Part 7 out of 8
and making it next door to impossible to speak to you
at all, and if--"
"And if he hadn't lied." Theron, as he finished her
sentence for her, rose from the table. Dallying for a
brief moment by his chair, there seemed the magnetic
premonition in the air of some further and kindlier word.
Then he turned and walked sedately into the next room,
and closed the door behind him. The talk was finished;
and Alice, left alone, passed the knuckle of her thumb
over one swimming eye and then the other, and bit her lips
and swallowed down the sob that rose in her throat.
It was early afternoon when Theron walked out of his yard,
bestowing no glance upon the withered and tarnished
show of the garden, and started with a definite step
down the street. The tendency to ruminative loitering,
which those who saw him abroad always associated
with his tall, spare figure, was not suggested today.
He moved forward like a man with a purpose.
All the forenoon in the seclusion of the sitting-room,
with a book opened before him, he had been thinking hard.
It was not the talk with Alice that occupied his thoughts.
That rose in his mind from time to time, only as a
disagreeable blur, and he refused to dwell upon it.
It was nothing to him, he said to himself, what Gorringe's
motives in lying had been. As for Alice, he hardened
his heart against her. Just now it was her mood to try
and make up to him. But it had been something different
yesterday, and who could say what it would be tomorrow?
He really had passed the limit of patience with her shifting
emotional vagaries, now lurching in this direction,
now in that. She had had her chance to maintain a hold
upon his interest and imagination, and had let it slip.
These were the accidents of life, the inevitable harsh
happenings in the great tragedy of Nature. They could not
be helped, and there was nothing more to be said.
He had bestowed much more attention upon what the priest
had said the previous evening. He passed in review all
the glowing tributes Father Forbes had paid to Celia.
They warmed his senses as he recalled them, but they also,
in a curious, indefinite way, caused him uneasiness.
There had been a personal fervor about them which was
something more than priestly. He remembered how the
priest had turned pale and faltered when the question
whether Celia would escape the general doom of her family
came up. It was not a merely pastoral agitation that,
he felt sure.
A hundred obscure hints, doubts, stray little suspicions,
crowded upward together in his thoughts. It became apparent
to him now that from the outset he had been conscious
of something queer--yes, from that very first day when he
saw the priest and Celia together, and noted their glance
of recognition inside the house of death. He realized now,
upon reflection, that the tone of other people, his own
parishioners and his casual acquaintances in Octavius alike,
had always had a certain note of reservation in it when
it touched upon Miss Madden. Her running in and out
of the pastorate at all hours, the way the priest patted
her on the shoulder before others, the obvious dislike
the priest's ugly old housekeeper bore her, the astonishing
freedom of their talk with each other--these dark
memories loomed forth out of a mass of sinister conjecture.
He could bear the uncertainty no longer. Was it indeed
not entirely his own fault that it had existed thus long?
No man with the spirit of a mouse would have shilly-shallied
in this preposterous fashion, week after week, with the fever
of a beautiful woman's kiss in his blood, and the woman
herself living only round the corner. The whole world
had been as good as offered to him--a bewildering world
of wealth and beauty and spiritual exaltation and love--
and he, like a weak fool, had waited for it to be brought
to him on a salver, as it were, and actually forced upon
his acceptance! "That is my failing," he reflected;
"these miserable ecclesiastical bandages of mine have dwarfed
my manly side. The meanest of Thurston's clerks would
have shown a more adventurous spirit and a bolder nerve.
If I do not act at once, with courage and resolution,
everything will be lost. Already she must think me
unworthy of the honor it was in her sweet will to bestow."
Then he remembered that she was now always at home.
"Not another hour of foolish indecision!" he whispered
to himself. "I will put my destiny to the test. I will see
A middle-aged, plain-faced servant answered his ring at the
door-bell of the Madden mansion. She was palpably Irish,
and looked at him with a saddened preoccupation in her
gray eyes, holding the door only a little ajar.
Theron had got out one of his cards. "I wish to make
inquiry about young Mr. Madden--Mr. Michael Madden,"
he said, holding the card forth tentatively. "I have only
just heard of his illness, and it has been a great grief
"He is no better," answered the woman, briefly.
"I am the Rev. Mr. Ware," he went on, "and you may say that,
if he is well enough, I should be glad to see him."
The servant peered out at him with a suddenly altered
expression, then shook her head. "I don't think he would
be wishing to see YOU," she replied. It was evident
from her tone that she suspected the visitor's intentions.
Theron smiled in spite of himself. "I have not come
as a clergyman," he explained, "but as a friend of
the family. If you will tell Miss Madden that I am here,
it will do just as well. Yes, we won't bother him.
If you will kindly hand my card to his sister."
When the domestic turned at this and went in, Theron felt
like throwing his hat in the air, there where he stood.
The woman's churlish sectarian prejudices had played
ideally into his hands. In no other imaginable
way could he have asked for Celia so naturally.
He wondered a little that a servant at such a grand house
as this should leave callers standing on the doorstep.
Still more he wondered what he should say to the lady
of his dream when he came into her presence.
"Will you please to walk this way?" The woman had returned.
She closed the door noiselessly behind him, and led the way,
not up the sumptuous staircase, as Theron had expected,
but along through the broad hall, past several large doors,
to a small curtained archway at the end. She pushed
aside this curtain, and Theron found himself in a sort
of conservatory, full of the hot, vague light of sunshine
falling through ground-glass. The air was moist and close,
and heavy with the smell of verdure and wet earth.
A tall bank of palms, with ferns sprawling at their base,
reared itself directly in front of him. The floor was of mosaic,
and he saw now that there were rugs upon it, and that there
were chairs and sofas, and other signs of habitation.
It was, indeed, only half a greenhouse, for the lower part
of it was in rosewood panels, with floral paintings on them,
like a room.
Moving to one side of the barrier of palms, he discovered,
to his great surprise, the figure of Michael, sitting propped
up with pillows in a huge easy-chair. The sick man was
looking at him with big, gravely intent eyes. His face did
not show as much change as Theron had in fancy pictured.
It had seemed almost as bony and cadaverous on the day
of the picnic. The hands spread out on the chair-arms
were very white and thin, though, and the gaze in the blue
eyes had a spectral quality which disturbed him.
Michael raised his right hand, and Theron, stepping forward,
took it limply in his for an instant. Then he laid it
down again. The touch of people about to die had always
been repugnant to him. He could feel on his own warm
palm the very damp of the grave.
"I only heard from Father Forbes last evening of your--
your ill-health," he said, somewhat hesitatingly. He seated
himself on a bench beneath the palms, facing the invalid,
but still holding his hat. "I hope very sincerely that you
will soon be all right again."
"My sister is lying down in her room," answered Michael.
He had not once taken his sombre and embarrassing gaze
from the other's face. The voice in which he uttered this
uncalled-for remark was thin in fibre, cold and impassive.
It fell upon Theron's ears with a suggestion of hidden meaning.
He looked uneasily into Michael's eyes, and then away again.
They seemed to be looking straight through him, and there
was no shirking the sensation that they saw and comprehended
things with an unnatural prescience.
"I hope she is feeling better," Theron found himself saying.
"Father Forbes mentioned that she was a little under
the weather. I dined with him last night."
"I am glad that you came," said Michael, after a little pause.
His earnest, unblinking eyes seemed to supplement his
tongue with speech of their own. "I do be thinking a
great deal about you. I have matters to speak of to you,
now that you are here."
Theron bowed his head gently, in token of grateful attention.
He tried the experiment of looking away from Michael,
but his glance went back again irresistibly, and fastened
itself upon the sick man's gaze, and clung there.
"I am next door to a dead man," he went on, paying no heed
to the other's deprecatory gesture. "It is not years
or months with me, but weeks. Then I go away to stand up
for judgment on my sins, and if it is His merciful will,
I shall see God. So I say my good-byes now, and so you
will let me speak plainly, and not think ill of what I say.
You are much changed, Mr. Ware, since you came to Octavius,
and it is not a change for the good."
Theron lifted his brows in unaffected surprise, and put
inquiry into his glance.
"I don't know if Protestants will be saved, in God's
good time, or not," continued Michael. "I find there
are different opinions among the clergy about that,
and of course it is not for me, only a plain mechanic,
to be sure where learned and pious scholars are in doubt.
But I am sure about one thing. Those Protestants,
and others too, mind you, who profess and preach good deeds,
and themselves do bad deeds--they will never be saved.
They will have no chance at all to escape hell-fire."
"I think we are all agreed upon that, Mr. Madden,"
said Theron, with surface suavity.
"Then I say to you, Mr. Ware, you are yourself in a bad path.
Take the warning of a dying man, sir, and turn from it!"
The impulse to smile tugged at Theron's facial muscles.
This was really too droll. He looked up at the ceiling,
the while he forced his countenance into a polite composure,
then turned again to Michael, with some conciliatory
commonplace ready for utterance. But he said nothing,
and all suggestion of levity left his mind, under the searching
inspection bent upon him by the young man's hollow eyes.
What did Michael suspect? What did he know? What was he
hinting at, in this strange talk of his?
"I saw you often on the street when first you came here,"
continued Michael. "I knew the man who was here before you--
that is, by sight--and he was not a good man. But your face,
when you came, pleased me. I liked to look at you.
I was tormented just then, do you see, that so many decent,
kindly people, old school-mates and friends and neighbors
of mine--and, for that matter, others all over the country
must lose their souls because they were Protestants.
