Part 5 out of 7
Firio, despite the protests, would still keep P.D. fit for the trail. He
wrote to Jim Galway how immersed he was in his new career, but that he
might come for a while--for a little while, with emphasis--if ever Jim
wired that he was needed.
"That was a good holiday--a regular week-end debauch away from the shop!"
he thought, when the letters were finished.
Soon after this came an event which, for the first time, gave John
Wingfield, Sr. a revelation of the side of his son that had won Little
Rivers and the interest of the rank and file of the store. Among Jack's
many suggestions, in his aim to carry out his father's talk about the
creative business sense the first night they were together, had been one
for a suburban clubbing delivery system. It had been dismissed as
fantastic, but Jack had asked that it be given a trial and his father had
consented. Its basis was a certain confidence in human nature. Jack and
his father had dined together the evening after the master of the
push-buttons had gone through the final reports of the experiment.
"Well, Jack, I am going to raise your salary to a hundred a week," the
"On the ground that if you pay me more I might make myself worth more?"
Jack asked respectfully.
"No, as a matter of business. Whenever any man makes two dollars for the
store, he gets one dollar and I keep the other. That is the basis of my
success--others earning money for me. Your club scheme is a go. As the
accountant works it out, it has brought a profit of two hundred a week."
"Then I have done something worth while, really?" Jack asked, eagerly,
but half sceptical of such good fortune.
"Yes. You have created a value. You have used your powers of observation
and your brain. That's the thing that makes a few men employers while the
multitude remains employees."
"Father! Then I am not quite hopeless?"
"Hopeless! My son hopeless! No, no! I didn't expect you to learn the
business in a week, or a month, or even a year. Time! time!"
Nor did John Wingfield, Sr. wish his son to develop too rapidly. Now
that he was so sure of beating threescore and ten, while retaining the
full possession of his faculties, if he followed the rules of longevity,
he would not have welcomed a son who could spring into the saddle at
once. He wanted to ride alone. He who had never shared his power with
anyone! He who had never admitted anyone into even a few shares of
company partnership in his concern! Time! time! The boy would never fall
heir to undivided responsibility before he was forty. John Wingfield,
Sr. was pleased with himself; pleased over a good sign; and he could not
deny that he was pleased at the sudden change in Jack. For he saw Jack's
eyes sparkling into his own; sparkling with comradeship and spontaneous
gratification. Was the boy to be his in thought and purpose, after all?
Yes, of course; yes, inevitably, with the approach of maturity. Gradually
the flightiness of his upbringing would wear off down to the steel, the
hard-tempered, paternal steel.
"You can scarcely realize what a fight it has been for me until you know
the life I led out in Arizona, getting strong for you and the store,"
"Strong for me! For the store! Yes, Jack!" There was an emphasis on the
subjective personal pronoun--for _him_; for the store!
The father's face beamed a serene delight. This Jack accepted as the
expression of sympathy and understanding which he had craved. It was to
him an inspiration of fellowship that set the well of his inner being in
overflow and the force of his personality, which the father had felt
uncannily before the mother's picture, became something persuasive in its
radiance rather than something held in leash as a threatening and
volcanic element. Now he could talk as freely and happily of the desert
to his father as to Burleigh and Mathewson. He told of the long rides;
of Firio and Wrath of God. He made the tinkle of Jag Ear's bells heard in
the silence of the dining-room as it was heard in the silences of the
trail. He mentioned how he was afraid to come back after he was strong.
"Afraid?" queried his father.
"Yes. But I was coming--coming when, at the top of the pass, I saw Little
Rivers for the first time."
He sketched his meeting with Mary Ewold; the story of the town and the
story of Jasper Ewold as he knew it, now glancing at his father, now
seeming to see nothing except visualization of the pictures of his story.
The father, looking at the table-cloth, at times playing with his
coffee-spoon, made no comment.
"And that first night I saw that Jasper Ewold had met me somewhere
before. But--" he went on after going back to the incident of the villa
in his childhood--"that hardly explained. How could he remember the face
of a grown man from the face of a boy? Jasper Ewold! Do you recall ever
having met him? He must have known my mother. Perhaps he knew you, though
why he should not have told me I don't know."
"Yes, yes--Jasper Ewold," said the father. "I knew him in his younger
days. His was an old family up in Burbridge, the New England town where I
came from. Too much college, too much travel, as I remember,
characterized Jasper Ewold. No settled point of view; and I judge from
what you say that he must have run through his patrimony. One of the ups
and downs of the world, Jack. And he never mentioned that he had met me?"
"Probably a part of that desert notion of freemasonry in keeping pasts a
secret. But why did you stay on after you had recovered from your wound?"
he asked penetratingly, though he was looking again at the bottom of his
"For a reason that comes to a man but once in his life!" Jack answered.
Had the father looked up--it was a habit of his in listening to any
report to lower his eyes, his face a mask--he might have seen Jack's
face in the supremacy of emotion, as it was when he had called up to
Mary from the canyon and when he had pleaded with her on the pass. But
John Wingfield, Sr. could not mistake the message of a voice vibrating
with all the force of a being let free living over the scene. With the
shadows settling over his eyes, Jack came to her answer and to the
finality of her cry:
"It's not in the blood!"
The only sound was a slight tinkle of a spoon against the coffee-cup.
Looking at his father he saw a nervous flutter in his cheeks, his lips
hard set, his brow drawn down; and the rigidity of the profile was such
that Jack was struck by the shiver of a thought that it must have been
like his own as others said it was when he had gripped Pedro Nogales's
arm. But this passed quickly, leaving, however, in its trail an
expression of shock and displeasure.
"So it was the girl, that kept you--you were in love!" John Wingfield,
Sr. exclaimed, tensely.
"Yes, I was--I am! You have it, father, the unchangeable all of it! I
face a wall of mystery. 'It's not in the blood!' she said, as if it were
some bar sinister. What could she have meant?"
In the fever of baffled intensity crying for light and help, he was
sharing the secret that had beset him relentlessly and giving his father
the supreme confidence of his heart. Leaning across the table he grasped
his father's hand, which lay still and unresponsive and singularly cold
for a second. Then John Wingfield, Sr. raised his other hand and patted
the back of Jack's hesitantly, as if uncertain how to deal with this
latest situation that had developed out of his son's old life. Finally he
looked up good-temperedly, deprecatingly.
"Well, well, Jack, I almost forgot that you are young. It's quite a bad
case!" he said.
"But what did she mean? Can you guess? I have thought of it so much that
it has meant a thousand wild things!" Jack persisted desperately.
"Come! come!" the father rallied him. "Time, time!"
He gripped the hand that was gripping his and swung it free of the table
with a kindly shake. All the effective charm of his personality which he
never wasted, the charm that could develop out of the mask to gain an end
when the period of listening was over, was in play.
"She excited the opposition of the strength in you," he said. "You ask
what did she mean? It is hard to tell what a woman means, but I judge
that she meant that it was not in her blood to marry a fellow who went
about fighting duels and breaking arms. She would like a more peaceful
sort; and, yes, anything that came into her mind leaped out and you were
mystified by her strange exclamation!"
"Perhaps. I suppose that may be it. It was just myself, just my devil!"
Jack assented limply.
"Time! time! All this will pass."
Jack could not answer that commonplace with one of his own, that it would
not pass; he could only return the pressure when his father, rising and
coming around the table, slipped his arm about the son in a demonstration
of affection which was like opening the gate to a new epoch in their
"And you would have killed Leddy! You could have broken that Mexican in
two! I should like to have seen that! So would the ancestor!" said the
father, giving Jack a hug.
"Yes, but, father, that was the horror of it!"
"Not the power to do it--no! I mean, Jack, that in this world it is well
to be strong."
"And you think that I am no longer a weakling?" Jack asked strangely;
"that I carried out your instructions when you sent me away?"
"Oh, Jack, you remember my farewell remark? It was made in irritation and
suffering. That hurt me. It hurt my pride and all that my work stands
for. It hurt me as much as it hurt you. But if it was a whip, why, then,
it served a purpose, as I wanted it to."
"Yes, it was a whip!" said Jack, mechanically.
"Then all ends well--all quits! And, Jack," he swung Jack, who was
unresisting but unresponsive, around facing him, "if you ever have any
doubts or any questions to ask bring them to me, won't you?"
"And, Jack, a hundred a week to-morrow! You're all right, Jack!" And he
gave Jack a slap on the back as they left the dining-room.
A MEETING ON THE AVENUE TRAIL
Light sang in the veins and thoughts of a city. Light cleansed the
streets of vapors. Light, the light of the sunshine of late May, made a
far different New York from the New York under a blanket of March mist of
the day of Jack's arrival. The lantern of the Metropolitan tower was all
blazing gold; Diana's scarf trailed behind her in the shimmering abandon
of her _honi soit qui mal y pense_ chases on Olympus; Admiral Farragut
grew urbane, sailing on a smooth sea with victory won; General Sherman in
his over-brightness, guided by his guardian lady, still gallantly pursued
the tone of time in the direction of the old City Hall and Trinity; and
the marble facade of the new library seemed no less at home than under an
Agean sky. An ecstasy, blinding eyes to blemishes, set critical faculties
to rejoicing over perfections. They graciously overlooked the blotch of
red brick hiding the body of St. Patrick's on the way up town in
gratitude for twin spires against the sky.
Enveloping radiance gilded the sharp lines of skyscrapers and swept away
the shadows in the chasms between them. It pointed the bows of busy tugs
with sprays of diamonds falling on the molten surface of rivers and bays.
It called up paeans of childish trebles from tenement alleys; slipped
into the sickrooms of private houses, delaying the advent of crape on
the door; and played across the rows of beds in the public wards of
hospitals in the primal democracy of the gift of ozone to the earth.
