Part 1 out of 5
Charles Aldarondo, Tiffany Vergon, Joshua Hutchinson, and the Online
Distributed Proofreading Team.
THE HAPPY END
BY JOSEPH HERGESHEIMER
BOOKS BY JOSEPH HERGESHEIMER
THE HAPPY END
GOLD AND IRON
THE THREE BLACK PENNYS
THE LAY ANTHONY
THE HAPPY END
These stories have but one purpose--to give pleasure; and they have
been made into a book at the requests of those I have fortunately
pleased. It is, therefore, to such friends of my writing that they are
addressed and dedicated. However, this is not an effort to avoid my
responsibility: but to whom? Not to critics, not middlemen, nor the
Academies of which I am so reprehensibly ignorant; not, certainly, to
my neighbor. They brought me, in times of varying difficulty, food; and
for that excellent reason I am forced to conclude that, then as now, I
am responsible to my grocer.
The Egyptian Chariot
The Flower of Spain
The Thrush in the Hedge
The maid, smartly capped in starched ruffled muslin and black, who
admitted them to the somber luxury of the rectory, hesitated in
unconcealed sulky disfavor.
"Doctor Goodlowe has hardly started dinner," she asserted.
"Just ask him to come out for a little," the man repeated.
He was past middle age, awkward in harsh ill-fitting and formal clothes
and with a gaunt high-boned countenance and clear blue eyes.
His companion, a wistfully pale girl under an absurd and expensive hat,
laid her hand in an embroidered white silk glove on his arm and said in
a low tone: "We won't bother him, Calvin. There are plenty of ministers
in Washington; or we could come back later."
"There are, and we could," he agreed; "but we won't. I'm not going to
wait a minute more for you, Lucy. Not now that you are willing. Why, I
have been waiting half my life already."
A gaunt young man with clear blue eyes sat on the bank of a mountain
road and gazed at the newly-built house opposite. It was the only
dwelling visible. Behind, the range rose in a dark wall against the
evening sky; on either hand the small green valley was lost in a blue
haze of serried peaks. The house was not imposing; in reality small,
but a story and a half, it had a length of three rooms with a kitchen
forming an angle, invisible from where Calvin Stammark sat; an outside
chimney at each end, and a narrow covered portico over the front door.
An expiring clatter of hoofs marked the departure of the neighbor who
had helped Calvin set the last flanged course. It seemed incredible
that it was finished, ready--when the furniture and bright rag carpet
had been placed--for Hannah. "The truck patch will go in there on the
right," he told himself; "and gradually I'll get the slope cleared out,
corn and buckwheat planted."
He twisted about, facing the valley. It was deep in grass, watered with
streams like twisting shining ribbons, and held a sleek slow-grazing
herd of cattle.
The care of the latter, a part of Senator Alderwith's wide possessions,
was to form Calvin's main occupation--for the present anyhow. Calvin
Stammark had larger plans for his future with Hannah. Some day he would
own the Alderwith pastures at his back and be grazing his own steers.
His thoughts returned to Hannah, and he rose and proceeded to where a
saddled horse was tied beside the road. He ought to go back to
Greenstream and fix up before seeing her; but with their home all
built, his impatience to be with her was greater than his sense of
propriety, and he put his horse at a sharp canter to the left.
Calvin continued down the valley until the road turned toward the range
and an opening which he followed into a steeper and narrower rift
beyond. Here there were no clearings in the rocky underbrush until he
reached Richmond Braley's land. A long upturning sweep ended at the
house, directly against the base of the mountain; and without
decreasing his gait he passed over the faintly traced way, by the
triangular sheep washing and shearing pen, to the stabling shed.
Hannah's mother was bending fretfully over the kitchen stove, and
Richmond, her father, was drawing off sodden leather boots. He was a
man tall and bowed, stiff but still powerful, with a face masked in an
unkempt tangle of beard.
"H'y, Calvin," he cried; "you're just here for spoon licking! Lucy was
looking for company." Mrs. Braley's comment was below her breath, but
it was plainly no corroboration of her husband's assurance. "You'll
find Hannah in the front of the house," Richmond added. Hannah was
sitting on the stone steps at the side entrance to the parlor. As usual
she had a bright bow in the hair streaming over her back, and her feet
were graceful in slippers with thin black stockings. She kissed him
willingly and studied him with wide-opened hazel-brown eyes. There
wasn't another girl in Greenstream, in Virginia, with Hannah's fetching
appearance, he decided with a glow of adoration. She had a--a sort of
beauty entirely her own; it was not exactly prettiness, but a quality
far more disturbing, something a man could never forget.
"She's done," he told her abruptly.
"What?" Hannah gazed up at him with a dim sweetness in the gathering
"What!" he mocked her. "You ought to be ashamed to ask. Why, the house
--our home. We could move in by a week if we were called to. We can get
married any time."
She now looked away from him, her face still and dreaming.
"You don't seem overly anxious," Calvin declared.
"It's just the idea," she replied. "I never thought of it like this
before--right on a person." She sighed. "Of course it will be nice,
He sat below her with an arm across her slim knees. "I'm going to dig
right into the truck patch; there's a parcel of poles cut for the
beans. It won't be much the first year; but wait and we'll show people
how to live." He repeated his vision in connection with the present
"I wonder will we ever be rich like the senator?"
"Certainly," he answered with calm conviction. "A man couldn't be
shiftless with you to do for, Hannah. He'd be obliged to have
everything the best."
"It'll take a long while though," she continued.
"We will have to put in some hard licks," he admitted. "But we are
young; we've got a life to do it in."
"A man has, but I don't know about girls. It seems like they get old
faster; and then things--silk dresses don't do them any good. How would
ma look in fashionable clothes!"
"You won't have to wait that long," he assured her. "Your father has
never hurt himself about the place, there's no money in sheep; and as
for Hosmer--you know well as me that he is nothing outside of the bank
and his own comfort. Store clothes is Hosmer all through."
"I wish you were a little like him there," Hannah returned.
He admitted that this evening he was more untidy than need be. "I just
couldn't wait to see you," he declared; "with our place and--and all so
safe and happy."
The Braley table, spread after the Greenstream custom in the kitchen,
was surrounded by Richmond and Calvin--Hosmer had stayed late at the
bank--Hannah and Susan, the eldest of the children, prematurely aged
and wasted by a perpetual cough, while Lucy Braley moved carelessly
between the stove and the table. At rare intervals she was assisted by
Hannah, who bore the heavy dishes in a silent but perceptible air of
Calvin Stammark liked this; it was a part of her superiority to the
other girls of the locality. He made up his mind that she should never
lose her present gentility. Whenever he could afford it Hannah must
have help in the house. No greater elegance was imaginable. Senator
Alderwith, at his dwelling with its broad porch, had two servants--two
servants and a bathtub with hot water running right out of a tap. And
he Calvin Stammark, would have the same, before Hannah and he were too
old to enjoy it.
He had eleven hundred dollars now, after buying the land about his
house. When the right time came he would invest it in more property--
grazing, a few herd of cattle and maybe in timber. Calvin had
innumerable schemes for their betterment and success. To all this the
sheer fact of Hannah was like the haunting refrain of a song. She was
never really out of his planning. He might be sitting on his rooftree
squaring the shingling; bargaining with Eli Goss, the stone-cutter;
renewing the rock salt for Alderwith's steers; but running through
every occupation was the memory of Hannah's pale distracting face, the
scarlet thread of the lips she was continually biting, her slender
He had heard that her mother was like that when she was young; but
looking at Mrs. Braley's spent being, hearing her thin complaining
voice, it seemed impossible. People who had known her in her youth
asserted that it was so. Phebe too, they said, was the same--Phebe who
had left Greenstream nine years ago, when she was seventeen, to become
an actress in the great cities beyond the mountains. This might or
might not be a fact. Calvin always doubted that any one else could have
However, he had never seen Phebe; he had moved from a distant part of
the county to the principal Greenstream settlement after she had gone.
But the legend of Phebe's beauty and talent was a part of the Braley
household. Mrs. Braley told it as a distinguished trait that Phebe
would never set her hand in hot dishwater. Calvin noted that Hannah was
often blamed for domestic negligence, but this and far more advanced
conduct in Phebe was surrounded by a halo of superiority.
After supper, in view of the fact of their courtship, Calvin and Hannah
were permitted to sit undisturbed in the formality of the parlor. The
rest of the family congregated with complete normality in the kitchen.
The parlor was an uncomfortable chamber with uncomfortable elaborate
chairs in orange plush upholstery, a narrow sofa, an organ of highly
varnished lightwood ornamented with scrolled fretwork, and a cannon
stove with polished brass spires.
Calvin sat on the sofa with an arm about Hannah's waist, while she
twisted round her finger the ring he had given her, a ring of warranted
gold clasping a large red stone. Her throat was circled by a silver
chain supporting a mounted polished Scotch pebble, his gift as well.
Their position was conventional; Calvin's arm was cramped from its
unusual position, he had to brace his feet to keep firm on the slippery
plush, but he was dazed with delight. His heart throbs were evident in
his wrists and throat, while a tenderness of pity actually wet his
eyes. At times he spoke in a hushed voice, phrases meaningless in word
but charged with inarticulate emotion; Hannah replied more coherently;
but for the most they were silent. She accepted the situation with
evident calm as an inevitable part of life. Drawn against him she
rested her head lightly on his shoulder, her gaze speculative and
Once he exclaimed: "I don't believe you love me! I don't believe you're
interested in the things for the kitchen or the bedroom suite I saw in
a catalogue at Priest's store!"
"Don't be silly!" she murmured. "Why shouldn't I be when it's my own,
when it's all I'm going to have."
He cried bravely. "It's only the beginning! Wait till you see our
cattle herded over the mountain to the railroad; wait till you see a
spur come up the Sugarloaf and haul away our hardwood. Just you wait----"
There was the clip-clip of a horse outside, and the creaking of wheels.
"I believe that's Hosmer." Hannah rose. "It's funny, too, because he
said he'd have to stay at the hotel to-night, there was so much
settling up at the bank."
It was, however, Hosmer Braley. He paused at the parlor door, a man in
the vicinity of thirty, fat in body and carefully clad, with a white
starched collar and figured satin tie.
