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Alexander's Bridge
by Willa Cather

 

CHAPTER I

Late one brilliant April afternoon Professor
Lucius Wilson stood at the head of Chestnut Street,
looking about him with the pleased air of a man
of taste who does not very often get to Boston.
He had lived there as a student, but for
twenty years and more, since he had been
Professor of Philosophy in a Western
university, he had seldom come East except
to take a steamer for some foreign port.
Wilson was standing quite still, contemplating
with a whimsical smile the slanting street,
with its worn paving, its irregular, gravely
colored houses, and the row of naked trees on
which the thin sunlight was still shining.
The gleam of the river at the foot of the hill
made him blink a little, not so much because it
was too bright as because he found it so pleasant.
The few passers-by glanced at him unconcernedly,
and even the children who hurried along with their
school-bags under their arms seemed to find it
perfectly natural that a tall brown gentleman
should be standing there, looking up through
his glasses at the gray housetops.

The sun sank rapidly; the silvery light
had faded from the bare boughs and the
watery twilight was setting in when Wilson
at last walked down the hill, descending into
cooler and cooler depths of grayish shadow.
His nostril, long unused to it, was quick to
detect the smell of wood smoke in the air,
blended with the odor of moist spring earth
and the saltiness that came up the river with
the tide. He crossed Charles Street between
jangling street cars and shelving lumber
drays, and after a moment of uncertainty
wound into Brimmer Street. The street was
quiet, deserted, and hung with a thin bluish
haze. He had already fixed his sharp eye
upon the house which he reasoned should be
his objective point, when he noticed a woman
approaching rapidly from the opposite direction.
Always an interested observer of women,
Wilson would have slackened his pace
anywhere to follow this one with his impersonal,
appreciative glance. She was a person
of distinction he saw at once, and, moreover,
very handsome. She was tall, carried her
beautiful head proudly, and moved with ease
and certainty. One immediately took for
granted the costly privileges and fine spaces
that must lie in the background from which
such a figure could emerge with this rapid
and elegant gait. Wilson noted her dress,
too,--for, in his way, he had an eye for such
things,--particularly her brown furs and her
hat. He got a blurred impression of her fine
color, the violets she wore, her white gloves,
and, curiously enough, of her veil, as she turned
up a flight of steps in front of him and disappeared.

Wilson was able to enjoy lovely things
that passed him on the wing as completely
and deliberately as if they had been dug-up
marvels, long anticipated, and definitely fixed
at the end of a railway journey. For a few
pleasurable seconds he quite forgot where he
was going, and only after the door had closed
behind her did he realize that the young
woman had entered the house to which he
had directed his trunk from the South Station
that morning. He hesitated a moment before
mounting the steps. "Can that," he murmured
in amazement,--"can that possibly have been
Mrs. Alexander?"

When the servant admitted him, Mrs. Alexander
was still standing in the hallway.
She heard him give his name, and came
forward holding out her hand.

"Is it you, indeed, Professor Wilson? I
was afraid that you might get here before I
did. I was detained at a concert, and Bartley
telephoned that he would be late. Thomas
will show you your room. Had you rather
have your tea brought to you there, or will
you have it down here with me, while we
wait for Bartley?"

Wilson was pleased to find that he had been
the cause of her rapid walk, and with her
he was even more vastly pleased than before.
He followed her through the drawing-room
into the library, where the wide back windows
looked out upon the garden and the sunset
and a fine stretch of silver-colored river.
A harp-shaped elm stood stripped against
the pale-colored evening sky, with ragged
last year's birds' nests in its forks,
and through the bare branches the evening star
quivered in the misty air. The long brown
room breathed the peace of a rich and amply
guarded quiet. Tea was brought in immediately
and placed in front of the wood fire.
Mrs. Alexander sat down in a high-backed
chair and began to pour it, while Wilson sank
into a low seat opposite her and took his cup
with a great sense of ease and harmony and comfort.

"You have had a long journey, haven't you?"
Mrs. Alexander asked, after showing gracious
concern about his tea. "And I am so sorry
Bartley is late. He's often tired when he's late.
He flatters himself that it is a little
on his account that you have come to this
Congress of Psychologists."

"It is," Wilson assented, selecting his
muffin carefully; "and I hope he won't be
tired tonight. But, on my own account,
I'm glad to have a few moments alone with you,
before Bartley comes. I was somehow afraid
that my knowing him so well would not put me
in the way of getting to know you."

"That's very nice of you." She nodded at
him above her cup and smiled, but there was
a little formal tightness in her tone which had
not been there when she greeted him in the hall.

Wilson leaned forward. "Have I said something awkward?
I live very far out of the world, you know.
But I didn't mean that you would exactly fade dim,
even if Bartley were here."

Mrs. Alexander laughed relentingly.
"Oh, I'm not so vain! How terribly
discerning you are."

She looked straight at Wilson, and he felt
that this quick, frank glance brought about
an understanding between them.

He liked everything about her, he told himself,
but he particularly liked her eyes;
when she looked at one directly for a moment
they were like a glimpse of fine windy sky
that may bring all sorts of weather.

"Since you noticed something," Mrs. Alexander
went on, "it must have been a flash of the
distrust I have come to feel whenever
I meet any of the people who knew Bartley
when he was a boy. It is always as if
they were talking of someone I had never met.
Really, Professor Wilson, it would seem
that he grew up among the strangest people.
They usually say that he has turned out very well,
or remark that he always was a fine fellow.
I never know what reply to make."

Wilson chuckled and leaned back in his chair,
shaking his left foot gently. "I expect the
fact is that we none of us knew him very well,
Mrs. Alexander. Though I will say for myself
that I was always confident he'd do
something extraordinary."

Mrs. Alexander's shoulders gave a slight
movement, suggestive of impatience.
"Oh, I should think that might have been
a safe prediction. Another cup, please?"

"Yes, thank you. But predicting, in the
case of boys, is not so easy as you might
imagine, Mrs. Alexander. Some get a bad
hurt early and lose their courage; and some
never get a fair wind. Bartley"--he dropped
his chin on the back of his long hand and looked
at her admiringly--"Bartley caught the wind early,
and it has sung in his sails ever since."

Mrs. Alexander sat looking into the fire
with intent preoccupation, and Wilson
studied her half-averted face. He liked the
suggestion of stormy possibilities in the proud
curve of her lip and nostril. Without that,
he reflected, she would be too cold.

"I should like to know what he was really
like when he was a boy. I don't believe
he remembers," she said suddenly.
"Won't you smoke, Mr. Wilson?"

Wilson lit a cigarette. "No, I don't suppose
he does. He was never introspective. He was
simply the most tremendous response to stimuli
I have ever known. We didn't know exactly
what to do with him."

A servant came in and noiselessly removed
the tea-tray. Mrs. Alexander screened
her face from the firelight, which was
beginning to throw wavering bright spots
on her dress and hair as the dusk deepened.

"Of course," she said, "I now and again
hear stories about things that happened
when he was in college."

"But that isn't what you want." Wilson wrinkled
his brows and looked at her with the smiling
familiarity that had come about so quickly.
"What you want is a picture of him, standing
back there at the other end of twenty years.
You want to look down through my memory."

She dropped her hands in her lap. "Yes, yes;
that's exactly what I want."

At this moment they heard the front door
shut with a jar, and Wilson laughed as
Mrs. Alexander rose quickly. "There he is.
Away with perspective! No past, no future
for Bartley; just the fiery moment. The only
moment that ever was or will be in the world!"

The door from the hall opened, a voice
called "Winifred?" hurriedly, and a big man
came through the drawing-room with a quick,
heavy tread, bringing with him a smell of
cigar smoke and chill out-of-doors air.
When Alexander reached the library door,
he switched on the lights and stood six feet
and more in the archway, glowing with strength
and cordiality and rugged, blond good looks.
There were other bridge-builders in the
world, certainly, but it was always Alexander's
picture that the Sunday Supplement men wanted,
because he looked as a tamer of rivers
ought to look. Under his tumbled sandy
hair his head seemed as hard and powerful
as a catapult, and his shoulders looked
strong enough in themselves to support
a span of any one of his ten great bridges
that cut the air above as many rivers.

 

After dinner Alexander took Wilson up to
his study. It was a large room over the
library, and looked out upon the black river
and the row of white lights along the
Cambridge Embankment. The room was not at all
what one might expect of an engineer's study.
Wilson felt at once the harmony of beautiful
things that have lived long together without
obtrusions of ugliness or change. It was none
of Alexander's doing, of course; those warm
consonances of color had been blending and
mellowing before he was born. But the wonder
was that he was not out of place there,--
that it all seemed to glow like the inevitable
background for his vigor and vehemence. He
sat before the fire, his shoulders deep in the
cushions of his chair, his powerful head upright,
his hair rumpled above his broad forehead.
He sat heavily, a cigar in his large,
smooth hand, a flush of after-dinner color in
his face, which wind and sun and exposure to
all sorts of weather had left fair and clearskinned.

"You are off for England on Saturday,
Bartley, Mrs. Alexander tells me."

"Yes, for a few weeks only. There's a
meeting of British engineers, and I'm doing
another bridge in Canada, you know."

"Oh, every one knows about that. And it
was in Canada that you met your wife, wasn't it?"

Yes, at Allway. She was visiting her
great-aunt there. A most remarkable old lady.
I was working with MacKeller then, an old
Scotch engineer who had picked me up in
London and taken me back to Quebec with him.
He had the contract for the Allway Bridge,
but before he began work on it he found out
that he was going to die, and he advised
the committee to turn the job over to me.
Otherwise I'd never have got anything good
so early. MacKeller was an old friend of
Mrs. Pemberton, Winifred's aunt. He had
mentioned me to her, so when I went to
Allway she asked me to come to see her.
She was a wonderful old lady."

"Like her niece?" Wilson queried.

Bartley laughed. "She had been very
handsome, but not in Winifred's way.
When I knew her she was little and fragile,
very pink and white, with a splendid head and a
face like fine old lace, somehow,--but perhaps
I always think of that because she wore a lace
scarf on her hair. She had such a flavor
of life about her. She had known Gordon and
Livingstone and Beaconsfield when she was
young,--every one. She was the first woman
of that sort I'd ever known. You know how it
is in the West,--old people are poked out of
the way. Aunt Eleanor fascinated me as few
young women have ever done. I used to go up from
the works to have tea with her, and sit talking
to her for hours. It was very stimulating,
for she couldn't tolerate stupidity."

"It must have been then that your luck began,
Bartley," said Wilson, flicking his cigar
ash with his long finger. "It's curious,
watching boys," he went on reflectively.
"I'm sure I did you justice in the matter of ability.
Yet I always used to feel that there was a
weak spot where some day strain would tell.
Even after you began to climb, I stood down
in the crowd and watched you with--well,
not with confidence. The more dazzling the
front you presented, the higher your facade
rose, the more I expected to see a big crack
zigzagging from top to bottom,"--he indicated
its course in the air with his forefinger,--
"then a crash and clouds of dust. It was curious.
I had such a clear picture of it. And another
curious thing, Bartley," Wilson spoke with
deliberateness and settled deeper into his
chair, "is that I don't feel it any longer.
I am sure of you."

Alexander laughed. "Nonsense! It's not I
you feel sure of; it's Winifred. People often
make that mistake."

"No, I'm serious, Alexander. You've changed.
You have decided to leave some birds in the bushes.
You used to want them all."

Alexander's chair creaked. "I still want a
good many," he said rather gloomily. "After
all, life doesn't offer a man much. You work
like the devil and think you're getting on,
and suddenly you discover that you've only been
getting yourself tied up. A million details
drink you dry. Your life keeps going for
things you don't want, and all the while you
are being built alive into a social structure
you don't care a rap about. I sometimes
wonder what sort of chap I'd have been if I
hadn't been this sort; I want to go and live
out his potentialities, too. I haven't
forgotten that there are birds in the bushes."

Bartley stopped and sat frowning into the fire,
his shoulders thrust forward as if he were
about to spring at something. Wilson watched him,
wondering. His old pupil always stimulated him
at first, and then vastly wearied him.
The machinery was always pounding away in this man,
and Wilson preferred companions of a more reflective
habit of mind. He could not help feeling that
there were unreasoning and unreasonable
activities going on in Alexander all the while;
that even after dinner, when most men
achieve a decent impersonality, Bartley had
merely closed the door of the engine-room
and come up for an airing. The machinery
itself was still pounding on.

Bartley's abstraction and Wilson's reflections
were cut short by a rustle at the door,
and almost before they could rise Mrs.
Alexander was standing by the hearth.
Alexander brought a chair for her,
but she shook her head.

"No, dear, thank you. I only came in to
see whether you and Professor Wilson were
quite comfortable. I am going down to the
music-room."

"Why not practice here? Wilson and I are
growing very dull. We are tired of talk."

"Yes, I beg you, Mrs. Alexander,"
Wilson began, but he got no further.

"Why, certainly, if you won't find me
too noisy. I am working on the Schumann
`Carnival,' and, though I don't practice a
great many hours, I am very methodical,"
Mrs. Alexander explained, as she crossed to
an upright piano that stood at the back of
the room, near the windows.

Wilson followed, and, having seen her seated,
dropped into a chair behind her. She played
brilliantly and with great musical feeling.
Wilson could not imagine her permitting
herself to do anything badly, but he was
surprised at the cleanness of her execution.
He wondered how a woman with so many
duties had managed to keep herself up to a
standard really professional. It must take
a great deal of time, certainly, and Bartley
must take a great deal of time. Wilson reflected
that he had never before known a woman who
had been able, for any considerable while,
to support both a personal and an
intellectual passion. Sitting behind her,
he watched her with perplexed admiration,
shading his eyes with his hand. In her dinner dress
she looked even younger than in street clothes,
and, for all her composure and self-sufficiency,
she seemed to him strangely alert and vibrating,
as if in her, too, there were something
never altogether at rest. He felt
that he knew pretty much what she
demanded in people and what she demanded
from life, and he wondered how she squared
Bartley. After ten years she must know him;
and however one took him, however much
one admired him, one had to admit that he
simply wouldn't square. He was a natural
force, certainly, but beyond that, Wilson felt,
he was not anything very really or for very long
at a time.

Wilson glanced toward the fire, where
Bartley's profile was still wreathed in cigar
smoke that curled up more and more slowly.
His shoulders were sunk deep in the cushions
and one hand hung large and passive over the
arm of his chair. He had slipped on a purple
velvet smoking-coat. His wife, Wilson surmised,
had chosen it. She was clearly very proud
of his good looks and his fine color.
But, with the glow of an immediate interest
gone out of it, the engineer's face looked
tired, even a little haggard. The three lines
in his forehead, directly above the nose, deepened
as he sat thinking, and his powerful head
drooped forward heavily. Although Alexander
was only forty-three, Wilson thought that
beneath his vigorous color he detected the
dulling weariness of on-coming middle age.

 

The next afternoon, at the hour when the river
was beginning to redden under the declining sun,
Wilson again found himself facing Mrs. Alexander
at the tea-table in the library.

"Well," he remarked, when he was bidden
to give an account of himself, "there was
a long morning with the psychologists,
luncheon with Bartley at his club,
more psychologists, and here I am.
I've looked forward to this hour all day."

Mrs. Alexander smiled at him across the
vapor from the kettle. "And do you
remember where we stopped yesterday?"

"Perfectly. I was going to show you a
picture. But I doubt whether I have color
enough in me. Bartley makes me feel a faded
monochrome. You can't get at the young
Bartley except by means of color." Wilson
paused and deliberated. Suddenly he broke
out: "He wasn't a remarkable student, you
know, though he was always strong in higher
mathematics. His work in my own department
was quite ordinary. It was as a powerfully
equipped nature that I found him interesting.
That is the most interesting thing a teacher
can find. It has the fascination of a
scientific discovery. We come across other
pleasing and endearing qualities so much
oftener than we find force."

"And, after all," said Mrs. Alexander,
"that is the thing we all live upon.
It is the thing that takes us forward."

Wilson thought she spoke a little wistfully.
"Exactly," he assented warmly. "It builds
the bridges into the future, over which
the feet of every one of us will go."

"How interested I am to hear you put it
in that way. The bridges into the future--
I often say that to myself. Bartley's bridges
always seem to me like that. Have you ever
seen his first suspension bridge in Canada,
the one he was doing when I first knew him?
I hope you will see it sometime. We were
married as soon as it was finished, and you
will laugh when I tell you that it always has a
rather bridal look to me. It is over the wildest
river, with mists and clouds always battling
about it, and it is as delicate as a cobweb
hanging in the sky. It really was a bridge into
the future. You have only to look at it to feel
that it meant the beginning of a great career.
But I have a photograph of it here." She drew a
portfolio from behind a bookcase. "And there,
you see, on the hill, is my aunt's house."

