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Blix by Frank Norris

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expanding to the full male diapason of the city aroused and
signaling the advent of another year.

And they heard it, they two heard it, standing there face to face,
looking into each other's eyes, that unanswered question yet
between them, the question that had come to them with the turning
of the year. It was the old year yet when Condy had asked that
question. In that moment's pause, while Blix hesitated to answer
him, the New Year had come. And while the huge, vast note of the
city swelled and vibrated, she still kept silent. But only for a
moment. Then she came closer to him, and put a hand on each of
his shoulders.

"Happy New Year, dear," she said.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

On New Year's Day, the last day they were to be together, Blix and
Condy took "their walk," as they had come to call it--the walk
that included the lifeboat station, the Golden Gate, the ocean
beach beyond the old fort, the green, bare, flower-starred hills
and downs, and the smooth levels of the golf links. Blix had been
busy with the last details of her packing, and they did not get
started until toward two in the afternoon.

"Strike me!" exclaimed Captain Jack, as Blix informed him that she
had come to say good-by. "Why, ain't this very sudden-like, Miss
Bessemer? Hey, Kitty, come in here. Here's Miss Bessemer come to
say good-by; going to New York to-morrow."

"We'll regularly be lonesome without you, miss," said K. D. B., as
she came into the front room, bringing with her a brisk, pungent
odor of boiled vegetables. "New York--such a town as it must be!
It was called Manhattan at first, you know, and was settled by the
Dutch."

Evidently K. D. B. had reached the N's.

With such deftness as she possessed, Blix tried to turn the
conversation upon the first meeting of the retired sea captain and
the one-time costume reader, but all to no purpose. The
"Matrimonial Objects" were perhaps a little ashamed of their
"personals" by now, and neither Blix nor Condy were ever to hear
their version of the meeting in the back dining-room of Luna's
Mexican restaurant. Captain Jack was, in fact, anxious to change
the subject.

"Any news of the yarn yet?" he suddenly inquired of Condy "What do
those Eastern publishin' people think of Our Mug and Billy Isham
and the whiskey schooner?"

Condy had received the rejected manuscript of "In Defiance of
Authority" that morning, accompanied by a letter from the
Centennial Company.

"Well," he said in answer, "they're not, as you might say, falling
over themselves trying to see who'll be the first to print it.
It's been returned."

"The devil you say!" responded the Captain. "Well, that's kind of
disappointin' to you, ain't it?"

"But," Blix hastened to add, "we're not at all discouraged. We're
going to send it off again right away."

Then she said good-by to them.

"I dunno as you'll see me here when you come back, miss," said the
Captain, at the gate, his arm around K. D. B. "I've got to
schemin' again. Do you know," he added, in a low, confidential
tone, "that all the mines in California send their clean-ups and
gold bricks down to the Selby smeltin' works once every week? They
send 'em to San Francisco first, and they are taken up to Selby's
Wednesday afternoons on a little stern-wheel steamer called the
"Monticello." All them bricks are in a box--dumped in like so much
coal--and that box sets just under the wheel-house, for'ard. How
much money do you suppose them bricks represent? Well, I'll tell
you; last week they represented seven hundred and eighty thousand
dollars. Well, now, I got a chart of the bay near Vallejo; the
channel's all right, but there are mudflats that run out from
shore three miles. Enough water for a whitehall, but not enough
for--well, for the patrol boat, for instance. Two or three slick
boys, of a foggy night--of course, I'm not in that kind of game,
but strike! it would be a deal now, wouldn't it?"

"Don't you believe him, miss," put in K. D. B. "He's just talking
to show off."

"I think your scheme of holding up a Cunard liner," said Condy,
with great earnestness, "is more feasible. You could lay across
her course and fly a distress signal. She'd have to heave to."

"Yes, I been thinkin' o' that; but look here--what's to prevent
the liner taking right after your schooner after you've got the
stuff aboard--just followin' you right around an' findin' out
where you land?"

