Part 4 out of 19
sought the glimpse of distant river.
She ate two of her four eggs, put on the underclothes which were
now thoroughly sun-dried, shook out and rebraided her hair. Then
she cast about for some way to pass the time.
She explored the whole top of the rock, but that did not use up
more than fifteen minutes, as it was so small that every part
was visible from every other part. However, she found a great
many wild flowers and gathered a huge bouquet of the audacious
colors of nature's gardens, so common yet so effective. She did
a little botanizing--anything to occupy her mind and keep it
from the ugly visions and fears. But all too soon she had
exhausted the resources of her hiding place. She looked down
into the valley to the north--the valley through which she had
come. She might go down there and roam; it would be something to
do, and her young impatience of restraint was making her so
restless that she felt she could not endure the confines of that
little rock. It had seemed huge; a brief experience of freedom,
a few hours between her and the night's horrors and terrors, and
it had shrunk to a tiny prison cell. Surely she would run no
risk in journeying through that trackless wilderness; she need
not be idle, she could hasten her destiny by following the creek
in its lonely wanderings, which must sooner or later bring it to
the river. The river!
She was about to get the two remaining eggs and abandon her
stronghold when it occurred to her that she would do well to
take a last look all around. She went back to the side of the
rock facing the house.
The woman had suspended knitting and was gazing intently across
the hollow to the west, where the road from the north entered
the landscape. Susan turned her eyes in that direction. Two
horsemen at a gallop were moving southward. The girl was well
screened, but instinctively she drew still further back behind
the bushes--but not so far that the two on horseback, riding so
eagerly, were out of her view. The road dipped into the hollow.
the galloping horsemen disappeared with it. Susan shifted her
gaze to the point on the brow of the hill where the road
reappeared. She was quivering in every nerve. When they came
into view again she would know.
The place she was watching swam before her eyes. Suddenly the
two, still at a gallop, rose upon the crest of the hill. Jeb and
her Uncle Zeke! Her vision cleared, her nerve steadied.
They did not draw rein until they were at the road gate of the
little house. The woman rose, put down her knitting in the seat
of her stiff, rush-bottomed rocker, advanced to the fence. The
air was still, but Susan could not hear a sound, though she
craned forward and strained her ears to the uttermost. She
shrank as if she had been struck when the three began to gaze up
at the rock--to gaze, it seemed to her, at the very spot where
she was standing. Was her screen less thick than she thought?
Had they seen--if not her, perhaps part of her dress?
Wildly her heart beat as Jeb dismounted from his horse the mare
behind which she had made her wedding journey--and stood in the
gateway, talking with the woman and looking toward the top of
the rock. Zeke Warham turned his horse and began to ride slowly
away. He got as far as the brow of the hill, with Jeb still in
the gateway, hesitating. Then Susan heard:
"Hold on, Mr. Warham. I reckon you're right."
Warham halted his horse, Jeb remounted and joined him. As the
woman returned toward the back doorstep, the two men rode at a
walk down into the hollow. When they reappeared it was on the
road by which they had come. And the girl knew the pursuit in
that direction--the right direction--was over. Trembling and
with a fluttering in her breast like the flapping of a bird's
wings, she sank to the ground. Presently she burst into a
passion of tears. Without knowing why, she tore off the wedding
ring which until then she had forgotten, and flung it out among
the treetops. A few minutes, and she dried her eyes and stood
up. The two horsemen were leaving the landscape at the point at
which they had entered it. The girl would not have known, would
have been frightened by, her own face had she seen it as she
watched them go out of her sight--out of her life. She did not
understand herself, for she was at that age when one is no more
conscious of the forces locked up within his unexplored and
untested character than the dynamite cartridge is of its secrets
of power and terror.
SHE felt free to go now. She walked toward the place where she
had left the eggs. It was on the side of the rock overlooking
the creek. As she knelt to remove the leaves, she heard from far
below a man's voice singing. She leaned forward and glanced down
at the creek. In a moment appeared a young man with a fishing
rod and a bag slung over his shoulder. His gray and white striped
flannel trousers were rolled to his knees. His fair skin and the
fair hair waving about his forehead were exposed by the
flapping-brimmed straw hat set upon the back of his head. His
voice, a strong and manly tenor, was sending up those steeps a
song she had never heard before--a song in Italian. She had not
seen what he looked like when she remembered herself and hastily
fell back from view. She dropped to the grass and crawled out
toward the ledge. When she showed her face it so happened that
he was looking straight at her.
"Hello!" he shouted. "That you, Nell?"
Susan drew back, her blood in a tumult. From below, after a
brief silence, came a burst of laughter.
She waited a long time, then through a shield of bunches of
grass looked again. The young man was gone. She wished that he
had resumed his song, for she thought she had never heard one so
beautiful. Because she did not feel safe in descending until he
was well out of the way, and because she was so comfortable
lying there in the afternoon sunshine watching the birds and
listening to them, she continued on there, glancing now and then
at where the creek entered and where it left her range of
vision, to make sure that no one else should come and catch her.
Suddenly sounded a voice from somewhere behind her:
"Hey, Nell! I'm coming!"
She sprang to her feet, faced about; and Crusoe was not more
agitated when he saw the print of the naked foot on his island's
strand. The straw hat with the flapping brim was just lifting
above the edge of the rock at the opposite side, where the path
was. She could not escape; the shelf offered no hiding place.
Now the young man was stepping to the level, panting loudly.
"Gee, what a climb for a hot day!" he cried. "Where are you?"
With that he was looking at Susan, less than twenty yards away
and drawn up defiantly. He stared, took off his hat. He had
close-cropped wavy hair and eyes as gray as Susan's own, but it
was a blue-gray instead of violet. His skin was fair, too, and
his expression intelligent and sympathetic. In spite of his hat,
and his blue cotton shirt, and trousers rolled high on bare
sunburned legs, there was nothing of the yokel about him.
"I beg your pardon," he exclaimed half humorously. "I thought it
was my cousin Nell."
"No," said Susan, disarmed by his courtesy and by the frank
engaging manner of it.
"I didn't mean to intrude." He showed white teeth in a broad
smile. "I see from your face that this is your private domain."
"Oh, no--not at all," stammered Susan.
"Yes, I insist," replied he. "Will you let me stay and rest a
minute? I ran round the rock and climbed pretty fast."
"Yes--do," said Susan.
The young man sat on the grass near where he had appeared, and
crossed his long legs. The girl, much embarrassed, looked
uneasily about. "Perhaps you'd sit, too?" suggested he, after
eyeing her in a friendly way that could not cause offense and
somehow did not cause any great uneasiness.
Susan hesitated, went to the shadow of a little tree not far
from him. He was fanning his flushed face with his hat. The
collar of his shirt was open; below, where the tan ended
abruptly, his skin was beautifully white. Now that she had been
discovered, it was as well to be pleasant, she reasoned. "It's
a fine day," she observed with a grown-up gravity that much
"Not for fishing," said he. "I caught nothing. You are a
stranger in these parts?"
Susan colored and a look of terror flitted into her eyes. "Yes,"
she admitted. "I'm--I'm passing through."
The young man had all he could do to conceal his amusement.
Susan flushed deeply again, not because she saw his expression,
for she was not looking at him, but because her remark seemed to
her absurd and likely to rouse suspicion.
"I suppose you came up here to see the view," said the man. He
glanced round. "It _is_ pretty good. You're not visiting down
Brooksburg way, by any chance?"
"No," replied Susan, rather composedly and determined to change
the subject. "What was that song I heard you singing?"
"Oh--you heard, did you?" laughed he. "It's the Duke's song from
"That's an opera, isn't it--like `Trovatore'?"
"Yes--an Italian opera. Same author."
"It's a beautiful song." It was evident that she longed to ask
him to sing it. She felt at ease with him; he was so unaffected
and simple, was one of those people who seem to be at home
wherever they are.
"Do you sing?" he inquired.
"Not really," replied she.
"Neither do I. So if you'll sing to me, I'll sing to you."
Susan looked round in alarm. "Oh, dear, no--please don't," she cried.
"Why not?" he asked curiously. "There isn't a soul about."
"I know--but--really, you mustn't."
"Very well," said he, seeing that her nervousness was not at all
from being asked to sing. They sat quietly, she gazing off at
the horizon, he fanning himself and studying her lovely young
face. He was somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty-five and a
close observer would have suspected him of an unusual amount of
experience, even for a good-looking, expansive youth of that age.
He broke the long silence. "I'm a newspaper man from Cincinnati.
I'm on the _Commercial_ there. My name's Roderick Spenser. My
father's Clayton Spenser, down at Brooksburg"--he pointed to the
southeast--"beyond that hill there, on the river. I'm here on my
vacation." And he halted, looking at her expectantly.
It seemed to her that there was in courtesy no escape without a
return biographical sketch. She hung her head, twisted her
tapering fingers in her lap, and looked childishly embarrassed
and unhappy. Another long silence; again he broke it. "You'll
pardon my saying so, but--you're very young, aren't you?"
"Not so--so _terribly_ young. I'm almost seventeen," replied she,
glancing this way and that, as if thinking of flight.
"You look like a child, yet you don't," he went on, and his
frank, honest voice calmed her. "You've had some painful
experience, I'd say."
She nodded, her eyes down.
A pause, then he: "Honest, now--aren't you--running away?"
She lifted her eyes to his piteously. "Please don't ask me," she said.
"I shouldn't think of it," replied he, with a gentleness in his
persistence that made her feel still more like trusting him, "if
it wasn't that----
"Well, this world isn't the easiest sort of a place. Lots of
rough stretches in the road. I've struck several and I've always
been glad when somebOdy has given me a lift. And I want to pass
it on--if you'll let me. It's something we owe each other--don't
The words were fine enough; but it was the voice in which he
said them that went to her heart. She covered her face with her
hands and released her pent emotions. He took a package of
tobacco and a sheaf of papers from his trousers pocket, rolled
and lighted a cigarette. After a while she dried her eyes,
looked at him shamefacedly. But he was all understanding and
"Now you feel better, don't you?"
