Part 2 out of 5
killing were kept from us children. But I gathered, since the only
witnesses of the shooting were heelers of Hagan's, that it could in no
wise be construed into an out-and-out act of self-defence, and so far as
the law lay things looked bad for Braddish.
That he had not walked into the sheriff's office to give himself up made
it look as if he himself felt the unjustifiability of his act, and it
was predicted that when he was finally captured it would be to serve a
life sentence at the very least. The friends of the late Hagan would
hear of nothing less than hanging. It was a great pity (this was my
father's attitude): Hagan was a bad lot and a good riddance; Braddish
was an excellent young man, except for a bit of a temper, and here the
law proposed to revenge the bad man upon the other forever and ever. And
it was right and proper for the law so to do, more's the pity. But it
was not Braddish that would be hit hardest, said my father, and here
came in the inscrutable hand of Providence--it was Mary.
After the first outburst of feeling she had accepted her fate with a
stanch reserve and went on with her duties much as usual. One ear was
always close to the ground, you might say, to hear the first rumor of
Braddish, either his capture or his whereabouts, that she might fly to
him and comfort him, but the rest of her faculties remained in devoted
attendance on my sister and me. Only there showed in them now and then a
kind of tigerish passionateness, as when I fell off the sea-wall among
the boulders and howled so dismally. She leaped down after and caught me
to her in the wildest distress, and even when I stopped howling could
not seem to put me down. Indeed, she held me so tight that if any of my
bones had been cracked by the tumble she must have finished by breaking
them. The pathos of her efforts to romp with us as in happier days was
lost upon me, I am happy to say. Nor did I, recalling to her what
Braddish had said of robbers being inevitably caught, realize that I was
stabbing her most cruelly. For she was, or tried to be, firm in the
belief that Braddish would succeed where all others had failed. She had
asked my father what would happen if Braddish got clean out of the
United States, and he, hoping, I suppose, to be of indirect use to the
young couple for whom he was heartily sorry, made her out a list of
countries, so far as he knew them, wherein there was no extradition. My
father hoped, I fondly believe, that she would get the list to Braddish
for his guidance, conjecturing rightly that if Braddish made his
whereabouts known to anybody it would be to Mary. But as to that, ten
days passed before Mary knew a jot more of it than another. And I must
believe that it came to her then entirely by inspiration.
We were passing the Boole Dogge Farm, my sister and I, intent upon
seeing which of us could take the most hops without putting the held-up
foot to the ground, when suddenly Mary, who had been strolling along
laughing at us, stopped short in her tracks and turned, and stood
looking over the green treetops to where the gaunt, dead limb of the
hollow oak thrust sharply up from among them. But we had hopped on for
quite a piece before we noticed that she no longer went alongside. So we
stopped that game and ran back to her. What was it? Had she seen a
rabbit? She laughed and looked very wistful. She was just thinking,
children, that she would like to see the hollow tree where Will had
passed the night. She was not excited--I can swear to that. She guessed
nothing as yet. Her desire was really to the tree--as she might have
coveted one of Will's baby shoes, or anything that had been his. She had
already, poor girl, begun to draw, here and there, upon the past for
First, she charged Ellen and me to wait for her in the road. But we
rebelled. We swore (most falsely) that we were afeard. Since the teeth
of bulldogs no longer met, we desired passionately to explore the
forbidden farm, and had, indeed, extracted a free commission from my
father so to do, but my mother had procrastinated and put us off. We
laid these facts before Mary, and she said, very well, if our father had
said we might go on the farm, go we might. He would, could and must make
it right with our mother. And so, Mary leading, we climbed the wall.
Bulldogs' teeth or no bulldogs' teeth, my ancient fear of the place
descended upon me, and had a rabbit leaped or a cat scuttled among the
bushes I must have been palsied. The going across to the woods was waist
high with weeds and brambles, damp and rank under foot. Whole squadrons
of mosquitoes arose and hung about us in clouds, with a humming sound as
of sawmills far away. But this was long before you took your malaria of
mosquitoes, and we minded them no more than little children mind them
to-day. Indeed, I can keep peacefully still even now to watch a mosquito
batten and fatten upon my hand, to see his ravenous, pale abdomen swell
to a vast smug redness--that physiological, or psychological, moment for
which you wait ere you burst him.
The forbidden farm had, of course, its thousand novelties. I saw prickly
pears in blossom upon a ledge of rock; a great lunar-moth resting
drowsily, almost drunkenly, in the parasol shade of a wild-carrot
blossom; here was the half of a wagon wheel, the wood rotted away, and
there in the tangle an ancient cistern mouth of brick, the cistern
filled to the brim with alluring rubbish. My sister sprang with a
gurgle of delight to catch a garter snake, which eluded her; and a last
year's brier, tough and humorously inclined, seized upon Mary by the
skirts and legs, so that it was a matter of five minutes and piercing
screams of merriment to cast her loose again. But soon we drew out of
the hot sunshine into the old orchard with its paltry display of
deformed, green, runt apples, and its magnificent columns and canopies
of poison ivy--that most beautiful and least amiable of our indigenous
plants; and then we got among scale-bark hickories, and there was one
that had been fluted from top to bottom by a stroke of lightning; and
here the little red squirrels were most unusually abundant and
indignant; and there was a catbird that miauled exactly like a cat; and
there was a spring among the roots of one great tree, and a broken
teacup half buried in the sand at the bottom.
We left the hickories and entered among the oaks, and here was the
greatest to-do imaginable to find the one that was hollow. Ellen went to
the left, I to the right, and Mary down the middle. Whenever I came to
an unusually big tree I tiptoed around the trunk, goggle-eyed, expecting
the vasty hollow to open before me. And I am sure that Ellen, whom I had
presently lost sight of, behaved in the same way. Mary also had
disappeared, and feeling lonely all of a sudden I called to her. She
answered a moment later in a strange voice. I thought that she must have
fallen and hurt herself; but when I found her she was cheerful and
smiling. She was standing with her back to a snug hollow in the vast
stem of the very oak we had been looking for.
"This is it," she said, and turned and pointed to the hollow. "Where's
"Here, Ellen," I called, "here--_we've_ found it!"
Then Ellen came scampering through the wood; and first I climbed into
the hollow and curled up to see what sort of a night I might have of it,
and then I climbed out and Ellen climbed in--and then both in at once,
and we kept house for a while and gave a couple of dinners and tea
parties. And then quarreled about the probable size of Friar Tuck, and
Ellen drew the line at further imaginings and left me alone in
This extended all the way up the main trunk and all but out through the
top. Here and there it pierced through the outer bark, so that slants of
pale light served to carry the eye up and up until it became lost in
inky blackness. Now and then dust and little showers of dry rot
descended softly upon the upturned face; and if you put your ear close
to the wood you could hear, as through the receiver of a telephone,
things that were going on among the upper branches; as when the breeze
puffed up and they sighed and creaked together. I could hear a squirrel
scampering and a woodpecker at work--or so I guessed, though it sounded
more like a watch ticking. I made several essays to climb up the hollow,
but the knotholes and crevices, and odds and ends of support, were too
far removed from each other for the length of my limbs, and,
furthermore, my efforts seemed to shake the whole tree and bring down
whole smarting showers of dust and dry rot and even good-sized
fragments. I got up a few feet, lost my hold, and fell into the soft,
punky nest at the bottom.
"Can't you climb up?" said Ellen, who had recovered her temper by now.
"Because somebody has climbed up and stuck an ol' shoe out of a
knothole way up."
I climbed out of the hollow and followed her point. Sure enough--thirty
feet or so from the ground the toe of a much-used leather boot stuck out
through a knothole.
Mary refused to take an interest in the boot. It was high time we went
home. She herself had a headache. Our mother would be angry with her for
taking us on the forbidden farm. She was sorry she had done so. No, she
wasn't angry. We were good children; she loved us. Wouldn't we come?
"I'll tell you," said she, and her face, which looked sick and pale,
colored, "if you'll come now, and hurry, we'll just have time to stop on
the bridge and have some races."
And sure enough, when we got to the bridge Mary produced a stained sheet
of paper, and tore it quickly into little bits of pieces (we were
pressed for time) and launched pair after pair of sea-going racers upon
the swirling tide.
When the last pair were gone upon their merry career she drew a long
breath, and seemed as one relieved of a weight.
"Perhaps," she said, "you needn't tell your mother where you've
been--unless she asks you. Do you think that would be wrong?"
I had never known Mary to suggest deceit of any kind.
"If you think it would get you into trouble," said my sister, aged
eight, very stiffly, "why, of course, we won't say anything."
Mary was troubled. Finally she drew a deep breath and flung out her
"Of course, it would be wrong not to tell," she said. "You _must_ tell
But by good fortune we met my father first and told him.
"And papa," said Ellen, she had been swung to his shoulder and there
rode like a princess upon a genii, "what do you think, way up the trunk
there was an old shoe sticking out of a knothole, and we all thought
that somebody must have climbed up inside and put it there. But brother
couldn't climb up because he's too little, and Mary wouldn't try, and we
thought maybe Sunday you'd go with us and see if you could climb up."
I don't know why my father happened to take the line that he did; he may
have seen something in Mary's face that we children would not be likely
to see. He laughed first, and told us a story.
It was about some children that he had once known, who had seen a boot
sticking out of a tree, just as we had done, and how a frightful old
witch had come along, and told them that if they went away for a year
and a day and didn't say a word about the boot to any one, and then went
back, they would by that time have grown sufficiently to climb up and
get the boot, and that they would find it full of gold pieces. But if,
during the year and the day, they so much as mentioned the boot to any
one but their father, they would find it full of the most dreadful black
and yellow spiders which would chase them all the way to Jericho, and
bite their fat calves every few steps.
"This," said he, "may be that kind of a boot. Now promise not to talk
about it for a year and a day--not even to me--and at the end of that
time, why we'll all go and see what's in it. No," he said, "you mustn't
go to look at it every now and then--that would spoil the charm. Let me
see. This is the twenty-eighth--a year and a day--hum." And he made his
calculations. Then he said: "By the way, Mary, don't you and the
children ever get hungry between meals? If you were to take bread and
meat, and make up sandwiches to take on your excursions, they'd never be
missed. I'd see to it," he said, "that they weren't missed. Growing
children, you know." And he strode on, Ellen riding on his shoulder like
a princess on her genii.