At my boyhood and young manhood, that thought took the joy
out of me. Sometimes I usen't to sleep a whole night long,
for thinking that some lad I had been playing with,
perhaps in his own house, that very day, would be taken
when he died, and his mother too, when she died, and thrown
into the flames of hell for all eternity. It made me
so unhappy that finally I wouldn't go to any Protestant
boy's house, and have his mother be nice to me, and give me
cake and apples--and me thinking all the while that they
were bound to be damned, no matter how good they were
The primitive humanity of this touched Theron, and he
nodded approbation with a tender smile in his eyes,
forgetting for the moment that a personal application
of the monologue had been hinted at.
"But then later, as I grew up," the sick man went on,
"I learned that it was not altogether certain. Some of
the authorities, I found, maintained that it was doubtful,
and some said openly that there must be salvation possible
for good people who lived in ignorance of the truth
through no fault of their own. Then I had hope one day,
and no hope the next, and as I did my work I thought
it over, and in the evenings my father and I talked
it over, and we settled nothing of it at all. Of course,
how could we?"
"Did you ever discuss the question with your sister?"
it occurred suddenly to Theron to interpose. He was
conscious of some daring in doing so, and he fancied
that Michael's drawn face clouded a little at his words.
"My sister is no theologian," he answered briefly.
"Women have no call to meddle with such matters.
But I was saying--it was in the middle of these doubtings
of mine that you came here to Octavius, and I noticed
you on the streets, and once in the evening--I made
no secret of it to my people--I sat in the back of your
church and heard you preach. As I say, I liked you.
It was your face, and what I thought it showed of the man
underneath it, that helped settle my mind more than
anything else. I said to myself: "Here is a young man,
only about my own age, and he has education and talents,
and he does not seek to make money for himself,
or a great name, but he is content to live humbly on
the salary of a book-keeper, and devote all his time to
prayer and the meditation of his religion, and preaching,
and visiting the sick and the poor, and comforting them.
His very face is a pleasure and a help for those in suffering
and trouble to look at. The very sight of it makes one
believe in pure thoughts and merciful deeds. I will not
credit it that God intends damning such a man as that,
or any like him!"
Theron bowed, with a slow, hesitating gravity of manner,
and deep, not wholly complacent, attention on his face.
Evidently all this was by way of preparation for
"That was only last spring," said Michael. His tired
voice sank for a sentence or two into a meditative
half-whisper. "And it was MY last spring of all. I shall
not be growing weak any more, or drawing hard breaths,
when the first warm weather comes. It will be one season
to me hereafter, always the same." He lifted his voice
with perceptible effort. "I am talking too much.
The rest I can say in a word. Only half a year has
gone by, and you have another face on you entirely.
I had noticed the small changes before, one by one. I saw
the great change, all of a sudden, the day of the picnic.
I see it a hundred times more now, as you sit there.
If it seemed to me like the face of a saint before,
it is more like the face of a bar-keeper now!"
This was quite too much. Theron rose, flushed to the temples,
and scowled down at the helpless man in the chair.
He swallowed the sharp words which came uppermost,
and bit and moistened his lips as he forced himself to
remember that this was a dying man, and Celia's brother,
to whom she was devoted, and whom he himself felt he
wanted to be very fond of. He got the shadow of a smile
on to his countenance.
"I fear you HAVE tired yourself unduly," he said,
in as non-contentious a tone as he could manage.
He even contrived a little deprecatory laugh. I am
afraid your real quarrel is with the air of Octavius.
It agrees with me so wonderfully--I am getting as fat
as a seal. But I do hope I am not paying for it by such
a wholesale deterioration inside. If my own opinion could
be of any value, I should assure you that I feel myself
an infinitely better and broader and stronger man than I
was when I came here."
Michael shook his head dogmatically. "That is the greatest
pity of all," he said, with renewed earnestness. "You are
entirely deceived about yourself. You do not at all realize
how you have altered your direction, or where you are going.
It was a great misfortune for you, sir, that you did not keep
among your own people. That poor half-brother of mine,
though the drink was in him when he said that same to you,
never spoke a truer word. Keep among your own people,
Mr. Ware! When you go among others--you know what I mean--
you have no proper understanding of what their sayings
and doings really mean. You do not realize that they are
held up by the power of the true Church, as a little child
learning to walk is held up with a belt by its nurse.
They can say and do things, and no harm at all come to them,
which would mean destruction to you, because they have help,
and you are walking alone. And so be said by me, Mr. Ware!
Go back to the way you were brought up in, and leave
alone the people whose ways are different from yours.
You are a married man, and you are the preacher of
a religion, such as it is. There can be nothing better
for you than to go and strive to be a good husband,
and to set a good example to the people of your Church,
who look up to you--and mix yourself up no more with outside
people and outside notions that only do you mischief.
And that is what I wanted to say to you."
Theron took up his hat. "I take in all kindness what you
have felt it your duty to say to me, Mr. Madden," he said.
"I am not sure that I have altogether followed you, but I
am very sure you mean it well."
"I mean well by you," replied Michael, wearily moving
his head on the pillow, and speaking in an undertone
of languor and pain, "and I mean well by others, that are
nearer to me, and that I have a right to care more about.
When a man lies by the site of his open grave, he does
not be meaning ill to any human soul."
"Yes--thanks--quite so!" faltered Theron. He dallied
for an instant with the temptation to seek some further
explanation, but the sight of Michael's half-closed
eyes and worn-out expression decided him against it.
It did not seem to be expected, either, that he should
shake hands, and with a few perfunctory words of hope
for the invalid's recovery, which fell with a jarring note
of falsehood upon his own ears, he turned and left the room.
As he did so, Michael touched a bell on the table beside him.
Theron drew a long breath in the hall, as the curtain
fell behind him. It was an immense relief to escape
from the oppressive humidity and heat of the flower-room,
and from that ridiculous bore of a Michael as well.
The middle-aged, grave-faced servant, warned by the bell,
stood waiting to conduct him to the door.
"I am sorry to have missed Miss Madden," he said to her.
"She must be quite worn out. Perhaps later in the day--"
"She will not be seeing anybody today," returned the woman.
"She is going to New York this evening, and she is taking
some rest against the journey."
"Will she be away long?" he asked mechanically.
The servant's answer, "I have no idea," hardly penetrated
his consciousness at all.
He moved down the steps, and along the gravel to the street,
in a maze of mental confusion. When he reached the sidewalk,
under the familiar elms, he paused, and made a definite
effort to pull his thoughts together, and take stock
of what had happened, of what was going to happen;
but the thing baffled him. It was as if some drug had
stupefied his faculties.
He began to walk, and gradually saw that what he was
thinking about was the fact of Celia's departure for New
York that evening. He stared at this fact, at first in
its nakedness, then clothed with reassuring suggestions
that this was no doubt a trip she very often made.
There was a blind sense of comfort in this idea, and he
rested himself upon it. Yes, of course, she travelled
a great deal. New York must be as familiar to her
as Octavius was to him. Her going there now was quite
a matter of course--the most natural thing in the world.
Then there burst suddenly uppermost in his mind the
other fact--that Father Forbes was also going to New
York that evening. The two things spindled upward,
side by side, yet separately, in his mental vision;
then they twisted and twined themselves together.
He followed their convolutions miserably, walking as if
his eyes were shut.
In slow fashion matters defined and arranged themselves
before him. The process of tracing their sequence was
all torture, but there was no possibility, no notion,
of shirking any detail of the pain. The priest had spoken
of his efforts to persuade Celia to go away for a few days,
for rest and change of air and scene. He must have known
only too well that she was going, but of that he had been
careful to drop no hint. The possibility of accident
was too slight to be worth considering. People on such
intimate terms as Celia and the priest--people with such
facilities for seeing each other whenever they desired--
did not find themselves on the same train of cars,
with the same long journey in view, by mere chance.
Theron walked until dusk began to close in upon the
autumn day. It grew colder, as he turned his face homeward.
He wondered if it would freeze again over-night, and then
remembered the shrivelled flowers in his wife's garden.
For a moment they shaped themselves in a picture before his
mind's eye; he saw their blackened foliage, their sicklied,
drooping stalks, and wilted blooms, and as he looked,
they restored themselves to the vigor and grace and richness
of color of summer-time, as vividly as if they had been
painted on a canvas. Or no, the picture he stared at
was not on canvas, but on the glossy, varnished panel
of a luxurious sleeping-car. He shook his head angrily and
blinked his eyes again and again, to prevent their seeing,
seated together in the open window above this panel,
the two people he knew were there, gloved and habited
for the night's journey, waiting for the train to start.
"Very much to my surprise," he found himself saying to Alice,
watching her nervously as she laid the supper-table, "I
find I must go to Albany tonight. That is, it isn't
absolutely necessary, for that matter, but I think it
may easily turn out to be greatly to my advantage to go.
Something has arisen--I can't speak about it as yet--
but the sooner I see the Bishop about it the better.
Things like that occur in a man's life, where boldly
striking out a line of action, and following it up without
an instant's delay, may make all the difference in the world
to him. Tomorrow it might be too late; and, besides, I can
be home the sooner again."
Alice's face showed surprise, but no trace of suspicion.
She spoke with studied amiability during the meal,
and deferred with such unexpected tact to his implied
desire not to be questioned as to the mysterious motives
of the journey, that his mood instinctively softened and
warmed toward her, as they finished supper.
He smiled a little. "I do hope I shan't have to go
on tomorrow to New York; but these Bishops of ours are
such gad-abouts one never knows where to catch them.
As like as not Sanderson may be down in New York,
on Book-Concern business or something; and if he is,
I shall have to chase him up. But, after all, perhaps the
trip will do me good--the change of air and scene,
"I'm sure I hope so," said Alice, honestly enough.
"If you do go on to New York, I suppose you'll go by the
river-boat. Everybody talks so much of that beautiful
sail down the Hudson."
