Part 3 out of 5
cattle pond in the big pasture. They went together into Fritz
Oberlies' barn, and read the letters and talked things over. Eric
admitted that things were getting hard for him at home. That very
night old Joe sat down and laboriously penned a statement of the
case to his daughter.
Things got no better for Eric. His mother and Olaf felt
that, however closely he was watched, he still, as they said,
"heard." Mrs. Ericson could not admit neutrality. She had sent
Johanna Vavrika packing back to her brother's, though Olaf would
much rather have kept her than Anders' eldest daughter, whom Mrs.
Ericson installed in her place. He was not so highhanded as his
mother, and he once sulkily told her that she might better have
taught her granddaughter to cook before she sent Johanna away.
Olaf could have borne a good deal for the sake of prunes spiced
in honey, the secret of which Johanna had taken away with her.
At last two letters came to Joe Vavrika: one from Nils,
enclosing a postal order for money to pay Eric's passage to
Bergen, and one from Clara, saying that Nils had a place for Eric
in the offices of his company, that he was to live with them, and
that they were only waiting for him to come. He was to leave New
York on one of the boats of Nils' own line; the captain was one
of their friends, and Eric was to make himself known at once.
Nils' directions were so explicit that a baby could have
followed them, Eric felt. And here he was, nearing Red Oak,
Iowa, and rocking backward and forward in despair. Never had he
loved his brother so much, and never had the big world called to
him so hard. But there was a lump in his throat which would not
go down. Ever since nightfall he had been tormented by the
thought of his mother, alone in that big house that had sent
forth so many men. Her unkindness now seemed so little, and her
loneliness so great. He remembered everything she had ever done
for him: how frightened she had been when he tore his hand in the
corn-sheller, and how she wouldn't let Olaf scold him. When Nils
went away he didn't leave his mother all alone, or he would never
have gone. Eric felt sure of that.
The train whistled. The conductor came in, smiling not unkindly.
"Well, young man, what are you going to do? We stop at Red Oak in
"Yes, thank you. I'll let you know." The conductor went out,
and the boy doubled up with misery. He couldn't let his one chance
go like this. He felt for his breast pocket and crackled Nils'
letter to give him courage. He didn't want Nils to be ashamed of
him. The train stopped. Suddenly he remembered his brother's
kind, twinkling eyes, that always looked at you as if from far
away. The lump in his throat softened. "Ah, but Nils, Nils would
understand!" he thought. "That's just it about Nils; he
A lank, pale boy with a canvas telescope stumbled off the
train to the Red Oak siding, just as the conductor called, "All
The next night Mrs. Ericson was sitting alone in her wooden
rocking-chair on the front porch. Little Hilda had been sent to
bed and had cried herself to sleep. The old woman's knitting was
on her lap, but her hands lay motionless on top of it. For more
than an hour she had not moved a muscle. She simply sat, as only
the Ericsons and the mountains can sit. The house was dark, and
there was no sound but the croaking of the frogs down in the pond
of the little pasture.
Eric did not come home by the road, but across the fields,
where no one could see him. He set his telescope down softly in
the kitchen shed, and slipped noiselessly along the path to the
front porch. He sat down on the step without saying anything.
Mrs. Ericson made no sign, and the frogs croaked on. At last the
boy spoke timidly.
"I've come back, Mother."
"Very well," said Mrs. Ericson.
Eric leaned over and picked up a little stick out of the grass.
"How about the milking?" he faltered.
"That's been done, hours ago."
"Who did you get?"
"Get? I did it myself. I can milk as good as any of you."
Eric slid along the step nearer to her. "Oh, Mother, why did you?"
he asked sorrowfully. "Why didn't you get one of Otto's boys?"
"I didn't want anybody to know I was in need of a boy," said
Mrs. Ericson bitterly. She looked straight in front of her and her
mouth tightened. "I always meant to give you the home farm," she
The boy stared and slid closer. "Oh, Mother," he faltered, "I
don't care about the farm. I came back because I thought you might
be needing me, maybe." He hung his head and got no further.
"Very well," said Mrs. Ericson. Her hand went out from her
suddenly and rested on his head. Her fingers twined themselves in
his soft, pale hair. His tears splashed down on the boards;
happiness filled his heart.
The Troll Garden
Flavia and Her Artists
As the train neared Tarrytown, Imogen Willard began to
wonder why she had consented to be one of Flavia's house party at
all. She had not felt enthusiastic about it since leaving the
city, and was experiencing a prolonged ebb of purpose, a current
of chilling indecision, under which she vainly sought for the
motive which had induced her to accept Flavia's invitation.
Perhaps it was a vague curiosity to see Flavia's husband,
who had been the magician of her childhood and the hero of
innumerable Arabian fairy tales. Perhaps it was a desire to see
M. Roux, whom Flavia had announced as the especial attraction of
the occasion. Perhaps it was a wish to study that remarkable
woman in her own setting.