Ellen and I were very firm to have nothing to do with the boot in the
oak tree; and we had two picnics in the hollow and played for hours in
the adjoining woods without once looking up. Mary had become very strict
with us about scattering papers and eggshells at our out-of-door
spreads; and whatever fragments of food were left over she would make
into a neat package and hide away under a stone; but in other matters
she became less and less precise: as, for instance, she left Ellen's
best doll somewhere in the neighborhood of the hollow oak, and had to go
all the way back for it in the dusk; and another time (we had also been
to the store at Bartow for yeast) she left her purse that had two
months' wages in it and more, but wasn't lucky enough to find that.
It was considered remarkable on all hands that Braddish had not yet been
caught. Hagan's heelers, who swung many votes, had grown very sharp with
the authorities, and no efforts were spared to locate the criminal (he
was usually referred to as the "murderer") and round him up. Almost
daily, for a time, we were constantly meeting parties of strange men,
strolling innocently about the country at large or private estates as if
they were looking things over with a view to purchase. And now and then
we met pairs of huntsmen, though there was no game in season, very
citified, with brand-new shotguns, and knickerbockers, and English
deer-stalker caps. And these were accompanied by dogs, neither well
suited nor broken to the business of finding birds and holding them.
There was one pair of sportsmen whose makeshift was a dropsical coach
dog, very much spotted. And, I must be forgiven for telling the truth,
one was followed, _ventre a terre_, by a dachshund. My father, a very
grave man with his jest, said that these were famous detectives, so
accoutred as not to excite comment. And their mere presence in it was
enough to assure the least rational that Braddish must by now have fled
the country. "Their business," he said, "is to close the stable door,
if they can find it, and meanwhile to spend the money of the many in the
roadhouses of the few."
But I have sometimes thought that the pseudo-sportsmen were used to give
Braddish a foolhardy sense of security, so that other secret-service
men, less open in method and less comic in aspect, might work
unobserved. Indeed, it turned out that an under-gardener employed by
Mrs. Kirkbride, our neighbor, about this time, a shambling, peaceful,
half-witted goat of a man, was one such; and a perfect red-Indian upon a
trail. It was Mary who spotted him. He hung about our kitchen door a
good deal; and tried to make friends with her and sympathize with her.
But he showed himself a jot too eager, and then a jot too peppery when
she did not fall into his nets. Mary told my father, and my father told
Mrs. Kirkbride. Mrs. Kirkbride had had a very satisfactory job at
painting done for her by Braddish; and although a law-abiding woman, she
did not propose personally to assist the law--even by holding her
tongue. So she approached the under-gardener, at a time when the
head-gardener and the coachman were in hearing, and she said, plenty
loud enough to be heard: "Well, officer, have you found a clew yet? Have
you pumped my coachman? He was friends with Braddish," and so on, so
that she destroyed that man's utility for that place and time. But
others were more fortunate. And all of a sudden the country was
convulsed with excitement at hearing that Braddish had been seen on the
Bartow Road at night, and had been fired at, but had made good his
escape into the Boole Dogge Farm.
Bloodhounds were at once sent for. I remember that my father stayed up
from town that thrilling morning, and walked up and down in front of the
house looking up at the sky. I now know that he was conjuring it to rain
with all his power of pity--prayer maybe--though I think, like most
commuters, he was weak on prayer. Anyhow, rain it did. The sky had been
overcast for two days, drawing slowly at the great beds of moisture in
the northeast, and that morning, accompanied by high winds, the first
drops fell and became presently a deluging northeaster, very cold for
As chance would have it, there had been a false scent down on Throgg's
Neck, upon which the nearest accessible bloodhounds had been employed.
So that there was a delay in locating them, and fetching them to the
Boole Dogge Farm. We went over to the Boulevard--my father, Ellen, and
I--all under umbrellas, to see them go by. They were a sorry pair of
animals, and very weary with having been out all night, in all sorts of
country, upon feet more accustomed to the smooth asphalt of a kennel.
But there was a crowd of men with them, some in uniform, one I remember
in a great coat, who rode upon one of the old-fashioned, high bicycles,
and there was a show of clubs and bludgeons, and one man wore openly
upon his hip a rusty, blued revolver, and on the whole the little
procession had a look of determination and of power to injure that was
rather terrible. I have sometimes thought that if I had been my father I
would not have taken Ellen and me to see them go by. But why not? I
would not have missed it for kingdoms.
By the time the pursuit had reached the Boole Dogge Farm so much rain
had fallen as to render the bloodhounds' noses of no account. Still the
police were not deterred from beating that neck of land with great
thoroughness and energy. But it proved to be the old story of the needle
in the haystack. Either they could not find the needle or there was no
needle to be found. Of course, they discovered the spring with the
broken cup, and the hollow oak, and made sure that it was here that
Braddish slept at night, and they found other traces of his recent
habitation--an ingenious snare with a catbird in it, still warm; the
deep, inadvertent track of a foot in a spot of bog; but of the man
himself neither sight nor sound.
In the afternoon, the rain having held up for a while, nay father walked
over to the farm to see how the hunt was progressing. This, I think,
was for Mary's sake, who had been all the morning in so terrible a state
of agitation that it seemed as if she must have news for better or
worse, or die of suspense. My father was not away longer than necessary.
He returned as he had gone, wearing a cheerful, incisive look very
characteristic of him, and whistling short snatches of tunes.
He said that the beaters were still at work; but that they were wet to
the skin and the heart was out of them. Yes. They would keep an eye on
the place, but they were pretty well convinced that the bird had flown.
If, however, the bird had not flown, said my father, he should be quick
about it. We were on the front porch to meet my father, and I remember
he paused and looked out over the bay for some time. It was roughish
with occasional white caps, and had a dreary, stormy look. Our rowboat,
moored to a landing stage or float, just off our place, was straining
and tugging at her rope.
"That boat will blow loose," said my father, "if she isn't pulled up.
But I'm not going to do it. I'm wet enough as it is.
"Would you like me to try, sir?" Mary called.
"What's the use?" said my father. "You'll only spoil your clothes. And,
besides, the boat's old and rotten. She's not worth two dollars for
kindling wood. I rather hope she does blow away, so as to provide me
with a much-needed excuse to buy a better one. The oars, I see, are in
her. Never mind, they're too heavy. I never liked them."
Then he put his arm around Ellen.
"By the way, Teenchy," said he, "your old boot is still sticking out of
the oak tree."
"Oh, papa," cried Ellen, "you said we mustn't talk about it--or it would
be full of spiders."
"I said _you_ mustn't talk about it," said he. "So don't. Anyhow"--and
he included Mary in his playful smile--"it's still there--so make the
most of _that_."
He turned to go into the house, and then:
"Oh, by the way, Mary," said he, "you have not asked for your wages
recently, and I think you are owed for three months. If you will come to
the study in a little while I will give them to you." He was always
somewhat quizzical. "Would you rather have cash or a check?"
Personally I didn't know the difference, and, at the time, I admired
Mary exceedingly for being able to make a choice. She chose cash.
But till some years later I thought she must have repented this
decision, for not long after she went into a kind of mild hysterics, and
cried a good deal, and said something about "such kindness--this--side
Heaven." And was heard to make certain comparisons between the
thoughtfulness and pitifulness of a certain commuter and the Christ.
But these recollections are a little vague in my head as to actual
number of tears shed, cries uttered and words spoken. But I do know for
an incontestable fact that during the night, just as my father had
prophesied, our rowboat was blown loose by the northeast gale, and has
not been seen from that day to this. And I know that when I woke up in
the morning and called to Mary she was not in her bed, and I found in
mine, under the pillow, a ridiculous old-fashioned brooch, that I had
ever loved to play with, and that had been Mary's mother's.
My father was very angry about Mary's going.
"Good Lord!" he said; "we can't pretend to conceal it!" But then he
looked out over Pelham Bay, and it had swollen and waxed wrathful during
the night, and was as a small ocean--with great waves and billows that
came roaring over docks and sea-walls. And then his temper abated and he
said: "Of course she would--any woman would--sense or no sense."
And, indeed, the more I know of women, which is to say, and I thank God
for it, the less I know of them, the convinceder am I that my father
In other words, if a woman's man has nine chances in ten of drowning by
himself she will go with him so as to make it ten chances, and a
certainty of her being there whatever happens. And so, naturally, man
cannot tolerate the thought of woman getting the right, based on
intelligence, to vote.
Twenty-five years later I paid Mary and Braddish a pleasant
Saturday-to-Monday visit in what foreign country it is not necessary to
state. The tiny Skinnertown house of their earlier ambition, with its
little yard, had now been succeeded by a great, roomy, rambling
habitation, surrounded by thousands of acres sprinkled with flocks of
fat, grazing sheep. It was a grand, rolling upland of a country that
they had fled to; cool, summer weather all the year round, and no
mosquitoes. Hospitable smoke curled from a dozen chimneys; shepherds
galloped up on wiry horses and away again; scarlet passion-vines poured
over roofs and verandas like cataracts of glory; and there was incessant
laughter and chatter of children at play.
Of their final flight from the Boole Dogge Farm in my father's boat,
across the bay to Long Island in the teeth of the northeaster, I now
first heard the details; and of their subsequent hiding among swamps and
woods; and how, when it had seemed that they must be captured and
Braddish go to jail forever and ever, Mary thought that she could face
the separation more cheerfully if she was his wife. And so one rainy
night they knocked upon the door of a clergyman, and told him their
story. They were starving, it seems, and it was necessary to look about
for mercy. And, as luck would have it, the clergyman, an old man, had
officiated at the wedding of Mary's parents; and he had had some trouble
in his day with the law about a boundary fence, and was down on the law.