"She'd be under contract to carry Government mails," contradicted
Condy. "She couldn't do that. You'd leave her mails aboard for
just that reason. You wouldn't rob her of her mails; just so long
as she was carrying government mails she couldn't stop."

The Captain clapped his palm down upon the gate-post.

"Strike me straight! I never thought of that."



Chapter XIV


Blix and Condy went on; on along the narrow road upon the edge of
the salt marshes and tules that lay between the station and the
Golden Gate; on to the Golden Gate itself, and around the old
grime-incrusted fort to the ocean shore, with its reaches of hard,
white sand, where the bowlders lay tumbled and the surf grumbled
incessantly.

The world seemed very far away from them here on the shores of the
Pacific, on that first afternoon of the New Year. They were
supremely happy, and they sufficed to themselves. Condy had
forgotten all about the next day, when he must say good-by to
Blix.

It did not seem possible, it was not within the bounds of
possibility, that she was to go away--that they two were to be
separated. And for that matter, to-morrow was to-morrow. It was
twenty-four hours away. The present moment was sufficient.

The persistence with which they clung to the immediate moment,
their happiness in living only in the present, had brought about a
rather curious condition of things between them.

In their love for each other there was no thought of marriage;
they were too much occupied with the joy of being together at that
particular instant to think of the future. They loved each other,
and that was enough. They did not look ahead further than the
following day, and then but furtively, and only in order that
their morrow's parting might intensify their happiness of to-day.
That New Year's Day was to be the end of everything. Blix was
going; she and Condy would never see each other again. The
thought of marriage--with its certain responsibilities, its
duties, its gravity, its vague, troublous seriousness, its
inevitable disappointments--was even a little distasteful to them.
Their romance had been hitherto without a flaw; they had been
genuinely happy in little things. It was as well that it should
end that day, in all its pristine sweetness, unsullied by a single
bitter moment, undimmed by the cloud of a single disillusion or
disappointment. Whatever chanced to them in later years, they
could at least cherish this one memory of a pure, unselfish
affection, young and unstained and almost without thought of sex,
come and gone on the very threshold of their lives. This was the
end, they both understood. They were glad that it was to be so.
They did not even speak again of writing to each other.

They found once more the little semicircle of blackberry bushes
and the fallen log, half-way up the hill above the shore, and sat
there a while, looking down upon the long green rollers, marching
incessantly toward the beach, and there breaking in a prolonged
explosion of solid green water and flying spume. And their glance
followed their succeeding ranks further and further out to sea,
till the multitude blended into the mass--the vast, green,
shifting mass that drew the eye on and on, to the abrupt, fine
line of the horizon.

There was no detail in the scene. There was nothing but the great
reach of the ocean floor, the unbroken plane of blue sky, and the
bare green slope of land--three immensities, gigantic, vast,
primordial. It was no place for trival ideas and thoughts of
little things. The mind harked back unconsciously to the broad,
simpler, basic emotions, the fundamental instincts of the race.
The huge spaces of earth and air and water carried with them a
feeling of kindly but enormous force--elemental force, fresh,
untutored, new, and young. There was buoyancy in it; a fine,
breathless sense of uplifting and exhilaration; a sensation as of
bigness and a return to the homely, human, natural life, to the
primitive old impulses, irresistible, changeless, and unhampered;
old as the ocean, stable as the hills, vast as the unplumbed
depths of the sky.

Condy and Blix sat still, listening, looking, and watching--the
intellect drowsy and numb; the emotions, the senses, all alive and
brimming to the surface. Vaguely they felt the influence of the
moment. Something was preparing for them. From the lowest,
untouched depths in the hearts of each of them something was
rising steadily to consciousness and the light of day. There is
no name for such things, no name for the mystery that spans the
interval between man and woman--the mystery that bears no relation
to their love for each other, but that is something better than
love, and whose coming savors of the miraculous.