"That's an idea!" exclaimed Theron, welcoming it
with enthusiasm. "It hadn't occurred to me. If I
do have to go, and it is as lovely as they make out,
the next time I promise I won't go without you, my girl.
I HAVE been rather out of sorts lately," he continued.
"When I come back, I daresay I shall be feeling better,
more like my old self. Then I'm going to try, Alice, to be
nicer to you than I have been of late. I'm afraid there
was only too much truth in what you said this morning."
"Never mind what I said this morning--or any other time,"
broke in Alice, softly. "Don't ever remember it again,
Theron, if only--only--"
He rose as she spoke, moved round the table to where
she sat, and, bending over her, stopped the faltering
sentence with a kiss. When was it, he wondered,
that he had last kissed her? It seemed years, ages, ago.
An hour later, with hat and overcoat on, and his valise
in his hand, he stood on the doorstep of the parsonage,
and kissed her once more before he turned and descended
into the darkness. He felt like whistling as his feet
sounded firmly on the plank sidewalk beyond the gate.
It seemed as if he had never been in such capital good
spirits before in his life.
The train was at a standstill somewhere, and the dull,
ashen beginnings of daylight had made a first feeble start
toward effacing the lamps in the car-roof, when the new day
opened for Theron. A man who had just come in stopped
at the seat upon which he had been stretched through
the night, and, tapping him brusquely on the knee, said,
"I'm afraid I must trouble you, sir." After a moment
of sleep-burdened confusion, he sat up, and the man
took the other half of the seat and opened a newspaper,
still damp from the press. It was morning, then.
Theron rubbed a clear space upon the clouded window
with his thumb, and looked out. There was nothing to
be seen but a broad stretch of tracks, and beyond this
the shadowed outlines of wagons and machinery in a yard,
with a background of factory buildings.
The atmosphere in the car was vile beyond belief.
He thought of opening the window, but feared that the
peremptory-looking man with the paper, who had wakened him
and made him sit up, might object. They were the only people
in the car who were sitting up. Backwards and forwards,
on either side of the narrow aisle, the dim light disclosed
recumbent forms, curled uncomfortably into corners,
or sprawling at difficult angles which involved the least
interference with one another. Here and there an upturned
face gave a livid patch of surface for the mingled play
of the gray dawn and the yellow lamp-light. A ceaseless
noise of snoring was in the air.
He got up and walked to the tank of ice-water at the end
of the aisle, and took a drink from the most inaccessible
portion of the common tin-cup's rim. The happy idea of going
out on the platform struck him, and he acted upon it.
The morning air was deliciously cool and fresh by contrast,
and he filled his lungs with it again and again.
Standing here, he could discern beyond the buildings to the
right the faint purplish outlines of great rounded hills.
Some workmen, one of them bearing a torch, were crouching
along under the side of the train, pounding upon
the resonant wheels with small hammers. He recalled
having heard the same sound in the watches of the night,
during a prolonged halt. Some one had said it was Albany.
He smiled in spite of himself at the thought that Bishop
Sanderson would never know about the visit he had missed.
Swinging himself to the ground, he bent sidewise and looked
forward down the long train. There were five, six,
perhaps more, sleeping-cars on in front. Which one of them,
he wondered--and then there came the sharp "All aboard!"
from the other side, and he bundled up the steps again,
and entered the car as the train slowly resumed its progress.
He was wide-awake now, and quite at his ease. He took
his seat, and diverted himself by winking gravely at
a little child facing him on the next seat but one.
There were four other children in the family party,
encamped about the tired and still sleeping mother whose back
was turned to Theron. He recalled now having noticed this
poor woman last night, in the first stage of his journey--
how she fed her brood from one of the numerous baskets
piled under their feet, and brought water in a tin dish
of her own from the tank to use in washing their faces
with a rag, and loosened their clothes to dispose
them for the night's sleep. The face of the woman,
her manner and slatternly aspect, and the general effect
of her belongings, bespoke squalid ignorance and poverty.
Watching her, Theron had felt curiously interested
in the performance. In one sense, it was scarcely more
human than the spectacle of a cat licking her kittens,
or a cow giving suck to her calf. Yet, in another,
was there anything more human?
The child who had wakened before the rest regarded him
with placidity, declining to be amused by his winkings,
but exhibiting no other emotion. She had been playing by
herself with a couple of buttons tied on a string, and after
giving a civil amount of attention to Theron's grimaces,
she turned again to the superior attractions of this toy.
Her self-possession, her capacity for self-entertainment,
the care she took not to arouse the others, all impressed
him very much. He felt in his pocket for a small coin,
and, reaching forward, offered it to her. She took
it calmly, bestowed a tranquil gaze upon him for a moment,
and went back to the buttons. Her indifference produced
an unpleasant sensation upon him somehow, and he rubbed
the steaming window clear again, and stared out of it.
The wide river lay before him, flanked by a precipitous wall
of cliffs which he knew instantly must be the Palisades.
There was an advertisement painted on them which he
tried in vain to read. He was surprised to find they
interested him so slightly. He had heard all his life
of the Hudson, and especially of it just at this point.
The reality seemed to him almost commonplace. His failure
to be thrilled depressed him for the moment.
"I suppose those ARE the Palisades?" he asked his neighbor.
The man glanced up from his paper, nodded, and made
as if to resume his reading. But his eye had caught
something in the prospect through the window which
arrested his attention. "By George!" he exclaimed,
and lifted himself to get a clearer view.
"What is it?" asked Theron, peering forth as well.
"Nothing; only Barclay Wendover's yacht is still there.
There's been a hitch of some sort. They were to have
"Is that it--that long black thing?" queried Theron.
"That can't be a yacht, can it?"
"What do you think it is?" answered the other.
They were looking at a slim, narrow hull, lying at anchor,
silent and motionless on the drab expanse of water.
"If that ain't a yacht, they haven't begun building any yet.
They're taking her over to the Mediterranean for a cruise,
you know--around India and Japan for the winter, and home
by the South Sea islands. Friend o' mine's in the party.
Wouldn't mind the trip myself."
"But do you mean to say," asked Theron, "that that little
shell of a thing can sail across the ocean? Why, how many
people would she hold?"
The man laughed. "Well," he said, "there's room for two
sets of quadrilles in the chief saloon, if the rest keep
their legs well up on the sofas. But there's only ten
or a dozen in the party this time. More than that rather
get in one another's way, especially with so many ladies
Theron asked no more questions, but bent his head to see
the last of this wonderful craft. The sight of it,
and what he had heard about it, suddenly gave point
and focus to his thoughts. He knew at last what it was
that had lurked, formless and undesignated, these many
days in the background of his dreams. The picture rose
in his mind now of Celia as the mistress of a yacht.
He could see her reclining in a low easy-chair upon
the polished deck, with the big white sails billowing
behind her, and the sun shining upon the deep blue waves,
and glistening through the splash of spray in the air,
and weaving a halo of glowing gold about her fair head.
Ah, how the tender visions crowded now upon him!
Eternal summer basked round this enchanted yacht of his fancy--
summer sought now in Scottish firths or Norwegian fiords,
now in quaint old Southern harbors, ablaze with the hues
of strange costumes and half-tropical flowers and fruits,
now in far-away Oriental bays and lagoons, or among
the coral reefs and palm-trees of the luxurious Pacific.
He dwelt upon these new imaginings with the fervent longing
of an inland-born boy. Every vague yearning he had ever felt
toward salt-water stirred again in his blood at the thought
of the sea--with Celia.
Why not? She had never visited any foreign land.
"Sometime," she had said, "sometime, no doubt I will."
He could hear again the wistful, musing tone of her voice.
The thought had fascinations for her, it was clear.
How irresistibly would it not appeal to her, presented with
the added charm of a roving, vagrant independence on
the high seas, free to speed in her snow-winged chariot
wherever she willed over the deep, loitering in this place,
or up-helm-and-away to another, with no more care or weight
of responsibility than the gulls tossing through the air in
Theron felt, rather than phrased to himself, that there
would not be "ten or a dozen in the party" on that yacht.
Without defining anything in his mind, he breathed in
fancy the same bold ocean breeze which filled the sails,
and toyed with Celia's hair; he looked with her as she
sat by the rail, and saw the same waves racing past,
the same vast dome of cloud and ether that were mirrored
in her brown eyes, and there was no one else anywhere
near them. Even the men in sailors' clothes, who would
be pulling at ropes, or climbing up tarred ladders,
kept themselves considerately outside the picture.
Only Celia sat there, and at her feet, gazing up again
into her face as in the forest, the man whose whole
being had been consecrated to her service, her worship,
by the kiss.
"You've passed it now. I was trying to point out the
Jumel house to you--where Aaron Burr lived, you know."
Theron roused himself from his day-dream, and nodded with
a confused smile at his neighbor. "Thanks," he faltered;
"I didn't hear you. The train makes such a noise, and I
must have been dozing."
He looked about him. The night aspect, as of a tramps'
lodging-house, had quite disappeared from the car.
Everybody was sitting up; and the more impatient
were beginning to collect their bundles and hand-bags
from the racks and floor. An expressman came through,
jangling a huge bunch of brass checks on leathern thongs
over his arm, and held parley with passengers along
the aisle. Outside, citified streets, with stores
and factories, were alternating in the moving panorama
with open fields; and, even as he looked, these vacant
spaces ceased altogether, and successive regular lines
of pavement, between two tall rows of houses all alike,
began to stretch out, wheel to the right, and swing
off out of view, for all the world like the avenues of
hop-poles he remembered as a boy. Then was a long tunnel,
its darkness broken at stated intervals by brief bursts
of daylight from overhead, and out of this all at
once the train drew up its full length in some vast,
vaguely lighted enclosure, and stopped.