And he fed them and married them, and said that he would square matters
with his conscience--if he could. And he kept them in his attic for two
days, which was their honeymoon--and then--a night of dogs and lanterns
and shouting--he smuggled them off to the swamps again, and presided
over their hiding until an opportunity came to get them aboard a tramp
ship--and that was all there was to it, except that they had prospered
and been happy ever since.
I asked Mary about my father's part in it. But she gave him a clean
"He put two and two together," she said, "and he dropped a hint or
two--and he paid me all my back wages in American money, and he made me
a handsome present in English gold, but he never talked things over,
never mentioned Will's name even."
"It was the toe of my boot," said Will, "sticking out of the tree that
made him guess where I was. You see, I'd climbed up in the hollow to
hide, and to keep there without moving I had to stick my foot out
through a knothole. I was up there all the day they tried to get the
bloodhounds after me, with my boot sticking out. And they were beating
around that tree for hours, but nobody looked up."
"I've always wondered," said I, "why, they didn't send a man up inside
"I've always thought," said Will, "that nobody liked to propose it for
fear he'd be elected to do it himself. But maybe it didn't enter
anybody's head. Anyhow, all's well that ends well."
"Mary," I said, "do you remember how my father told Ellen and me to go
back in a year and a day, and look in the boot?"
"Well," I said, "we went--hand in hand--and there was still a boot
sticking out. And I climbed up, after several failures, and got it. It
wasn't full of gold, but it did have two gold pieces in it. One each."
"What a memory your father had," said Mary: "he never forgot anything."
Later I was talking with Will alone, and I asked him why he had run away
in the first place.
"Why," he said, "I had no chance with the law. The only outsiders
who saw the shooting were friends of Hagan's; there was bad blood
between us. They'd sworn to do for me. And they would. I shot Hagan
with his own gun. He pulled it on me, and I turned it into him, by
the greatest piece of quickness and good luck that ever I had. And
somehow--somehow--I couldn't see myself swinging for that, or going to
prison for life. And I saw my chance and took it. I told the whole thing
to the minister that married us; he believed me, and so would any one
that knew me then--except Hagan's friends, and whatever they believed
they'd have sworn the opposite. Do you think your father thought I was a
bloody murderer? Look here," he said, "I don't know just how to put
it--it was twenty-five years ago, all that--Mary'll tell you, if you ask
her, that she's been absolutely happy every minute of all that
time--even when we were hiding in swamps and starving. Now that side of
it wouldn't have entered the law's head, would it?" He smiled very
peacefully. "Out here, of course," he said, "it's very different. Almost
everybody here has gotten away from something or other. And mostly we've
done well, and are happy and self-respecting. It's a big world," he
looked out affectionately over his rolling, upland acres, "and a funny
world. Did Mary tell you that I've just been re-elected sheriff?"
Forrest paused when his explorations had brought him to the edge of the
beechwood, all dappled with golden lights and umber shadows, and stood
for a time brooding upon those intimate lawns and flowery gardens that
seemed, as it were, but roofless extensions of the wide, open house.
It is probable that his brooding had in it an estimate of the cost of
these things. It was thus that he had looked upon the blooded horses in
the river-fields and the belted cattle in the meadows. It was thus that
his grave eyes passed beyond the gardens and moved from corner to corner
of the house, from sill to cornice, relating the porticos and
interminable row of French windows to dollars and cents. He had, of
course, been of one mind, and now he was of two; but that octagonal slug
of California minting, by which he resolved his doubts, fell heads, and
he stepped with an acquiescent reluctance from the dappled shadows into
the full sunlight of the gardens and moved slowly, with a kind of
awkward and cadaverous grandeur, toward the house. He paused by the
sundial to break a yellow rose from the vine out of which its fluted
supporting column emerged. So standing, and regarding the rose slowly
twirled in his fingers, he made a dark contrast to the brightly-colored
gardens. His black cape hung in unbroken lines from his gaunt shoulders
to his knees, and his face had the modeling and the gentle gloom
The rose fell from his hand, and he moved onward through the garden and
entered the house as nonchalantly as if it had been his own. He found
himself in a cool dining-room, with a great chimney-piece and beaded
white paneling. The table was laid for seven, and Forrest's intuitive
good taste caused his eyes to rest with more than passing interest upon
the stately loving-cup, full of roses, that served for a centre-piece.
But from its rosy garlands caught up in the mouths of demon-heads he
turned suddenly to the portrait over the chimney-piece. It was darker
and more sedate than the pictures to which Forrest was accustomed, but
in effect no darker or more sedate than himself. The gentleman of the
portrait, a somewhat pouchy-cheeked, hook-nosed Revolutionary, in whose
wooden and chalky hand was a rolled document, seemed to return Forrest's
glance with a kind of bored courtesy.
"That is probably the Signer," thought Forrest, and he went closer. "A
great buck in your time," he approved.
The butler entered the dining-room from the pantry, and, though a man
accustomed to emergencies, was considerably nonplussed at the sight of
the stranger. That the stranger was a bona fide stranger, James, who had
served the Ballins for thirty years, knew; but what manner of stranger,
and whether a rogue or a man upon legitimate business, James could not
so much as guess.
"I beg your pardon, sir," he said, "were you looking for some one?"
"Yes," said Forrest, perfectly at his ease, "and no."
"Shall I tell Mr. Ballin that you are here, sir?"
"I shall find him for myself, thank you," said Forrest, and he moved
toward an open door that seemed to lead into the hall.
"By the way," he said, "there will be an extra at luncheon."
Very stately in his long, black cape, and with his pensive Dantesque
face, Forrest continued on his slow progress to the open door and went
out of the dining-room. He crossed the hall with half an eye to its
quiet tones and bowls of roses, and entered a room of bright chintz with
a pattern of cornflowers, and full of sunlight. It was a very spacious
room, and lively--a proper link between the gardens and the house; and
here were many photographs in silver frames of smart men and women; and
the Sunday papers with their colored supplements were strewn in
disorder upon the floor. And it seemed to Forrest, so comfortable and
intimate did it look, as if that room had been a part of his own life.
Upon the blotter of a writing-table sprawled a check-book bound in
yellow leather. And when Forrest saw that, he smiled. It came as a
surprise that the teeth in that careworn face should be white and even.
And in those rare and charming moments of his smiling he looked like a
young man who has made many engagements with life which he proposes to
fulfil, instead of like a man for whom the curious years reserve but one
But Forrest did not remain any appreciable time in the cheerful
living-room. A desire to explain and have it all over with was upon him;
and he passed, rapidly now, from room to room, until in a far corner of
the house he entered a writing-room furnished in severe simplicity with
dark and dully-shining rosewood. This room was of an older fashion than
any he had yet entered, and he guessed that it had been the Signer's
workshop and had been preserved by his descendants without change. A
pair of flintlock pistols, glinting silver, lay upon the desk; quill
pens stood in a silver cup full of shot; a cramped map, drawn and
colored by hand and yellow with age, hung above the mantel and
purported, in bold printing with flourishes, to be The Proposed Route
for the Erie Canal. Portraits of General Greene and Thomas Jefferson,
by Stuart, also hung upon the walls. And there stood upon an octagonal
table a bowl of roses.
There was a gentleman in the embrasure of a window, smoking a cigar and
looking out. But at the sound of Forrest's step he turned an alert,
close-cropped, gray head and stepped out of the embrasure.
"Mr. Ballin?" said Forrest.
"I am Mr. Ballin." His eyes perused the stranger with astonishing speed
and deftness, without seeming to do so.
"It was the toss of a coin that decided me to come," said Forrest. "I
have asked your butler to lay a place for me at luncheon."
So much assumption on the part of a stranger has a cheeky look in the
printing. Yet Forrest's tone and manner far more resembled those of old
friendship and intimacy than impertinence.
"Have I," said Ballin, smiling a little doubtfully, "ever had the
pleasure of meeting you before? I have a poor memory for faces. But it
seems to me that I should not have forgotten yours."
"You never saw me but the one time," said Forrest. "That was many years
ago, and you would not remember. You were a--little wild that night. You
sat against me at a game of faro. But even if you had been yourself--I
have changed very much. I was at that time, as you were, little more
than a boy."
"Good Lord!" said Ballin, "were you a part of that hectic flush that to
myself I only refer to as 'Sacramento'?"
"You do not look as if it had turned you into a drinking man," said
"It didn't," said Ballin, and without seeing any reason for confiding in
the stranger he proceeded to do so. "It was nip and tuck for a time," he
said, "and then money came to me, and this old place and
responsibilities, and I became, more from force of circumstances than
from any inner impulse, a decentish citizen."
"The money made everything smooth, did it?" said Forrest. "I wonder."
"You wonder--what?" said Ballin.
"If it could--money alone. I have had it at times--not as you have had
it--but in large, ready sums. Yet I think it made very little
"What have you been doing since--Sacramento?" asked Ballin.
"Up to a month ago," said Forrest, "I kept on dealing--in different
parts of the world--in San Francisco, in London--Cairo--Calcutta. And
then the matter which brings me here was brought to my attention."
"Yes?" said Ballin, a little more coolly.
"When you were in Sacramento," Forrest went on quietly and evenly as if
stating an acknowledged fact, "you did not expect to come into all
this. Then your cousin, Ranger Ballin, and his son went down in the City
of Pittsburgh; and all this"--he made a sudden, sweeping gesture with
one of his long, well-kept hands--"came to you."
"Yes?" Ballin's voice still interrogated coolly.
Forrest broke into that na´ve, boyish smile of his.
"My dear sir," said he, "I saw a play last winter in which the question
is asked, 'Do you believe in Fairies?' I ask you, 'Do you believe in
"In what way?" Ballin asked, and he, too, smiled.
"Ranger Ballin," said Forrest, "had another son who was spirited away in
childhood by the gypsies. That will explain this visit, which on the
face of it is an impertinence. It will explain why I have entered this
house without knocking, and have invited myself to luncheon. You see,
sir, all this"--and again he made the sudden, sweeping gesture--"is
It speaks for Forrest's effect that, although reason told Ballin to
doubt this cataclysmic statement, instinct convinced him that it was
true. Yet what its truth might mean to him did not so convincingly
appear. That he might be ousted from all that he looked on as his own
did not yet occur to him, even vaguely.