Wilson took up the photograph. "Bartley was
telling me something about your aunt last night.
She must have been a delightful person."

Winifred laughed. "The bridge, you see,
was just at the foot of the hill, and the noise
of the engines annoyed her very much at first.
But after she met Bartley she pretended
to like it, and said it was a good thing to
be reminded that there were things going on
in the world. She loved life, and Bartley
brought a great deal of it in to her when
he came to the house. Aunt Eleanor was very
worldly in a frank, Early-Victorian manner.
She liked men of action, and disliked young
men who were careful of themselves and
who, as she put it, were always trimming
their wick as if they were afraid of their oil's
giving out. MacKeller, Bartley's first chief,
was an old friend of my aunt, and he told her
that Bartley was a wild, ill-governed youth,
which really pleased her very much.
I remember we were sitting alone in the dusk
after Bartley had been there for the first time.
I knew that Aunt Eleanor had found him much
to her taste, but she hadn't said anything.
Presently she came out, with a chuckle:
`MacKeller found him sowing wild oats in
London, I believe. I hope he didn't stop him
too soon. Life coquets with dashing fellows.
The coming men are always like that.
We must have him to dinner, my dear.'
And we did. She grew much fonder of Bartley
than she was of me. I had been studying in
Vienna, and she thought that absurd.
She was interested in the army and in politics,
and she had a great contempt for music and
art and philosophy. She used to declare that
the Prince Consort had brought all that stuff
over out of Germany. She always sniffed
when Bartley asked me to play for him. She
considered that a newfangled way of making
a match of it."

When Alexander came in a few moments later,
he found Wilson and his wife still
confronting the photograph. "Oh, let us
get that out of the way," he said, laughing.
"Winifred, Thomas can bring my trunk down.
I've decided to go over to New York
to-morrow night and take a fast boat.
I shall save two days."

 

 

CHAPTER II

 

On the night of his arrival in London,
Alexander went immediately to the hotel on the
Embankment at which he always stopped,
and in the lobby he was accosted by an old
acquaintance, Maurice Mainhall, who fell
upon him with effusive cordiality and
indicated a willingness to dine with him.
Bartley never dined alone if he could help it,
and Mainhall was a good gossip who always knew
what had been going on in town; especially,
he knew everything that was not printed in
the newspapers. The nephew of one of the
standard Victorian novelists, Mainhall bobbed
about among the various literary cliques of
London and its outlying suburbs, careful to
lose touch with none of them. He had written
a number of books himself; among them a
"History of Dancing," a "History of Costume,"
a "Key to Shakespeare's Sonnets," a study of
"The Poetry of Ernest Dowson," etc.
Although Mainhall's enthusiasm was often
tiresome, and although he was often unable
to distinguish between facts and vivid
figments of his imagination, his imperturbable
good nature overcame even the people whom he
bored most, so that they ended by becoming,
in a reluctant manner, his friends.
In appearance, Mainhall was astonishingly
like the conventional stage-Englishman of
American drama: tall and thin, with high,
hitching shoulders and a small head glistening
with closely brushed yellow hair. He spoke
with an extreme Oxford accent, and when he was
talking well, his face sometimes wore the rapt
expression of a very emotional man listening
to music. Mainhall liked Alexander because
he was an engineer. He had preconceived
ideas about everything, and his idea about
Americans was that they should be engineers
or mechanics. He hated them when they
presumed to be anything else.

While they sat at dinner Mainhall acquainted
Bartley with the fortunes of his old friends
in London, and as they left the table he
proposed that they should go to see Hugh
MacConnell's new comedy, "Bog Lights."

"It's really quite the best thing MacConnell's done,"
he explained as they got into a hansom.
"It's tremendously well put on, too.
Florence Merrill and Cyril Henderson.
But Hilda Burgoyne's the hit of the piece.
Hugh's written a delightful part for her,
and she's quite inexpressible. It's been on
only two weeks, and I've been half a dozen times
already. I happen to have MacConnell's box
for tonight or there'd be no chance of our
getting places. There's everything in seeing
Hilda while she's fresh in a part. She's apt to
grow a bit stale after a time. The ones who
have any imagination do."

"Hilda Burgoyne!" Alexander exclaimed mildly.
"Why, I haven't heard of her for--years."

Mainhall laughed. "Then you can't have
heard much at all, my dear Alexander.
It's only lately, since MacConnell and his
set have got hold of her, that she's come up.
Myself, I always knew she had it in her.
If we had one real critic in London--but what
can one expect? Do you know, Alexander,"--
Mainhall looked with perplexity up into the
top of the hansom and rubbed his pink cheek
with his gloved finger,--"do you know, I sometimes
think of taking to criticism seriously myself.
In a way, it would be a sacrifice;
but, dear me, we do need some one."

Just then they drove up to the Duke of York's,
so Alexander did not commit himself,
but followed Mainhall into the theatre.
When they entered the stage-box on the left the
first act was well under way, the scene being
the interior of a cabin in the south of Ireland.
As they sat down, a burst of applause drew
Alexander's attention to the stage. Miss
Burgoyne and her donkey were thrusting their
heads in at the half door. "After all,"
he reflected, "there's small probability of
her recognizing me. She doubtless hasn't thought
of me for years." He felt the enthusiasm of
the house at once, and in a few moments he
was caught up by the current of MacConnell's
irresistible comedy. The audience had
come forewarned, evidently, and whenever
the ragged slip of a donkey-girl ran upon the
stage there was a deep murmur of approbation,
every one smiled and glowed, and Mainhall
hitched his heavy chair a little nearer the
brass railing.

"You see," he murmured in Alexander's ear,
as the curtain fell on the first act,
"one almost never sees a part like that done
without smartness or mawkishness. Of course,
Hilda is Irish,--the Burgoynes have been
stage people for generations,--and she has the
Irish voice. It's delightful to hear it in a
London theatre. That laugh, now, when she
doubles over at the hips--who ever heard it
out of Galway? She saves her hand, too.
She's at her best in the second act. She's
really MacConnell's poetic motif, you see;
makes the whole thing a fairy tale."

The second act opened before Philly
Doyle's underground still, with Peggy and
her battered donkey come in to smuggle a
load of potheen across the bog, and to bring
Philly word of what was doing in the world
without, and of what was happening along
the roadsides and ditches with the first gleam
of fine weather. Alexander, annoyed by
Mainhall's sighs and exclamations, watched
her with keen, half-skeptical interest. As
Mainhall had said, she was the second act;
the plot and feeling alike depended upon her
lightness of foot, her lightness of touch, upon
the shrewdness and deft fancifulness that
played alternately, and sometimes together,
in her mirthful brown eyes. When she began
to dance, by way of showing the gossoons what
she had seen in the fairy rings at night,
the house broke into a prolonged uproar.
After her dance she withdrew from the dialogue
and retreated to the ditch wall back of Philly's
burrow, where she sat singing "The Rising of the Moon"
and making a wreath of primroses for her donkey.

When the act was over Alexander and Mainhall
strolled out into the corridor. They met
a good many acquaintances; Mainhall, indeed,
knew almost every one, and he babbled on incontinently,
screwing his small head about over his high collar.
Presently he hailed a tall, bearded man, grim-browed
and rather battered-looking, who had his opera cloak
on his arm and his hat in his hand, and who seemed
to be on the point of leaving the theatre.

"MacConnell, let me introduce Mr. Bartley
Alexander. I say! It's going famously
to-night, Mac. And what an audience!
You'll never do anything like this again, mark me.
A man writes to the top of his bent only once."

The playwright gave Mainhall a curious look
out of his deep-set faded eyes and made a
wry face. "And have I done anything so
fool as that, now?" he asked.

"That's what I was saying," Mainhall lounged
a little nearer and dropped into a tone
even more conspicuously confidential.
"And you'll never bring Hilda out like
this again. Dear me, Mac, the girl
couldn't possibly be better, you know."

MacConnell grunted. "She'll do well
enough if she keeps her pace and doesn't
go off on us in the middle of the season,
as she's more than like to do."

He nodded curtly and made for the door,
dodging acquaintances as he went.

"Poor old Hugh," Mainhall murmured.
"He's hit terribly hard. He's been wanting
to marry Hilda these three years and more.
She doesn't take up with anybody, you know.
Irene Burgoyne, one of her family, told me in
confidence that there was a romance somewhere
back in the beginning. One of your countrymen,
Alexander, by the way; an American student
whom she met in Paris, I believe. I dare say
it's quite true that there's never been any one else."
Mainhall vouched for her constancy with a loftiness
that made Alexander smile, even while a kind of
rapid excitement was tingling through him.
Blinking up at the lights, Mainhall added
in his luxurious, worldly way: "She's an elegant
little person, and quite capable of an extravagant
bit of sentiment like that. Here comes
Sir Harry Towne. He's another who's
awfully keen about her. Let me introduce you.
Sir Harry Towne, Mr. Bartley Alexander,
the American engineer."

Sir Harry Towne bowed and said that he had
met Mr. Alexander and his wife in Tokyo.

Mainhall cut in impatiently.

"I say, Sir Harry, the little girl's
going famously to-night, isn't she?"

Sir Harry wrinkled his brows judiciously.
"Do you know, I thought the dance a bit
conscious to-night, for the first time. The fact
is, she's feeling rather seedy, poor child.
Westmere and I were back after the first act,
and we thought she seemed quite uncertain of
herself. A little attack of nerves, possibly."

He bowed as the warning bell rang, and
Mainhall whispered: "You know Lord Westmere,
of course,--the stooped man with the
long gray mustache, talking to Lady Dowle.
Lady Westmere is very fond of Hilda."

When they reached their box the house
was darkened and the orchestra was playing
"The Cloak of Old Gaul." In a moment
Peggy was on the stage again, and Alexander
applauded vigorously with the rest. He even
leaned forward over the rail a little. For some
reason he felt pleased and flattered by the
enthusiasm of the audience. In the half-light
he looked about at the stalls and boxes and
smiled a little consciously, recalling with
amusement Sir Harry's judicial frown.
He was beginning to feel a keen interest in
the slender, barefoot donkey-girl who slipped
in and out of the play, singing, like some one
winding through a hilly field. He leaned
forward and beamed felicitations as warmly
as Mainhall himself when, at the end of the
play, she came again and again before the
curtain, panting a little and flushed, her eyes
dancing and her eager, nervous little mouth
tremulous with excitement.

When Alexander returned to his hotel--
he shook Mainhall at the door of the theatre--
he had some supper brought up to his room,
and it was late before he went to bed.
He had not thought of Hilda Burgoyne for
years; indeed, he had almost forgotten her.
He had last written to her from Canada,
after he first met Winifred, telling her that
everything was changed with him--that he had
met a woman whom he would marry if he could;
if he could not, then all the more was
everything changed for him. Hilda had never
replied to his letter. He felt guilty and
unhappy about her for a time, but after
Winifred promised to marry him he really forgot
Hilda altogether. When he wrote her that
everything was changed for him, he was telling
the truth. After he met Winifred Pemberton
he seemed to himself like a different man.
One night when he and Winifred were
sitting together on the bridge, he told her
that things had happened while he was studying
abroad that he was sorry for,--one thing in
particular,--and he asked her whether she
thought she ought to know about them.
She considered a moment and then said
"No, I think not, though I am glad you ask me.
You see, one can't be jealous about things
in general; but about particular, definite,
personal things,"--here she had thrown her
hands up to his shoulders with a quick,
impulsive gesture--"oh, about those I should be
very jealous. I should torture myself--I couldn't
help it." After that it was easy to forget,
actually to forget. He wondered to-night,
as he poured his wine, how many times he had
thought of Hilda in the last ten years.
He had been in London more or less,
but he had never happened to hear of her.
"All the same," he lifted his glass, "here's to you,
little Hilda. You've made things come your way,
and I never thought you'd do it.

"Of course," he reflected, "she always had
that combination of something homely and
sensible, and something utterly wild and daft.
But I never thought she'd do anything.
She hadn't much ambition then, and she was
too fond of trifles. She must care about the
theatre a great deal more than she used to.
Perhaps she has me to thank for something,
after all. Sometimes a little jolt like that
does one good. She was a daft, generous
little thing. I'm glad she's held her own since.
After all, we were awfully young. It was youth
and poverty and proximity, and everything
was young and kindly. I shouldn't wonder
if she could laugh about it with me now.
I shouldn't wonder-- But they've probably
spoiled her, so that she'd be tiresome if
one met her again."

Bartley smiled and yawned and went to bed.

 

 

CHAPTER III

 

The next evening Alexander dined alone at
a club, and at about nine o'clock he dropped in
at the Duke of York's. The house was sold
out and he stood through the second act.
When he returned to his hotel he examined
the new directory, and found Miss Burgoyne's
address still given as off Bedford Square,
though at a new number. He remembered that,
in so far as she had been brought up at all,
she had been brought up in Bloomsbury.
Her father and mother played in the
provinces most of the year, and she was left a
great deal in the care of an old aunt who was
crippled by rheumatism and who had had to
leave the stage altogether. In the days when
Alexander knew her, Hilda always managed to have
a lodging of some sort about Bedford Square,
because she clung tenaciously to such
scraps and shreds of memories as were
connected with it. The mummy room of the
British Museum had been one of the chief
delights of her childhood. That forbidding
pile was the goal of her truant fancy, and she
was sometimes taken there for a treat, as
other children are taken to the theatre. It was
long since Alexander had thought of any of
these things, but now they came back to him
quite fresh, and had a significance they did
not have when they were first told him in his
restless twenties. So she was still in the
old neighborhood, near Bedford Square.
The new number probably meant increased
prosperity. He hoped so. He would like to know
that she was snugly settled. He looked at his
watch. It was a quarter past ten; she would
not be home for a good two hours yet, and he
might as well walk over and have a look at
the place. He remembered the shortest way.

It was a warm, smoky evening, and there
was a grimy moon. He went through Covent
Garden to Oxford Street, and as he turned
into Museum Street he walked more slowly,
smiling at his own nervousness as he
approached the sullen gray mass at the end.
He had not been inside the Museum, actually,
since he and Hilda used to meet there;
sometimes to set out for gay adventures at
Twickenham or Richmond, sometimes to linger
about the place for a while and to ponder by
Lord Elgin's marbles upon the lastingness of
some things, or, in the mummy room, upon
the awful brevity of others. Since then
Bartley had always thought of the British
Museum as the ultimate repository of mortality,
where all the dead things in the world were
assembled to make one's hour of youth the
more precious. One trembled lest before he
got out it might somehow escape him, lest he
might drop the glass from over-eagerness and
see it shivered on the stone floor at his feet.
How one hid his youth under his coat and
hugged it! And how good it was to turn
one's back upon all that vaulted cold, to take
Hilda's arm and hurry out of the great door
and down the steps into the sunlight among
the pigeons--to know that the warm and vital
thing within him was still there and had not
been snatched away to flush Caesar's lean
cheek or to feed the veins of some bearded
Assyrian king. They in their day had carried
the flaming liquor, but to-day was his! So the
song used to run in his head those summer
mornings a dozen years ago. Alexander
walked by the place very quietly, as if
he were afraid of waking some one.

He crossed Bedford Square and found the
number he was looking for. The house,
a comfortable, well-kept place enough,
was dark except for the four front windows
on the second floor, where a low, even light was
burning behind the white muslin sash curtains.
Outside there were window boxes, painted white
and full of flowers. Bartley was making
a third round of the Square when he heard the
far-flung hoof-beats of a hansom-cab horse,
driven rapidly. He looked at his watch,
and was astonished to find that it was
a few minutes after twelve. He turned and
walked back along the iron railing as the
cab came up to Hilda's number and stopped.
The hansom must have been one that she employed
regularly, for she did not stop to pay the driver.
She stepped out quickly and lightly.
He heard her cheerful "Good-night, cabby,"
as she ran up the steps and opened the
door with a latchkey. In a few moments the
lights flared up brightly behind the white
curtains, and as he walked away he heard a
window raised. But he had gone too far to
look up without turning round. He went back
to his hotel, feeling that he had had a good
evening, and he slept well.