"Much," said she. And she laughed. "I guess I'm more upset than
I let myself realize."
"Sorry you left home?"
"I haven't any home," answered she simply. "And I wouldn't go
back alive to the place I came from."
There was a quality in the energy she put into her words that
made him thoughtful. He counseled with the end of his cigarette.
Finally he inquired:
"Where are you bound for?"
"I don't know exactly," confessed she, as if it were a small matter.
He shook his head. "I see you haven't the faintest notion what
you're up against."
"Oh, I'll get along. I'm strong, and I can learn."
He looked at her critically and rather sadly.
"Yes--you are strong," said he. "But I wonder if you're strong enough."
"I never was sick in my life."
"I don't mean that. . . . I'm not sure I know just what I do mean."
"Is it very hard to get to Chicago?" inquired she.
"It's easier to get to Cincinnati."
She shook her head positively. "It wouldn't do for me to go there."
"Oh, you come from Cincinnati?"
"No--but I--I've been there."
"Oh, they caught you and brought you back?"
She nodded. This young man must be very smart to understand so quickly.
"How much money have you got?" he asked abruptly.
But his fear that she would think him impertinent came of an
underestimate of her innocence. "I haven't got any," replied
she. "I forgot my purse. It had thirty dollars in it."
At once he recognized the absolute child; only utter
inexperience of the world could speak of so small a sum so
respectfully. "I don't understand at all," said he. "How long
have you been here?"
"All day. I got here early this morning."
"And you haven't had anything to eat!"
"Oh, yes! I found some eggs. I've got two left."
Two eggs--and no money and no friends--and a woman. Yet she was
facing the future hopefully! He smiled, with tears in his eyes.
"You mustn't tell anybody you saw me," she went on. "No matter
what they say, don't think you ought to tell on me."
He looked at her, she at him. When he had satisfied himself he
smiled most reassuringly. "I'll not," was his answer, and now
she _knew_ she could trust him.
She drew a breath of relief, and went on as if talking with an
old friend. "I've got to get a long ways from here. As soon as
it's dark I'm going."
"Toward the river." And her eyes lit.
"The river? What's there?"
"I don't know," said she triumphantly.
But he understood. He had the spirit of adventure himself--one
could see it at a glance--the spirit that instinctively shuns
yesterday and all its works and wings eagerly into tomorrow,
unknown, different, new--therefore better. But this girl, this
child-woman--or was she rather woman-child?--penniless, with
nothing but two eggs between her and starvation, alone, without
plans, without experience--
What would become of her?. . . "Aren't you--afraid?" he asked.
"Of what?" she inquired calmly.
It was the mere unconscious audacity of ignorance, yet he saw in
her now--not fancied he saw, but saw--a certain strength of
soul, both courage and tenacity. No, she might suffer, sink--but
she would die fighting, and she would not be afraid. And he
admired and envied her.
"Oh, I'll get along somehow," she assured him in the same
self-reliant tone. Suddenly she felt it would no longer give her
the horrors to speak of what she had been through. "I'm not very
old," said she, and hers was the face of a woman now. "But I've
learned a great deal."
"You are sure you are not making a mistake in--in--running away?"
"I couldn't do anything else," replied she. "I'm all alone in
the world. There's no one--except----
"I hadn't done anything, and they said I had disgraced them--and
they----" Her voice faltered, her eyes sank, the color flooded
into her face. "They gave me to a man--and he--I had hardly seen
him before--he----" She tried but could not pronounce the
"Married, you mean?" said the young man gently.
The girl shuddered. "Yes," she answered. "And I ran away."
So strange, so startling, so moving was the expression of her
face that he could not speak for a moment. A chill crept over
him as he watched her wide eyes gazing into vacancy. What vision
of horror was she seeing, he wondered. To rouse her he spoke the
first words he could assemble:
"When was this?"
The vision seemed slowly to fade and she looked at him in
astonishment. "Why, it was last night!" she said, as if dazed by
the discovery. "Only last night!"
"Last night! Then you haven't got far."
"No. But I must. I will. And I'm not afraid of anything except
of being taken back."
"But you don't realize what may be--probably is--waiting for
you--at the river--and beyond."
"Nothing could be so bad," said she. The words were nothing, but
the tone and the expression that accompanied them somehow
convinced him beyond a doubt.
"You'll let me help you?"
She debated. "You might bring me something to eat--mightn't you?
The eggs'll do for supper. But there's tomorrow. I don't want to
be seen till I get a long ways off."
He rose at once. "Yes, I'll bring you something to eat." He took
a knockabout watch from the breast pocket of his shirt. "It's
now four o'clock. I've got three miles to walk. I'll ride back
and hitch the horse down the creek--a little ways down, so it
won't attract attention to your place up here. I'll be back in
about an hour and a half. . . . Maybe I'll think of something
that'll help. Can I bring you anything else?
"No. That is--I'd like a little piece of soap."
"And a towel?" he suggested.
"I could take care of a towel," agreed she. "I'll send it back
to you when I get settled."
"Good heavens!" He laughed at her simplicity. "What an honest
child you are!" He put out his hand, and she took it with
charming friendliness. "Good-by. I'll hurry."
"I'm so glad you caught me," said she. Then, apologetically, "I
don't want to be any trouble. I hate to be troublesome. I've
never let anybody wait on me."
"I don't know when I've had as much pleasure as this is giving
me." And he made a bow that hid its seriousness behind a smile
of good-humored raillery.
She watched him descend with a sinking heart. The rock--the
world--her life, seemed empty now. He had reminded her that
there were human beings with good hearts. But--perhaps if he
knew, his kindness would turn also. . . . No, she decided not.
Men like him, women like Aunt Sallie--they did not believe
those dreadful, wicked ideas that people said God had ordained.
Still--if he knew about her birth--branded outcast--he might
change. She must not really hope for anything much until she was
far, far away in a wholly new world where there would be a
wholly new sort of people, of a kind she had never met. But she
was sure they would welcome her, and give her a chance.
She returned to the tree against which she had been sitting, for
there she could look at the place his big frame had pressed down
in the tall grass, and could see him in it, and could recall his
friendly eyes and voice, and could keep herself assured she had
not been dreaming. He was a citified man, like Sam--but how
different! A man with a heart like his would never marry a
woman--no, never! He couldn't be a brute like that. Still,
perhaps nice men married because it was supposed to be the
right thing to do, and was the only way to have children without
people thinking you a disgrace and slighting the children--and
then marrying made brutes of them. No wonder her uncles could
treat her so. They were men who had married.
Afar off she heard the manly voice singing the song from
"Rigoletto." She sprang up and listened, with eyes softly
shining and head a little on one side. The song ended; her heart
beat fast. It was not many minutes before she, watching at the
end of the path, saw him appear at the bottom of the huge cleft.
And the look in his eyes, the merry smile about his expressive
mouth, delighted her. "I'm so glad to see you!" she cried.
Over his shoulder was flung his fishing bag, and it bulged.
"Don't be scared by the size of my pack," he called up, as he
climbed. "We're going to have supper together--if you'll let me
stay. Then you can take as much or as little as you like of
Arrived at the top, he halted for a long breath. They stood
facing each other. "My, what a tall girl you are for your age!"
said he admiringly.
She laughed up at him. "I'll be as tall as you when I get my growth."
She was so lovely that he could scarcely refrain from telling
her so. It seemed to him, however, it would be taking an unfair
advantage to say that sort of thing when she was in a way at his
mercy. "Where shall we spread the table?" said he. "I'm hungry
as the horseleech's daughter. And you--why, you must be starved.
I'm afraid I didn't bring what you like. But I did the best I
could. I raided the pantry, took everything that was portable."
He had set down the bag and had loosened its strings. First he
took out a tablecloth. She laughed. "Gracious! How stylish we
"I didn't bring napkins. We can use the corners of the cloth."
He had two knives, two forks, and a big spoon rolled up in the
cloth, and a saltcellar. "Now, here's my triumph!" he cried,
drawing from the bag a pair of roasted chickens. Next came a jar
of quince jelly; next, a paper bag with cold potatoes and cold
string beans in it. Then he fished out a huge square of
cornbread and a loaf of salt-rising bread, a pound of butter--
"What will your folks say?" exclaimed she, in dismay.
He laughed. "They always have thought I was crazy, ever since I
went to college and then to the city instead of farming." And
out of the bag came a big glass jar of milk. "I forgot to bring
a glass!" he apologized. Then he suspended unpacking to open the
jar. "Why, you must be half-dead with thirst, up here all day
with not a drop of water." And he held out the jar to her.
"Drink hearty!" he cried.
The milk was rich and cold; she drank nearly a fourth of it
before she could wrest the jar away from her lips. "My, but that
was good!" she remarked. He had enjoyed watching her drink.
"Surely you haven't got anything else in that bag?"
"Not much," replied he. "Here's a towel, wrapped round the soap.
And here are three cakes of chocolate. You could live four or
five days on them, if you were put to it. So whatever else you
leave, don't leave them. And--Oh, yes, here's a calico slip and
a sunbonnet, and a paper of pins. And that's all."
"What are they for?"
"I thought you might put them on--the slip over your dress--and
you wouldn't look quite so--so out of place--if anybody should
"What a fine idea!" cried Susan, shaking out the slip delightedly.
He was spreading the supper on the tablecloth. He carved one of
the chickens, opened the jelly, placed the bread and vegetables
and butter. "Now!" he cried. "Let's get busy."
And he set her an example she was not slow to follow. The sun
had slipped down behind the hills of the northwest horizon. The
birds were tuning for their evening song. A breeze sprang up and
coquetted with the strays of her wavy dark hair. And they sat
cross-legged on the grass on opposite sides of the tablecloth
and joked and laughed and ate, and ate and laughed and joked
until the stars began to appear in the vast paling opal of the
sky. They had chosen the center of the grassy platform for their
banquet; thus, from where they sat only the tops of trees and
the sky were to be seen. And after they had finished she leaned
on her elbow and listened while he, smoking his cigarette, told
her of his life as a newspaper man in Cincinnati. The twilight
faded into dusk, the dusk into a scarlet darkness.