"Yes, this is New York," said the man, folding up his paper,
and springing to his feet. The narrow aisle was filled with
many others who had been prompter still; and Theron stood,
bag in hand, waiting till this energetic throng should
have pushed itself bodily past him forth from the car.
Then he himself made his way out, drifting with a sense
of helplessness in their resolute wake. There rose in his
mind the sudden conviction that he would be too late.
All the passengers in the forward sleepers would be gone
before he could get there. Yet even this terror gave him
no new power to get ahead of anybody else in the tightly
Once on the broad platform, the others started off briskly;
they all seemed to know just where they wanted to go,
and to feel that no instant of time was to be lost
in getting there. Theron himself caught some of this
urgent spirit, and hurled himself along in the throng
with reckless haste, knocking his bag against peoples'
legs, but never pausing for apology or comment until
he found himself abreast of the locomotive at the head
of the train. He drew aside from the main current here,
and began searching the platform, far and near, for those
he had travelled so far to find.
The platform emptied itself. Theron lingered on in
puzzled hesitation, and looked about him. In the whole
immense station, with its acres of tracks and footways,
and its incessantly shifting processions of people,
there was visible nobody else who seemed also in doubt,
or who appeared capable of sympathizing with indecision
in any form. Another train came in, some way over to
the right, and before it had fairly stopped, swarms of
eager men began boiling out of each end of each car,
literally precipitating themselves over one another,
it seemed to Theron, in their excited dash down the steps.
As they caught their footing below, they started racing
pell-mell down the platform to its end; there he saw them,
looking more than ever like clustered bees in the distance,
struggling vehemently in a dense mass up a staircase in the
remote corner of the building.
"What are those folks running for? Is there a fire?"
he asked an amiable-faced young mulatto, in the uniform
of the sleeping-car service, who passed him with some light
"No; they's Harlem people, I guess--jes' catchin' the Elevated--
that's all, sir," he answered obligingly.
At the moment some passengers emerged slowly from one
of the sleeping-cars, and came loitering toward him.
"Why, are there people still in these cars?" he asked eagerly.
"Haven't they all gone?"
"Some has; some ain't," the porter replied. "They most
generally take their time about it. They ain't no hurry,
so long's they get out 'fore we're drawn round to the drill-yard."
There was still hope, then. Theron took up his bag
and walked forward, intent upon finding some place from
which he could watch unobserved the belated stragglers
issuing from the sleeping-cars. He started back all at once,
confronted by a semi-circle of violent men with whips
and badges, who stunned his hearing by a sudden vociferous
outburst of shouts and yells. They made furious gestures
at him with their whips and fists, to enforce the
incoherent babel of their voices; and in these gestures,
as in their faces and cries, there seemed a great deal
of menace and very little invitation. There was a big
policeman sauntering near by, and Theron got the idea
that it was his presence alone which protected him from
open violence at the hands of these savage hackmen.
He tightened his clutch on his valise, and, turning his back
on them and their uproar, tried to brave it out and stand
where he was. But the policeman came lounging slowly
toward him, with such authority in his swaying gait,
and such urban omniscience written all over his broad,
sandy face, that he lost heart, and beat an abrupt retreat
off to the right, where there were a number of doorways,
near which other people had ventured to put down baggage
on the floor.
Here, somewhat screened from observation, he stood
for a long time, watching at odd moments the ceaselessly
varying phases of the strange scene about him, but always
keeping an eye on the train he had himself arrived in.
It was slow and dispiriting work. A dozen times his heart
failed him, and he said to himself mournfully that he
had had his journey for nothing. Then some new figure
would appear, alighting from the steps of a sleeper,
and hope revived in his breast.
At last, when over half an hour of expectancy had been
marked off by the big clock overhead, his suspense came
to an end. He saw Father Forbes' erect and substantial
form, standing on the car platform nearest of all,
balancing himself with his white hands on the rails,
waiting for something. Then after a little he came down,
followed by a black porter, whose arms were burdened
by numerous bags and parcels. The two stood a minute
or so more in hesitation at the side of the steps.
Then Celia descended, and the three advanced.
The importance of not being discovered was uppermost
in Theron's mind, now that he saw them actually coming
toward him. He had avoided this the previous evening,
in the Octavius depot, with some skill, he flattered himself.
It gave him a pleasurable sense of being a man of affairs,
almost a detective, to be confronted by the necessity
now of baffling observation once again. He was still
rather without plans for keeping them in view, once they
left the station. He had supposed that he would be able
to hear what hotel they directed their driver to take
them to, and, failing that, he had fostered a notion,
based upon a story he had read when a boy, of throwing
himself into another carriage, and bidding his driver
to pursue them in hot haste, and on his life not fail
to track them down. These devices seemed somewhat empty,
now that the urgent moment was at hand; and as he drew
back behind some other loiterers, out of view, he sharply
racked his wits for some way of coping with this most
It turned out, however, that there was no difficulty
at all. Father Forbes and Celia seemed to have no use for
the hackmen, but moved straight forward toward the street,
through the doorway next to that in which Theron cowered.
He stole round, and followed them at a safe distance,
making Celia's hat, and the portmanteau perched on
the shoulder of the porter behind her, his guides.
To his surprise, they still kept on their course when they
had reached the sidewalk, and went over the pavement
across an open square which spread itself directly in
front of the station. Hanging as far behind as he dared,
he saw them pass to the other sidewalk diagonally opposite,
proceed for a block or so along this, and then separate at
a corner. Celia and the negro lad went down a side street,
and entered the door of a vast, tall red-brick building
which occupied the whole block. The priest, turning on
his heel, came back again and went boldly up the broad
steps of the front entrance to this same structure,
which Theron now discovered to be the Murray Hill Hotel.
Fortune had indeed favored him. He not only knew where
they were, but he had been himself a witness to the furtive
way in which they entered the house by different doors.
Nothing in his own limited experience of hotels helped him
to comprehend the notion of a separate entrance for ladies
and their luggage. He did not feel quite sure about the
significance of what he had observed, in his own mind.
But it was apparent to him that there was something
underhanded about it.
After lingering awhile on the steps of the hotel,
and satisfying himself by peeps through the glass
doors that the coast was clear, he ventured inside.
The great corridor contained many people, coming, going,
or standing about, but none of them paid any attention to him.
At last he made up his mind, and beckoned a colored boy
to him from a group gathered in the shadows of the big
central staircase. Explaining that he did not at that moment
wish a room, but desired to leave his bag, the boy took
him to a cloak-room, and got him a check for the thing.
With this in his pocket he felt himself more at his ease,
and turned to walk away. Then suddenly he wheeled, and,
bending his body over the counter of the cloak-room,
astonished the attendant inside by the eagerness with
which he scrutinized the piled rows of portmanteaus,
trunks, overcoats, and bundles in the little enclosure.
"What is it you want? Here's your bag, if you're looking
for that," this man said to him.
"No, thanks; it's nothing," replied Theron,
straightening himself again. He had had a narrow escape.
Father Forbes and Celia, walking side by side, had come
down the small passage in which he stood, and had passed him
so closely that he had felt her dress brush against him.
Fortunately he had seen them in time, and by throwing himself
half into the cloak-room, had rendered recognition impossible.
He walked now in the direction they had taken, till he came
to the polite colored man at an open door on the left,
who was bowing people into the breakfast room.
Standing in the doorway, he looked about him till his eye
lighted upon his two friends, seated at a small table
by a distant window, with a black waiter, card in hand,
bending over in consultation with them.
Returning to the corridor, he made bold now to march
up to the desk and examine the register. The priest's
name was not there. He found only the brief entry,
"Miss Madden, Octavius," written, not by her, but by
Father Forbes. On the line were two numbers in pencil,
with an "and" between them. An indirect question to one
of the clerks helped him to an explanation of this.
When there were two numbers, it meant that the guest in
question had a parlor as well as a bedroom.
Here he drew a long, satisfied breath, and turned away.
The first half of his quest stood completed--and that
much more fully and easily than he had dared to hope.
He could not but feel a certain new respect for himself
as a man of resource and energy. He had demonstrated
that people could not fool with him with impunity.
It remained to decide what he would do with his discovery,
now that it had been so satisfactorily made.
As yet, he had given this hardly a thought. Even now,
it did not thrust itself forward as a thing demanding
instant attention. It was much more important, first of all,
to get a good breakfast. He had learned that there was
another and less formal eating-place, downstairs in the
basement by the bar, with an entrance from the street.
He walked down by the inner stairway instead,
feeling himself already at home in the big hotel.
He ordered an ample breakfast, and came out while it
was being served to wash and have his boots blacked,
and he gave the man a quarter of a dollar. His pockets
were filled with silver quarters, half-dollars, and dollars
almost to a burdensome point, and in his valise was a bag
full of smaller change, including many rolls of copper
cents which Alice always counted and packed up on Mondays.
In the hurry of leaving he had brought with him the church
collections for the past two weeks. It occurred to him
that he must keep a strict account of his expenditure.
Meanwhile he gave ten cents to another man in a silk-sleeved
cardigan jacket, who had merely stood by and looked at him
while his boots were being polished. There was a sense
of metropolitan affluence in the very atmosphere.
The little table in the adjoining room, on which Theron
found his meal in waiting for him, seemed a vision of
delicate napery and refined appointments in his eyes.
He was wolfishly hungry, and the dishes he looked upon
gave him back assurances by sight and smell that he
was very happy as well. The servant in attendance
had an extremely white apron and a kindly black face.
He bowed when Theron looked at him, with the air of a
lifelong admirer and humble friend.
"I suppose you'll have claret with your breakfast, sir?"
he remarked, as if it were a matter of course.