"Then we are cousins," he said simply, and held out his hand. But
Forrest did not take it at once.
"Do you understand what cousinship with me means to you?" he said.
"Why," said Ballin, "if you _are_ my cousin"--he tried to imply the
doubt that he by no means felt--"there is surely enough for us both."
"Enough to make up for the years when there has been nothing?" Forrest
"It is a matter for lawyers to discuss, then," said Ballin quietly.
"Personally, I do not doubt that you believe yourself to be my cousin's
son. But there is room, surely, in others for many doubts."
"Not in others," said Forrest, "who have been taught to know that two
and two are four."
"Have you documentary proof of this astonishing statement?" said Ballin.
"Surely," said Forrest. And he drew from an inner pocket a bundle of
documents bound with a tape. Ballin ran a perturbed but deft eye through
them, while Forrest stood motionless, more like a shadow than a man.
Then, presently, Ballin looked up with a stanch, honorable look.
"I pick no flaws here cousin," he said. "I--I congratulate you."
"Cousin," said Forrest, "it has been my business in life to see others
take their medicine. But I have never seen so great a pill swallowed so
calmly. Will you offer me your hand now?"
Ballin offered his hand grimly.
Then he tied the documents back into their tape and offered the bundle
"I am a careless man," said Forrest; "I might lose them. May I ask you
to look after them for me?"
"Would you leave me alone with them?" asked Ballin.
"Of course," said Forrest.
Ballin opened an old-fashioned safe in the paneling and locked it upon
the despoiling documents. Yet his heart, in spite of its dread and
bitterness, was warmed by the trustfulness of the despoiler.
"And now what?" he said.
"And now," said Forrest, "remember for a little while only that I am,
let us say, an old friend of your youth. Forget for the present, if you
can, who else I am, and what my recrudescence must mean to you. It is
not a happiness"--he faltered with his winning smile--"to give pain."
"Your father," said Forrest, "says that I may have his seat at the head
of the table. You see, Miss Dorothy, in the world in which I have lived
there were no families. And I have the strongest desire to experiment in
some of those things which I have missed.... Ballin," he exclaimed,
"how lovely your daughters are!"
The young Earl of Moray glanced up mischievously.
"Do you think, sir," he drawled, "that I have made the best selection
under the circumstances? Sometimes I think I ought to have made up to
Ellen instead of Dorothy."
"What's the matter with _us_?" said Alice, and she laid her hand upon
"Oh, you little rotters!" exclaimed the earl, whom they sometimes teased
to the point of agony. "No man in his senses would look at _you_."
"Right-O!" said young Stephen Ballin, who made the eighth at table.
"They're like germs," he explained to Forrest--"very troublesome to
"It's because we're twins," said Evelyn. "Everybody who isn't twins is
down on them."
"It's because they are always beautiful and good," said Alice. "Why
don't you stand up for us, father?"
It was noticed that Mr. Ballin was not looking well; that the chicken
_mousse_ upon his plate was untouched, and that he fooled with his
bread, breaking it, crumbling it, and rolling it into pellets. He pulled
himself together and smiled upon his beloved twins.
Forrest had turned to the Earl of Moray.
"Was it your ancestor," he said, "who 'was a bra' gallant, and who raid
at the gluve'?"
"I am confident of it," said the young Englishman.
"By all accounts," said Forrest, "he would have been a good hand with a
derringer. Have you that gift for games?"
"I'm a very good golfer." said the earl, "but I thought a derringer was
a kind of dish that babies ate gruel out of." He blushed becomingly.
"As ever," said Alice, "insular and ignorant."
"You prickly baby!" exclaimed the earl. "What is a derringer, Mr.
Forrest, having succeeded in drawing the attention of his immediate and
prospective family from the ill looks of Mr. Ballin, proposed to keep
"I will show you," he said. "Are my hands empty?"
"Quite so," said the earl.
"Keep your eyes on them," said Forrest, "so. Now, we will suppose that
you have good reason to believe that I have stolen your horse. Call me a
"Sir," said the earl, entering into the spirit of the game, "you are a
There appeared in Forrest's right hand, which had seemed empty, which
had seemed not to move or to perform in any celeritous and magic manner,
a very small, stubby, nickel pistol, with a caliber much too great for
it, and down whose rifled muzzle the earl found himself gazing. The earl
was startled. But he said, "I was mistaken, sir; you are not a horse
thief." As mysteriously as it had come, the wicked little derringer
disappeared. Forrest's hands remained innocently in plain view of all.
"Oh," said Alice, "if you had only pulled the trigger!"
"Frankly, Mr. Forrest," said the earl, "aren't the twins loathsome? But
tell me, can you shoot that thing as magically as you play tricks
"It's not a target gun," said Forrest. "It's for instantaneous work at
close range. One could probably hit a tossed coin with it, but one must
have more weight and inches to the barrel and less explosion for fine
"What would you call fine practice?" asked Stephen.
"Oh," said Forrest, "a given leg of a fly at twenty paces, or to snip a
wart from a man's hand at twenty-five."
Mr. Ballin rose.
"I'm not feeling well," he said simply; "when the young people have
finished with you, Forrest, you will find me in the Signer's room." He
left the table and the room, very pale and shaky, for by this time the
full meaning of Forrest's incontestable claim had clarified in his
brain. He saw himself as if struck down by sudden poverty--of too long
leisure and too advanced Forrest finished as abruptly as he had begun
and rose from the piano. But for a few charged moments even the twins
"He used to sing that song," said Forrest, "so that the cold chills went
galloping the length of a man's spine. He was as like you to look at,"
he turned to the earl, "as one star is like another. I cannot tell you
how it has moved me to meet you. We were in a place called Grub Gulch,
placer-mining--half a dozen of us. I came down with the scarlet fever.
The others bolted, all but Charlie Stuart. He stayed. But by the time I
was up, thanks to him, he was down--thanks to me. He died of it."
Forrest finished very gravely.
"Good Lord!" said the earl.
"_He_ might ha' been a king," said Forrest. And he swallowed the lump
that rose in his throat, and turned away so that his face could not be
seen by them.
But, presently, he flashed about with his winning smile.
"What, would all you rich young people do if you hadn't a sou in the
"Good Lord!" said Stephen, "everything I know how to do decently costs
"I feel sure," said Alice, her arm about Evelyn's waist, "that our
beauty and goodness would see _us_ through."
"I," said Ellen, "would quietly curl up and die."
"I," said Dorothy, "would sell my earl to the highest bidder."
"I shouldn't bring tuppence," said the earl.
"But you," said Forrest to the earl, "what would you do if you were
"I would marry Dorothy to-morrow," said the earl, "instead of waiting
until September. Fortunately, I have a certain amount of assets that the
law won't allow me to get rid of."
"I wish you could," said Forrest.
"Why?" The earl wrinkled his eyebrows.
"I would like to see what you would do." He laid his hand lightly upon
the young Englishman's shoulder. "You don't mind? I am an old man," he
said, "but I cannot tell you--what meeting you has meant to me. I want
you to come with me now, for a few minutes, to Mr. Ballin. Will you?"
"Mr. Ballin," said Forrest, his hand still on the earl's shoulder, "I
want you to tell this young man what only you and I know."
Ballin looked up from his chair with the look of a sick man.
"It's this, Charlie," he said in a voice that came with difficulty.
"It's a mistake to suppose that I am a rich man. Everything in this
world that I honestly thought belonged to me belongs to Mr. Forrest."
The earl read truth in the ashen, careworn face of his love's father.
"But surely," he said anxiously, "Dorothy is still yours--to give."
Forrest's dark and brooding countenance became as if suddenly brightly
"My boy--my boy!" he cried, and he folded the wriggling and embarrassed
Stuart in his long, gaunt arms.
I think an angel bringing glad tidings might have looked as Forrest did
when, releasing the Earl of Moray, he turned upon the impulse and began
to pour out words to Ballin.
"When I found out who I was," he said, "and realized for how long--oh,
my Lord! how long--others had been enjoying what was mine, and that I
had rubbed myself bare and bleeding against all the rough places of
life, will you understand what a rage and bitterness against you all
possessed me? And I came--oh, on wings--to trample, and to dispossess,
and to sneer, and to send you packing.... But first the peace of the
woods and the meadows, and the beech wood and the gardens, and the quiet
hills and the little brooks staggered me. And then you--the way you took
it, cousin!--all pale and wretched as you were; you were so calm, and
you admitted the claim at once--and bore up.... Then I began to repent
of the bitterness in which I had come.... And I left the papers in your
keeping.... I thought--for I have known mostly evil--that, perhaps, you
would destroy them.... It never entered your head.... Your are clean
white--and so are your girls and your boy.... I did not expect to find
white people in possession. Why should I?... But I said, 'Surely the
Englishman isn't white--he is after the money.' But right away I began
to have that feeling, too, smoothed out of me.... And now, when he finds
that instead of Dorothy being an heiress she is a pauper, he says, 'But
surely, Dorothy is still yours to give!'
"I was a fool to come. Yet I am glad."
Neither Ballin nor the earl spoke.
"Could I have this room to myself for a little while?" asked Forrest.
"Of course," said Ballin; "it is yours."
Forrest bowed; the corners of his mouth turned a little upward.
"Will you come back in an hour--you, alone, cousin?"
Ballin nodded quietly.
"Come along, Charlie," he said, and together they left the room. But
when Ballin returned alone, an hour later, the room was empty. Upon the
Signer's writing-desk was a package addressed collectively to "The
Ballins," and in one corner was written, "Blood will tell."
The package, on being opened, proved to contain nothing more substantial
than ashes. And by the donor thereof there was never given any
ONE MORE MARTYR
A little one-act play, sufficiently dramatic, is revived from time to
time among the Latin races for long runs. The play is of simplified,
classic construction. But the principal part is variously interpreted by
different actors. The minor characters, a priest and an officer, have no
great latitude for individuality, while the work of the chorus comes as
near mathematics as anything human can. The play is a passion play. No
actor has ever played the principal part more than once. And the play
differs from other plays in this, also, that there are not even
traditional lines for the principal character to speak. He may say
whatever comes into his head. He may say nothing. He may play his part
with reticence or melodramatically. It does not matter. His is what
actors call a fat part; it cannot be spoiled. And at the climax and
curtain he may sink slowly to the ground or fall upon his back or upon
his face. It does not matter. Once, before falling, a man leaped so
violently upward and forward as to break the ropes with which his legs
and arms were bound. Those who saw this performance cannot speak of it
to this day without a shudder.