"I didn't want to drive out," he said, at once bland and aggrieved;
"but it couldn't be helped. Here's a piece of news for all of you--
Phebe is coming home to visit She wrote me to say so, and I only got
the letter this evening. Whatever do you suppose took her?"
Hannah at once flushed with excitement--like, Calvin Stammark thought,
the parlor lamp with the pink shade, turned up suddenly. An instant
vague depression settled over him; Hannah, only the minute before in
his arms, seemed to draw away from him, remote and unconcerned by
anything but Phebe's extraordinary return. Hosmer made it clear that
the event promised nothing but annoyance for him.
"She's coming by to-morrow's stage," he went on, untouched by the
sensation his information had wrought in the kitchen; "and it's certain
I can't meet her. The bank's sending me into West Virginia about some
Richmond Braley, it developed further, was bound to a day's work on the
public roads. They turned to Calvin.
"Take my buggy," Hosmer offered; "I'll have to go from Durban by rail."
There was no reason why he shouldn't meet Phebe Braley, Calvin
realized. He lingered, gazing with silent longing at Hannah, but it was
evident that she had no intention of returning to the parlor.
Waiting in Hosmer's buggy for the arrival of the Greenstream stage and
Phebe Braley, Calvin was conscious of the persistence of the depression
that had invaded him at the announcement of her visit. He resented,
too, the new element thrust into the Braley household, disrupting the
familiar course of his love. Hannah had been unreasonably distracted by
the actuality of Phebe's return--the Phebe who had gone away from the
mountains and become an actress.
The buggy was drawn to one side of the principal Greenstream road, at
the post-office. Before him the way crossed the valley and lifted
abruptly to the slope of the eastern range. At his back the village--
the brick Methodist church and the white painted Presbyterian church,
the courthouse with its dignified columns, the stores at the corners of
the single crossroads, and varied dwellings--was settling into the
elusive May twilight. The highest peaks in the east were capped with
dissolving rose by the lowering sun, and the sky was a dusty blue.
Calvin Stammark heard the approaching stage before he saw it; then the
long rigid surrey with its spare horses rapidly rolled up over the open
road to the post-office. He got down and moved diffidently forward,
seeing and recognizing Phebe immediately. This was made possible by her
resemblance to Hannah; and yet, Calvin added, no two women could be
more utterly different.
Phebe Braley had a full figure--she was almost stout--a body of the
frankest emphasized curves in a long purple coat with a collar of
soiled white fur. A straw hat with the brim caught by a short purple-
dyed ostrich feather was pinned to a dead-looking crinkled mass of
greenish-gold hair, and her face--the memorable features of Hannah--was
loaded with pink powder.
Calvin said: "You must be Phebe Braley. Well, I'm Calvin Stammark. Your
father or Hosmer couldn't meet the stage and so they had to let me get
you. Where's your bag?"
She adopted at once an air of comfortable familiarity. "I don't
remember your name," she said, settling beside him in the buggy.
He told her that he had come to this vicinity after she had gone and
that he was about to marry her sister.
"The hell you say!" she replied with cheerful surprise. "Who'd thought
Hannah was old enough to have a fellow!"
They were out of the village now and she produced a paper pack of
cigarettes from a leather hand bag with a florid gilt top. Flooding her
being with smoke she gazed with a shudder at the mountain wall on
either hand, the unbroken greenery sweeping to the sky.
"It's worse than I remembered," she confided, resting against him. "A
person with any life to them would go dippy here. Say, it's fierce! And
yet, inside of me, I'm kind of glad to see it. I used to dream about
the mountains, and this is like riding in the dream. I'm glad you came
for me and let me down easy into things. I suppose they live in the
kitchen home and pa'd lose a currycomb in his beard. Does Hosmer still
beller if he gets the chicken neck?
"Do you sit in the holy parlor for your courting, and ain't that plush
sofa a God-forsaken perch for two little love birds? It's funny how I
remember this and that. I reckon ma's temper don't improve with age.
They kid me something dreadful about saying 'reckon,' in the talent.
But it's all good and a dam' sight better than 'I guess.' That's all
they get off me."
Calvin Stammark's vague uneasiness changed to an acute dislike, even a
fear of Phebe. Her freedom of discourse and person, the powdered hard
fare close to his, the reek of scent--all rasped the delicacy of his
love for Hannah. The sisters were utterly different, and yet he would
have realized instantly their relationship. Phebe, too, had the
disturbing quality that made Hannah so appealing. In the former it was
coarsened, almost lost; almost but not quite.
"I'll bet," she continued, "that I'm the only female prodigal on the
bills. Not that I've been feeding on husks. Not me. Milwaukee lager and
raw beef sandwiches. I have a passion for them after the show. We do
two a day and I want solid refreshment. I wonder if you ever saw me. Of
course you didn't, but you might have. Ned Higmann's Parisian Dainties.
Rose Rayner's what I go by. That's French, but spelled different, and
means brightness. And I'm bright, Casper.
"My, what are you so glum about--the dump you live in or matrimony?
There was a gentleman in an orchestra in Harrisburg wanted to marry me
--he played the oboe--but I declined. Too Bohemian.... This is where we
turn," she cried instinctively, and they swung into the valley where
the Braleys had their clearing.
Phebe crushed the cigarette in her fingers. Suddenly she was nervous.
"It's natural I have changed a lot," she said. "If you hear me saying
anything rough pinch me."
Richmond Braley was standing beside his house in the muddy clothes in
which he had labored on the roads, and Mrs. Braley and Hannah came
eagerly forward. Behind them sounded Susan's racking cough. Sentimental
tears rolled dustily over Phebe's cheeks as she kissed and embraced her
mother and sisters.
"H'y," Richmond Braley awkwardly saluted her; and "H'y," she answered
in the local manner.
"Well," he commented, "you hain't forgotten that anyway."
Calvin was asked to stay for the supper that had been delayed for
Phebe's return, but when he declined uncertainly he wasn't pressed.
Putting up Hosmer's rig and saddling his own horse he rode slowly and
Instead of going directly back to Greenstream he followed the way that
led to his new house. The evening was silvery with a full brilliant
moon, and the fresh paint and bright woodwork were striking against the
dark elevated background of trees. The truck patch would be dug on the
right, the clearing widen rod by rod. From Alderwith's meadows came the
soft blowing of a steer's nostrils, while the persistent piping of the
frogs in the hollows fluctuated in his depressed consciousness.
Calvin had drawn rein and sat on his horse in the road. He was trying
to picture Hannah standing in the door waiting for him, to hear her
calling him from work; but always Phebe intervened with her travesty of
Hannah's clear loveliness.
Again at the Braleys' he found the family--in the kitchen--listening
with absorbed interest to Phebe's stories of life and the stage.
Richmond Braley sat with an undisguised wonderment and frequent
exclamations; there was a faint flush in Mrs. Braley's dun cheeks;
Susan tried without success to strangle her coughing. Only Hosmer was
unmoved; at times he nodded in recognition of the realities of Phebe's
narratives; his attitude was one of complacent understanding.
Calvin, at last succeeding in catching Hannah's attention, made a
suggestive gesture toward the front of the house, but she ignored his
desire. She, more than any of the others, was intent upon Phebe. And he
realized that Phebe paid her a special attention.
"My," she exclaimed, "the healthy life has put you in the front row.
Ned Higmann would rave about your shape and airs. It's too bad to bury
them here in the mountains. I reckon you love me for that"--she turned
cheerfully to Calvin--"but it's the truth. If you could do anything at
all, Hannah, you'd lead a chorus and go in the olio. And you would draw
at the stage door better than you would on the front. Young and fresh
as a daisy spells champagne and diamond garters. I don't believe they'd
let you stay in burlesque but sign you for comic opera."
The blood beat angrily in Calvin Stammark's head. Whatever did Phebe
mean by talking like that to Hannah just when she was to marry him! He
cursed silently at Richmond Braley's fatuous face, at Mrs. Braley's
endorsement of all that her eldest daughter related, at Hosmer's
assumption of worldly experience. But Hannah's manner filled him with
"It's according to how you feel," Phebe continued; "some like to get up
of a black winter morning and fight the kitchen fire. I don't. Some
women are happy handing plates to their husband while he puts down a
square feed. Not in mine."
"The loneliness is what I hate," Hannah added.
"It's hell," the other agreed. "Excuse me, ma."
Hannah went on: "And you get old without ever seeing things. There is
all that you tell about going on--those crowds and the jewels and
dresses, the parties and elegant times; but there is never a whisper of
it in Greenstream; nothing but the frogs that I could fairly scream at
--and maybe a church social." As she talked Hannah avoided Celvin
"Me and you'll have a conversation," Phebe promised her recklessly.
Choking with rage Calvin rose. "I might as well move along," he
"Don't get heated," Phebe advised him. "I wouldn't break up your happy
home, only I want Hannah to have an idea of what's what. I don't doubt
you'll get her for a wife."
"There's nothing but slaving for a woman round here," Mrs. Braley put
in. "I'm right glad Phebe had so much spirit."
Richmond Braley evidently thought it was time for certain reservations.
"You mustn't come down so hard on Calvin and me," he said practically.
"We're both likely young fellows."
"I'll be here evening after to-morrow," Calvin told Hannah in a low
She nodded without interest. They must be married at once, he decided,
his wise horse following unerringly the rocky road, stepping through
splashing dark fords. If there was a repetition of the past visit he
would have something to say. Hannah was his, she was promised to him.
He felt the coolness of her cheeks, her bright mouth against his. A
tyranny of misery and desire flooded him at the sudden danger--it was
as much as that--threatening his happiness and life.
It was a danger founded on his entire ignorance of what he must combat.
He couldn't visualize it, but it never occurred to him that Hannah
would actually go away--leave him and Greenstream. No, it was a quality
in Hannah herself, a thing that had always lurked below the surface,
beyond his knowledge until now. Yet he realized that it formed a part
of her appeal, a part of her distinction over the other girls of the
Maybe it was because he was never in his heart absolutely certain of
her--even when she was closest to him she seemed to slip away beyond
his power to follow. His love, he acknowledged for the first time, had
never been easy or contented or happy. It had been obscure, like the
night about him now; it resembled a fire that he held in his bare
hands. Hannah's particularity, too, was allied to this strange newly-
awakened peril. In a manner it was that which had carried Phebe out of
the mountains. Now the resemblance between them was far stronger than
There was more than a touch of all this in the girls' mother, in her
bitterness and discontent. He felt that he hated the elder as much as
he did Phebe. If the latter were a man----
He dressed with the greatest care for his next evening with Hannah.
