hiding, and the jaguars didn't even growl.

I remember that this came out one night at a dinner party he and I went to at the home of a friend of mine. A Captain Diehart was there—a most delightful man of fifty or so, who had just returned from a trip around the world; and he fascinated us all by his lively recounting of certain dramatic happenings in the Far East. Zulus had captured him once, and he had come perilously close to death on so many occasions that it was a miracle that he should be sitting here now, sipping his champagne and smoking his cigarette.

On the way home—I had a habit of seeing Shelby to his doorstep during this period—he turned to me and said:

"Isn't it strange, Allison, that nothing of that kind has ever happened to me? I move about all the while, I look eagerly for excitement, I hope always for the supreme adventure—and I never find it. Yet I love romance. Why does it never come to me?"

I was silent for a few paces. I felt so sorry for him. For once he had told me what was in his heart.

"You're in love with love," I said finally. "That's what's the matter with your work, Shelby, if you'll let me say so. I wonder if you have really loved a woman—or a friend, even? If the great thing should come into your life, wouldn't it illuminate your whole literary expression? Wouldn't you write eighty per cent better. Wouldn't everything you do be sharpened splendidly alive? Why don't you meet—Miss Davis?"[Pg 395]

"My God, man!" he let out. "Won't you allow me to keep at least one dream?"

He tried to be tragic right there in the street; but I read him like a book.

"Don't be an ass, old fellow. You're not a poet, you know—you're a happy dabbler in prose; but you've got to wake up—you've got to have some vital experience before you can hope to reach the top. This vicarious loving isn't worth a tin whistle. You're like a soldier in the barracks compared to one who's in the thick of the fight. Wake up, shake yourself, get out of your shell, and see how much greater you'll be!"

He didn't like that. He never liked the truth. How few of us do!

The next thing I knew he was off for Japan, and he sent me pretty post-cards of geisha-girls, and tried to indicate that he was having the time of his life, at last. But there was something false—I cannot quite express it—about his messages. They didn't ring true at all. He knew it, and he knew that I knew it.

III

When he came back, after a year or so, there was a vast change in him. He was more sure of himself; and in the Martin one night he told me how various other periodicals were now after him. His rate would have to go up, and all that sort of thing. He liked me, and The Athenian, but one must grow, and there were wider fields for him to penetrate; and it was all right that we had made him what he was, but in the final summing up a man must think of himself, and one's career was one's career, you know. He brought in several fashionable names, I remember—I don't recall just how he did it, but he tried to appear casual when he spoke of Mrs. Thus-and-So, who had a mansion on Fifth Avenue; and he indicated that he often dined there now. They had met in the Orient, and Reggie was a corker, too, and he might summer at Newport, and what did I think of an offer of five thousand dollars from a great weekly for a serial dealing with high life?[Pg 396]

He sickened me that evening. Yes, he was a prig, a snob, and I don't know what else. Frankly and coldly I told him to go to the dickens. Our magazine had existed without him once upon a time, and it could go on existing without him. I was sorry to see him make such a fool of himself.

His whole attitude changed.

"Oh, don't think I mean all I say, Allison!" he pleaded. "I'll continue to give you something now and again. After all, I've got a wide audience with you people, and I don't quite wish to lose it."

That irritated me more than ever—his stupid patronage, his abominable self-assurance. I remember paying the check very grandiloquently, and leaving him alone—as he was so fond of being, at one time—in the center of the room.

When we met thereafter of course we were exceedingly chilly to each other. Once I saw him with Mrs. Thus-and-So, and he cut me dead. I suppose I looked painfully inadequate, utterly unimportant to him that afternoon. He had moved to higher circles; and after all I was only a struggling young editor, who dressed rather badly—; all right for certain occasions, but hardly one to be seen bowing to at a moment like this! I read his mind, you see; and again he knew that I knew; and of course he hated me from that time forth.

It was at this time that the phrase, "See America First," came into such wide circulation. It was considered the thing to look over the Grand Canyon or the Yellowstone Park, or to run down to Florida, rather than cross the ocean; and I next heard of Shelby in the West, diligently writing—for other magazines. He had brought out one more novel, "The Orange Sunset," and it had gone far better than the first, which must have heartened him and given him a fresh impetus. He changed book publishers, too—went to a smarter firm who did much for him in the way of publicity. And special editions, in limp covers, helped his sales. Even his short stories were brought out, and as little brochures, in gorgeous binding with colored illustrations, a single tale would attract the romantic maiden. It was a chocolate-cream appeal;[Pg 397] but cream-drops have their uses in this weary world.

The San Francisco earthquake—I believe they always allude to it out there as "the fire"—occurred—that next year; and Stanton, who had succeeded old Hanscher in Herald Square—the latter had died in harness at his desk—heard, in that mysterious way that newspaper men hear everything, that Shelby was in the ill-fated city when the earth rocked on that disastrous night. Immediately he telegraphed him, "Write two thousand words of your experiences, your sensations in calamity. Wire them immediately. Big check awaits you."

Silence followed. Stanton and I talked it over, and we concluded that Shelby must have been killed.

"If he isn't dead, here at last is the great adventure he has been longing for," I couldn't help saying.

No word ever came from him; but two weeks later he blew into town, and again Stanton found out that he had arrived.

"Why didn't you answer my wire?" he telephoned him.

"I couldn't," Shelby rather whimpered over the line. "You see, Stanton, old top, the thing got me too deeply. I just couldn't—I hope you'll understand—write one word of it."

But it was not the grief of the man who feels so deeply that he cannot shed a tear. It was the craven in Shelby that had shocked the meretricious Shelby into insensibility, into utter inarticulateness in one of the crowning disasters of the ages.

In the face of something so real, so terribly real, he was but a puny worm, with no vocabulary to express his emotions—for he had none, save the emotion of fear. That we knew from people who had been at the same hotel where he was stopping when the great shock came. He ran through the corridors like a frightened doe, in pajamas of silk, with wonderful tassels of green. He wrung his hands, and babbled like a lunatic. "Oh, my manuscripts! My manuscripts!" were the only intelligible words that came from his white lips.

Think of it! He thought of those piffling stories—those stories of unreality, when he was experiencing the[Pg 398] biggest thing that ever came into his little life! Do you wonder that we cared even less for him after that? That I refused to see him at all, and that even wise, understanding Bill Stanton couldn't touch his syndicate stuff?

IV

There is, of necessity, a hiatus here. One cannot write of what one does not know. I lost all trace of Shelby during the intervening years, except that I saw spasmodic productions of his in various periodicals, and guessed that he must be working in those same bachelor quarters probably still surrounded with the pictures of Miss Davis. There were rumors, also, that he went frequently to the opera with very grand people, and dined and supped on Lower as well as Upper Fifth Avenue. It was whispered in editorial circles that he had come to care more as to where he could dine next week than how he could write next week. You see, he was most personable, and he could flatter ladies, and drink like a gentleman, and wear his evening clothes to perfection—he still had them made in London—and that sort of unmarried man is always in demand in New York. Add to these social graces the piquancy of a little literary reputation, and you have the perfect male butterfly.

Shelby fluttered his way through the corridors and drawing rooms of the rich, and his later work, if you will notice, always touches upon what is called smart society. We heard that he never mentioned his newspaper days—that he was not a little ashamed of having spent so many months bending over a typewriter in a dingy, cluttered office. Yet it was there he had learned to write; and had he been true to the best traditions of those days of exciting assignments, how far he might have gone on the long literary road!

The war came. Of course Shelby was beyond the draft age—quite far beyond it; but he had no ties, was in perfect physical condition, and he might have found in the trenches another contact that would have made a thorough man of him. Again, he had always loved England and the English so dearly that it would not have[Pg 399] been surprising had he offered his services in some way to that country when she and her allies so needed assistance. But the lists of those who offered their lives then may be searched in vain for Shelby's name.

I heard vaguely that he had gone to Borneo in September, 1914; and there he remained, "to avoid such a nasty mess as the world had come to." You see, his was a process of evasion. He loved romance when it was sweet and beautiful; but he had not the vision to understand that there is also a hard, stern, iron romance—the romance of men's companionships in difficult places.

How he did it, I never knew; but he returned from Borneo a year later, and handed to his publishers a novel called "The Blowing Rose," which dealt, as its title would indicate, with anything but the War—a sentimental tale of the old South, full of lattices and siestas through long, slow afternoons, and whispered words of love, and light conversations at dusk, and all that sort of rot. And all the while, outside his door the guns were booming; at the gates of the world a perilous storm had broken. The earth was on fire; but while Rome burned, he, like Nero, played a fiddle—and was content.

Then he wrote a comedy of British manners, and nothing would do but that he must himself journey to London in war-time to see about its production there.

Stanton and I happened to see him the day before he sailed. We met him face to face on Fifth Avenue, and he bowed to us. We returned the salute, little dreaming that never again would we see him.

For Shelby sailed on the Lusitania.

There must be a hiatus here, too; for no one saw him die. The story runs that he must have been in his cabin when the awful moment came—that he was drowned like a rat in a trap. I wonder. And I wonder if he knew in that agonizing instant that he was doomed? But was it not better to die than to emerge again from so great a calamity—so historical an episode—as he had once before emerged, and find himself again inarticulate? At least there can be some glory for him now; for one likes to think that, after all, he might have told us how he felt in so supreme a moment, and linked it, through[Pg 400] his delicate art, with his San Francisco sensations. Could those have been revived, and put upon paper? Could Shelby ever have made a fine gesture, know himself as we knew him, and told the truth.

I doubt it. For, looking over his published works tonight, I find only one or two epigrams worthy of a brief existence. And one of those I am sure he filched from an English wit, and redressed it for his purposes. That was the only time he cared for American tailoring.

But poor Shelby! Vicarious, indeed, were all the experiences, save two, of his shallow days. But in the face of each, he was speechless. There is a law of averages, a law of compensation, you know. The balance wheel turns; the tides change; the sands of occasion shift. Fate gave this man one overwhelmingly glorious chance to say something. He was mute. The second time she sealed his lips forever.


[Pg 401]

THE WALLOW OF THE SEA[21]

By MARY HEATON VORSE

(From Harper's Magazine)

After twenty years I saw Deolda Costa again, Deolda who, when I was a girl, had meant to me beauty and romance. There she sat before me, large, mountainous, her lithe gypsy body clothed in fat. Her dark eyes, beautiful as ever, still with a hint of wildness, met mine proudly. And as she looked at me the old doubts rose again in my mind, a cold chill crawled up my back as I thought what was locked in Deolda's heart. My mind went back to that night twenty years ago, with the rain beating its devil's tattoo against the window, when all night long I sat holding Deolda's hand while she never spoke or stirred the hours through, but stared with her crazy, smut-rimmed eyes out into the storm where Johnny Deutra was. I heard again the shuttle of her feet weaving up and down the room through the long hours.

It was a strange thing to see Deolda after having known her as I did. There she was, with her delight of life all changed into youngsters and fat. There she was, heavy as a monument, and the devil in her divided among her children—though Deolda had plenty of devil to divide.

My first thought was: "Here's the end of romance. To think that you once were love, passion, and maybe even carried death in your hand—and when I look at you now!"

Then the thought came to me, "After all, it is a greater romance that she should have triumphed completely, that the weakness of remorse has never set its fangs in[Pg 402] her heart." She had seized the one loophole that life had given her and had infused her relentless courage into another's veins.

I was at the bottom of Deolda Costa's coming to live with my aunt Josephine Kingsbury, for I had been what my mother called "peaked," and was sent down to the seashore to visit her. And suddenly I, an inland child, found myself in a world of romance whose very colors were changed. I had lived in a world of swimming green with faint blue distance; hills ringed us mildly; wide, green fields lapped up to our houses; islands of shade trees dotted the fields.

My world of romance was blue and gray, with the savage dunes glittering gold in the sun. Here life was intense. Danger lurked always under the horizon. Lights, like warning eyes, flashed at night, and through the drenching fog, bells on reefs talked to invisible ships. Old men who told tales of storm and strange, savage islands, of great catches of fish, of smuggling, visited my aunt.

Then, as if this were merely the background of a drama, Deolda Costa came to live with us in a prosaic enough fashion, as a "girl to help out."

If you ask me how my aunt, a decent, law-abiding woman—a sick woman at that—took a firebrand like Deolda into her home, all I would be able to answer is: If you had seen her stand there, as I did, on the porch that morning, you wouldn't ask the question. The doorbell rang and my aunt opened it, I tagging behind. There was a girl there who looked as though she were daring all mankind, a strange girl with skin tawny, like sand on a hot day, and dark, brooding eyes. My aunt said:

"You want to see me?"

The girl glanced up slowly under her dark brows that looked as if they had been drawn with a pencil.

"I've come to work for you," she said in a shy, friendly fashion. "I'm a real strong girl."

No one could have turned her away, not unless he were deaf and blind, not unless he were ready to murder happiness. I was fifteen and romantic, and I was bedazzled just as the others were. She made me think of dancing[Pg 403] women I have heard of, and music, and of soft, starlit nights, velvet black. She was more foreign than anything I had ever seen and she meant to me what she did to plenty of others—romance. She must have meant it to my aunt, sick as she was and needing a hired girl. So when Deolda asked, in that soft way of hers:

"Shall I stay?"

"Yes," answered my aunt, reluctantly, her eyes on the girl's lovely mouth.

While she stood there, her shoulders drooping, her eyes searching my aunt's face, she still found time to shoot a glance like a flaming signal to Johnny Deutra, staring at her agape. I surprised the glance, and so did my aunt Josephine, who must have known she was in for nothing but trouble. And so was Johnny Deutra, for from that first glance of Deolda's that dared him, love laid its heavy hand on his young shoulders.