The milky glass roof of the central court of the Wingfield store acted as
a screen to the omnipotent visitor, but he set unfiltered patches of
delight in the aisles and on the counters near the walls. Mamie Devore
and Burleigh and Peter Mortimer and many other clerks and employees asked
if this were like a desert day and Jack said that it was. He longed to be
free of all roofs and feel the geniality of the hearth-fire of the
planetary system penetrating through his coat, his skin, his flesh, into
his very being. Why not close the store and make a holiday for everybody?
he asked himself; only to be amazed, on second thought, at such a
preposterous suggestion from a hundred-dollar-a-week author of created
profits in the business. He was almost on the point of acting on another
impulse, which was that he and his father break away into the country in
a touring car, not knowing where they were going to stop until hunger
overtook an inn. This, too, he dismissed as a milder form of the same
demoralizing order of heresy, bound to be disturbing to the new filial
relations springing from the night when he had told his desert story over
the coffee, which, contrary to the conventional idea of an exchange of
confidences clearing the mind of a burden, had only provoked more
At least, he would fare forth for a while on the broad asphalt trail that
begins under the arch of the little park and runs to the entrance of the
great park. Even as the desert has its spell of overawing stillness in an
uninhabited land, so this trail had its spell of congested human
movement in the heart of habitations. A broad, luminous blade lay across
the west side of the street and left the other in shade; and all the
world that loved sunshine and had no errands on the east side kept to the
west side. There was a communism of inspiration abroad. It was a
conqueror's triumph just to be alive and feel the pulse-beat of the
throng. The very over-developed sensitiveness of city nerves became
something to be thankful for in providing the capacity for keener
enjoyment as compensation for the capacity for keener pain.
Womankind was in spring plumage. The mere consciousness of the value of
light to their costumes, no less than the elixir in their nostrils, gave
vivacity to their features. As usual, Jack was seeing them only to see
Mary. The creation of no _couturier_ could bear rivalry with the garb in
which his imagination clothed her. He found himself suddenly engrossed in
a particular exhibit of fashion's parade a little distance ahead and
going in the same direction as himself, a young woman in a simplicity of
gown to which her carriage gave the final touch of art. Her steps had a
long-limbed freedom and lightness, with which his own steps ran in a
rhythm to the music of some past association. The thrall of a likeness,
which more and more possessed him, made him hasten to draw near for a
more satisfying glimpse.
The young woman turned her head to glance into a shop-window and then
there could be no mistaking that cheek and chin and the peculiar relation
of the long lashes to the brow. It was the profile whose imprint had
become indelible on his mind when he had come round an elbow of rock on
Galeria. The Jack of wild, tumultuous pleading who had parted from Mary
Ewold on the pass became a Jack elate with the glad, swimming joy of May
sunshine at seeing and speaking to her again.
"Mary! Mary!" he cried. "My, but you've become a grand swell!" he
breathed delectably, with a fuller vision of her.
There was a nervous twitching of her lips. He saw her eyes at first in a
blaze of surprise and wonder; then change to the baffling sparkle, hiding
their depths, of the slivers of glass on the old barrier. His smile and
hers in unspoken understanding said that two comrades of another trail
had met on the Avenue trail. There had not been any Leddy; there had not
been any scene on the pass. They were back to the conditions of the
protocol he had established when they started out from the porch of the
Ewold bungalow in the airiest possible mood to look at a parcel of land.
"And you also have become a grand swell!" she said. "Did you expect that
I should be in a gray riding-habit? Certainly I didn't expect to see you
in chaps and spurs."
It was brittle business; but with a common resource in play they managed
it well. And there they were walking together, noted by passers-by for
their youth and beaming oblivion to everything but themselves.
"How long have you been here?" Jack asked.
"Two weeks," she answered.
Two weeks in the same town and this his first glimpse of her! What a maze
New York was! What a desert waste of two weeks!
"Yes. Our decision to come was rather abrupt," she explained. "A sudden
call to travel came to father; came to him like an inspiration that he
could not resist. And how happily he has entered into the spirit of the
city again! It has made him young."
"And it has been quite like martyrdom for you!" Jack put in, teasingly.
"Terrible! Sackcloth and ashes!"
"I see you are wearing the sackcloth."
She laughed outright, with a downward glance at her gown, at once in
guilt and appreciation.
"Another whim of father's."
"The Doge a scapegoat for fashion!"
"Not a scapegoat--a partisan! He insisted on going to one of the best
places. Could I resist? I wanted to see how I felt, how I appeared."
"The veritable curiosity of a Japanese woman getting her first
"Thank you! That is another excuse."
"And it certainly looks very well," Jack declared.
"Do you think so?" Mary flushed slightly. She could not help being
pleased. "After six years, could I drop back into the old chrysalis
naturally, without awkwardness? Did I still know how to wear a fine
gown?"--and the gift for it, as anyone could see, was born in her as
surely as certain gifts were born in Jack. "But," she added, severely, "I
have only two--just two! And the cost of them! It will take the whole
Just two, when she ought to have twenty! When he would have liked to put
all the Paris models in the store in a wagon and, himself driving,
deliver them at her door!
"Having succumbed to temptation, I enjoy it out of sheer respect to
the orange crop," Mary said; "and yes, because I like beautiful
gowns; wickedly, truly like them! And I like the Avenue, just as I
like the desert."
And all that she liked he could give her! And all that he could give she
had stubbornly refused!
The liveliness of her expression, the many shades of meaning that she
could set capering with a glance, were now as the personal reflection of
the day and the scene. Their gait was a sauntering one. They went as far
as the Park and started back, as if all the time of the desert were
theirs. They stopped to look into the windows of shops of every kind,
from antiques to millinery. When he saw a hat which he declared, after
deliberate, critical appraisement, would surely become her, she asked
boldly if it were better than the one she wore.
"I mean an extra hat; that one more hat would have the good fortune of
"Almost a real contribution to the literature of compliments!" she
He thought, too, that she ought to have a certain necklace in a
"To wear over my riding-habit or when I am digging in the flower beds?"
When they passed a display of luxuries for masculine adornment, she found
a further retort in suggesting that he ought to have a certain giddy
fancy waistcoat. He complimented her on her taste, bought the waistcoat
and, going to the rear of the shop, returned wearing it with a
momentarily appreciated show of jaunty swagger.
"Why be on the Avenue and not buy?" he queried, enthusing with a new
Jim Galway should have a cowpuncher hat as a present. The style of band
was a subject of discussion calling on their discriminative views of
Jim's personal tastes. This led to thoughts of others in Little Rivers
who would appreciate gifts, and to the purchase of toys for the children,
a positive revel. When they were through it was well past noon and they
were in the region of the restaurants. The sun in majestic altitude swept
the breadth of the Avenue.
"Shall we lunch--yes, and in the Best Swell Place?" he asked, as if it
were a matter-of-course part of the programme, while inwardly he was
stirred with the fear of her refusal. He felt that any minute she might
leave him, with no alternative but another farewell. She hesitated a
moment seriously, then accepted blithely and naturally.
"Yes, the Best Swell Place--let's! Who isn't entitled to the Best Swell
After an argument in comparison of famous names, they were convinced that
they had really chosen the Best Swell Place by the fact of a vacant table
at a window looking out over a box hedge. Jack told the waiter that the
assemblage was not an autocracy, but a parliament which, with a full
quorum present, would enjoy in discursive appreciation selections from
the broad range of a bill of fare.
A luncheon for two narrows a walk on the Avenue, where you are part of a
crowd, into restricted intimacy. He was feeling the intoxication of her
inscrutability, catching gleams of the wealth that lay beyond it, across
the limited breadth of a table-cloth. He forgot about the unspoken
conditions in a sally which was like putting his hand on top of the
barrier for an impetuous leap across.
"I wrote you stacks of letters," he said, "and you never sent me one
little line; not even 'Yours received and contents noted!'"
In a flash all intimacy vanished. She might have been at the other end of
the dining-room in somebody else's party nodding to him as to an
acquaintance. Her answer was delayed about as long as it takes to lift an
arrow from a quiver and notch it in a bowstring.
"A novel may be very interesting, but that does not mean that I write to
He imagined her going through the meal in polite silence or in measured
commonplaces, turning the happy parliament into a frigid Gothic ceremony.
Why had he not kept in mind that sufficient to the hour is the pleasure
of it? Famished for her companionship, a foolhardy impulse of temptation
had risked its loss. The waiter set something before them and softly
withdrew. Jack signaled the unspoken humility of being a disciplined
soldier at attention on his side of the barrier and Mary signaled a
trifle superior but good-natured acceptance of his apology and promise of
They were back to the truce of nonsense, apostrophizing the cooking of
the Best Swell Place, setting exclamations to their glimpses of people
passing in the street. For they had never wanted for words when talking
across the barrier; there was paucity of conversation only when he
threatened an invasion.
While a New Yorker meeting a former New Yorker on the desert might have
little to tell not already chronicled in the press, a Little Riversite
meeting a former Little Riversite in New York had a family budget of
news. How high were Jack's hedges? How were the Doge's date-trees? How
was this and that person coming on? Listening to all the details, Jack
felt homesickness creeping over him, and he clung fondly to every one of
the swiftly-passing moments. By no reference and by no inference had she
suggested that there was ever any likelihood of his meeting or hearing
from her again. A thread of old relations had been spun only to be
snapped. She was, indeed, as a visitation developed out of the sunshine
of the Avenue, into which she would dissolve.
"I was to meet father at a bookstore at three," she said, finally,
as she rose.
"Inevitably he would be there or in a gallery," said Jack.
"He has done the galleries. This is the day for buying books--still
more books! I suppose he is spending the orange crop again. If you keep
on spending the same orange crop, just where do you arrive in the maze
"I should not like to say without consulting the head book-keeper or, at
least, Peter Mortimer!"
They were coming out of the door of the Best Swell Place, now. A word and
she would be going in one direction and he in another. How easily she
might speak that word, with an electric and final glance of good-will!
"But I must say howdy do to the Doge!" he urged. "I should like to
see him buying books. What a prodigal debauch of learning! I cannot
"It is not far," she said, prolonging Paradise for him.
A few blocks below Forty-second Street they turned into a cross street
which was the same that led to the Wingfield house; and halfway to
Madison Avenue they entered a bookstore. The light from low windows
spreading across the counters blended with the light from high windows at
the back, and here, on a platform at the head of the stairs, before a big
table sat the Doge, in the majesty of a great patron of literature, with
a clerk standing by in deftly-urging attentiveness. Mary and Jack paused
at the foot of the stairs watching him. Gently he was fingering an old
octavo; fingering it as one would who was between the hyperionic desire
of possession and a fear that a bank account owed its solvency to keeping
the amounts of deposits somewhere in proportion to the amount of
"No, sir! No more, you tempter!" he declared. "No more, you unctuous
ambassador from the court of Gutenberg! Why, this one would take enough
alfalfa at the present price a ton to bury your store under a haycock as
high as the Roman Pantheon!"
The Doge rose and picked up his broad-brimmed hat, prepared to fly from
danger. He would not expose himself a moment longer to the wiles of
"I'll wait for my daughter down there in the safe and economical environs
of the popular novels fresh from the press!" he said.