Hosmer wore no stiffer nor whiter collar, and Calvin's necktie was a
pure gay silk. He arrived just as the moon detached itself from the
fringe of mountain peaks and the frogs started insistently. His heart
was heavy but his manner calm, determined, as he entered the Braley
kitchen. No one was there but Susan; soon however, Phebe entered in an
amazing slovenly wrapper with a lace edge turned back from her ample
throat; and Hannah followed.
Phebe made a mocking reference to the sofa in the parlor, and Hannah's
expression was distasteful; but she slowly followed Calvin into the
He made no attempt to embrace her, but said instead: "I came to fix the
day for our wedding."
"Phebe wants me to go with her for a little first," she replied
indirectly. "She says I can come back whenever I like."
"Your Phebe has no say in it." He spoke harshly. "We're honestly
promised to each other and don't need outside advice or interference."
"Don't you go to call Phebe 'outside,'" she retorted. "She's my sister.
Perhaps it's a good thing she came when she did, and saved me from
being buried. Perhaps I'm not aiming to be married right off."
Hannah was standing, a hand on the table that held the pink-shaded
lamp, and the light showed her petulant and antagonistic. A flare of
anger threatened to shut all else from Calvin's thoughts; but suddenly
he was conscious of the necessity for care--care and patience. He
forced back his justified sense of wrong.
"I wasn't referring direct to Phebe," he told her. "I meant that
between us nobody else matters, no one in the world is of any
importance to me but you. It's all I think about. When I was building
the house, our house, I hammered you into it with every nail. It is
sort of made out of you," he foundered; "like--like I am."
He could see her relenting in the loss of the rigidity of her pose.
Hannah's head drooped and her fingers tapped faintly on the table. He
moved closer, urging his advantage.
"We're all but married, Hannah; our carpet is being wove and that suite
of furniture ordered through Priest. You've been upset by this talk of
theaters and such. You'd get tired of them and that fly-by-night life
in a month."
"What suits one doesn't suit all," he said concisely.
"It would suit more girls than you know for," she informed him. "Take
it round here, there's nothing to do but get married, and all the
change is from one kitchen to another. You don't even have a way to
match up fellows. Soon as you're out of short skirts one of them visits
with you and the rest stay away like you had the smallpox. Our courting
lasted a week and you were here four times."
"We haven't much time, Hannah," he reminded her. "It was right hard for
me to see you that often. There was a smart of things you were doing,
"The more fool!" she exclaimed.
Again his resentment promised to leap beyond control. He clenched his
hands and stared with contracted eyes at the floor.
"Well," he articulated finally, "we're promised anyhow; that can't be
denied. I have your word."
"Yes," she admitted, "but chance that I went with Phebe doesn't mean
I'd never come back."
"It would mean that you'd never come back," he paraphrased her.
"Maybe I would know better," she answered quickly. "I'm sorry, Calvin.
I didn't go to be so sharp. Only I don't know what's right," she went
"It isn't what's right," he corrected her, "but what you want. I wish
Phebe had stayed away a little longer."
"There you go again at Phebe!" she protested.
He replied grimly; "Not half what I feel."
In a dangerously calm voice she inquired, "What's the rest then?"
"She's a trouble-maker," he asserted in a shaking tone over which he
seemed to have no command; "she came back to Greenstream and for no
reason but her own slinked into our happiness. Your whole family--even
Hosmer, pretending to be so wise--are blind as bats. You can't even see
that Phebe's hair is as dyed as her stories. She says she is on the
stage, but it's a pretty stage! I've been to Stanwick and seen those
Parisian Dainties and burlesque shows. They're nothing but a lot of
half-naked women cavorting and singing fast songs. And the show only
begins--with most of them--when the curtain drops. If I even try to
think of you in that I get sick."
"Go on," Hannah stammered, scarcely above her breath.
"It's bad," Calvin Stammark went on. "The women are bad; and a bad
woman is something awful. I know about that too. I've been to the city
as well as Phebe. Oh, Hannah," he cried, "can't you see, can't you!"
With a violent effort he regained the greater part of his composure.
"But it won't touch you," he added; "we're going to be married right
"We are?" Hannah echoed him thinly, in bitter mockery. "I wouldn't have
you now if you were the last man on earth with the way you talked
about Phebe! I don't see how you can stand there and look at me. If I
told pa or Hosmer they would shoot you. You might as well know this as
well--I'm going back with her; it'll be some gayer than these lonely
old valleys or your house stuck away all by itself with nothing to see
but Senator Alderwith's steers."
There flashed into Calvin Stammark's mind the memory of how he had
planned to possess just such cattle for Hannah and himself; he saw in
the elusive lamplight the house he had built for Hannah. His feeling,
that a second before had been so acute, was numb. This, he thought, was
strange; a voice within echoed that he was going to lose her, to lose
Hannah; but he had no faculty capable of understanding such a calamity.
"Why, Hannah," he said impotently--"Hannah--" His vision blurred so
that he couldn't see her clearly; it was as if, indistinct before him,
she were already fading from his life. "I never went to hurt you," he
continued in a curious detachment from his suffering. "You were
everything I had."
Calvin grew awkward, confused in his mind and gestures. At the same
time Hannah's desirability increased immeasurably. Never in Greenstream
or any place else had he seen another like her; and he was about to
lose her, lose Hannah.
Automatically he repeated, "If Phebe were a man----"
He was powerless not only against exterior circumstance but to combat
what lay with Hannah. Phebe would never set her hands in hot dishwater.
He recalled their mother, fretful and impatient. He shook his head as
if to free his mind from so many vain thoughts. She stood, hard and
He tried to mutter a phrase about being here if she should return, but
it perished in the conviction of its uselessness. Calvin saw her with
green-yellow hair, a cigarette in painted lips; he heard the blurred
applause of men at the spectacle of Hannah on the stage, dressed like
the women he had seen there. Then pride stiffened him into a semblance
of her own remoteness.
"It's in you," he said; "and it will have to come out. I'm what I am
too, and that doesn't make it any easier. Kind of a fool about you.
Another girl won't do. I'll say good night."
He turned and abruptly quitted the room and all his hope.
When the furniture Calvin had ordered through the catalogue at Priest's
store arrived by mountain wagon he placed it in the room beside the
kitchen that was to have been Hannah's and his. Hannah had gone three
weeks before with Phebe. This done he sat for a long while on the
portico of his house, facing the rich bottom pasturage and high verdant
range beyond. It was late afternoon and the rift was filling with a
golden haze from a sun veiled in watery late-spring vapors. An old
apple tree by the road was flushed with pink blossoms and a mocking
bird was whistling with piercing sweetness.
Soon it would be evening and the frogs would begin again, the frogs and
whippoorwills. The valley, just as Hannah had said, was lonely. He
stirred and later found himself some supper--in the kitchen where
everything was new.
On the following morning he left the Greenstream settlement; it was
Friday, and Monday he returned with Ettie, his sister. She was
remarkably like him--tall and angular, with a gaunt face and steady
blue eyes. Older than Calvin, she had settled into a complete
acquiescence with whatever life brought; no more for her than the
keeping of her brother's house. Calvin, noting the efficient manner in
which she ordered their material affairs, wondered at the fact that she
had not been married. Men were unaccountable, but none more than
himself, with his unquenchable longing for Hannah.
This retreated to the back of his being. He never spoke of her. Indeed
he tried to put her from his thoughts, and with a measure of success.
But it never occurred to him to consider any other girl; that
possibility was closed. Those he saw--and they were uniformly kind,
even inviting--were dull after Hannah.
Instead he devoted himself to the equivalent, in his undertakings, of
Ettie's quiet capability. The following year a small number of the
steers grazing beyond the road were his; in two years more Senator
Alderwith died, and there was a division of his estate, in which Calvin
assumed large liabilities, paying them as he had contracted. The timber
in Sugarloaf Valley drew speculators--he sold options and bought a
place in the logging development.
It seemed to him that he grew older, in appearance anyhow, with
exceptional rapidity; his face grew leaner and his beard, which he
continued to shave, was soiled with gray hair.
He avoided the Braleys and their clearing; and when circumstance drew
him into conversation with Richmond or Hosmer he studiously spoke of
indifferent things. He heard nothing of Hannah. Yet he learned in the
various channels of communication common to remote localities that
Richmond Braley was doing badly. Hosmer went to bank in one of the
newly prosperous towns of West Virginia and apparently left all family
obligations behind; Susan died of lung fever; and then, at the post-
office, Calvin was told that Richmond himself was dangerously sick.
He left the mail with Ettie at his door and rode on, turning for the
first time in nine years into the narrow valley of the Braleys' home.
The place had been neglected until it was hardly distinguishable from
the surrounding tangled wild. Such sheep as he saw were in wretched
condition, wild and massed with filth and burrs.
Mrs. Braley was filling a large glass flask with hot water for her
husband; and to Calvin's surprise a child with a quantity of straight
pale-brown hair and wide-opened hazel-brown eyes was seated in the
kitchen watching her.
"How is Richmond?" he asked, his gaze straying involuntarily to the
"Kingdom Come's how he is," Lucy Braley replied. "Yes, and the
poorhouse will end us unless Hosmer has a spark of good feeling. I sent
him a postal card to come a long while back, but he hasn't so much as
answered. Here, Lucy"--she turned to the child--"run up with this."
"Lucy?" Calvin Stammark asked when they were alone.
"Been here two weeks," Mrs. Braley told him. "What will become of her's
beyond me. She is Hannah's daughter, and Hannah is dead."
There was a sharp constriction of Calvin's heart. Hannah's daughter,
and Hannah was dead!
"As far as I know," the other continued in a strained metallic voice,
"the child's got no father you could fix. Her mother wrote the name was
Lucy Vibard, and she'd called her after me. But when I asked her she
didn't seem to know anything about it.
"Hannah was alone and dog poor when she died, that's certain. Like
everything else I can lay mind on she came to a bad end--Lord reckons
where Phebe is. I always thought you were weak fingered to let Hannah
go--with that house built and all. I suppose maybe you weren't, though;
well out of a slack bargain."