"What's your name, dear?" my aunt asked.

"Deolda Costa," said she.

"Oh, you're one-armed Manel's girl. I don't remember seeing you about lately."

"I been working to New Bedford. My father an' mother both died. I came up for the funeral. I—don't want to go back to the mills—" Then sudden fury flamed in her. "I hate the men there!" she cried. "I'd drown before I'd go back!"

"There, there, dear," my aunt soothed her. "You ain't going back—you're going to work for Auntie Kingsbury."

That was the way Deolda had. She never gave one any chance for an illusion about her, for there was handsome Johnny Deutra still hanging round the gate watching Deolda, and she already held my aunt's heart in her slender hand.

My aunt went around muttering, "One-armed Manel's girl!" She appealed to me: "She's got to live somewhere, hasn't she?"

I imagine that my aunt excused herself for deliberately, running into foul weather by telling herself that Deolda Was her "lot," something the Lord had sent her to take care of.[Pg 404]

"Who was one-armed Manel?" I asked, tagging after my aunt.

"Oh, he was a queer old one-armed Portygee who lived down along," said my aunt, "clear down along under the sand dunes in a green-painted house with a garden in front of it with as many colors as Joseph's coat. Those Costas lived 'most any way." Then my aunt added, over her shoulder: "They say the old woman was a gypsy and got married to one-armed Manel jumping over a broomstick. And I wouldn't wonder a mite if 'twas true. She was a queer looking old hag with black, piercing eyes and a proud way of walking. The boys are a wild crew. Why, I remember this girl Deolda, like a little leopard cat with blue-black shadows in her hair and eyes like saucers, selling berries at the back door!"

My uncle Ariel, Aunt Josephine's brother, came in after a while. As he took a look at Deolda going out of the room, he said:

"P—hew! What's that?"

"I told you I was sick and had to get a girl to help out—what with Susie visiting and all," said my aunt, very short.

"Help out? Help out! My lord! help out! What's her name—Beth Sheba?"

Now this wasn't as silly as it sounded. I suppose what Uncle Ariel meant was that Deolda made him think of Eastern queens and Araby. But my attention was distracted by the appearance of two wild-looking boys with a green-blue sea chest which served Deolda as a trunk. I followed it to her room and started making friends with Deolda, who opened the trunk, and I glimpsed something embroidered in red flowers.

"Oh, Deolda, let me see. Oh, let me see!" I cried.

It was a saffron shawl all embroidered with splotchy red flowers as big as my hand. It made me tingle as it lay there in its crinkly folds, telling of another civilization and other lands than our somber shores. The shawl and its crawling, venomous, alluring flowers marked Deolda off from us. She seemed to belong to the shawl and its scarlet insinuations.

"That was my mother's," she said. Then she added[Pg 405] this astounding thing: "My mother was a great dancer. All Lisbon went wild about her. When she danced the whole town went crazy. The bullfighters and the princes would come—"

"But how—?" I started, and stopped, for Deolda had dropped beside the chest and pressed her face in the shawl, and I remembered that her mother was dead only a few days ago, and I couldn't ask her how the great dancer came to be in Dennisport in the cabin under the dunes. I tiptoed out, my heart thrilled with romance for the gypsy dancer's daughter.

When my aunt was ready for bed there was no Deolda. Later came the sound of footsteps and my aunt's voice in the hall outside my room.

"That you, Deolda?"

"Yes'm."

"Where were you all evening?"

"Oh, just out under the lilacs."

"For pity's sake! Out under the lilacs! What were you doing out there?"

Deolda's voice came clear and tranquil. "Making love with Johnny Deutra."

I held my breath. What can you do when a girl tells the truth unabashed.

"I've known Johnny Deutra ever since he came from the Islands, Deolda," my aunt said, sternly. "He'll mean it when he falls in love."

"I know it," said Deolda, with a little breathless catch in her voice.

"He's only a kid. He's barely twenty," my aunt went on, inexorably. "He's got to help his mother. He's not got enough to marry; any girl who married him would have to live with the old folks. Look where you're going, Deolda."

There was silence, and I heard their footsteps going to their rooms.

The next day Deolda went to walk, and back she came, old Conboy driving her in his motor. Old Conboy was rich; he had one of the first motors on the Cape, when cars were still a wonder. After that Deolda went off in Conboy's motor as soon as her dishes were done and[Pg 406] after supper there would be handsome Johnny Deutra. We were profoundly shocked. You may be sure village tongues were already busy after a few days of these goings on.

"Deolda," my aunt said, sternly, "what are you going out with that old Conboy for?"

"I'm going to marry him," Deolda answered.

"You're what?"

"Going to marry him," Deolda repeated in her cool, truthful way that always took my breath.

"Has he asked you?" my aunt inquired, sarcastically.

"No, but he will," said Deolda. She looked out under her long, slanting eyes that looked as if they had little red flames dancing in the depths of them.

"But you love Johnny," my aunt went on.

She nodded three times with the gesture of a little girl.

"Do you know what you're headed for, Deolda?" said my aunt. "Do you know what you're doing when you talk about marrying old Conboy and loving that handsome, no-account kid, Johnny?"

We were all three sitting on the bulkheads after supper. It was one of those soft nights with great lazy yellow clouds with pink edges sailing down over the rim of the sea, fleet after fleet of them. I was terribly interested in it all, but horribly shocked, and from my vantage of fifteen years I said.

"Deolda, I think you ought to marry Johnny."

"Fiddledeedee!" said my aunt. "If she had sense she wouldn't marry either one of 'em—one's too old, one's too young."

"She ought to marry Johnny and make a man of him," I persisted, for it seemed ridiculous to me to call Johnny Deutra a boy when he was twenty and handsome as a picture in a book.

My prim words touched some sore place in Deolda. She gave a brief gesture with her hands and pushed the idea from her.

"I can't," she said, "I can't do it over again. Oh, I can't—I can't. I'm afraid of emptiness—empty purses, empty bellies. The last words my mother spoke were to me. She said, 'Deolda, fear nothing but emptiness[Pg 407]—empty bellies, empty hearts.' She left me something, too."

She went into the house and came back with the saffron shawl, its long fringe trailing on the floor, its red flowers venomous and lovely in the evening light.

"You've seen my mother," she said, "but you've seen her a poor old woman. She had everything in the world once. She gave it up for love. I've seen what love comes to. I've seen my mother with her hands callous with work and her temper sharp as a razor edge nagging my father, and my father cursing out us children. She had a whole city in love with her and she gave up everything to run away with my father. He was jealous and wanted her for himself. He got her to marry him. Then he lost his arm and they were poor and her voice went. I've seen where love goes. If I married Johnny I'd go and live at Deutra's and I'd have kids, and old Ma Deutra would hate me and scream at me just like my mother used to. It would be going back, right back in the trap I've just come out of."

What she said gave me an entirely new vision of life and love. "They were married and lived happy ever afterward" was what I had read in books. Now I saw all at once the other side of the medal. It was my first contact, too, with a nature strong enough to attempt to subdue life to will. I had seen only the subservient ones who had accepted life.

Deolda was a fierce and passionate reaction against destiny. It's a queer thing, when you think of it, for a girl to be brought up face to face with the wreck of a tragic passion, to grow up in the house with love's ashes and to see what were lovers turned into an old hag and a cantankerous, one-armed man nagging each other.

My aunt made one more argument. "What makes you get married to any of 'em, Deolda?"

Now Deolda looked at her with a queer look; then she gave a queer laugh like a short bark.

"I can't stay here forever. I'm not going back to the mill."

Then my aunt surprised me by throwing her arms around Deolda and kissing her and calling her "my poor[Pg 408] lamb," while Deolda leaned up against my aunt as if she were her own little girl and snuggled up in a way that would break your heart.

One afternoon soon after old Conboy brought Deolda home before tea time, and as she jumped out:

"Oh, all right!" he called after her. "Have your own way; I'll marry you if you want me to!"

She made him pay for this. "You see," she said to my aunt, "I told you I was going to marry him."

"Well, then come out motoring tonight when you've got your dishes done," called old Conboy.

"I'm going to the breakwater with Johnny Deutra tonight," said Deolda, in that awful truthful way of hers.

"You see what you get," said my aunt, "if you marry that girl."

"I'll get worse not marrying her," said Conboy. "I may die any minute; I've a high blood pressure, and maybe a stroke will carry me off any day. But I've never wanted anything in many years as I want to hold Deolda in my arms."

"Shame on you!" cried my aunt. "An old man like you!"

So things went on. Johnny kept right on coming. My aunt would fume about it, but she did nothing. We were all under Deolda's enchantment. As for me, I adored her; she had a look that always disarmed me. She would sit brooding with a look I had come to know as the "Deolda look." Tears would come to her eyes and slide down her face.

"Deolda," I would plead, "what are you crying about?"

"Life," she answered.

But I knew that she was crying because Johnny Deutra was only a boy. Then she would change into a mood of wild gayety, whip the shawl around her, and dance for me, looking a thousand times more beautiful than anyone I had ever seen. And then she would shove me out of the room, leaving me feeling as though I had witnessed some strange rite at once beautiful and unholy.

She'd sit mocking Conboy, but he'd only smile. She'd go off with her other love and my aunt powerless to stop[Pg 409] her. As for Johnny Deutra, he was so in love that all he saw was Deolda. I don't believe he ever thought that she was in earnest about old Conboy.

So things stood when one day Capt. Mark Hammar came driving up with Conboy to take Deolda out. Mark was his real name, but Nick was what they called him, after the "Old Nick," for he was a devil if there ever was one, a big, rollicking devil—that is, outwardly. But gossips said no crueller man ever drove a crew for the third summer into the Northern Seas. I didn't like the way he looked at Deolda from the first, with his narrowed eyes and his smiling mouth. My aunt didn't like the way she signaled back to him. We watched them go, my aunt saying

"No good'll come of that!" And no good did.

All three of them came back excited and laughing. Old Conboy, tall as Mark Hammar, wide-shouldered, shambling like a bear, but a fine figure of an old fellow for all that; Mark Hammar, heavy and splendid in his sinister fashion; and between them Deolda with her big, red mouth and her sallow skin and her eyes burning as they did when she was excited.

"I'm saying to Deolda here," said Captain Hammar, coming up to my aunt, "that I'll make a better runnin' mate than Conboy." He drew her up to him. There was something alike about them; the same devil flamed out of the eyes of both of them. Their glances met like forked lightning. "I've got a lot more money than him, too," said Hammar, jerking his thumb toward Conboy. He roused the devil in Deolda.

"You may have more money," said she, "but you'll live longer! And I want to be a rich widow!"

"Stop your joking," my aunt said, sharply. "It don't sound nice."

"Joking?" says Captain Hammar, letting his big head lunge forward. "I ain't joking; I'm goin' to marry that girl."

My aunt said no more while they were there. She sat like a ramrod in her chair. That was one of the worst things about Deolda. We cover our bodies decently with clothes, and we ought to cover up our thoughts decently[Pg 410] with words. But Deolda had no shame, and people with her didn't, either. They'd say just what they were thinking about.

After they left Deolda came to Aunt Josephine and put her arms around her like a good, sweet child.

"What's the matter, Auntie?" she asked.

"You—that's what. I can't stand it to hear you go on."

Deolda looked at her with a sort of wonder. "We were only saying out loud what every girl's thinking about when she marries a man of forty-five, or when she marries a man who's sixty-five. It's a trade—the world's like that."

"Let me tell you one thing," said my aunt. "You can't fool with Capt. Mark Hammar. It means that you give up your other sweetheart."

"That's to be seen," said Deolda in her dark, sultry way. Then she said, as if she was talking to herself: "Life—with him—would be interesting. He thinks he could crush me like a fly.—He can't, though—" And then all of a sudden she burst into tears and threw herself in my aunt's lap, sobbing: "Oh, oh! Why's life like this? Why isn't my Johnny grown up? Why—don't he—take me away—from them all?"

After that Captain Hammar kept coming to the house. He showed well enough he was serious.

"That black devil's hypnotized her," my aunt put it.

Deolda seemed to have some awful kinship to Mark Hammar, and Johnny Deutra, who never paid much attention to old Conboy, paid attention to him. Black looks passed between them, and I would catch "Nick" Hammar's eyes resting on Johnny with a smiling venom that struck fear into me. Johnny Deutra seldom came daytimes, but he came in late one afternoon and sat there looking moodily at Deolda, who flung past him with the air she had when she wore the saffron shawl. I could almost see its long fringes trailing behind her as she stood before him, one hand on her tilted hip, her head on one side.

It was a queer sort of day, a day with storm in the air, a day when all our nerves got on edge, when the possi[Pg 411]bility of danger whips the blood. I had an uncomfortable sense of knowing that I ought to leave Deolda and Johnny and that Johnny was waiting for me to go to talk. And yet I was fascinated, as little girls are; and just as I was about to leave the room I ran into old Conboy hurrying in, his reddish hair standing on end.

"Well, Deolda," said he, "Captain Hammar's gone down the Cape all of a sudden. He told me to tell you good-by for him. Deolda, for God's sake, marry me before he comes back! He'll kill you, that's what he'll do. It's not for my sake I'm asking you—it's for your sake!"

She looked at him with her big black eyes. "I believe you mean that, Conboy. I believe I'll do it. But I'll be fair and square with you as you are with me. You'd better let me be; you know what I'm like. I won't make you happy; I never pretended I would. And as for him killing me, how do you know, Conboy, I mightn't lose my temper first?"

