Part 2 out of 3
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
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,
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.
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
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:--
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!"
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:
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
"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:--
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
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
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."
"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
"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
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.
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.
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
"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.
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
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
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