For the next few days Alexander was very busy.
He took a desk in the office of a Scotch
engineering firm on Henrietta Street,
and was at work almost constantly.
He avoided the clubs and usually dined alone
at his hotel. One afternoon, after he had tea,
he started for a walk down the Embankment
toward Westminster, intending to end his
stroll at Bedford Square and to ask whether
Miss Burgoyne would let him take her to the
theatre. But he did not go so far. When he
reached the Abbey, he turned back and
crossed Westminster Bridge and sat down to
watch the trails of smoke behind the Houses
of Parliament catch fire with the sunset.
The slender towers were washed by a rain of
golden light and licked by little flickering
flames; Somerset House and the bleached
gray pinnacles about Whitehall were floated
in a luminous haze. The yellow light poured
through the trees and the leaves seemed to
burn with soft fires. There was a smell of
acacias in the air everywhere, and the
laburnums were dripping gold over the walls
of the gardens. It was a sweet, lonely kind
of summer evening. Remembering Hilda as she
used to be, was doubtless more satisfactory
than seeing her as she must be now--and,
after all, Alexander asked himself, what was
it but his own young years that he was
remembering?

He crossed back to Westminster, went up
to the Temple, and sat down to smoke in
the Middle Temple gardens, listening to the
thin voice of the fountain and smelling the
spice of the sycamores that came out heavily
in the damp evening air. He thought, as he
sat there, about a great many things: about
his own youth and Hilda's; above all, he
thought of how glorious it had been, and how
quickly it had passed; and, when it had
passed, how little worth while anything was.
None of the things he had gained in the least
compensated. In the last six years his
reputation had become, as the saying is, popular.
Four years ago he had been called to Japan to
deliver, at the Emperor's request, a course of
lectures at the Imperial University, and had
instituted reforms throughout the islands, not
only in the practice of bridge-building but in
drainage and road-making. On his return he
had undertaken the bridge at Moorlock, in
Canada, the most important piece of bridge-
building going on in the world,--a test,
indeed, of how far the latest practice in bridge
structure could be carried. It was a spectacular
undertaking by reason of its very size, and
Bartley realized that, whatever else he might
do, he would probably always be known as
the engineer who designed the great Moorlock
Bridge, the longest cantilever in existence.
Yet it was to him the least satisfactory thing
he had ever done. He was cramped in every
way by a niggardly commission, and was
using lighter structural material than he
thought proper. He had vexations enough,
too, with his work at home. He had several
bridges under way in the United States, and
they were always being held up by strikes and
delays resulting from a general industrial unrest.

Though Alexander often told himself he
had never put more into his work than he had
done in the last few years, he had to admit
that he had never got so little out of it.
He was paying for success, too, in the demands
made on his time by boards of civic enterprise
and committees of public welfare. The obligations
imposed by his wife's fortune and position
were sometimes distracting to a man who
followed his profession, and he was
expected to be interested in a great many
worthy endeavors on her account as well as
on his own. His existence was becoming a
network of great and little details. He had
expected that success would bring him
freedom and power; but it had brought only
power that was in itself another kind of
restraint. He had always meant to keep his
personal liberty at all costs, as old MacKeller,
his first chief, had done, and not, like so
many American engineers, to become a part
of a professional movement, a cautious board
member, a Nestor de pontibus. He happened
to be engaged in work of public utility, but
he was not willing to become what is called a
public man. He found himself living exactly
the kind of life he had determined to escape.
What, he asked himself, did he want with
these genial honors and substantial comforts?
Hardships and difficulties he had carried
lightly; overwork had not exhausted him; but this
dead calm of middle life which confronted him,--
of that he was afraid. He was not ready for it.
It was like being buried alive. In his youth
he would not have believed such a thing possible.
The one thing he had really wanted all his life
was to be free; and there was still something
unconquered in him, something besides the
strong work-horse that his profession had made of him.
He felt rich to-night in the possession of that
unstultified survival; in the light of his
experience, it was more precious than honors
or achievement. In all those busy, successful
years there had been nothing so good as this
hour of wild light-heartedness. This feeling
was the only happiness that was real to him,
and such hours were the only ones in which
he could feel his own continuous identity--
feel the boy he had been in the rough days of
the old West, feel the youth who had worked
his way across the ocean on a cattle-ship and
gone to study in Paris without a dollar in his
pocket. The man who sat in his offices in
Boston was only a powerful machine. Under
the activities of that machine the person who,
in such moments as this, he felt to be himself,
was fading and dying. He remembered how,
when he was a little boy and his father
called him in the morning, he used to leap
from his bed into the full consciousness of
himself. That consciousness was Life itself.
Whatever took its place, action, reflection,
the power of concentrated thought, were only
functions of a mechanism useful to society;
things that could be bought in the market.
There was only one thing that had an
absolute value for each individual, and it was
just that original impulse, that internal heat,
that feeling of one's self in one's own breast.

When Alexander walked back to his hotel,
the red and green lights were blinking
along the docks on the farther shore,
and the soft white stars were shining
in the wide sky above the river.

The next night, and the next, Alexander
repeated this same foolish performance.
It was always Miss Burgoyne whom he started
out to find, and he got no farther than the
Temple gardens and the Embankment. It was
a pleasant kind of loneliness. To a man who
was so little given to reflection, whose dreams
always took the form of definite ideas,
reaching into the future, there was a seductive
excitement in renewing old experiences in
imagination. He started out upon these walks
half guiltily, with a curious longing and
expectancy which were wholly gratified by
solitude. Solitude, but not solitariness;
for he walked shoulder to shoulder with a
shadowy companion--not little Hilda Burgoyne,
by any means, but some one vastly dearer to him
than she had ever been--his own young self,
the youth who had waited for him upon the
steps of the British Museum that night, and
who, though he had tried to pass so quietly,
had known him and come down and linked
an arm in his.

It was not until long afterward that
Alexander learned that for him this youth
was the most dangerous of companions.

 

One Sunday evening, at Lady Walford's,
Alexander did at last meet Hilda Burgoyne.
Mainhall had told him that she would probably
be there. He looked about for her rather
nervously, and finally found her at the farther
end of the large drawing-room, the centre of
a circle of men, young and old. She was
apparently telling them a story. They were
all laughing and bending toward her. When
she saw Alexander, she rose quickly and put
out her hand. The other men drew back a
little to let him approach.

"Mr. Alexander! I am delighted. Have you been
in London long?"

Bartley bowed, somewhat laboriously,
over her hand. "Long enough to have seen
you more than once. How fine it all is!"

She laughed as if she were pleased. "I'm glad
you think so. I like it. Won't you join us here?"

"Miss Burgoyne was just telling us about
a donkey-boy she had in Galway last summer,"
Sir Harry Towne explained as the circle
closed up again. Lord Westmere stroked
his long white mustache with his bloodless
hand and looked at Alexander blankly.
Hilda was a good story-teller. She was
sitting on the edge of her chair, as if she
had alighted there for a moment only.
Her primrose satin gown seemed like a soft sheath
for her slender, supple figure, and its delicate
color suited her white Irish skin and brown
hair. Whatever she wore, people felt the
charm of her active, girlish body with its
slender hips and quick, eager shoulders.
Alexander heard little of the story, but he
watched Hilda intently. She must certainly,
he reflected, be thirty, and he was honestly
delighted to see that the years had treated her
so indulgently. If her face had changed at all,
it was in a slight hardening of the mouth--
still eager enough to be very disconcerting
at times, he felt--and in an added air of self-
possession and self-reliance. She carried her
head, too, a little more resolutely.

When the story was finished, Miss Burgoyne
turned pointedly to Alexander, and the
other men drifted away.

"I thought I saw you in MacConnell's box
with Mainhall one evening, but I supposed
you had left town before this."

She looked at him frankly and cordially,
as if he were indeed merely an old friend
whom she was glad to meet again.

"No, I've been mooning about here."

Hilda laughed gayly. "Mooning! I see
you mooning! You must be the busiest man
in the world. Time and success have done
well by you, you know. You're handsomer
than ever and you've gained a grand manner."

Alexander blushed and bowed. "Time and
success have been good friends to both of us.
Aren't you tremendously pleased with yourself?"

She laughed again and shrugged her shoulders.
"Oh, so-so. But I want to hear about you.
Several years ago I read such a lot in the
papers about the wonderful things you did
in Japan, and how the Emperor decorated you.
What was it, Commander of the Order of
the Rising Sun? That sounds like `The
Mikado.' And what about your new bridge--
in Canada, isn't it, and it's to be the longest
one in the world and has some queer name I
can't remember."

Bartley shook his head and smiled drolly.
"Since when have you been interested in
bridges? Or have you learned to be interested
in everything? And is that a part of success?"

"Why, how absurd! As if I were not
always interested!" Hilda exclaimed.

"Well, I think we won't talk about bridges here,
at any rate." Bartley looked down at the toe
of her yellow slipper which was tapping the rug
impatiently under the hem of her gown.
"But I wonder whether you'd think me impertinent
if I asked you to let me come to see you sometime
and tell you about them?"

"Why should I? Ever so many people
come on Sunday afternoons."

"I know. Mainhall offered to take me.
But you must know that I've been in London
several times within the last few years, and
you might very well think that just now is a
rather inopportune time--"

She cut him short. "Nonsense. One of the
pleasantest things about success is that it
makes people want to look one up, if that's
what you mean. I'm like every one else--
more agreeable to meet when things are going
well with me. Don't you suppose it gives me
any pleasure to do something that people like?"

"Does it? Oh, how fine it all is, your
coming on like this! But I didn't want you to
think it was because of that I wanted to see you."
He spoke very seriously and looked down at the floor.

Hilda studied him in wide-eyed astonishment
for a moment, and then broke into a low,
amused laugh. "My dear Mr. Alexander,
you have strange delicacies. If you please,
that is exactly why you wish to see me.
We understand that, do we not?"

Bartley looked ruffled and turned the seal
ring on his little finger about awkwardly.

Hilda leaned back in her chair, watching
him indulgently out of her shrewd eyes.
"Come, don't be angry, but don't try to pose
for me, or to be anything but what you are.
If you care to come, it's yourself I'll be glad
to see, and you thinking well of yourself.
Don't try to wear a cloak of humility; it
doesn't become you. Stalk in as you are and
don't make excuses. I'm not accustomed to
inquiring into the motives of my guests. That
would hardly be safe, even for Lady Walford,
in a great house like this."

"Sunday afternoon, then," said Alexander,
as she rose to join her hostess.
"How early may I come?"

She gave him her hand and flushed and
laughed. He bent over it a little stiffly.
She went away on Lady Walford's arm, and as he
stood watching her yellow train glide down
the long floor he looked rather sullen. He felt
that he had not come out of it very brilliantly.

 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

On Sunday afternoon Alexander remembered
Miss Burgoyne's invitation and called at her
apartment. He found it a delightful little
place and he met charming people there.
Hilda lived alone, attended by a very pretty
and competent French servant who answered
the door and brought in the tea. Alexander
arrived early, and some twenty-odd people
dropped in during the course of the afternoon.
Hugh MacConnell came with his sister,
and stood about, managing his tea-cup
awkwardly and watching every one out of his
deep-set, faded eyes. He seemed to have
made a resolute effort at tidiness of attire,
and his sister, a robust, florid woman with a
splendid joviality about her, kept eyeing his
freshly creased clothes apprehensively. It was
not very long, indeed, before his coat hung
with a discouraged sag from his gaunt shoulders
and his hair and beard were rumpled as
if he had been out in a gale. His dry humor
went under a cloud of absent-minded kindliness
which, Mainhall explained, always overtook
him here. He was never so witty or so
sharp here as elsewhere, and Alexander
thought he behaved as if he were an elderly
relative come in to a young girl's party.

The editor of a monthly review came
with his wife, and Lady Kildare, the Irish
philanthropist, brought her young nephew,
Robert Owen, who had come up from Oxford,
and who was visibly excited and gratified
by his first introduction to Miss Burgoyne.
Hilda was very nice to him, and he sat on
the edge of his chair, flushed with his
conversational efforts and moving his chin
about nervously over his high collar.
Sarah Frost, the novelist, came with her husband,
a very genial and placid old scholar who had
become slightly deranged upon the subject of
the fourth dimension. On other matters he
was perfectly rational and he was easy and
pleasing in conversation. He looked very
much like Agassiz, and his wife, in her
old-fashioned black silk dress, overskirted and
tight-sleeved, reminded Alexander of the early
pictures of Mrs. Browning. Hilda seemed
particularly fond of this quaint couple,
and Bartley himself was so pleased with their
mild and thoughtful converse that he took his
leave when they did, and walked with them
over to Oxford Street, where they waited for
their 'bus. They asked him to come to see
them in Chelsea, and they spoke very tenderly
of Hilda. "She's a dear, unworldly little
thing," said the philosopher absently;
"more like the stage people of my young days--
folk ofsimple manners. There aren't many such left.
American tours have spoiled them, I'm afraid.
They have all grown very smart. Lamb wouldn't
care a great deal about many of them, I fancy."

Alexander went back to Bedford Square
a second Sunday afternoon. He had a long
talk with MacConnell, but he got no word with
Hilda alone, and he left in a discontented
state of mind. For the rest of the week
he was nervous and unsettled, and kept
rushing his work as if he were preparing for
immediate departure. On Thursday afternoon
he cut short a committee meeting, jumped into
a hansom, and drove to Bedford Square.
He sent up his card, but it came back to
him with a message scribbled across the front.

 

So sorry I can't see you. Will you come and
dine with me Sunday evening at half-past seven?

H.B.

 

When Bartley arrived at Bedford Square on
Sunday evening, Marie, the pretty little
French girl, met him at the door and conducted
him upstairs. Hilda was writing in her
living-room, under the light of a tall desk lamp.
Bartley recognized the primrose satin gown
she had worn that first evening at Lady Walford's.

"I'm so pleased that you think me worth
that yellow dress, you know," he said, taking
her hand and looking her over admiringly
from the toes of her canary slippers to her
smoothly parted brown hair. "Yes, it's very,
very pretty. Every one at Lady Walford's was
looking at it."

Hilda curtsied. "Is that why you think it
pretty? I've no need for fine clothes in Mac's
play this time, so I can afford a few duddies
for myself. It's owing to that same chance,
by the way, that I am able to ask you to dinner.
I don't need Marie to dress me this season,
so she keeps house for me, and my little Galway
girl has gone home for a visit. I should never
have asked you if Molly had been here,
for I remember you don't like English cookery."

Alexander walked about the room, looking at everything.

"I haven't had a chance yet to tell you
what a jolly little place I think this is.
Where did you get those etchings?
They're quite unusual, aren't they?"

"Lady Westmere sent them to me from Rome
last Christmas. She is very much interested
in the American artist who did them.
They are all sketches made about the Villa
d'Este, you see. He painted that group of
cypresses for the Salon, and it was bought
for the Luxembourg."

Alexander walked over to the bookcases.
"It's the air of the whole place here that
I like. You haven't got anything that doesn't
belong. Seems to me it looks particularly
well to-night. And you have so many flowers.
I like these little yellow irises."

"Rooms always look better by lamplight
--in London, at least. Though Marie is clean
--really clean, as the French are. Why do
you look at the flowers so critically? Marie
got them all fresh in Covent Garden market
yesterday morning."

"I'm glad," said Alexander simply.
"I can't tell you how glad I am to have
you so pretty and comfortable here, and to hear
every one saying such nice things about you.
You've got awfully nice friends," he added
humbly, picking up a little jade elephant from
her desk. "Those fellows are all very loyal,
even Mainhall. They don't talk of any one
else as they do of you."

Hilda sat down on the couch and said
seriously: "I've a neat little sum in the bank,
too, now, and I own a mite of a hut in
Galway. It's not worth much, but I love it.
I've managed to save something every year,
and that with helping my three sisters now
and then, and tiding poor Cousin Mike over
bad seasons. He's that gifted, you know,
but he will drink and loses more good
engagements than other fellows ever get.
And I've traveled a bit, too."

Marie opened the door and smilingly
announced that dinner was served.

"My dining-room," Hilda explained, as
she led the way, "is the tiniest place
you have ever seen."

It was a tiny room, hung all round with
French prints, above which ran a shelf full
of china. Hilda saw Alexander look up at it.

"It's not particularly rare," she said,
"but some of it was my mother's. Heaven knows
how she managed to keep it whole, through all
our wanderings, or in what baskets and bundles
and theatre trunks it hasn't been stowed away.
We always had our tea out of those blue cups
when I was a little girl, sometimes in the
queerest lodgings, and sometimes on a trunk
at the theatre--queer theatres, for that matter."

It was a wonderful little dinner. There was
watercress soup, and sole, and a delightful
omelette stuffed with mushrooms and truffles,
and two small rare ducklings, and artichokes,
and a dry yellow Rhone wine of which Bartley
had always been very fond. He drank it
appreciatively and remarked that there was
still no other he liked so well.

"I have some champagne for you, too. I
don't drink it myself, but I like to see it
behave when it's poured. There is nothing
else that looks so jolly."