"He'll break you," said Conboy. "God! but he's a man without pity! Don't you know how he drives his men? Don't you know the stories about his first wife? He's put some of his magic on you. You're nothing but a poor little lamb, Deolda, playing with a wolf, for all your spirit. There's nothing he'd stop at. Nothing," he repeated, staring at Johnny. "I wouldn't give a cent for that Johnny Deutra's life until I'm married to you, Deolda. I've seen the way Mark Hammar looks at him—you have, too. I tell you, Mark Hammar don't value the life of any man who stands in his way!" And the way the old man spoke lifted the hair on my head.

Then all of us were quiet, for there stood Captain Hammar himself.

"Why, Mark, I thought you'd gone down the Cape!" said Conboy.

"I lost the train," he answered.

"Well, what about that vessel you was going to buy in Gloucester?"

"I got to sail over," said Captain Hammar.

Conboy glanced out of the window. The bay was ringed around with heavy clouds; weather was making. Storm signals were flying up on Town Hill, and down[Pg 412] the harbor a fleet of scared vessels were making for port.

"You can't go out in that, Mark," says Conboy.

"I've got the money," says Mark Hammar, "and I'm going to go. If I don't get down there that crazy Portygee'll have sold that vessel to some one else. It ain't every day you can buy a vessel like that for the price. He let me know about it first, but he won't wait long, and he's got to have the cash in his hands. He's up to some crooked work or he wouldn't 'a' sent the boy down with the letter; he'd 'a' sent it by post, or telegraphed even. He's let me know about it first, but he won't wait. It was getting the money strapped up that made me late. I had to wait for the old cashier to get back from his dinner."

"You and your money'll be in the bottom of the bay, that's where you'll be," said Conboy.

"If I'd taken in sail for every little bit o' wind I'd encountered in my life," said Mark Hammar, "I'd not be where I am now. So I just thought I'd come and run in on Deolda before I left, seeing as I'm going to marry her when I get back."

Johnny Deutra undid his long length from the chair. He was a tall, heavy boy, making up in looks for what he lacked in head. He came and stood over Mark Hammar. He said:

"I've had enough of this. I've had just enough of you two hanging around Deolda. She's my woman—I'm going to marry Deolda myself. Nobody else is going to touch her; so just as soon as you two want to clear out you can."

There was silence so that you could hear a pin drop. And then the wind that had been making hit the house like the blow of a fist and went screaming down the road. Deolda didn't see or hear; she was just looking at Johnny. He went to her.

"Don't you listen to 'em, Deolda. I'll make money for you; I'll make more than any of 'em. It's right you should want it. Tell 'em that you're going to marry me, Deolda. Clear 'em out."

That was where he made his mistake. He should have cleared them out. Now Captain Hammar spoke:

"You're quite a little man, ain't you, Johnny? Here's[Pg 413] where you got a chance to prove it. You can make a hundred dollars tonight by taking the Anita across to Gloucester with me. We'll start right off."

Everyone was quiet. Then old Conboy cried out:

"Don't go, Mark. Don't go! Why, it's murder to tempt that boy out there."

At the word "murder" Deolda drew her breath in and clapped her hand over her mouth, her eyes staring at Johnny Deutra. "Nick" Hammar pretended he hadn't noticed. He sat smiling at Johnny.

"We-ll," he drawled. "How about it, Johnny? Goin'?"

Johnny had been studying, his eyes on the floor.

"I'll go with you," he said.

Then again for a half minute nobody spoke. Captain Hammar glared, letting us see what was in his dark mind. Old Conboy shrunk into himself and Deolda sat with her wild eyes going from one to the other, but not moving. We were all thinking of what old Conboy had said just before Captain Hammar had flung open the door. A sudden impulse seized me; I wanted to cry out: "Don't go, Johnny. He'll shove you overboard." For I knew that was what was in "Nick" Hammar's mind as well as if he had told me. A terrible excitement went through me. I wanted to fling myself at "Nick" Hammar and beat him with my fists and say, "He sha'n't go—he sha'n't, he sha'n't!" But I sat there unable to move or speak. Then suddenly into the frozen silence came the voice of "Nick" Hammar. This is what he said in his easy and tranquil way:

"Well, I'm goin' along. Are you coming, Conboy?" He spoke as though nothing had happened. "I'll meet you down at the wharf, Johnny, in a half hour. I'll leave you to say good-by to Deolda." They went out, the wind blowing the door shut behind them.

Deolda got up and so did Johnny. They stood facing each other in the queer yellow light of the coming storm. They didn't notice my aunt or me.

"You going?" asked Deolda.

They looked into each other's eyes, and he answered so I could barely hear:[Pg 414]

"Sure."

"You know what he's thinking about?" said Deolda.

Again Johnny waited before he answered in a voice hardly above a whisper:

"I can guess."

Deolda went up slowly to him and put one of her long hands on each of his shoulders. She looked deep into his eyes. She didn't speak; she just looked. And he looked back, as though trying to find out what she had in her heart, and as he looked a little flicker of horror went over his face. Then he smiled a slow smile, as though he had understood something and consented to it—and it was a queer smile to see on the face of a young fellow. It was as if the youth of Johnny Deutra had passed away forever. Then Deolda said to him:

"Good for you, Johnny Deutra!" and put out her hand, and he laid his in hers and they shook on it, though no word had passed between them. And all this time my aunt and I sat motionless on the haircloth sofa next to the wall. And I tell you as I watched them my blood ran cold, though I didn't understand what it was about. But later I understood well enough.

There never was so long an evening. The squall blew over and a heavy blow set in. I could hear the pounding of the waves on the outside shore. Deolda sat outside the circle of the lamp in a horrible tense quiet. My aunt tried to make talk, and made a failure of it. It was awful to hear the clatter of her voice trying to sound natural in the face of the whistle of the storm, and out wallowing in it the gasoline dory with its freight of hatred. I hated to go to bed, for my room gave on the sea, and it seemed as if the night and the tragedy which I had glimpsed would come peering in at me with ghastly eyes.

I had just got under the blanket when the door opened quietly.

"Who is that?" I asked.

"It's me—Deolda."

She went to the window and peered out into the storm, as though she were trying to penetrate its mystery. I couldn't bear her standing there; it was as if I could hear her heart bleed. It was as if for a while I had become fused[Pg 415] with her and her love for Johnny Deutra and with all the dark things that had happened in our house this afternoon. I got out of bed and went to her and put my hand in hers. If she'd only cried, or if she'd only spoken I could have stood it; if she'd said in words what was going on inside her mind. But she sat there with her hand cold in mine, staring into the storm through all the long hours of the night.

Toward the end I was so tired that my mind went to sleep in that way your mind can when your body stays awake and everything seems far off and like things happening in a nightmare except that you know they're real. At last daylight broke, very pale, threatening, and slate colored. Deolda got up and began padding up and down the floor, back and forth, like a soul in torment.

About ten o'clock old Conboy came in.

"I got the license, Deolda," he said.

"All right," said Deolda, "all right—go away." And she kept on padding up and down the room like a leopard in a cage.

Conboy beckoned my aunt out into the entry. I followed.

"What ails her?" he asked.

"I guess she thinks she sent Johnny Deutra to his grave," said my aunt.

Conboy peered in the door at Deolda. Her face looked like a yellow mask of death with her black hair hanging around her.

"God!" he said, in a whisper. "She cares!" I don't believe it had dawned on him before that she was anything but a wild devil.

All that day the Anita wasn't heard from. That night I was tired out and went to bed. But I couldn't sleep; Deolda sat staring out into the dark as she had the night before.

Next morning I was standing outside the house when one of Deolda's brothers came tearing along. It was Joe, the youngest of one-armed Manel's brood, a boy of sixteen who worked in the fish factory.

"Deolda!" he yelled. "Deolda, Johnny's all right!"

She caught him by the wrist. "Tell me what's happened!"[Pg 416]

"The other feller—he's lost."

"Lost?" said Deolda, her breath drawn in sharply. "Lost—how?"

"Washed overboard," said Joe. "See—looka here. When Johnny got ashore this is what he says." He read aloud from the newspaper he had brought, a word at a time, like a grammar-school kid:

"With a lame propeller and driven out of her course, the Anita made Plymouth this morning without her Captain, Mark Hammar. John Deutra, who brought her in, made the following statement:

"'I was lying in my bunk unable to sleep, for we were being combed by waves again and again. Suddenly I noticed we were wallowing in the trough of the sea, and went on deck to see what was wrong. I groped my way to the wheel. It swung empty. Captain Hammar was gone, washed overboard in the storm. How I made port myself I don't know—'"

Here his reading was interrupted by an awful noise—Deolda laughing, Deolda laughing and sobbing, her hands above her head, a wild thing, terrible.

"Go on," my aunt told the boy. "Go home!" And she and Deolda went into the house, her laughter filling it with awful sound.

After a time she quieted down. She stood staring out of the window, hands clenched.

"Well?" she said, defiantly. "Well?" She looked at us, and what was in her eyes made chills go down me. Triumph was what was in her eyes. Then suddenly she flung her arms around my aunt and kissed her. "Oh," she cried, "kiss me, Auntie, kiss me! He's not dead, my Johnny—not dead!"

"Go up to your room, Deolda," said my aunt, "and rest." She patted her shoulder just as though she were a little girl, for all the thoughts that were crawling around our hearts.

When later in the day Conboy came, "Where's Deolda?" he asked.

"I'll call her," I said. But Deolda wasn't anywhere; not a sign of her. She'd vanished. Conboy and Aunt Josephine looked at each other.[Pg 417]

"She's gone to him," said Conboy.

My aunt leaned toward him and whispered, "What do you think?"

"Hush!" said Conboy, sternly. "Don't think, Josephine! Don't speak. Don't even dream! Don't let your mind stray. You know that crew couldn't have made port in fair weather together. The strongest man won—that's all!"

"Then you believe—" my aunt began.

"Hush!" he said, and put his hand over her mouth. Then he laughed suddenly and slapped his thigh. "God!" he said. "Deolda—Can you beat her? She's got luck—by gorry, she's got luck! You got a pen and ink?"

"What for?" said my aunt.

"I want to write out a weddin' present for Deolda," he said. "Wouldn't do to have her without a penny."

So he wrote out a check for her. And then in two months old Conboy died and left every other cent to Deolda. You might have imagined him sardonic and grinning over it, looking across at Deolda's luck from the other side of the grave.

But what had happened wasn't luck. I knew that she had sent her Johnny out informed with her own terrible courage. A weaker woman could have kept him back. A weaker woman would have had remorse. But Deolda had the courage to hold what she had taken, and maybe this courage of hers is the very heart of romance.

I looked at her, stately, monumental, and I wondered if she ever thinks of that night when the wallow of the sea claimed Mark Hammar instead of Johnny Deutra. But there's one thing I'm sure of, and that is, if she does think of it the old look of triumph comes over her face.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] The order in which the stories in this volume are printed is not intended as an indication of their comparative excellence; the arrangement is alphabetical by authors.

[2] Copyright, 1921, by George H. Doran Company.
Copyright, 1921, by B.W. Huebsch. From "The Triumph of the Egg and other Stories."

[3] Copyright, 1921, by The Dial Publishing Company, Inc.
Copyright, 1921, by Boni and Liveright, Inc. From "Ghitza, and Other Tales of Gypsy Blood."

[4] Copyright, 1921, by The Pictorial Review Company.
Copyright, 1921, by Charles Scribner's Sons. From "Chance Encounters."

[5] Copyright, 1921, by The Curtis Publishing Company.
Copyright, 1921, by Irvin S. Cobb. From a forthcoming volume to be published by George H. Doran Co.

[6] Copyright, 1921, by The Crowell Publishing Company.
Copyright, 1922, by Lincoln Colcord.

[7] Copyright, 1920, by Charles J. Finger.

[8] Copyright, 1920, by The Dial Publishing Company, Inc.
Copyright, 1922, by Waldo Frank.

[9] Copyright, 1920, by Charles Scribner's Sons.
Copyright, 1922, by Katharine Fullerton Gerould.

[10] Copyright, 1920, by the International Magazine Co.
Copyright, 1922, by Doubleday, Page & Co.

[11] Copyright, 1921, by The Pictorial Review Company, Inc.
Copyright, 1922, by Susan Glaspell Cook.

[12] Copyright, 1921, by Harper & Brothers.
Copyright, 1922, by Richard Matthews Hallet.

[13] Copyright, 1921, by Charles Scribner's Sons.
Copyright, 1922, by Prances Noyes Hart.

[14] Copyright, 1921, by The International Magazine Company.
Copyright, 1922, by Fannie Hurst.

[15] Copyright, 1921, by The Dial Publishing Company, Inc.
Copyright, 1922, by Manuel Komroff.

[16] Copyright, 1920, by John T. Frederick.
Copyright, 1922, by Frank Luther Mott.

[17] Copyright, 1921, by Smart Set Company, Inc.
Copyright, 1922, by Vincent O'Sullivan.

[18] Copyright, 1920, by Harper & Brothers.
Copyright, 1922, by Wilbur Daniel Steele.

[19] Copyright, 1921, by John T. Frederick.
Copyright, 1922, by Harriet Maxon Thayer.

[20] Copyright, 1920, by Smart Set Company, Inc.
Copyright, 1922, by Charles Hanson Towne.

[21] Copyright, 1921, by Harper & Brothers.
Copyright, 1922, by Mary Heaton Minor.

[Pg 419]


THE YEARBOOK OF THE AMERICAN SHORT STORY, OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921

[Pg 420]


[Pg 421]

ADDRESSES OF MAGAZINES PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES

I. AMERICAN MAGAZINES

Note. This address list does not aim to be complete, but is based simply on the magazines which I have consulted for this volume.