Turning to descend the stairs he saw the waiting pair. He stopped stock
still and threw up his hand in a gesture of astonishment. His glance
hovered back and forth between Jack's face and Mary's, and then met
Jack's look with something of the same challenge and confidence of his
farewell on the road out of Little Rivers, and in an outburst of genial
raillery he began the conversation where he had left off with the final
call of his personal good wishes and his salutations to certain landmarks
of New York.
"Well, well, Sir Chaps! I saw Sorolla in his new style; very different
from the academics of the young Sorolla. He has found his mission and let
himself go. No wonder people flocked to his exhibitions on misty days!
The trouble with our artists is that they are afraid to let themselves
go, afraid to be popular. They think technique is the thing, when it is
only the tool. Why, confound it all! all the great masters were popular
in their day--Venetian, Florentine, Flemish! Confound it, yes! And not
one Velasquez"--evidently he was talking partly to get his bearings after
his shock at seeing Jack--"no, not one Velasquez in the Metropolitan! I
go home without seeing a Velasquez. They have the Catherine Lorillard
Wolfe collection, thousands of square yards of it, and yes, cheer up!
Thank heaven, they have some great Americans, Inness and Martin and Homer
and our exile Whistler, who annexed Japan, and our Sargent, born in
Florence. And I did see the Metropolitan tower. I take off my hat, my
broad-brimmed hat, wishing that it were as big as a carter's umbrella, to
that tower. I hate to think it an accident of chaos like the Grand
Canyon. I rather like to think of it as majestic promise."
The Doge had talked so fast that he was almost out of breath. He was
ready to yield the floor to Jack.
"I kissed my hand to Diana for you!" said Jack. "And what do you think?
The lady in answer shook out her scarf and something white and small
fluttered down. I picked it up. It was a note."
"Did you open that note?" asked the Doge in haughty suspicion.
"Wasn't it marked personal for me?"--this in fine simulation of
"I am chagrined and surprised at Diana," said the Doge ruefully. "It's
the effect of city association. As a matter of course, she ought to have
given it to Mercury, or at least to one of the Centaurs, considering all
the horseshows that have been held under her skipping toes! Well, what
did she say? Being a woman of action she was brief. What did she say?"
"It was in the nature of a general personal complaint. Her costume is in
need of repair; it is flaking disgracefully. She said that if you had not
forsaken your love of the plastic for love of the graphic arts you would
long ago have stolen a little gold off the Eternal Painter's palette,
just to clothe her decently for the sake of her own self-respect--the
town having set her so high that its sense of propriety was quite safe."
"I stand convicted of neglect," said the Doge, coming down to the floor
of the store. "I will shoot her a bundle of gold leaf from the top of the
pass on a ray of evening sunshine."
There, he gave Jack a pat on the shoulder; a hasty, playful, almost
affectionate demonstration, and broke off with a shout of:
"Persiflage, sir, persiflage!"
"It is manna to me!" declared Jack, in the fulness and sweetness of the
sensation of the atmosphere of Little Rivers reproduced in New York.
"And not a Velasquez in the Metropolitan!" mused the Doge, bustling along
the aisle hurriedly. "Well, Mary, we have errands to do. There is no time
They were at the door, Jack in wistful insistence, hungry for their
companionship, and the Doge and Mary in common hesitancy for a phrase
before parting from him. He was ahead of the phrase.
"But there is a Velasquez, one of the greatest of Velasquezes, just a few
steps from here! It would take only a minute to see it."
"A Velasquez a few steps from here!" cried the Doge. "Where? Be exact,
before I let my hopes rise too high."
"The subject is an ancestor of mine. My father has it."
Jack had looked in the direction of the Wingfield house on the Madison
Avenue corner as he spoke, and the Doge had followed his glance. The
eagerness passed from the Doge's face, but not its intensity. That was
transmuted into something staring and hard.
"A very great Velasquez!" Jack repeated.
"My _amour propre_!" the Doge said, in whispered abstraction, using the
French which so exactly expresses the rightness of an inner feeling that
will not let one do a thing however much he may wish to. Then a wave of
confusion passed over his face, evidently at the echo of his thoughts in
the form of words come unwittingly from his lips. He tried to retrieve
his exclamation in an effort at the forensic: "The _amour propre_ of any
American is hurt by the thought that he must go to a private gallery to
see a Velasquez in the greatest city of the land!"
But it was a lame explanation. Clearly, some old antipathy had been
aroused in Jasper Ewold; and it made him hesitate to enter the big red
brick house on the corner.
"And we have a wonderful Sargent, too, a Sargent of my mother!" Jack
"Yes, yes!" said the Doge, and eagerness returned; a strange, moving
eagerness that seemed to come from the same depths as the exclamation
that had arrested his acceptance of the invitation at the outset. It held
the monosyllables like drops of water trembling before they fell.
"I should like you to see them both," said Jack.
"Yes," said the Doge, the word an echo rather than consent.
"There is no one at home at this hour; you will have all the time you can
spare for the pictures."
In the ascendency of his ardor to retain the joy of their company and in
the perplexity of mystery injected afresh into his relations with Mary,
Jack was hardly conscious that his urging was only another way of saying
that his father was absent. And Mary had not thrown her influence either
for or against going. She was watching her father, curiously and
penetratingly, as if trying to understand the source of the emotion that
he was seeking to control.
"Why, in that case," exclaimed the Doge, "why, you see," he went on to
explain, "we desert folk, though we are used to galleries, are a little
diffident about meeting people who live in big mansions. I mean, people
who have not had the desert training that you have had, Sir Chaps. If it
is only a matter of looking at a picture without any social
responsibilities, and that picture a Velasquez, why, we must take the
time, mustn't we, Mary?"
"Yes," Mary assented.
With Mary on one side of him and Jack on the other, the Doge was walking
heavily and slowly.
"At what period of Velasquez's career?" he asked, vacantly.
"When he was young and the subject was middle-aged, a Northerner, with
fair hair and lean muscles under a skin bronzed by the tropics, and the
unquenchable fire of youth in his eyes."
"That ought to be a good Velasquez," said the Doge.
At the bottom step of the flight up to the entrance to the house he
hesitated. He appeared to be very old and very tired. His face had gone
quite pale. The lids hung heavily over his eyes. Jack dropped back in
alarm to assist him; but his color quickly returned and the old challenge
was in his glance as it met Jack's.
"Now for your Velasquez!" he exclaimed, with calm vigor.
Once in the hall, Jack stood to one side of the door of the drawing-room
to let the Doge enter first. As the old man crossed the threshold his
hands were clasped behind him; his shoulders had fallen together, not in
weariness now, but in a kind of dazed, studious expectancy; and he faced
the "Portrait of a Lady."
"This is the Sargent," he said slowly, his lips barely opening in
mechanical and absent comment. "A good Sargent!"
He was as still as the picture in his bowed and earnest gaze into her
eyes, except for an occasional nervous movement of the fingers. All the
surroundings seemed to melt into a neutral background for the two; there
was nothing else in the room but the scholar in his age and the "Portrait
of a Lady" in her youth. Jack saw the Doge's face, its many lines
expressive as through a mist of time, its hills and valleys in the sun
and the shadow of emotions as variable as the mother's in life, speaking
personal resentment and wrong, admiration and tenderness, grievous
inquiry and philosophy, while the only answer was the radiant, "I give! I
give!" Finally, the Doge tightened the clasp of his hands, with a quiver
of his frame, as he turned toward Jack.
"Yes, a really great Sargent--a Sargent of supreme inspiration!" he said.
"Now for your Velasquez!"
Before the portrait of the first John Wingfield, Jasper Ewold's head and
shoulders recovered their sturdiness of outline and his features lighted
with the veritable touch of the brush of genius itself. He was the
connoisseur who understands, whose joy of possession is in the very
tingling depths of born instinct, rich with training and ripened by time.
It was superior to any bought title of ownership. In the presence of a
supreme standard, every shade of discriminative criticism and appraisal
became threads woven into a fabric of rapture.
"Mary," he said, his voice having the mellowness of age in its deep
appreciation, "Mary, wherever you saw this--skied or put in a corner
among a thousand other pictures, in a warehouse, a Quaker meetinghouse,
anywhere, whatever its surroundings--should you feel its compelling
power? Should you pause, incapable of analysis, in a spell of tribute?"
"Yes, I don't think I am quite so insensible as not to realize the
greatness of this portrait, or that of the Sargent, either," she
"Good! I am glad, Mary, very glad. You do me credit!"
Now he turned from the artist to the subject. He divined the kind of man
the first John Wingfield was; divined it almost as written in the
chronicle which Jack kept in his room in hallowed fraternity. Only he
bore hard on the unremitting, callous, impulsive aggressiveness of a
fierce past age, with its survival of the fittest swordsmen and
buccaneers, which had no heroes for him except the painters, poets, and
thinkers it gave to posterity.
"Fire-eating old devil! And the best thing he ever did, the best luck he
ever had, was attracting the attention of a young artist. It's
immortality just to be painted by Velasquez; the only immortality many a
famous man of the time will ever know!"
He looked away from the picture to Jack's face keenly and back at the
picture and back at Jack and back at the picture once more.
"Yes, yes!" he mused, corroboratively; and Jack realized that at the same
time Mary had been making the same comparison.
"Very like!" she said, with that impersonal exactness which to him was
always the most exasperating of her phases.
Then the Doge returned to the Sargent. He was standing nearer the
picture, but in the same position as before, while Jack and Mary waited
silently on his pleasure; and all three were as motionless as the
furniture, had it not been for the nervous twitching of the Doge's
fingers. He seemed unconscious of the passing of time; a man in a maze of
absorption with his thoughts. Jack was strangely affected. His brain was
marking time at the double-quick of fruitless energy. He felt the
atmosphere of the room surcharged with the hostility of the unknown. He
was gathering a multitude of impressions which only contributed more
chaos to chaos. His sensibilities abnormally alive to every sound, he
heard the outside door opened with a latch-key; he heard steps in the
hall, and saw his father's figure in the doorway of the drawing-room.
John Wingfield, Sr. appeared with a smile that was gone in a flash.
His face went stark and gray as stone under a frown from the Doge to
Jack; and with an exclamation of the half-articulate "Oh!" of
confusion, he withdrew.