"When the moon comes up we'll start," said he. "You can ride
behind me on the horse part of the way, anyhow."
The shadow of the parting, the ending of this happiness, fell
upon her. How lonely it would be when he was gone! "I haven't
told you my name," she said.
"I've told you mine Roderick Spenser--with an _s_, not a _c_."
"I remember," said she. "I'll never forget. . . . Mine's Susan Lenox."
"What was it--before----" He halted.
"Before what?" His silence set her to thinking. "Oh!" she
exclaimed, in a tone that made him curse his stupidity in
reminding her. "My name's Susan Lenox--and always will be. It
was my mother's name." She hesitated, decided for frankness at
any cost, for his kindness forbade her to deceive him in any
way. Proudly, "My mother never let any man marry her. They say
she was disgraced, but I understand now. _She_ wouldn't stoop to
let any man marry her."
Spenser puzzled over this, but could make nothing of it. He felt
that he ought not to inquire further. He saw her anxious eyes,
her expression of one keyed up and waiting for a verdict. "I'd
have only to look at you to know your mother was a fine woman,"
said he. Then, to escape from the neighborhood of the dangerous
riddle, "Now, about your--your going," he began. "I've been
thinking what to do."
"You'll help me?" said she, to dispel her last doubt--a very
faint doubt, for his words and his way of uttering them had
dispelled her real anxiety.
"Help you?" cried he heartily. "All I can. I've got a scheme to
propose to you. You say you can't take the mail boat?"
"They know me. I--I'm from Sutherland."
"You trust me--don't you?"
"Indeed I do."
"Now listen to me--as if I were your brother. Will you?"
"I'm going to take you to Cincinnati with me. I'm going to put
you in my boarding house as my sister. And I'm going to get you
a position. Then--you can start in for yourself."
"But that'll be a great lot of trouble, won't it?"
"Not any more than friends of mine took for me when I was
starting out." Then, as she continued silent, "What are you
thinking? I can't see your face in this starlight."
"I was thinking how good you are," she said simply.
He laughed uneasily. "I'm not often accused of that," he
replied. "I'm like most people--a mixture of good and bad--and
not very strong either way. I'm afraid I'm mostly impulse that
winks out. But--the question is, how to get you to Cincinnati.
It's simply impossible for me to go tonight. I can't take you
home for the night. I don't trust my people. They'd not think I
was good--or you, either. And while usually they'd be
right--both ways--this is an exception." This idea of an
exception seemed to amuse him. He went on, "I don't dare leave you
at any farmhouse in the neighborhood. If I did, you could be traced."
"No--no," she cried, alarmed at the very suggestion. "I mustn't
be seen by anybody."
"We'll go straight to the river, and I'll get a boat and row you
across to Kentucky--over to Carrollton. There's a little hotel.
I can leave you----"
"No--not Carrollton," she interrupted. "My uncle sells goods
there, and they know him. And if anything is in the Sutherland
papers about me, why, they'd know."
"Not with you in that slip and sunbonnet. I'll make up a
story--about our wagon breaking down and that I've got to walk
back into the hills to get another before we can go on.
And--it's the only plan that's at all possible."
Obviously he was right; but she would not consent. By adroit
questioning he found that her objection was dislike of being so
much trouble to him. "That's too ridiculous," cried he. "Why, I
wouldn't have missed this adventure for anything in the world."
His manner was convincing enough, but she did not give in until
moonrise came without her having thought of any other plan. He
was to be Bob Peters, she his sister Kate, and they were to hail
from a farm in the Kentucky hills back of Milton. They practiced
the dialect of the region and found that they could talk it well
enough to pass the test of a few sentences They packed the
fishing bag; she wrapped the two eggs in paper and put them in
the empty milk bottle. They descended by the path--a slow
journey in the darkness of that side of the rock, as there were
many dangers, including the danger of making a noise that might
be heard by some restless person at the house. After half an
hour they were safely at the base of the rock; they skirted it,
went down to the creek, found the horse tied where he had left
it. With her seated sideways behind him and holding on by an arm
half round his waist, they made a merry but not very speedy
advance toward the river, keeping as nearly due south as the
breaks in the hills permitted. After a while he asked: "Do you
ever think of the stage?"
"I've never seen a real stage play," said she. "But I want
to--and I will, the first chance I get."
"I meant, did you ever think of going on the stage?"
"No." So daring a flight would have been impossible for a baby
imagination in the cage of the respectable-family-in-a-small-town.
"It's one of my dreams to write plays," he went on. "Wouldn't it
be queer if some day I wrote plays for you to act in?"
When one's fancy is as free as was Susan's then, it takes any
direction chance may suggest. Susan's fancy instantly winged
along this fascinating route. "I've given recitations at school,
and in the plays we used to have they let me take the best
parts--that is--until--until a year or so ago."
He noted the hesitation, had an instinct against asking why
there had come a time when she no longer got good parts. "I'm
sure you could learn to act," declared he. "And you'll be sure
of it, too, after you've seen the people who do it."
"Oh, I don't believe I could," said she, in rebuke to her own
mounting self-confidence. Then, suddenly remembering her
birth-brand of shame and overwhelmed by it, "No, I can't hope to
be to be anything much. They wouldn't have--_me_."
"I know how you feel," replied he, all unaware of the real
reason for this deep humility. "When I first struck town I felt
that way. It seemed to me I couldn't hope ever to line up with
the clever people they had there. But I soon saw there was
nothing in that idea. The fact is, everywhere in the world
there's a lot more things to do than people who can do them.
Most of those who get to the top--where did they start? Where
She was immensely flattered by that "we" and grateful for it.
But she held to her original opinion. "There wouldn't be a
chance for me," said she. "They wouldn't have me."
"Oh, I understand," said he and he fancied he did. He laughed
gayly at the idea that in the theater anyone would care who she
was--what kind of past she had had--or present either, for that
matter. Said he, "You needn't worry. On the stage they don't ask
any questions--any questions except `Can you act? Can you get it
over? Can you get the hand?'"
Then this stage, it was the world she had dreamed of--the world
where there lived a wholly new kind of people--people who could
make room for her. She thrilled, and her heart beat wildly. In
a strangely quiet, intense voice, she said:
"I want to try. I'm sure I'll get along there. I'll work--Oh, so
hard. I'll do _anything!_"
"That's the talk," cried he. "You've got the stuff in you."
She said little the rest of the journey. Her mind was busy with
the idea he had by merest accident given her. If he could have
looked in upon her thoughts, he would have been amazed and not
a little alarmed by the ferment he had set up.
Where they reached the river the bank was mud and thick willows,
the haunt of incredible armies of mosquitoes. "It's a mystery to
me," cried he, "why these fiends live in lonely places far away
from blood, when they're so mad about it." After some searching
he found a clear stretch of sandy gravel where she would be not
too uncomfortable while he was gone for a boat. He left the
horse with her and walked upstream in the direction of
Brooksburg. As he had warned her that he might be gone a long
time, he knew she would not be alarmed for him--and she had
already proved that timidity about herself was not in her nature.
But he was alarmed for her--this girl alone in that lonely
darkness--with light enough to make her visible to any prowler.
About an hour after he left her he returned in a rowboat he had
borrowed at the water mill. He hitched the horse in the deep
shadow of the break in the bank. She got into the boat, put on
the slip and the sunbonnet, put her sailor hat in the bag. They
pushed off and he began the long hard row across and upstream.
The moon was high now and was still near enough to its full
glory to pour a flood of beautiful light upon the broad
river--the lovely Ohio at its loveliest part.
"Won't you sing?" he asked.
And without hesitation she began one of the simple familiar love
songs that were all the music to which the Sutherland girls had
access. She sang softly, in a deep sweet voice, sweeter even
than her speaking voice. She had the sunbonnet in her lap; the
moon shone full upon her face. And it seemed to him that he was
in a dream; there was nowhere a suggestion of reality--not of
its prose, not even of its poetry. Only in the land no waking
eye has seen could such a thing be. The low sweet voice sang of
love, the oars clicked rhythmically in the locks and clove the
water with musical splash; the river, between its steep hills,
shone in the moonlight, with a breeze like a friendly spirit
moving upon its surface. He urged her, and she sang another
song, and another. She sighed when she saw the red lantern on
the Carrollton wharf; and he, turning his head and seeing,
echoed her sigh.
"The first chance, you must sing me that song," she said.
"From `Rigoletto'? I will. But--it tells how fickle women
are--`like a feather in the wind.'. . . They aren't all like
that, though--don't you think so?"
"Sometimes I think everybody's like a feather in the wind,"
replied she. "About love--and everything."
He laughed. "Except those people who are where there isn't any wind."
FOR some time Spenser had been rowing well in toward the
Kentucky shore, to avoid the swift current of the Kentucky River
which rushes into the Ohio at Carrollton. A few yards below its
mouth, in the quiet stretch of backwater along shore, lay the
wharf-boat, little more than a landing stage. The hotel was but
a hundred feet away, at the top of the steep levee. It was
midnight, so everyone in the village had long been asleep. After
several minutes of thunderous hammering Roderick succeeded in
drawing to the door a barefooted man with a candle in his huge,
knotted hand--a man of great stature, amazingly lean and long of
leg, with a monstrous head thatched and fronted with coarse,
yellow-brown hair. He had on a dirty cotton shirt and dirty
cotton trousers--a night dress that served equally well for the
day. His feet were flat and thick and were hideous with corns
and bunions. Susan had early been made a critical observer of
feet by the unusual symmetry of her own. She had seen few feet
that were fit to be seen; but never, she thought, had she seen
an exhibition so repellent.
"What t'hell----" he began. Then, discovering Susan, he growled,
"Beg pardon, miss."