"Thank you. But I don't like it so well as
this." Bartley held the yellow wine against
the light and squinted into it as he turned the
glass slowly about. "You have traveled, you
say. Have you been in Paris much these late
years?"

Hilda lowered one of the candle-shades
carefully. "Oh, yes, I go over to Paris often.
There are few changes in the old Quarter.
Dear old Madame Anger is dead--but perhaps
you don't remember her?"

"Don't I, though! I'm so sorry to hear it.
How did her son turn out? I remember how
she saved and scraped for him, and how he
always lay abed till ten o'clock. He was the
laziest fellow at the Beaux Arts; and that's
saying a good deal."

"Well, he is still clever and lazy. They
say he is a good architect when he will work.
He's a big, handsome creature, and he hates
Americans as much as ever. But Angel--do
you remember Angel?"

"Perfectly. Did she ever get back to
Brittany and her bains de mer?"

"Ah, no. Poor Angel! She got tired of
cooking and scouring the coppers in Madame
Anger's little kitchen, so she ran away with a
soldier, and then with another soldier.
Too bad! She still lives about the Quarter,
and, though there is always a soldat, she has
become a blanchisseuse de fin. She did my blouses
beautifully the last time I was there, and was
so delighted to see me again. I gave her all
my old clothes, even my old hats, though she
always wears her Breton headdress. Her hair
is still like flax, and her blue eyes are just like
a baby's, and she has the same three freckles
on her little nose, and talks about going back
to her bains de mer."

Bartley looked at Hilda across the yellow
light of the candles and broke into a low,
happy laugh. "How jolly it was being young,
Hilda! Do you remember that first walk we
took together in Paris? We walked down to
the Place Saint-Michel to buy some lilacs.
Do you remember how sweet they smelled?"

"Indeed I do. Come, we'll have our
coffee in the other room, and you can smoke."

Hilda rose quickly, as if she wished to
change the drift of their talk, but Bartley
found it pleasant to continue it.

"What a warm, soft spring evening that
was," he went on, as they sat down in the
study with the coffee on a little table between
them; "and the sky, over the bridges, was just
the color of the lilacs. We walked on down
by the river, didn't we?"

Hilda laughed and looked at him questioningly.
He saw a gleam in her eyes that he remembered
even better than the episode he was recalling.

"I think we did," she answered demurely.
"It was on the Quai we met that woman
who was crying so bitterly. I gave her a spray
of lilac, I remember, and you gave her a
franc. I was frightened at your prodigality."

"I expect it was the last franc I had.
What a strong brown face she had, and very
tragic. She looked at us with such despair and
longing, out from under her black shawl.
What she wanted from us was neither our
flowers nor our francs, but just our youth.
I remember it touched me so. I would have
given her some of mine off my back, if I could.
I had enough and to spare then," Bartley mused,
and looked thoughtfully at his cigar.

They were both remembering what the
woman had said when she took the money:
"God give you a happy love!" It was not in
the ingratiating tone of the habitual beggar:
it had come out of the depths of the poor creature's
sorrow, vibrating with pity for their youth
and despair at the terribleness of human life;
it had the anguish of a voice of prophecy.
Until she spoke, Bartley had not realized
that he was in love. The strange woman,
and her passionate sentence that rang
out so sharply, had frightened them both.
They went home sadly with the lilacs, back
to the Rue Saint-Jacques, walking very slowly,
arm in arm. When they reached the house
where Hilda lodged, Bartley went across the
court with her, and up the dark old stairs to
the third landing; and there he had kissed her
for the first time. He had shut his eyes to
give him the courage, he remembered, and
she had trembled so--

Bartley started when Hilda rang the little
bell beside her. "Dear me, why did you do
that? I had quite forgotten--I was back there.
It was very jolly," he murmured lazily, as
Marie came in to take away the coffee.

Hilda laughed and went over to the
piano. "Well, we are neither of us twenty
now, you know. Have I told you about my
new play? Mac is writing one; really for me
this time. You see, I'm coming on."

"I've seen nothing else. What kind of a
part is it? Shall you wear yellow gowns?
I hope so."

He was looking at her round slender figure,
as she stood by the piano, turning over a
pile of music, and he felt the energy in every
line of it.

"No, it isn't a dress-up part. He doesn't
seem to fancy me in fine feathers. He says
I ought to be minding the pigs at home, and I
suppose I ought. But he's given me some
good Irish songs. Listen."

She sat down at the piano and sang.
When she finished, Alexander shook himself
out of a reverie.

"Sing `The Harp That Once,' Hilda.
You used to sing it so well."

"Nonsense. Of course I can't really sing,
except the way my mother and grandmother
did before me. Most actresses nowadays
learn to sing properly, so I tried a master;
but he confused me, just!"

Alexander laughed. "All the same, sing it, Hilda."

Hilda started up from the stool and
moved restlessly toward the window.
"It's really too warm in this room to sing.
Don't you feel it?"

Alexander went over and opened the
window for her. "Aren't you afraid to let the
wind low like that on your neck? Can't I get
a scarf or something?"

"Ask a theatre lady if she's afraid of drafts!"
Hilda laughed. "But perhaps, as I'm so warm--
give me your handkerchief. There, just in front."
He slipped the corners carefully under her shoulder-straps.
"There, that will do. It looks like a bib."
She pushed his hand away quickly and stood
looking out into the deserted square.
"Isn't London a tomb on Sunday night?"

Alexander caught the agitation in her voice.
He stood a little behind her, and tried to
steady himself as he said: "It's soft and misty.
See how white the stars are."

For a long time neither Hilda nor Bartley spoke.
They stood close together, looking out
into the wan, watery sky, breathing always
more quickly and lightly, and it seemed as if
all the clocks in the world had stopped.
Suddenly he moved the clenched hand he held
behind him and dropped it violently at
his side. He felt a tremor run through
the slender yellow figure in front of him.

She caught his handkerchief from her
throat and thrust it at him without turning
round. "Here, take it. You must go now,
Bartley. Good-night."

Bartley leaned over her shoulder, without
touching her, and whispered in her ear:
"You are giving me a chance?"

"Yes. Take it and go. This isn't fair,
you know. Good-night."

Alexander unclenched the two hands at
his sides. With one he threw down the
window and with the other--still standing
behind her--he drew her back against him.

She uttered a little cry, threw her arms
over her head, and drew his face down to hers.
"Are you going to let me love you a little, Bartley?"
she whispered.

 

 

CHAPTER V

 

It was the afternoon of the day before Christmas.
Mrs. Alexander had been driving about all the morning,
leaving presents at the houses of her friends.
She lunched alone, and as she rose from the table
she spoke to the butler: "Thomas, I am going down
to the kitchen now to see Norah. In half an hour
you are to bring the greens up from the cellar
and put them in the library. Mr. Alexander
will be home at three to hang them himself.
Don't forget the stepladder, and plenty of tacks
and string. You may bring the azaleas upstairs.
Take the white one to Mr. Alexander's study.
Put the two pink ones in this room,
and the red one in the drawing-room."

A little before three o'clock Mrs. Alexander
went into the library to see that everything
was ready. She pulled the window shades high,
for the weather was dark and stormy,
and there was little light, even in the streets.
A foot of snow had fallen during the morning,
and the wide space over the river was
thick with flying flakes that fell and
wreathed the masses of floating ice.
Winifred was standing by the window when
she heard the front door open. She hurried
to the hall as Alexander came stamping in,
covered with snow. He kissed her joyfully
and brushed away the snow that fell on her hair.

"I wish I had asked you to meet me at
the office and walk home with me, Winifred.
The Common is beautiful. The boys have swept
the snow off the pond and are skating furiously.
Did the cyclamens come?"

"An hour ago. What splendid ones!
But aren't you frightfully extravagant?"

"Not for Christmas-time. I'll go upstairs and
change my coat. I shall be down in a moment.
Tell Thomas to get everything ready."

When Alexander reappeared, he took his wife's
arm and went with her into the library.
"When did the azaleas get here?
Thomas has got the white one in my room."

"I told him to put it there."

"But, I say, it's much the finest of the lot!"

"That's why I had it put there. There is
too much color in that room for a red one,
you know."

Bartley began to sort the greens. "It looks
very splendid there, but I feel piggish
to have it. However, we really spend more
time there than anywhere else in the house.
Will you hand me the holly?"

He climbed up the stepladder, which creaked
under his weight, and began to twist the
tough stems of the holly into the frame-
work of the chandelier.

"I forgot to tell you that I had a letter
from Wilson, this morning, explaining his
telegram. He is coming on because an old
uncle up in Vermont has conveniently died
and left Wilson a little money--something
like ten thousand. He's coming on to settle up
the estate. Won't it be jolly to have him?"

"And how fine that he's come into a little
money. I can see him posting down State
Street to the steamship offices. He will get
a good many trips out of that ten thousand.
What can have detained him? I expected him
here for luncheon."

"Those trains from Albany are always
late. He'll be along sometime this afternoon.
And now, don't you want to go upstairs and
lie down for an hour? You've had a busy morning
and I don't want you to be tired to-night."

After his wife went upstairs Alexander
worked energetically at the greens for a few
moments. Then, as he was cutting off a
length of string, he sighed suddenly and sat
down, staring out of the window at the snow.
The animation died out of his face, but in his
eyes there was a restless light, a look of
apprehension and suspense. He kept clasping
and unclasping his big hands as if he were
trying to realize something. The clock ticked
through the minutes of a half-hour and the
afternoon outside began to thicken and darken
turbidly. Alexander, since he first sat down,
had not changed his position. He leaned
forward, his hands between his knees, scarcely
breathing, as if he were holding himself
away from his surroundings, from the room,
and from the very chair in which he sat, from
everything except the wild eddies of snow
above the river on which his eyes were fixed
with feverish intentness, as if he were trying
to project himself thither. When at last
Lucius Wilson was announced, Alexander
sprang eagerly to his feet and hurried
to meet his old instructor.

"Hello, Wilson. What luck! Come into
the library. We are to have a lot of people to
dinner to-night, and Winifred's lying down.
You will excuse her, won't you? And now
what about yourself? Sit down and tell me
everything."

"I think I'd rather move about, if you don't mind.
I've been sitting in the train for a week,
it seems to me." Wilson stood before
the fire with his hands behind him and
looked about the room. "You HAVE been busy.
Bartley, if I'd had my choice of all possible
places in which to spend Christmas, your house
would certainly be the place I'd have chosen.
Happy people do a great deal for their friends.
A house like this throws its warmth out.
I felt it distinctly as I was coming through
the Berkshires. I could scarcely believe that
I was to see Mrs. Bartley again so soon."

"Thank you, Wilson. She'll be as glad to
see you. Shall we have tea now? I'll ring
for Thomas to clear away this litter.
Winifred says I always wreck the house when
I try to do anything. Do you know, I am quite tired.
Looks as if I were not used to work, doesn't it?"
Alexander laughed and dropped into a chair.
"You know, I'm sailing the day after New Year's."

"Again? Why, you've been over twice
since I was here in the spring, haven't you?"

"Oh, I was in London about ten days in
the summer. Went to escape the hot weather
more than anything else. I shan't be gone
more than a month this time. Winifred and I
have been up in Canada for most of the
autumn. That Moorlock Bridge is on my back
all the time. I never had so much trouble
with a job before." Alexander moved about
restlessly and fell to poking the fire.

"Haven't I seen in the papers that there
is some trouble about a tidewater bridge of
yours in New Jersey?"

"Oh, that doesn't amount to anything.
It's held up by a steel strike. A bother,
of course, but the sort of thing one is always
having to put up with. But the Moorlock
Bridge is a continual anxiety. You see,
the truth is, we are having to build pretty well to
the strain limit up there. They've crowded
me too much on the cost. It's all very well
if everything goes well, but these estimates have
never been used for anything of such length
before. However, there's nothing to be done.
They hold me to the scale I've used in shorter
bridges. The last thing a bridge commission
cares about is the kind of bridge you build."

 

When Bartley had finished dressing for
dinner he went into his study, where he
found his wife arranging flowers on his
writing-table.

"These pink roses just came from Mrs. Hastings,"
she said, smiling, "and I am sure she meant them for you."

Bartley looked about with an air of satisfaction
at the greens and the wreaths in the windows.
"Have you a moment, Winifred? I have just now
been thinking that this is our twelfth Christmas.
Can you realize it?" He went up to the table
and took her hands away from the flowers,
drying them with his pocket handkerchief.
"They've been awfully happy ones, all of them,
haven't they?" He took her in his arms and bent back,
lifting her a little and giving her a long kiss.
"You are happy, aren't you Winifred? More than
anything else in the world, I want you to be happy.
Sometimes, of late, I've thought you looked
as if you were troubled."

"No; it's only when you are troubled and
harassed that I feel worried, Bartley.
I wish you always seemed as you do to-night.
But you don't, always." She looked earnestly
and inquiringly into his eyes.

Alexander took her two hands from his
shoulders and swung them back and forth in
his own, laughing his big blond laugh.

"I'm growing older, my dear; that's what
you feel. Now, may I show you something?
I meant to save them until to-morrow, but I
want you to wear them to-night." He took a
little leather box out of his pocket and
opened it. On the white velvet lay two long
pendants of curiously worked gold, set with pearls.
Winifred looked from the box to Bartley and exclaimed:--

"Where did you ever find such gold work, Bartley?"

"It's old Flemish. Isn't it fine?"

"They are the most beautiful things, dear.
But, you know, I never wear earrings."

"Yes, yes, I know. But I want you to
wear them. I have always wanted you to.
So few women can. There must be a good ear,
to begin with, and a nose"--he waved his
hand--"above reproach. Most women look
silly in them. They go only with faces like
yours--very, very proud, and just a little hard."

Winifred laughed as she went over to the
mirror and fitted the delicate springs to the
lobes of her ears. "Oh, Bartley, that old
foolishness about my being hard. It really
hurts my feelings. But I must go down now.
People are beginning to come."

Bartley drew her arm about his neck and went
to the door with her. "Not hard to me, Winifred,"
he whispered. "Never, never hard to me."

Left alone, he paced up and down his
study. He was at home again, among all the
dear familiar things that spoke to him of so
many happy years. His house to-night would
be full of charming people, who liked and
admired him. Yet all the time, underneath his
pleasure and hopefulness and satisfaction, he
was conscious of the vibration of an unnatural
excitement. Amid this light and warmth and
friendliness, he sometimes started and shuddered,
as if some one had stepped on his grave.
Something had broken loose in him of which
he knew nothing except that it was sullen
and powerful, and that it wrung and tortured him.
Sometimes it came upon him softly, in enervating reveries.
Sometimes it battered him like the cannon rolling in the
hold of the vessel. Always, now, it brought with it
a sense of quickened life, of stimulating danger.
To-night it came upon him suddenly, as he was
walking the floor, after his wife left him.
It seemed impossible; he could not believe it.
He glanced entreatingly at the door, as if to
call her back. He heard voices in the hall below,
and knew that he must go down. Going over to the window,
he looked out at the lights across the river.
How could this happen here, in his own house,
among the things he loved? What was it that
reached in out of the darkness and thrilled
him? As he stood there he had a feeling that
he would never escape. He shut his eyes and
pressed his forehead against the cold window
glass, breathing in the chill that came through
it. "That this," he groaned, "that this should
have happened to ME!"

 

On New Year's day a thaw set in, and
during the night torrents of rain fell.
In the morning, the morning of Alexander's
departure for England, the river was streaked
with fog and the rain drove hard against the
windows of the breakfast-room. Alexander had
finished his coffee and was pacing up and
down. His wife sat at the table, watching
him. She was pale and unnaturally calm.
When Thomas brought the letters, Bartley
sank into his chair and ran them over rapidly.

"Here's a note from old Wilson. He's safe
back at his grind, and says he had a bully time.
`The memory of Mrs. Bartley will make my
whole winter fragrant.' Just like him.
He will go on getting measureless satisfaction
out of you by his study fire. What a man he is
for looking on at life!" Bartley sighed,
pushed the letters back impatiently,
and went over to the window. "This is a
nasty sort of day to sail. I've a notion to
call it off. Next week would be time enough."

"That would only mean starting twice.
It wouldn't really help you out at all,"
Mrs. Alexander spoke soothingly. "And you'd
come back late for all your engagements."

Bartley began jingling some loose coins in
his pocket. "I wish things would let me rest.
I'm tired of work, tired of people, tired of
trailing about." He looked out at the
storm-beaten river.

Winifred came up behind him and put a
hand on his shoulder. "That's what you
always say, poor Bartley! At bottom you really
like all these things. Can't you remember that?"