Jack looked around to see the Doge half turned in the direction of the
door, gripping the back of a chair to steady himself, while Mary was
regarding this sudden change in him in answer to the stricken change in
the intruder with some of Jack's own paralysis of wonder. The Doge was
the first to speak. He fairly rocked the chair as he jerked his hand free
of its support, while he shook with a palsy which was not that of fear,
for there was raging color in his cheeks. The physical power of his great
figure was revealed. For the first time Jack was able to think of him as
capable of towering militancy. His anger gradually yielded to the
pressure of will and the situation. At length he said faintly, with a
kind of abyssmal courtesy:
"Thank you, Sir Chaps! Now I shall not go back to the desert without
having seen a Velasquez. Thank you! And we must be going."
Jack had an impulse, worthy of the tempestuous buccaneer of the picture,
to call to his father to come down; and then to bar the front door until
his burning questions were heard. The still light in Mary's eyes would
have checked him, if not his own proper second thought and the fear of
precipitating an ungovernable crisis. There had been shadows, real
shadows, he was thinking wildly; they were not born of desert imaginings;
and out of the quandary of his anguish came only the desire not to part
from the Doge and Mary in this fashion! No, not until in some way
equilibrium of mind was restored.
Though he knew that they did not expect or want his company, he went
out into the street with them. He would go as far as their hotel, he
remarked, in the bravery of simulated ease. The three were walking in
the same relative positions that they had before, with the Doge's bulk
hiding Mary from Jack's sight. The Doge set a rapid pace, as if under
the impetus of a desire to escape from the neighborhood of the
"Well, Sir Chaps," he said, after a while, "it will be a long time before
the provincials come to New York again. Why, in this New York you can
spend a patrimony in two weeks"--this with an affected amusement at his
own extravagance--"and I've pretty nearly done it. So we fly from
temptation. Yes, Mary, we will take the morning train."
"The morning train!" Mary exclaimed; and her surprise left no doubt that
her father's decision was new to her. Was it due to an exchange of
glances between a stark face and a face crimson with indignation which
Jack had already connected with the working out of his own destiny?
"Yes, that is better than spending our orange crop again!" she hastened
to add, with reassuring humor. "I'm fairly homesick for our oasis."
"We've had our fill of the big city," said the Doge, feelingly, "and we
are away to our little city of peace where we turned our pasts under with
the first furrows in the virgin soil."
Then silence. The truce of nonsense was dead. Persiflage was dead. Jack
was as a mute stranger keeping at their side unasked, while the only
glimpse he had of Mary was the edge of her hat and her fingertips on her
father's sleeve. Silence, which he felt was as hard for them as for him,
lasted until they were at the entrance to the quiet little hotel on a
cross-town street where the Ewolds were staying; and having the first
glimpse of Mary's eyes since they had started, he found nothing
fathomable in them except unmistakable relief that the walk was over.
"Thank you for showing me the Velasquez," said the Doge.
"Thank you, Jack," Mary added.
Both spoke in a manner that signaled to him the end of all things, but an
end which he could not accept.
"I--I--oh, there are a thousand questions I--" he broke out, desperately.
The muscles of his face tightened. Unconsciously he had leaned forward
toward the Doge in his intensity, and his attitude had become that of the
Wingfield of the portrait. A lower note of command ran through the
misery of his tone.
Jasper Ewold stared at him in a second of scrutiny, at once burningly
analytic and reflective. Then he flushed as he had at sight of the figure
in the drawing-room doorway. His look plainly said: "How much longer do
you mean to harass me?" as if Jack's features were now no less the image
of a hard and bitter memory than those of John Wingfield, Sr. Jack drew
back hurt and dumb, in face of this anger turned on himself. At length,
the Doge mustered his rallying smile, which was that of a man who carries
into his declining years a burden of disappointments which he fears may,
in his bad moments, get the better of his personal system of philosophy.
"Come, Mary!" he said, drawing his arm through hers. He became, in an
evident effort, a grand, old-fashioned gentleman, making a bow of
farewell. "Come, Mary, it's an early train and we have our packing
yet to do."
This time it was, indeed, dismissal; such a dismissal with polite urgency
as a venerable cabinet minister might give an importunate caller who is
slow to go. He and Mary started into the hotel. But he halted in the
doorway to say over his shoulder, with something of his old-time cheer,
which had the same element of pity as his leave-taking on the trail
outside of Little Rivers:
"Luck, Sir Chaps!"
"Luck!" Mary called in the same strained tone that she had called to Jack
when he went over the pass on his way to New York, the tone that was like
the click of a key in the lock of a gate.
WITH THE PHANTOMS
As Jack left the hotel entrance he was walking in the treadmill mechanics
of a prisoner pacing a cell, without note of his surroundings, except of
dim, moving figures with which he must avoid collision. The phantoms of
his boyhood, bulky and stiflingly near, had a monstrous reality, yet the
ghostly intangibility that mocked his sword-thrusts of tortured inquiry.
At length his distraction centered on the fact that he and his father
were to dine alone that evening.
They dined alone regularly every Wednesday, when Jack made a report of
his progress and received a lesson in business. It was at the last
council of this kind that John Wingfield, Sr. had bidden his son to
bring all questions and doubts to him. Now Jack hailed the weekly
function as having all the promise of relief of a surgeon's knife. Fully
and candidly he would unburden himself of every question beating in his
brain and every doubt assailing his spirit.
By the time that he was mounting the steps of the house his growing
impatience could no longer bear even the delay of waiting on dinner. When
he entered the hall he was the driven creature of an impelling desire
that must be satisfied immediately.
"Will you ask my father if he will see me at once?" he said to the
"Mr. Wingfield left word that he had to go into the country for the
night," answered the butler. "I am sorry, sir," he added confusedly, in
view of the blank disappointment with which the information was received.
In dreary state Jack dined by himself in the big dining-room, leaving the
food almost untouched. At intervals he was roused to a sense of his
presence at table by the servant's question if he should bring another
course. Without waiting for the last one, he went downstairs to the
drawing-room, and standing near the "Portrait of a Lady," again poured
out his questions, receiving the old answer of "I give! I give!" which
meant, he knew, that she had given all of herself to him. Saying after
saying of hers raced through his mind without throwing light on the
mystery, which had the uncanniness of a conspiracy against him.
And after his mother, Mary had influenced him more than any other person.
She had brought life to the seeds which his mother had planted in his
nature. That new life could not die, but without her it could not
flourish. Her cry of "It's not in the blood!" again came echoing to his
ears. What had she meant? The question sent him to the Ewolds' hotel; it
sent this note up to her room:
"In behalf of old desert comradeship, if I were in trouble wouldn't you
help me all you could? If I were in darkness and you could give me light,
would you refuse? Won't you see me for a few moments, if I promise to
keep to my side of the barrier which you have raised between us? I will
wait here in the lobby a long time, hoping that you will.
"All the light I have to give. I also am in darkness," came the answer in
a nervous, impulsive hand across a sheet of paper; and soon Mary herself
appeared from the elevator, not in the fashion of the Avenue, but in
simple gray coat and skirt, such as she wore at home. She greeted him in
a startled, half-fearful manner, as if her presence were due to the
impulsion of duty rather than choice.
"Shall we walk?" she asked, turning toward the door in the welcome of
movement as a steadying influence in her evident emotion.
There they were in the old rhythm of step of Little Rivers companionship
on a cross-town street. He saw that the costly hat that he had selected
for her in the display of a shop-window after all was not the equal of
the plain model with a fetching turn to the brim and a single militant
feather, which she wore that evening. The light feather boa around her
neck on account of the cool night air seemed particularly becoming. He
was near, very near, her, so near that their elbows touched; but the
nearness was like that of a picture out of a frame which has come to life
and may step back into cold canvas at any moment. Oh, it was hard, in the
might of his love for her, not to forget everything else and cry out
another declaration, as he had from the canyon! But her face was very
still. She was waiting for him to begin, while her fingers were playing
nervously with the tip of her boa.
"I must be frank, very frank," he said.
"Yes, Jack, or why speak at all?"
"From the night of my arrival in Little Rivers, when the Doge at once
recognized who I was without telling me, I saw that, under his politeness
and his kindness, he was hostile to my presence in Little Rivers."
"Yes, I think that in a way he was," she answered.
"I was conscious that something out of the past was between him and me,
and that it included you in a subtle influence that nothing could change.
And this afternoon, while you were at the house and my father came to the
drawing-room door, I could not help noticing how the Doge was overcome.
You noticed it, too?"
"Yes, I never saw my father in such anger before. It seemed to me that
he could have struck down that man in the doorway!" There was a
perceptible shudder, but she did not look up, her glance remaining level
with the flags.
"And on the pass you said, 'It's not in the blood!'" he continued. "Yes,
almost in terror you said it, as if it spelled an impassable gulf between
us. Why? why? Mary, haven't I a right to know?"
As he broke off passionately with this appeal, which was as the focus of
all the fears that had tormented him, they were immediately under the
light of a street lamp. She turned her head toward him resolutely, in the
mustering of her forces for an ordeal. Her face was pale, but there was
an effort at the old smile of comradeship.
"Yes, as I said, the little light that I have is yours, Jack," she began.
"But there is not much. It is, perhaps, more what I feel than what I
know that has influenced me. All that my father has ever said about you
and your father and your relations to us was the night after I returned
from the pass ahead of you, when you had descended into the canyon to
frighten me with the risk you were taking."
"I did not mean to frighten you!" he interjected. "I only followed
"Yes, one of your impulses, Jack," she remarked, comprehendingly. "Father
and I have been so much together--indeed, we have never been apart--that
there is more than filial sympathy of feeling between us. There is
something akin to telepathy. We often divine each other's thoughts. I
think that he understood what had taken place between us on the pass;
that you had brought on some sort of a crisis in our relations. It was
then that he told me who you were, as you know. Then he talked of you and
your father--you still wish to hear?"
"And you will listen in silence?"
"I will grant your defence of your father, but you will not argue? I am
giving what you ask, in justice to myself; I am giving my reasons, my
"No, I will not argue."
Their tones were so low that a passer-by would have hardly been conscious
that they were talking; but had the passer-by caught the pitch he might
have hazarded many guesses, every one serious.
"Then, I will try to make clear all that father said. You were the image
of your father--a smile and a square chin. The smile could charm and the
chin could kill. He liked you for some things that seemed to spring from
another source, as he called it; but these would vanish and in the end
you would be like your father, as he knew when he saw you break Pedro
Nogales's arm. And you gloried in your strength; as you told me on the
pass and as I saw for myself in the duel. And to you, father said,
victory was the supreme guerdon of life. It ran triumphant and
inextinguishable in your veins."
"I--" he said, chokingly; but remembered his promise not to argue.