Imogen admitted a mild curiosity concerning Flavia. She was
in the habit of taking people rather seriously, but somehow found
it impossible to take Flavia so, because of the very vehemence
and insistence with which Flavia demanded it. Submerged in her
studies, Imogen had, of late years, seen very little of Flavia;
but Flavia, in her hurried visits to New York, between her
excursions from studio to studio--her luncheons with this lady
who had to play at a matinee, and her dinners with that singer
who had an evening concert--had seen enough of her friend's
handsome daughter to conceive for her an inclination of such
violence and assurance as only Flavia could afford. The fact
that Imogen had shown rather marked capacity in certain esoteric
lines of scholarship, and had decided to specialize in a well-
sounding branch of philology at the Ecole des Chartes, had fairly
placed her in that category of "interesting people" whom Flavia
considered her natural affinities, and lawful prey.
When Imogen stepped upon the station platform she was immediately
appropriated by her hostess, whose commanding figure and assurance
of attire she had recognized from a distance. She was hurried into
a high tilbury and Flavia, taking the driver's cushion beside her,
gathered up the reins with an experienced hand.
"My dear girl," she remarked, as she turned the horses up the
street, "I was afraid the train might be late. M. Roux insisted
upon coming up by boat and did not arrive until after seven."
"To think of M. Roux's being in this part of the world at
all, and subject to the vicissitudes of river boats! Why in the
world did he come over?" queried Imogen with lively interest.
"He is the sort of man who must dissolve and become a shadow
outside of Paris."
"Oh, we have a houseful of the most interesting people,"
said Flavia, professionally. "We have actually managed to get
Ivan Schemetzkin. He was ill in California at the close of his
concert tour, you know, and he is recuperating with us, after his
wearing journey from the coast. Then there is Jules Martel, the
painter; Signor Donati, the tenor; Professor Schotte, who has dug
up Assyria, you know; Restzhoff, the Russian chemist; Alcee
Buisson, the philologist; Frank Wellington, the novelist; and
Will Maidenwood, the editor of Woman. Then there is my
second cousin, Jemima Broadwood, who made such a hit in Pinero's
comedy last winter, and Frau Lichtenfeld. Have you read
Imogen confessed her utter ignorance of Frau Lichtenfeld,
and Flavia went on.
"Well, she is a most remarkable person; one of those
advanced German women, a militant iconoclast, and this drive will
not be long enough to permit of my telling you her history. Such
a story! Her novels were the talk of all Germany when I was there
last, and several of them have been suppressed--an honor in
Germany, I understand. 'At Whose Door' has been translated. I
am so unfortunate as not to read German."
"I'm all excitement at the prospect of meeting Miss
Broadwood," said Imogen. "I've seen her in nearly everything she
does. Her stage personality is delightful. She always reminds me
of a nice, clean, pink-and-white boy who has just had his cold
bath, and come down all aglow for a run before breakfast."
"Yes, but isn't it unfortunate that she will limit herself to
those minor comedy parts that are so little appreciated in this
country? One ought to be satisfied with nothing less than the
best, ought one?" The peculiar, breathy tone in which Flavia
always uttered that word "best," the most worn in her vocabulary,
always jarred on Imogen and always made her obdurate.
"I don't at all agree with you," she said reservedly. "I
thought everyone admitted that the most remarkable thing about Miss
Broadwood is her admirable sense of fitness, which is rare enough
in her profession."
Flavia could not endure being contradicted; she always seemed
to regard it in the light of a defeat, and usually colored
unbecomingly. Now she changed the subject.
"Look, my dear," she cried, "there is Frau Lichtenfeld now,
coming to meet us. Doesn't she look as if she had just escaped out
of Valhalla? She is actually over six feet."
Imogen saw a woman of immense stature, in a very short skirt
and a broad, flapping sun hat, striding down the hillside at a
long, swinging gait. The refugee from Valhalla approached,
panting. Her heavy, Teutonic features were scarlet from the rigor
of her exercise, and her hair, under her flapping sun hat, was
tightly befrizzled about her brow. She fixed her sharp little eves
upon Imogen and extended both her hands.
"So this is the little friend?" she cried, in a rolling baritone.
Imogen was quite as tall as her hostess; but everything, she
reflected, is comparative. After the introduction Flavia
"I wish I could ask you to drive up with us, Frau Lichtenfeld."
"Ah, no!" cried the giantess, drooping her head in humorous
caricature of a time-honored pose of the heroines of sentimental
romances. "It has never been my fate to be fitted into corners.
I have never known the sweet privileges of the tiny."
Laughing, Flavia started the ponies, and the colossal woman,
standing in the middle of the dusty road, took off her wide hat
and waved them a farewell which, in scope of gesture, recalled
the salute of a plumed cavalier.
When they arrived at the house, Imogen looked about her with
keen curiosity, for this was veritably the work of Flavia's
hands, the materialization of hopes long deferred. They passed
directly into a large, square hall with a gallery on three sides,
studio fashion. This opened at one end into a Dutch breakfast
room, beyond which was the large dining room. At the other end
of the hall was the music room. There was a smoking room, which
one entered through the library behind the staircase. On the
second floor there was the same general arrangement: a square
hall, and, opening from it, the guest chambers, or, as Miss
Broadwood termed them, the "cages."