He put his arm about her. "All the same,
life runs smoothly enough with some people,
and with me it's always a messy sort of patchwork.
It's like the song; peace is where I am not.
How can you face it all with so much fortitude?"

She looked at him with that clear gaze
which Wilson had so much admired, which
he had felt implied such high confidence and
fearless pride. "Oh, I faced that long ago,
when you were on your first bridge, up at old
Allway. I knew then that your paths were
not to be paths of peace, but I decided that
I wanted to follow them."

Bartley and his wife stood silent for a
long time; the fire crackled in the grate,
the rain beat insistently upon the windows,
and the sleepy Angora looked up at them curiously.

Presently Thomas made a discreet sound at the door.
"Shall Edward bring down your trunks, sir?"

"Yes; they are ready. Tell him not to forget
the big portfolio on the study table."

Thomas withdrew, closing the door softly.
Bartley turned away from his wife, still
holding her hand. "It never gets any easier,
Winifred."

They both started at the sound of the
carriage on the pavement outside. Alexander
sat down and leaned his head on his hand.
His wife bent over him. "Courage," she said
gayly. Bartley rose and rang the bell. Thomas
brought him his hat and stick and ulster. At
the sight of these, the supercilious Angora
moved restlessly, quitted her red cushion by
the fire, and came up, waving her tail in
vexation at these ominous indications of
change. Alexander stooped to stroke her, and
then plunged into his coat and drew on his
gloves. His wife held his stick, smiling.
Bartley smiled too, and his eyes cleared.
"I'll work like the devil, Winifred, and be home
again before you realize I've gone." He kissed
her quickly several times, hurried out of the
front door into the rain, and waved to her
from the carriage window as the driver was
starting his melancholy, dripping black
horses. Alexander sat with his hands clenched
on his knees. As the carriage turned up the hill,
he lifted one hand and brought it down violently.
"This time"--he spoke aloud and through his set teeth--
"this time I'm going to end it!"

 

On the afternoon of the third day out,
Alexander was sitting well to the stern,
on the windward side where the chairs were
few, his rugs over him and the collar of his
fur-lined coat turned up about his ears.
The weather had so far been dark and raw.
For two hours he had been watching the low,
dirty sky and the beating of the heavy rain
upon the iron-colored sea. There was a long,
oily swell that made exercise laborious.
The decks smelled of damp woolens, and the air
was so humid that drops of moisture kept
gathering upon his hair and mustache.
He seldom moved except to brush them away.
The great open spaces made him passive and
the restlessness of the water quieted him.
He intended during the voyage to decide upon a
course of action, but he held all this away
from him for the present and lay in a blessed
gray oblivion. Deep down in him somewhere
his resolution was weakening and strengthening,
ebbing and flowing. The thing that perturbed
him went on as steadily as his pulse,
but he was almost unconscious of it.
He was submerged in the vast impersonal
grayness about him, and at intervals the sidelong
roll of the boat measured off time like the ticking
of a clock. He felt released from everything
that troubled and perplexed him. It was as if
he had tricked and outwitted torturing memories,
had actually managed to get on board without them.
He thought of nothing at all. If his mind now
and again picked a face out of the grayness,
it was Lucius Wilson's, or the face of an old schoolmate,
forgotten for years; or it was the slim outline of a
favorite greyhound he used to hunt jack-rabbits with
when he was a boy.

Toward six o'clock the wind rose and
tugged at the tarpaulin and brought the swell
higher. After dinner Alexander came back to
the wet deck, piled his damp rugs over him
again, and sat smoking, losing himself in the
obliterating blackness and drowsing in the
rush of the gale. Before he went below a few
bright stars were pricked off between heavily
moving masses of cloud.

The next morning was bright and mild,
with a fresh breeze. Alexander felt the need
of exercise even before he came out of his
cabin. When he went on deck the sky was
blue and blinding, with heavy whiffs of white
cloud, smoke-colored at the edges, moving
rapidly across it. The water was roughish,
a cold, clear indigo breaking into whitecaps.
Bartley walked for two hours, and then
stretched himself in the sun until lunch-time.

In the afternoon he wrote a long letter to
Winifred. Later, as he walked the deck
through a splendid golden sunset, his spirits
rose continually. It was agreeable to come to
himself again after several days of numbness
and torpor. He stayed out until the last tinge
of violet had faded from the water. There was
literally a taste of life on his lips as he sat
down to dinner and ordered a bottle of champagne.
He was late in finishing his dinner,
and drank rather more wine than he had
meant to. When he went above, the wind had
risen and the deck was almost deserted. As he
stepped out of the door a gale lifted his heavy
fur coat about his shoulders. He fought his
way up the deck with keen exhilaration.
The moment he stepped, almost out of breath,
behind the shelter of the stern, the wind was
cut off, and he felt, like a rush of warm air,
a sense of close and intimate companionship.
He started back and tore his coat open as if
something warm were actually clinging to
him beneath it. He hurried up the deck and
went into the saloon parlor, full of women
who had retreated thither from the sharp wind.
He threw himself upon them. He talked delightfully
to the older ones and played accompaniments for the
younger ones until the last sleepy girl had followed
her mother below. Then he went into the smoking-room.
He played bridge until two o'clock in the morning,
and managed to lose a considerable sum of money
without really noticing that he was doing so.

After the break of one fine day the
weather was pretty consistently dull.
When the low sky thinned a trifle, the pale white
spot of a sun did no more than throw a bluish
lustre on the water, giving it the dark brightness
of newly cut lead. Through one after another
of those gray days Alexander drowsed and mused,
drinking in the grateful moisture. But the complete
peace of the first part of the voyage was over.
Sometimes he rose suddenly from his chair as if driven out,
and paced the deck for hours. People noticed
his propensity for walking in rough weather,
and watched him curiously as he did his
rounds. From his abstraction and the determined
set of his jaw, they fancied he must be thinking
about his bridge. Every one had heard of
the new cantilever bridge in Canada.

But Alexander was not thinking about his work.
After the fourth night out, when his will
suddenly softened under his hands, he had been
continually hammering away at himself.
More and more often, when he first wakened
in the morning or when he stepped into a warm
place after being chilled on the deck,
he felt a sudden painful delight at being
nearer another shore. Sometimes when he
was most despondent, when he thought himself
worn out with this struggle, in a flash he
was free of it and leaped into an overwhelming
consciousness of himself. On the instant
he felt that marvelous return of the
impetuousness, the intense excitement,
the increasing expectancy of youth.

 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

The last two days of the voyage Bartley
found almost intolerable. The stop at
Queenstown, the tedious passage up the Mersey,
were things that he noted dimly through his
growing impatience. He had planned to stop
in Liverpool; but, instead, he took the boat
train for London.

Emerging at Euston at half-past three
o'clock in the afternoon, Alexander had his
luggage sent to the Savoy and drove at once
to Bedford Square. When Marie met him at
the door, even her strong sense of the
proprieties could not restrain her surprise
and delight. She blushed and smiled and fumbled
his card in her confusion before she ran
upstairs. Alexander paced up and down the
hallway, buttoning and unbuttoning his overcoat,
until she returned and took him up to Hilda's
living-room. The room was empty when he entered.
A coal fire was crackling in the grate and
the lamps were lit, for it was already
beginning to grow dark outside. Alexander
did not sit down. He stood his ground
over by the windows until Hilda came in.
She called his name on the threshold, but in
her swift flight across the room she felt a
change in him and caught herself up so deftly
that he could not tell just when she did it.
She merely brushed his cheek with her lips and
put a hand lightly and joyously on either shoulder.
"Oh, what a grand thing to happen on a
raw day! I felt it in my bones when I woke
this morning that something splendid was
going to turn up. I thought it might be Sister
Kate or Cousin Mike would be happening along.
I never dreamed it would be you, Bartley.
But why do you let me chatter on like this?
Come over to the fire; you're chilled through."

She pushed him toward the big chair by the fire,
and sat down on a stool at the opposite side
of the hearth, her knees drawn up to her chin,
laughing like a happy little girl.

"When did you come, Bartley, and how
did it happen? You haven't spoken a word."

"I got in about ten minutes ago. I landed
at Liverpool this morning and came down on
the boat train."

Alexander leaned forward and warmed his hands
before the blaze. Hilda watched him with perplexity.

"There's something troubling you, Bartley.
What is it?"

Bartley bent lower over the fire. "It's the
whole thing that troubles me, Hilda. You and I."

Hilda took a quick, soft breath. She
looked at his heavy shoulders and big,
determined head, thrust forward like
a catapult in leash.

"What about us, Bartley?" she asked in a
thin voice.

He locked and unlocked his hands over
the grate and spread his fingers close to the
bluish flame, while the coals crackled and the
clock ticked and a street vendor began to call
under the window. At last Alexander brought
out one word:--

"Everything!"

Hilda was pale by this time, and her
eyes were wide with fright. She looked about
desperately from Bartley to the door, then to
the windows, and back again to Bartley. She
rose uncertainly, touched his hair with her
hand, then sank back upon her stool.

"I'll do anything you wish me to, Bartley,"
she said tremulously. "I can't stand
seeing you miserable."

"I can't live with myself any longer,"
he answered roughly.

He rose and pushed the chair behind him
and began to walk miserably about the room,
seeming to find it too small for him.
He pulled up a window as if the air were heavy.

Hilda watched him from her corner,
trembling and scarcely breathing, dark shadows
growing about her eyes.

"It . . . it hasn't always made you miserable,
has it?" Her eyelids fell and her lips quivered.

"Always. But it's worse now. It's unbearable.
It tortures me every minute."

"But why NOW?" she asked piteously,
wringing her hands.

He ignored her question. "I am not a
man who can live two lives," he went on
feverishly. "Each life spoils the other.
I get nothing but misery out of either.
The world is all there, just as it used to be,
but I can't get at it any more. There is this
deception between me and everything."

At that word "deception," spoken with such
self-contempt, the color flashed back into
Hilda's face as suddenly as if she had been
struck by a whiplash. She bit her lip
and looked down at her hands, which were
clasped tightly in front of her.

"Could you--could you sit down and talk
about it quietly, Bartley, as if I were
a friend, and not some one who had to be defied?"

He dropped back heavily into his chair by
the fire. "It was myself I was defying, Hilda.
I have thought about it until I am worn out."

He looked at her and his haggard face softened.
He put out his hand toward her as he looked away
again into the fire.

She crept across to him, drawing her
stool after her. "When did you first begin to
feel like this, Bartley?"

"After the very first. The first was--
sort of in play, wasn't it?"

Hilda's face quivered, but she whispered:
"Yes, I think it must have been. But why didn't
you tell me when you were here in the summer?"

Alexander groaned. "I meant to, but somehow
I couldn't. We had only a few days,
and your new play was just on, and you were so happy."

"Yes, I was happy, wasn't I?" She pressed
his hand gently in gratitude.
"Weren't you happy then, at all?"

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath,
as if to draw in again the fragrance of
those days. Something of their troubling
sweetness came back to Alexander, too.
He moved uneasily and his chair creaked.

"Yes, I was then. You know. But afterward. . ."

"Yes, yes," she hurried, pulling her hand gently
away from him. Presently it stole back to his coat sleeve.
"Please tell me one thing, Bartley. At least,
tell me that you believe I thought I was making you happy."

His hand shut down quickly over the
questioning fingers on his sleeves.
"Yes, Hilda; I know that," he said simply.

She leaned her head against his arm and spoke softly:--

"You see, my mistake was in wanting you to
have everything. I wanted you to eat all
the cakes and have them, too. I somehow
believed that I could take all the bad
consequences for you. I wanted you always to be
happy and handsome and successful--to have
all the things that a great man ought to have,
and, once in a way, the careless holidays that
great men are not permitted."

Bartley gave a bitter little laugh, and
Hilda looked up and read in the deepening
lines of his face that youth and Bartley
would not much longer struggle together.

"I understand, Bartley. I was wrong. But I
didn't know. You've only to tell me now.
What must I do that I've not done, or what
must I not do?" She listened intently, but she
heard nothing but the creaking of his chair.
"You want me to say it?" she whispered.
"You want to tell me that you can only see
me like this, as old friends do, or out in the
world among people? I can do that."

"I can't," he said heavily.

Hilda shivered and sat still. Bartley leaned
his head in his hands and spoke through his teeth.
"It's got to be a clean break, Hilda.
I can't see you at all, anywhere.
What I mean is that I want you to
promise never to see me again,
no matter how often I come, no matter how hard I beg."

Hilda sprang up like a flame. She stood
over him with her hands clenched at her side,
her body rigid.

"No!" she gasped. "It's too late to ask that.
Do you hear me, Bartley? It's too late.
I won't promise. It's abominable of you to ask me.
Keep away if you wish; when have I ever followed you?
But, if you come to me, I'll do as I see fit.
The shamefulness of your asking me to do that!
If you come to me, I'll do as I see fit.
Do you understand? Bartley, you're cowardly!"

Alexander rose and shook himself angrily.
"Yes, I know I'm cowardly. I'm afraid of myself.
I don't trust myself any more. I carried it all
lightly enough at first, but now I don't dare trifle with it.
It's getting the better of me. It's different now.
I'm growing older, and you've got my young self here with you.
It's through him that I've come to wish for you all
and all the time." He took her roughly in his arms.
"Do you know what I mean?"

Hilda held her face back from him and began
to cry bitterly. "Oh, Bartley, what am I to do?
Why didn't you let me be angry with you?
You ask me to stay away from you because
you want me! And I've got nobody but you.
I will do anything you say--but that!
I will ask the least imaginable,
but I must have SOMETHING!"

Bartley turned away and sank down in his chair again.
Hilda sat on the arm of it and put her hands lightly
on his shoulders.

"Just something Bartley. I must have you to think of
through the months and months of loneliness.
I must see you. I must know about you.
The sight of you, Bartley, to see you living
and happy and successful--can I never
make you understand what that means to me?"
She pressed his shoulders gently.
"You see, loving some one as I love you
makes the whole world different.
If I'd met you later, if I hadn't loved you so well--
but that's all over, long ago. Then came all
those years without you, lonely and hurt
and discouraged; those decent young fellows
and poor Mac, and me never heeding--hard as
a steel spring. And then you came back, not
caring very much, but it made no difference."

She slid to the floor beside him, as if she
were too tired to sit up any longer. Bartley
bent over and took her in his arms, kissing
her mouth and her wet, tired eyes.

"Don't cry, don't cry," he whispered.
"We've tortured each other enough for tonight.
Forget everything except that I am here."

"I think I have forgotten everything but
that already," she murmured. "Ah, your dear arms!"

 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

During the fortnight that Alexander was
in London he drove himself hard. He got
through a great deal of personal business
and saw a great many men who were doing
interesting things in his own profession.
He disliked to think of his visits to London
as holidays, and when he was there he worked
even harder than he did at home.

The day before his departure for Liverpool
was a singularly fine one. The thick air
had cleared overnight in a strong wind which
brought in a golden dawn and then fell off to
a fresh breeze. When Bartley looked out of
his windows from the Savoy, the river was
flashing silver and the gray stone along the
Embankment was bathed in bright, clear sunshine.
London had wakened to life after three weeks
of cold and sodden rain. Bartley breakfasted
hurriedly and went over his mail while the
hotel valet packed his trunks. Then he
paid his account and walked rapidly down the
Strand past Charing Cross Station. His spirits
rose with every step, and when he reached
Trafalgar Square, blazing in the sun, with its
fountains playing and its column reaching up
into the bright air, he signaled to a hansom,
and, before he knew what he was about, told
the driver to go to Bedford Square by way of
the British Museum.

When he reached Hilda's apartment she
met him, fresh as the morning itself.
Her rooms were flooded with sunshine and full
of the flowers he had been sending her.
She would never let him give her anything else.

"Are you busy this morning, Hilda?" he asked
as he sat down, his hat and gloves in his hand.

"Very. I've been up and about three hours,
working at my part. We open in February, you know."

"Well, then you've worked enough. And so
have I. I've seen all my men, my packing is done,
and I go up to Liverpool this evening.
But this morning we are going to have
a holiday. What do you say to a drive out to
Kew and Richmond? You may not get another
day like this all winter. It's like a fine
April day at home. May I use your telephone?
I want to order the carriage."

"Oh, how jolly! There, sit down at the desk.
And while you are telephoning I'll change my dress.
I shan't be long. All the morning papers are on the table."

Hilda was back in a few moments wearing a
long gray squirrel coat and a broad fur hat.

Bartley rose and inspected her. "Why don't
you wear some of those pink roses?" he asked.