"Any opposition, any refusal excited your will to overcome it in the
sheer joy of the exercise of your strength. This had been your father's
story in everything, even in his marriage."
"There is nothing more? No further light on his old relations with my
father and mother?" he asked.
"Only a single exclamation, 'It's not in the blood for you to believe in
Jack Wingfield, Mary!' And after that he turned silent and moody. I
pressed him for reasons. He answered that he had told me enough. I had to
live my own life; the rest I must decide for myself. I knew that I was
hurting him sorely. I was striking home into that past about which he
would never speak, though I know it still causes him many days of
"But on the desert there is no past!" Jack exclaimed.
"Yes, there is, Jack. There is your own heart. On the desert your past is
not shared with others. But to-night, after I received your note, I did
try, for the second time in my life, to share father's. I told him your
request; I spoke of the scene in your drawing-room; I asked him what it
meant. He answered that you must learn from one nearer you than he was,
and that he never wanted to think of that scene again."
It was she who had chosen the direction at the street corners. They were
returning now toward the hotel. The fingers which had been playing with
the boa had crumpled the end of it into a ball, which they were gripping
so tightly that the knuckles were little white spots set in a blood-red
background. She was suffering, but determined to leave nothing unsaid.
"Jack, when I said 'It's not in the blood' I was more than repeating my
father's words. They expressed a truth for me. I meant not only rebellion
against what was in you, but against the thing that was in me. Why, Jack,
I do not even remember my own mother! I have only heard father speak of
her sadly when I was much younger. Of late years he has not mentioned
her. He and the desert and the garden are all I have and all I know; and
probably, yes--probably I'm a strange sort of being. But what I am, I am;
and to that I will be true. Father went to the desert to save my life;
and broken-hearted, old, he is greater to me than the sum of any worldly
success. And, Jack, you forget--riding over the pass so grandly with your
impulses, as if to want a thing is to get it--you--but we have had good
times together; and, as I said, you belong on one side of the pass and I
on the other. This and much else, which one cannot see or define, is
between us. From the day you came, some forbidding influence seemed at
work in my father's life and mine; and when you had gone another man,
with your features and your smile, came to Little Rivers; one that I
understand even less than you!"
Jack recalled the references to the new rancher by Bob Worther on the day
of his departure for the East and, later, in Jim Galway's letter. But he
did not speak. Something more compelling than his promise was keeping him
silent: her own apprehension, with its story of phantoms of her own.
"And yesterday I saw your father's face," she went on, "as it appeared in
the doorway for a second before he saw my father and was struck with
fear, and how like yours it was--but more like John Prather's. And the
high-sounding preachments about the poverty that might go with fine gowns
became real to me. They were not banal at all. They were simple truth,
free of rhetoric and pretence. I knew that my cry of 'It's not in the
blood' was as true in me as any impulse of yours ever could be in you!"
To the end, under the dominance of her will, she had not faltered; and
with the end she looked up with a faint smile of stoicism and an
invincible flame in her eyes. Anything that he might be able to say would
be as flashing a blade in and out of a blaze. She had become superior to
the resources of barrier or armor, confident of a self whose richness he
realized anew. He saw and felt the tempered fineness of her as something
that would mind neither siege nor prayer.
"I am not afraid," she said, "and I know that you are not. It is all
right!" Then she added, with a desperate coolness, but still clasping the
boa rigidly: "The hotel is only a block away, and to-morrow you will be
back in the store and I shall soon be on my side of the pass."
This was her right word for a situation when his temples were throbbing,
harking back, with time's reversal of conditions, to a situation after
the duel in the _arroyo_ was over and he had used the right word when her
temples were throbbing and her hands splashed. If retribution were her
object, she had repaid in nerve-twitch of torture for nerve-twitch of
torture. The picture that had been alive and out of its frame was back on
cold canvas. Even the girl he had known across the barrier, even the girl
in armor, seemed more kindly. But one can talk, even to a picture in a
frame; at least, Jack could, with wistful persistence.
"You don't mind if I tell you again--if I speak my one continuous thought
aloud again?" he asked. "Mary, I love you! I love you in such a way that
I"--with a faint bravery of humor as he saw danger signals--"I would
build mud-houses all day for you to knock to pieces!"
"Foolish business, Jack!" she answered.
"Or drag a plow."
"Very hard work!"
"Or set out to tunnel a mountain single-handed, with hammer and chisel."
"I think you would find it dreadfully monotonous at the end of the
He had spoken his extravagances without winning a glance from her. She
had answered with a precision that was more trying than silence.
"_I_ shouldn't find it so if you were in the neighborhood to welcome
me when I knocked off for the day," he declared. "You see, I can't
help it. I can't help what is in me, just as surely as the breath of
life is in me."
"Jack!" she flashed back, with arresting sharpness, but without looking
around, while her step quickened perceptibly, "suppose I say that I am
sorry and I, too, cannot help it; that I, too, have temperament, as well
as you;" her tone was almost harsh; "that even you cannot have everything
you command; that for you to want a thing does not mean that I want it;
that I cannot help the fact that I do not--"
With a quick interruption he stayed the end of the sentence, as if it
were a descending blade.
"Don't say that!" he implored. "It is too much like taking a vow that
might make you fearfully stubborn in order to live up to it. Perhaps the
thing will come some day. It's wonderful how such a thing does come. You
see, I speak from experience," he went on, in wan insistence, with the
entrance to the hotel in sight. "Why, it is there before you realize it,
like the morning sunshine in a room while you are yet asleep. And you
open your eyes and there is the joyous wonder, settling itself all
through you and making itself at home forever. You know for the first
time that you are alive. You know for the first time that you were born
into this world merely because one other person was born into it."
"Very well said," she conceded, in hasty approval, without vouchsafing
him a glance. "I begin to think you get more inspiration for compliments
on this side of the pass than on the other,"--and they were at the hotel
door. Precipitately she hastened through it, as if with her last display
of strength after the exhaustion of that walk.
PRATHER WOULD NOT WAIT
When he returned to the house, Jack found a letter that had come in the
late mail from Jim Galway:
"First off, that story you sent for Belvy," Jim wrote. "We've heard it
read and reread, and the more it's worn with reading the fresher it gets
in our minds. As I size up the effect on the population, we folks in the
forties and fifties got more fun out of it than anybody except the folks
in the seventies and the five-to-twelve-year-olds. Some of the thirteen
and fourteen-year-olds were inclined to think at first that it wasn't
quite grown up enough for them, until they saw what fashionable
literature it was becoming. Then their dignified maturity limbered up a
little. Jack, it certainly did us a world of good. It seemed as if you
were back home again."
"Back home again!" Jack repeated, joyously; and then shook his head at
himself in solemn warning.
"And those of us that don't take our meat without salt sort of needed
cheering up," Jim went on. "Only a few days after I wrote you, the Doge
and Mary suddenly started for New York. Maybe he has looked you up." (The
"maybe" followed an "of course," which had been scratched through.) "And
maybe if he has you know more about what is going on here than we do. We
practically don't know anything; but I've sure got a feeling of that
uncertainty in the atmosphere that I used to have before a cyclone when I
lived in Kansas. This Prather, that so many thought at first looked like
you, has also gone to New York.
"He left only two days ago. Maybe you will run across him. I don't know,
but it seems to me he's gone to get the powder for some kind of a blow-up
here. Jack, you know what would happen if we lost our water rights and
you know what I wrote you in my last letter. Leddy and Ropey Smith are
hanging around all the time, and since the Doge went a whole lot of
fellows that don't belong to the honey-bee class have been turning up and
putting up their tents out on the outskirts, like they expected something
to happen. If things get worse and I've got something to go on and we
need you, I'm going to telegraph just as I said I would; because, Jack,
though you're worth a lot of millions, someway we feel you're one of us.
"Very truly yours for Little Rivers,
"JAMES R. GALWAY.
"P.S.--Belvy said to put in P.S. because P.S.'s are always the most
important part of a letter. She wants to know if you won't write
"I will!" said Jack. "I will, immediately!"
He made it a long story. He took a deal of pains with it in the very
relief of something to do when sleep was impossible and he must count the
moments in wretched impatience until his interview with the one person
who could answer his questions.
As he went down town in the morning the very freshness of the air
inspired him with the hope that he should come out of his father's office
with every phantom reduced to a figment of imagination springing from the
abnormality of his life-story; with a message that should allay Mary's
fears and soften her harshness toward him; with the certainty that the
next time he and his father sat together at dinner it would be in a
permanent understanding, craved of affection. Mary might come to New
York; the Doge might spend his declining years in leisurely patronage of
bookshops and galleries; and he would learn how to run the business,
though his head split, as became a simple, normal son.
These eddying thoughts on the surface of his mind, however, could not
free him of a consciousness of a deep, unsounded current that seemed to
be the irresistible, moving power of Mary's future, the store's, his
fathers, Jasper Ewold's and his own. With it he was going into a gorge,
over a cataract, or out into pleasant valleys, he knew not which. He knew
nothing except that there was no stopping the flood of the current which
had its source in streams already flowing before he was born. When the
last question had been asked his future would be clear. Relief was ahead,
and after relief would come the end of introspection and the beginning of
his real career.
But another question was waiting for him in the store. It was walking the
streets of his father's city in the freedom of a spectator who comes to
observe and not to buy. Crossing the first floor as he came to the
court, Jack saw, with sudden distinctness among the many faces coming and
going, a profile which, in its first association, developed on his vision
as that of his own when he shaved in front of the ear in the morning. He
had only a glimpse before it was turned away and its owner, a young man
in a quiet gray suit, started up the stairs.
Jack studied the young man's back half amusedly to see if this, too, were
like his own, and laughed at himself because he was sure that he would
not know his own back if it were preceding him in a promenade up the
Avenue. In peculiar suspense he was hoping that the young man would pause
and look around, as his father always did and shoppers often did, in a
survey of the busy, moving picture of the whole floor. But the young man
went on to the top of the flight. There he proceeded along the railing of
the court. His profile was again in view under a strong light, and Jack
realized that his first recognition of a resemblance was the recognition
of an indisputable fact.
"Have I a double out West and another in New York?" he thought. "It gives
a man a kind of secondhand feeling!"
Then he recalled Jim's letter saying that John Prather had gone to New
York. Was this John Prather? He had no doubt that it was when the object
of his scrutiny, with full face in view, stopped and leaned over the
balcony just above the diamond counter. There was a mole patch on the
cheek such as Jack remembered that the accounts of John Prather had
"I am as much fussed as the giant was at the sight of yellow!"