When Imogen went to her room, the guests had begun to return
from their various afternoon excursions. Boys were gliding
through the halls with ice water, covered trays, and flowers,
colliding with maids and valets who carried shoes and other
articles of wearing apparel. Yet, all this was done in response
to inaudible bells, on felt soles, and in hushed voices, so that
there was very little confusion about it.
Flavia had at last built her house and hewn out her seven
pillars; there could be no doubt, now, that the asylum for
talent, the sanatorium of the arts, so long projected, was an
accomplished fact. Her ambition had long ago outgrown the
dimensions of her house on Prairie Avenue; besides, she had
bitterly complained that in Chicago traditions were against her.
Her project had been delayed by Arthur's doggedly standing out
for the Michigan woods, but Flavia knew well enough that certain
of the rarae aves--"the best"--could not be lured so far
away from the seaport, so she declared herself for the historic
Hudson and knew no retreat. The establishing of a New York office
had at length overthrown Arthur's last valid objection to quitting
the lake country for three months of the year; and Arthur could
be wearied into anything, as those who knew him knew.
Flavia's house was the mirror of her exultation; it was
a temple to the gods of Victory, a sort of triumphal arch. In
her earlier days she had swallowed experiences that would have
unmanned one of less torrential enthusiasm or blind pertinacity.
But, of late years, her determination had told; she saw less and
less of those mysterious persons with mysterious obstacles in
their path and mysterious grievances against the world, who had
once frequented her house on Prairie Avenue. In the stead of
this multitude of the unarrived, she had now the few, the select,
"the best." Of all that band of indigent retainers who had once
fed at her board like the suitors in the halls of Penelope, only
Alcee Buisson still retained his right of entree. He alone had
remembered that ambition hath a knapsack at his back, wherein he
puts alms to oblivion, and he alone had been considerate enough
to do what Flavia had expected of him, and give his name a
current value in the world. Then, as Miss Broadwood put it, "he
was her first real one,"--and Flavia, like Mohammed, could
remember her first believer.
"The House of Song," as Miss Broadwood had called it, was
the outcome of Flavia's more exalted strategies. A woman who
made less a point of sympathizing with their delicate organisms,
might have sought to plunge these phosphorescent pieces into the
tepid bath of domestic life; but Flavia's discernment was deeper.
This must be a refuge where the shrinking soul, the sensitive
brain, should be unconstrained; where the caprice of fancy should
outweigh the civil code, if necessary. She considered that this
much Arthur owed her; for she, in her turn, had made concessions.
Flavia had, indeed, quite an equipment of epigrams to the effect
that our century creates the iron genii which evolve its fairy
tales: but the fact that her husband's name was annually painted
upon some ten thousand threshing machines in reality contributed
very little to her happiness.
Arthur Hamilton was born and had spent his boyhood in the
West Indies, and physically he had never lost the brand of the
tropics. His father, after inventing the machine which bore his
name, had returned to the States to patent and manufacture it.
After leaving college, Arthur had spent five years ranching in
the West and traveling abroad. Upon his father's death
he had returned to Chicago and, to the astonishment of all his
friends, had taken up the business--without any demonstration of
enthusiasm, but with quiet perseverance, marked ability, and
amazing industry. Why or how a self-sufficient, rather ascetic
man of thirty, indifferent in manner, wholly negative in all
other personal relations, should have doggedly wooed and finally
married Flavia Malcolm was a problem that had vexed older heads
While Imogen was dressing she heard a knock at her door, and
a young woman entered whom she at once recognized as Jemima
Broadwood--"Jimmy" Broadwood she was called by people in her own
profession. While there was something unmistakably professional
in her frank savoir-faire, "Jimmy's" was one of those faces
to which the rouge never seems to stick. Her eyes were keen and
gray as a windy April sky, and so far from having been seared by
calcium lights, you might have fancied they had never looked on
anything less bucolic than growing fields and country fairs. She
wore her thick, brown hair short and parted at the side; and,
rather than hinting at freakishness, this seemed admirably in
keeping with her fresh, boyish countenance. She extended to
Imogen a large, well-shaped hand which it was a pleasure to
"Ah! You are Miss Willard, and I see I need not introduce
myself. Flavia said you were kind enough to express a wish to
meet me, and I preferred to meet you alone. Do you mind if I
"Why, certainly not," said Imogen, somewhat disconcerted and
looking hurriedly about for matches.
"There, be calm, I'm always prepared," said Miss Broadwood,
checking Imogen's flurry with a soothing gesture, and producing
an oddly fashioned silver match-case from some mysterious recess
in her dinner gown. She sat down in a deep chair, crossed her
patent-leather Oxfords, and lit her cigarette. "This matchbox,"
she went on meditatively, "once belonged to a Prussian officer.
He shot himself in his bathtub, and I bought it at the sale of
Imogen had not yet found any suitable reply to make to this
rather irrelevant confidence, when Miss Broadwood turned to her
cordially: "I'm awfully glad you've come, Miss Willard, though I've
not quite decided why you did it. I wanted very much to meet you.