Adventure, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Ainslee's Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
All's Well, Gayeta Lodge, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
American Boy, 142 Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan.
American Magazine, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Argosy All-Story Weekly, 280 Broadway, New York City.
Asia, 627 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
Atlantic Monthly, 8 Arlington Street, Boston, Mass.
Bookman, 244 Madison Avenue, New York City.
Brief Stories, 714 Drexel Building, Philadelphia, Pa.
Broom, 3 East 9th Street, New York City.
Catholic World, 120 West 60th Street, New York City.
Century, 353 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois.
Christian Herald, Bible House, New York City.
Collier's Weekly, 416 West 13th Street, New York City.
Cosmopolitan Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Delineator, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Dial, 152 West 13th Street, New York City.
Everybody's Magazine, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Follies, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Good Housekeeping, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Harper's Bazar, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Harper's Magazine, Franklin Square, New York City.
Hearst's International Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Holland's Magazine, Dallas, Texas.
Ladies' Home Journal, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Liberator, 34 Union Square East, New York City.
Little Review, 24 West 16th Street, New York City.
Live Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.
McCall's Magazine, 236 West 37th Street, New York City.
McClure's Magazine, 76 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Magnificat, Manchester, N.H.
Metropolitan, 432 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
[Pg 422]Midland, Box 110, Iowa City, Iowa.
Munsey's Magazine, 280 Broadway, New York City.
Open Road, 248 Boylston Street, Boston, Mass.
Outlook, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Pagan, 23 West 8th Street, New York City.
People's Favorite Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Pictorial Review, 216 West 39th Street, New York City.
Popular Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Queen's Work, 626 North Vandeventer Avenue, St. Louis, Mo.
Red Book Magazine, North American Building, Chicago, Ill.
Saturday Evening Post, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Scribner's Magazine, 597 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Short Stories, Garden City, Long Island, N.Y.
Smart Set, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Snappy Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.
Sunset, 460 Fourth Street, San Francisco, Cal.
Telling Tales, 799 Broadway, New York City.
To-day's Housewife, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Top-Notch Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Wayside Tales, 6 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
Western Story Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Woman's Home Companion, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Woman's World, 107 South Clinton Street, Chicago, Ill.

II. ENGLISH MAGAZINES

Apple of Discord, 53, Victoria Street, London, S.W.1.
Blackwood's Magazine, 37, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
Blue Magazine, 115, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.
Bystander, Graphic Buildings, Whitefriars, London, E.C.4.
Cassell's Magazine, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
Chamber's Journal, 38, Soho Square, London, W.C.1.
Colour Magazine, 53, Victoria Street, London, S.W.1.
Cornhill Magazine, 50A Albemarle Street, London, W.1.
Country Life, 20, Tavistock Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
English Review, 18, Bedford Square, London, W.C.1.
Eve, Great New Street. London, E.C.4.
Fanfare, 31, Percy Street, London, W.1.
Form, Morland Press, Ltd., 190, Ebury Street, London, S.W.1.
Grand Magazine, 8-11, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Graphic, Graphic Buildings, Whitefriars, London, E.C.4.
Home Magazine, 8-11 Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Hutchinson's Magazine, 34 Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
John O'London's Weekly, 8-11 Southampton Street, London, W.C.2.
Lady, 39 Bedford Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Lady's World, 6, Essex Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Lloyd's Story Magazine, 12, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.
London, Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
London Mercury, Windsor House, Bream's Buildings, London, E.C.4.
Looking Forward, Windsor House, Bream's Buildings, London, E.C.4.
[Pg 423]Manchester Guardian, 3, Cross Street, Manchester.
Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine, 1, Amen Corner, Paternoster Row, London. E.C.4.
Nation and Athenæum, 10, Adelphi Terrace, London, W.C.2.
New Age, 38, Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, London, E.C.4.
New Magazine, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
New Statesman, 10, Great Queen Street, Kingsway, London, W.C.2.
Novel Magazine, Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Outward Bound, Edinburgh House, 2, Eaton Gate, London, S.W.1.
Pan, Long Acre, London, W.C.2.
Pearson's Magazine, 17-18 Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Premier, The Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
Queen, Bream's Buildings, London, E.C.4.
Quest, 21, Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London, W.C.2.
Quiver, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
Red Magazine, The Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
Royal Magazine, 17-18 Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Saturday Westminster Gazette, Tudor House, Tudor Street, London, E.C.4.
Sketch, 172, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Sovereign Magazine, 34, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
Sphere, Great New Street, London, E.C.4.
Story-Teller, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
Strand Magazine, 8-11, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Times Literary Supplement, Printing House Square, London, E.C.4.
Truth, Bolt Court, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.
Vanity Fair, 1, Amen Corner, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
Vineyard, Care of Allen & Unwin, Ltd., Ruskin House, 40, Museum Street, London, W.C.1.
Voices, Care of Chapman & Hall, Ltd., 11, Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Wide World Magazine, 8-11, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Windsor Magazine, Warwick House, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.
Yellow Magazine, The Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.


[Pg 424]

THE BIBLIOGRAPHICAL ROLL OF HONOR OF AMERICAN SHORT STORIES

OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921

Note. Only stories by American authors are listed. The best stories are indicated by an asterisk before the title of the story. The index figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 prefixed to the name of the author indicate that his work has been included in the Rolls of Honor for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920 respectively. The list excludes reprints. "Oscar" by Djuna Barnes should be added to the Roll of Honor in "The Best Short Stories of 1920."

(567) Abdullah, Achmed (for biography, see 1918).

Dutiful Grief.
Lute of Jade.

Allen, James Lane. Born in Lexington, Kentucky, 1849. Educated at Transylvania University. Taught in the secondary schools and at Kentucky University and Bethany College. Author of "Flute and Violin," 1891; "Blue Grass Region," 1892; "John Gray," 1893; "Kentucky Cardinal," 1895; "Aftermath," 1896; "Summer in Arcady," 1896; "Choir Invisible," 1897; "Reign of Law"; "Mettle of the Pasture;" "Bride of the Mistletoe," 1909; "Doctor's Christmas Eve," 1910; "Heroine in Bronze," 1912; "Last Christmas Tree," 1914; "Sword of Youth," 1915; "Cathedral Singer," 1916; "Kentucky Warbler," 1918. Lives in New York City.

*Ash-Can.

(34567) Anderson, Sherwood (for biography, see 1917).

*Brothers.
*New Englander.
*Unlighted Lamps.

(7) Bercovici, Konrad (for biography, see 1920).

*Fanutza.

(14567) Burt, Maxwell Struthers (for biography, see 1917).

Buchanan Hears the Wind.
*Experiment.

(567) Cabell, James Branch (for biography, see 1918).

*Image of Sesphra.

(23) Child, Richard Washburn. Born at Worcester, Massachusetts, August 5, 1881. Graduate of Harvard University and[Pg 425] Harvard Law School. Admitted to the Bar in 1906. Appointed United States Ambassador to Italy, 1921. Author of "Jim Hands," 1910; "Man In The Shadow," 1911; "Blue Wall" 1912; "Potential Russia," 1916; "Bodbank," 1916; "Velvet Black," 1921. Lives in Rome, Italy.

Screen.

(2345) Cobb, Irvin S. (for biography, see 1917).

*Darkness.
Short Natural History.

(2) Colcord, Lincoln. Born at sea, off Cape Horn, August 14, 1883. Educated at Searsport, Maine, High School and University of Maine. Spent first fourteen years of his life at sea on the China coast. Civil Engineer 1906-9. Author of "The Drifting Diamond," 1912; "Game of Life and Death," 1914; "Vision of War," 1915. Washington correspondent of Philadelphia Ledger, 1917 to 1919. Lives at Searsport, Maine.

*Instrument of the Gods.

(456) Crabbe, Bertha Helen (for biography, see 1917).

On Riverside Drive.

(7) Finger, Charles J. (for biography, see 1920).

Derailment of Train No. 16.
*Lizard God.

(4) Frank, Waldo (for biography, see 1917).

*Under the Dome.

(123457) Gerould, Katharine Fullerton (for biography, see 1917).

*French Eva.

(4) Glasgow, Ellen (for biography, see 1917).

*Past.

(456) Glaspell, Susan (Mrs. George Cram Cook) (for biography, see 1917).

*His Smile.

(346) Hallet, Richard Matthews (for biography, see 1917).

*Harbor Master.

Hart, Frances Noyes. Born at Silver Spring, Maryland, August 10, 1890. Educated at Chicago Latin School, privately in Connecticut and abroad, and at the Sorbonne in the Collège de France. Interested in anything from baseball to Bach. First short story, "Contact," published in the Pictorial Review, December, 1920, and awarded second prize by O. Henry Memorial Committee Society of Arts and Sciences. Published "Mark" 1913, and "My A.E.F.," 1920, under name of Frances Newbold Noyes. Lives in New York City.

*Green Gardens.

(256) Hecht, Ben (for biography, see 1918).

Bomb-Thrower.
[Pg 426]

(23456) Hurst, Fannie (for biography, see 1917).

*She Walks in Beauty.

(6) Imrie, Walter McLaren (for biography, see 1919).

Remembrance.

(7) Komroff, Manuel. Born in New York City. Educated in New York public schools, and special courses at Yale University. Journalist. First short story published in Reedy's Mirror two years ago. Lives in New York City.

*Little Master of the Sky.

Mott, Frank Luther.

*Man With the Good Face.

(457) O'Higgins, Harvey J. (for biography, see 1917).

*Peter Quayle.

(3457) O'Sullivan, Vincent (for biography, see 1917).

*Master of Fallen Years.

(4) Portor, Laura Spencer.

Sightseers.

(1237) Post, Melville Davisson (for biography, see 1920).

Unknown Disciple.

(5) Rhodes, Harrison (Garfield) (for biography, see 1918).

Miss Sunshine.

Robbins, Tod. Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 25, 1888. Educated at Polytechnic Preparatory School, Mercersburg Academy, and Washington and Lee University. Well-known amateur athlete. First short story "Married," published in The Parisienne, February, 1917. Author of "The Unholy Three," 1917; "Red of Surley," 1919; "Silent, White and Beautiful," 1920. Lives in New York City.

Toys of Fate.

Scobee, Barry. Born at Pollock, Missouri, May 2, 1885. Educated at Missouri State Normal School. Journalist and printer. Chief interests metaphysics and mountains. Was in regular army 1907-10, including Philippine campaign. First story "The Whip In the Thatch," Young's Magazine, March. 1915. Lives in Bellingham, Washington.

*The Wind.

(3457) Springer, Fleta Campbell (for biography, see 1917).

*Role of Madame Ravelles.

(234567) Steele, Wilbur Daniel (for biography, see 1917).

*At-Two-in-the-Bush.
*Footfalls.
*Life.
*Shame Dance.
'Toinette of Maisonnoir.
[Pg 427]

Thayer, Harriet Maxon (Mrs. Gilbert Thayer). Born at Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, 1889. Attended University of Wisconsin and School of Journalism, Columbia University. Fairy tales in Philadelphia North American and in the Guide, Milwaukee, 1921. Married Gilbert Thayer, September 5, 1921. Served in France with American Red Cross Canteen, 1918 and 1919.

*Kindred.

Towne, Charles Hanson. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, February 2, 1877. Educated in New York public schools and College of the City of New York. Author of "Quiet Singer"; "Manhattan"; "Youth"; "Beyond the Stars"; "To-day and To-morrow"; "The Tumble Man"; and "Autumn Loiterers." Has been editor of The Designer, Smart Set, and McClure's Magazine. Lives in New York City.

*Shelby.

(56) Venable, Edward C. Born at Petersburg, Virginia, July 4, 1884. Graduate of Princeton University, 1906. Served in France in Field Ambulance Service and Flying Corps, 1917-19. Author of "Pierre Vinton," 1914; "Short Stories," 1915; "Wife of the Junior Partner," 1915; "Lasca," 1916; "Ali Babette," 1917; and "At Isham's," 1918. Lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

*Madame Tichepin.

(34567) Vorse, Mary Heaton (for biography, see 1917).

*Wallow of the Sea.

(567) Williams, Ben Ames (for biography, see 1918).

*Man Who Looked Like Edison.

(6) Wormser, G. Ranger. Born in New York City, February 24, 1893. Educated privately. First short story "Tragedy's Fool," published in English edition of the Smart Set, 1910. Author of "The Scarecrow," 1918. Lives in New York City.

Gossamer.
Second-Hand.

(67) Yezierska, Anzia (for biography, see 1919).

My Own People.


[Pg 428]

THE ROLL OF HONOR OF FOREIGN SHORT STORIES IN AMERICAN MAGAZINES

OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921

Note. Stories of special excellence are indicated, by an asterisk. The index figures 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7 prefixed to the name of the author indicate that his work has been included in the Rolls of Honor for 1914, 1915, 1916, 1917, 1918, 1919, and 1920 respectively. The list excludes reprints.

I. English and Irish Authors

(1234567) Aumonier, Stacy.

Beautiful Merciless One.
*Little White Frock.

(7) Beck, L. Adams.

*How Great is the Glory of Kwannon!
*Interpreter.

(6) Beerbohm, Max.

*T. Fenning Dodworth.
*William and Mary.

(34) Beresford, J.D.

*Expiation.

(123567) Blackwood, Algernon.

Confession.

Coppard, A.E.

*Hurly-Burly.
*Tiger.

(123456) Galsworthy, John.

*Awakening.
*Timber.
*Hedonist.

(2) Gibbon, Perceval.

Statistics.

Hudson, Stephen.

Southern Women.

Huxley, Aldous.

*Tillotson Banquet.

McFee, William.

Knights and Turcopoliers.

Roberts, Cecil.

Silver Pool.
[Pg 429]

(7) Sinclair, May.

*Lena Wrace.
*Return.

(57) Stephens, James.

*In the Beechwood.