But for the mole patch the features were his own, as he knew them,
though no one not given to more frequent personal councils with mirrors
than Senor Don't Care of desert trails knows quite the lights and shadows
of his own countenance, which give it its character even more than does
its form. John Prather was regarding the jewelry display, where the
diamonds were scintillating under the light from the milk glass roof,
with a smile of amused contemplation. His expression was unpleasant to
Jack. It had a quality of satire and of covetousness as its owner leaned
farther over the rail and rubbed the palms of his hands together as
gleefully as if the diamonds were about to fly into his pockets by
All the time Jack had stood motionless in fixed and amazed observation.
He wondered that his stare had not drawn the other's attention. But John
Prather seemed too preoccupied with the dazzle of wealth to be
susceptible to any telepathic influence.
"Great heavens! I am gaping at him as if he were climbing hand over hand
up the face of a sky-scraper!" Jack thought. It was time something
happened. Why should he get so wrought up over the fact that another man
looked like him? "I'll get acquainted!" he declared, shaking himself free
of his antipathy. "We are both from Little Rivers and that's a ready
excuse for introducing myself."
As he started across the floor toward the stairs, Prather straightened
from his leaning posture. For an instant his glance seemed to rest on
Jack. Indeed, eye met eye for a flash; and then Prather moved away. His
decision to go might easily have been the electric result of Jack's own
decision to join him. Jack ran up the stairs. At the head of the flight
he saw, at half the distance across the floor, Prather's back entering an
elevator on the down trip. He hurried forward, his desire to meet and
speak with the man whose influence Jim Galway and Mary feared now
"Hello!" Jack sang out; and this to Prather's face after he had turned
around in the elevator.
In the second while the elevator man was swinging to the door, Jack
and Prather were fairly looking at each other. Prather had seen that
Jack wanted to speak to him, even if he had not heard the call. His
answer was a smile of mixed recognition and satire. He made a
gesture of appreciative understanding of the distinction in their
likeness by touching the mole on his cheek with his finger, which
was Jack's last glimpse of him before he was shot down into the
lower regions of the store.
"He did it neatly!" Jack gasped, with a sense of defeat and chagrin. "And
it is plain that he does not care to get acquainted. Perhaps he takes it
for granted that I am not friendly and foresaw that I would ask him a lot
of questions about Little Rivers that he would not care to answer." At
all events, the only way to accept the situation was lightly, his reason
insisted. "Having heard about the likeness, possibly he came to the store
to have a look at me, and after seeing me felt that he had been libeled!"
But his feelings refused to follow his reason in an amused view.
"I do not like John Prather!" he concluded, as he took the next elevator
to the top floor. "Yes, I liked Pete Leddy better at our first meeting. I
had rather a man would swear at me than smile in that fashion. It is
much more simple."
The incident had had such a besetting and disagreeable effect that Jack
would have found it difficult to rid his mind of it if he had not had a
more centering and pressing object in prospect in the citadel of the
push-buttons behind the glass marked "Private."
John Wingfield, Sr. looked up from his desk in covert watchfulness to
detect his son's mood, and he was conscious of a quality of manner that
recalled the returning exile's entry into the same room upon his arrival
from the West.
"Well, Jack," the father said, with marked cheeriness, "I hear you have
been taking a holiday. It's all right, and you will find motoring beats
"In some ways," Jack answered; and then he came a step nearer, his hand
resting on the edge of the desk, as he looked into his father's eyes with
John Wingfield, Sr.'s eyes shifted to the pushbuttons and later to a
paper on the desk, with which his fingers played gently. He realized
instantly that something unusual was on Jack's mind.
"Father," Jack went on, "I want a long talk quite alone with you. When it
is over I feel that we shall both know each other better; we can work
together in a fuller understanding."
"Yes, Jack," answered the father, cautiously feeling his way with a
swift upward glance, which fell again to the paper. "Well, what is it
now? Come on!"
"There are a lot of questions I want to ask--family questions."
"Family questions?" The fingers paused in playing with the paper for an
instant and went on playing again. The soft hands were as white as the
paper. "Family questions, eh? Well, there isn't much to our family except
you and I and that old ancestor--and a long talk, you say?"
"Yes. I thought that probably this would be a good time; you could give
me an hour now. It might not take that long."
Jack's voice was even and engaging and respectful. But it seemed to fill
the room with many echoing whispers.
"I have a very busy day before me," the father said, still without
looking up. He was talking to a little pad at one corner of the green
blotter which had a list of his appointments. "Your questions are not so
imperative that they cannot wait?"
"Then shall it be at dinner?" Jack asked.
"At dinner? No. I have an engagement for dinner."
"Shall you be home early? Shall I wait up for you?" Jack persisted.
"Yes, that's it! Say at nine. I'll make a point of it--in the library at
nine!" John Wingfield, Sr.'s hand slipped away from the papers and
patted the back of Jack's hand. "And come on with your questions. I will
answer every one that I can." He was looking up at Jack now, smilingly
and attractively in his frankness. "Every one that I can, from the first
John Wingfield right down to the present!"
But the hand that lay on Jack's was cold and its movement nervous and
"Thank you, father. I knew you would. I haven't forgotten your wish that
I should bring all my doubts and questions to you," said Jack, happily.
And in an impulse which had the devoutness of a rising hope he took that
cold, soft hand in both of his and gave it a shake; and the feel of the
son's grip, firm and warm, remained with John Wingfield, Sr. while he
stared at the door through which Jack had passed out. When he had pulled
himself together he asked Mortimer to connect him with Dr. Bennington.
"Doctor, I want a little talk with you to-night before nine," he said.
"Could you dine with me--not at the house--say at the club?
Yes--excellent--and make it at seven. Yes. Good-by!"
A CRISIS IN THE WINGFIELD LIBRARY
A library atmosphere was missing from the Wingfield library, with its
heavy panelling and rows of red and blue morocco backs. Rather the
suggestion was of a bastion of privacy, where a man of action might make
his plans or take counsel at leisure amid rich and mellow surroundings.
Here, John Wingfield, Sr. had gained points through post-prandial
geniality which he could never have won in the presence of the battery of
push-buttons; here, his most successful conceptions had come to him;
here, he had known the greatest moments of his life. He was right in
saying that he loved his library; but he hardly loved it for its books.
When he returned to the house shortly before nine from his session with
Dr. Bennington, it was with the knowledge that another great moment was
in prospect. He took a few turns up and down the room before he rang for
the butler to tell Jack that he had come in. Then he placed a chair near
the desk, where its occupant would sit facing him. After he sat down he
moved the desk lamp, which was the only light in the room, so that its
rays fell on the back of the chair and left his own face in shadow--a
precaution which he had taken on many other occasions in adroitness of
stage management. He drew from the humidor drawer of his desk a box of
the long cigars with blunt ends which need no encircling gilt band in
praise of their quality.
As Jack entered, the father welcomed him with a warm, paternal smile. And
be it remembered that John Wingfield, Sr. could smile most pleasantly,
and he knew the value of his smile. Jack answered the smile with one of
his own, a little wan, a little subdued, yet enlivening under the glow of
his father's evident happiness at seeing him. The father, who had
transgressed the rules of longevity by taking a second cigar after
dinner, now pushed the box across the desk to his son. Jack said that he
would "roll one"; he did not care to smoke much. He produced a small
package of flake tobacco and a packet of rice paper and with a deftness
that was like sleight of hand made a cigarette without spilling a single
flake. He had not always chosen the "makings" in place of private stock
Havanas, but it seemed to suit his mood to-night.
"That is one of the things you learned in the West," the father observed
affably, to break the ice.
"I can do them with one hand," Jack answered. "But you are likely to
have an overflow--which is all right when you have the whole desert for
the litter. Besides, in a library it would have the effect of gallery
play, I fear."
He was seated in a way that revealed all the supple lines of his figure.
However relaxed his attitude before his father, it was always suggestive
of latent strength, appealing at once to paternal pride and paternal
uncertainty as to what course the strength would take. His face under the
light of the lamp was boyish and singularly without trace of guile.
The father struck a match and held it to light his son's cigarette;
another habit of his which he had found flattering to men who were
brought into the library for conference. Jack took a puff slowly and,
after a time, another puff, and then dropped the cigarette on the ash
receiver as much as to say that he had smoked enough. Something told John
Wingfield, Sr. that this was to be a long interview and in no way
hurried, as he saw the smile dying on the son's lips and misery coming
into the son's eyes.
"These last two days have been pretty poignant for me," Jack began, in a
simple, outright fashion; "and only half an hour ago I got this. It was
hard to resist taking the first train West." He drew a telegram from his
pocket and handed it to his father.
"We want you and though we don't suppose you can come, we simply had to
let you know.
"JAMES R. GALWAY."
"It is Greek to me," said the father. "From your Little Rivers
friends, I judge."
"Yes. I suppose that we may as well begin with it, as it drove everything
else out of my mind for the moment."
John Wingfield, Sr. swung around in his chair, with his face in the
shadow. His attitude was that of a companionable listener who is prepared
for any kind of news.
"As you will, Jack," he said. "Everything that pertains to you is my
interest. Go ahead in your own way."
"It concerns John Prather. I don't know that I have ever told you about
him in my talks of Little Rivers."
"John Prather?" The father reflectively sounded the name, the while he
studied the spiral of smoke rising from his cigar. "No, I don't think you
have mentioned him."
It was Jack's purpose to take his father entirely into his confidence; to
reveal his own mind so that there should be nothing of its perplexities
which his father did not understand. He might not choose a logical
sequence of thought or event, but in the end nothing should be left
untold. Indeed, he had not studied how to begin his inquiries. That he
had left to take care of itself. His chief solicitude was to keep his
mind open and free of bitterness whatever transpired, and it was evident
that he was under a great strain.
He told of the coming of John Prather to Little Rivers while he was
absent; of the mention of the likeness by his fellow-ranchers; and of the
fears entertained by Jim Galway and Mary. When he came to the scene in
the store that afternoon it was given in a transparent fulness of detail;
while all his changing emotions, from his first glimpse of Prather's
profile to the effort to speak with him and the ultimatum of Prather's
satirical gesture, were reflected in his features. He was the
story-teller, putting his gift to an unpleasant task in illumination of
sober fact and not the uses of imagination; and his audience was his
father's cheek and ear in the shadow.
"Extraordinary!" John Wingfield, Sr. exclaimed when Jack had finished,
glancing around with a shrug. "Naturally, you were irritated. I like to
think that only two men have the Wingfield features--the features of the
ancestor--yes, only two: you and I!"