Flavia gave me your thesis to read."
"Why, how funny!" ejaculated Imogen.
"On the contrary," remarked Miss Broadwood. "I thought it
decidedly lacked humor."
"I meant," stammered Imogen, beginning to feel very much
like Alice in Wonderland, "I meant that I thought it rather
strange Mrs. Hamilton should fancy you would be interested."
Miss Broadwood laughed heartily. "Now, don't let my
rudeness frighten you. Really, I found it very interesting, and
no end impressive. You see, most people in my profession are
good for absolutely nothing else, and, therefore, they have a
deep and abiding conviction that in some other line they might
have shone. Strange to say, scholarship is the object of our
envious and particular admiration. Anything in type impresses us
greatly; that's why so many of us marry authors or newspapermen
and lead miserable lives." Miss Broadwood saw that she had rather
disconcerted Imogen, and blithely tacked in another direction.
"You see," she went on, tossing aside her half-consumed
cigarette, "some years ago Flavia would not have deemed me worthy
to open the pages of your thesis--nor to be one of her house
party of the chosen, for that matter. I've Pinero to thank for
both pleasures. It all depends on the class of business I'm
playing whether I'm in favor or not. Flavia is my second cousin,
you know, so I can say whatever disagreeable things I choose with
perfect good grace. I'm quite desperate for someone to laugh
with, so I'm going to fasten myself upon you--for, of course, one
can't expect any of these gypsy-dago people to see anything
funny. I don't intend you shall lose the humor of the situation.
What do you think of Flavia's infirmary for the arts, anyway?"
"Well, it's rather too soon for me to have any opinion at
all," said Imogen, as she again turned to her dressing. "So far,
you are the only one of the artists I've met."
"One of them?" echoed Miss Broadwood. "One of the artists?
My offense may be rank, my dear, but I really don't deserve
that. Come, now, whatever badges of my tribe I may bear upon me,
just let me divest you of any notion that I take myself seriously."
Imogen turned from the mirror in blank astonishment and sat
down on the arm of a chair, facing her visitor. "I can't fathom
you at all, Miss Broadwood," she said frankly. "Why shouldn't
you take yourself seriously? What's the use of beating about the
bush? Surely you know that you are one of the few players on this
side of the water who have at all the spirit of natural or
"Thank you, my dear. Now we are quite even about the thesis,
aren't we? Oh, did you mean it? Well, you are a clever
girl. But you see it doesn't do to permit oneself to look at it
in that light. If we do, we always go to pieces and waste our
substance astarring as the unhappy daughter of the Capulets. But
there, I hear Flavia coming to take you down; and just remember
I'm not one of them--the artists, I mean."
Flavia conducted Imogen and Miss Broadwood downstairs. As
they reached the lower hall they heard voices from the music
room, and dim figures were lurking in the shadows under the
gallery, but their hostess led straight to the smoking room. The
June evening was chilly, and a fire had been lighted in the
fireplace. Through the deepening dusk, the firelight flickered
upon the pipes and curious weapons on the wall and threw an
orange glow over the Turkish hangings. One side of the smoking
room was entirely of glass, separating it from the conservatory,
which was flooded with white light from the electric bulbs.
There was about the darkened room some suggestion of certain
chambers in the Arabian Nights, opening on a court of palms.
Perhaps it was partially this memory-evoking suggestion that
caused Imogen to start so violently when she saw dimly, in a blur
of shadow, the figure of a man, who sat smoking in a low, deep
chair before the fire. He was long, and thin, and brown. His
long, nerveless hands drooped from the arms of his chair. A
brown mustache shaded his mouth, and his eyes were sleepy and
apathetic. When Imogen entered he rose indolently and gave her
his hand, his manner barely courteous.
"I am glad you arrived promptly, Miss Willard," he said with
an indifferent drawl. "Flavia was afraid you might be late. You
had a pleasant ride up, I hope?"
"Oh, very, thank you, Mr. Hamilton," she replied, feeling
that he did not particularly care whether she replied at all.
Flavia explained that she had not yet had time to dress for
dinner, as she had been attending to Mr. Will Maidenwood, who had
become faint after hurting his finger in an obdurate window, and
immediately excused herself As she left, Hamilton turned to Miss
Broadwood with a rather spiritless smile.
"Well, Jimmy," he remarked, "I brought up a piano box full
of fireworks for the boys. How do you suppose we'll manage to
keep them until the Fourth?"
"We can't, unless we steel ourselves to deny there are any on the
premises," said Miss Broadwood, seating herself on a low stool by
Hamilton's chair and leaning back against the mantel. "Have you
seen Helen, and has she told you the tragedy of the tooth?"
"She met me at the station, with her tooth wrapped up in
tissue paper. I had tea with her an hour ago. Better sit down,
Miss Willard;" he rose and pushed a chair toward Imogen, who was
standing peering into the conservatory. "We are scheduled to
dine at seven, but they seldom get around before eight."