Under the management of General Weyler in Cuba this little play enjoyed,
perhaps, its longest continuous run. Curiously enough, there were
absolutely no profits to be divided at the end. But, then, think of the
expense of production! Why, to enable the General to stage that play for
so many nights--I mean sunrises--required the employment of several
hundred thousand men and actually bankrupted a nation. In this world one
must pay like the devil for one's fancies. Think what Weyler paid: all
the money that his country could beg or borrow; then his own reputation
as a soldier, as a statesman, and as a man; ending with a series of
monstrous mortgages on his own soul. For which, when it is finally sold
at auction, there will not be bid so much as one breath of garlic.
When Juan D'Acosta's mother heard that her younger son Manual had been
taken prisoner by the Spaniards and was to be shot the following morning
at sunrise she sat for an hour motionless, staring at the floor. Juan,
as is, or was, well known, had died gloriously, a cigarette between his
lips, after inestimable, if secret, services to Cuba. Nor had his
execution been entirely a martyrdom. He was shot for a spy. He was a
spy, and a very daring, clever, and self-effacing one. He had been
caught within the Spanish lines with incriminating papers upon his
person. And before they could secure him he had had the eternal
satisfaction of ripping open two Spaniards with his knife so that they
died. He was executed without a trial. His mother went out with others
of his relatives to see him die. The memory of his dying had remained
with her to comfort her for the fact of it. She had seen him, calm, and
in her eyes very beautiful, standing in strong relief with his back to a
white wall, a cigarette between his lips. There had not been the
slightest bravado in his perfect self-possession. It had been that of a
gentleman, which he was not by birth, and a man of the world; quiet,
retiring and attentive. He had looked so courteous, so kind-hearted, so
pure! He had spoken--on either side of his cigarette--for some moments
to the priest, apologizing through him to God for whatever spots there
may have been upon his soul. Then his eyes had sought his mother's among
the spectators and remained steadfastly upon them, smiling, until the
exactions of his part demanded that he face more to the front and look
into the muzzles of the Mausers. The fire of his cigarette having burned
too close to his lips for comfort, and his hands being tied, he spat the
butt out of his mouth and allowed the last taste of smoke which he was
to enjoy on earth to curl slowly off through his nostrils. Then, for it
was evident that the edge of the sun would show presently above the rim
of the world, he had drawn a breath or two of the fresh morning air and
had spoken his last words in a clear, controlled voice.
"Whenever one of us dies," he had said, "it strengthens the cause of
liberty instead of weakening it. I am so sure of this that I would like
to come to life after being shot, so that I might be taken and shot
again and again and again. You, my friends, are about to fire _for_
Cuba, not against her. Therefore, I thank you. I think that is all.
Christ receive me."
The impact of the volley had flattened him backward against the wall
with shocking violence, but he had remained on his feet for an
appreciable interval of time and had then sunk slowly to his knees and
had fallen quietly forward upon his face.
So her older boy had died, honoring himself and his country, after
serving his country only. The memory of his life, deeds and dying was a
comfort to her. And when she learned that Manuel, too, was to be shot,
and sat staring at the floor, it was not entirely of Manuel that she was
thinking. She did not love Manuel as she had loved Juan. He had not been
a comfort to her in any way. He had been a sneaking, cowardly child; he
had grown into a vicious and cowardly young man. He was a patriot
because he was afraid not to be; he had enlisted in the Cuban army
because he was afraid not to. He had even participated in skirmishes,
sweating with fear and discharging his rifle with his eyes closed. But
he had been clever enough to conceal his white feathers, and he could
talk in a modest, purposeful way, just like a genuine hero. He was to be
shot, not because he was himself, but because he was Juan's brother. The
Spaniards feared the whole family as a man fears a hornet's nest in the
eaves and, because one hornet has stung him, wages exterminating war
upon all hornets. In Manuel's case, however, there was a trial, short
and unpleasant. The man was on his knees half the time, blubbering,
abjuring, perspiring, and begging for mercy; swearing on his honor to
betray his country wherever and whenever possible; to fight against her,
to spy within her defenses and plans--anything, everything!
His judges were not impressed. They believed him to be acting. He was
one of the D'Acostas; Juan's brother, Ferdinand's son--a hornet. Not the
same type of hornet, but for that very reason, perhaps, the more to be
feared. "When he finds," said the colonel who presided, "that he is to
be shot beyond peradventure he will turn stoic like the others, you'll
see. Even now he is probably laughing at us for being moved by his
blubberings and entreaties. He wants to get away from us at any price.
That's all. He wants a chance to sting us again. And that chance he
will not get."
Oddly enough, the coward did turn stoic the moment he was formally
condemned. But it was physical exhaustion as much as anything else; a
sudden numbing of the senses, a kind of hideous hypnotism upon him by
the idea of death. It lasted the better part of an hour. Then, alone in
his cell, he hurled himself against the walls, screaming, or cowered
upon the stone floor, pooling it with tears, sobbing horribly with his
whole body, going now and again into convulsions of nausea. These
actions were attributed by his guard to demoniacal rage, but not to
fear. He thus fought blindly against the unfightable until about four in
the afternoon, when exhaustion once more put a quietus upon him. It was
then that his mother, having taken counsel at last with her patriot
soul, visited him.
She had succeeded, not without difficulty, in gaining permission. It was
not every mother who could manage a last interview with a condemned son.
But she had bribed the colonel. She had given him in silver the savings
of a lifetime.
The old woman sat down by her son and took his hand in hers. Then the
door of the cell was closed upon them and locked. Manuel turned and
collapsed against his mother's breast.
"It's all right, Manuel," she said in her quiet, cheerful voice. "I've
seen the colonel."
Manuel looked up quickly, a glint of hope in his rodent eyes.
"What do you mean?" he said. His voice was hoarse. His mother bit her
lips, for the hoarseness told her that her son had been screaming with
fear. In that moment she almost hated him. But she controlled herself.
She looked at him sidewise.
"The colonel tells me that you have offered to serve Spain if he will
give you your life?"
This was a shrewd guess. She waited for Manuel's answer, not even hoping
that it would be in the negative. She knew him through and through.
"Well," he choked, "it wouldn't do."
"That's where you are wrong, my son," she said. "The colonel, on the
contrary, believes he can make use of you. He is going to let you
Manuel could not believe his ears, it seemed. He kept croaking "What?"
in his hoarse voice, his face brightening with each reiteration.
"But," she went on, "he does not wish this to be known to the Cubans.
You see, if they knew that you had been allowed to go free it would
counteract your usefulness, wouldn't it?"
"Listen to me. Everything is to proceed as ordered and according to army
regulations except one thing. The rifles which are to be fired at you
will be loaded with blank cartridges. When the squad fires you must fall
as if--as if you were dead. Then you will be put in a coffin and
brought to me for burial. Then you will come to life. That is all."
She smiled into her son's face with a great gladness and patted his
"Afterward," she said, "you will grow a beard and generally disguise
yourself. It is thus that the colonel thinks he can best make use of
your knowledge and cleverness. And, of course, at the first opportunity
you will give the colonel the slip and once more take your place in the
"Of course," said Manuel; "I never meant to do what I pretended I
"Of course not!" said his mother.
"I don't see the necessity of having a mock execution. It's not nice to
have a lot of blank cartridges go off in your face."
"Nice!" The old woman sprang to her feet. She shook her finger in his
face. "Nice! Haven't you any shred of courage in your great, hulking
body? I don't believe you'll even face blank cartridges like a man--I
believe you'll scream and blubber and be a shame to us all. You disgust
me!" She spat on the floor. "Here I come to tell you that you are to be
spared, and you're afraid to death of the means by which you are to go
free. Why, I'd stand up to blank cartridges all day without turning a
hair--or to bullets, for that matter--at two hundred metres, where I
knew none of those Spanish idiots could hit me except by accident. I
wouldn't expect you to play the man at a real execution or at anything
real, but surely you can pull yourself together enough to play the man
at a mock execution. What a chance! You can leave a reputation as great
as your brother's--greater, even; you could crack jokes and burst out
laughing just when they go to fire--"
Then, as suddenly as she had flown into a passion, she burst into tears
and flung her arms about her boy and clung to him and mothered him until
in the depths of his surly, craven heart he was touched and
"Don't be afraid for me, mother," he said. "I do not like even the blank
cartridges, God forgive me; but I shall not shame you."
She kissed him again and again and laughed and cried. And when the guard
opened the door and said that the time was up she patted her boy upon
the cheeks and shoulders and smiled bravely into his face. Then she
The execution of Manuel D'Acosta was not less inspiring to the patriotic
heart than that of his brother Juan. And who knows but that it may have
been as difficult an act of control for the former to face the blank
cartridges as for the latter to stand up to those loaded with ball? Like
Juan, Manuel stood against the wall with a cigarette between his lips.
Like Juan, he sought out his mother's face among the spectators and
smiled at her bravely. He did not stand so modestly, so gentlemanly as
Juan had done, but with a touch of bravado, an occasional
half-swaggering swing from the hips, an upward tilt of the chin.
"I told you he would turn stoic," the colonel whispered to one of the
officers who had taken part in the trial. "I know these Cubans."
It was all very edifying. Like Juan, Manuel spat out his cigarette when
it had burned too short. But, unlike Juan, he made no dying speech. He
felt that he was still too hoarse to be effective. Instead, at the
command, "Aim!" he burst out laughing, as if in derision of the
well-known lack of markmanship which prevailed among the Spaniards.
He was nearly torn in two.
Those who lifted him into his coffin noticed that the expression upon
his face was one of blank astonishment, as if the beyond had contained
an immeasurable surprise for him.