Roderick explained--that is, told the prearranged story. The man
pointed to a grimy register on the office desk, and Roderick set
down the fishing bag and wrote in a cramped, scrawly hand, "Kate
Peters, Milton, Ky."
The man looked at it through his screen of hair and beard, said,
"Come on, ma'am."
"Just a minute," said Roderick, and he drew "Kate" aside and said
to her in a low tone: "I'll be back sometime tomorrow, and then
we'll start at once. But--to provide against everything--don't be
alarmed if I don't come. You'll know I couldn't help it. And wait."
Susan nodded, looking at him with trustful, grateful eyes.
"And," he went on hurriedly, "I'll leave this with you, to take
care of. It's yours as much as mine."
She saw that it was a pocketbook, instinctively put her hands
"Don't be silly," he said, with good-humored impatience. "You'll
probably not need it. If you do, you'll need it bad. And you'll
pay me back when you get your place."
He caught one of her hands and put the pocketbook in it. As his
argument was unanswerable, she did not resist further. She
uttered not a word of thanks, but simply looked at him, her eyes
swimming and about her mouth a quiver that meant a great deal in
her. Impulsively and with flaming cheek he kissed her on the
cheek. "So long, sis," he said loudly, and strode into the night.
Susan did not flush; she paled. She gazed after him with some
such expression as a man lost in a cave might have as he watches
the flickering out of his only light. "This way, ma'am," said
the hotel man sourly, taking up the fishing bag. She started,
followed him up the noisy stairs to a plain, neat country
bedroom. "The price of this here's one fifty a day," said he.
"We've got 'em as low as a dollar."
"I'll take a dollar one, please," said Susan.
The man hesitated. "Well," he finally snarled, "business is
slack jes' now. Seein' as you're a lady, you kin have this here
un fur a dollar."
"Oh, thank you--but if the price is more----"
"The other rooms ain't fit fur a lady," said the hotel man. Then
he grinned a very human humorous grin that straightway made him
much less repulsive. "Anyhow, them two durn boys of mine an'
their cousins is asleep in 'em. I'd as lief rout out a nest of
hornets. I'll leave you the candle."
As soon as he had gone Susan put out the light, ran to the
window. She saw the rowboat and Spenser, a black spot far out on
the river, almost gone from view to the southwest. Hastily she
lighted the candle again, stood at the window and waved a white
cover she snatched from the table. She thought she saw one of
the oars go up and flourish, but she could not be sure. She
watched until the boat vanished in the darkness at the bend. She
found the soap in the bag and took a slow but thorough bath in
the washbowl. Then she unbraided her hair, combed it out as well
as she could with her fingers, rubbed it thoroughly with a towel
and braided it again. She put on the calico slip as a
nightdress, knelt down to say her prayers. But instead of
prayers there came flooding into her mind memories of where she
had been last night, of the horrors, of the agonies of body and
soul. She rose from her knees, put out the light, stood again at
the window. In after years she always looked back upon that hour
as the one that definitely marked the end of girlhood, of the
thoughts and beliefs which go with the sheltered life, and the
beginning of womanhood, of self-reliance and of the
hardiness--so near akin to hardness--the hardiness that must
come into the character before a man or a woman is fit to give
and take in the combat of life.
The bed was coarse, but white and clean. She fell asleep
instantly and did not awaken until, after the vague, gradually
louder sound of hammering on the door, she heard a female voice
warning her that breakfast was "put nigh over an' done." She got
up, partly drew on one stocking, then without taking it off
tumbled over against the pillow and was asleep. When she came to
herself again, the lay of the shadows told her it must be after
twelve o'clock. She dressed, packed her serge suit in the bag
with the sailor hat, smoothed out the pink calico slip and put
it on. For more than a year she had worn her hair in a braid
doubled upon itself and tied with a bow at the back of her neck.
She decided that if she would part it, plait it in two braids
and bring them round her head, she would look older. She tried
this and was much pleased with the result. She thought the new
style not only more grown-up, but also more becoming. The pink
slip, too, seemed to her a success. It came almost to her ankles
and its strings enabled her to make it look something like a
dress. Carrying the pink sunbonnet, down she went in search of
something to eat.
The hall was full of smoke and its air seemed greasy with the
odor of frying. She found that dinner was about to be served. A
girl in blue calico skirt and food-smeared, sweat-discolored
blue jersey ushered her to one of the tables in the dining-room.
"There's a gentleman comin'," said she. "I'll set him down with
you. He won't bite, I don't reckon, and there ain't no use
mussin' up two tables."
There was no protesting against two such arguments; so Susan
presently had opposite her a fattish man with long oily hair and
a face like that of a fallen and dissipated preacher. She
recognized him at once as one of those wanderers who visit small
towns with cheap shows or selling patent medicines and doing
juggling tricks on the street corners in the flare of a gasoline
lamp. She eyed him furtively until he caught her at it--he being
about the same business himself. Thereafter she kept her eyes
steadily upon the tablecloth, patched and worn thin with much
washing. Soon the plate of each was encircled by the familiar
arc of side dishes containing assorted and not very appetizing
messes--fried steak, watery peas, stringy beans, soggy turnips,
lumpy mashed potatoes, a perilous-looking chicken stew,
cornbread with streaks of baking soda in it. But neither of the
diners was critical, and the dinner was eaten with an enthusiasm
which the best rarely inspires.
With the prunes and dried-apple pie, the stranger expanded.
"Warm day, miss," he ventured.
"Yes, it is a little warm," said Susan. She ventured a direct
look at him. Above the pleasant, kindly eyes there was a brow so
unusually well shaped that it arrested even her young and
untrained attention. Whatever the man's character or station,
there could be no question as to his intelligence.
"The flies are very bothersome," continued he. "But nothing like
Australia. There the flies have to be picked off, and they're
big, and they bite--take a piece right out of you. The natives
used to laugh at us when we were in the ring and would try to
brush, em away." The stranger had the pleasant, easy manner of
one who through custom of all kinds of people and all varieties
of fortune, has learned to be patient and good-humored--to take
the day and the hour as the seasoned gambler takes the cards
that are dealt him.
Susan said nothing; but she had listened politely. The man went
on amusing himself with his own conversation. "I was in the show
business then. Clown was my line, but I was rotten at it--simply
rotten. I'm still in the show business--different line, though.
I've got a show of my own. If you're going to be in town perhaps
you'll come to see us tonight. Our boat's anchored down next to the
wharf. You can see it from the windows. Come, and bring your folks."
"Thank you," said Susan--she had for gotten her role and its
accent. "But I'm afraid we'll not be here."
There was an expression in the stranger's face--a puzzled,
curious expression, not impertinent, rather covert--an
expression that made her uneasy. It warned her that this man saw
she was not what she seemed to be, that he was trying to peer
into her secret. His brown eyes were kind enough, but alarmingly
keen. With only half her pie eaten, she excused herself and
hastened to her room.
At the threshold she remembered the pocketbook Spenser had given
her. She had left it by the fishing bag on the table. There was
the bag but not the pocketbook. "I must have put it in the bag,"
she said aloud, and the sound and the tone of her voice
frightened her. She searched the bag, then the room which had
not yet been straightened up. She shook out the bed covers,
looked in all the drawers, under the bed, went over the contents
of the bag again. The pocketbook was gone--stolen.
She sat down on the edge of the bed, her hands in her lap, and
stared at the place where she had last seen the pocketbook--_his_
pocketbook, which he had asked her to take care of. How could
she face him! What would he think of her, so untrustworthy! What
a return for his kindness! She felt weak--so weak that she lay
down. The food she had taken turned to poison and her head ached
fiercely. What could she do? To speak to the proprietor would be
to cause a great commotion, to attract attention to herself--and
how would that help to bring back the stolen pocketbook, taken
perhaps by the proprietor himself? She recalled that as she
hurried through the office from the dining-room he had a queer
shifting expression, gave her a wheedling, cringing good morning
not at all in keeping with the character he had shown the night
before. The slovenly girl came to do the room; Susan sent her
away, sat by the window gazing out over the river and
downstream. He would soon be here; the thought made her long to
fly and hide. He had been all generosity; and this was her way
of appreciating it!
They sent for her to come down to supper. She refused, saying
she was not feeling well. She searched the room, the bag, again
and again. She would rest a few minutes, then up she would
spring and tear everything out. Then back to the window to sit
and stare at the river over which the evening shadows were
beginning to gather. Once, as she was sitting there, she
happened to see the gaudily painted and decorated show boat. A
man--the stranger of the dinner table--was standing on the
forward end, smoking a cigar. She saw that he was observing her,
realized he could have seen her stirring feverishly about her
room. A woman came out of the cabin and joined him. As soon as
his attention was distracted she closed her shutters. And there
she sat alone, with the hours dragging their wretched minutes
That was one of those nights upon which anyone who has had
them--and who has not?--looks back with wonder at how they ever
lived, how they ever came to an end. She slept a little toward
dawn--for youth and health will not let the most despairing
heart suffer in sleeplessness. Her headache went, but the misery
of soul which had been a maddening pain settled down into a
throbbing ache. She feared he would come; she feared he would
not come. The servants tried to persuade her to take breakfast.
She could not have swallowed food; she would not have dared take
food for which she could not pay. What would they do with her if
he did not come? She searched the room again, hoping against
hope, a hundred times fancying she felt the purse under some
other things, each time suffering sickening disappointment.
Toward noon the servant came knocking. "A letter for you, ma'am."
Susan rushed to the door, seized the letter, tore it open, read:
When I got back to the horse and started to mount, he kicked me
and broke my leg. You can go on south to the L. and N. and take
a train to Cincinnati. When you find a boarding house send your
address to me at the office. I'll come in a few weeks. I'd write
more but I can't. Don't worry. Everything'll come out right. You
are brave and sensible, and I _back you to win_.
With the unsigned letter crumpled in her hands she sat at the
window with scarcely a motion until noon. She then went down to
the show boat. Several people--men and women--were on the
forward end, quarreling. She looked only at her acquaintance.