(27) Walpole, Hugh.

*Bombastes Furioso.
*Critic.
*Strange Case of Mr. Nix.
*Lucy Moon.
*Lizzie Rand.
*Nobody!
*Peter Westcott's Nursery.

II. Translations

(35) "Gorki, Maxim." (Russian.)

*Rivals.

Mann, Thomas. (German.)

*Loulou.

Remizov, Aleksei. (Russian.)

*White Heart.

(7) Schnitzler, Arthur. (German.)

*Greek Dancer.

Sweden, Prince Carl Wilhelm Ludwig of. (Swedish.)

Pearls.


[Pg 430]

THE BEST BOOKS OF SHORT STORIES OF 1921: A CRITICAL SUMMARY

The Best American Books

1. Anderson. The Triumph of the Egg. Huebsch.
2. Bercovici. Ghitza. Boni and Liveright.
3. Burt. Chance Encounters. Scribner.
4. Cabell. The Line of Love. McBride.
5. Society of Arts and Sciences. O. Henry Prize Stories, 1920. Doubleday, Page.

The Best English Books

1. Aumonier. Golden Windmill. Macmillan.
2. Cholmondeley. The Romance of His Life. Dodd, Mead.
3. Coppard. Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Knopf.
4. Hudson. Dead Man's Plack. Dutton.
5. Mansfield. Bliss. Knopf.
6. Merrick. A Chair on the Boulevard. Dutton.
7. Nevinson. Original Sinners. Huebsch.
8. Stephens. Irish Fairy Tales. Macmillan.
9. Walpole. The Thirteen Travellers. Doran.

The Best Translations

1. Byng, editor. Roumanian Stories. Lane.
2. Chekhov. The Horse-Stealers. Macmillan.
3. Chekhov. The Schoolmaster. Macmillan.
4. Chekhov. The Schoolmistress. Macmillan.
5. France. Seven Wives of Bluebeard. Lane.
6. Hamp. People. Harcourt and Brace.
7. Jacobsen. Mögens. Brown.
8. Jammes. Romance of the Rabbit. Brown.
9. Popovic, editor. Jugo-Slav Stories. Duffield.
10. Schnitzler. The Shepherd's Pipe. Brown.
11. Turgenev. Knock, Knock, Knock. Macmillan.
12. Turgenev. The Two Friends. Macmillan.

The Best New English Publications

1. Beresford. Signs and Wonders. Golden Cockerel Press.
2. Corkery. Hounds of Banba. Talbot Press.
3. Fisher. Romantic Man. Secker.
4. Lyons. Market Bundle. Butterworth.
5. McCallin. Ulster Fireside Tales. Heath Cranton.
[Pg 431]6. Macklin, translator. 29 Short Stories. Philpot.
7. Moorman. Tales of the Ridings. Mathews.
8. Moorman. More Tales of the Ridings. Mathews.
9. Stein. Three Lives. Lane.
10. Woolf. Monday or Tuesday. Hogarth Press.


BELOW FOLLOWS A RECORD OF THIRTY DISTINCTIVE VOLUMES PUBLISHED BETWEEN OCTOBER 1, 1920 AND SEPTEMBER 30, 1921.

I. American Authors

Ghitza and Other Romances of Gypsy Blood, by Konrad Bercovici (Boni & Liveright). This is the best volume of short stories published by an American author this year. It consists of nine epic fragments which are studies in passionate color of Roumanian gypsy life. Mr. Bercovici's work bears no trace of special literary influences, and he has moulded a new form for these stories which disobeys successfully all the codes of story writing. Whether we are to regard him as an American or a European artist seems of little importance. The essential point is that he and Sherwood Anderson are the most significant new short story writers who have emerged in America within the past five years.

Homespun and Gold, by Alice Brown (The Macmillan Company). Miss Brown's new collection of fifteen short stories, which she has written during the past thirteen years, is not one of her best books, but it is of considerable importance as one more contribution to the literature of New England regionalism. Its qualities of homely fidelity and quiet humor make it distinctly worth reading, and one story, "White Pebbles" ranks with Miss Brown's best work.

The Velvet Black, by Richard Washburn Child (E.P. Dutton & Company). I do not regard this as more than a piece of extremely competent craftsmanship, and its interest to the man of letters is largely technical, but it contains one excellent story full of dramatic suspense and a certain literary honesty. I think "Identified" might be commended to a short story anthologist.

The Sons o' Cormac, an' Tales of Other Men's Sons, by Aldis Dunbar (E.P. Dutton & Company). This collection of fifteen Irish fairy and hero tales, told by a gardener to a little boy, show considerable deftness of fancy, and although the idiom Mr. Dunbar uses is borrowed and not quite convincing, his book seems to me almost as good as those of Seumas MacManus, which probably suggested it.

Great Sea Stories (Brentano's) and Masterpieces of Mystery (4 vols.) (Doubleday, Page & Co.), edited by Joseph Lewis French. These anthologies, which are somewhat casually edited, are worthy of purchase by students of the short story who do not possess many anthologies, for they contain a number of standard texts. But I do not think highly of the selections, which are of a thoroughly conventional nature.

"Momma," and Other Unimportant People, by Rupert Hughes (Harper & Brothers). This is an unimportant book containing[Pg 432] one superb story, "The Stick-In-the-Muds," which I had the pleasure of printing last year in this series. It is one of the stories which Mr. Hughes has written for his own pleasure and not for the preconceived pleasure of his large and critical public. I consider that it ranks with the excellent series of Irish-American studies which Mr. Hughes published a few years ago.

Master Eustace, by Henry James (Thomas Seltzer). This volume, which is a companion to "A Landscape Painter," reprints five more early stories of Henry James, not included in any American edition now in print. They have all the qualities of "Roderick Hudson" and "The American," and should be invaluable to the students of Henry James's technique. It would have been a matter of regret had these stories not been rendered accessible to the general public.

Famous Detective Stories and Famous Psychic Stories, edited by J. Walker McSpadden (Thomas Y. Crowell Company). These two anthologies have been edited on more or less conventional lines, but they contain several important stories which are not readily accessible, and I can commend them as texts for students of the short story.

Tales from a Rolltop Desk by Christopher Morley (Doubleday, Page & Company). I record this volume for the sake of one admirable story, "Referred to the Author," which almost any contemporary of Mr. Morley would have been glad to sign. Apart from this, the volume is ephemeral.

The Sleuth of St. James's Square by Melville Davisson Post. (D. Appleton & Company). This volume contains the best of Mr. Post's well-known mystery stories, and I take special pleasure in calling attention to "The Wrong Sign," "The Hole in the Mahogany Panel," and "The Yellow Flower." These stories show all the resourceful virtuosity of Poe, and are models of their kind. While they seem to me to possess no special literary value, they have solved some important new technical problems, and I believe they will repay attentive study.

Devil Stories, edited by Maximilian J. Rudwin (Alfred A. Knopf). This is an excellent anthology revealing a wide range of reading and introducing a number of good stories which are likely to prove new to most readers. The editor has added to the value of the volume by elaborate annotation. He wears his learning lightly however, and it only serves to adorn his subject.

Christmas Roses, and Other Stories, by Anne Douglas Sedgwick (Houghton Mifflin Company). This admirable series of nine studies dealing with the finer shades of character are subdued in manner. Mrs. de Sélincourt has voluntarily restricted her range, but she has simply "curtailed her circumference to enlarge her liberty," and I believe this volume is likely to outlast many books which are more widely talked about.

Cape Breton Tales, by Harry James Smith (The Atlantic Monthly Press). This little volume of short stories and studies deals with the Arcadian life of Cape Breton and the Gaspé coast. I am speaking from personal knowledge when I state that, this is the first[Pg 433] time the Acadian has been understood by an English speaking writer, and if Mr. Smith's art works within narrow limits, it is quite faultless in its rendering. This volume suggests what a loss American letters has sustained in the author's death.

II. English and Irish Authors

The Golden Windmill, and Other Stories, by Stacy Aumonier (The Macmillan Company). For some years Mr. Aumonier has been quietly winning an important place for himself in English letters by his admirable short stories, and this place has been fittingly recognized by Mr. Galsworthy, among others, during the past year. Eight of the nine stories in the present volume seem to me as good as stories written in the traditional technique can be, and I regard this book as only second in excellence to the volumes of A.E. Coppard and Katherine Mansfield of which I shall speak presently.

More Limehouse Nights, by Thomas Burke (George H. Doran Company). It is a wise counsel of perfection which says that sequels are barred, and I do not believe that Mr. Burke has chosen wisely in endeavoring to repeat the artistic success of "Limehouse Nights." Apart from "The Scarlet Shoes" and "Miss Plum-Blossom," this volume seems to me to be second-rate, and I feel that Mr. Burke has already exhausted his Limehouse field.

Adam and Eve and Pinch Me, by A.E. Coppard (Alfred A. Knopf). I have endeavored elsewhere to express my opinion of "Adam and Eve and Pinch Me" by dedicating this year's annual volume to Mr. Coppard. I believe that he ranks as an artist among the best continental writers. He sees life as a pattern which he simplifies, and weaves a closely wrought fabric which is a symbol of human life as seen by a disinterested but happy observer. His range is wide, and if he presents the uncommon instance of a man who has absorbed all that two men as different as Chekhov and Henry James have to teach, he brings to this fusion a personal view which transmutes the values of his masters into a new set of values. To do this successfully is the sign of a fine artist.

Dead Man's Plack, and an Old Thorn, by W.H. Hudson (E.P. Dutton & Company). Mr. Hudson's devoted readers have long known of the existence of these two stories, and have regretted that the author did not see fit to issue them in book form. The first story is a short study in historical reconstruction equal to the best of Jacobsen's work, while "The Old Thorn" ranks with "El Ombu" as one of Mr. Hudson's best two short stories. The volume is, of course, a permanent addition to English literature.

Top O' the Mornin', by Seumas MacManus (Frederick A. Stokes Company). Mr. MacManus's new collection of Irish tales has ups and downs like a Galway road, but his ups are very good indeed and show that he has by no means lost the folk imagination which made his early books rank among the very best of their kind. I can specially commend to the reader "The Widow Meehan's Cassimeer Shawl," "The Bellman of Carrick," and "The Heart-Break of Norah O'Hara."[Pg 434]

Bliss and Other Stories, by Katherine Mansfield (Alfred A. Knopf). I have no hesitation in stating after careful thought that Miss Mansfield's first book of short stories at once places her in the great European tradition on a par with Chekhov and De Maupassant. This is certainly the most important book of short stories which has come to my notice since I began to edit this series of books. I say this with the more emphasis because, although her technique is the same as that of Chekhov, she is one of the few writers to whom a close study of Chekhov has done no harm. Most American short story writers are bad because they copy "O. Henry," and most English short story writers are bad because they copy Chekhov. Chekhov and "O. Henry" were both great writers because they copied nobody. I hope that the success of Miss Mansfield's book will not have the effect of substituting a new model instead of these two. Mr. Knopf is to be complimented for his taste in publishing the best two volumes of short stories of the year. It is a disinterested service to literature.

A Chair on the Boulevard, by Leonard Merrick (E.P. Dutton & Company). It is unnecessary at this date to point out the special excellences of Leonard Merrick. They are such as to ensure him a tolerably secure position in the history of the English short story. But it may be well to point out that the vice of his excellence is his proneness to sentimentality. This is more evident in Mr. Merrick's other volumes than in the present collection, which is really a reissue of his best stories, including that masterpiece, "The Tragedy of a Comic Song." If one were to compile an anthology of the world's best twenty stories, this story would be among them.

Selected English Short Stories (XIX and XX Centuries), edited by H.S.M. (Oxford University Press). This volume has the merit of containing in very short compass twenty-eight stories by English and American authors, not too conventionally selected, which would form admirable texts for a short story course. It includes stories by Mark Rutherford and Richard Garnett which are likely to be unfamiliar to most readers, and if taken in conjunction with the previous volume in the same series, provides a tolerably complete conspectus of the development of the short story in England and America since 1800.

Original Sinners, by Henry W. Nevinson (B.W. Huebsch, Inc.). It has always been a mystery to me why Mr. Nevinson's short stories are so little known to American readers. His earlier volumes "The Plea of Pan" and "Between the Acts," are eagerly sought by collectors, but they have been permitted to go out of print, I believe, and the general public knows very little about them. To nine out of ten people, Mr. Nevinson is known as a publicist and war correspondent, but it is by his short stories that he will live longest, and the present volume is one more illustration of the place which has always been occupied in English literature by the gifted amateur. The stories in the present volume all lead back by implication to the golden age, and if Mr. Nevinson's mood is elegiac, he never refuses to face reality.[Pg 435]

Irish Fairy Tales, by James Stephens (The Macmillan Company). We think of Mr. Stephens primarily as a poet and an ironic moralist, but in the present volume a new side of his genius is revealed. It might seem that too many writers have attempted with more or less success to reproduce the spirit of the gray Irish Sagas by retelling them, and we think of Standish O'Grady, Lady Gregory, "A.E.," and others. But Mr. Stephens has seen them in the fresh light of an unconquerable youth, and I am more than half inclined to think that this is the best book he has given us.

Savitri, and Other Women, by Marjorie Strachey (G.P. Putnam's Sons). Marjorie Strachey has presented the feminist point of view in eleven short stories drawn from the folklore of many nations. Her object in telling these stories is a sophisticated one, and I suspect that her success has been only partial, but she has considerable resources of style to assist her, and I think that the volume is worthy of some attention.