His mother took a certain comfort from the manner of his dying, but it
was the memory of her other boy that really enabled her to live out her
life without going mad.
In most affairs, except those which related to his matrimonial ventures,
Marcus Antonius Saterlee was a patient man. On three occasions "an
ardent temperament and the heart of a dove," as he himself had expressed
it, had corralled a wife in worship and tenderness within his house. The
first had been the love of his childhood; the wooing of the second had
lasted but six weeks; that of the third but three. He rejoiced in the
fact that he had been a good husband to three good women. He lamented
that all were dead. Now and then he squirmed his bull head around on his
bull body, and glanced across the aisle at the showy woman who was
daintily picking a chicken wing. He himself was not toying with
beefsteak, boiled eggs, mashed potatoes, cauliflower, lima, and string
beans. He was eating them. Each time he looked at the lady he muttered
something to his heart of a dove:
"Flighty. Too slight. Stuck on herself. Pin-head," etc.
With his food Saterlee was not patient. He dispensed with mastication.
Neither was he patient of other people's matrimonial ventures. And, in
particular, that contemplated and threatened by his son and heir was
moving him across three hundred miles of inundated country as fast as a
train could carry him. His son had written:
"DEAREST DAD--I've found Dorothy again. She's at Carcasonne. They
thought her lungs were bad, but they aren't. We're going to be married a
week from to-day--next Friday--at nine A.M. This marriage is going to
take place, Daddy dear. You can't prevent it. I write this so's to be on
the square. I'm inviting you to the wedding. I'll be hurt if you don't
show up. What if Dorothy's mother _is_ an actress and has been divorced
twice? You've been a marrying man yourself, Dad. Dorothy is all darling
from head to foot. But I love you, too, Daddy, and if you can't see it
my way, why, God bless and keep you just the same."
I can't deny that Marcus Antonius Saterlee was touched by his son's
epistle. But he was not moved out of reason.
"The girl's mother," he said to himself, "is a painted, divorced jade."
And he thought with pleasure of the faith, patience, and rectitude of
the three gentle companions whom he had successively married and buried.
"There was never any divorce in the Saterlee blood," he had prided
himself. "Man or woman, we stick by our choice till he or she" (he was
usually precise) "turns up his or her toes. Not till then do we think of
anybody else. But then we do, because it is not good to live alone,
especially in a small community in Southern California."
He glanced once more at the showy lady across the aisle. She had
finished her chicken wing, and was dipping her fingers in a finger-bowl,
thus displaying to sparkling advantage a number of handsome rings.
"My boy's girl's mother a painted actress," he muttered as he looked.
"Not if I know it." And then he muttered: "_You'd_ look like an actress
if you was painted."
Though the words can not have been distinguished, the sounds were
"Sir?" said the lady, stiffly but courteously.
"Nothing, Ma'am," muttered Mark Anthony, much abashed. "I'm surprised to
see so much water in this arid corner of the world, where I have often
suffered for want of it. I must have been talking to myself to that
effect. I hope you will excuse me."
The lady looked out of the window--not hers, but Saterlee's.
"It does look," she said, "as if the waters had divorced themselves from
the bed of ocean."
She delivered this in a quick but telling voice. Saterlee was shocked at
"I suppose," she continued, "we may attribute those constant and tedious
delays to which we have been subjected all day to the premature melting
of snow in the fastnesses of the Sierras?"
This phrase did not shock Saterlee. He was amazed by the power of memory
which it proved. For three hours earlier he had read a close paraphrase
of it in a copy of the Tomb City _Picayune_ which he had bought at
The train ran slower and slower, and out on to a shallow embankment.
"Do you think we shall ever get anywhere?" queried the lady.
"Not when we expect to, Ma'am," said Saterlee. He began to scrub his
strong mouth with his napkin, lest he should return to the smoker with
stains of boiled eggs upon him.
The train gave a jolt. And then, very quietly, the dining-car rolled
over on its side down the embankment. There was a subdued smashing of
china and glass. A clergyman at one of the rear tables quietly remarked,
"Washout," and Saterlee, who had not forgotten the days when he had
learned to fall from a bucking bronco, relaxed his great muscles and
swore roundly, sonorously, and at great length. The car came to rest at
the bottom of the embankment, less on its side than on its top. For a
moment--or so it seemed--all was perfectly quiet. Then (at one and the
same moment) a lady in the extreme front of the diner was heard
exclaiming faintly: "You're pinching me," and out of the tail of his
eye Saterlee saw the showy lady across the aisle descending upon him
through the air. She was accompanied by the hook and leg table upon
which she had made her delicate meal, and all its appurtenances,
including ice-water and a wide open jar of very thin mustard.
"Thank you," she murmured, as her impact drove most of the breath out of
Saterlee's bull body. "How strong you are!"
"When you are rested, Ma'am," said he, with extreme punctiliousness, "I
think we may leave the car by climbing over the sides of the seats on
this side. Perhaps you can manage to let me pass you in case the door is
jammed. I could open it."
He preceded her over and over the sides of the seats, opened the car
door, which was not jammed, and helped her to the ground. And then, his
heart of a parent having wakened to the situation, he forgot her and
forsook her. He pulled a time-table from his pocket; he consulted a
mile-post, which had had the good sense to stop opposite the end of the
car from which he had alighted. It was forty miles to Carcasonne--and
only two to Grub City--a lovely city of the plain, consisting of one
corrugated-iron saloon. He remembered to have seen it--with its great
misleading sign, upon which were emblazoned the noble words:
"Grub City--hire buggy--drive Carcasonne," he muttered, and without a
glance at the train which had betrayed him, or at the lady who had
fallen upon him, so to speak, out of the skies, he moved forward with
great strides, leaped a puddle, regained the embankment, and hastened
along the ties, skipping every other one.
Progress is wonderful in the Far West. Since he had last seen it only a
year had passed, and yet the lovely city of Grub had doubled its size.
It now consisted of two saloons: the old "Life-Saving Station" and the
new "Like Father Used to Take." The proprietor of the new saloon was the
old saloon-keeper's son-in-law, and these, with their flourishing and,
no doubt, amiable families, were socially gathered on the shady side of
the Life-Saving Station. The shade was much the same sort that is
furnished by trees in more favored localities, and the population of
Grub City was enjoying itself. The rival wives, mother and daughter,
ample, rosy women, were busy stitching baby clothes. Children already
arrived were playing with a soap-box and choice pebbles and a tin mug at
keeping saloon. A sunburned-haired, flaming maiden of sixteen was at
work upon a dress of white muslin, and a young man of eighteen, brother
by his looks to the younger saloon-keeper, heartily feasted a pair of
honest blue eyes upon her plump hands as they came and went with the
needle. It looked as if another year might see a third saloon in
Saterlee approached the group, some of whose elders had been watching
and discussing his approach.
"Do any of you own a boat?" he asked.
"Train D-railed?" queried the proprietor of the Life-Saving Station, "or
was you just out for a walk?"
The family and family-in-law laughed appreciatively.
"The train put to sea in a washout," said Saterlee, "and all the
passengers were drowned."
"Where you want to git?" asked the proprietor.
"Carcasonne," said Saterlee. "Not the junction--the resort."
"Well," said the proprietor, "there's just one horse and just one trap
in Grub City, and they ain't for hire."
Again the united families laughed appreciatively. It was evident that a
prophet is not always without honor in his own land.
"We've no use for them," said the great man, with the noble abandoning
gesture of a Spanish grandee about to present a horse to a man
travelling by canoe. And he added: "So they're for sale. Now what do you
think they'd be worth to you?"
All the honest blue eyes, and there were no other colors, widened upon
"Fifty dollars," he said, as one accustomed to business.
It was then that a panting, female voice was raised behind him. "Sixty
His showy acquaintance of the dining-car had followed him along the ties
as fast as she could, and was just come up.
"I thought you two was a trust," commented the proprietor's wife,
pausing with her needle in the air. "But it seems you ain't even a
community of interests."
"Seventy dollars," said Saterlee quietly.
The lady advanced to his side, counting the change in her purse.
"Seventy-six dollars and eighty-five cents," she said.
"Eighty dollars," said Saterlee.
"Oh!" cried the lady, "seventy-six eighty-five is every cent I've got
with me--and you're no gentleman to bid higher."
"Eighty," repeated Saterlee.
"Eighty dollars," said the son-in-law, "for a horse and buggy that a
man's never seen is too good to be true."
"They are yours, sir," said the father-in-law, and he turned to his
daughter's husband. "Is that horse in your cellar or in mine?" he asked.
"I ain't set eyes on her since February."
The son-in-law, sent to fetch the horse, first paused at the cellar
door of the Life-Saving Station, then, with a shake of the head and an
"I remember _now_" expression, he approached and entered the subterrene
of his own house and business, and disappeared, saying: "Whoa, there!
Saterlee turned quietly to the angry and tearful vision whom he had so
"Ma'am," he said, "if we come to my stop first or thereabouts, the buggy
is yours to go on with. If we reach yours first, it's mine."
"Oh!" she exclaimed, her face brightening, "how good you are. But you'll
let me go halves on the purchase money."
"If I appeared rude just now," he said, "it was to save a lady's pocket.
Now then, you've wet them high-heeled shoes. Wherever you're going, it's
a long drive. Let's go inside and dry our feet while they're hitching
up. Which is your house?"
The proprietor of the Life-Saving Station indicated that building with
his thumb, and told his daughter of the white muslin dress to kindle a
fire in the stove. She slid her future wedding finery into a large paper
bag, and entered the saloon by the "Family Entrance," ardently followed
by her future husband.
The proprietor, Saterlee, and the showy lady followed more slowly,
"Now," said Saterlee, "if you're going further than Carcasonne
Junction, I'll get off there. And either I'll walk to the hotel or hire
"Why!" exclaimed the lady, "are you bound for Carcasonne House? So am
"In that case," said Saterlee elegantly, "we'll go the whole hog
"Quite so," said the lady primly.
"You'd ought to make Carcasonne House by midnight," said the proprietor.
"Put your feet up on that there stove."
"Heavens!" exclaimed the lady. "And if we don't make it by midnight?"