Calvin Stammark scarcely heard her; his being was possessed by the
pitiable image of Hannah dying alone and dog poor. He had always
pictured her--except in the fleet vision of debasement--as young and
graceful and disturbing. Without further speech he left the kitchen and
crossed the house to the shut parlor. It was screened against the day,
dim and musty and damp. The orange plush of the chairs and the narrow
uncomfortable sofa, carefully dusted, was as bright as it had been when
he had last seen it--was it ten years ago?
Here she had stood, her fingers tapping on the table, when he had made
the unfortunate remark about Phebe; the lamplight had illuminated her
right cheek. Here she had proclaimed her impatience with Greenstream,
with its loneliness, her hunger for life. Here he had lost her. A
sudden need to see Hannah's daughter invaded him and he returned to the
The child was present, silent; she had Hannah's eyes, Hannah's hair.
Seated by Richmond Braley's bed he realized instantly that the old man
was dying; and mentally he composed the urgent message to be sent to
Hosmer. But that failed to settle the problem of Lucy's safety--
Hannah's Lucy, who might have been his too. The solution of that
difficulty slowly took form in his thoughts. There was no need to
discuss it with Ettie--his duty, yes, and his desire was clear.
He took her home directly after Richmond's funeral, an erratic wind
blowing her soft loose hair against his face as he drove.
There had been additions to Calvin Stammark's house--the half story
raised, and the length increased by a room. This was now furnished as
the parlor and had an entrance from the porch extended across the face
of the dwelling; the middle lower room was his; the chamber designed
for his married life was a seldom used dining room; while Ettie and
Lucy were above. A number of sheds for stabling and implements, chicken
coops and pig pen had accumulated at the back; the corn and buckwheat
climbed the mountain; and the truck patch was wide and luxuriant.
A narrow strip, bright, in season, with the petunias and cinnamon pinks
which Ettie tended, separated the dwelling from the public road; and
the flowers more than anything else attracted Hannah's daughter. Calvin
talked with her infrequently, but a great deal of his silent attention
was directed at the child.
Already Lucy had a quality of appeal to which he watched Ettie respond.
The latter took a special pride in making Lucy as pretty as possible;
in the afternoon she would dress her in sheer white with a ribbon in
her hair. She spared Lucy many of the details of housework in which the
latter could have easily assisted her; and when Calvin protested she
replied that she was so accustomed to doing that it was easier for her
to go ahead.
Calvin's feelings were mixed. At first he had told himself that Lucy
would be, in a way, his daughter; he would bring her up as his own; and
in the end what he had would be hers, just as it should have been
Hannah's. However, his attitude was never any that might be recognized
as that of parenthood. He never grew completely accustomed to her
presence, she was always a subject of interest and speculation. He
continued to get pleasure from her slender graceful being and the
little airs of delicacy she assumed.
He was conscious, certainly, that Lucy was growing older--yet not so
fast as he--but he had a shock of surprise when she informed him that
she was fifteen. Calvin pinched her cheek, and, sitting on the porch,
heard her within issuing a peremptory direction to Ettie. The elder
made no reply and, he knew, did as Lucy wished. This disturbed him.
There wasn't a finer woman living than Ettie Stammark, and he didn't
purpose to have Lucy impudent to her. Lucy, he decided, was getting a
little beyond them. She was quick at her lessons, the Greenstream
teacher said. Lucy would have considerable property when he died; he'd
like her to have all the advantages possible; and--very suddenly--
Calvin decided to send her away to school, to Stanwick, the small city
to and from which the Greenstream stage drove.
She returned from her first term at Christmas, full of her experiences
with teachers and friends, to which Ettie and he listened with absorbed
attention. Now she seemed farther from him than before; and he saw that
a likeness to Hannah was increasing; not in appearance--though that was
not dissimilar--but in the quality that had established Hannah's
difference from other girls, the quality for which he had never found a
name. The assumptions of Lucy's childhood had become strongly marked
preferences for the flowers of existence, the ease of the portico
rather than the homely labor of the back of the house.
Neither his sister nor he resented this or felt that Lucy was evading
her just duties; rather they enjoyed its difference from their own
practical beings and affairs. They could afford to have her in fresh
laundered frills and they secretly enjoyed the manner in which she
instructed them in social conventions.
At her home-coming for the summer she brought to an end the meals in
the kitchen; but when she left once more for Stanwick and school Ettie
and Calvin without remark drifted back to the comfortable convenience
of the table near the cooking stove.
This period of Lucy's experience at an end she arrived in Greenstream
on a hot still June evening. Neither Calvin nor his sister had been
able to go to Stanwick for the school commencement, and Calvin had been
too late to meet the stage. After the refreshing cold water in the
bright tin basin by the kitchen door he went to his room for a
presentable necktie and handkerchief--Lucy was very severe about the
latter--and then walked into the dining room.
The lamp was not yet lit, the light was elusive, tender, and his heart
contracted violently at the youthful yet mature back toward him. She
turned slowly, a hand resting on the table, and Calvin Stammark's
senses swam. An inner confusion invaded him, pierced by a sharp
"Hannah," he whispered.
She smiled and advanced; but, his heart pounding, Calvin retreated. He
must say something reasonable, tell her that they were glad to have her
back--mustn't leave them again. She kissed him, and, his eyes shut, the
touch of her lips re-created about him the parlor of the Braleys,--the
stiffly arranged furniture with its gay plush, the varnished fretwork
of the organ, the pink glow of the lamp.
She was Hannah! The resemblance was so perfect--her cheek's turn, her
voice, sweet with a trace of petulance, her fingers--that it was
sustained in a flooding illumination through the commonplace revealing
act of supper. It was as if the eighteen years since Hannah, his
Hannah, was a reality were but momentary, the passage of the valley.
His love for her was unchanged--no, here at least, was a difference; it
was greater, keener; exactly as if during the progress of their
intimacy he had been obliged to go away from her for a while.
She accompanied Ettie to the kitchen and Calvin sat on the porch in a
gathering darkness throbbing with frogs and perfumed with drifting
locust blooms. Constellation by constellation the stars glimmered into
being. Hannah, Lucy! They mingled and in his fiber were forever one. He
gave himself up to the beauty of his passion, purified and intense from
long patience and wanting, amazed at the miracle that had brought back
everything infinitely desirable.
He forgot his age, and, preparing for the night, saw with a sense of
personal outrage his seamed countenance reflected in the mirror of the
bureau. Yet in reality he wasn't old--forty-something--still, not
fifty. He was as hard and nearly as springy as a hickory sapling. There
was a saying in which he found vast comfort--the prime, the very prime
His enormous difficulty would be to bring Lucy to the understanding of
his new--but it was the old--attitude toward her. If she had never
become completely familiar to him association had made him a solid
recognized part of her existence; if not exactly a father, an uncle at
the very least. Calvin realized that she would be profoundly shocked by
any abrupt revelation of his feeling. Yet he was for the time in no
hurry to bring about the desired change in their relationship. His life
had been so long empty that it was enough to dwell on the great
happiness of his repossession.
This, he knew, could not continue, but at present, today, it was almost
enough. Before he was aware, the summer had gone, the mountains were
sheeted in gold; and he was still dreaming, putting off the actuality
The logging in Sugarloaf Valley had grown to an operation of
importance, and a great deal of his time was spent watching the spur of
railroad creep forward and the clearing of new sections; sawmills and
camps were in course of erection; and what had been a still green cleft
in the mountains was filled with human activity. He had secured an
advantageous position for a young man from the part of the county
inhabited by the Stammark family, Wilmer Deakon, and consulted with him
frequently in connection with his interests.
Wilmer was to the last degree dependable; a large grave individual who
took a serious interest in the welfare of his fellows and supported
established customs and institutions. He sang in a resounding barytone
with the Methodist Church choir; his dignified bearing gave weight to
the school board; and he accumulated a steadily growing capital at the
Greenstream bank. An admirable individual, Calvin thought, and extended
to him the wide hospitality of his house.
Lucy apparently had little to say to Wilmer Deakon; indeed, when he was
not present, to their great amusement she imitated his deliberate
balanced speech. She said that he was too solemn--an opinion with which
Calvin privately agreed--and made an irreverent play on his name and
the place he should occupy in the church. It seemed that she found a
special pleasure in annoying him; and on an occasion when Calvin had
determined to reprove her for this he was surprised by Winner's request
to speak to him outside.
Wilmer Deakon said abruptly: "Lucy and I are promised to each other."
Calvin stood gazing at him in a lowering complete surprise, at a loss
for words, when the other continued with an intimation of his peculiar
qualifications for matrimony, the incontrovertible fact that he could
and would take care of Lucy. He stopped at the appropriate moment and
waited confidently for Calvin Stammark's approval.
The latter, out of a gathering immeasurable rage, almost shouted: "You
get to hell off my place!"
Wilmer Deakon was astounded but otherwise unshaken. "That's no way to
answer a decent man and a proper question," he replied. "Lucy and I
want to be married. There's nothing wrong with that. But you look as if
I had offered to disgrace her. Why, Mr. Stammark, you can't keep her
forever. I reckon it'll be hard on you to have her go, but you must
make up your mind to it some day. She's willing, and you know all about
me. Then Lucy won't be far away from you all. I've cleared the brush up
and right now the bottom of our house is laid in Sugarloaf."
Calvin's anger sank before a sense of helplessness at this latter fact.
Wilmer was building a house for her just as he had built one for
Hannah. He remembered his delight and pride as it had approached
completion; he remembered the evening, nearly twenty years ago, when he
had sat on the bank across the road and seen it finished. Then he had
ridden, without waiting to fix up, to the Braleys'; Hannah had scolded
him as they sat in the parlor.
"I must talk to Lucy," he said in a different weary tone. Bareheaded he
walked over into the pasture, now his. The cattle moved vaguely in the
gloom, with softly blowing nostrils, and the streams were like smooth
dark ribbons. When he returned to his house the lights were out, Wilmer
Deakon was gone and Lucy was in bed.
He again examined his countenance in the mirror, but now he was
surprised that it was not haggard with age. It seemed that twenty more
years had been added to him since supper. He wondered whether there had
ever been another man who had lost his love twice and saw that he had
been a blind fool for not speaking in the June dusk when Lucy had come
back from school.
Lucy, it developed, had spoken to Ettie, and there was a general
discussion of her affair at breakfast.