"But they came only this morning,
and they have not even begun to open.
I was saving them. I am so unconsciously thrifty!"
She laughed as she looked about the room.
"You've been sending me far too many flowers,
Bartley. New ones every day. That's too often;
though I do love to open the boxes, and I take good care of them."

"Why won't you let me send you any of those jade
or ivory things you are so fond of? Or pictures?
I know a good deal about pictures."

Hilda shook her large hat as she drew
the roses out of the tall glass. "No, there are
some things you can't do. There's the carriage.
Will you button my gloves for me?"

Bartley took her wrist and began to
button the long gray suede glove.
"How gay your eyes are this morning, Hilda."

"That's because I've been studying.
It always stirs me up a little."

He pushed the top of the glove up slowly.
"When did you learn to take hold of your
parts like that?"

"When I had nothing else to think of.
Come, the carriage is waiting.
What a shocking while you take."

"I'm in no hurry. We've plenty of time."

They found all London abroad. Piccadilly
was a stream of rapidly moving carriages,
from which flashed furs and flowers and
bright winter costumes. The metal trappings
of the harnesses shone dazzlingly, and the
wheels were revolving disks that threw off
rays of light. The parks were full of children
and nursemaids and joyful dogs that leaped
and yelped and scratched up the brown earth
with their paws.

"I'm not going until to-morrow, you know,"
Bartley announced suddenly. "I'll cut
off a day in Liverpool. I haven't felt
so jolly this long while."

Hilda looked up with a smile which she
tried not to make too glad. "I think people
were meant to be happy, a little," she said.

They had lunch at Richmond and then walked
to Twickenham, where they had sent the carriage.
They drove back, with a glorious sunset behind them,
toward the distant gold-washed city.
It was one of those rare afternoons
when all the thickness and shadow of London
are changed to a kind of shining, pulsing,
special atmosphere; when the smoky vapors
become fluttering golden clouds, nacreous
veils of pink and amber; when all that
bleakness of gray stone and dullness of dirty
brick trembles in aureate light, and all the
roofs and spires, and one great dome, are
floated in golden haze. On such rare
afternoons the ugliest of cities becomes
the most poetic, and months of sodden days
are offset by a moment of miracle.

"It's like that with us Londoners, too,"
Hilda was saying. "Everything is awfully
grim and cheerless, our weather and our
houses and our ways of amusing ourselves.
But we can be happier than anybody.
We can go mad with joy, as the people do out
in the fields on a fine Whitsunday.
We make the most of our moment."

She thrust her little chin out defiantly
over her gray fur collar, and Bartley looked
down at her and laughed.

"You are a plucky one, you." He patted her glove
with his hand. "Yes, you are a plucky one."

Hilda sighed. "No, I'm not. Not about
some things, at any rate. It doesn't take pluck
to fight for one's moment, but it takes pluck
to go without--a lot. More than I have.
I can't help it," she added fiercely.

After miles of outlying streets and little
gloomy houses, they reached London itself,
red and roaring and murky, with a thick
dampness coming up from the river, that
betokened fog again to-morrow. The streets
were full of people who had worked indoors
all through the priceless day and had now
come hungrily out to drink the muddy lees of
it. They stood in long black lines, waiting
before the pit entrances of the theatres--
short-coated boys, and girls in sailor hats,
all shivering and chatting gayly. There was
a blurred rhythm in all the dull city noises--
in the clatter of the cab horses and the rumbling
of the busses, in the street calls, and in the
undulating tramp, tramp of the crowd. It was
like the deep vibration of some vast underground
machinery, and like the muffled pulsations
of millions of human hearts.

[See "The Barrel Organ by Alfred Noyes. Ed.]
[I have placed it at the end for your convenience]

"Seems good to get back, doesn't it?"
Bartley whispered, as they drove from
Bayswater Road into Oxford Street.
"London always makes me want to live more
than any other city in the world. You remember
our priestess mummy over in the mummy-room,
and how we used to long to go and bring her out
on nights like this? Three thousand years! Ugh!"

"All the same, I believe she used to feel it
when we stood there and watched her and wished
her well. I believe she used to remember,"
Hilda said thoughtfully.

"I hope so. Now let's go to some awfully
jolly place for dinner before we go home.
I could eat all the dinners there are in
London to-night. Where shall I tell the driver?
The Piccadilly Restaurant? The music's good there."

"There are too many people there whom
one knows. Why not that little French place
in Soho, where we went so often when you
were here in the summer? I love it,
and I've never been there with any one but you.
Sometimes I go by myself, when I am particularly lonely."

"Very well, the sole's good there.
How many street pianos there are about to-night!
The fine weather must have thawed them out.
We've had five miles of `Il Trovatore' now.
They always make me feel jaunty.
Are you comfy, and not too tired?"

I'm not tired at all. I was just wondering
how people can ever die. Why did you
remind me of the mummy? Life seems the
strongest and most indestructible thing in the
world. Do you really believe that all those
people rushing about down there, going to
good dinners and clubs and theatres, will be
dead some day, and not care about anything?
I don't believe it, and I know I shan't die,
ever! You see, I feel too--too powerful!"

The carriage stopped. Bartley sprang out
and swung her quickly to the pavement.
As he lifted her in his two hands he whispered:
"You are--powerful!"

 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

The last rehearsal was over, a tedious dress
rehearsal which had lasted all day and exhausted
the patience of every one who had to do with it.
When Hilda had dressed for the street and
came out of her dressing-room, she found
Hugh MacConnell waiting for her in the corridor.

"The fog's thicker than ever, Hilda.
There have been a great many accidents to-day.
It's positively unsafe for you to be out alone.
Will you let me take you home?"

"How good of you, Mac. If you are going with me,
I think I'd rather walk. I've had no exercise to-day,
and all this has made me nervous."

"I shouldn't wonder," said MacConnell dryly.
Hilda pulled down her veil and they stepped
out into the thick brown wash that submerged
St. Martin's Lane. MacConnell took her hand
and tucked it snugly under his arm.
"I'm sorry I was such a savage. I hope
you didn't think I made an ass of myself."

"Not a bit of it. I don't wonder you were
peppery. Those things are awfully trying.
How do you think it's going?"

"Magnificently. That's why I got so stirred up.
We are going to hear from this, both of us.
And that reminds me; I've got news for you.
They are going to begin repairs on the
theatre about the middle of March,
and we are to run over to New York for six weeks.
Bennett told me yesterday that it was decided."

Hilda looked up delightedly at the tall
gray figure beside her. He was the only thing
she could see, for they were moving through
a dense opaqueness, as if they were walking
at the bottom of the ocean.

"Oh, Mac, how glad I am! And they
love your things over there, don't they?"

"Shall you be glad for--any other reason, Hilda?"

MacConnell put his hand in front of her to ward
off some dark object. It proved to be only a lamp-post,
and they beat in farther from the edge of the pavement.

"What do you mean, Mac?" Hilda asked
nervously.

"I was just thinking there might be people
over there you'd be glad to see," he brought
out awkwardly. Hilda said nothing, and as
they walked on MacConnell spoke again,
apologetically: "I hope you don't mind
my knowing about it, Hilda. Don't stiffen up
like that. No one else knows, and I didn't try
to find out anything. I felt it, even before
I knew who he was. I knew there was somebody,
and that it wasn't I."

They crossed Oxford Street in silence,
feeling their way. The busses had stopped
running and the cab-drivers were leading
their horses. When they reached the other side,
MacConnell said suddenly, "I hope you are happy."

"Terribly, dangerously happy, Mac,"--
Hilda spoke quietly, pressing the rough sleeve
of his greatcoat with her gloved hand.

"You've always thought me too old for
you, Hilda,--oh, of course you've never said
just that,--and here this fellow is not more
than eight years younger than I. I've always
felt that if I could get out of my old case I
might win you yet. It's a fine, brave youth
I carry inside me, only he'll never be seen."

"Nonsense, Mac. That has nothing to do with it.
It's because you seem too close to me,
too much my own kind. It would be like
marrying Cousin Mike, almost. I really tried
to care as you wanted me to, away back in the beginning."

"Well, here we are, turning out of the Square.
You are not angry with me, Hilda? Thank you
for this walk, my dear. Go in and get dry things
on at once. You'll be having a great night to-morrow."

She put out her hand. "Thank you, Mac,
for everything. Good-night."

MacConnell trudged off through the fog,
and she went slowly upstairs. Her slippers
and dressing gown were waiting for her
before the fire. "I shall certainly see him
in New York. He will see by the papers that
we are coming. Perhaps he knows it already,"
Hilda kept thinking as she undressed.
"Perhaps he will be at the dock. No, scarcely
that; but I may meet him in the street even
before he comes to see me." Marie placed the
tea-table by the fire and brought Hilda her letters.
She looked them over, and started as she came
to one in a handwriting that she did not often see;
Alexander had written to her only twice before,
and he did not allow her to write to him at all.
"Thank you, Marie. You may go now."

 

Hilda sat down by the table with the
letter in her hand, still unopened. She looked
at it intently, turned it over, and felt its
thickness with her fingers. She believed that
she sometimes had a kind of second-sight
about letters, and could tell before she read
them whether they brought good or evil tidings.
She put this one down on the table in front
of her while she poured her tea. At last,
with a little shiver of expectancy,
she tore open the envelope and read:--

 

Boston, February--
MY DEAR HILDA:--

It is after twelve o'clock. Every one else
is in bed and I am sitting alone in my study.
I have been happier in this room than anywhere
else in the world. Happiness like that makes
one insolent. I used to think these four walls
could stand against anything. And now I
scarcely know myself here. Now I know
that no one can build his security upon the
nobleness of another person. Two people,
when they love each other, grow alike in their
tastes and habits and pride, but their moral
natures (whatever we may mean by that
canting expression) are never welded. The
base one goes on being base, and the noble
one noble, to the end.

The last week has been a bad one; I have been
realizing how things used to be with me.
Sometimes I get used to being dead inside,
but lately it has been as if a window
beside me had suddenly opened, and as if all
the smells of spring blew in to me. There is
a garden out there, with stars overhead, where
I used to walk at night when I had a single
purpose and a single heart. I can remember
how I used to feel there, how beautiful
everything about me was, and what life and
power and freedom I felt in myself. When the
window opens I know exactly how it would
feel to be out there. But that garden is closed
to me. How is it, I ask myself, that everything
can be so different with me when nothing here
has changed? I am in my own house, in my own study, in the
midst of all these quiet streets where my friends live.
They are all safe and at peace with themselves.
But I am never at peace. I feel always on the edge
of danger and change.

I keep remembering locoed horses I used
to see on the range when I was a boy.
They changed like that. We used to catch them
and put them up in the corral, and they developed
great cunning. They would pretend to eat their oats
like the other horses, but we knew they were always
scheming to get back at the loco.

It seems that a man is meant to live only
one life in this world. When he tries to live a
second, he develops another nature. I feel as
if a second man had been grafted into me.
At first he seemed only a pleasure-loving
simpleton, of whose company I was rather ashamed,
and whom I used to hide under my coat
when I walked the Embankment, in London.
But now he is strong and sullen, and he is
fighting for his life at the cost of mine.
That is his one activity: to grow strong.
No creature ever wanted so much to live.
Eventually, I suppose, he will absorb me altogether.
Believe me, you will hate me then.

And what have you to do, Hilda, with
this ugly story? Nothing at all. The little boy
drank of the prettiest brook in the forest and
he became a stag. I write all this because I
can never tell it to you, and because it seems
as if I could not keep silent any longer. And
because I suffer, Hilda. If any one I loved
suffered like this, I'd want to know it. Help
me, Hilda!

B.A.

 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

On the last Saturday in April, the New York "Times"
published an account of the strike complications
which were delaying Alexander's New Jersey bridge,
and stated that the engineer himself was in town
and at his office on West Tenth Street.

On Sunday, the day after this notice appeared,
Alexander worked all day at his Tenth Street rooms.
His business often called him to New York,
and he had kept an apartment there for years,
subletting it when he went abroad for any length of time.
Besides his sleeping-room and bath, there was a
large room, formerly a painter's studio, which he
used as a study and office. It was furnished
with the cast-off possessions of his bachelor
days and with odd things which he sheltered
for friends of his who followed itinerant and
more or less artistic callings. Over the fireplace
there was a large old-fashioned gilt mirror.
Alexander's big work-table stood in front
of one of the three windows, and above the
couch hung the one picture in the room, a big
canvas of charming color and spirit, a study
of the Luxembourg Gardens in early spring,
painted in his youth by a man who had since
become a portrait-painter of international
renown. He had done it for Alexander when
they were students together in Paris.

 

Sunday was a cold, raw day and a fine rain
fell continuously. When Alexander came back
from dinner he put more wood on his fire,
made himself comfortable, and settled
down at his desk, where he began checking
over estimate sheets. It was after nine o'clock
and he was lighting a second pipe, when he
thought he heard a sound at his door. He
started and listened, holding the burning
match in his hand; again he heard the same
sound, like a firm, light tap. He rose and
crossed the room quickly. When he threw
open the door he recognized the figure that
shrank back into the bare, dimly lit hallway.
He stood for a moment in awkward constraint,
his pipe in his hand.

"Come in," he said to Hilda at last, and
closed the door behind her. He pointed to a
chair by the fire and went back to his worktable.
"Won't you sit down?"

He was standing behind the table,
turning over a pile of blueprints nervously.
The yellow light from the student's lamp fell on
his hands and the purple sleeves of his velvet
smoking-jacket, but his flushed face and big,
hard head were in the shadow. There was
something about him that made Hilda wish
herself at her hotel again, in the street below,
anywhere but where she was.

"Of course I know, Bartley," she said at
last, "that after this you won't owe me the
least consideration. But we sail on Tuesday.
I saw that interview in the paper yesterday,
telling where you were, and I thought I had
to see you. That's all. Good-night; I'm going now."
She turned and her hand closed on the door-knob.

Alexander hurried toward her and took
her gently by the arm. "Sit down, Hilda;
you're wet through. Let me take off your coat
--and your boots; they're oozing water."
He knelt down and began to unlace her shoes,
while Hilda shrank into the chair. "Here, put
your feet on this stool. You don't mean to say
you walked down--and without overshoes!"

Hilda hid her face in her hands. "I was
afraid to take a cab. Can't you see, Bartley,
that I'm terribly frightened? I've been
through this a hundred times to-day. Don't
be any more angry than you can help. I was
all right until I knew you were in town.
If you'd sent me a note, or telephoned me,
or anything! But you won't let me write to you,
and I had to see you after that letter, that
terrible letter you wrote me when you got home."

Alexander faced her, resting his arm on
the mantel behind him, and began to brush
the sleeve of his jacket. "Is this the way you
mean to answer it, Hilda?" he asked unsteadily.

She was afraid to look up at him.
"Didn't--didn't you mean even to say goodby
to me, Bartley? Did you mean just to--
quit me?" she asked. "I came to tell you that
I'm willing to do as you asked me. But it's no
use talking about that now. Give me my things,
please." She put her hand out toward the fender.

Alexander sat down on the arm of her chair.
"Did you think I had forgotten you were
in town, Hilda? Do you think I kept away by accident?
Did you suppose I didn't know you were sailing on Tuesday?
There is a letter for you there, in my desk drawer.
It was to have reached you on the steamer. I was
all the morning writing it. I told myself that
if I were really thinking of you, and not of myself,
a letter would be better than nothing.
Marks on paper mean something to you."
He paused. "They never did to me."

Hilda smiled up at him beautifully and
put her hand on his sleeve. "Oh, Bartley!
Did you write to me? Why didn't you telephone
me to let me know that you had? Then I wouldn't
have come."

Alexander slipped his arm about her. "I didn't know
it before, Hilda, on my honor I didn't, but I believe
it was because, deep down in me somewhere, I was hoping
I might drive you to do just this. I've watched
that door all day. I've jumped up if the fire crackled.
I think I have felt that you were coming."
He bent his face over her hair.

"And I," she whispered,--"I felt that you were feeling that.
But when I came, I thought I had been mistaken."

Alexander started up and began to walk up and down the room.

"No, you weren't mistaken. I've been up in Canada
with my bridge, and I arranged not to come to New York
until after you had gone. Then, when your manager
added two more weeks, I was already committed."
He dropped upon the stool in front of her and
sat with his hands hanging between his knees.
"What am I to do, Hilda?"

"That's what I wanted to see you about,
Bartley. I'm going to do what you asked me
to do when you were in London. Only I'll do
it more completely. I'm going to marry."

"Who?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter much! One of them.
Only not Mac. I'm too fond of him."

Alexander moved restlessly. "Are you joking, Hilda?"

"Indeed I'm not."