His face was swollen and his eyes bloodshot, but he still wore
the air of easy and patient good-humor. She said, standing on
the shore, "Could I speak to you a minute?"
"Certainly, ma'am," replies he, lifting his dingy straw hat with
gaudy, stained band. He came down the broad plank to the shore.
"Why, what's the matter?" This in a sympathetic tone.
"Will you lend me two dollars and take me along to work it out?"
He eyed her keenly. "For the hotel bill?" he inquired, the cigar
tucked away in the corner of his mouth.
"He didn't show up?"
"He broke his leg."
"Oh!" The tone was politely sympathetic, but incredulous. He eyed
her critically, thoughtfully. "Can you sing?" he finally asked.
His hands were deep in the pockets of his baggy light trousers.
He drew one of them out with a two-dollar bill in it. "Go and
pay him and bring your things. We're about to push off."
"Thank you," said the girl in the same stolid way. She returned
to the hotel, brought the bag down from her room, stood at the
The servant came. "Mr. Gumpus has jes' stepped out," said she.
"Here is the money for my room." And Susan laid the two-dollar
bill on the register.
"Ain't you goin' to wait fur yer--yer brother?"
"He's not coming," replied the girl. "So--I'll go. Good-by."
"Good-by. It's awful, bein' took sick away from home."
"Thank you," said Susan. "Good-by."
The girl's homely, ignorant face twisted in a grin. But Susan
did not see, would have been indifferent had she seen. Since she
accepted the war earth and heaven had declared against her, she
had ceased from the little thought she had once given to what
was thought of her by those of whom she thought not at all. She
went down to the show boat. The plank had been taken in. Her
acquaintance was waiting for her, helped her to the deck, jumped
aboard himself, and was instantly busy helping to guide the boat
out into mid-stream. Susan looked back at the hotel. Mr. Gumpus
was in the doorway, amusement in every line of his ugly face.
Beside him stood the slovenly servant. She was crying--the more
human second thought of a heart not altogether corrupted by the
sordid hardness of her lot. How can faith in the human race
falter when one considers how much heart it has in spite of all
it suffers in the struggle upward through the dense fogs of
ignorance upward, toward the truth, toward the light of which it
never ceases to dream and to hope?
Susan stood in the same place, with her bag beside her, until
her acquaintance came.
"Now," said he, comfortably, as he lighted a fresh cigar, "we'll
float pleasantly along. I guess you and I had better get
acquainted. What is your name?"
Susan flushed. "Kate Peters is the name I gave at the hotel.
That'll do, won't it?"
"Never in the world!" replied he. "You must have a good catchy
name. Say--er--er----" He rolled his cigar slowly, looking
thoughtfully toward the willows thick and green along the
Indiana shore. "Say--well, say--Lorna--Lorna--Lorna Sackville!
That's a winner. Lorna Sackville!--A stroke of genius! Don't you
"Yes," said Susan. "It doesn't matter."
"But it does," remonstrated he. "You are an artist, now, and an
artist's name should always arouse pleasing and romantic
anticipations. It's like the odor that heralds the dish. You
must remember, my dear, that you have stepped out of the world
of dull reality into the world of ideals, of dreams."
The sound of two harsh voices, one male, the other female, came
from within the cabin--oaths, reproaches. Her acquaintance
laughed. "That's one on me--eh? Still, what I say is true--or at
least ought to be. By the way, this is the Burlingham Floating
Palace of Thespians, floating temple to the histrionic art. I am
Burlingham--Robert Burlingham." He smiled, extended his hand.
"Glad to meet you, Miss Lorna Sackville--don't forget!"
She could not but reflect a smile so genuine, so good-humored.
"We'll go in and meet the others--your fellow stars--for this is
an all-star aggregation."
Over the broad entrance to the cabin was a chintz curtain strung
upon a wire. Burlingham drew this aside. Susan was looking into
a room about thirty feet long, about twelve feet wide, and a
scant six feet high. Across it with an aisle between were narrow
wooden benches with backs. At the opposite end was a stage, with
the curtain up and a portable stove occupying the center. At the
stove a woman in a chemise and underskirt, with slippers on her
bare feet, was toiling over several pots and pans with fork and
spoon. At the edge of the stage, with legs swinging, sat another
woman, in a blue sailor suit neither fresh nor notably clean but
somehow coquettish. Two men in flannel shirts were seated, one
on each of the front benches, with their backs to her.
As Burlingham went down the aisle ahead of her, he called out:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to present the latest valuable
addition to our company--Miss Lorna Sackville, the renowned
The two men turned lazily and stared at Susan, each with an arm
hanging over the back of the bench.
Burlingham looked at the woman bent over the stove--a fat,
middle-aged woman with thin, taffy-yellow hair done sleekly over
a big rat in front and made into a huge coil behind with the aid
of one or more false braids. She had a fat face, a broad expanse
of unpleasant-looking, elderly bosom, big, shapeless white arms.
Her contour was almost gone. Her teeth were a curious mixture of
natural, gold, and porcelain. "Miss Anstruther--Miss Sackville,"
called Burlingham. "Miss Sackville, Miss Violet Anstruther."
Miss Anstruther and Susan exchanged bows--Susan's timid and
frightened, Miss Anstruther's accompanied by a hostile stare and
a hardening of the fat, decaying face.
"Miss Connemora--Miss Sackville." Burlingham was looking at the
younger woman--she who sat on the edge of the little stage. She,
too, was a blond, but her hair had taken to the chemical
somewhat less reluctantly than had Miss Anstruther's, with the
result that Miss Connemora's looked golden. Her face--of the
baby type must have been softly pretty at one time--not so very
distant. Now lines were coming and the hard look that is
inevitable with dyed hair. Also her once fine teeth were rapidly
going off, as half a dozen gold fillings in front proclaimed. At
Susan's appealing look and smile Miss Connemora nodded not
"Good God, Bob," said she to Burlingham with a laugh, "are you
going to get the bunch of us pinched for child-stealing?"
Burlingham started to laugh, suddenly checked himself, looked
uneasily and keenly at Susan. "Oh, it's all right," he said with
a wave of the hand. But his tone belied his words. He puffed
twice at his cigar, then introduced the men--Elbert Eshwell and
Gregory Tempest--two of the kind clearly if inelegantly placed
by the phrase, "greasy hamfats." Mr. Eshwell's blackdyed hair
was smoothly brushed down from a central part, Mr. Tempest's
iron-gray hair was greasily wild--a disarray of romantic
ringlets. Eshwell was inclined to fat; Tempest was gaunt and had
the hollow, burning eye that bespeaks the sentimental ass.
"Now, Miss Sackville," said Burlingham, "we'll go on the forward
deck and canvass the situation. What for dinner, Vi?"
"Same old rot," retorted Miss Anstruther, wiping the sweat from
her face and shoulders with a towel that served also as a
dishcloth. "Pork and beans--potatoes--peach pie."
"Cheer up," said Burlingham. "After tomorrow we'll do better."
"That's been the cry ever since we started," snapped Violet.
"For God's sake, shut up, Vi," groaned Eshwell. "You're always kicking."
The cabin was not quite the full width of the broad house boat.
Along the outside, between each wall and the edge, there was
room for one person to pass from forward deck to rear. From the
cabin roof, over the rear deck, into the water extended a big
rudder oar. When Susan, following Burlingham, reached the rear
deck, she saw the man at this oar--a fat, amiable-looking
rascal, in linsey woolsey and a blue checked shirt open over his
chest and revealing a mat of curly gray hair. Burlingham hailed
him as Pat--his only known name. But Susan had only a glance for
him and no ear at all for the chaffing between him and the
actor-manager. She was gazing at the Indiana shore, at a tiny
village snuggled among trees and ripened fields close to the
water's edge. She knew it was Brooksburg. She remembered the
long covered bridge which they had crossed--Spenser and she, on
the horse. To the north of the town, on a knoll, stood a large
red brick house trimmed with white veranda and balconies--far
and away the most pretentious house in the landscape. Before the
door was a horse and buggy. She could make out that there were
several people on the front veranda, one of them a man in
black--the doctor, no doubt. Sobs choked up into her throat. She
turned quickly away that Burlingham might not see. And under her
breath she said,
"Good-by, dear. Forgive me--forgive me."
WOMAN'S worktable, a rocking chair and another with a swayback
that made it fairly comfortable for lounging gave the rear deck
the air of an outdoor sitting-room, which indeed it was.
Burlingham, after a comprehensive glance at the panorama of
summer and fruitfulness through which they were drifting,
sprawled himself in the swayback chair, indicating to Susan that
she was to face him in the rocker. "Sit down, my dear," said he.
"And tell me you are at least eighteen and are not running away
from home. You heard what Miss Connemora said."
"I'm not running away from home," replied Susan, blushing
violently because she was evading as to the more important fact.
"I don't know anything about you, and I don't want to know,"
pursued Burlingham, alarmed by the evidences of a dangerous
tendency to candor. "I've no desire to have my own past dug
into, and turn about's fair play. You came to me to get an
engagement. I took you. Understand?"
"You said you could sing--that is, a little."
"A very little," said the girl.
"Enough, no doubt. That has been our weak point--lack of a
ballad singer. Know any ballads?--Not fancy ones. Nothing fancy!
We cater to the plain people, and the plain people only like the
best--that is, the simplest--the things that reach for the
heartstrings with ten strong fingers. You don't happen to know
`I Stood on the Bridge at Midnight'?"
"No--Ruth sings that," replied Susan, and colored violently.
Burlingham ignored the slip. "`Blue Alsatian Mountains'?"
"Yes. But that's very old."
"Exactly. Nothing is of any use to the stage until it's very
old. Audiences at theaters don't want to _hear_ anything they
don't already know by heart. They've come to _see_, not to hear.
So it annoys them to have to try to hear. Do you understand that?"