By this time Imogen had made out that here the plural
pronoun, third person, always referred to the artists. As
Hamilton's manner did not spur one to cordial intercourse, and as
his attention seemed directed to Miss Broadwood, insofar as it
could be said to be directed to anyone, she sat down facing the
conservatory and watched him, unable to decide in how far he was
identical with the man who had first met Flavia Malcolm in her
mother's house, twelve years ago. Did he at all remember having
known her as a little girl, and why did his indifference hurt her
so, after all these years? Had some remnant of her childish
affection for him gone on living, somewhere down in the sealed
caves of her consciousness, and had she really expected to find
it possible to be fond of him again? Suddenly she saw a light in
the man's sleepy eyes, an unmistakable expression of
interest and pleasure that fairly startled her. She turned
quickly in the direction of his glance, and saw Flavia, just
entering, dressed for dinner and lit by the effulgence of her
most radiant manner. Most people considered Flavia handsome,
and there was no gainsaying that she carried her five-and-thirty
years splendidly. Her figure had never grown matronly, and her
face was of the sort that does not show wear. Its blond tints
were as fresh and enduring as enamel--and quite as hard. Its
usual expression was one of tense, often strained, animation,
which compressed her lips nervously. A perfect scream of
animation, Miss Broadwood had called it, created and maintained
by sheer, indomitable force of will. Flavia's appearance on any
scene whatever made a ripple, caused a certain agitation and
recognition, and, among impressionable people, a certain
uneasiness, For all her sparkling assurance of manner, Flavia
was certainly always ill at ease and, even more certainly,
anxious. She seemed not convinced of the established order of
material things, seemed always trying to conceal her feeling that
walls might crumble, chasms open, or the fabric of her life fly
to the winds in irretrievable entanglement. At least this was
the impression Imogen got from that note in Flavia which was so
Hamilton's keen, quick, satisfied glance at his wife had
recalled to Imogen all her inventory of speculations about them.
She looked at him with compassionate surprise. As a child she
had never permitted herself to believe that Hamilton cared at all
for the woman who had taken him away from her; and since she had
begun to think about them again, it had never occurred to her
that anyone could become attached to Flavia in that deeply
personal and exclusive sense. It seemed quite as irrational as
trying to possess oneself of Broadway at noon.
When they went out to dinner Imogen realized the completeness of
Flavia's triumph. They were people of one name, mostly, like
kings; people whose names stirred the imagination like a romance or
a melody. With the notable exception of M. Roux, Imogen had seen
most of them before, either in concert halls or lecture rooms; but
they looked noticeably older and dimmer than she remembered them.
Opposite her sat Schemetzkin, the Russian pianist, a short,
corpulent man, with an apoplectic face and purplish skin, his
thick, iron-gray hair tossed back from his forehead. Next to the
German giantess sat the Italian tenor --the tiniest of men--pale,
with soft, light hair, much in disorder, very red lips, and
fingers yellowed by cigarettes. Frau Lichtenfeld shone in a gown
of emerald green, fitting so closely as to enhance her natural
floridness. However, to do the good lady justice, let her attire
be never so modest, it gave an effect of barbaric splendor. At
her left sat Herr Schotte, the Assyriologist, whose features were
effectually concealed by the convergence of his hair and beard,
and whose glasses were continually falling into his plate. This
gentleman had removed more tons of earth in the course of his
explorations than had any of his confreres, and his vigorous
attack upon his food seemed to suggest the strenuous nature of
his accustomed toil. His eyes were small and deeply set, and his
forehead bulged fiercely above his eves in a bony ridge. His
heavy brows completed the leonine suggestion of his face. Even
to Imogen, who knew something of his work and greatly respected
it, he was entirely too reminiscent of the Stone Age to be
altogether an agreeable dinner companion. He seemed, indeed, to
have absorbed something of the savagery of those early types of
life which he continually studied.
Frank Wellington, the young Kansas man who had been two
years out of Harvard and had published three historical novels,
sat next to Mr. Will Maidenwood, who was still pale from his
recent sufferings and carried his hand bandaged. They took
little part in the general conversation, but, like the lion and
the unicorn, were always at it, discussing, every time they met,
whether there were or were not passages in Mr. Wellington's works
which should be eliminated, out of consideration for the Young
Person. Wellington had fallen into the hands of a great American
syndicate which most effectually befriended struggling authors
whose struggles were in the right direction, and which had
guaranteed to make him famous before he was thirty. Feeling the
security of his position he stoutly defended those passages which
jarred upon the sensitive nerves of the young editor of
Woman. Maidenwood, in the smoothest of voices, urged the
necessity of the author's recognizing certain restrictions at the
outset, and Miss Broadwood, who joined the argument quite without
invitation or encouragement, seconded him with pointed and
malicious remarks which caused the young editor manifest
discomfort. Restzhoff, the chemist, demanded the attention of the
entire company for his exposition of his devices for manufacturing
ice cream from vegetable oils and for administering drugs in
Flavia, always noticeably restless at dinner, was somewhat
apathetic toward the advocate of peptonized chocolate and was
plainly concerned about the sudden departure of M. Roux, who had
announced that it would be necessary for him to leave tomorrow.