The afternoon had waned and the sun had begun to set when Blix
rose.

"We should be going, Condy," she told him.

They started up the hill, and Condy said: "I feel as though I had
been somehow asleep with my eyes wide open. What a glorious
sunset! It seems to me as though I were living double every
minute; and oh! Blix, isn't it the greatest thing in the world to
love each other as we do?"

They had come to the top of the hill by now, and went on across
the open, breezy downs, all starred with blue iris and wild
heliotrope. Blix drew his arm about her waist, and laid her cheek
upon his shoulder with a little caressing motion.

"And I do love you, dear," she said--"love you with all my heart.
And it's for always, too; I know that. I've been a girl until
within the last three or four days--just a girl, dearest; not very
serious, I'm afraid, and not caring for anything else beyond, what
was happening close around me--don't you understand? But since
I've found out how much I loved you and knew that you loved me--
why, everything is changed for me. I'm not the same, I enjoy
things that I never thought of enjoying before, and I feel so--oh,
LARGER, don't you know?--and stronger, and so much more serious.
Just a little while ago I was only nineteen, but I think, dear,
that by loving you I have become--all of a sudden and without
knowing it--a woman."

A little trembling ran through her with the words. She stopped
and put both arms around his neck, her head tipped back, her eyes
half closed, her sweet yellow hair rolling from her forehead. Her
whole dear being radiated with that sweet, clean perfume that
seemed to come alike from her clothes, her neck, her arms, her
hair, and mouth--the delicious, almost divine, feminine aroma that
was part of herself.

"You do love me, Condy, don't you, just as I love you?"

Such words as he could think of seemed pitifully inadequate. For
answer he could only hold her the closer. She understood. Her
eyes closed slowly, and her face drew nearer to his. Just above a
whisper, she said:

"I love you, dear!"

"I love you, Blix!"

And they kissed each other then upon the mouth.

Meanwhile the sun had been setting. Such a sunset! The whole
world, the three great spaces of sea and land and sky, were
incarnadined with the glory of it. The ocean floor was a blinding
red radiance, the hills were amethyst, the sky one gigantic opal,
and they two seemed poised in the midst of all the chaotic glory
of a primitive world. It was New Year's Day; the earth was new,
the year was new, and their love was new and strong. Everything
was before them. There was no longer any past, no longer any
present. Regrets and memories had no place in their new world.
It was Hope, Hope, Hope, that sang to them and called to them and
smote into life the new keen blood of them.

Then suddenly came the miracle, like the flashing out of a new
star, whose radiance they felt but could not see, like a burst of
music whose harmony they felt but could not hear. And as they
stood there alone in all that simple glory of sky and earth and
sea, they knew all in an instant that THEY WERE FOR EACH OTHER,
forever and forever, for better or for worse, till death should
them part. Into their romance, into their world of little things,
their joys of the moment, their happiness of the hour, had
suddenly descended a great and lasting joy, the happiness of the
great, grave issues of life--a happiness so deep, so intense, as
to thrill them with a sense of solemnity and wonder. Instead of
being the end, that New Year's Day was but the beginning--the
beginning of their real romance. All the fine, virile, masculine
energy of him was aroused and rampant. All her sweet, strong
womanliness had been suddenly deepened and broadened. In fine, he
had become a man, and she woman. Youth, life, and the love of man
and woman, the strength of the hills, the depth of the ocean, and
the beauty of the sky at sunset; that was what the New Year had
brought to them.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

"It's good-by, dear, isn't it?" said Blix.

But Condy would not have it so.

"No, no," he told her; "no, Blix; no matter how often we separate
after this wonderful New Year's Day, no matter how far we are
apart, WE two shall never, never say good-by."

"Oh, you're right, you're right!" she answered, the tears
beginning to shine in her little dark-brown eyes. "No; so long as
we love each other, nothing matters. There's no such thing as
distance for us, is there? Just think, you will be here on the
shores of the Pacific, and I on the shores of the Atlantic, but
the whole continent can't come between US."