The Thirteen Travellers, by Hugh Walpole (George H. Doran Company). Mr. Walpole has collected in this volume twelve studies of English life in the present transition stage between war and peace. He has studied with considerable care those modifications of the English character which are noticeable to the patient observer, and his volume has some value as an historical document apart from its undoubted literary charm. While it will not rank among the best of Mr. Walpole's books, it is full of excellent genre pieces rendered with subtlety and poise.

III. Translations

The Horse-stealers and Other Stories, and The Schoolmistress and Other Stories, by Anton Chekhov translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett (The Macmillan Company). Mrs. Garnett's excellent edition of Chekhov is rapidly drawing to a conclusion. In the two volumes now under consideration we find the greater part of Chekhov's very short sketches, notably many of the humorous pieces which he wrote in early life. These are most often brief renderings of a mood, or quiet ironic contrasts which set forth facts without drawing any moral or pointing to any intellectual conclusion.

Little Pierre, and The Seven Wives of Bluebeard, by Anatole France; edited by Frederic Chapman, James Lewis May, and Bernard Miall. (John Lane). The first of these volumes presents another instalment of the author's autobiography in the form of a series of delicately rendered pictures portrayed with quiet deftness and a laughing irony which is half sad. In "The Seven Wives of Bluebeard" he has retold four legends and endowed them with a philosophic content of smiling ironic doubt which accepts life as we find it and preaches a gentle disillusioned epicureanism. Both volumes are faultlessly translated.

People, by Pierre Hamp; translated by James Whitall (Harcourt, Brace, and Company). Among the poets and prose writers who have emerged in France during the past ten years and formulated[Pg 436] a new social and artistic philosophy, Pierre Hamp is by no means the least important figure. He has already published about a dozen volumes of mingled fiction and economic comment which form a somewhat detailed history of the French workingman in his social and industrial relations, but "People" is the first volume which has yet been translated into English. His attitude as revealed in these stories is full of indignant pity, and he gives us a series of sharply etched portraits, many of which will not be forgotten readily. He does not conceal his propagandist tendencies, but they limit him as an artist less in these stories than in his other books. Mr. Whitall's translation is excellent, and conveys the author's rugged style convincingly.

Little Russian Masterpieces in Four Volumes, chosen and translated from the Russian by Zénaïde A. Ragozin (G.P. Putnam's Sons). This collection is valuable as a supplement to existing anthologies because it wisely leaves for other editors the most familiar stories and concentrates on introducing less known writers to the English-speaking public. The editor has broadened her scheme in order to include Polish authors. Among the less familiar figures who are here introduced, I may mention Lesskof, Mamin-Sibiriàk, and Slutchefsky. I can cordially recommend this admirable series.

The Two Friends and Other Stories, by Ivan Turgenev; translated from the Russian by Constance Garnett (The Macmillan Company). Mrs. Garnett, to whom we are ever grateful, has surprised us delightfully by offering us some hitherto untranslated novelettes by Turgenev which seem to me to rank among his masterpieces. In each of them he has compressed a whole life cycle into a brief series of significant incidents and made them the microcosm of a larger human world. This is one of the most important volumes of the year.


[Pg 437]

VOLUMES OF SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED IN THE UNITED STATES

OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921: AN INDEX

Note. An asterisk before a title indicates distinction. This list includes single short stories, and collections of short stories. Volumes announced for publication in the autumn of 1921 are listed here, although in some cases they had not yet appeared at the time this book went to press.

I. American Authors

Abbott, Eleanor Hallowell.
Peace on Earth, Good Will to Dogs. Dutton.

Anderson, Sherwood.
*Triumph of the Egg. Huebsch.

Bailey, Carolyn Sherwin.
Enchanted Bugle. F.A. Owen Pub. Co.

Bailey, Temple.
Gay Cockade. Penn Pub. Co.

Bardeen, Charles William.
Castiron Culver. C.W. Bardeen.

Barnes, William Croft.
Tales from the X-bar Horse Camp. Breeders' Gazette.

"Benignus, William."
Woodstock Stories, Poems and Essays. Author.

Bercovici, Konrad.
*Ghitza. Boni and Liveright.

Beskow, Elizabeth Maria.
Faith of a Child. Rose Printing Co.

Boreham, Frank W.
Reel of Rainbow. Abingdon Press.

Braddy, Nella, editor.
Masterpieces of Adventure, 4 vol. Doubleday, Page.

Bruno, Guido.
Night in Greenwich Village. Author.
Sentimental Studies. Author.

Burt, Maxwell Struthers.
*Chance Encounters. Scribner.

Cabell, James Branch.
*Line of Love. McBride.

Chamberlain, George Agrew.
Pigs to Market. Bobbs-Merrill.

Child, Richard Washburn.
Velvet Black. Dutton.

Coles, Bertha Lippincott.
Wound Stripes. Lippincott.

Colum, Padraic.
*Children of Odin. Macmillan.

Connolly, James B.
*Tide Rips. Scribner.

Cotter, Winifred.
Sheila and Others. Dutton.

Cradock, William H.C.
Everyday Stories. Jacobs.

Deland, Margaret.
Old Chester Secret. Harper.

Dell, Ethel M.
Rosa Mundi. Putnam.

Dreves, F.M.
Joyful Herald of the King of Kings. Herder.

Dunbar, Aldis.
*Sons o' Cormac. Dutton.

Evarts, Hal G.
Bald Face. Knopf.

Ford, Sewell.
Inez and Trilby May. Harper.
Meet 'em with Shorty McCabe. Clode.

Freck, Laura F., editor.
[Pg 438]Short Stories of Various Types. Merrill.

French, Joseph Lewis, editor.
*Great Sea Stories. Brentano's.

Gatlin, Dana.
Missy. Doubleday, Page.

Gelzer, Jay.
Street of a Thousand Delights. McBride.

Gross, Anton.
Merchants of Precious Goods. Roxburgh.

Gruelle, John B.
Raggedy Andy Stories. Volland.

Harris, Kennett.
Meet Mr. Stegg. Holt.

Hay, Corinne.
Light and Shade 'round Gulf and Bayou. Roxburgh.

Hill, Frederick Trevor.
Tales Out of Court. Stokes.

Kahler, Hugh MacNair.
Babel. Putnam.

Kelland, Clarence Budington.
Scattergood Baines. Harper.

Kittredge, Daniel Wright.
Mind Adrift. Seattle: S.F. Shorey.

Laselle, Mary Augusta, editor.
Joy in Work. Holt.

Lawson, J.C.
Tales of Aegean Intrigue. Dutton.

Levingor, Elma Ehrlich.
Playmates in Egypt. Jewish Pub. Soc. of America.

Lincoln, Joseph C.
"Old Home House." Appleton.

London, Jack.
*Brown Wolf. Macmillan.

Marquis, Don.
Carter, and Other People. Appleton.

Means, E.K.
Further E.K. Means. Putnam.

Morley, Christopher.
Tales from a Rolltop Desk. Doubleday, Page.

Murdock, Victor.
Folks. Macmillan.

Nadir, Moishe.
Peh-el-peh (Face to Face). Pagan Pub. Co.

Newton, Alma.
Shadows. Lane.

O'Brien, Edward J.
Best Short Stories of 1920. Small, Maynard.

Oemler, Marie Conway.
Where the Young Child Was. Century.

Perkins, Lawrence.
Cross of Ares. Brentano's.

Richards, Clarice E.
Tenderfoot Bride. Revell.

Rinehart, Mary Roberts.
Truce of God. Doran.

Rudwin, Maximilian Josef, editor.
*Devil Stories. Knopf.

Rutledge, Archibald.
Old Plantation Days. Stokes.

Savage, Nannie H.
Sketches. Author.

Scarborough, Dorothy, editor.
*Famous Modern Ghost Stories. Putnam.
Humorous Ghost Stories. Putnam.

Sheard, Virginia Stanton.
Golden Appletree. McCann.

Shore, Viola Brothers.
Heritage. Doran.

Smith, Harry James.
*Cape Breton Tales. Atlantic Monthly Press.

Smith, Logan Pearsall.
*Stories from the Old Testament. Luce.

Society of Arts and Sciences, editors.
*O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1920. Doubleday, Page.

Stocking, Jay T.
Mr. Friend-o'-Man. Interchurch Press.

Stringer, Arthur.
Twin Tales. Bobbs-Merrill.

Taylor, Charles Forbes.
Riveter's Gang. Revell.

Terhune, Albert Payson.
Buff; a Collie. Doran.

Tragor, Hannah.
Festival Stories of Child Life in a Jewish Colony in Palestine. Dutton.
Stories of Child Life in a Jewish Colony in Palestine. Dutton.

Van Vechten, Carl, editor.
*Lords of the Housetops. Knopf.

Walkley, William S.
[Pg 439]Three Golden Days. Revell.

Wiggin, Kate Douglas.
Homespun Tales. Houghton, Mifflin.

Wiley, Hugh.
Jade. Knopf.

Wilson, John Fleming.
Scouts of the Desert. Macmillan.

Witwer, H.C.
Leather Pushers. Putnam.

II. English and Irish Authors

Arlen, Michael.
Romantic Lady. Dodd, Mead.

Aumonier, Stacy.
Golden Windmill. Macmillan.

Bailey, H.C.
Call Mr. Fortune. Dutton.

Bibesco, Princess.
I Have Only Myself to Blame. Doran.

Buchan, John.
Path of the King. Doran.

Burke. Thomas.
*More Limehouse Nights. Doran.

Cholmondeley, Mary.
*Romance of His Life. Dodd, Mead.

Coppard, A.E.
*Adam and Eve and Pinch Me. Knopf.

Corelli, Marie.
Love of Long Ago. Doubleday, Page.

"Dehan, Richard."
Villa of the Peacock. Doran.

De Montmorency, J.E.G.
Admiral's Chair. Oxford University Press.

Green, Peter.
Our Kid. Longmans, Green.

Haggard, Sir Rider.
Smith and the Pharaohs. Longmans, Green.

Hudson, W.H.
*Dead Man's Plack, and An Old Thorn. Dutton.

Lawson, Kate, Lady.
Life of Gnat. Warne.

M., H.S., editor.
*Selected English Short Stories. 2d series. Oxford University Press.

"Sapper."
Man in Ratcatcher. Doran.

Mansfield, Katherine.
*Bliss. Knopf.

Maugham, W. Somerset.
*Trembling of a Leaf. Doran.

Merrick, Leonard.
*Chair on the Boulevard. Dutton.

Nevinson, Henry Woodd.
*Original Sinners. Huebsch.

Stephens, James.
*Irish Fairy Tales. Macmillan.

Strachey, Marjorie.
*Savitri and Other Women. Putnam.

Walpole, Hugh.
*Thirteen Travellers. Doran.

III. Translations

Balzac, Honore de. (French.)
Short Stories. Boni and Liveright.

Byng, Lucy, translator. (Roumanian.)
*Roumanian Stories. Lane.

Chekhov, Anton. (Russian.)
*Horse-Stealers. Macmillan.
*Schoolmaster. Macmillan.
*Schoolmistress. Macmillan.

Dostoevsky, Fedor.
*Friend of the Family. Macmillan.

"France, Anatole." (French.)
*Little Pierre. Lane.
*Seven Wives of Bluebeard. Lane.

Hamp, Pierre. (French.)
*People. Harcourt, Brace.

Jacobsen, Jens Peter. (Danish.)
*Mögens. Brown.

Jammes, Francis. (French.)
*Romance of the Rabbit. Brown.

Merejkovski, Dmitri. (Russian.)
*Menace of the Mob. Brown.

"Nerval, Gerard de." (French.)
*Daughters of Fire. Brown.

Popovic, Pavle, editor. (Jugo-Slav.)
*Jugo-Slav Stories. Duffield.

Schnitzler, Arthur. (German.)
*Shepherd's Pipe. Brown.

Turgenev, Ivan. (Russian.)
*Knock, Knock, Knock. Macmillan.
*Two Friends. Macmillan.


[Pg 440]

VOLUMES OF SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED IN ENGLAND AND IRELAND ONLY

OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921: AN INDEX

Note. An asterisk before a title indicates distinction.

I. American Author

Stein, Gertrude.
*Three Lives. Lane.

II. English and Irish Authors

Atkey, Bertram.
Winnie O'Wynn and the Wolves. Cassell.

Barcynska, Countess.
Love's Last Reward. Hurst and Blackett.

Benson, E.F.
Countess of Lowndes Square. Cassell.

Beresford, J.D.
*Signs and Wonders. Golden Cockerel Press.

Beste, Florence.
Home in Kentucky. Stockwell.

Bevan, C. Elruth.
Collection of Ghosts. Morland.

"Birmingham, George A."
Lady Bountiful. Christophers.

Blatchford, Robert.
Spangles of Existence. Lane.

Bowen, Marjorie.
Pleasant Husband. Hurst and Blackett.

Byron, Lesley.
Opportunist Sinn Feiners. Heath Cranton.

Castle, Agnes and Egerton.
Romances in Red. Hodder and Stoughton.

Clarke, B.A.
Free Hand. Ward, Lock.

Corkery, Daniel.
*Hounds of Banba. Talbot Press.

Davis, F. Hadland.
Peony of Pao-Yu. Theosophical Pub. Co.

Earle, Sybil K.L.
Olla Podrida. Morland.

Findlater, Jane Helen.
Green Grass-Widow. Murray.

Fisher, Hervey.
*Romantic Man. Seeker.

Francis, Brand.
Comedy and Tragedy. Holden and Hardingham.

Garvice, Charles.
Miss Smith's Fortune. Skeffington.

Gonne, Francis.
Fringe of the Eternal. Burns, Oates, and Washbourne.

Hazelwood, A.
Decision. Morland.

Housman, Lawrence.
*Gods and Their Makers. Allen and Unwin.