"It was more than irritation; it was something profound and disturbing,
almost revolting!" Jack exclaimed, under the disagreeable spell of his
vivid recollection of the incident. "The resemblance to you was so
striking, father, especially in the profile!" Jack was leaning forward,
the better to see his father's profile, dim in the half light. "Yes,
recognizable instantly--the nose and the lines about the mouth! You have
never met anyone who has seen this man? You have never heard of him?" he
asked, almost morbidly.
John Wingfield, Sr. broke into a laugh, which was deprecatory and
metallic. He looked fairly into Jack's eyes with a kind of inquiring
amazement at the boy's overwrought intensity.
"Why, no, Jack," he said, reassuringly. "If I had I shouldn't have
forgotten it, you may be sure. And, well, Jack, there is no use of being
sensitive about it, though I understand your indignation--especially
after he flaunted the fact of the resemblance in such a manner and
refused to meet you. From what I have heard about that fight with
Leddy--Dr. Bennington told me--I can appreciate why he did not care to
meet you." He laughed, more genially this time, in the survey of his
son's broad shoulders. "I fear there is something of the old ancestor's
devil in you when you get going!" he added.
So his father had seen this, too--what Mary had seen--this thing born in
him with the coming of his strength!
"Yes, I suppose there is," he admitted, ruefully. "Yes, I have reason to
know that there is."
His face went moody. Any malice toward John Prather passed. He was
penitent for a feeling against a stranger that seemed akin to the dormant
instinct that had made him glory in holding a bead on Pete Leddy.
"And I am glad of it!" said John Wingfield, Sr., with a flash of stronger
emotion than he had yet shown in the interview.
"I am not. It makes me almost afraid of myself," Jack answered.
"Oh, I don't mean firing six-shooters--hardly! I mean backbone," he
hastened to add, almost ingratiatingly. "It is a thing to control, Jack,
not to worry about."
"Yes, to control!" said Jack, dismally.
He was hearing Ignacio's cry of "The devil is out of Senor Don't Care!"
and seeing for the thousandth time Mary's horrified face as he pressed
Pedro Nogales against the hedge. Now poise was all on the side of the
father, who glanced away from Jack at the glint of the library cases in
the semi-darkness in satisfaction. But only a moment did the son's absent
mood last. He leaned forward quivering, free from his spell of
reflection, and his words came pelting like hail. He was at grip with the
phantoms and nothing should loosen his hold till the truth was out.
"Father, I could not fail to see the look on your face and the look on
Jasper Ewold's when you found him in the drawing-room!"
At the sudden reversal of his son's attitude, John Wingfield, Sr. had
drawn back into the shadow, as, if in defensive instinct before the force
that was beating in Jack's voice.
"Yes, I was startled; yes, very startled! But, go on! Speak everything
that you have in mind; for it is evident that you have much to say. Go
on!" he repeated more calmly, and turned his face farther into the
shadow, while he inclined his head toward Jack as if to hear better. One
leg had drawn up under him and was pressing against the chair.
Jack waited a moment to gather his thoughts. When he spoke his
passion was gone.
"We have always been as strangers, father," he began. "I have no
recollection of you in childhood until that day you came as a stranger to
the house at Versailles. I was seven, then. My mother was away, as you
will recall. I remember that you did not kiss me or show any affection.
You did not even say who you were. You looked me over, and I was very
frail. I saw that I did not please you; and I did not like you. In my
childish perversity I would speak only French to you, which you did not
understand. When my mother came home, do you remember her look? I do. She
went white as chalk and trembled. I was frightened with the thought that
she was going to die. It was a little while before she spoke and when she
did speak she was like stone. She asked you what you wanted, as if you
were an intruder. You said: 'I have been looking at the boy!' Your
expression told me again that you were not pleased with me. Without
another word you departed. I can still hear your steps on the walk as you
went away; they were so very firm."
"Yes, Jack, I can never forget." The tone was that of a man racked. "What
else?" he asked. "Go on, Jack!"
"You know the life my mother and I led, study and play together. And
that was the only time you saw me until I was fourteen. I was mortally in
awe of you then and in awe of you the day I went West with your message
to get strong. But I got strong; yes, strong, father!"
"Yes, Jack," said the father. "Yes, Jack, leave nothing unsaid--nothing!"
Now Jack swept back to the villa garden in Florence, the day of the
Doge's call; and from there to the Doge's glance of recognition that
first night in Little Rivers; then to the scene in front of the
bookstore, when the Doge hesitated about going to see the Velasquez. He
pictured the Doge's absorption over the mother's portrait; he repeated
Mary's story on the previous evening.
All the while the profile, so dimly outlined in the outer darkness beyond
the lamp's circle of light, to which he had been speaking, had not
stirred. The father's cigar had gone out. It lay idly in his fingers,
which rested on the arm of the chair, above a tiny pile of ashes on the
rug. But there was no other sign of emotion, except his half affirmative
interjections, with a confessional's encouragement to empty the mind of
its every affliction.
"Why were my mother and myself always in exile? What was this barrier
between you and her? Why was it that I never saw you? Why this bitterness
of Jasper Ewold against you? Why should that bitterness be turned against
me? I want to know, father, so that we can start afresh and right. I no
longer want to be in the dark, with its mystery, but in the light, where
I can grapple with the truth!"
There was no rancor, no crashing of sentences; only high tension in the
finality of an inquiry in which hope and fear rose together.
"Yes, Jack!" exclaimed John Wingfield, Sr., after a silence in which he
seemed to be passing all that Jack had said in review. "I am glad you
have told me this; that you have come to the one to whom you should come
in trouble. You have made it possible for me to speak of something that I
never found a way to speak about, myself. For, Jack, you truly have been
a stranger to me and I to you, thanks to the chain of influences which
you have mentioned."
Very slowly John Wingfield, Sr. had turned in his chair. Distress was
rising in his tone as he leaned toward Jack. His face under the rim of
light of the lamp had a new charm, which was not that of the indulgent or
flattering or winning smile, or the masterful set of his chin on an
object. He seemed pallid and old, struggling against a phantom himself;
almost pitiful, this man of strength, while his eyes looked into Jack's
with limpid candor.
"Jack, I will tell you all I can," he said. "I want to. It is duty. It is
relief. But first, will you tell me what your mother told you? What her
reasons were? I have a right to know that, haven't I, in my effort to
make my side clear?" He spoke in direct, intimate appeal.
Jack's lips were trembling and his whole nature was throbbing in a
new-found sympathy. For the first time he saw his father as a man of
sensitive feeling, capable of deep suffering. And he was to have the
truth, all the truth, in kindness and affection.
"After you had left the house at Versailles," said Jack, "she took me in
her arms and said that you were my father. 'Did you like him?' she asked;
and I said no, realizing nothing but the childish impression of the
interview. At that she was wildly, almost hysterically, triumphant. I was
glad to have made her so happy. 'You are mine alone! You have only me!'
she declared over and over again. 'And you must never ask me any
questions, for that is best.' She never mentioned you afterward; and in
all my life, until I was fourteen, I was never away from her."
Again the palm of John Wingfield, Sr.'s hand ran back and forth over his
knee and the foot that was against the chair leg beat a nervous tattoo;
while he drew a longer breath than usual, which might have been either of
surprise or relief. His face fell back behind the rim of the lamp's rays,
but he did not turn it away as he had when Jack was talking.
"You know only the Jasper Ewold who has been mellowed by time," he began.
"His scholarship was a bond of companionship for you in the isolation of
a small community. I know him as boy and young man. He was very
precocious. At the age of eight, as I remember, he could read his Caesar.
You will appreciate what that meant in a New England town--that he was
somewhat spoiled by admiration. And, naturally, his character and mine
were very different, thanks to the difference in our situations; for the
Ewolds had a good deal of money in those days. I was the type of boy who
was ready to work at any kind of odd job in order to get dimes and
quarters for my little bank.
"Well, it is quite absurd to go back to that as the beginning of Jasper
Ewold's feelings toward me; but one day young Wingfield felt that young
Ewold was patronizing him. We had a turn at fisticuffs which resulted in
my favor. Jasper was a proud boy, and he never quite forgave me. In fact,
he was not used to being crossed. Learning was easy for him; he was
good-looking; he had an attractive manner, and it seemed only his right
that all doors should open when he knocked. Soon after our battle he went
away to school. Not until we were well past thirty did our paths cross
again. He was something of a painter, but he really had had no set
purpose in life except the pleasures of his intellectual diversions. I
will not say that he was wild, but at least he had lived in the abundant
freedom of his opportunities. He fell in love at the same time that I did
with Alice Jamison. You have seen your mother's picture, but that gives
you little idea of her beauty in girlhood."
"I have always thought her beautiful!" Jack exclaimed spontaneously.
"Yes. I am glad. She always was beautiful to me; but I like best to think
of her before she turned against me. I like to think of her as she was in
the days of our courtship. Fortune favored me instead of Jasper Ewold. I
can well understand the blow it was to him, that she should take the
storekeeper, the man without learning, the man without family, as people
supposed then, when he thought that she belonged entirely to his world.
But his enmity thereafter I can only explain by his wounded pride; by a
mortal defeat for one used to having his way, for one who had never known
discipline. Your mother and I were very happy for a time. I thought that
she loved me and had chosen me because I was a man of purpose, while
Jasper Ewold was not."
John Wingfield, Sr. spoke deliberately, measuring his thought before he
put it into words, as if he were trying to set himself apart as one
figure in a drama while he aimed to do exact justice to the others.
"It was soon after you were born that your mother's attitude changed. She
was, as you know, supersensitive, and whatever her grievances were she
kept them to herself. My immersion in my affairs was such that I could
not be as attentive to her as I ought to have been. Sometimes I thought
that the advertisement with our name in big letters in every morning
paper might be offensive to her; again, that she missed in me the
education I had had to forfeit in youth, and that my affection could
hardly take its place. I know that Jasper Ewold saw her occasionally, and
in his impulse I know that he said things about me that were untrue. But
that I pass over. In his place I, too, might have been bitter.
"The best explanation I can find of your mother's change toward me is one
that belongs in the domain of psychology and pathology. She suffered a
great deal at your birth and she never regained her former strength. When
she rose from her bed it was with a shadow over her mind. I saw that she
was unhappy and nervous in my presence. Indeed, I had at times to face
the awful sensation of feeling that I was actually repugnant to her. She
was especially irritable if I kissed or fondled you. She dropped all her
friends; she never made calls; she refused to see callers. I consulted
specialists and all the satisfaction I had was that she was of a
peculiarly high-strung nature and that in certain phases of melancholia,
where there is no complete mental and physical breakdown, the patient
turns on the one whom she would hold nearest and dearest if she were
normal. The child that had taken her strength became the virtual passion
of her worship, which she would share with no one.