"Then you don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, I know very well. I've thought
about it a great deal, and I've quite decided.
I never used to understand how women did things
like that, but I know now. It's because they can't
be at the mercy of the man they love any longer."

Alexander flushed angrily. "So it's better
to be at the mercy of a man you don't love?"

"Under such circumstances, infinitely!"

There was a flash in her eyes that made
Alexander's fall. He got up and went over to
the window, threw it open, and leaned out.
He heard Hilda moving about behind him.
When he looked over his shoulder she was
lacing her boots. He went back and stood
over her.

"Hilda you'd better think a while longer
before you do that. I don't know what I
ought to say, but I don't believe you'd be
happy; truly I don't. Aren't you trying to
frighten me?"

She tied the knot of the last lacing and
put her boot-heel down firmly. "No; I'm
telling you what I've made up my mind to do.
I suppose I would better do it without telling you.
But afterward I shan't have an opportunity to explain,
for I shan't be seeing you again."

Alexander started to speak, but caught himself.
When Hilda rose he sat down on the arm of her chair
and drew her back into it.

"I wouldn't be so much alarmed if I didn't
know how utterly reckless you CAN be.
Don't do anything like that rashly."
His face grew troubled. "You wouldn't be happy.
You are not that kind of woman. I'd never have
another hour's peace if I helped to make you
do a thing like that." He took her face
between his hands and looked down into it.
"You see, you are different, Hilda. Don't you
know you are?" His voice grew softer, his
touch more and more tender. "Some women
can do that sort of thing, but you--you can
love as queens did, in the old time."

Hilda had heard that soft, deep tone in his
voice only once before. She closed her eyes;
her lips and eyelids trembled. "Only one, Bartley.
Only one. And he threw it back at me a second time."

She felt the strength leap in the arms
that held her so lightly.

"Try him again, Hilda. Try him once again."

She looked up into his eyes, and hid her
face in her hands.

 

 

CHAPTER X

 

On Tuesday afternoon a Boston lawyer,
who had been trying a case in Vermont,
was standing on the siding at White River Junction
when the Canadian Express pulled by on its
northward journey. As the day-coaches at
the rear end of the long train swept by him,
the lawyer noticed at one of the windows a
man's head, with thick rumpled hair.
"Curious," he thought; "that looked like
Alexander, but what would he be doing back
there in the daycoaches?"

It was, indeed, Alexander.

That morning a telegram from Moorlock
had reached him, telling him that there was
serious trouble with the bridge and that he
was needed there at once, so he had caught
the first train out of New York. He had taken
a seat in a day-coach to avoid the risk of
meeting any one he knew, and because he did
not wish to be comfortable. When the
telegram arrived, Alexander was at his rooms
on Tenth Street, packing his bag to go to Boston.
On Monday night he had written a long letter
to his wife, but when morning came he was
afraid to send it, and the letter was still
in his pocket. Winifred was not a woman
who could bear disappointment. She demanded
a great deal of herself and of the people
she loved; and she never failed herself.
If he told her now, he knew, it would be
irretrievable. There would be no going back.
He would lose the thing he valued most in
the world; he would be destroying himself
and his own happiness. There would be
nothing for him afterward. He seemed to see
himself dragging out a restless existence on
the Continent--Cannes, Hyeres, Algiers, Cairo--
among smartly dressed, disabled men of
every nationality; forever going on journeys
that led nowhere; hurrying to catch trains
that he might just as well miss; getting up in
the morning with a great bustle and splashing
of water, to begin a day that had no purpose
and no meaning; dining late to shorten the
night, sleeping late to shorten the day.

And for what? For a mere folly, a masquerade,
a little thing that he could not let go.
AND HE COULD EVEN LET IT GO, he told himself.
But he had promised to be in London at mid-
summer, and he knew that he would go. . . .
It was impossible to live like this any longer.

And this, then, was to be the disaster
that his old professor had foreseen for him:
the crack in the wall, the crash, the cloud
of dust. And he could not understand how it
had come about. He felt that he himself was
unchanged, that he was still there, the same
man he had been five years ago, and that he
was sitting stupidly by and letting some
resolute offshoot of himself spoil his life for
him. This new force was not he, it was but a
part of him. He would not even admit that it
was stronger than he; but it was more active.
It was by its energy that this new feeling got
the better of him. His wife was the woman
who had made his life, gratified his pride,
given direction to his tastes and habits.
The life they led together seemed to him beautiful.
Winifred still was, as she had always been,
Romance for him, and whenever he was deeply
stirred he turned to her. When the grandeur
and beauty of the world challenged him--
as it challenges even the most self-absorbed people--
he always answered with her name. That was his
reply to the question put by the mountains and the stars;
to all the spiritual aspects of life. In his feeling
for his wife there was all the tenderness,
all the pride, all the devotion of which he was
capable. There was everything but energy;
the energy of youth which must register itself
and cut its name before it passes. This new
feeling was so fresh, so unsatisfied and light
of foot. It ran and was not wearied, anticipated
him everywhere. It put a girdle round the
earth while he was going from New York
to Moorlock. At this moment, it was tingling
through him, exultant, and live as quicksilver,
whispering, "In July you will be in England."

Already he dreaded the long, empty days at sea,
the monotonous Irish coast, the sluggish
passage up the Mersey, the flash of the
boat train through the summer country.
He closed his eyes and gave himself up to the
feeling of rapid motion and to swift,
terrifying thoughts. He was sitting so, his face
shaded by his hand, when the Boston lawyer
saw him from the siding at White River Junction.

When at last Alexander roused himself,
the afternoon had waned to sunset. The train
was passing through a gray country and the
sky overhead was flushed with a wide flood of
clear color. There was a rose-colored light
over the gray rocks and hills and meadows.
Off to the left, under the approach of a
weather-stained wooden bridge, a group of
boys were sitting around a little fire.
The smell of the wood smoke blew in at the window.
Except for an old farmer, jogging along the highroad
in his box-wagon, there was not another living
creature to be seen. Alexander looked back wistfully
at the boys, camped on the edge of a little marsh,
crouching under their shelter and looking gravely
at their fire. They took his mind back a long way,
to a campfire on a sandbar in a Western river,
and he wished he could go back and sit down with them.
He could remember exactly how the world had looked then.

It was quite dark and Alexander was still
thinking of the boys, when it occurred to him
that the train must be nearing Allway.
In going to his new bridge at Moorlock he had
always to pass through Allway. The train
stopped at Allway Mills, then wound two
miles up the river, and then the hollow sound
under his feet told Bartley that he was on his
first bridge again. The bridge seemed longer
than it had ever seemed before, and he was
glad when he felt the beat of the wheels on
the solid roadbed again. He did not like
coming and going across that bridge, or
remembering the man who built it. And was he,
indeed, the same man who used to walk that
bridge at night, promising such things to
himself and to the stars? And yet, he could
remember it all so well: the quiet hills
sleeping in the moonlight, the slender skeleton
of the bridge reaching out into the river, and
up yonder, alone on the hill, the big white house;
upstairs, in Winifred's window, the light that told
him she was still awake and still thinking of him.
And after the light went out he walked alone,
taking the heavens into his confidence,
unable to tear himself away from the
white magic of the night, unwilling to sleep
because longing was so sweet to him, and because,
for the first time since first the hills were
hung with moonlight, there was a lover in the world.
And always there was the sound of the rushing water
underneath, the sound which, more than anything else,
meant death; the wearing away of things under the
impact of physical forces which men could
direct but never circumvent or diminish.
Then, in the exaltation of love, more than
ever it seemed to him to mean death, the only
other thing as strong as love. Under the moon,
under the cold, splendid stars, there were only
those two things awake and sleepless; death and love,
the rushing river and his burning heart.

Alexander sat up and looked about him.
The train was tearing on through the darkness.
All his companions in the day-coach were
either dozing or sleeping heavily,
and the murky lamps were turned low.
How came he here among all these dirty people?
Why was he going to London? What did it
mean--what was the answer? How could this
happen to a man who had lived through that
magical spring and summer, and who had felt
that the stars themselves were but flaming
particles in the far-away infinitudes of his love?

What had he done to lose it? How could
he endure the baseness of life without it?
And with every revolution of the wheels beneath
him, the unquiet quicksilver in his breast told
him that at midsummer he would be in London.
He remembered his last night there: the red
foggy darkness, the hungry crowds before
the theatres, the hand-organs, the feverish
rhythm of the blurred, crowded streets, and
the feeling of letting himself go with the
crowd. He shuddered and looked about him
at the poor unconscious companions of his
journey, unkempt and travel-stained, now
doubled in unlovely attitudes, who had come
to stand to him for the ugliness he had
brought into the world.

And those boys back there, beginning it
all just as he had begun it; he wished he
could promise them better luck. Ah, if one
could promise any one better luck, if one
could assure a single human being of happiness!
He had thought he could do so, once;
and it was thinking of that that he at last fell
asleep. In his sleep, as if it had nothing
fresher to work upon, his mind went back
and tortured itself with something years and
years away, an old, long-forgotten sorrow
of his childhood.

When Alexander awoke in the morning,
the sun was just rising through pale golden
ripples of cloud, and the fresh yellow light
was vibrating through the pine woods.
The white birches, with their little
unfolding leaves, gleamed in the lowlands,
and the marsh meadows were already coming to life
with their first green, a thin, bright color
which had run over them like fire. As the
train rushed along the trestles, thousands of
wild birds rose screaming into the light.
The sky was already a pale blue and of the
clearness of crystal. Bartley caught up his bag
and hurried through the Pullman coaches until he
found the conductor. There was a stateroom unoccupied,
and he took it and set about changing his clothes.
Last night he would not have believed that anything
could be so pleasant as the cold water he dashed
over his head and shoulders and the freshness
of clean linen on his body.

After he had dressed, Alexander sat down
at the window and drew into his lungs
deep breaths of the pine-scented air.
He had awakened with all his old sense of power.
He could not believe that things were as bad with
him as they had seemed last night, that there
was no way to set them entirely right.
Even if he went to London at midsummer,
what would that mean except that he was a fool?
And he had been a fool before. That was not
the reality of his life. Yet he knew that he
would go to London.

Half an hour later the train stopped at
Moorlock. Alexander sprang to the platform
and hurried up the siding, waving to Philip
Horton, one of his assistants, who was
anxiously looking up at the windows of
the coaches. Bartley took his arm and
they went together into the station buffet.

"I'll have my coffee first, Philip.
Have you had yours? And now,
what seems to be the matter up here?"

The young man, in a hurried, nervous way,
began his explanation.

But Alexander cut him short. "When did
you stop work?" he asked sharply.

The young engineer looked confused.
"I haven't stopped work yet, Mr. Alexander.
I didn't feel that I could go so far without
definite authorization from you."

"Then why didn't you say in your telegram
exactly what you thought, and ask for your
authorization? You'd have got it quick enough."

"Well, really, Mr. Alexander, I couldn't be
absolutely sure, you know, and I didn't like
to take the responsibility of making it public."

Alexander pushed back his chair and rose.
"Anything I do can be made public, Phil.
You say that you believe the lower chords
are showing strain, and that even the
workmen have been talking about it,
and yet you've gone on adding weight."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Alexander, but I had
counted on your getting here yesterday.
My first telegram missed you somehow.
I sent one Sunday evening, to the same address,
but it was returned to me."

"Have you a carriage out there?
I must stop to send a wire."

Alexander went up to the telegraph-desk and
penciled the following message to his wife:--

I may have to be here for some time.
Can you come up at once? Urgent.

BARTLEY.

 

The Moorlock Bridge lay three miles
above the town. When they were seated in
the carriage, Alexander began to question his
assistant further. If it were true that the
compression members showed strain, with the
bridge only two thirds done, then there was
nothing to do but pull the whole structure
down and begin over again. Horton kept
repeating that he was sure there could be
nothing wrong with the estimates.

Alexander grew impatient. "That's all
true, Phil, but we never were justified in
assuming that a scale that was perfectly safe
for an ordinary bridge would work with
anything of such length. It's all very well on
paper, but it remains to be seen whether it
can be done in practice. I should have thrown
up the job when they crowded me. It's all
nonsense to try to do what other engineers
are doing when you know they're not sound."

"But just now, when there is such competition,"
the younger man demurred. "And certainly
that's the new line of development."

Alexander shrugged his shoulders and
made no reply.

When they reached the bridge works,
Alexander began his examination immediately.
An hour later he sent for the superintendent.
"I think you had better stop work out there
at once, Dan. I should say that the lower chord
here might buckle at any moment. I told
the Commission that we were using higher
unit stresses than any practice has established,
and we've put the dead load at a low estimate.
Theoretically it worked out well enough,
but it had never actually been tried."
Alexander put on his overcoat and took
the superintendent by the arm. "Don't look
so chopfallen, Dan. It's a jolt, but we've
got to face it. It isn't the end of the world,
you know. Now we'll go out and call the men
off quietly. They're already nervous,
Horton tells me, and there's no use alarming them.
I'll go with you, and we'll send the end
riveters in first."

Alexander and the superintendent picked
their way out slowly over the long span.
They went deliberately, stopping to see what
each gang was doing, as if they were on an
ordinary round of inspection. When they
reached the end of the river span, Alexander
nodded to the superintendent, who quietly
gave an order to the foreman. The men in the
end gang picked up their tools and, glancing
curiously at each other, started back across
the bridge toward the river-bank. Alexander
himself remained standing where they had
been working, looking about him. It was hard
to believe, as he looked back over it,
that the whole great span was incurably disabled,
was already as good as condemned,
because something was out of line in
the lower chord of the cantilever arm.

The end riveters had reached the bank
and were dispersing among the tool-houses,
and the second gang had picked up their tools
and were starting toward the shore. Alexander,
still standing at the end of the river span,
saw the lower chord of the cantilever arm
give a little, like an elbow bending.
He shouted and ran after the second gang,
but by this time every one knew that the big
river span was slowly settling. There was
a burst of shouting that was immediately drowned
by the scream and cracking of tearing iron,
as all the tension work began to pull asunder.
Once the chords began to buckle, there were
thousands of tons of ironwork, all riveted together
and lying in midair without support. It tore
itself to pieces with roaring and grinding and
noises that were like the shrieks of a steam whistle.
There was no shock of any kind; the bridge had no
impetus except from its own weight.
It lurched neither to right nor left,
but sank almost in a vertical line,
snapping and breaking and tearing as it went,
because no integral part could bear for an instant
the enormous strain loosed upon it.
Some of the men jumped and some ran,
trying to make the shore.

At the first shriek of the tearing iron,
Alexander jumped from the downstream side
of the bridge. He struck the water without
injury and disappeared. He was under the
river a long time and had great difficulty
in holding his breath. When it seemed impossible,
and his chest was about to heave, he thought he
heard his wife telling him that he could hold out
a little longer. An instant later his face cleared the water.
For a moment, in the depths of the river, he had realized
what it would mean to die a hypocrite, and to lie dead
under the last abandonment of her tenderness.
But once in the light and air, he knew he should
live to tell her and to recover all he had lost.
Now, at last, he felt sure of himself.
He was not startled. It seemed to him
that he had been through something of
this sort before. There was nothing horrible
about it. This, too, was life, and life was
activity, just as it was in Boston or in London.
He was himself, and there was something
to be done; everything seemed perfectly
natural. Alexander was a strong swimmer,
but he had gone scarcely a dozen strokes
when the bridge itself, which had been settling
faster and faster, crashed into the water
behind him. Immediately the river was full
of drowning men. A gang of French Canadians
fell almost on top of him. He thought he had
cleared them, when they began coming up all
around him, clutching at him and at each
other. Some of them could swim, but they
were either hurt or crazed with fright.
Alexander tried to beat them off, but there
were too many of them. One caught him about
the neck, another gripped him about the middle,
and they went down together. When he sank,
his wife seemed to be there in the water
beside him, telling him to keep his head,
that if he could hold out the men would drown
and release him. There was something he
wanted to tell his wife, but he could not
think clearly for the roaring in his ears.
Suddenly he remembered what it was.
He caught his breath, and then she let him go.

 

The work of recovering the dead went
on all day and all the following night.
By the next morning forty-eight bodies had been
taken out of the river, but there were still
twenty missing. Many of the men had fallen
with the bridge and were held down under
the debris. Early on the morning of the
second day a closed carriage was driven slowly
along the river-bank and stopped a little
below the works, where the river boiled and
churned about the great iron carcass which
lay in a straight line two thirds across it.
The carriage stood there hour after hour,
and word soon spread among the crowds on
the shore that its occupant was the wife
of the Chief Engineer; his body had not
yet been found. The widows of the lost workmen,
moving up and down the bank with shawls
over their heads, some of them carrying
babies, looked at the rusty hired hack many
times that morning. They drew near it and
walked about it, but none of them ventured
to peer within. Even half-indifferent sight-
seers dropped their voices as they told a
newcomer: "You see that carriage over there?
That's Mrs. Alexander. They haven't found
him yet. She got off the train this morning.
Horton met her. She heard it in Boston yesterday
--heard the newsboys crying it in the street.