"Why, certainly," answered Theron, stretching his legs
contentedly under the table, and tucking the corner
of his napkin in his neckband.--"Certainly, my good man."
At ten o'clock Theron, loitering near the bookstall
in the corridor, saw Father Forbes come downstairs,
pass out through the big front doors, get into a carriage,
and drive away.
This relieved him of a certain sense of responsibility,
and he retired to a corner sofa and sat down.
The detective side of him being off duty, so to speak,
there was leisure at last for reflection upon the other
aspects of his mission. Yes; it was high time for him
to consider what he should do next.
It was easier to recognize this fact, however, than to act
upon it. His mind was full of tricksy devices for eluding
this task of serious thought which he sought to impose
upon it. It seemed so much pleasanter not to think at all--
but just to drift. He found himself watching with envy
the men who, as they came out from their breakfast,
walked over to the bookstall, and bought cigars from the
row of boxes nestling there among the newspaper piles.
They had such evident delight in the work of selection;
they took off the ends of the cigars so carefully,
and lighted them with such meditative attention,--
he could see that he was wofully handicapped by not
knowing how to smoke. He had had the most wonderful
breakfast of his life, but even in the consciousness
of comfortable repletion which pervaded his being,
there was an obstinate sense of something lacking.
No doubt a good cigar was the thing needed to round out
the perfection of such a breakfast. He half rose once,
fired by a sudden resolution to go over and get one.
But of course that was nonsense; it would only make
him sick. He sat down, and determinedly set himself
The effort finally brought fruit--and of a kind which
gave him a very unhappy quarter of an hour. The lover
part of him was uppermost now, insistently exposing all
its raw surfaces to the stings and scalds of jealousy.
Up to this moment, his brain had always evaded the direct
question of how he and the priest relatively stood in
Celia's estimation. It forced itself remorselessly upon
him now; and his thoughts, so far from shirking the subject,
seemed to rise up to meet it. It was extremely unpleasant,
But then a calmer view asserted itself. Why go out of
his way to invent anguish for himself? The relations
between Celia and the priest, whatever they might be,
were certainly of old standing. They had begun before
his time. His own romance was a more recent affair, and must
take its place, of course, subject to existing conditions.
It was all right for him to come to New York, and satisfy
his legitimate curiosity as to the exact character and scope
of these conditions. But it was foolish to pretend to be
amazed or dismayed at the discovery of their existence.
They were a part of the situation which he, with his
eyes wide open, had accepted. It was his function
to triumph over them, to supplant them, to rear the
edifice of his own victorious passion upon their ruins.
It was to this that Celia's kiss had invited him.
It was for this that he had come to New York. To let
his purpose be hampered or thwarted now by childish
doubts and jealousies would be ridiculous.
He rose, and holding himself very erect, walked with measured
deliberation across the corridor and up the broad staircase.
There was an elevator near at hand, he had noticed,
but he preferred the stairs. One or two of the colored
boys clustered about the foot of the stairs looked at him,
and he had a moment of dreadful apprehension lest they
should stop his progress. Nothing was said, and he went on.
The numbers on the first floor were not what he wanted,
and after some wandering about he ascended to the next,
and then to the third. Every now and then he encountered
attendants, but intuitively he bore himself with an air of
knowing what he was about which protected him from inquiry.
Finally he came upon the hall-way he sought. Passing along,
he found the doors bearing the numbers he had memorized
so well. They were quite close together, and there was
nothing to help him guess which belonged to the parlor.
He hesitated, gazing wistfully from one to the other.
In the instant of indecision, even while his alert ear
caught the sound of feet coming along toward the passage
in which he stood, a thought came to quicken his resolve.
It became apparent to him that his discovery gave him
a certain new measure of freedom with Celia, a sort of
right to take things more for granted than heretofore.
He chose a door at random, and rapped distinctly on
The voice he knew for Celia's. The single word, however,
recalled the usage of Father Forbes, which he had noted
more than once at the pastorate, when Maggie had knocked.
He straightened his shoulders, took his hat off, and pushed
open the door. It WAS the parlor--a room of sofas,
pianos, big easy-chairs, and luxurious bric-a-brac. A tall
woman was walking up and down in it, with bowed head.
Her back was at the moment toward him; and he looked at her,
saying to himself that this was the lady of his dreams,
the enchantress of the kiss, the woman who loved him--
but somehow it did not seem to his senses to be Celia.
She turned, and moved a step or two in his direction before
she mechanically lifted her eyes and saw who was standing
in her doorway. She stopped short, and regarded him.
Her face was in the shadow, and he could make out nothing
of its expression, save that there was a general effect
of gravity about it.
"I cannot receive you," she said. "You must go away.
You have no business to come like this without sending up
Theron smiled at her. The notion of taking in earnest
her inhospitable words did not at all occur to him.
He could see now that her face had vexed and saddened lines
upon it, and the sharpness of her tone remained in his ears.
But he smiled again gently, to reassure her.
"I ought to have sent up my name, I know," he said,
"but I couldn't bear to wait. I just saw your name
on the register and--you WILL forgive me, won't you?--
I ran to you at once. I know you won't have the heart
to send me away!"
She stood where she had halted, her arms behind her,
looking him fixedly in the face. He had made a movement
to advance, and offer his hand in greeting, but her
posture checked the impulse. His courage began to falter
under her inspection.
"Must I really go down again?" he pleaded. "It's a
crushing penalty to suffer for such little indiscretion.
I was so excited to find you were here--I never stopped
to think. Don't send me away; please don't!"
Celia raised her head. "Well, shut the door, then,"
she said, "since you are so anxious to stay. You would
have done much better, though, very much better indeed,
to have taken the hint and gone away."
"Will you shake hands with me, Celia?" he asked softly,
as he came near her.
"Sit there, please!" she made answer, indicating a
chair in the middle of the room. He obeyed her,
but to his surprise, instead of seating herself as well,
she began walking up and down the length of the floor again.
After a turn or two she stopped in front of him, and looked
him full in the eye. The light from the windows was on her
countenance now, and its revelations vaguely troubled him.
It was a Celia he had never seen before who confronted him.
"I am much occupied by other matters," she said,
speaking with cold impassivity, "but still I find myself
curious to know just what limits you set to your dishonesty."
Theron stared up at her. His lips quivered, but no speech
came to them. If this was all merely fond playfulness,
it was being carried to a heart-aching point.
"I saw you hiding about in the depot at home last evening,"
she went on. "You come up here, pretending to have
discovered me by accident, but I saw you following me
from the Grand Central this morning."
"Yes, I did both these things," said Theron, boldly.
A fine bravery tingled in his veins all at once.
He looked into her face and found the spirit to
disregard its frowning aspect. "Yes, I did them,"
he repeated defiantly. "That is not the hundredth part,
or the thousandth part, of what I would do for your sake.
I have got way beyond caring for any consequences.
Position, reputation, the good opinion of fools--
what are they? Life itself--what does it amount to?
Nothing at all--with you in the balance!"
"Yes--but I am not in the balance," observed Celia,
quietly. "That is where you have made your mistake."
Theron laid aside his hat. Women were curious creatures,
he reflected. Some were susceptible to one line of treatment,
some to another. His own reading of Celia had always
been that she liked opposition, of a smart, rattling,
almost cheeky, sort. One got on best with her by saying
bright things. He searched his brain now for some clever
quip that would strike sparks from the adamantine mood
which for the moment it was her whim to assume. To cover
the process, he smiled a little. Then her beauty, as she
stood before him, her queenly form clad in a more stiffly
fashionable dress than he had seen her wearing before,
appealed afresh and overwhelmingly to him. He rose to his feet.
"Have you forgotten our talk in the woods?" he murmured
with a wooing note. "Have you forgotten the kiss?"
She shook her head calmly. "I have forgotten nothing."
"Then why play with me so cruelly now?" he went on,
in a voice of tender deprecation. "I know you don't
mean it, but all the same it bruises my heart a little.
I build myself so wholly upon you, I have made existence
itself depend so completely upon your smile, upon a soft
glance in your eyes, that when they are not there, why,
I suffer, I don't know how to live at all. So be kinder
to me, Celia!"
"I was kinder, as you call it, when you came in,"
she replied. "I told you to go away. That was pure kindness--
more kindness than you deserved."
Theron looked at his hat, where it stood on the carpet
by his feet. He felt tears coming into his eyes.
"You tell me that you remember," he said, in depressed tones,
"and yet you treat me like this! Perhaps I am wrong.
No doubt it is my own fault. I suppose I ought not to have
come down here at all."
Celia nodded her head in assent to this view.
"But I swear that I was helpless in the matter,"
he burst forth. "I HAD to come! It would have been
literally impossible for me to have stayed at home,
knowing that you were here, and knowing also that--that--"
"Go on!" said Celia, thrusting forth her under-lip a trifle,
and hardening still further the gleam in her eye,
as he stumbled over his sentence and left it unfinished.
"What was the other thing that you were 'knowing'?"
"Knowing--" he took up the word hesitatingly--"knowing that
life would be insupportable to me if I could not be near you."
She curled her lip at him. "You skated over the thin
spot very well," she commented. "It was on the tip
of your tongue to mention the fact that Father Forbes
came with me. Oh, I can read you through and through,
In a misty way Theron felt things slipping from his grasp.
The rising moisture blurred his eyes as their gaze clung
"Then if you do read me," he protested, "you must know
how utterly my heart and brain are filled with you.
No other man in all the world can yield himself so absolutely
to the woman he worships as I can. You have taken
possession of me so wholly, I am not in the least master
of myself any more. I don't know what I say or what I do.
I am not worthy of you, I know. No man alive could be that.
But no one else will idolize and reverence you as I do.