Calvin carried away from it a persistent feeling of dissatisfaction,
but for this he could find no tangible reason. Of course, he silently
argued, the girl could not be expected to show her love for Wilmer
publicly; it was enough that he had been assured of its strength; the
fact of her agreement to marry him was final.
He went about his daily activities with a heavy absent-mindedness, with
a dragging spirit. A man was coming from Washington to see him in the
interest of a new practically permanent fencing, and he met him at the
post-office, listened to a loud cheerful greeting with marked
The salesman was named Martin Eckles, and he was fashionably dressed in
a suit of shepherd's check bound with braid, and had a flashing ring--a
broad gold band set with a mystic symbol in rubies and diamonds. After
his supper at the hotel he walked, following Calvin's direction, the
short distance to the latter's house, where Calvin and Ettie Stammark
and Lucy were seated on the porch.
Martin Eckles, it developed, was a fluent and persuasive talker, a man
of the broadest worldly experiences and wit. He was younger than
Calvin, but older than Wilmer Deakon, and a little fat. He had a small
mustache cut above his lip, and closely shaved ruddy cheeks with a
tinge of purple about his ears. Drawing out his monologue
entertainingly he gazed repeatedly at Lucy. Calvin lost the sense of
most that the other said; he was immersed in the past that had been
made the present and then denied to him--it was all before him in the
presence of Lucy, of Hannah come back with the unforgetable and magic
danger of her appeal.
In the extension of his commercial activity Martin Eckles kept his room
at the Greenstream hotel and employed a horse and buggy for his
excursions throughout the county. It had become his habit to sit
through the evenings with the Stammarks where his flood of conversation
never lessened. Lucy scarcely added a phrase to the sum of talk. She
rocked in her chair with a slight endless motion, her dreaming gaze
fixed on the dim valley.
Wilmer Deakon, on the occasion of his first encounter with Eckles at
the Stammarks', acknowledged the other's phrase and stood waiting for
Lucy to proceed with him to the parlor. But Lucy was apparently unaware
of this; she sat calm and remote in her crisp white skirts, while
Wilmer fidgeted at the door.
Soon, however, she said: "For goodness' sake, Wilmer, whatever's the
matter with you? Can't you find a chair that suits you? You make a
At the same time she rose ungraciously and followed him into the house.
Wilmer came out, Calvin thought, in an astonishingly short time.
Courting was nothing like it had been in his day. The young man
muttered an unintelligible sentence that, from its connection, might be
interpreted as a good night, and strode back to the barn and his horse.
Martin Eckles smiled: "The love birds must have been a little ruffled."
And Calvin, with a strong impression of having heard such a thing
before, was vaguely uneasy. Eckles sat for a long space; Lucy didn't
appear, and at last the visitor rose reluctantly. But Lucy had not gone
to bed; she came out on the porch and dropped with a flounce into a
chair beside Calvin.
"Wilmer's pestering me to get married right away," she told him;
"before ever the house is built. He seems to think I ought to be just
crazy to take him and go to that lonely Sugarloaf place."
"It's what you promised for," Calvin reminded her; "nothing's turned up
you didn't know about."
"If I did!" she exclaimed irritably. "What else is a girl to do, I'd
like to ask? It's just going from one stove to another, here. Only
it'll be worse in my case--you and Aunt Ettie have been lovely to me. I
hate to cook!" she cried. "And it makes me sick to put my hands in
greasy dishwater! I suppose that's wicked but I can't help it. When I
told Wilmer that to-night he acted like I'd denied communion. I can't
help it if the whippoorwills make me shiver, can I? Or if I want to see
a person go by once in a while. I--I don't want to be bad--or to hurt
you or Wilmer. Oh, I'll settle down, there's nothing else to do; I'll
marry him and get old before my time, like the others."
Calvin Stammark leaned forward, his hands on his knees, and stared at
her in shocked amazement--Hannah in every accent and feeling. The old
sense of danger and helplessness flooded him. He thought of Phebe with
her dyed hair and cigarette-stained lips, her stories of the stage and
life; he thought of Hannah dying alone and dog poor. Now Lucy----
"Do you remember anything about your mother," he asked, "and before you
"Only that we were dreadfully unhappy," she replied. "There was a
boarding house with actresses washing their stockings in the rooms and
a landlady they were all afraid of. There was beer in the wash-stand
pitcher. But that wouldn't happen to me," she asserted; "I'd be
different. I might be an actress, but in dramas where my hair would be
down and everybody love me."
"You're going to marry Wilmer Deakon and be a proper happy wife!" he
declared, bringing his fist down on a hard palm. "Get this other
nonsense out of your head!"
Suddenly he was trembling at the old catastrophe reopened by Lucy. His
love for her, and his dread, choked him. She added nothing more, but
sat rigid and pale and rebellious. Before long she went in, but Calvin
stayed facing the darkness, the menace of the lonely valley. Except for
the lumbermen it would be worse in the Sugarloaf cutting.
Damn the frogs!
Martin Eckles appeared in the buggy the following evening and offered
to carry Lucy for a short drive to a near-by farm; with an air of
indifference she accepted. Wilmer didn't call, and Calvin sat in silent
perplexity with Ettie. The buggy returned later than they had allowed,
and Lucy went up to bed without stopping on the porch.
The next morning Ettie, with something in her hand, came out to Calvin
at the stable shed.
"I found this in Lucy's room," she said simply.
It was Martin Eckles' gold ring, set with the insignia in rubies,
suspended in a loop of ribbon.
A cold angry certitude formed in his being. What a criminal fool he had
been! What a blind booby! His only remark, however, brought a puzzled
expression to Ettie's troubled countenance. Calvin Stammark exclaimed,
"Phebe Braley." He was silent for a little, his frowning gaze fixed
beyond any visible object, then he added: "Put that back where you
found it and forget everything."
Ettie laid a hand on his sleeve. "Now, Calvin," she begged, her voice
low and strained, "promise me----"
"Forget everything!" he repeated harshly.
His face was dark, forbidding, the lines deeply bitten about a somber
mouth, his eyes were like blue ice. He walked into Greenstream, where
he saw the proprietor of the small single hotel; then, back in his
room, he unwrapped from oiled leather a heavy blued revolver; and soon
after he saddled his horse and was clattering in a sharp trot in the
opposite direction from the village.
It was dark when, having returned, he dismounted and swung the saddle
from the horse to its tree. Familiar details kept him a long while, his
hands were steady but slow, automatic in movement. He went in through
the kitchen past Ettie to his room, and after a little he re-wrapped
the revolver and laid it back in its accustomed place. Supper, in spite
of Lucy's sharp comment, was set by the stove, and Ettie was solicitous
of his every possible need. He ate methodically what was offered, and
afterward filled and lit his pipe. It soon went out. Once, on the
porch, he leaned toward Lucy and awkwardly touched her shoulder.
Wilmer came. He was late, and Lucy said wearily, "I've got a headache
to-night. Do you mind if we stay out here in the cool?"
He didn't, and his confident familiar planning took the place of Martin
Eckles' more exciting narratives.
The next day, past noon, the proprietor of the Greenstream hotel left
an excited group of men to stop Calvin as he drove in from Sugarloaf
He cried: "Eckles has been shot and killed. First they found the horse
and buggy by the road, and then Martin Eckles. He had fallen out. One
bullet did it."
"That's too bad," Calvin replied evenly. "Lawlessness ought to be put
down." He had known Solon Entreken all his life. The level gaze of two
men encountered and held.
Then: "I'll never say anything against that," the other pronounced.
"It's mighty strange who could have shot Eckles and got clear away.
That's what he did, in spite of hell and the sheriff."
Turning, after inevitable exclamations, toward home, Calvin found Lucy
sitting moodily on the porch.
"I've got a right ugly piece of news," he told her, masking the painful
interest with which he followed her expression. "Martin Eckles was
killed yesterday; shot out of the buggy."
She grew pale, her breast rose in a sudden gasp and her hands were
"Oh!" she whispered, horrified.
But there was nothing in her manner beyond the natural detestation of
such brutality; nothing, he saw, hidden.
"He wanted me to go away with him," she swept on; "and get married in
Stanwick. Martin wanted me to see the world. He said I ought to, and
not stay here all my life."
The misery that settled over her, the hopelessness dulling her youth
filled him with a passionate resentment at the fate that made her what
she was and seemingly condemned her to eternal denial. His love for
her--Lucy, Hannah, Hannah, Lucy--was intolerably keen. He went to her,
bending with a riven hand on the arm of her chair.
"Do you want Wilmer?" he demanded. "Do you love him truly? Is he
"I don't know." Slow tears wet her cheeks. "I can't say. I ought to;
he's good and faithful, and with some of me that's enough. But there's
another part; I can't explain it except to say it's a kind of
excitement for the life Mr. Eckles told us about, all those lights and
restaurants and theaters. Sometimes I think I'll die, I want it so
much; then it comes over me how ungrateful I am to you and Aunt Ettie,
and I hate myself for the way I treat Wilmer." "Do you love him?" he
"Perhaps not like you mean."
All that had been so long obscured in his mind and heart slowly cleared
to understanding--Lucy Braley, Richmond's wife; Phebe; Hannah; and
again Lucy, Lucy Vibard had this common hunger for life, for
brightness; they were as helpless in its grasp as he had been to hold
Hannah. Phebe's return, Martin Eckles--were only incidents in a great
inner need. In itself it wasn't wicked; circumstance had made it seem
wrong; Phebe's greenish hair, the mark of so much spoiled, Hannah's
unhappy death--were the result of aspirations; they fretted and
bruised, even killed themselves, like gay young animals, innocent
animals, in a dark lonely enclosure.
They were really finer than the satisfied women who faded to ugliness
in the solitary homes of the Greenstream mountains; not better, for
example, than Ettie--it might be that they weren't so good, not so high
in heaven; but they were finer in the manner of blooded horses
rebelling against the plow traces. They were more elegant, slimmer,
with a greater fire. That too was the secret of their memorable power
over him; he wanted a companion different from a kitchen drudge; when
he returned home at evening, he wanted a wife cool and sweet in crisp
white with a yellow ribbon about her waist, and store slippers. He
loved Lucy's superiority--it was above ordinary things. "Like a star,"
Calvin Stammark told himself.