"We will by one or two o'clock."
The lady became very grave.
"Of course," she said, "it can't be helped. But it would be ever so much
nicer if we could get in before midnight."
"I take your point, Ma'am," said Saterlee. "Before midnight is
just a buggy ride--after midnight means being out all night
together. I feel for you, Ma'am, but I'm dinged if I see how
we can help ourselves. It's five now." He counted on his fingers:
"six--seven--eight--nine--ten--'leven--twelve--seven hours--seven into
forty--five and five-sevenths.... Ma'am," he said, "I can promise
nothing. It's all up to the horse."
"Of course," said the lady, "it doesn't really matter. But," and she
spoke a little bitterly, "several times in my life my actions and my
motives have been open to misconstruction, and they have been
misconstrued. I have suffered, sir, much."
"Well, Ma'am," said Saterlee, "my reputation as a married man and a
father of many children is mixed up in this, too. If we are in late--or
out late rather--and there's any talk--I guess I can quiet some of it. I
rather guess I can."
He rose to his feet, a vast, round, deep man, glowing with health and
"I once quieted a bull, Ma'am," said he, "by the horns. I would a held
him till help came if one of the horns hadn't come off, and he
The proprietor entered the conversation with an insinuating wedge of a
"I don't like to mind other folks' business," he said, "but if the lady
is fretting about bein' out all night with a total stranger, I feel it
my dooty to remark that in Grub City there is a justice of the peace."
He bowed and made a gesture which either indicated his whole person, or
that smug and bulging portion of it to which the gesture was more
Saterlee and the lady did not look at each other and laugh. They were
"Nothing like a sound splice," suggested the Justice, still hopeful of
being helpful. "Failing that, you've a long row to hoe, and I suggest a
life saver for the gent and a nip o' the same for the lady. I'd like you
to see the bar," he added. "Mine is the show place of this here
city--mirrors--peacock feathers--Ariadne in the nood--cash register--and
"We'll go you," said Saterlee. "At any rate, I will."
"Oh, I must see, too," said the lady, and both were relieved at the turn
which the conversation had taken.
The proprietor removed the cheese-cloth fly protector from the
two-by-three mirror over the bar, slipped a white jacket over his blue
shirt, and rubbed his hands together invitingly, as if washing them.
"What's your pleasure, gents?" said he.
As the lady approached the bar she stumbled. Saterlee caught her by the
"That rail down there," he said, "ain't to trip over. It's to rest your
foot on. So." He showed her. With the first sign of humor that she had
shown, the lady suddenly and very capitally mimicked his attitude. And
in a tough voice (really an excellent piece of acting): "What's yours,
kid?" she said. And then blushed to the eyes, and was very much ashamed
of herself. But Saterlee and the bartender were delighted. They roared
"Next thing," said the bartender, "she'll pull a gun and shoot up the
Saterlee said: "Rye."
"I want to be in it," said the lady. "Can you make me something that
looks like a drink, and isn't?"
"Scotch," said the proprietor without hesitation.
"No--no," she said, "Water and coloring matter."
She was fitted finally with a pony of water containing a few drops of
Spanish Red and an olive.
The three touched glasses and wished each other luck all around.
Saterlee paid eighty dollars and some change across the bar. But the
proprietor pushed back the change.
"The drinks," he said grandly, "was on the house."
The united families bade them farewell, and Saterlee brought down the
whip sharply upon the bony flank of the old horse which he had bought.
But not for a whole minute did the sensation caused by the whip appear
to travel to the ancient mare's brain. Not till reaching a deep puddle
did she seem suddenly aware of the fact that she had been whipped. Then,
however, she rushed through the puddle, covering Saterlee and the lady
with mud, and having reached the other side, fell once more into a
The lady was tightly wedged between Saterlee and the side of the buggy.
Every now and then Saterlee made a tremendous effort to make himself
narrower, but it was no use.
"If you begin to get numb," he said, "tell me, and I'll get out and walk
a spell.... How clear the air is! Seems as if you could stretch out your
hand and touch the mountains. Do you see that shadow half way up--on the
left--about three feet off? Carcasonne House is somewhere in that
shadow. And it's forty miles away."
Once more the road ran under a shallow of water. And once more the old
mare remembered that she had been whipped, and made a rush for it. Fresh
mud was added to that which had already dried upon them by the dry
miracle of the air.
"She'd ought to have been a motor-boat," said Saterlee, the mud which
had entered his mouth gritting unpleasantly between his teeth. "Last
year there was _one_ spring hole _somewhere_ in these parts--this year
it's all lakes and rivers--never was such rains before in the memory of
man. Wonder what Gila River's doing?"
"What is Gila River?" she asked.
"It's a sand gully," he said, "that winds down from the mountains, and
out across the plain, like a sure enough river. Only there's no water in
it, only a damp spot here and there. But I was thinking that maybe it'll
be going some now. We ought to strike it before dark."
The mare rushed through another puddle.
The lady laughed. "Please don't bother to hold her," she said; "I don't
"I guess your dress ain't really hurt," commented Saterlee. "I remember
my old woman--Anna--had a brown silk that got a mud bath, and came
through all right."
"This is an old rag, anyway," said the showy lady, who was still showy
in spite of a wart-like knot of dried mud on the end of her nose. And
she glanced at her spattered but graceful and expensive white linen and
"Well, I can see one thing," said Saterlee, "that you've made up your
mind to go through this experience like a good sport. I wish I didn't
have to take up so much room."
"Never mind," she said, "I like to think that I could go to sleep
without danger of falling out."
"That's so--that's so," said Saterlee. "Maybe it's just as well we're
something of a tight fit."
"I have always mistrusted thin men," said the lady, and she hastily
added: "Not that you're _fat_"
"My bones are covered," said Saterlee; "I admit it."
"Yes," she said, "but with big muscles and sinews."
"I am not weak," said Saterlee; "I admit it."
"What air this is," exclaimed the lady; "what delicious air. No wonder
it cures people with lung trouble. Still, I'm glad mine are sound."
"I'm glad to hear you say that, Ma'am," said Saterlee. "When you said
you were bound for Carcasonne House, I thought to myself, 'Mebbe she's
got it,' and I felt mighty sorry."
"Do I look like a consumptive?" she asked.
"Bless me--no," said he. "But you're not stout, and, considering where
you said you was going, you mustn't blame me for putting two and two
together and getting the wrong answer."
"I don't blame you at all," she said, but a little stiffly. "It was
perfectly natural. No," she said, "my daughter is at Carcasonne House.
She had a very heavy cold--and other troubles--and _two_ doctors agreed
that her lungs were threatened. Well, perhaps they were. I sent her to
Carcasonne House on the doctors' recommendation. And it seems that she's
just as sound as I am."
"What a relief to you, Ma'am," said Saterlee hastily.
"Yes," she said, but without enthusiasm, "a great relief."
He screwed his massive head around on his massive neck, not without
difficulty, and looked at her. His voice sounded hurt.
"You don't seem very glad, Ma'am," he said.
Her answer, on a totally different topic, surprised him.
"Do you believe in blood?" she said. "Do you believe that blood
"Ma'am," he said, "if I can draw my check for twenty-five thousand
dollars it's because I was born believing that blood will tell. It's
because I've acted on it all my life. And it's the truth, and I've made
a fortune out of it.... Cattle," he added in explanation.
"I don't know what you think of women," she said, "who talk of their
affairs to strangers. But my heart is so full of mine. I did so hope to
reach Carcasonne early this evening. It don't seem to me as if I could
stand hours and hours behind that horse without talking to some one. Do
you mind if I talk to you?" she appealed. "Somehow you're so big and
steady-minded--you don't seem like a stranger."
"Ma'am," said Saterlee, the most chivalrous courtesy in his voice, for
hers had sounded truly distressed, "fire away!"
"It's about my daughter," she said. "She has made up her mind to marry a
young man whom I scarcely know. But about him and his antecedents I know
this: that his father has buried three wives."
The blood rushed into Saterlee's face and nearly strangled him. But the
lady, who was leaning forward, elbows on knees and face between hands,
did not perceive this convulsion of nature.
"If blood counts for anything," said she, "the son has perhaps the same
brutish instincts. A nice prospect for my girl--to suffer--to die--and
to be superseded. The man's second wife was in her grave but three weeks
when he had taken a third. I am told he is a great, rough, bullying man.
No wonder the poor souls died. The son is a tremendous great fellow,
too. Oh! blood will tell every time," she exclaimed. "M. A. Saterlee,
the cattle man--do you know him?"
"Yep!" Saterlee managed, with an effort that would have moved a ton.
"I am going to appeal to her," said the lady. "I have been a good mother
to her. I have suffered for her. And she must--she shall--listen to me."
"If I can help in any way," said Saterlee, somewhat grimly, "you can
count on me.... Not," he said a little later, "that I'm in entire
sympathy with your views, Ma'am.... Now, if you'd said this man Saterlee
had _divorced_ three wives...."
The lady started. And in her turn suffered from a torrential rush of
blood to the face. Saterlee perceived it through her spread fingers, and
"If you had said that this man," he went on, "had tired of his first
wife and had divorced her, or been divorced by her, because his desire
was to another woman, then I would go your antipathy for him, Ma'am.
But I understand he buried a wife, and took another, and so on. There is
a difference. Because God Almighty Himself says in one of His books that
man was not meant to live alone. Mebbe, Ma'am, the agony of losing a
faithful and tender companion is what sets a man--some men--to looking
for a successor. Mebbe the more a man loved his dead wife the quicker is
he driven to find a living woman that he can love. But for people who
can't cling together until death--and death alone part 'em--for such
people, Ma'am, I don't give a ding."
"And you are wrong," said the lady, who, although nettled by the
applicability of his remarks to her own case, had recovered her
composure. "Let us say that a good woman marries a man, and that he
dies--not the _death_--but dies to her. Tires of her, carries his love
to another, and all that. Isn't he as dead, even if she loved him, as if
he had really died? He is dead to her--buried--men don't come back.