Believe me when I say that, Celia! And how can you blame me,
in your heart, for following you? 'Whither thou goest,
I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge; thy people
shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest,
will I die, and there will I be buried. The Lord do
so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee
Celia shrugged her shoulders, and moved a few steps away
from him. Something like despair seized upon him.
"Surely," he urged with passion, "surely I have a right
to remind you of the kiss!"
She turned. "The kiss," she said meditatively. "Yes, you
have a right to remind me of it. Oh, yes, an undoubted right.
You have another right too--the right to have the kiss
explained to you. It was of the good-bye order. It signified
that we weren't to meet again, and that just for one little
moment I permitted myself to be sorry for you. That was all."
He held himself erect under the incredible words, and gazed
blankly at her. The magnitude of what he confronted
bewildered him; his mind was incapable of taking it in.
"You mean--" he started to say, and then stopped,
helplessly staring into her face, with a dropped jaw.
It was too much to try to think what she meant.
A little side-thought sprouted in the confusion
of his brain. It grew until it spread a bitter smile
over his pale face. "I know so little about kisses,"
he said; "I am such a greenhorn at that sort of thing.
You should have had pity on my inexperience, and told
me just what brand of kiss it was I was getting.
Probably I ought to have been able to distinguish,
but you see I was brought up in the country--on a farm.
They don't have kisses in assorted varieties there."
She bowed her head slightly. "Yes, you are entitled
to say that," she assented. "I was to blame, and it
is quite fair that you should tell me so. You spoke
of your inexperience, your innocence. That was why
I kissed you in saying good-bye. It was in memory
of that innocence of yours, to which you yourself had
been busy saying good-bye ever since I first saw you.
The idea seemed to me to mean something at the moment.
I see now that it was too subtle. I do not usually err
on that side."
Theron kept his hold upon her gaze, as if it afforded
him bodily support. He felt that he ought to stoop and
take up his hat, but he dared not look away from her.
"Do you not err now, on the side of cruelty?" he asked
It seemed for the instant as if she were wavering,
and he swiftly thrust forth other pleas. "I admit that I
did wrong to follow you to New York. I see that now.
But it was an offence committed in entire good faith.
Think of it, Celia! I have never seen you since that day--
that day in the woods. I have waited--and waited--
with no sign from you, no chance of seeing you at all.
Think what that meant to me! Everything in the world had been
altered for me, torn up by the roots. I was a new being,
plunged into a new existence. The kiss had done that.
But until saw you again, I could not tell whether this
vast change in me and my life was for good or for bad--
whether the kiss had come to me as a blessing or a curse.
The suspense was killing me, Celia! That is why,
when I learned that you were coming here, I threw
everything to the winds and followed you. You blame
me for it, and I bow my head and accept the blame.
But are you justified in punishing me so terribly--
in going on after I have confessed my error, and cutting
my heart into little strips, putting me to death by
"Sit down," said Celia, with a softened weariness
in her voice. She seated herself in front of him as he
sank into his chair again. "I don't want to give you
unnecessary pain, but you have insisted on forcing yourself
into a position where there isn't anything else but pain.
I warned you to go away, but you wouldn't. No matter how
gently I may try to explain things to you, you are bound
to get nothing but suffering out of the explanation.
Now shall I still go on?"
He inclined his head in token of assent, and did not
lift it again, but raised toward her a disconsolate
gaze from a pallid, drooping face.
"It is all in a single word, Mr. Ware," she proceeded,
in low tones. "I speak for others as well as myself,
mind you--we find that you are a bore."
Theron's stiffened countenance remained immovable.
He continued to stare unblinkingly up into her eyes.
"We were disposed to like you very much when we first
knew you," Celia went on. "You impressed us as an innocent,
simple, genuine young character, full of mother's milk.
It was like the smell of early spring in the country to come
in contact with you. Your honesty of nature, your sincerity
in that absurd religion of yours, your general NAIVETE of
mental and spiritual get-up, all pleased us a great deal.
We thought you were going to be a real acquisition."
"Just a moment--whom do you mean by 'we'?" He asked
the question calmly enough, but in a voice with an effect
of distance in it.
"It may not be necessary to enter into that," she replied.
"Let me go on. But then it became apparent, little by little,
that we had misjudged you. We liked you, as I have said,
because you were unsophisticated and delightfully fresh
and natural. Somehow we took it for granted you would
stay so. Rut that is just what you didn't do--just what
you hadn't the sense to try to do. Instead, we found you
inflating yourself with all sorts of egotisms and vanities.
We found you presuming upon the friendships which had been
mistakenly extended to you. Do you want instances?
You went to Dr. Ledsmar's house that very day after I
had been with you to get a piano at Thurston's, and
tried to inveigle him into talking scandal about me.
You came to me with tales about him. You went to
Father Forbes, and sought to get him to gossip about
us both. Neither of those men will ever ask you inside
his house again. But that is only one part of it.
Your whole mind became an unpleasant thing to contemplate.
You thought it would amuse and impress us to hear you
ridiculing and reviling the people of your church,
whose money supports you, and making a mock of the things
they believe in, and which you for your life wouldn't dare
let them know you didn't believe in. You talked to us
slightingly about your wife. What were you thinking of,
not to comprehend that that would disgust us? You showed
me once--do you remember?--a life of George Sand that you
had just bought,--bought because you had just discovered
that she had an unclean side to her life. You chuckled
as you spoke to me about it, and you were for all the
world like a little nasty boy, giggling over something
dirty that older people had learned not to notice.
These are merely random incidents. They are just samples,
picked hap-hazard, of the things in you which have been
opening our eyes, little by little, to our mistake.
I can understand that all the while you really fancied
that you were expanding, growing, in all directions.
What you took to be improvement was degeneration.
When you thought that you were impressing us most by your
smart sayings and doings, you were reminding us most
of the fable about the donkey trying to play lap-dog.
And it wasn't even an honest, straightforward donkey
She uttered these last words sorrowfully, her hands
clasped in her lap, and her eyes sinking to the floor.
A silence ensued. Then Theron reached a groping hand
out for his hat, and, rising, walked with a lifeless,
automatic step to the door.
He had it half open, when the impossibility of leaving in
this way towered suddenly in his path and overwhelmed him.
He slammed the door to, and turned as if he had been
whirled round by some mighty wind. He came toward her,
with something almost menacing in the vigor of his movements,
and in the wild look upon his white, set face.
Halting before her, he covered the tailor-clad figure,
the coiled red hair, the upturned face with its simulated calm,
the big brown eyes, the rings upon the clasped fingers,
with a sweeping, comprehensive glare of passion.
"This is what you have done to me, then!"
His voice was unrecognizable in his own ears--
hoarse and broken, but with a fright-compelling something
in it which stimulated his rage. The horrible notion
of killing her, there where she sat, spread over the
chaos of his mind with an effect of unearthly light--
red and abnormally evil. It was like that first devilish
radiance ushering in Creation, of which the first-fruit
was Cain. Why should he not kill her? In all ages,
women had been slain for less. Yes--and men had
been hanged. Something rose and stuck in his dry throat;
and as he swallowed it down, the sinister flare of
murderous fascination died suddenly away into darkness.
The world was all black again--plunged in the Egyptian
night which lay upon the face of the deep while the earth
was yet without form and void. He was alone on it--
alone among awful, planetary solitudes which crushed him.
The sight of Celia, sitting motionless only a pace in front
of him, was plain enough to his eyes. It was an illusion.
She was really a star, many millions of miles away.
These things were hard to understand; but they were true,
none the less. People seemed to be about him, but in fact
he was alone. He recalled that even the little child
in the car, playing with those two buttons on a string,
would have nothing to do with him. Take his money, yes;
take all he would give her--but not smile at him, not come
within reach of him! Men closed the doors of their houses
against him. The universe held him at arm's length as
He was standing with one knee upon a sofa. Unconsciously he
had moved round to the side of Celia; and as he caught
the effect of her face now in profile, memory-pictures began
at once building themselves in his brain--pictures of her
standing in the darkened room of the cottage of death,
declaiming the CONFITEOR; of her seated at the piano,
under the pure, mellowed candle-light; of her leaning her
chin on her hands, and gazing meditatively at the leafy
background of the woods they were in; of her lying back,
indolently content, in the deck-chair on the yacht
of his fancy--that yacht which a few hours before had
seemed so brilliantly and bewitchingly real to him,
He sank in a heap upon the couch, and, burying his face
among its cushions, wept and groaned aloud. His collapse
was absolute. He sobbed with the abandonment of one who,
in the veritable presence of death, lets go all sense
of relation to life.
Presently some one was touching him on the shoulder--
an incisive, pointed touch--and he checked himself,
and lifted his face.
"You will have to get up, and present some sort of
an appearance, and go away at once," Celia said to him
in low, rapid tones. "Some gentlemen are at the door,
whom I have been waiting for."
As he stupidly sat up and tried to collect his faculties,
Celia had opened the door and admitted two visitors.
The foremost was Father Forbes; and he, with some whispered,
smiling words, presented to her his companion, a tall,
robust, florid man of middle-age, with a frock-coat
and a gray mustache, sharply waxed. The three spoke
for a moment together. Then the priest's wandering eye
suddenly lighted upon the figure on the sofa. He stared,
knitted his brows, and then lifted them in inquiry as he
turned to Celia.
"Poor man!" she said readily, in tones loud enough to
reach Theron. "It is our neighbor, Father, the Rev. Mr. Ware.
He hit upon my name in the register quite unexpectedly,
and I had him come up. He is in sore distress--
a great and sudden bereavement. He is going now.
Won't you speak to him in the hall--a few words, Father?
It would please him. He is terribly depressed."