M. Emile Roux, who sat at Flavia's right, was a man in middle
life and quite bald, clearly without personal vanity, though his
publishers preferred to circulate only those of his portraits
taken in his ambrosial youth. Imogen was considerably shocked at
his unlikeness to the slender, black-stocked Rolla he had looked
at twenty. He had declined into the florid, settled heaviness of
indifference and approaching age. There was, however, a certain
look of durability and solidity about him; the look of a man who
has earned the right to be fat and bald, and even silent at
dinner if he chooses.
Throughout the discussion between Wellington and Will
Maidenwood, though they invited his participation, he remained
silent, betraying no sign either of interest or contempt. Since
his arrival he had directed most of his conversation to Hamilton,
who had never read one of his twelve great novels. This
perplexed and troubled Flavia. On the night of his arrival Jules
Martel had enthusiastically declared, "There are schools and
schools, manners and manners; but Roux is Roux, and Paris sets
its watches by his clock." Flavia bad already repeated this
remark to Imogen. It haunted her, and each time she quoted it
she was impressed anew.
Flavia shifted the conversation uneasily, evidently exasperated
and excited by her repeated failures to draw the novelist out.
"Monsieur Roux," she began abruptly, with her most animated smile,
"I remember so well a statement I read some years ago in your 'Mes
Etudes des Femmes' to the effect that you had never met a really
intellectual woman. May I ask, without being impertinent, whether
that assertion still represents your experience?"
"I meant, madam," said the novelist conservatively, "intellectual
in a sense very special, as we say of men in whom the purely
intellectual functions seem almost independent."
"And you still think a woman so constituted a mythical
personage?" persisted Flavia, nodding her head encouragingly.
"Une Meduse, madam, who, if she were discovered, would
transmute us all into stone," said the novelist, bowing gravely.
"If she existed at all," he added deliberately, "it was my
business to find her, and she has cost me many a vain pilgrimage.
Like Rudel of Tripoli, I have crossed seas and penetrated deserts
to seek her out. I have, indeed, encountered women of learning
whose industry I have been compelled to respect; many who have
possessed beauty and charm and perplexing cleverness; a few with
remarkable information and a sort of fatal facility."
"And Mrs. Browning, George Eliot, and your own Mme. Dudevant?"
queried Flavia with that fervid enthusiasm with which she could, on
occasion, utter things simply incomprehensible for their
banality--at her feats of this sort Miss Broadwood was wont to sit
breathless with admiration.
"Madam, while the intellect was undeniably present in the
performances of those women, it was only the stick of the rocket.
Although this woman has eluded me I have studied her conditions
and perturbances as astronomers conjecture the orbits of planets
they have never seen. if she exists, she is probably neither an
artist nor a woman with a mission, but an obscure personage, with
imperative intellectual needs, who absorbs rather than produces."
Flavia, still nodding nervously, fixed a strained glance of
interrogation upon M. Roux. "Then you think she would be a woman
whose first necessity would be to know, whose instincts would be
satisfied only with the best, who could draw from others;
The novelist lifted his dull eyes to his interlocutress with
an untranslatable smile and a slight inclination of his
shoulders. "Exactly so; you are really remarkable, madam," he
added, in a tone of cold astonishment.
After dinner the guests took their coffee in the music room,
where Schemetzkin sat down at the piano to drum ragtime, and give
his celebrated imitation of the boardingschool girl's execution
of Chopin. He flatly refused to play anything more serious, and
would practice only in the morning, when he had the music room to
himself. Hamilton and M. Roux repaired to the smoking room to
discuss the necessity of extending the tax on manufactured
articles in France--one of those conversations which particularly
After Schemetzkin had grimaced and tortured the keyboard
with malicious vulgarities for half an hour, Signor Donati, to
put an end to his torture, consented to sing, and Flavia and
Imogen went to fetch Arthur to play his accompaniments. Hamilton
rose with an annoyed look and placed his cigarette on the mantel.
"Why yes, Flavia, I'll accompany him, provided he sings something
with a melody, Italian arias or ballads, and provided the recital
is not interminable."
"You will join us, M. Roux?"
"Thank you, but I have some letters to write," replied the
As Flavia had remarked to Imogen, "Arthur really played
accompaniments remarkably well." To hear him recalled vividly the
days of her childhood, when he always used to spend his business
vacations at her mother's home in Maine. He had possessed for
her that almost hypnotic influence which young men sometimes
exert upon little girls. It was a sort of phantom love affair,
subjective and fanciful, a precocity of instinct, like that
tender and maternal concern which some little girls feel for
their dolls. Yet this childish infatuation is capable of all the
depressions and exaltations of love itself, it has its bitter
jealousies, cruel disappointments, its exacting caprices.