Well, maybe the more she loved that man the quicker she is to get the
service read over him--that's divorce--and find another whom she can
trust and love. Suppose that happens to her twice. The cases would seem
identical, sir, I think. Except that I could understand divorcing a man
who had become intolerable to me; but I could never, never fancy myself
marrying again--if my husband, in the course of nature, had died still
loving me, still faithful to me. So you see the cases are not identical.
And that only remarriage after divorce is defensible."
"I take your point," said Saterlee. She had spoken warmly and
vehemently, with an honest ring in her voice. "I have never thought of
it along those lines. See that furrow across the road--that's where a
snake has crossed. But I may as well tell you, Ma'am, that I myself have
buried more than one wife. And yet when I size myself up to myself I
don't seem a regular hell-hound."
"If we are to be on an honest footing," said the lady, "I must tell you
that I have divorced more than one husband, and yet when I size myself
up, as you call it, I do not seem to myself a lost woman. It's true that
I act for my living--"
"I know," he interrupted, "you are Mrs. Kimbal. But I thought I knew
more about you than I seem to. I'm Saterlee. And my business at
Carcasonne House is the same as yours."
She was silent for a moment. And then:
"Well," she said, "here we are. And that's lucky in a way. We both seem
to want the same thing--that is, to keep our children from marrying
each other. We can talk the matter over and decide how to do it."
"We can talk it over anyway, as you say," said Saterlee. "But--" and he
fished in his pocket and brought out his son's letter and gave it to
her. She read it in the waning light.
"But," he repeated gently, "that don't read like a letter that a brute
of a son would write to a brute of a father; now, does it?"
She did not answer. But she opened her purse and took out a carefully
and minutely folded sheet of note-paper.
"That's my Dolly's letter to me," she said, "and it doesn't sound
like--" her voice broke. He took the letter from her and read it.
"No, it doesn't," he said. And he said it roughly, because nothing
brought rough speech out of the man so surely as tears--when they were
in his own eyes.
"Well," said Mrs. Kimbal with a sigh, "let's talk."
"No," said Saterlee, "let's think."
They could hear from far ahead a sound as of roaring waters.
"That," said Saterlee dryly, "will be Gila River. Mebbe we'll have to
think about getting across that first. It's a river now, by the sound of
it, if it never was before."
"Fortunately it's not dark yet," said Mrs. Kimbal.
"The last time I had trouble with a river," said Saterlee, "was when my
first wife died. That was the American River in flood. I had to cross it
to get a doctor. We'd gone prospectin'--just the old woman and me--more
for a lark than profit."
"Yes?" said Mrs. Kimbal sympathetically.
"She took sick in an hour," he went on. "From what I've heard since, I
guess it was appendicitis. Anyway, I rode off for help, hell for
leather, and when I come to the river the whole thing was roaring and
foaming like a waterfall. My horse, and he was a good one, couldn't make
it. But I did. And when I come to it on the return trip with the doctor,
he gave one look and folded his arms. 'Mark,' he said, 'I'm no boaster,
but my life is not without value. I think it's my duty not to attempt
this crossing.' 'Jim,' I said, 'if you don't your soul will be
scotched. Don't you know it? Folks'll point at you as the doctor that
didn't dare.' 'It's not the daring, Mark,' he says, 'it's wanting to be
sure that I make the right choice.' I says: 'She was in terrible pain,
Jim. Many a time she's done you a good turn; some you know of, some you
don't.' That fetched him. He caught up his bridle and drove his spurs
into his horse, and was swept down-stream like a leaf. I rode along the
bank to help if I could. But he got across on a long diagonal--horse and
all. I waved to him to go on and not mind about me. And he rode off at
the gallop. But I was too heavy, I guess. I lost my second horse in that
flood, and had to foot it into camp. I was too late. Pain had made her
unconscious, and she was dead. But before givin' in she'd wrote me a
letter." He broke off short. "And there's Gila River," he said.
"I hoped you were going to tell me what your poor wife said in her
letter," said Mrs. Kimbal.
"Oh, Ma'am," he said, hesitated, cleared his throat, and became routed
"If you'd rather not--" said Mrs. Kimbal.
"It isn't that," he said. "It would seem like bragging."
"Surely not," she said.
Saterlee, with his eyes on the broad, brown flood which they were
approaching, repeated like a lesson:
"'Mark--I'm dying. I want it to do good, not harm. Jenny always thought
the world of you. You'll be lonely when I'm gone. I don't want you to be
lonely. You gave me peace on earth. And you can't be happy unless you've
got a woman to pet and pamper. That's your nature--'"
"That was all," he said, and wiped his forehead with the palm of his
hand. "It just stopped there."
"I'm glad you told me," said Mrs. Kimbal gently. "It will be a lesson
to me not to spring to conclusions, and not to make up my mind about
things I'm not familiar with."
When they came to where the road disappeared under the swift unbroken
brown of Gila River, the old horse paused of her own accord, and,
turning her bony and scarred head a half revolution, stared almost
rudely at the occupants of the buggy.
"It all depends," said Saterlee, "how deep the water runs over the road,
and whether we can keep to the road. You see, it comes out higher up
than it goes in. Can you swim, Ma'am?"
Mrs. Kimbal admitted that, in clothes made to the purpose, and in very
shallow water, she was not without proficiency.
"Would you rather we turned back?" he asked.
"I feel sure you'll get me over," said she.
"Then," said Saterlee, "let's put the hood down. In case we do capsize,
we don't want to get caught under it."
Saterlee on his side, and Mrs. Kimbal, not without exclamations of
annoyance, on hers, broke the toggle-joints that held the dilapidated
hood in place, and thrust it backward and down. At once the air seemed
to circulate with greater freshness.
For some moments Saterlee considered the river, up-stream, down-stream,
and across, knitting his brows to see better, for the light was failing
by leaps and bounds. Then, in an embarrassed voice:
"I've _got_ to do it," he said. "It's only right."
"What?" said Mrs. Kimbal.
"I feel sure," he said, "that under the circumstances you'll make every
Without further hesitation--in fact, with almost desperate haste, as if
wishing to dispose of a disagreeable duty--he ripped open the buttons of
his waistcoat and removed it at the same time with his coat, as if the
two had been but one garment. He tossed them into the bottom of the
buggy in a disorderly heap. But Mrs. Kimbal rescued them, separated
them, folded them neatly, and stowed them under the seat.
Saterlee made no comment. He was thinking of the state of a shirt that
he had had on since early morning, and was wondering how, with his
elbows pressed very tightly to his sides, he could possibly manage to
unlace his boots. He made one or two tentative efforts. But Mrs. Kimbal
seemed to divine the cause of his embarrassment.
"_Please_," she said, "don't mind anything--on my account."
He reached desperately, and regardlessly, for his boots, unlaced them,
and took them off.
"Why," exclaimed Mrs. Kimbal, "_both_ your heels need darning!"
Saterlee had tied his boots together, and was fastening them around his
neck by the remainder of the laces.
"I haven't anybody to do my darning now," he said. "My girls are all at
school, except two that's married. So--" He finished his knot, took the
reins in his left hand and the whip in his right.
At first the old mare would not budge. Switching was of no avail.
Saterlee brought down the whip upon her with a sound like that of small
cannon. She sighed and walked gingerly into the river.
The water rose slowly (or the river bottom shelved very gradually), and
they were half-way across before it had reached the hubs of the wheels.
But the mare appeared to be in deeper. She refused to advance, and once
more turned and stared with a kind of wistful rudeness. Then she saw the
whip, before it fell, made a desperate plunge, and floundered forward
into deep water--but without the buggy.
One rotten shaft had broken clean off, both rotten traces, and the
reins, upon which hitherto there had been no warning pull, were jerked
from Saterlee's loose fingers. The old mare reached the further shore
presently, swimming and scrambling upon a descending diagonal, stalked
sedately up the bank, and then stood still, only turning her head to
look at the buggy stranded in mid-stream. The sight appeared to arouse
whatever of youthful mischief remained in the feeble old heart. She
seemed to gather herself for a tremendous effort, then snorted once, and
kicked thrice--three feeble kicks of perhaps six inches in the
Mrs. Kimbal exploded into laughter.
"Wouldn't you know she was a woman?" she said.
But Saterlee was climbing out of the buggy.
"Now," said he, "if you'll just tie my coat round your neck by the
sleeves--let the vest go hang--and then you'll have to let me
Mrs. Kimbal did as she was told. But the buggy, relieved at last of all
weight, slid off sidewise with the current, turned turtle, and was
carried swiftly down-stream. Saterlee staggering, for the footing was
uncertain, and holding Mrs. Kimbal high in his arms, started for shore.
The water rose above his waist, and kept rising. He halted, bracing
himself against the current.
"Ma'am," he said in a discouraged voice, "it's no use. I've just got to
let you get wet. We've got to swim to make it."
"All right," she said cheerfully.
"Some folks," he said, "likes to go overboard sudden; some likes to go
in by degrees."
"Between the two for me," said Mrs. Kimbal. "Not suddenly, but firmly
and without hesitation."
She gave a little shivery gasp.
"It's not really cold," she said. "How strong the current pulls. Will
you have to swim and tow me?"
"Yes," he said.
"Then wait," she said. "Don't let me be carried away."
He steadied her while she drew the hat-pins from her hat and dropped it
as carelessly on the water as if that had been her dressing-table. Then
she took down her hair. It was in two great brown, shining braids. The
ends disappeared in the water, listing down-stream.
Shorn of her hat and her elaborate hair-dressing, the lady was no longer
showy, and Saterlee, out of the tail of an admiring eye, began to see
real beauties about her that had hitherto eluded him. Whatever other
good qualities and virtues she may have tossed overboard during a stormy
and unhappy life, she had still her nerve with her. So Saterlee
"It will be easier, won't it," she said, "if you have my hair to hold
by? I think I can manage to keep on my back."
"May I, Ma'am?" said Saterlee.
She laughed at his embarrassment. And half-thrust the two great braids
into the keeping of his strong left hand.
A moment later Saterlee could no longer keep his footing.
"Now, Ma'am," he said, "just let yourself go."
And he swam to shallow water, not without great labor, towing Mrs.