He, with everything else that had combated their desire, depriving them
of the very necessities for his adoration, had been to blame.
"Lucy," he said, bending over her and speaking rapidly, "let's you and
me go and learn all this life together. Let's run away from
Greenstream and Wilmer Deakon and even Ettie, what we ought to hold
by, and see every theater in the country. I've got enough money----"
The radiance of the gesture by which she interrupted his speech filled
him with pounding joy.
"Oh, shall we!" she cried; and then hugged him wildly, her warm young
arms about his neck.
"Of course we will," he reassured her; "and right away, to-morrow. You
He felt her lips against his, and then more cautiously she took up the
immediate planning of their purpose. It would be ridiculously easy;
they would drive to Stanwick in the buggy.
"The hotels and all," she continued with shining eyes; "and nobody will
think it's queer. I'll be your daughter, like always."
Calvin turned abruptly from her and faced the valley saturated with
slumberous sunlight. Lucy hesitated for a moment and then fled lightly
into the house. After a little he heard her singing on the upper floor.
People wouldn't think it was queer because she would be his daughter,
Yet he wasn't old beyond hope, past love--as strong and nearly as
springy as a hickory sapling. He had waited half his life for this.
Calvin slowly smiled in bitterness and self-contempt; a pretty figure
for a young girl to admire, he thought, losing the sense of mere
physical fitness. Anyhow Lucy was supremely happy and safe, and he had
accomplished it. He was glad that he had been so industrious and
successful. Lucy could have almost anything she wanted--pretty clothes
and rings with real jewels, necklaces hung with better than Scotch
Perhaps when she had seen the world--its bigness and noise and
confusion--after her longing was answered, she would turn back to him.
Already he was oppressed by a feeling of strangeness, of loss at
leaving the high valleys of home.
THE EGYPTIAN CHARIOT
Lemuel Doret walked slowly home from the prayer meeting with his being
vibrating to the triumphant beat of the last hymn. It was a good hymn,
filled with promised joy for every one who conquered sin. The long
twilight of early summer showed the surrounding fields still bright
green, but the more distant hills were vague, the sky was remote and
faintly blue, and shadows thickened under the heavy maples that covered
the single street of Nantbrook. The small frame dwellings of the
village were higher than the precarious sidewalk; flights of steps
mounted to the narrow porches; and though Lemuel Doret realized that
his neighbors were sitting outside he did not look up, and no voices
called down arresting his deliberate progress.
An instant bitterness, tightening his thin metallic lips and narrowing
a cold fixed gaze, destroyed the harmony of the assured salvation.
Lemuel Doret silently cursed the pinched stupidity of the country
clods. The slow helpless fools! If instead of muttering in groups one
of the men would face him with the local hypocrisy he'd sink a heel in
his jaw. The bitterness expanded into a hatred like the gleam on a
knife blade; his hands, spare and hard, grew rigid with the desire to
choke a thick throat.
Then the rage sank before a swift self-horror, an overwhelming
conviction of his relapse into unutterable sin. He stopped and in a
spiritual agony, forgetful of his surroundings, half lifted quivering
arms to the dim sky: "O Christ, lean down from the throne and hold me
He stood for a moment while a monotonous chatter on a porch above
dropped to a curious stillness. It seemed to him that his whisper was
heard and immediately answered; anyhow peace slowly enveloped him once
more, the melody of hope was again uppermost in his mind. He went
forward, procuring a cigarette from a mended ragged pocket.
His house, reached by a short steep path and sagging steps, was dark;
at first he saw no one, then the creak of a rocking-chair in the open
doorway indicated Bella, his wife.
"Give me a cigarette," she demanded, her penetrating voice
"You know I don't want you to smoke anywhere you can be seen," he
answered. "Since we've come here to live we have to mind the customs.
The women'll never take to you smoking cigarettes."
"Ah, hell, what do I care! We came here, but it ain't living. It makes
me sick, and you make me sick I Can't you sing and pray in the city as
well as among these hicks?"
"I'm afraid of it," he said, brief and somber. "And I don't want
Flavilla brought up with any of the gang we knew. Where is she?"
"I sent her to bed. She fussed round till she got me nervous."
"Did she feel good?"
"If she didn't a smack would have cured her."
He passed Bella, rocking sharply, into the dank interior.
On the right was the bare room where he had his dilapidated barber's
chair and shelf with a few mugs, brushes and other scant necessities.
There had been no customers to-day nor yesterday; still, it was the
middle of the week and what trade there was generally concentrated on
Saturday. Beyond he went upstairs to Flavilla's bed. She was awake,
twisting about in a fragmentary nightgown, dark against the disordered
"It's dreadful hot," she complained shortly; "my head's hot too. The
window won't go up."
Lemuel Doret crossed the narrow bare floor and dragged the sash open;
then he moved his daughter while he smoothed the bed and freshened a
harsh pillow. She whimpered.
"You're too big to cry without any reason," he informed her, leaving to
fetch a glass of water from the tap in the kitchen.
Usually she responded to his intimations of her increasing age and
wisdom, but to-night she was listless. She turned away from him, her
arms flung above her head and wispy hair veiling her damp cheek.
"Keep still, can't you?" and he gathered her hair into a clumsy plait.
The darkness about him seeped within, into his hope and courage and
resolution; all that he had determined to do seemed impossibly removed.
The whole world resembled Nantbrook--a place of universal condemnation,
forgiving nothing. He felt a certainty that even the few dollars he had
honestly earned would now be stopped.
The air grew clearer and deeper in color, and stars brightened. Lemuel
Doret wondered about God. There was no doubt of His power and glory or
of the final triumph of heaven established and earth, sin, destroyed.
His mind was secure in these truths; his comprehension of the paths of
wickedness was equally plain; it was the ways of the righteous that
bewildered him--the conduct of the righteous and, in the face of his
supreme recognition, the extreme difficulty of providing life for
He consciously added his wife's name. Somehow his daughter was the sole
objective measure of his determination to build up, however late, a
home here and in eternity.
It was not unreasonable, in view of the past, to suppose that he had no
chance of succeeding. Yet religion was explicit upon that particular;
it was founded on the very hopes of sinners, on redemption. But he
could do nothing without an opportunity to make the small living they
required; if the men of Nantbrook, of the world, wouldn't come to him
to be barbered, and if he had no money to go anywhere else to begin
again, he was helpless. Everything was conspiring to thrust him back
into the city, of which he had confessed his fear, back----
He rose and stood above the child's thin exposed body--suddenly frozen
into a deathlike sleep--chilled with a vision, a premonition, the
insidious possibility of surrender. He saw, too, that it was a solitary
struggle; even his devotion to Flavilla, shut in the single space of
his own heart, helped to isolate him in what resembled a surrounding
blackness rent with blinding flashes of lightning.
The morning sun showed him spare, with a curious appearance of being
both wasted and grimly strong; he moved with an alert, a watchful ease,
catlike and silent; and his face was pallid with gray shadows. He stood
in trousers and undershirt, suspenders hanging down, before the small
dim mirror in the room where he had the barber chair, pasting his hair
down with an odorous brilliantine. This was his intention, but he saw
with sharp discomfort that bristling strands defied his every effort.
The hot edge of anger cut at him, but, singing, he dissipated it:
"_Why should I feel discouraged?
Why should the shadows fall?
Why should my heart be lonely,
And long for heaven_----"
He broke off at the thought of Flavilla, still in bed, her head, if
anything, hotter than last night. Lemuel Doret wished again that he had
not allowed Bella to call their child by that unsanctified name. Before
the birth they had seen a vaudeville, and Bella, fascinated by a
golden-and-white creature playing a white accordion that bore her name
in ornamental letters, had insisted on calling her daughter, too,
Flavilla. In spite of the hymn, dejection fastened on him as he
remembered this and a great deal more about his wife.
If she could only be brought to see the light their marriage and life
might still be crowned with triumph. But Bella, pointing out the
resulting poverty of his own conviction and struggle, said freely that
she had no confidence in promises; she demanded fulfillment now. She
regarded him as more than a little affected in the brain. Yet there had
been no deep change in him--from the very first he had felt a growing
uneasiness at the spectacle of the world and the flesh. The throb of
the Salvation Army drum at the end of an alley, the echo of the fervent
exhortations and holy songs, had always filled him with a surging
emotion like homesickness.
Two impulses, he recognized, held a relentless warfare within him; he
pictured them as Christ and Satan; but the first would overthrow all
else. "Glory!" he cried mechanically aloud. He put down the hairbrush
and inspected the razors on their shelf. The bright morning light
flashed along the rubbed fine blades; they were beautiful, flawless,
without a trace of defilement. He felt the satin smoothness of the
steel with an actual thrill of pleasure; his eyes narrowed until they
were like the glittering points of knives; he held the razor firmly and
easily, with a sinewy poised wrist.
Finally, his suspenders in position over a collarless striped shirt, he
moved out to the bare sharp descent before his house and poured water
onto the roots of a struggling lilac bush. Its leaves were now coated
with dust; but the week before it had borne an actual cluster of
scented blossom; and he was still in the wonder of the lavender
fragrance on the meager starved stem.
The beat of hoofs approached, and he turned, seeing Doctor Frazee in
his yellow cart.
"Oh, doctor!" he called instinctively.
The other stopped, a man with a lean face, heavy curved nose and
penetrating gaze behind large spectacles. He was in reality a
veterinary, but Lemuel Doret, out of a profound caution, had discovered
him to be above the narrow scope of local prejudice.
"I wish you'd look at Flavilla," Doret continued.
The doctor hesitated, and then turned shortly in at the sidewalk. "It
will hurt no one if I do that." Above Flavilla's flushed face, a
tentative finger on her wrist, Frazee's expression grew serious. "I'll
tell you this," he asserted; "she's sick. You had better call Markley
to-day. And until he comes don't give her any solids. You can see she's
in a fever."
"Can't you tend her? I'd put more on you than any fresh young hospital
"Certainly not," he responded.
When the latter had gone Lemuel Doret found his wife in the kitchen.
She wore a pale-blue wrapper with a soiled scrap of coarse lace at her
full throat, her hair was gathered into a disorderly knot, and already
there was a dab of paint on either cheek. She had been pretty when he
married her, pretty and full of an engaging sparkle, a ready wit; but
the charm had gone, the wit had hardened into a habit of sarcasm. They
had been married twelve years, and in itself, everything considered,
that was remarkable and held a great deal in her favor. She had been
faithful. It was only lately, in Nantbrook, that her dissatisfaction
had materialized in vague restless hints.