Howard, Francis Morton.
Little Shop in Fore Street. Methuen.

Keen, Ralph Holbrook.
*Little Ape. Henderson's.

Kyffin-Taylor, Bessie.
From Out of the Silence. Books, Ltd.

Le Queux, William.
In Secret. Odham's.

Lowther, Alice.
Down the Old Road. Heath Cranton.

Lyons, A. Neil.
*Market Bundle. Butterworth.

McCallin, William.
[Pg 441]*Ulster Fireside Tales. Heath, Cranton.

Moorman, F.W.
*More Tales of the Ridings. Mathews.
*Tales of the Ridings. Mathews.

Peirson, Fanny.
Noble Madness. Swarthmore Press.

Pemberton, Max.
Prince of the Palais Royal. Cassell.

Pullen, A.M.
Invisible Sword. S. Allen Warner.

Purdon, K.F.
*Candle and Crib. Talbot Press.

Queer Stories from "Truth," 22d Series. Cassell.

Ransome, Arthur.
Soldier and Death. John G. Wilson.

Raymond, Adolphus, and Bunin, A.
Amongst the Aristocracy of the Ghetto. Stanley Paul.

"Rohmer, Sax."
Haunting of Low Fennel. Pearson.

Spettigue, J.H.
Nero. Lane.

St. Mars, F.
Off the Beaten Track. Chambers.

Taylor, Sister Emily.
Diamonds in the Rough. Stockwell.

Waugh, Alec.
*Pleasure. Grant Richards.

Waugh, Joseph Laing.
Heroes in Homespun. Hodder and Stoughton.

Weeks, William.
'Twas Ordained. Exeter: W. Pollard and Co.

Wilcox, Anne Syms.
Settler's Story of 1820. Stockwell.

Wintle, W. James.
Ghost Gleams. Heath Cranton.

Woolf, Leonard.
*Stories of the East. Hogarth Press.

Woolf, Virginia.
*Monday or Tuesday. Hogarth Press.

III. Translations

Andreyev, Leonid. (Russian.)
*And it Came to Pass that the King was Dead. Daniel.
*His Excellency the Governor. Daniel.

Duvernois, Henri. (French.)
Holidays. Philpot.

Macklin, Alys Eyre, translator (French.)
*29 Short Stories. Philpot.


[Pg 442]

VOLUMES OF SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED IN FRANCE

OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921: AN INDEX

Note. An asterisk before a title indicates distinction.

Barbey d'Aurevilly, J. *Cachet d'Onyx. La Connaissance.
Bodin, Marguerite. Psaumes d'amour. Figuière.
Bourget, Paul. *Anomalies. Plon.
Boutet, Frederic. *Adventures Sombres et Pittoresques. Ferenczi.
Doyon, Rene Louis. Proses Mystiques. La Connaissance.
Farrere, Claude. Betes et Gens Qui s'Aimérent. Flammarion.
Geffroy, Gustave. Nouveaux contes du pays d'Ouest. Crès.
Girieud, Maxime. Contes du Temps Jamais. La Sirène.
Gobimeau, Comte de. *Mademoiselle Irnois. Nouv. Revue franç.
Henriot, Emile. *Temps Innocents. Emile Paul.
Level, Maurice. Morts Étranges. Ferenczi.
Lichtenberger, Andra. Scènes en Famille. Plon.
MacOrlan, Pierre. *A Bord de l'Etoile Matutine. Crès.
Maurice-Verne. Milles-et-une Nuits. Albin Michel.
Melhouf, Djebal. Père Robin. Boet, Constantine.
Menasche, Elie-L. Contes de l'Inde Cruelle. Bouchet et Barri.
Mille, Pierre. *Histoires exotiques et merveilleuses. Ferenczi.
Morand, Paul. *Tendres Stocks. Nouv. Revue franç.
Nandeau, Ludovic. Histoire des Wagon et de la Cabine. Pierre Lafitte.
Nesmy, Jean. Arc-en-ciel. Grasset.
Pergaud, Louis. *Rustiques. M. de F.
Pillon, Marcel. Contes à ma consine. Figuière.
Regismauset, Charles. Livre de Mes Amis. Sansot.
Renaud, J. Joseph. Clavecin Hanté. Pierre Lafitte.
Richepin, Jean. *Coin des Fous. Flammarion.
"Taillefer." Contes de Grenoble, Audin et Cir.
Tisserand, Ernest. Contes de la popote. Crès.
Turpin, Francois. Contes Inutiles. La Connaissance.
Vernon, Yvonne. Chine, Japan, Stamboul. Tohner.


[Pg 443]

ARTICLES ON THE SHORT STORY

OCTOBER, 1920, TO SEPTEMBER, 1921

Authors of articles are printed in capital letters.

The following abbreviations are used in this index:

Ain.Ainslee's Magazine
Ath.Athenæum
A.W.All's Well
B.E.T.Boston Evening Transcript
Book. (London)Bookman (London)
Book. (N.Y.)Bookman (New York)
Book. J.Bookman's Journal
Cen.Century
Det. Sun. N.Detroit Sunday News
DialDial
Eng. R.English Review
Fortn. R.Fortnightly Review
Free.Freeman
Harp. M.Harper's Magazine.
Liv. A.Living Age
L. Merc.London Mercury
L. St.Live Stories
M. de F.Mercure de France
N.A. Rev.North American Review
Nat. (N.Y.)Nation (New York)
Nat. (London)Nation (London)
New S.New Statesman
N. Rep.New Republic
N.R.F.Nouvelle Revue Française
N.Y. TimesNew York Times Review of Books
Outl. (London)Outlook (London)
R.D.M.Revue des Deux Mondes
Sat. West.Saturday Westminster Gazette
Scr.Scribner's Magazine
So. Atl. Q.South Atlantic Quarterly
S.S.Smart Set
Times Lit. Suppl.Times Literary Supplement (London)
Unp. R.Unpartisan Review
W. Rev.Weekly Review
19th Cent.Nineteenth Century and after

[Pg 444]



Aiken, Conrad.
Anton Chekhov. Free. April 6. (3:90.)
Short Story As Poetry. Free. May 11. (3:210.)

Aldington, Richard.
James Joyce. Eng. R. April. (32:333.)

American Short Story.
By Constance Mayfield Rourke. Free. Oct. 6, '20. (2:91.)

Andreyev, Leonid.
By Clarendon Ross. N. Rep. May 25. (26:382.)

Artzibashef, Michael.
By Berenice C. Skidelsky. A.W. Aug. (1:189.) A.W. Sept (1:202.)

Astériotis, Démétrius.
Jean Psichari. M. de F. Dec. 15, '20. (144:797.)
D. Voutyras. M. de F. April 15. (147:526.)

Bagenal, H.
Leo Nicolaievitch Tolstoy. Free. Feb. 16. (2:548.)

Batlle, Carlos De.
Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. Liv. A. Oct. 23, '20. (307:293.)

Beaunier, André.
M. Franc-Nohain. R.D.M. Sept. 1. (65:217.)

Bechhofer, C.E.
James Branch Cabell. Times Lit. Suppl. June 16. (20:387.)
Theodore Dreiser; Willa Sibert Cather. Times Lit. Suppl. June 23. (20:403.)

Beerbohm, Max.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 23. (19:873.)
Anonymous. Nat. (London). March 19. (28:883.)
By Henry D. Davray. M. de F. July 1. (149:245.)
By Herbert S. Gorman. N.Y. Times. Jan. 2. (9.)
By Desmond MacCarthy. New S. Dec. 18, '20. (16:339.)
By Carl Van Doren. Nat. (N.Y.). Dec. 29, '20. (111:785.)
By S.W. Ath. Dec. 31, '20. (888.)

Bell, Lisle.
Henry James. Free. Dec. 29, '20, (2:381.)

Bennett, Arnold.
Chekhov, Maupassant, and James.

Bennett, Arnold.
By St. John Ervine. N.A. Rev. Sept. (214:371.)

Beresford, J.D.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. June 30. (20:417.) Sat. R. Jul. 2. (132:19.)

Bernstein, Herman.
Count Lyof Tolstoi. N.Y. Times. Jan. 9. (3.)

Bertrand, Louis.
Paul Bourget. R.D.M. Dec. 15, '20. (60:723.)

Bierce, Ambrose.
By Walter Jerrold. Book. (London.) June. (60:132.)

Birrell, Augustine.
Henry James. Nat. (London). July 16. (29:581.)

Bjorkman, Edwin.
[Pg 445]Knut Hamsun. N. Rep. Apr. 13. (26:195.)

Black, John.
Lord Dunsany. Book. (N.Y.). April. (53:140.)

Blasco Ibáñez, Vicente.
By Carlos de Sic Batlle. Liv. A. Oct. 23, '20. (307:293.)
By Jean Gasson. M. de F. Aug. 15. (32:244.)
By T.R. Ybarra. N.Y. Times. Jan. 23. (16.)

Bloch, Jean Richard.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Oct. 14, '20. (19:662.)

Blumenfeld, L.
Léon Kobrin. M. de F. March 15. (146:826.)

Boccaccio, Giovanni.
Anonymous. New S. Nov. 6, '20. (16:144.)

Bourget, Paul.
Prosper Mérimée. Liv. A. Nov. 6, '20. (307:346.)

Bourget, Paul.
By Louis Bertrand. R.D.M. Dec. 15, '20. (60:723.)
By C.F. Ath. Oct. 15, '20. (532.)
By Louis Martin-Chauffier. N.R.F. Dec. '20. (8:934.).

Boyd, Ernest A.
Jens Peter Jacobsen. Free. May 25. (3:259.)
James Stephens. Free. March 9. (2:619.)

Braithwaite, William Stanley.
Willa Cather. B.E.T. Feb. 16.

Brennecke, Ernest.
Thomas Hardy. N.Y. Times. June 5. (12.)

Brewster, Dorothy.
Fyodor Dostoevski. Nat. (N.Y.). Aug. 10. (113:155.)

Buchan, John.
By Louise Maunsell Field. N.Y. Times. Jul. 3. (9.)

Bunin, I.A.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Aug. 18. (20:530.)
By Jean Chuzeville. M. de F. Sept. 15. (32:815.)

Burke, Kenneth.
Francis Jammes. Free. May 11. (3:211.)

Burke, Thomas.
Anonymous. Nat. (London). June 25. (29:476.)
By Allen Monkhouse. New S. April 30. (17:106.)

Burt, Maxwell Struthers.
By Blanche Colton Williams. Book. (N.Y.). March. (53:53.)

Burt, Maxwell Struthers.
Henry W. Nevinson. Book. (N.Y.). May. (53:253.)

Cabell, James Branch.
By C.E. Bechhofer. Times Lit. Suppl. June 16. (20:387.)
By Richard Le Gallienne. N.Y. Times. Feb. 13. (3.)
By Robert Morss Lovett. N. Rep. Apr. 13. (26:187.)

Carroll, Latrobe.
Willa Sibert Cather. Book. (N.Y.). May. (53:212.)

Casson, Jean.
Vicente Blasco Ibáñez. M. de F. Aug. 15. (32:244.)
Ramon Gomez de la Serna. M. de F. Jan. 15. (145:516.)
[Pg 446]Miguel de Unamuno. M. de F. June 15. (148:819.)

Cather, Willa Sibert.
By C.E. Bechhofer. Times Lit. Suppl. June 23. (20:403.)
By William Stanley Braithwaite. B.E.T. Feb. 16.
By Latrobe Carroll. Book. (N.Y.). May. (53:212.)
By Francis Hackett. N. Rep. Jan. 19. (25:233.)
By Carl Van Doren. Nat. (N.Y.). Jul. 27. (113:92.)
By O.W. Ath. Dec. 31, '20. (890.)

Chekhov, Anton.
Diary. Free. April 6. (3:79.)
Notebook. M. de F. Jan. (3:285.) Free. April 13. (3:104).
April 20. (3:127.) April 27. (3:152.) May 4. (3:175.) May 11.
(3:199.) May 18. (3:225.) May 25. (3:247.) June 1. (3:272)
June 8. (3:296.) June 15. (3:320.) June 22. (3:344.) June 29.
(3:368.) July 6. (3:392.) July 13. (3:415.) July 20. (3:440.)

Chekhov, Anton.
By Conrad Aiken. Free. April 6. (3:90.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Nov. 18, '20. (19:756.)
Anonymous. L. St. Dec. '20. (125.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. April 21. (20:257.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Sept. 22. (20:609.)
By Arnold Bennett. L. Merc. Oct., '20. (2:677.)
By N. Bryllion Fagin. P.L. Autumn. (32:416.)
By Maxim Gorky. Free. May 25. (3:251.)
By Maxim Gorky. New S. April 16. (17:52.)
Free. May 25. (3:251.) June 1. (3:275.) June 8. (3:298.)
By Alexander Kuprin. Free. Aug. 10. (3:511.) Aug. 17. (3:535.)
Aug. 24. (3:561.) Aug. 31. (3:583.)
By Prince D.S. Mirski. Outl. (London.). Jul. 30. (48:90.)
By J. Middleton Murry. Ath. Jan. 1. (11.)
Nat. (London). June 4. (29:365.)

Chew, Samuel C.
George Meredith. N. Rep. Jan. 26. (25:267.)

Chuzeville, Jean.
Ivan A. Bunin. M. de F. Sept. 15. (32:815.)

Collette.
By Benjamin Crémieux. N.R.F. Dec., '20. (8:939.)

Collis-Morley, Lacy.
Federigo Tozzi; Mario Puccini. Nat. (London). July 16. (29:585.)

Colum, Padraic.
By Constance Mayfield Rourke. N. Rep. May 4. (26:300.)