"No," confessed Susan. "I'm sorry. But I'll think about it, and
try to understand it." She thought she was showing her inability
to do what was expected of her in paying back the two dollars.
"Don't bother," said Burlingham. "Pat!"
"Yes, boss," said the man at the oar, without looking or
removing his pipe.
"Get your fiddle."
Pat tied the oar fast and went forward along the roof of the
cabin. While he was gone Burlingham explained, "A frightful
souse, Pat--almost equal to Eshwell and far the superior of
Tempest or Vi--that is, of Tempest. But he's steady enough for
our purposes, as a rule. He's the pilot, the orchestra, the
man-of-all-work, the bill distributor. Oh, he's a wonder.
Graduate of Trinity College, Dublin--yeggman--panhandler--
barrel-house bum--genius, nearly. Has drunk as much booze as
there is water in this river----"
Pat was back beside the handle of the oar, with a violin.
Burlingham suggested to Susan that she'd better stand while she
sang, "and if you've any tendency to stage fright, remember it's
your bread and butter to get through well. You'll not bother
about your audience."
Susan found this thought a potent strengthener--then and
afterward. With surprisingly little embarrassment she stood
before her good-natured, sympathetic employer, and while Pat
scraped out an accompaniment sang the pathetic story of the
"maiden young and fair" and the "stranger in the spring" who
"lingered near the fountains just to hear the maiden sing," and
how he departed after winning her love, and how "she will never
see the stranger where the fountains fall again--ade, ade, ade."
Her voice was deliciously young and had the pathetic quality
that is never absent from anything which has enduring charm for
us. Tears were in Burlingham's voice--tears for the fate of the
maiden, tears of response to the haunting pathos of Susan's sweet
contralto, tears of joy at the acquisition of such a "number"
for his program. As her voice died away he beat his plump hands
"She'll do--eh, Pat? She'll set the hay-tossers crazy!"
Susan's heart was beating fast from nervousness. She sat down.
Burlingham sprang up and put his hands on her shoulders and
kissed her. He laughed at her shrinking.
"Don't mind, my dear," he cried. "It's one of our ways. Now,
what others do you know?"
She tried to recall, and with his assistance finally did
discover that she possessed a repertoire of "good old stale
ones," consisting of "Coming Thro' the Rye," "Suwanee River,"
"Annie Laurie" and "Kathleen Mavourneen." She knew many other
songs, but either Pat could not play them or Burlingham declared
them "above the head of Reub the rotter."
"Those five are quite enough," said Burlingham. "Two regulars,
two encores, with a third in case of emergency. After dinner
Miss Anstruther and I'll fit you out with a costume. You'll make
a hit at Sutherland tonight."
"Sutherland!" exclaimed Susan, suddenly pale. "I can't sing
there--really, I can't."
Burlingham made a significant gesture toward Pat at the oar
above them, and winked at her. "You'll not have stage fright, my
dear. You'll pull through."
Susan understood that nothing more was to be said before Pat.
Soon Burlingham told him to tie the oar again and retire to the
cabin. "I'll stand watch," said he. "I want to talk business
with Miss Sackville."
When Pat had gone, Burlingham gave her a sympathetic look. "No
confidences, mind you, my dear," he warned. "All I want to know
is that it isn't stage fright that's keeping you off the program
"No," replied the girl. "It isn't stage fright. I'm--I'm sorry
I can't begin right away to earn the money to pay you back.
"Not even in a velvet and spangle costume--Low neck, short
sleeves, with blond wig and paint and powder? You'll not know
yourself, my dear--really."
"I couldn't," said Susan. "I'd not be able to open my lips."
"Very well. That's settled." It was evident that Burlingham was
deeply disappointed. "We were going to try to make a killing at
Sutherland." He sighed. "However, let that pass. If you can't,
"I'm afraid you're angry with me," cried she.
"I--angry!" He laughed. "I've not been angry in ten years. I'm
such a _damn_, damn fool that with all the knocks life's given me
I haven't learned much. But at least I've learned not to get
angry. No, I understand, my dear--and will save you for the next
town below." He leaned forward and gave her hands a fatherly
pat as they lay in her lap. "Don't give it a second thought," he
said. "We've got the whole length of the river before us."
Susan showed her gratitude in her face better far than she could
have expressed it in words. The two sat silent. When she saw his
eyes upon her with that look of smiling wonder in them, she
said, "You mustn't think I've done anything dreadful. I
haven't--really, I haven't."
He laughed heartily. "And if you had, you'd not need to hang
your head in this company, my dear. We're all people who have
_lived_--and life isn't exactly a class meeting with the elders
taking turns at praying and the organ wheezing out gospel hymns.
No, we've all been up against it most of our lives--which means
we've done the best we could oftener than we've had the chance
to do what we ought." He gave her one of his keen looks, nodded:
"I like you. . . . What do they tell oftenest when they're
talking about how you were as a baby?"
Susan did not puzzle over the queerness of this abrupt question.
She fell to searching her memory diligently for an answer. "I'm
not sure, but I think they speak oftenest of how I never used to
like anybody to take my hand and help me along, even when I was
barely able to walk. They say I always insisted on trudging
along by myself."
Burlingham nodded, slapped his knee. "I can believe it," he
cried. "I always ask everybody that question to see whether I've
sited 'em up right. I rather think I hit you off to a T--as you
faced me at dinner yesterday in the hotel. Speaking of
dinner--let's go sit in on the one I smell."
They returned to the cabin where, to make a table, a board had
been swung between the backs of the second and third benches
from the front on the left side of the aisle. Thus the three men
sat on the front bench with their legs thrust through between
seat and back, while the three women sat in dignity and comfort
on the fourth bench. Susan thought the dinner by no means
justified Miss Anstruther's pessimism. It was good in itself,
and the better for being in this happy-go-lucky way, in this
happy-go-lucky company. Once they got started, all the
grouchiness disappeared. Susan, young and optimistic and
determined to be pleased, soon became accustomed to the looks of
her new companions--that matter of mere exterior about which we
shallow surface-skimmers make such a mighty fuss, though in the
test situations of life, great and small, it amounts to precious
little. They were all human beings, and the girl was unspoiled,
did not think of them as failures, half-wolves, of no social
position, of no standing in the respectable world. She still had
much of the natural democracy of children, and she admired these
new friends who knew so much more than she did, who had lived,
had suffered, had come away from horrible battles covered with
wounds, the scars of which they would bear into the
grave--battles they had lost; yet they had not given up, but had
lived on, smiling, courageous, kind of heart. It was their kind
hearts that most impressed her--their kind taking in of her whom
those she loved had cast out--her, the unknown stranger,
helpless and ignorant. And what Spenser had told her about the
stage and its people made her almost believe that they would not
cast her out, though they knew the dreadful truth about her birth.
Tempest told a story that was "broad." While the others laughed,
Susan gazed at him with a puzzled expression. She wished to be
polite, to please, to enjoy. But what that story meant she could
not fathom. Miss Anstruther jeered at her. "Look at the
innocent," she cried.
"Shut up, Vi," retorted Miss Connemora. "It's no use for us to
try to be anything but what we are. Still, let the baby alone."
"Yes--let her alone," said Burlingham.
"It'll soak in soon enough," Miss Connemora went on. "No use
rubbing it in."
"What?" said Susan, thinking to show her desire to be friendly,
to be one of them.
"Dirt," said Burlingham dryly. "And don't ask any more questions."
When the three women had cleared away the dinner and had stowed
the dishes in one of the many cubbyholes along the sides of the
cabin, the three men got ready for a nap. Susan was delighted to
see them drop to the tops of the backs of the seats three berths
which fitted snugly into the walls when not in use. She saw now
that there were five others of the same kind, and that there was
a contrivance of wires and curtains by which each berth could be
shut off to itself. She had a thrilling sense of being in a kind
of Swiss Family Robinson storybook come to life. She unpacked
her bag, contributed the food in it to the common store, spread
out her serge suit which Miss Anstruther offered to press and
insisted on pressing, though Susan protested she could do it
herself quite well.
"You'll want to put it on for the arrival at Sutherland," said
"No," replied Susan nervously. "Not till tomorrow."
She saw the curious look in all their eyes at sight of that
dress, so different from the calico she was wearing. Mabel took
her out on the forward deck where there was an awning and a good
breeze. They sat there, Mabel talking, Susan gazing rapt at land
and water and at the actress, and listening as to a fairy
story--for the actress had lived through many and strange
experiences in the ten years since she left her father's roof in
Columbia, South Carolina. Susan listened and absorbed as a dry
sponge dropped into a pail of water. At her leisure she would
think it all out, would understand, would learn.
"Now, tell _me_ about _your_self," said Mabel when she had
exhausted all the reminiscences she could recall at the
moment--all that were fit for a "baby's" ears.
"I will, some time," said Susan, who was ready for the question.
"But I can't--not yet."
"It seems to me you're very innocent," said Mabel, "even for a
well-brought-up girl. _I_ was well brought up, too. I wish to God
my mother had told me a few things. But no--not a thing."
"What do you mean?" inquired Susan.
That set the actress to probing the girl's innocence--what she
knew and what she did not. It had been many a day since Miss
Connemora had had so much pleasure. "Well!" she finally said. "I
never would have believed it--though I know these things are so.
Now I'm going to teach you. Innocence may be a good thing for
respectable women who are going to marry and settle down with a
good husband to look after them. But it won't do at all--not at
all, my dear!--for a woman who works--who has to meet men in
their own world and on their own terms. It's hard enough to get
along, if you know. If you don't--when you're knocked down, you
stay knocked down."
"Yes--I want to learn," said Susan eagerly. "I want to
"You're not going back?" Mabel pointed toward the shore, to a
home on a hillside, with a woman sewing on the front steps and
children racing about the yard. "Back to that sort of thing?"
"No," replied Susan. "I've got nothing to go back to."