The words had drawn Theron to his feet, as by some
mechanical process. He took up his hat and moved dumbly
to the door. It seemed to him that Celia intended offering
to shake hands; but he went past her with only some
confused exchange of glances and a murmured word or two.
The tall stranger, who drew aside to let him pass,
had acted as if he expected to be introduced.
Theron, emerging into the hall, leaned against the wall
and looked dreamily at the priest, who had stepped out with him.
"I am very sorry to learn that you are in trouble, Mr. Ware,"
Father Forbes said, gently enough, but in hurried tones.
"Miss Madden is also in trouble. I mentioned to you
that her brother had got into a serious scrape. I have
brought my old friend, General Brady, to consult with her
about the matter. He knows all the parties concerned,
and he can set things right if anybody can."
"It's a mistake about me--I 'm not in any trouble at all,"
said Theron. "I just dropped in to make a friendly call."
The priest glanced sharply at him, noting with a swift,
informed scrutiny how he sprawled against the wall,
and what vacuity his eyes and loosened lips expressed.
"Then you have a talent for the inopportune amounting
to positive genius," said Father Forbes, with a stormy smile.
"Tell me this, Father Forbes," the other demanded,
with impulsive suddenness, "is it true that you don't
want me in your house again? Is that the truth or not?"
"The truth is always relative, Mr. Ware," replied the priest,
turning away, and closing the door of the parlor behind
him with a decisive sound.
Left alone, Theron started to make his way downstairs.
He found his legs wavering under him and making zigzag
movements of their own in a bewildering fashion.
He referred this at first, in an outburst of fresh despair,
to the effects of his great grief. Then, as he held tight
to the banister and governed his descent step by step,
it occurred to him that it must be the wine he had had
for breakfast. Upon examination, he was not so unhappy,
At the second peal of the door-bell, Brother Soulsby
sat up in bed. It was still pitch-dark, and the memory
of the first ringing fluttered musically in his awakening
consciousness as a part of some dream he had been having.
"Who the deuce can that be?" he mused aloud, in querulous
resentment at the interruption.
"Put your head out of the window, and ask,"
suggested his wife, drowsily.
The bell-pull scraped violently in its socket,
and a third outburst of shrill reverberations clamored
through the silent house.
"Whatever you do, I'd do it before he yanked the whole
thing to pieces," added the wife, with more decision.
Brother Soulsby was wide awake now. He sprang to the floor,
and, groping about in the obscurity, began drawing on some
of his clothes. He rapped on the window during the process,
to show that the house was astir, and a minute afterward
made his way out of the room and down the stairs,
the boards creaking under his stockinged feet as he went.
Nearly a quarter of an hour passed before he returned.
Sister Soulsby, lying in sleepy quiescence, heard vague
sounds of voices at the front door, and did not feel
interested enough to lift her head and listen. A noise
of footsteps on the sidewalk followed, first receding
from the door, then turning toward it, this second
time marking the presence of more than one person.
There seemed in this the implication of a guest, and she
shook off the dozing impulses which enveloped her faculties,
and waited to hear more. There came up, after further
muttering of male voices, the undeniable chink of coins
striking against one another. Then more footsteps,
the resonant slam of a carriage door out in the street,
the grinding of wheels turning on the frosty road,
and the racket of a vehicle and horses going off at
a smart pace into the night. Somebody had come, then.
She yawned at the thought, but remained well awake,
tracing idly in her mind, as various slight sounds rose
from the lower floor, the different things Soulsby
was probably doing. Their spare room was down there,
directly underneath, but curiously enough no one seemed
to enter it. The faint murmur of conversation which from
time to time reached her came from the parlor instead.
At last she heard her husband's soft tread coming
up the staircase, and still there had been no hint
of employing the guest-chamber. What could he be about?
Brother Soulsby came in, bearing a small lamp in
his hand, the reddish light of which, flaring upward,
revealed an unlooked-for display of amusement on his thin,
beardless face. He advanced to the bedside, shading the
glare from her blinking eyes with his palm, and grinned.
"A thousand guesses, old lady," he said, with a dry
chuckle, "and you wouldn't have a ghost of a chance.
You might guess till Hades froze over seven feet thick,
and still you wouldn't hit it."
She sat up in turn. "Good gracious, man," she began,
"you don't mean--" Here the cheerful gleam in his small eyes
reassured her, and she sighed relief, then smiled confusedly.
"I half thought, just for the minute," she explained,
"it might be some bounder who'd come East to try and
blackmail me. But no, who is it--and what on earth
have you done with him?"
Brother Soulsby cackled in merriment. "It's Brother
Ware of Octavius, out on a little bat, all by himself.
He says he's been on the loose only two days; but it looks
more like a fortnight."
"OUR Brother Ware?" she regarded him with open-eyed surprise.
"Well, yes, I suppose he's OUR Brother Ware--some,"
returned Soulsby, genially. "He seems to think so, anyway."
"But tell me about it!" she urged eagerly. "What's the
matter with him? How does he explain it?"
"Well, he explains it pretty badly, if you ask me,"
said Soulsby, with a droll, joking eye and a mock-serious voice.
He seated himself on the side of the bed, facing her,
and still considerately shielding her from the light
of the lamp he held. "But don't think I suggested
any explanations. I've been a mother myself.
He's merely filled himself up to the neck with rum,
in the simple, ordinary, good old-fashioned way.
That's all. What is there to explain about that?"
She looked meditatively at him for a time, shaking her head.
"No, Soulsby," she said gravely, at last. "This isn't
any laughing matter. You may be sure something bad
has happened, to set him off like that. I'm going to get
up and dress right now. What time is it?"
"Now don't you do anything of the sort," he urged persuasively.
"It isn't five o'clock; it'll be dark for nearly an hour yet.
Just you turn over, and have another nap. He's all right.
I put him on the sofa, with the buffalo robe round him.
You'll find him there, safe and sound, when it's time
for white folks to get up. You know how it breaks you up
all day, not to get your full sleep."
"I don't care if it makes me look as old as the everlasting hills,"
she said. "Can't you understand, Soulsby? The thing
worries me--gets on my nerves. I couldn't close an eye,
if I tried. I took a great fancy to that young man.
I told you so at the time."
Soulsby nodded, and turned down the wick of his lamp
a trifle. "Yes, I know you did," he remarked in placidly
non-contentious tones. "I can't say I saw much in him myself,
but I daresay you're right." There followed a moment's silence,
during which he experimented in turning the wick up again.
"But, anyway," he went on, "there isn't anything you
can do. He'll sleep it off, and the longer he's left
alone the better. It isn't as if we had a hired girl,
who'd come down and find him there, and give the whole
thing away. He's fixed up there perfectly comfortable;
and when he's had his sleep out, and wakes up on his
own account, he'll be feeling a heap better."
The argument might have carried conviction, but on the instant
the sound of footsteps came to them from the room below.
The subdued noise rose regularly, as of one pacing to and fro.
"No, Soulsby, YOU come back to bed, and get YOUR sleep out.
I'm going downstairs. It's no good talking; I'm going."
Brother Soulsby offered no further opposition, either by
talk or demeanor, but returned contentedly to bed,
pulling the comforter over his ears, and falling into
the slow, measured respiration of tranquil slumber
before his wife was ready to leave the room.
The dim, cold gray of twilight was sifting furtively through
the lace curtains of the front windows when Mrs. Soulsby,
lamp in hand, entered the parlor. She confronted a figure
she would have hardly recognized. The man seemed to have
been submerged in a bath of disgrace. From the crown
of his head to the soles of his feet, everything about him
was altered, distorted, smeared with an intangible effect
of shame. In the vague gloom of the middle distance,
between lamp and window, she noticed that his shoulders
were crouched, like those of some shambling tramp.
The frowsy shadows of a stubble beard lay on his jaw
and throat. His clothes were crumpled and hung awry;
his boots were stained with mud. The silk hat on the piano
told its battered story with dumb eloquence.
Lifting the lamp, she moved forward a step, and threw its
light upon his face. A little groan sounded involuntarily
upon her lips. Out of a mask of unpleasant features,
swollen with drink and weighted by the physical craving
for rest and sleep, there stared at her two bloodshot eyes,
shining with the wild light of hysteria. The effect
of dishevelled hair, relaxed muscles, and rough,
half-bearded lower face lent to these eyes, as she caught
their first glance, an unnatural glare. The lamp shook
in her hand for an instant. Then, ashamed of herself,
she held out her other hand fearlessly to him.
"Tell me all about it, Theron," she said calmly,
and with a soothing, motherly intonation in her voice.
He did not take the hand she offered, but suddenly,
with a wailing moan, cast himself on his knees at her feet.
He was so tall a man that the movement could have no grace.
He abased his head awkwardly, to bury it among the folds
of the skirts at her ankles. She stood still for a moment,
looking down upon him. Then, blowing out the light,
she reached over and set the smoking lamp on the piano
near by. The daylight made things distinguishable in a wan,
uncertain way, throughout the room.
"I have come out of hell, for the sake of hearing some
human being speak to me like that!"
The thick utterance proceeded in a muffled fashion from
where his face grovelled against her dress. Its despairing
accents appealed to her, but even more was she touched
by the ungainly figure he made, sprawling on the carpet.
"Well, since you are out, stay out," she answered,
as reassuringly as she could. "But get up and take
a seat here beside me, like a sensible man, and tell
me all about it. Come! I insist!"
In obedience to her tone, and the sharp tug at his shoulder
with which she emphasized it, he got slowly to his feet,
and listlessly seated himself on the sofa to which
she pointed. He hung his head, and began catching
his breath with a periodical gasp, half hiccough, half sob.