Conrad, Joseph.
Anonymous. Nat. (London). March 19. (28:881.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. March 3. (20:141.)
By Louise Maunsell Field. N.Y. Times. May 8. (10.)
By Robert Lynd. New S. Mar. 12. (16:674.)
By William McFee. Book. (N.Y.). Apr. (53:102.)

Conrad, Joseph.
Five Prefaces. L. Merc. Mar. (3:493.)

Coppard, A.E.
Anonymous. Nat. (London). Jul. 30. (29:656.)
[Pg 447]By Malcolm Cowley. Dial. Jul. (71:93.)

Corkery, Daniel.
Anonymous. Nat. (London). Apr. 2. (29:27.)
By Shane Leslie. Dub. R. Apr. (168:289.)

Coster, Charles D.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Oct. 14, '20. (19:663.)

Cournos, John.
Count Lyof Tolstoi. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 30, '20. (19:889.)

Cowley, Malcolm.
A.E. Coppard. Dial. Jul. (71:93.)
Katharine Mansfield. Dial. Sept. (71:365.)

Crémieux, Benjamin.
Collette. N.R.F. Dec., '20. (8:939.)

D'Annunzio, Gabrielle.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 6. (20:7.)

Davray, Henry D.
Max Beerbohm. M. de F. Jul. 1. (149:245.)
Henry James. M. de F. Feb. 15. (146:68.)

De Coster, Charles.
Anonymous. New S. Jan. 22. (16:482.)

Delebecque, Jacques.
R.L. Stevenson. M. de F. Jan. 1. (145:55.)

Dostoevsky, Fyodor.
Anonymous. Ath. Dec. 3, '20. (758.)
Anonymous. Times. Lit. Suppl. Dec. 9, '20. (19:811.)
By Dorothy Brewster. Nat. (N.Y.). Aug. 10. (113:155.)
By Herbert S. Gorman. N.Y. Times. Aug. 7. (6.)
By Allan Monkhouse. New S. Mar. 5. (16:646.)
By Clarendon Ross. N. Rep. Jan. 12. (25:205.)
By Louis Gillet. R.D.M. Dec. 15, '20. (60:851.)

Dreiser, Theodore.
By C.E. Bechhofer. Times Lit. Suppl. June 23. (20:403.)
By Edward H. Smith. Book. (N.Y.). Mar. (53:27.)

Dugas, L.
Prosper Mérimée. M. de F. Oct. 1, '20. (143:113.)

Dunsany, Lord.
By John Black. Book. (N.Y.). Apr. (53:140.)
By C.E. Lawrence. Liv. A. Aug. 27. (310:531.) Book.
(London). Jul. (60:172.)
By Odell Shepard. Scr. May. (69:595.)

Easton, Dorothy.
By H.S.G.N. Rep. Feb. 23. (25:384.)

Edgett, Edwin Francis.
W.H. Hudson. B.E.F. Jan. 12. (6.)

Elliot, John.
H.G. Wells. Book. (N.Y.). Feb. (52:542.)

Ervine. St. John.
Arnold Bennett. N.A. Rev. Sept. (214:371.)

Ewart, Wilfrid.
Thomas Hardy. 19th Cent. Sept. (90:427.)

Fagin, N. Bryllion.
[Pg 448]Anton Chekhov. P.L. Autumn. (32:416.)

Field, Louise Maunsell.
John Buchan. N.Y. Times. Jul. 3. (9.)
Joseph Conrad. N.Y. Times. May 8. (10.)

Finger, Charles J.
R.B. Cunninghame-Graham. A.W. Jul. (1:168.)

Fisher, Hervey.
By Orlo Williams. Ath. Feb. 11. (157.)

Flaubert, Gustave.
Anonymous. Nat. (N.Y.) Jul. 13. (113:33.)
By Georges-A. Le Roy. M. de F. Dec. 15, '20. (144:788.)

Franc-Nohain, M.
By André Beaunier. R.D.M. Sept. 1. (65:217.)

France, Anatole.
By Pitts Sanborn. Free. Feb. 9. (2:514.)

G., H.S.
Aldous Huxley. N. Rep. Oct. 13, '20. (24:172.)
Dorothy Easton. N. Rep. Feb. 23. (25:384.)

Gálvez, Manuel.
By Isaac Goldberg. B.E.T. Feb. 16. '21.

Barthou, Louis.
Guy de Maupassant. R.D.M. Oct. 15, '20. (59:746.)

Gillet, Louis.
Fyodor Dostoevski. R.D.M. Dec. 15, '20. (60:851.)
Lyof Tolstoi. R.D.M. Oct. 1, '20. (59:633.)

Gogol, Nikolas.
By "Parijanine." Liv. A. Jul. 2. (310:51.)

Goedhart-Becker, J.M.
By J.L. Walch. M. de F. Dec. 15, '20. (144:794.)

Gogol, Nikolai Vassilievitch.
By Albert Jay Nock. Free. Jan. 26. (2:464.)

Goldberg, Isaac.
Manuel Gálvez. B.E.T. Feb. 16, '21.

Gomez de la Serna, Ramon.
By Jean Casson. M. de F. Jan. 15. (145:516.)

Gorki, Maxim.
Count Lyof Tolstoi. N.R.F. Dec., '20. (8:862.)

Gorky, Maxim.
Anton Chekhov. New S. Apr. 16. (17:52.) Free. May 25. (3:251.)
June 1. (3:275.) June 8. (3:298.)

Gorman, Herbert S.
American Short Story. N.Y. Times. Mar. 6., (10.)
Max Beerbohm. N.Y. Times. Jan. 2. (9.)
Fyodor Dostoevski. N.Y. Times. Aug. 7. (6.)

Govoni, Corrado.
By Mario Praz. L. Merc. Sept. (4:527.)

Graham, R.B. Cunninghame.
By Charles J. Finger. A.W. Jul. (1:168.)
By C. Lewis Hind. Free. May 18. (3:237.)
By Mariano Joachin Lorente. A.W. Jan. (1:6.)

Guèrinot, A.
[Pg 449]Guy de Maupassant. M. de F. June 15. (148:597.)

Hamilton, Anthony.
Anonymous. New S. Apr. 23. (17:83.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Apr. 7. (20:225.)

H., R.
Katharine Mansfield. N. Rep. Mar. 23. (26:114.)

Hackett, Francis.
James Stephens. N. Rep. Dec. 22, '20. (25:111.)
Lyof Tolstoi. N. Rep. Jan. 5. (25:172.)
Willa Sibert Cather. N. Rep. Jan. 12. (25:233.)

Hamp, Pierre.
By Gilbert Thomas. Free. June 29. (3:379.)

Hamsun, Knut.
Anonymous. N.Y. Times. June 26. (8.)
Anonymous. New S. Nov. 13, '20. (16:170.)
By Edwin Bjorkman. N. Rep. Apr. 13. (26:195.)
By Allen Wilson Porterfield. Nat. (N.Y.) Dec 8, '20. (111:652.)
By Allen Shoenfield. Det. Sun. N. Dec. 19, '20.
By W.W. Worster. Fortn. R. Dec., '20. (114:1003.)

Hardy, Thomas.
By Ernest Brennecke. N.Y. Times. June 5. (12.)
By Wilfrid Ewart. 19th Cent. Sept. (90:427.)
By H.M. Tomlinson. N. Rep. Jan. 12. (25:190.)

Harwood, H.C.
Hugh Walpole. Outl. (London). Jul. 23. (48:75.)

Hearn, Lafcadio.
Anonymous. New S. Sept. 10. (17:628.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Aug. 25. (20:545.)
Anonymous. Sat. R. Sept. 24. (48:380.)

"Henry, O."
By William Johnston. Book. (N.Y.). Feb. (52:536.)
By Archibald L. Sessions. Ain. Sept. (48:150.)

Hergesheimer, Joseph.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 16, '20. (19:854.)
By Edward Shanks. L. Merc. Jan. (3:337.)

Hind, C. Lewis.
R.B. Cunninghame Graham. Free. May 18. (3:237.)

Hopkins, R. Thurston.
Robert Louis Stevenson. Book. J. Jan. 14. (3:194.)

Hudson, W.H.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 9, '20. (19:823.)
Anonymous. Nat. (London). Jan. 22. (28:584.)
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Sept. 29. (20:625.)
By Edwin Francis Edgett. B.E.T. Jan. 12. (6.)
By H.J. Massingham. L. Merc. Nov. '20. (3:73.)
By Forest Reid. Ath. Jan. 14. (39.)

Hurst, Fannie.
By Inez Haynes Irwin. Book. (N.Y.). June. (53:335.)

Huxley, Aldous.
[Pg 450]By H.S.G. N. Rep. Oct. 13, '20. (24:172.)

Huysmans, Joris Karl.
By Albert Thibaudet. N.R.F. Dec., '20. (8:93.)
By Cuthbert Wright. Dial. Dec., '20. (69:655.)

Irwin, Inez Haynes.
Fannie Hurst. Book. (N.Y.). June. (53:335.)

Jacobsen, Jens Peter.
By Ernest Boyd. Free. May 25. (3:259.)

James, Henry.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. May 12. (20:298) June 30.
(20:417.) Liv. A. Jul. 30. (310:267.)
By Arnold Bennett. L. Merc. Oct., '20. (2:677.)
By Lisle Bell. Free. Dec. 29, '20. (2:381.)
By Augustine Birrell. Nat. (London). Jul. 16. (29:581.)
By Henry-D. Davray. M. de F. Feb. 15. (146:68.)
By Desmond MacCarthy. New S. Dec. 18, '20. (16:339.)
By Brander Matthews. N.Y. Times. June 12. (2.)
By Wilfrid L. Randell. Fortn. R. Sept. (116:458.)
By Stanley Went. Unp. Rev. Oct., '20. (14:381.)

Jammes, Francis.
By Kenneth Burke. Free. May 11. (3:211.)

Jerrold, Walter.
Ambrose Bierce. Book. (London). June. (60:132.)

Johnston, William.
O. Henry. Book. (N.Y.). Feb. (52:536.)

Joyce, James.
By Richard Aldington. Eng. R. Apr. (32:333.)
By Evelyn Scott. Dial. Oct., '20. (69:353.)

Karkavitsas, Andreas.
By Aristides E. Phoutrides. W. Rev. Dec. 8, '20. (3:566.)

Kaye, A. Lister.
Fyodor Sologub. Fortn. R. Oct., '20. (114:663.)

Kipling, Rudyard.
By Arthur Bartlett Maurice. N.Y. Times. May 22. (4.)

Kobrin, Léon.
By L. Blumenfeld. M. de F. Mar. 15. (146:826.)

Kuprin, Alexander.
Anton Chekhov. Free. Aug. 10. (3:511.) Aug. 17. (3:535.)
Aug. 24. (3:561.) Aug. 31. (3:583.)

Kurz, Isolde.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. June 30. (20:415.)

Larbaud, Valery.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 2, '20. (19:790.)

Lawrence, C.E.
Lord Dunsany. Liv. A. Aug. 27. (310:531.) Book. (London).
Jul. (60:172.)

Le Gallienne, Richard.
James Branch Cabell. N.Y. Times. Feb. 13. (3.)

Le Roy, Georges A.
Gustave Flaubert. M. de F. Dec. 15, '20. (144:788.)

Leslie, Shane.
[Pg 451]Daniel Corkery. Dub. Rev. Apr. (168:289.)

Linati, Carlo.
Giovanni Verga. Dial. Aug. (71:150.)

London, Charmian.
Jack London. Cen. Mar. (101:545.) May. (102:105.)
June. (102:287.) Jul. (102:443.) Aug. (102:599.)

London, Jack.
By Charmian London. Cen. March. (101:545.) May
(102:105.) June. (102:287.) Jul. (102:443.) Aug.
(102: 599.)

Lorente, Mariano Joachin.
R.B. Cunninghame Graham. A.W. Jan. (1:6.)

Lovett, Robert Morss.
James Branch Cabell. N. Rep. Apr. 13. (26:187.)

Lynd, Robert.
Joseph Conrad. New S. Mar. 12. (16:674.)

MacCarthy, Desmond.
Max Beerbohm. New S. Dec. 18, '20. (16:339.)
Henry James. New S. Dec. 18, '20. (16:339.)
Katharine Mansfield. New S. Jan. 15. (16:450.)
Guy de Maupassant. New S. Sept. 24. (17:677.)
Leonard Woolf and Virginia Woolf. New S. Apr. 9. (17:18.)

McFee, William.
Joseph Conrad. Book. (N.Y.). Apr. (53:102.)

Macy, John.
Edgar Allen Poe. Free. Mar. 9. (2:622.)

Mann, Dorothea Lawrance.
Anne Douglas Sedgwick. B.E.T. Jan. 29, '21.

Mansfield, Katharine.
Gertrude Stein. Ath. Oct. 15, '20. (520.)

Mansfield, Katharine.
Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 16, '20. (19:858.) Ath.
Jan. 21. (67.) Nat. (London). Feb. 5. (28:639.)
By Malcolm Cowley. Dial. Sept. (71:365.)
By R.H.N. Rep. Mar. 23. (26:114.)
By Desmond MacCarthy. New S. Jan. 15. (16:450.)
By Jasper Pendlethwaite. Sat. West. Jan. 1. (16.)
By Edward Shanks. L. Merc. Jan. (3:337.)

Martin-Chauffier, Louis.
Paul Bourget. N.R.F. Dec. '20. (8:934.)

Mason, Lawrence.
H.W. Nevinson. Free. Aug. 10. (3:524.)

Massingham, H.J.M.
W.H. Hudson. L. Merc. Nov. 20. (3:73.)
Guy de Maupassant. Nat. (London.) Oct. 30, '20. (28:166.)