"When she proposed to go to Europe for a rest, taking you with her, I
welcomed the idea. I rejoiced in the hope that the doctors held out that
she would come back well, and I ventured to believe in a happy future,
with you as our common object of love and care. But she never returned,
as you know; and she only wrote me once, a wild sort of letter about what
a beautiful boy you were and that she had you and I had the store and I
was never to send her any more remittances.
"I made a number of trips to Europe. I could not go frequently, because
in those days, Jack, I was a heavy borrower of money in the expansion of
my business, and only one who has built up a great business can
understand how, in the earlier and more uncertain period of our banking
credits, the absence of personal attention in any sudden crisis might
throw you on the rocks. Naturally, when I went I wrote to Alice that I
was coming; but I always found that she had gone and left no address for
forwarding mail from the Credit Lyonnais. Once when I went without
writing she eluded me, and the second time I found that she had a cottage
at Versailles. That, as you know, was the only occasion when I ever saw
you or her until I came to bring you home after her sudden death."
"Yes," Jack whispered starkly. "That day I had left her as well as
usual and came home to find her lying still and white on a couch, her
book fallen out of her hand onto the floor and--" the words choked in
"And the stranger, your father, who came for you seemed very hard and
forbidding to you!"
"Yes," Jack managed to say.
"But, Jack, when my steps sounded so firm the day I left you at
Versailles it was the firmness of force of will fighting to accept the
inevitable. For I had seen your face. It was like mine, and yet I had to
give you up! I had to give you up knowing that I might not see you again;
knowing that this tragic, incomprehensible fatality had set you against
me; knowing that any further efforts to see you meant only pain for Alice
and for me. Whatever happiness she knew came from you, and that she
should have. And remember, Jack, that out of all this tragedy I, too, had
my point of view. I had my moments of reproach against fate; my moments
of bitterness and anger; my moments when I set all my mind with, volcanic
energy into my affairs in order to forget my misfortune. I had to build
for the sake of building. Perhaps that hardened me.
"When you came home I saw that you were mine in blood but not mine in
heart. All your training had been foreign, all of estrangement from the
business and the ways of the home-country; which you could not help, I
could not help, nothing now could help. But, after all, I had been
building for you; that was my new solace. I wanted you to be equal to
what was coming to you, and that change meant discipline. To be frank
with you, as you have been with me, you were sickly, hectic, dreamy; and
when word came that you must go to the desert if your life were to be
saved--well, Jack, I had to put affection aside and consider this blow
for what it was, and think not of kind words but of what was best for you
and your future. I knew that my duty to you and your duty to yourself was
to see you become strong, and for your sake you must not return until you
"Now, as for the scene in the drawing-room the other day: I could not
forget what Jasper Ewold had said of me. That was one thing. Another was
that I had detected his influence over you; an influence against the
purpose and steadiness that I was trying to inculcate in you; and
suddenly coming upon him in my own house, in view of his enmity and the
way in which he had spoken about me, I was naturally startled and
indignant and withdrew to avoid a scene. That is all, Jack. I have
answered your questions to the best of my knowledge. If others occur to
you I will try my best to answer them, too;" and the father seemed ready
to submit every recess of his mind to the son's inquisition.
"You have answered everything," said Jack; "everything--fairly,
There was a flash of triumph in the father's eyes. Slowly he rose and
stood with his finger-ends caressing the blotting-pad. Jack rose at
the same time, his movement automatic, instinctively in sympathy with
his father's. His head was bowed under stress of the emotion,
incapable of translation into language, which transfixed him. It had
all been made clear, this thing that no one could help. His feeling
toward his mother could never change; but penetrating to the depths in
which it had been held sacred was a new feeling. The pain that had
brought him into the world had brought misery to the authors of his
being. There was no phantom except the breath of life in his nostrils
which they had given him.
Watchfully, respecting the son's silence, the father's lips tightened,
his chin went out slightly and his brows drew together in a way that
indicated that he did not consider the battle over. At length, Jack's
head came up and his face had the strength of a youthful replica of the
ancestor's, radiant in gratitude, and in his eyes for the first time, in
looking into his father's, were trust and affection. There was no word,
no other demonstration except the steady, liquid look that spoke the
birth of a great, understanding comradeship. The father fed his hunger
for possession, which had been irresistibly growing in him for the last
two months, on that look. He saw his son's strength as something that had
at last become malleable; and this was the moment when the metal was at
white heat, ready for knowing turns with the pincers and knowing blows of
The message from Jim Galway was still on the table where the father had
laid it after reading. Now he pressed his fingers on it so hard that the
nails became a row of red spots.
"And the telegram, Jack?" he asked.
Jack stared at the yellow slip of paper as the symbol of problems that
reappeared with burning acuteness in his mind. It smiled at him in the
satire of John Prather triumphing in Little Rivers. It visualized
pictures of lean ranchers who had brought him flowers in the days of his
convalescence; of children gathered around him on the steps of his
bungalow; of all the friendly faces brimming good-will into his own on
the day of his departure; of a patch of green in desert loneliness, with
a summons to arms to defend its arteries of life.
"They want me to help--I half promised!" he said.
"Yes. And just how can you help?" asked his father, gently.
"Why, that is not quite clear yet. But a stranger, they made me one of
themselves. They say that they need me. And, father, that thrilled me. It
thrilled the idler to find that there was some place where he could be of
service; that there was some one definite thing that others thought he
could do well!"
The father proceeded cautiously, reasonably, with his questions, as one
who seeks for light for its own sake. Jack's answers were luminously
frank. For there was always to be truth between them in their new
fellowship, unfettered by hopes or vagaries.
"You could help with your knowledge of law? With political influence?
Help these men seasoned by experience in land disputes in that region?"
"And would Jasper Ewold, whom I understand is the head and founder of the
community, want you to come? Has he asked you?" the father continued,
drawing in the web of logic.
"On the contrary, he would not want me."
"And Miss Ewold? Would she want you?"
There Jack hesitated. When he spoke, however, it was to admit the fact
that was stabbing him.
"No, she would not. She has dismissed me. But--but I half promised," he
added, his features setting firmly as they had after Leddy had fired at
him. "It seems like duty, unavoidable."
The metal was cooling, losing its malleability, and the father proceeded
to thrust it back into the furnace.
"Then, I take it that your value to Little Rivers is your cool hand
with a gun," he said, "and the summons is to uncertainties which may
lead to something worse than a duel. You are asked to come because you
can fight. Do you want to go for that? To go to let the devil, as you
call it, out of you?"
Now the metal was soft with the heat of the shame of the moment when Jack
had called to Leddy, "I am going to kill you!" and of the moment when he
saw Pedro Nogales's limp, broken arm and ghastly face.
"No, no!" Jack gasped. "I want no fight! I never want to draw a bead on a
man again! I never want to have a revolver in my hand again!"
He was shuddering, half leaning against the desk for support. His
father waited in observant comprehension. Convulsively, Jack
straightened with desperation and all the impassioned pleading to Mary
on the pass was in his eyes.
"But the thing that I cannot help--the transcendent thing, not of logic,
not of Little Rivers' difficulties--how am I to give that up?" he cried.
"Miss Ewold, you mean?"
"Jack, I know! I understand! Who should understand if not I?" The father
drew Jack's hand into his own, and the fluid force of his desire for
mastery was flowing out from his finger-ends into the son's fibres, which
were receptively sensitive to the caress. "I know what it is when the
woman you love dismisses you! You have her to think of as well as
yourself. Your own wish may not be lord. You may not win that which will
not be won"--how well he knew that!--"either by protest, by persistence,
or by labor. You are dealing with the tender and intangible; with
feminine temperament, Jack. And, Jack, it is wise for you, isn't it, to
bear in mind that your life has not been normal? With the switch from
desert to city life homesickness has crept over you. From to-night things
will not be so strange, will they? But if you wish a change, go to
Europe--yes, go, though I cannot bear to think of losing you the very
moment that we have come to know each other; when the past is clear and
amends are at hand.
"And, Jack, if your mother were here with us and were herself, would she
want you to go back to take up a rifle instead of your work at my side? I
do not pretend to understand Jasper Ewold's or Mary Ewold's thoughts. She
has preferred to make another generation's ill-feeling her own in a thing
that concerns her life alone. She has seen enough of you to know her
mind. For, from all I hear, you have not been a faint-hearted lover. Is
it fair to her to follow her back to the desert? Is it the courage of
self-denial, of control of impulse on your part? Would your mother want
you to persist in a veritable conquest by force of your will, whose
strength you hardly realize, against Mary Ewold's sensibilities? And if
you broke down her will, if you won, would there be happiness for you and
for her? Jack, wait! If she cares for you, if there is any germ of love
for you in her, it will grow of itself. You cannot force it into blossom.
Come, Jack, am I not right?"
Jack's hands lay cold and limp in his father's; so limp that it seemed
only a case of leading, now. Yet there was always the uncertain in the
boy; the uncertain hovering under that face of ashes that the father was
so keenly watching; a face so clearly revealing the throes of a struggle
that sent cold little shivers into his father's warm grasp. Jack's eyes
were looking into the distance through a mist. He dropped the lids as if
he wanted darkness in which to think. When he raised them it was to look
in his father's eyes firmly. There was a half sob, as if this
sentimentalist, this Senor Don't Care, had wrung determination from a
precipice edge, even as Mary Ewold had. He gripped his father's hands
strongly and lifted them on a level with his breast.
"You have been very fine, father! I want you to be patient and go on
helping me. The trail is a rough one, but straight, now. I--I'm too
brimming full to talk!" And blindly he left the library.
When the door closed, John Wingfield, Sr. seized the telegram, rolled it
up with a glad, fierce energy and threw it into the waste-basket. His
head went up; his eyes became points of sharp flame; his lips parted in a
smile of relief and triumph and came together in a straight line before
he sank down in his chair in a collapse of exhaustion. After a while he
had the decanter brought in; he gulped a glass of brandy, lighted another
cigar, and, swinging around, fell back at ease, his mind a blank except
for one glowing thought:
"He will not go! He will give up the girl! He is to be all mine!"
It is said that the best actors never go on the stage. They play real
parts in private life, making their own lines as they watch the other