"First of all," she said, in her brisk, matter-of-fact manner,
"don't you want to lie down there again, and have me tuck
you up snug with the buffalo robe, and go to sleep?
That would be the best thing you could do."
He shook his head disconsolately, from side to side.
"I can't!" he groaned, with a swifter recurrence of the
sob-like convulsions. "I'm dying for sleep, but I'm too--
"Come, I'll sit beside you till you drop off," she said,
with masterful decision. He suffered himself to be pushed
into recumbency on the couch, and put his head with
docility on the pillow she brought from the spare room.
When she had spread the fur over him, and pushed her
chair close to the sofa, she stood by it for a little,
looking down in meditation at his demoralized face.
Under the painful surface-blur of wretchedness and
fatigued debauchery, she traced reflectively the lineaments
of the younger and cleanlier countenance she had seen a few
months before. Nothing essential had been taken away.
There was only this pestiferous overlaying of shame and
cowardice to be removed. The face underneath was still
With a soft, maternal touch, she smoothed the hair from
his forehead into order. Then she seated herself, and,
when he got his hand out from under the robe and thrust
it forth timidly, she took it in hers and held it in
a warm, sympathetic grasp. He closed his eyes at this,
and gradually the paroxysmal catch in his breathing lapsed.
The daylight strengthened, until at last tiny flecks
of sunshine twinkled in the meshes of the further
curtains at the window. She fancied him asleep,
and gently sought to disengage her hand, but his fingers
clutched at it with vehemence, and his eyes were wide open.
"I can't sleep at all," he murmured. "I want to talk."
"There 's nothing in the world to hinder you,"
she commented smilingly.
"I tell you the solemn truth," he said, lifting his
voice in dogged assertion: "the best sermon I ever
preached in my life, I preached only three weeks ago,
at the camp-meeting. It was admitted by everybody to be far
and away my finest effort! They will tell you the same!"
"It's quite likely," assented Sister Soulsby. "I quite
"Then how can anybody say that I've degenerated, that I've
become a fool?" he demanded.
"I haven't heard anybody hint at such a thing,"
she answered quietly.
"No, of course, YOU haven't heard them!" he cried.
"I heard them, though!" Then, forcing himself to a
sitting posture, against the restraint of her hand,
he flung back the covering. "I'm burning hot already!
Yes, those were the identical words: I haven't improved;
I've degenerated. People hate me; they won't have me
in their houses. They say I'm a nuisance and a bore.
I'm like a little nasty boy. That's what they say.
Even a young man who was dying--lying right on the edge
of his open grave--told me solemnly that I reminded him
of a saint once, but I was only fit for a barkeeper now.
They say I really don't know anything at all. And I'm
not only a fool, they say, I'm a dishonest fool into
"But who says such twaddle as that?" she returned consolingly.
The violence of his emotion disturbed her. "You mustn't
imagine such things. You are among friends here.
Other people are your friends, too. They have the very
highest opinion of you."
"I haven't a friend on earth but you!" he declared solemnly.
His eyes glowed fiercely, and his voice sank into a grave
intensity of tone. "I was going to kill myself. I went
on to the big bridge to throw myself off, and a policeman
saw me trying to climb over the railing, and he grabbed me
and marched me away. Then he threw me out at the entrance,
and said he would club my head off if I came there again.
And then I went and stood and let the cable-cars pass close
by me, and twenty times I thought I had the nerve to throw
myself under the next one, and then I waited for the next--
and I was afraid! And then I was in a crowd somewhere,
and the warning came to me that I was going to die.
The fool needn't go kill himself: God would take care
of that. It was my heart, you know. I've had that terrible
fluttering once before. It seized me this time, and I
fell down in the crowd, and some people walked over me,
but some one else helped me up, and let me sit down
in a big lighted hallway, the entrance to some theatre,
and some one brought me some brandy, but somebody else said
I was drunk, and they took it away again, and put me out.
They could see I was a fool, that I hadn't a friend
on earth. And when I went out, there was a big picture
of a woman in tights, and the word 'Amazons' overhead--
and then I remembered you. I knew you were my friend--
the only one I have on earth."
"It is very flattering--to be remembered like that,"
said Sister Soulsby, gently. The disposition to laugh
was smothered by a pained perception of the suffering he
was undergoing. His face had grown drawn and haggard
under the burden of his memories as he rambled on.
"So I came straight to you," he began again.
"I had just money enough left to pay my fare. The rest
is in my valise at the hotel--the Murray Hill Hotel.
It belongs to the church. I stole it from the church.
When I am dead they can get it back again!"
Sister Soulsby forced a smile to her lips. "What nonsense
you talk--about dying!" she exclaimed. "Why, man alive,
you'll sleep this all off like a top, if you'll only lie
down and give yourself a chance. Come, now, you must do
as you're told."
With a resolute hand, she made him lie down again,
and once more covered him with the fur. He submitted,
and did not even offer to put out his arm this time,
but looked in piteous dumbness at her for a long time.
While she sat thus in silence, the sound of Brother Soulsby
moving about upstairs became audible.
Theron heard it, and the importance of hurrying on
some further disclosure seemed to suggest itself.
"I can see you think I'm just drunk," he said, in low,
sombre tones. "Of course that's what HE thought.
The hackman thought so, and so did the conductor,
and everybody. But I hoped you would know better. I was
sure you would see that it was something worse than that.
See here, I'll tell you. Then you'll understand.
I've been drinking for two days and one whole night,
on my feet all the while, wandering alone in that big
strange New York, going through places where they murdered
men for ten cents, mixing myself up with the worst
people in low bar-rooms and dance-houses, and they saw I
had money in my pocket, too, and yet nobody touched me,
or offered to lay a finger on me. Do you know why?
They understood that I wanted to get drunk, and couldn't.
The Indians won't harm an idiot, or lunatic, you know.
Well, it was the same with these vilest of the vile.
They saw that I was a fool whom God had taken hold of,
to break his heart first, and then to craze his brain,
and then to fling him on a dunghill to die like a dog.
They believe in God, those people. They're the only ones
who do, it seems to me. And they wouldn't interfere
when they saw what He was doing to me. But I tell you I
wasn't drunk. I haven't been drunk. I'm only heart-broken,
and crushed out of shape and life--that's all. And I've
crawled here just to have a friend by me when--when I come
to the end."
"You're not talking very sensibly, or very bravely either,
Theron Ware," remarked his companion. "It's cowardly
to give way to notions like that."
"Oh, I 'm not afraid to die; don't think that,"
he remonstrated wearily. "If there is a Judgment,
it has hit me as hard as it can already. There can't
be any hell worse than that I've gone through.
Here I am talking about hell," he continued, with a
pained contraction of the muscles about his mouth--
a stillborn, malformed smile--as if I believed in one!
I've got way through all my beliefs, you know. I tell
you that frankly."
"It's none of my business," she reassured him. "I'm not
your Bishop, or your confessor. I'm just your friend,
your pal, that's all."
"Look here!" he broke in, with some animation and a new
intensity of glance and voice. "If I was going to live,
I'd have some funny things to tell. Six months ago I was
a good man. I not only seemed to be good, to others and
to myself, but I was good. I had a soul; I had a conscience.
I was going along doing my duty, and I was happy in it.
We were poor, Alice and I, and people behaved rather hard
toward us, and sometimes we were a little down in the
mouth about it; but that was all. We really were happy;
and I--I really was a good man. Here's the kind
of joke God plays! You see me here six months after.
Look at me! I haven't got an honest hair in my head.
I'm a bad man through and through, that's what I am.
I look all around at myself, and there isn't an atom left
anywhere of the good man I used to be. And, mind you,
I never lifted a finger to prevent the change. I didn't
resist once; I didn't make any fight. I just walked
deliberately down-hill, with my eyes wide open. I told
myself all the while that I was climbing uphill instead,
but I knew in my heart that it was a lie. Everything about
me was a lie. I wouldn't be telling the truth,
even now, if--if I hadn't come to the end of my rope.
Now, how do you explain that? How can it be explained?
Was I really rotten to the core all the time, years ago,
when I seemed to everybody, myself and the rest, to be good
and straight and sincere? Was it all a sham, or does God
take a good man and turn him into an out-and-out bad one,
in just a few months--in the time that it takes an ear
of corn to form and ripen and go off with the mildew?
Or isn't there any God at all--but only men who live
and die like animals? And that would explain my case,
wouldn't it? I got bitten and went vicious and crazy,
and they've had to chase me out and hunt me to my death
like a mad dog! Yes, that makes it all very simple.
It isn't worth while to discuss me at all as if I
had a soul, is it? I'm just one more mongrel cur
that's gone mad, and must be put out of the way.
"See here," said Sister Soulsby, alertly, "I half believe
that a good cuffing is what you really stand in need of.
Now you stop all this nonsense, and lie quiet and keep still!
Do you hear me?"
The jocose sternness which she assumed, in words
and manner, seemed to soothe him. He almost smiled
up at her in a melancholy way, and sighed profoundly.
"I've told you MY religion before," she went on with gentleness.
"The sheep and the goats are to be separated on Judgment Day,
but not a minute sooner. In other words, as long as human
life lasts, good, bad, and indifferent are all braided up
together in every man's nature, and every woman's too.
You weren't altogether good a year ago, any more than
you're altogether bad now. You were some of both then;
you're some of both now. If you've been making an extra
sort of fool of yourself lately, why, now that you
recognize it, the only thing to do is to slow steam,
pull up, and back engine in the other direction.
In that way you'll find things will even themselves up.
It's a see-saw with all of us, Theron Ware--sometimes up;
sometimes down. But nobody is rotten clear to the core."
He closed his eyes, and lay in silence for a time.
"This is what day of the week?" he asked, at last.