Summer after summer she had awaited his coming and wept at his
departure, indifferent to the gayer young men who had called her
their sweetheart and laughed at everything she said. Although
Hamilton never said so, she had been always quite sure that he was
fond of her. When he pulled her up the river to hunt for fairy
knolls shut about by low, hanging willows, he was often silent for
an hour at a time, yet she never felt he was bored or was
neglecting her. He would lie in the sand smoking, his eyes
half-closed, watching her play, and she was always conscious that
she was entertaining him. Sometimes he would take a copy of "Alice
in Wonderland" in his pocket, and no one could read it as he could,
laughing at her with his dark eyes, when anything amused him. No
one else could laugh so, with just their eyes, and without moving
a muscle of their face. Though he usually smiled at passages that
seemed not at all funny to the child, she always laughed gleefully,
because he was so seldom moved to mirth that any such demonstration
delighted her and she took the credit of it entirely to herself Her
own inclination had been for serious stories, with sad endings,
like the Little Mermaid, which he had once told her in an unguarded
moment when she had a cold, and was put to bed early on her
birthday night and cried because she could not have her party. But
he highly disapproved of this preference, and had called it a
morbid taste, and always shook his finger at her when she asked for
the story. When she had been particularly good, or particularly
neglected by other people, then he would sometimes melt and tell
her the story, and never laugh at her if she enjoyed the "sad
ending" even to tears. When Flavia had taken him away and he came
no more, she wept inconsolably for the space of two weeks, and
refused to learn her lessons. Then she found the story of the
Little Mermaid herself, and forgot him.
Imogen had discovered at dinner that he could still smile at
one secretly, out of his eyes, and that he had the old manner of
outwardly seeming bored, but letting you know that he was not.
She was intensely curious about his exact state of feeling toward
his wife, and more curious still to catch a sense of his final
adjustment to the conditions of life in general. This, she could
not help feeling, she might get again--if she could have him alone
for an hour, in some place where there was a little river and a
sandy cove bordered by drooping willows, and a blue sky seen
through white sycamore boughs.
That evening, before retiring, Flavia entered her husband's
room, where be sat in his smoking jacket, in one of his favorite
"I suppose it's a grave responsibility to bring an ardent,
serious young thing like Imogen here among all these fascinating
personages," she remarked reflectively. "But, after all, one can
never tell. These grave, silent girls have their own charm, even
for facile people."
"Oh, so that is your plan?" queried her husband dryly. "I
was wondering why you got her up here. She doesn't seem to mix
well with the faciles. At least, so it struck me."
Flavia paid no heed to this jeering remark, but repeated, "No,
after all, it may not be a bad thing."
"Then do consign her to that shaken reed, the tenor," said
her husband yawning. "I remember she used to have a taste for
"And then," remarked Flavia coquettishly, "after all, I owe her
mother a return in kind. She was not afraid to trifle with
But Hamilton was asleep in his chair.
Next morning Imogen found only Miss Broadwood in the breakfast
"Good morning, my dear girl, whatever are you doing up so
early? They never breakfast before eleven. Most of them take
their coffee in their room. Take this place by me."
Miss Broadwood looked particularly fresh and encouraging in
her blue serge walking skirt, her open jacket displaying an
expanse of stiff, white shirt bosom, dotted with some almost
imperceptible figure, and a dark blue-and-white necktie, neatly
knotted under her wide, rolling collar. She wore a white rosebud
in the lapel of her coat, and decidedly she seemed more than ever
like a nice, clean boy on his holiday. Imogen was just hoping
that they would breakfast alone when Miss Broadwood exclaimed,
"Ah, there comes Arthur with the children. That's the reward of
early rising in this house; you never get to see the youngsters
at any other time."
Hamilton entered, followed by two dark, handsome little
boys. The girl, who was very tiny, blonde like her mother, and
exceedingly frail, he carried in his arms. The boys came up and
said good morning with an ease and cheerfulness uncommon, even in
well-bred children, but the little girl hid her face on her
"She's a shy little lady," he explained as he put her gently
down in her chair. "I'm afraid she's like her father; she can't
seem to get used to meeting people. And you, Miss Willard, did
you dream of the White Rabbit or the Little Mermaid?"
"Oh, I dreamed of them all! All the personages of that
buried civilization," cried Imogen, delighted that his estranged
manner of the night before had entirely vanished and feeling
that, somehow, the old confidential relations had been restored
during the night.
"Come, William," said Miss Broadwood, turning to the younger
of the two boys, "and what did you dream about?"
"We dreamed," said William gravely--he was the more assertive of
the two and always spoke for both--"we dreamed that there were
fireworks hidden in the basement of the carriage house; lots and
lots of fireworks."
His elder brother looked up at him with apprehensive
astonishment, while Miss Broadwood hastily put her napkin to her
lips and Hamilton dropped his eyes. "If little boys dream
things, they are so apt not to come true," he reflected sadly.
This shook even the redoubtable William, and he glanced nervously
at his brother. "But do things vanish just because they have
been dreamed?" he objected.
"Generally that is the very best reason for their vanishing,"
said Arthur gravely.
"But, Father, people can't help what they dream,"
remonstrated Edward gently.