"Nothing," repeated Susan in the same simple, final way. "I'm
The ready tears sprang to Mabel's dissipated but still bright
eyes. Susan's unconscious pathos was so touching. "Then I'll
educate you. Now don't get horrified or scandalized at me. When
you feel that way, remember that Mabel Connemora didn't make the
world, but God. At least, so they say--though personally I feel
as if the devil had charge of things, and the only god was in us
poor human creatures fighting to be decent. I tell you, men and
women ain't bad--not so damn bad--excuse me; they will slip out.
No, it's the things that happen to them or what they're
afraid'll happen--it's those things that compel them to be
bad--and get them in the way of being bad--hard to each other,
and to hate and to lie and to do all sorts of things."
The show boat drifted placidly down with the current of the
broad Ohio. Now it moved toward the left bank and now toward the
right, as the current was deflected by the bends--the beautiful
curves that divided the river into a series of lovely, lake-like
reaches, each with its emerald oval of hills and rolling valleys
where harvests were ripening. And in the shadow of the awning
Susan heard from those pretty, coarse lips, in language softened
indeed but still far from refined, about all there is to know
concerning the causes and consequences of the eternal struggle
that rages round sex. To make her tale vivid, Mabel illustrated
it by the story of her own life from girlhood to the present
hour. And she omitted no detail necessary to enforce the lesson
in life. A few days before Susan would not have believed, would
not have understood. Now she both believed and understood. And
nothing that Mabel told her--not the worst of the possibilities
in the world in which she was adventuring--burned deep enough to
penetrate beyond the wound she had already received and to give
her a fresh sensation of pain and horror.
"You don't seem to be horrified," said Mabel.
Susan shook her head. "No," she said. "I feel--somehow I feel better."
Mabel eyed her curiously--had a sense of a mystery of suffering
which she dared not try to explore. She said: "Better? That's
queer. You don't take it at all as I thought you would."
Said Susan: "I had about made up my mind it was all bad. I see
that maybe it isn't."
"Oh, the world isn't such a bad place--in lots of ways. You'll
get a heap of fun out of it if you don't take things or yourself
seriously. I wish to God I'd had somebody to tell me, instead of
having to spell it out, a letter at a time. I've got just two
pieces of advice to give you." And she stopped speaking and
gazed away toward the shore with a look that seemed to be
piercing the hills.
"Please do," urged Susan, when Mabel's long mood of abstraction
tried her patience.
"Oh--yes--two pieces of advice. The first is, don't drink.
There's nothing to it--and it'll play hell--excuse me--it'll
spoil your looks and your health and give you a woozy head when
you most need a steady one. Don't drink--that's the first advice."
"I won't," said Susan.
"Oh, yes, you will. But remember my advice all the same. The
second is, don't sell your body to get a living, unless you've
"I couldn't do that," said the girl.
Mabel laughed queerly. "Oh, yes, you could--and will. But
remember my advice. Don't sell your body because it seems to be
the easy way to make a living. I know most women get their
living that way."
"Oh--no--no, indeed!" protested Susan.
"What a child you are!" laughed Mabel. "What's marriage but
that?. . . Believe your Aunt Betsy, it's the poorest way to make
a living that ever was invented--marriage or the other thing.
Sometimes you'll be tempted to. You're pretty, and you'll find
yourself up against it with no way out. You'll have to give in
for a time, no doubt. The men run things in this world, and
they'll compel it--one way or another. But fight back to your
feet again. If I'd taken my own advice, my name would be on
every dead wall in New York in letters two feet high.
Instead----" She laughed, without much bitterness. "And why? All
because I never learned to stand alone. I've even supported
men--to have something to lean on! How's that for a poor fool?"
There Violet Anstruther called her. She rose. "You won't take my
advice," she said by way of conclusion. "Nobody'll take advice.
Nobody can. We ain't made that way. But don't forget what I've
said. And when you've wobbled way off maybe it'll give you
something to steer back by."
Susan sat on there, deep in the deepest of those brown studies
that had been characteristic of her from early childhood.
Often--perhaps most often--abstraction means only mental
fogginess. But Susan happened to be of those who can
concentrate--can think things out. And that afternoon, oblivious
of the beauty around her, even unconscious of where she was, she
studied the world of reality--that world whose existence, even
the part of it lying within ourselves, we all try to ignore or
to evade or to deny, and get soundly punished for our folly.
Taking advantage of the floods of light Mabel Connemora had let
in upon her--full light where there had been a dimness that was
equal to darkness--she drew from the closets of memory and
examined all the incidents of her life--all that were typical or
for other reasons important. One who comes for the first time
into new surroundings sees more, learns more about them in a
brief period than has been seen and known by those who have
lived there always. After a few hours of recalling and
reconstructing Susan Lenox understood Sutherland probably better
than she would have understood it had she lived a long eventless
life there. And is not every Sutherland the world in miniature?
She also understood her own position--why the world of
respectability had cast her out as soon as she emerged from
childhood--why she could not have hoped for the lot to which
other girls looked forward--why she belonged with the outcasts,
in a world apart--and must live her life there. She felt that
she could not hope to be respected, loved, married. She must
work out her destiny along other lines. She understood it all,
more clearly than would have been expected of her. And it is
important to note that she faced her future without repining or
self-pity, without either joy or despondency. She would go on;
she would do as best she could. And nothing that might befall
could equal what she had suffered in the throes of the casting out.
Burlingham roused her from her long reverie. He evidently had
come straight from his nap--stocking feet, shirt open at the
collar, trousers sagging and face shiny with the sweat that
accumulates during sleep on a hot day. "Round that bend ahead of
us is Sutherland," said he, pointing forward.
Up she started in alarm.
"Now, don't get fractious," cried he cheerfully. "We'll not
touch shore for an hour, at least. And nobody's allowed aboard.
You can keep to the cabin. I'll see that you're not bothered."
"You can keep to the dressing-room until the show's over and the
people've gone ashore. And tomorrow morning, bright and early, we'll
be off. I promised Pat a day for a drunk at Sutherland. He'll have
to postpone it. I'll give him three at Jeffersonville, instead."
Susan put on her sunbonnet as soon as the show boat rounded the
bend above town. Thus she felt safe in staying on deck and
watching the town drift by. She did not begin to think of going
into the cabin until Pat was working the boat in toward the
landing a square above the old familiar wharf-boat. "What day is
this?" she asked Eshwell.
Only Saturday! And last Monday--less than five days ago--she had
left this town for her Cincinnati adventure. She felt as if
months, years, had passed. The town seemed strange to her, and
she recalled the landmarks as if she were revisiting in age the
scenes of youth. How small the town seemed, after Cincinnati!
And how squat! Then----
She saw the cupola of the schoolhouse. Its rooms, the
playgrounds flashed before her mind's eye--the teachers she had
liked--those she had feared--the face of her uncle, so kind and
loving--that same face, with hate and contempt in it----
She hurried into the cabin, tears blinding her eyes, her throat
choked with sobs.
The Burlingham Floating Palace of Thespians tied up against the
float of Bill Phibbs's boathouse--a privilege for which
Burlingham had to pay two dollars. Pat went ashore with a sack
of handbills to litter through the town. Burlingham followed, to
visit the offices of the two evening newspapers and by "handing
them out a line of smooth talk"--the one art whereof he was
master--to get free advertising. Also there were groceries to
buy and odds and ends of elastic, fancy crepe, paper muslin and
the like for repairing the shabby costumes. The others remained
on board, Eshwell and Tempest to guard the boat against the
swarms of boys darting and swooping and chattering like a huge
flock of impudent English sparrows. An additional--and the
chief--reason for Burlingham's keeping the two actors close was
that Eshwell was a drunkard and Tempest a gambler. Neither could
be trusted where there was the least temptation. Each despised
the other's vice and despised the other for being slave to it.
Burlingham could trust Eshwell to watch Tempest, could trust
Tempest to watch Eshwell.
Susan helped Mabel with the small and early supper--cold chicken
and ham, fried potatoes and coffee. Afterward all dressed in the
cabin. Some of the curtains for dividing off the berths were
drawn, out of respect to Susan not yet broken to the ways of a
mode of life which made privacy and personal modesty
impossible--and when any human custom becomes impossible, it
does not take human beings long to discover that it is also
foolish and useless. The women had to provide for a change of
costumes. As the dressing-room behind the stage was only a
narrow space between the back drop and the forward wall of the
cabin, dressing in it was impossible, so Mabel and Vi put on a
costume of tights, and over it a dress. Susan was invited to
remain and help. The making-up of the faces interested her; she
was amazed by the transformation of Mabel into youthful
loveliness, with a dairy maid's bloom in place of her pallid
pastiness. On the other hand, make-up seemed to bring out the
horrors of Miss Anstruther's big, fat, yet hollow face, and to
create other and worse horrors--as if in covering her face it
somehow uncovered her soul. When the two women stripped and got
into their tights, Susan with polite modesty turned away.
However, catching sight of Miss Anstruther in the mirror that
had been hung up under one of the side lamps, she was so
fascinated that she gazed furtively at her by that indirect way.
Violet happened to see, laughed. "Look at the baby's shocked
face, Mabel," she cried.
But she was mistaken. It was sheer horror that held Susan's gaze
upon Violet's incredible hips and thighs, violently obtruded by
the close-reefed corset. Mabel had a slender figure, the waist
too short and the legs too nearly of the same girth from hip to
ankle, but for all that, attractive. Susan had never before seen
a woman in tights without any sort of skirt.
"You would show up well in those things," Violet said to her,
"that is, for a thin woman. The men don't care much for thinness."
"Not the clodhoppers and roustabouts that come to see us,"
retorted Mabel. "The more a woman looks like a cow or a sow, the
better they like it. They don't believe it's female unless it
looks like what they're used to in the barnyard and the cattle pen."
Miss Anstruther was not in the least offended. She paraded,
jauntily switching her great hips and laughing. "Jealous!" she
teased. "You poor little broomstick."
Burlingham was in a white flannel suit that looked well enough
in those dim lights. The make-up gave him an air of rakish
youth. Eshwell had got himself into an ordinary sack suit.