"And we'll be together again, Blix," he said; "and it won't be
very long now. Just give me time--a few years now."

"But so long as we love each other, TIME won't matter either."

"What are the tears for, Blixy?" he asked, pressing his
handkerchief to her cheek.

"Because this is the saddest and happiest day of my life," she
answered. Then she pulled from him with a little laugh, adding:
"Look, Condy, you've dropped your letter. You pulled it out just
now with your handkerchief."

As Condy picked it up, she noted the name of the Centennial
Company upon the corner.

"It's the letter I got with the manuscript of the novel when they
sent it back," he explained.

"What did they say?"

"Oh, the usual thing. I haven't read it yet. Here's what they
say." He opened it and read:


"We return to you herewith the MS. of your novel, 'In Defiance of
Authority,' and regret that our reader does not recommend it as
available for publication at present. We have, however, followed
your work with considerable interest, and have read a story by
you, copied in one of our exchanges, under the title, 'A Victory
Over Death,' which we would have been glad to publish ourselves,
had you given us the chance.

"Would you consider the offer of the assistant editorship of our
QUARTERLY, a literary and critical pamphlet, that we publish in
New York, and with which we presume you are familiar? We do not
believe there would be any difficulty in the matter of financial
arrangements. In case you should decide to come on, we inclose R.
R. passes via the A. T. & S. F., C. & A., and New York Central.
"Very truly,

"THE CENTENNIAL PUBLISHING COMPANY,
"NEW YORK."


The two exchanged glances. But Blix was too excited to speak, and
could only give vent to a little, quivering, choking sigh. The
letter was a veritable god from the machine, the one thing lacking
to complete their happiness.

"I don't know how this looks to you," Condy began, trying to be
calm, "but it seems to me that this is--that this--this--"

But what they said then they could never afterward remember. The
golden haze of the sunset somehow got into their recollection of
the moment, and they could only recall the fact that they had been
gayer in that moment than ever before in all their lives.

Perhaps as gay as they ever were to be again. They began to know
the difference between gayety and happiness. That New Year's Day,
that sunset, marked for them an end and a beginning. It was the
end of their gay, irresponsible, hour-to-hour life of the past
three months; and it was the beginning of a new life, whose
possibilities of sorrow and of trouble, of pleasure and of
happiness, were greater than aught they had yet experienced. They
knew this--they felt it instinctively, as with a common impulse
they turned and looked back upon the glowing earth and sea and
sky, the breaking surf, the beach, the distant, rime-incrusted,
ancient fort--all that scene that to their eyes stood for the
dear, free, careless companionship of those last few months.
Their new-found happiness was not without its sadness already.
All was over now; their solitary walks, the long, still evenings
in the little dining-room overlooking the sleeping city, their
excursions to Luna's, their afternoons spent in the golden Chinese
balcony, their mornings on the lake, calm and still and hot.
Forever and forever they had said good-by to that life. Already
the sunset was losing its glory.

Then, with one last look, they turned about and set their faces
from it to the new life, to the East, where lay the Nation. Out
beyond the purple bulwarks of the Sierras, far off, the great,
grim world went clashing through its grooves--the world that now
they were to know, the world that called to them, and woke them,
and roused them. Their little gayeties were done; the life of
little things was all behind. Now for the future. The sterner
note had struck--work was to be done; that, too, the New Year had
brought to them--work for each of them, work and the world of men.

For a moment they shrank from it, loth to take the first step
beyond the confines of the garden wherein they had lived so
joyously and learned to love each other; and as they stood there,
facing the gray and darkening Eastern sky, their backs forever
turned to the sunset, Blix drew closer to him, putting her hand in
his, looking a little timidly into his eyes. But his arm was
around her, and the strong young force that looked into her eyes
from his gave her courage.

"A happy New Year, dear," she said.

"A very, very happy New Year, Blix," he answered.




[The End]




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