"Frazee says Flavilla is sick," he told her. "He thinks we ought to get
She made a gesture of skepticism. "All those doctors send you to each
other," she proclaimed. "Like as not he'll get half for doing it."
"She don't look right."
Bella's voice and attitude grew exasperated. "Of course you know all
about children; you've been where you could study on them. And of
course I have no sense; a woman's not the person to say when her child
is sick or well. Have a doctor if you can pay one, and buy a lot of
medicine too. There's some calomel upstairs, but that's no good. I'd
like to know where you have all the money! God knows I need a little,
to put inside me and out."
"It's right scarce," he admitted, resolutely ignoring her tone.
"Perhaps Flavilla will be better later in the day; I'll wait."
He spoke without conviction, denying the impulse to have her cared for
at once, in an effort to content and still Bella. However, he failed in
both of these aims. Her voice swept into a shrill complaint and abuse
of Nantbrook--a place, she asserted, of one dead street, without even a
passing trolley car to watch. She had no intention of being buried here
for the rest of her life. Turning to a cigarette and yesterday's paper
she drooped into a sulky shape of fat and slovenly blue wrapper beside
the neglected dishes of their insufficient breakfast.
He went through the empty house to the front again, where at least the
sun was warm and bright. The air held a faint dry fragrance that came
from the haymaking of the deep country in which Nantbrook lay. Lemuel
Doret could see the hotel at a crossing on the left, a small gray block
of stone with a flat portico, a heavy gilt beer sign and whitewashed
sheds beyond. The barkeeper stood at a door, a huge girth circled by a
soiled apron; nearer a bundle of brooms and glittering stacked paint
cans marked the local store. It was, he was forced to admit, far from
gay; but he found a great contentment in the sunny peace, in the
limitless space of the unenclosed sky; the air, the fields, the birds
in the trees were free.
As he stood frowning in thought he saw the figure of a strange man
walking over the road; Lemuel knew that he was strange by the formality
of the clothes. He wore a hard straw hat, collar and diamond-pinned
tie, and a suit with a waistcoat. At first Doret's interest was
perfunctory, but as the other drew nearer his inspection changed to a
painful absorption. Suddenly his attitude grew tense; he had the
appearance of a man gazing at an enthralling but dangerous spectacle,
such--for example--as a wall that might topple over, crushing anything
human within its sweep.
The object of this scrutiny had a pale countenance with a carefully
clipped mustache, baggy eyes and a blue-shaved heavy jaw. An
indefinable suggestion of haste sat on a progress not unduly hurried.
But as he caught sight of Lemuel Doret he walked more and more slowly,
returning his fixed attention. When the two men were opposite each
other, only a few feet apart, he almost stopped. For a moment their
sharpened visions met, parried, and then the stranger moved on. He made
a few steps, hesitated, then directly returned.
"Come inside," he said in a slightly hoarse voice.
"It suits me here," Doret replied.
The other regarded him steadily. "I've made no mistake," he asserted.
"I could almost say how long you were up for, and a few other little
things too. I don't know what you're doing in this dump, but here we
He waited for nothing more, ascending quickly to the hall. The two made
their way into the improvised barber shop.
"You've got me wrong," Doret still insisted.
"Who is it, Lem?" Bella demanded at the door.
As she spoke an expression of geniality overspread her face, daubed
with paint and discontent.
"Why, I'll tell you--I'm June Bowman."
"That don't mean anything to us," Lemuel continued. "The best thing you
can do is keep right on going."
"Not that Fourth Ward stew?" Bella asked eagerly.
"Lem's kind of died on his feet," she explained in a palpable excuse of
her husband's ignorance; "he don't read the papers nor nothing. But of
course I've heard of you, Mr. Bowman. We're glad to see you."
"Keep right along," Lemuel Doret repeated. His face was dark and his
mouth hardly more than a pinched line.
"Now, who are you?" Bowman inquired.
"I'll tell you," Bella put in, "since his manners have gone with
everything else. This is Snow Doret. If you know the live men that name
will be familiar to you."
"I seem to remember it," he admitted.
"If Snow went in the city it's Lemuel here," Doret told him. His anger
seethed like a kettle beginning to boil.
"Well, if Snow ever went I guess I'm in right. The truth is I got to
lay off for a little, and this seems first-rate. I can explain it in a
couple of words: Things went bad----"
"Wasn't it the election?" Bella asked politely.
"In a way," he answered with a bow. "You're all right. A certain party,
you see, was making some funny cracks--a reform dope; and he got in
other certain parties' light, see? Word was sent round, and when a
friend and me come on him some talk was passed and this public nuisance
got something. It was all regular and paid for----"
"I read about it," Bella interrupted. "He died in the ambulance."
"Then I was slipped the news that they were going to elect me the
pretty boy, and I had to make a break. Only temporary, till things are
fixed. Thus you see me scattered with hayseed. I was walking through
for a lift to Lancaster, where there are some good fellows; but when I
saw Snow here taking the air I knew there was one nearer."
"Lemuel; and I'm no good fellow."
"That's the truth," his wife added thinly. "Here is the only one in
this house." She touched her abundant self.
"Then I can put up?"
"No," Lemuel Doret told him. "This is a house of God's."
Bella laughed in a rising hysterical key.
"Listen to him," she gasped; "listen to Snow Doret. It's no wonder you
might have forgotten him," she proclaimed; "he's been in the pen for
ten and a half years with a bunch off for good conduct. But fifteen
years ago--say! He went in for knifing a drug store keeper who held out
on a 'coke' deal. If this here's a house of God's I'd like to know what
he called the one he had then. I couldn't tell you half of what went
on, not half, with fixing drinks and frame-ups and skirts. Why, he run
a hop joint with the Chinese and took a noseful of snow at every other
breath. That was after his gambling room broke up--it got too raw even
for the police. It was brandy with him, too, and there ain't a gutter
in his district he didn't lay in. The drug store man wasn't the first
he cut neither."
She stopped from sheer lack of breath.
Curiously all that filled Lemuel Doret's mind was the thought of the
glory of God. Everything Bella said was true; but in the might of the
Savior it was less than nothing. He had descended into the pit and
brought him, Snow, up, filling his ears with the sweet hymns of
redemption, the promise of Paradise for the thieves and murderers who
acknowledged His splendor and fought His fight. This marvelous charity,
the cleansing hope for his blackened soul, swept over him in a warm
rush of humble praise and unutterable gratitude. Nothing of the Lord's
was lost: "His eye is on the sparrow."
"Certainly, lay off your coat," Bella was urging; "it's fierce hot. Lem
can rush a can of beer from the hotel. Even he wouldn't go to turn out
one of the crowd in a hard fix. I'm awful glad you saw him."
With June Bowman in his house, engaged in verbal agreements with Bella
and spreading comfortably on a chair, Lemuel was powerless. AH his
instinct pressed him to send the other on, to refuse--in the commonest
self-preservation--shelter. But both the laws of his old life and the
commands of the new were against this act of simple precaution. Bowman
eyed him with a shrewd appraisement.
"A clever fellow," he said, nodding; "admire you for coming out here
for a while. Well, how about the suds?"
He produced a thick roll of yellow-backed currency and detached a small
bill. "I'll finance this campaign."
Lemuel Doret was confused by the rapidity with which the discredited
past was re-created by Bowman's mere presence. He was at the point of
refusing to fetch the beer when he saw that there was no explanation
possible; they would regard him as merely crabbed, and Bella would
indulge her habit of shrill abuse. It wasn't the drink itself that
disturbed him but the old position of "rushing the can"--a symbol of so
much that he had left forever. Forever; he repeated the word with a
silent bitter force. The feel of the kettle in his hand, the thin odor
of the beer and slopping foam, seemed to him evidences of acute
degeneration; he was oppressed by a mounting dejection. God seemed very
His wife was talking while Bowman listened with an air of sympathetic
"It wasn't so bad then," she said; "I was kind of glad to get away, and
Lem was certain everything would open right out. But he's awful hard to
do with; he wouldn't take a dollar from parties who had every right to
stake him good, and borrowed five from no more than a stranger to buy
that secondhand barber chair. What he needed was chloroform to separate
these farmers from their dimes and whiskers." Bowman laughed loudly,
and a corresponding color invaded Bella. "Of course no one knew Lem had
done time, then. They wouldn't have either, but for the Law and Order.
Oh, dear me, no, your child ain't none of your own; they lend it to you
like and then sneak up whenever the idea takes them, to see if it's
getting a Turkish bath. I guess the people on the street wondered who
was our swell automobile friend till they found out."
"I suppose," Bowman put in, "they all came round and offered you the
helping hand, wanted to see you happy and successful."
She laughed. "Them?" she demanded. "Them? The man that owns this house
said that if he'd known, Lem would never had it; they don't want
convicts in this town. This is a moral burg. That's more than the women
said to me though--the starved buzzards; if they've spoke a word to me
since I never heard it." Her voice rose in sharp mimicry: "You, Katie,
come right up on the porch, child! Don't you know--! See, I'm going
"I could have warned you of all that," June Bowman asserted; "for the
reason they're narrow, don't know anything about living or affairs;
hypocritical too; long on churchgoing----"
Doret regarded him solemnly. How blind he was, a mound of corruptible
flesh! He put the beer down and turned abruptly away, going up to
Flavilla. She seemed better; her face was white but most of the fever
had gone. He listened to her harsh breathing with the conviction that
she had caught a cold; and immediately after he was back from the store
with a bottle of cherry pectoral. She liked the sweet taste of the
thick bright-pink sirup and was soon quiet. Lemuel sniffed the mouth of
the bottle suspiciously. It was doped, he finally decided, but not
enough to hurt her; tasting it, a momentary desire for stinging liquor
ran like fire through his nerves. He laughed at it, crushing and
throwing aside the longing with a sense of contempt and triumph.