At noon Philip Horton made his way
through the crowd with a tray and a tin
coffee-pot from the camp kitchen. When he
reached the carriage he found Mrs. Alexander
just as he had left her in the early morning,
leaning forward a little, with her hand on the
lowered window, looking at the river. Hour
after hour she had been watching the water,
the lonely, useless stone towers, and the
convulsed mass of iron wreckage over which
the angry river continually spat up its yellow
foam.

"Those poor women out there, do they
blame him very much?" she asked, as she
handed the coffee-cup back to Horton.

"Nobody blames him, Mrs. Alexander.
If any one is to blame, I'm afraid it's I.
I should have stopped work before he came.
He said so as soon as I met him. I tried
to get him here a day earlier, but my telegram
missed him, somehow. He didn't have time
really to explain to me. If he'd got here
Monday, he'd have had all the men off at once.
But, you see, Mrs. Alexander, such a thing never
happened before. According to all human calculations,
it simply couldn't happen."

Horton leaned wearily against the front
wheel of the cab. He had not had his clothes
off for thirty hours, and the stimulus of violent
excitement was beginning to wear off.

"Don't be afraid to tell me the worst,
Mr. Horton. Don't leave me to the dread of
finding out things that people may be saying.
If he is blamed, if he needs any one to speak
for him,"--for the first time her voice broke
and a flush of life, tearful, painful, and
confused, swept over her rigid pallor,--
"if he needs any one, tell me, show me what to do."
She began to sob, and Horton hurried away.

When he came back at four o'clock in the
afternoon he was carrying his hat in his hand,
and Winifred knew as soon as she saw him
that they had found Bartley. She opened the
carriage door before he reached her and
stepped to the ground.

Horton put out his hand as if to hold her
back and spoke pleadingly: "Won't you drive
up to my house, Mrs. Alexander? They will
take him up there."

"Take me to him now, please. I shall not
make any trouble."

The group of men down under the riverbank
fell back when they saw a woman coming,
and one of them threw a tarpaulin over
the stretcher. They took off their hats
and caps as Winifred approached, and although
she had pulled her veil down over her face
they did not look up at her. She was taller
than Horton, and some of the men thought
she was the tallest woman they had ever seen.
"As tall as himself," some one whispered.
Horton motioned to the men, and six of them
lifted the stretcher and began to carry it up
the embankment. Winifred followed them the
half-mile to Horton's house. She walked
quietly, without once breaking or stumbling.
When the bearers put the stretcher down in
Horton's spare bedroom, she thanked them
and gave her hand to each in turn. The men
went out of the house and through the yard
with their caps in their hands. They were
too much confused to say anything
as they went down the hill.

Horton himself was almost as deeply perplexed.
"Mamie," he said to his wife, when he came out
of the spare room half an hour later,
"will you take Mrs. Alexander the things
she needs? She is going to do everything
herself. Just stay about where you can
hear her and go in if she wants you."

Everything happened as Alexander had
foreseen in that moment of prescience under
the river. With her own hands she washed
him clean of every mark of disaster. All night
he was alone with her in the still house,
his great head lying deep in the pillow.
In the pocket of his coat Winifred found the
letter that he had written her the night before
he left New York, water-soaked and illegible,
but because of its length, she knew it had
been meant for her.

For Alexander death was an easy creditor.
Fortune, which had smiled upon him
consistently all his life, did not desert him in
the end. His harshest critics did not doubt that,
had he lived, he would have retrieved himself.
Even Lucius Wilson did not see in this accident
the disaster he had once foretold.

When a great man dies in his prime there
is no surgeon who can say whether he did well;
whether or not the future was his, as it
seemed to be. The mind that society had
come to regard as a powerful and reliable
machine, dedicated to its service, may for a
long time have been sick within itself and
bent upon its own destruction.

 

EPILOGUE

 

Professor Wilson had been living in London
for six years and he was just back from a visit
to America. One afternoon, soon after his
return, he put on his frock-coat and drove in
a hansom to pay a call upon Hilda Burgoyne,
who still lived at her old number, off Bedford
Square. He and Miss Burgoyne had been fast
friends for a long time. He had first noticed
her about the corridors of the British Museum,
where he read constantly. Her being there
so often had made him feel that he would
like to know her, and as she was not an
inaccessible person, an introduction was
not difficult. The preliminaries once over,
they came to depend a great deal upon each
other, and Wilson, after his day's reading,
often went round to Bedford Square for his
tea. They had much more in common than
their memories of a common friend. Indeed,
they seldom spoke of him. They saved that
for the deep moments which do not come
often, and then their talk of him was mostly
silence. Wilson knew that Hilda had loved
him; more than this he had not tried to know.

It was late when Wilson reached Hilda's
apartment on this particular December
afternoon, and he found her alone. She sent
for fresh tea and made him comfortable, as she
had such a knack of making people comfortable.

"How good you were to come back
before Christmas! I quite dreaded the
Holidays without you. You've helped me over a
good many Christmases." She smiled at him gayly.

"As if you needed me for that! But, at
any rate, I needed YOU. How well you are
looking, my dear, and how rested."

He peered up at her from his low chair,
balancing the tips of his long fingers together
in a judicial manner which had grown on him
with years.

Hilda laughed as she carefully poured his
cream. "That means that I was looking very
seedy at the end of the season, doesn't it?
Well, we must show wear at last, you know."

Wilson took the cup gratefully. "Ah, no
need to remind a man of seventy, who has
just been home to find that he has survived
all his contemporaries. I was most gently
treated--as a sort of precious relic. But, do
you know, it made me feel awkward to be
hanging about still."

"Seventy? Never mention it to me." Hilda looked
appreciatively at the Professor's alert face,
with so many kindly lines about the mouth
and so many quizzical ones about the eyes.
"You've got to hang about for me, you know.
I can't even let you go home again.
You must stay put, now that I have you back.
You're the realest thing I have."

Wilson chuckled. "Dear me, am I? Out of
so many conquests and the spoils of
conquered cities! You've really missed me?
Well, then, I shall hang. Even if you have
at last to put ME in the mummy-room with the others.
You'll visit me often, won't you?"

"Every day in the calendar. Here, your cigarettes
are in this drawer, where you left them."
She struck a match and lit one for him.
"But you did, after all, enjoy being at home again?"

"Oh, yes. I found the long railway journeys
trying. People live a thousand miles apart.
But I did it thoroughly; I was all over the place.
It was in Boston I lingered longest."

"Ah, you saw Mrs. Alexander?"

"Often. I dined with her, and had tea
there a dozen different times, I should think.
Indeed, it was to see her that I lingered on
and on. I found that I still loved to go to the
house. It always seemed as if Bartley were
there, somehow, and that at any moment one
might hear his heavy tramp on the stairs. Do
you know, I kept feeling that he must be up
in his study." The Professor looked reflectively
into the grate. "I should really have liked
to go up there. That was where I had my last
long talk with him. But Mrs. Alexander never
suggested it."

"Why?"

Wilson was a little startled by her tone,
and he turned his head so quickly that his
cuff-link caught the string of his nose-glasses
and pulled them awry. "Why? Why, dear
me, I don't know. She probably never
thought of it."

Hilda bit her lip. "I don't know what
made me say that. I didn't mean to interrupt.
Go on please, and tell me how it was."

"Well, it was like that. Almost as if he
were there. In a way, he really is there.
She never lets him go. It's the most beautiful
and dignified sorrow I've ever known. It's so
beautiful that it has its compensations,
I should think. Its very completeness
is a compensation. It gives her a fixed star
to steer by. She doesn't drift. We sat there
evening after evening in the quiet of that
magically haunted room, and watched the
sunset burn on the river, and felt him.
Felt him with a difference, of course."

Hilda leaned forward, her elbow on her knee,
her chin on her hand. "With a difference?
Because of her, you mean?"

Wilson's brow wrinkled. "Something like that, yes.
Of course, as time goes on, to her he becomes
more and more their simple personal relation."

Hilda studied the droop of the Professor's
head intently. "You didn't altogether like
that? You felt it wasn't wholly fair to him?"

Wilson shook himself and readjusted his
glasses. "Oh, fair enough. More than fair.
Of course, I always felt that my image of him
was just a little different from hers.
No relation is so complete that it can hold
absolutely all of a person. And I liked him
just as he was; his deviations, too;
the places where he didn't square."

Hilda considered vaguely. "Has she
grown much older?" she asked at last.

"Yes, and no. In a tragic way she is even
handsomer. But colder. Cold for everything
but him. `Forget thyself to marble'; I kept
thinking of that. Her happiness was a
happiness a deux, not apart from the world,
but actually against it. And now her grief is like
that. She saves herself for it and doesn't even
go through the form of seeing people much.
I'm sorry. It would be better for her, and
might be so good for them, if she could let
other people in."

"Perhaps she's afraid of letting him out a little,
of sharing him with somebody."

Wilson put down his cup and looked up
with vague alarm. "Dear me, it takes a woman
to think of that, now! I don't, you know,
think we ought to be hard on her. More,
even, than the rest of us she didn't choose her
destiny. She underwent it. And it has left her
chilled. As to her not wishing to take the
world into her confidence--well, it is a pretty
brutal and stupid world, after all, you know."

Hilda leaned forward. "Yes, I know, I know.
Only I can't help being glad that there was
something for him even in stupid and vulgar people.
My little Marie worshiped him. When she is dusting
I always know when she has come to his picture."

Wilson nodded. "Oh, yes! He left an echo.
The ripples go on in all of us.
He belonged to the people who make the play,
and most of us are only onlookers at the best.
We shouldn't wonder too much at Mrs. Alexander.
She must feel how useless it would be to
stir about, that she may as well sit still;
that nothing can happen to her after Bartley."

"Yes," said Hilda softly, "nothing can
happen to one after Bartley."

They both sat looking into the fire.

 

end of Alexander's Bridge, by Willa Cather**

 

 

Here is a copy of "The Barrel Organ" by Alfred Noyes,
who was also the author of "The Highwayman."

 

 

THE BARREL ORGAN

by Alfred Noyes



There's a barrel-organ caroling across a golden street,
In the City as the sun sinks low;
And the music's not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
And fulfilled it with the sunset glow;
And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light;
And they've given it a glory and a part to play again
In the Symphony that rules the day and the night.

And now it's marching onward through the realms of old romance,
And trolling out a fond familiar tune,
And now it's roaring cannon down to fight the King of France,
And now it's prattling softly to the moon,
And all around the organ there's a sea without a shore
Of human joys and wonders and regrets;
To remember and to recompense the music evermore
For what the cold machinery forgets. . . .

Yes; as the music changes,
Like a prismatic glass,
It takes the light and ranges
Through all the moods that pass;
Dissects the common carnival
Of passions and regrets,
And gives the world a glimpse of all
The colors it forgets.

And there LA TRAVIATA sights
Another sadder song;
And there IL TROVATORE cries
A tale of deeper wrong;
And bolder knights to battle go
With sword and shield and lance,
Than ever here on earth below
Have whirled into -- A DANCE! --

Go down to Kew in lilac time; in lilac time; in lilac time;
Go down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer's wonderland;
Go down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)

The cherry-trees are seas of bloom and soft perfume and sweet perfume,
The cherry-trees are seas of bloom (and oh, so near to London!)
And there they say, when dawn is high and all the world's a blaze of sky
The cuckoo, though he's very shy, will sing a song for London.

The nightingale is rather rare and yet they say you'll hear him there
At Kew, at Kew in lilac time (and oh, so near to London!)
The linnet and the throstle, too, and after dark the long halloo
And golden-eyed TU-WHIT, TU WHOO of owls that ogle London.

For Noah hardly knew a bird of any kind that isn't heard
At Kew, at Kew in lilac time (and oh, so near to London!)
And when the rose begins to pout and all the chestnut spires are out
You'll hear the rest without a doubt, all chorusing for London: --

COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME;
COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)
AND YOU SHALL WANDER HAND IN HAND WITH LOVE IN SUMMER'S WONDERLAND;
COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)

And then the troubadour begins to thrill the golden street,
In the City as the sun sinks low;
And in all the gaudy busses there are scores of weary feet
Marking time, sweet time, with a dull mechanic beat,
And a thousand hearts are plunging to a love they'll never meet,
Through the meadows of the sunset, through the poppies and the wheat,
In the land where the dead dreams go.

Verdi, Verdi, when you wrote IL TROVATORE did you dream
Of the City when the sun sinks low
Of the organ and the monkey and the many-colored stream
On the Piccadilly pavement, of the myriad eyes that seem
To be litten for a moment with a wild Italian gleam
As A CHE LA MORTE parodies the world's eternal theme
And pulses with the sunset glow?

There's a thief, perhaps, that listens with a face of frozen stone
In the City as the sun sinks low;
There's a portly man of business with a balance of his own,
There's a clerk and there's a butcher of a soft reposeful tone,
And they're all them returning to the heavens they have known:
They are crammed and jammed in busses and -- they're each of them alone
In the land where the dead dreams go.

There's a very modish woman and her smile is very bland
In the City as the sun sinks low;
And her hansom jingles onward, but her little jeweled hand
Is clenched a little tighter and she cannot understand
What she wants or why she wanders to that undiscovered land,
For the parties there are not at all the sort of thing she planned,
In the land where the dead dreams go.

There's an Oxford man that listens and his heart is crying out
In the City as the sun sinks low;
For the barge the eight, the Isis, and the coach's whoop and shout,
For the minute gun, the counting and the long disheveled rout,
For the howl along the tow-path and a fate that's still in doubt,
For a roughened oar to handle and a race to think about
In the land where the dead dreams go.

There's a laborer that listen to the voices of the dead
In the City as the sun sinks low;
And his hand begins to tremble and his face is rather red
As he sees a loafer watching him and -- there he turns his head
And stares into the sunset where his April love is fled,
For he hears her softly singing and his lonely soul is led
Through the land where the dead dreams go.

There's and old and hardened demi-rep, it's ringing in her ears,
In the City as the sun sinks low;
With the wild and empty sorrow of the love that blights and sears,
Oh, and if she hurries onward, then be sure, be sure she hears,
Hears and bears the bitter burden of the unforgotten years,
And her laugh's a little harsher and her eyes are brimmed with tears
For the land where the dead dreams go.

There's a barrel-organ caroling across a golden street,
In the City as the sun sinks low;
Though the music's only Verdi there's a world to make it sweet
Just as yonder yellow sunset where the earth and heaven meet
Mellows all the sooty City! Hark, a hundred thousand feet
Are marching on to glory through the poppies and the wheat
In the land where the dead dreams go.

So it's Jeremiah, Jeremiah,
What have you to say
When you meet the garland girls
Tripping on their way?

All around my gala hat
I wear a wreath of roses
(A long and lonely year it is
I've waited for the May!)

If any one should ask you,
The reason why I wear it is,
My own love, my true love, is coming home to-day.

It's buy a bunch of violets for the lady
(IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON; IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON!)
Buy a bunch of violets for the lady;
While the sky burns blue above:

On the other side of the street you'll find it shady
(IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON; IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON!)
But buy a bunch of violets for the lady;
And tell her she's your own true love.

There's a barrel-organ caroling across a golden street,
In the City as the sun sinks glittering and slow;
And the music's not immortal, but the world has made it sweet
And enriched it with the harmonies that make a song complete
In the deeper heavens of music where the night and morning meet,
As it dies into the sunset glow;

And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light,
And they've given it a glory and a part of play again
In the Symphony that rules the day and night.

And there, as the music changes,
The song runs round again;
Once more it turns and ranges
Through all its joy and pain:
Dissects the common carnival
Of passions and regrets;
And the wheeling world remembers all
The wheeling song forgets.

Once more La TRAVIATA sighs
Another sadder song:
Once more IL TROVATORE cries
A tale of deeper wrong;
Once more the knights to battle go
With sword and shield and lance,
Till once, once more, the shattered foe
Has whirled into -- A DANCE --

Come down to Kew in lilac time; in lilac time; in lilac time;
Come down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)
And you shall wander hand in hand with Love in summer's wonderland;
Come down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)

COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME;
COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)
AND YOU SHALL WANDER HAND IN HAND WITH LOVE IN SUMMER'S WONDERLAND;
COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)

 

[End]

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