Tempest was in the tattered and dirty finery of a
seventeenth-century courtier. The paint and black made Eshwell's
face fat and comic; it gave Tempest distinction, made his hollow
blazing eyes brilliant and large. All traces of habitation were
effaced from the "auditorium"; the lamps were lighted, a ticket
box was set up on the rear deck and an iron bar was thrown half
across the rear entrance to the cabin, that only one person at
a time might be able to pass. The curtain was let down--a gaudy
smear of a garden scene in a French palace in the eighteenth
century. Pat, the orchestra, put on a dress coat and vest and
a "dickey"; the coat had white celluloid cuffs pinned in the
sleeves at the wrists.
As it was still fully an hour and a half from dark, Susan hid on
the stage; when it should be time for the curtain to go up she
would retreat to the dressing-room. Through a peephole in the
curtain she admired the auditorium; and it did look surprisingly
well by lamplight, with the smutches and faded spots on its
bright paint softened or concealed. "How many will it hold?" she
asked Mabel, who was walking up and down, carrying her long train.
"A hundred and twenty comfortably," replied Miss Connemora. "A
hundred and fifty crowded. It has held as high as thirty
dollars, but we'll be lucky if we get fifteen tonight."
Susan glanced round at her. She was smoking a cigarette,
handling it like a man. Susan's expression was so curious that
Mabel laughed. Susan, distressed, cried: "I'm sorry if--if I was
"Oh, you couldn't be impolite," said Mabel. "You've got that to
learn, too--and mighty important it is. We all smoke. Why not?
We got out of cigarettes, but Bob bought a stock this afternoon."
Susan turned to the peephole. Pat, ready to take tickets, was
"barking" vigorously in the direction of shore, addressing a
crowd which Susan of course could not see. Whenever he paused
for breath, Burlingham leaned from the box and took it up,
pouring out a stream of eulogies of his show in that easy,
lightly cynical voice of his. And the audience straggled
in--young fellows and their girls, roughs from along the river
front, farmers in town for a day's sport. Susan did not see a
single familiar face, and she had supposed she knew, by sight at
least, everyone in Sutherland. From fear lest she should see
someone she knew, her mind changed to longing. At last she was
rewarded. Down the aisle swaggered Redney King, son of the
washerwoman, a big hulking bully who used to tease her by
pulling her hair during recess and by kicking at her shins when
they happened to be next each other in the class standing in
long line against the wall of the schoolroom for recitation.
From her security she smiled at Redney as representative of all
she loved in the old town.
And now the four members of the company on the stage and in the
dressing-room lost their ease and contemptuous indifference.
They had been talking sneeringly about "yokels" and "jays" and
"slum bums." They dropped all that, as there spread over them
the mysterious spell of the crowd. As individuals the
provincials in those seats were ridiculous; as a mass they were
an audience, an object of fear and awe. Mabel was almost in
tears; Violet talked rapidly, with excited gestures and nervous
adjustments of various parts of her toilet. The two men paced
about, Eshwell trembling, Tempest with sheer fright in his
They wet their dry lips with dry tongues. Each again and again
asked the other anxiously how he was looking and paced away
without waiting for the answer. The suspense and nervous terror
took hold of Susan; she stood in the corner of the
dressing-room, pressing herself close against the wall, her
fingers tightly interlocked and hot and cold tremors chasing up
and down her body.
Burlingham left the box and combined Pat's duties with his
own--a small matter, as the audience was seated and a guard at
the door was necessary only to keep the loafers on shore from
rushing in free. Pat advanced to the little space reserved
before the stage, sat down and fell to tuning his violin with
all the noise he could make, to create the illusion of a full
orchestra. Miss Anstruther appeared in one of the forward side
doors of the auditorium, very dignified in her black satin
(paper muslin) dress, with many and sparkling hair and neck
ornaments and rings that seemed alight. She bowed to the
audience, pulled a little old cottage organ from under the stage
and seated herself at it.
After the overture, a pause. Susan, peeping through a hole in
the drop, saw the curtain go up, drew a long breath of terror as
the audience was revealed beyond the row of footlights, beyond
the big, befrizzled blond head of Violet and the drink-seared
face of Pat. From the rear of the auditorium came Burlingham's
smooth-flowing, faintly amused voice, announcing the beginning
of the performance "a delightful feast throughout, ladies and
gentlemen, amusing yet elevating, ever moral yet with none of
the depressing sadness of puritanism. For, ladies and gentlemen,
while we are pious, we are not puritan. The first number is a
monologue, `The Mad Prince,' by that eminent artist, Gregory
Tempest. He has delivered it before vast audiences amid thunders
Susan thrilled as Tempest strode forth--Tempest transformed by
the footlights and by her young imagination into a true king
most wonderfully and romantically bereft of reason by the woes
that had assailed him in horrid phalanxes. If anyone had pointed
out to her that Tempest's awful voice was simply cheap ranting,
or that her own woes had been as terrible as any that had ever
visited a king, or that when people go mad it is never from
grief but from insides unromantically addled by foolish eating
and drinking--if anyone had attempted then and there to educate
the girl, how angry it would have made her, how she would have
hated that well-meaning person for spoiling her illusion!
The spell of the stage seized her with Tempest's first line,
first elegant despairing gesture. It held her through Burlingham
and Anstruther's "sketch" of a matrimonial quarrel, through
Connemora and Eshwell's "delicious symphonic romanticism" of a
lovers' quarrel and making up, through Tempest's recitation of
"Lasca," dying to shield her cowboy lover from the hoofs of the
stampeded herd. How the tears did stream from Susan's eyes, as
Tempest wailed out those last lines:
But I wonder why I do not care for the things that are like the
things that were?
Can it be that half my heart lies buried there, in Texas down by
the Rio Grande?
She saw the little grave in the desert and the vast blue sky and
the buzzard sailing lazily to and fro, and it seemed to her that
Tempest himself had inspired such a love, had lost a sweetheart
in just that way. No wonder he looked gaunt and hollow-eyed and
sallow. The last part of the performance was Holy Land and comic
pictures thrown from the rear on a sheet substituted for the
drop. As Burlingham had to work the magic lantern from the
dressing-room (while Tempest, in a kind of monk's robe, used
his voice and elocutionary powers in describing the pictures,
now lugubriously and now in "lighter vein"), Susan was forced to
retreat to the forward deck and missed that part of the show.
But she watched Burlingham shifting the slides and altering the
forms of the lenses, and was in another way as much thrilled and
spellbound as by the acting.
Nor did the spell vanish when, with the audience gone, they all
sat down to a late supper, and made coarse jests and mocked at
their own doings and at the people who had applauded. Susan did
not hear. She felt proud that she was permitted in so
distinguished a company. Every disagreeable impression vanished.
How could she have thought these geniuses common and cheap! How
had she dared apply to them the standards of the people, the
dull, commonplace people, among whom she had been brought up! If
she could only qualify for membership in this galaxy! The
thought made her feel like a worm aspiring to be a star.
Tempest, whom she had liked least, now filled her with
admiration. She saw the tragedy of his life plain and sad upon
his features. She could not look at him without her heart's
contracting in an ache.
It was not long before Mr. Tempest, who believed himself a
lady-killer, noted the ingenuous look in the young girl's face,
and began to pose. And it was hardly three bites of a ham
sandwich thereafter when Mabel Connemora noted Tempest's
shootings of his cuffs and rumplings of his oily ringlets and
rollings of his hollow eyes. And at the sight Miss Mabel's
bright eyes became bad and her tongue shot satire at him. But
Susan did not observe this.
After supper they went straightway to bed. Burlingham drew the
curtains round the berth let down for Susan. The others indulged
in no such prudery on so hot a night. They put out the lamps and
got ready for bed and into it by the dim light trickling in
through the big rear doorway and the two small side doorways
forward. To help on the circulation of air Pat raised the stage
curtain and drop, and opened the little door forward. Each
sleeper had a small netting suspended over him from the ceiling;
without that netting the dense swarms of savage mosquitoes would
have made sleep impossible. As it was, the loud singing of these
baffled thousands kept Susan awake.
After a while, to calm her brain, excited by the evenings
thronging impressions and by the new--or, rather,
reviewed--ambitions born of them, Susan rose and went softly out
on deck, in her nightgown of calico slip. Because of the breeze
the mosquitoes did not trouble her there, and she stood a long
time watching the town's few faint lights--watching the stars,
the thronging stars of the Milky Way--dreaming--dreaming--dreaming.
Yesterday had almost faded from her, for youth lives only in
tomorrow--youth in tomorrow, age in yesterday, and none of us
in today which is all we really have. And she, with her wonderful
health of body meaning youth as long as it lasted, she would
certainly be young until she was very old--would keep her youth--her
dreams--her living always in tomorrow. She was dreaming of her
first real tomorrow, now. She would work hard at this wonderful
profession--_her_ profession!--would be humble and attentive; and
surely the day must come when she too would feel upon her heart
the intoxicating beat of those magic waves of applause!
Susan, more excited than ever, slipped softly into the cabin and
stole into her curtained berth. Like the soughing of the storm
above the whimper of the tortured leaves the stentorian snorings
of two of the sleepers resounded above the noise of the
mosquitoes. She had hardly extended herself in her close little
bed when she heard a stealthy step, saw one of her curtains
"Who is it?" she whispered, unsuspiciously, for she could see
only a vague form darkening the space between the parted curtains.
The answer came in a hoarse undertone: "Ye dainty little
darling!" She sat up, struck out madly, screamed at the top of
her lungs. The curtains fell back into place, the snoring
stopped. Susan, all in a sweat and a shiver, lay quiet. Hoarse
whispering; then in Burlingham's voice stern and gruff--"Get
back to your bed and let her alone, you rolling-eyed----" The
sentence ended with as foul a spatter of filth as man can fling
at man. Silence again, and after a few minutes the two snores
resumed their bass accompaniment to the falsetto of the mosquito
Susan got a little troubled sleep, was wide awake when Violet