He could hear occasionally Bowman's smooth periods and his wife's eager
enjoyment of the discourse. His sense of worldly loneliness deepened;
Flavilla seemed far away. All life was inexplicable--yes, and
profitless, ending in weariness and death. The hunger for perfection,
for God, that had been a constant part of his existence, the longing
for peace and security, were almost unbearable. He had had a long
struggle; the devil was deeply rooted in him. He could laugh at the
broken tyranny of drugs and drink, but the passion for fine steel
cutting edges was different, and twisted into every fiber. The rage
that even yet threatened to flood him, sweeping away his painfully
erected integrity, was different too. These things had made him a
"... not the righteous, but sinners to repentance."
He had a sudden muddled vision of another world, a world where sturdy
men gave him their hands and in reality fulfilled June Bowman's mocking
words. There the houses, the streets of his youth would have been
impossible. Ah, he was thinking of another kind of heaven; it was a hop
There was a stir below and he heard the clatter of plates. Dinner was
in preparation. "Lem!" his wife called. "Mr. Bowman wants you to go to
"Call me June," he put in; adding: "Sure, Lem; the butcher's; we want a
tenderloin, cut thick. You can't get any pep on greens; we ain't
Doret felt that he would have been infinitely happier with his own thin
fare. In a manner he got comfort from a pinch of hunger; somehow the
physical deprivation gave him a sense of purification. The other man,
purple with the meat and beer, shook out a cigarette from a paper pack.
"Always smoke caporal halves," he proclaimed.
The blue vapor from the three burning cigarettes rose and mingled.
Bella was quiet, reflective; Bowman sat with half-shut speculative
eyes; Lemuel Doret was again lost in visions.
"How long are you taking the milk cure?" Bowman asked.
Lemuel made no reply, but his wife smiled bitterly.
"I had an idea," the other continued; "but it's a little soon to spring
anything. And I don't know but you might prefer it here."
"Try me," Bella proclaimed; "that's all I want!"
Doret still said nothing of his determination to conquer life in
Nantbrook. A swift impulse seized him to take June Bowman by the collar
and fling him into the street.
"Just try me!" Bella repeated.
He would be helpless in his, Doret's, hands. It was hard enough to be
upright without an insinuating crook in the place. There was a heavy
movement of feet in the front of the house, and he went out to meet a
Sliding the sensitive razor blade over a young tanned cheek he pondered
moodily on the undesirable fact of June Bowman.
Returning from this exercise of his trade he saw Bella descending the
stair with a plate.
"With all your going on over Flavilla," she told him, "it never came to
you that she'd like a piece of steak."
"But Doctor Frazee told us nothing solid. I took her up two eggs in the
"Yes, and you'd had two dollars to pay as well if I hadn't showed you
different. Flavilla's probably as well as any of us. I wish you would
fix yourself a little, Lem. I'm tired of having you about the house in
He viewed her silently. Bella had on a dress he had never seen before,
thin red-spotted yellow silk drawn tightly over a pronounced figure, a
red girdle, and high-heeled patent-leather slippers.
"If you're going to look like this," he admitted, "I'll have to get a
When they were first in Nantbrook she had worn a denim apron, and that,
too, with all the other differences had seemed to express their new
life; but now in yellow silk she was back in the old. Lemuel Doret
studied his wife with secret doubt; more than the dress had changed.
She seemed younger; rather she was adopting a younger manner. In the
presence of June Bowman it intensified.
"That idea I spoke about," the latter advanced: "I've been sizing you
up, the both of you, and you look good. Well, I've got hold of a
concession on the Atlantic Boardwalk and the necessary cash is in
sight." He turned to Lemuel. "How would you like to run a bowling game?
It's on the square and would give you a lead into something bigger.
You're wise; why, you might turn into a shore magnate, with Bella here
dressed up in stones."
Doret shook his head. "Treasure on earth," he thought; "moth and rust."
But it would be hopeless to attempt any explanation. "No," he said;
"we'll play it out here."
"We will?" Bella echoed him. "Indeed! We will?" Now the emphasis was
sharply on the first word. "What's going to keep me?"
"You're my wife," he replied simply; "we have a child."
"Times have changed, Snow," Bowman interrupted. "You ought to read the
papers. This is ladies' day. The old harem stuff don't go no longer.
They are emancipated."
"Lemuel," Doret insisted, a narrowed hard gaze on the other man;
"He thinks nobody'll remember," his wife explained. "Lem's redeemed."
"Your name's what you say," Bowman agreed, "but remember this--you
can't throw any scare into me. I'm no Fauntleroy, neither. Behave."
The anger seethed again beneath Lemuel's restraint. It began to be
particular, personal, focused on Bowman; and joined to it was a petty
dislike for the details of the man's appearance, the jaunty bearing and
conspicuous necktie, the gloss of youth over the unmistakable signs of
degeneration, the fatty pouches of his eyes and loose throat.
"I wouldn't bother with scaring you," he told him. "Why should I?
You've got no kick. I took you in, didn't I? And all I said was my
name. Snow Doret's dead; he died in prison; and this Lemuel's all
"I've heard about that too," Bowman returned; "but somehow I don't take
stock in these miracles."
"If you ever see me looking like I might be Snow, go quiet," Lemuel
advised. "That's all."
With clenched hands he abruptly departed. The cords of his neck were
swollen and rigid; there was a haze before his eyes. He went up to the
refuge of his daughter's room. She was lying still, breathing thickly,
with a finger print of scarlet on each cheek.
She was so thin, so wasted, the bed and room so stripped of every
comfort, that he dropped forward on his knees, his arms outflung across
her body in an inarticulate prayer for faith, for strength and
It was not much he wanted--only food for one child and help for a
woman, and a grip on the devil tearing at him in the form of hatred.
He got only a temporary relief, for when he went down Bella and June
Bowman were whispering together; he passed the door with his silent
tread and saw their heads close. Bella was actually pretty.
An astonishing possibility occurred to him--perhaps Bella would go away
with Bowman. An unbidden deep relief at such a prospect invaded him;
how happy he could be with Flavilla. They would get a smaller house,
which Flavilla would soon learn to keep for him; they would go to
church and prayer meeting together, her soprano voice and his bass
joined in the praise of the Lord, of the Almighty who raised the dead
and his Son, who took the thief to glory.
This speculation was overcome by a troubled mind; both his innate pride
in his wife as an institution of his honor, the feeling that he would
uphold it at any cost, and his Christianity interrupted the vision of
release. He must not let her stumble, and he would see that June Bowman
didn't interfere in his home. More beer made its appearance, and the
other man grew louder, boastful. He exhibited the roll of money--that
was nothing, four times that much could be had from the same source. He
was a spender, too, and treated all his friends liberally. Lemuel was
to see if there was any wine in the damned jumping-off place; and when
would they all go to Atlantic?
"Never," Doret repeated.
Bowman laughed skeptically.
The rage stirred and increased, blinding Lemuel Doret's heart, stinging
his eyes. Bella, watching him, became quieter, and she gave June--she
called him June--a warning pressure of her fingers. Her husband saw it
with indifference; everything small was lost in the hot tide enveloping
him. His hands twitched, but there was no other outward sign of his
tumult. He smoked his cigarettes with extreme deliberation.
It was evening again, and they were sitting on the narrow porch. The
west was a serene lake of fading light against which the trees made
dark blots of foliage. Nantbrook seemed unreal, a place of thin shadow,
the future unsubstantial as well; only the past was actual in Lemuel
Doret's mind--the gray cold prison, the city at night, locked rooms
filled with smoke and lurid lights, avaricious voices in the mechanical
sentences of gambling, agonized tones begging for a shot, just a shot,
of an addicted drug, a girl crying.
He tried to sing a measure of praise beneath his breath but the tune
and words evaded him. He glanced furtively at Bowman's complacent bulk,
the flushed face turned fatuously to Bella. Under the other's left arm
his coat was drawn smoothly on a cushion of fat.
Later Lemuel stopped at Flavilla's bed, and though she was composed he
was vaguely alarmed at what seemed to him an unreal rigidity. She was
not asleep, but sunk in a stupor with a glimmer of vision and an
elusive pulse. He should not have listened to Bella but had a doctor as
Frazee had advised. It appeared now that--with all Flavilla held for
him--he had been strangely neglectful. At the same time he was
conscious of the steady increase of his hatred for Bowman. This was
natural, he told himself; Bowman in a way was the past--all that he,
Doret, had put out of his life. At least he had believed that
accomplished, yet here it was back again, alive and threatening;
drinking beer in his rooms, whispering to his wife, putting the thought
of Flavilla from his head.
In the morning even Bella admitted that Flavilla might be sick and a
doctor necessary. He took one look at his daughter's burning face,
heard the shrill labor of her breathing, and hurried downstairs with a
set face. He was standing with Bella in the hall when June Bowman
"Flavilla ain't right," she told him.
The latter promptly exhibited the wad of money. "Whatever you need," he
"Put it away," Lemuel replied shortly. "I don't want any of that for
Bowman studied him. Doret made no effort to mask his bitterness, and
the other whistled faintly. Bella laughed, turning from her husband.
"He's cracked," she declared; "you'll get no decency off him. A body
would think I had been in jail and him looking out for her all those
ten years and more. I can say thank you, though; we'll need your help,
"Put it away," Lemuel Doret repeated. He was more than ever catlike,
alert, bent slightly forward with tense fingers.
Bowman was unperturbed. "I told you about this flash stuff," he
observed. "Nobody's forcing money on you. Get the bend out of you and
give me a shave. That'll start you on the pills."
Lemuel Doret mechanically followed him into the rude barber shop; he
was fascinated by the idea of laying the razor across Bowman's throat.
The latter extended himself in the chair and Doret slowly, thoroughly,
covered his lower face with lather, through which the blade drew with a
clean smooth rip. A fever burned in the standing man's brain, he fought
constantly against a stiffening of his employed fingers--a swift turn,
a cutting twist. Subconsciously he called noiselessly upon the God that
had sustained him and, divided between apprehension and the increasing
lust to kill, his lips held the form in which they had pronounced that
impressive name. He had the sensation of battling against a terrific
wind, a remorseless force beating him to submission. His body ached
from the violence of the struggle to keep his hand steadily, evenly,
busied, following in a delicate sweep the cords of June Bowman's neck,
The other looked up at him and grinned confidently. "Little children,"
he said, "love one another."
Lemuel stopped, the razor suspended in air; there was a din in his
ears, his vision blurred, his grip tightened on the bone handle. A
sweat started out on his brow and he found himself dabbing June
Bowman's face with a wet cold towel.