"Oh, come! You're making these children talk like a
Maeterlinck dialogue," laughed Miss Broadwood.
Flavia presently entered, a book in her hand, and bade them all
good morning. "Come, little people, which story shall it be this
morning?" she asked winningly. Greatly excited, the children
followed her into the garden. "She does then, sometimes," murmured
Imogen as they left the breakfast room.
"Oh, yes, to be sure," said Miss Broadwood cheerfully. "She
reads a story to them every morning in the most picturesque part
of the garden. The mother of the Gracchi, you know. She does so
long, she says, for the time when they will be intellectual
companions for her. What do you say to a walk over the hills?"
As they left the house they met Frau Lichtenfeld and the
bushy Herr Schotte--the professor cut an astonishing figure in
golf stockings--returning from a walk and engaged in an animated
conversation on the tendencies of German fiction.
"Aren't they the most attractive little children," exclaimed
Imogen as they wound down the road toward the river.
"Yes, and you must not fail to tell Flavia that you think
so. She will look at you in a sort of startled way and say,
'Yes, aren't they?' and maybe she will go off and hunt them up
and have tea with them, to fully appreciate them. She is awfully
afraid of missing anything good, is Flavia. The way those
youngsters manage to conceal their guilty presence in the House
of Song is a wonder."
"But don't any of the artist-folk fancy children?" asked Imogen.
"Yes, they just fancy them and no more. The chemist remarked the
other day that children are like certain salts which need not be
actualized because the formulae are quite sufficient for practical
purposes. I don't see how even Flavia can endure to have that man
"I have always been rather curious to know what Arthur
thinks of it all," remarked Imogen cautiously.
"Thinks of it!" ejaculated Miss Broadwood. "Why, my dear,
what would any man think of having his house turned into an
hotel, habited by freaks who discharge his servants, borrow his
money, and insult his neighbors? This place is shunned like a
Well, then, why does he--why does he--" persisted Imogen.
"Bah!" interrupted Miss Broadwood impatiently, "why did he
in the first place? That's the question."
"Marry her, you mean?" said Imogen coloring.
"Exactly so," said Miss Broadwood sharply, as she snapped
the lid of her matchbox.
"I suppose that is a question rather beyond us, and
certainly one which we cannot discuss," said Imogen. "But his
toleration on this one point puzzles me, quite apart from other
"Toleration? Why this point, as you call it, simply is
Flavia. Who could conceive of her without it? I don't know where
it's all going to end, I'm sure, and I'm equally sure that, if it
were not for Arthur, I shouldn't care," declared Miss Broadwood,
drawing her shoulders together.
"But will it end at all, now?"
"Such an absurd state of things can't go on indefinitely. A
man isn't going to see his wife make a guy of herself forever, is
he? Chaos has already begun in the servants' quarters. There are
six different languages spoken there now. You see, it's all on
an entirely false basis. Flavia hasn't the slightest notion of
what these people are really like, their good and their bad alike
escape her. They, on the other hand, can't imagine what she is
driving at. Now, Arthur is worse off than either faction; he is
not in the fairy story in that he sees these people exactly as
they are, but he is utterly unable to see Flavia as they see
her. There you have the situation. Why can't he see her as we do?
My dear, that has kept me awake o' nights. This man who has
thought so much and lived so much, who is naturally a critic,
really takes Flavia at very nearly her own estimate. But now I am
entering upon a wilderness. From a brief acquaintance with her
you can know nothing of the icy fastnesses of Flavia's self-
esteem. It's like St. Peter's; you can't realize its magnitude
at once. You have to grow into a sense of it by living under its
shadow. It has perplexed even Emile Roux, that merciless
dissector of egoism. She has puzzled him the more because be saw
at a glance what some of them do not perceive at once, and what
will be mercifully concealed from Arthur until the trump sounds;
namely, that all Flavia's artists have done or ever will do means
exactly as much to her as a symphony means to an oyster; that
there is no bridge by which the significance of any work of art
could be conveyed to her."
"Then, in the name of goodness, why does she bother?" gasped
Imogen. "She is pretty, wealthy, well-established; why should
"That's what M. Roux has kept asking himself. I can't pretend to
analyze it. She reads papers on the Literary Landmarks of Paris,
the Loves of the Poets, and that sort of thing, to clubs out in
Chicago. To Flavia it is more necessary to be called clever than
to breathe. I would give a good deal to know that glum Frenchman's
diagnosis. He has been watching her out of those fishy eyes of his
as a biologist watches a hemisphereless frog."
For several days after M. Roux's departure Flavia gave an
embarrassing share of her attention to Imogen. Embarrassing,
because Imogen had the feeling of being energetically and
futilely explored, she knew not for what. She felt herself under
the globe of an air pump, expected to yield up something. When
she confined the conversation to matters of general interest
Flavia conveyed to her with some pique that her one endeavor in
life had been to fit herself to converse with her friends upon
those things which vitally interested them. "One has no right to
accept their best from people unless one gives, isn't it so? I
want to be able to give--!" she declared vaguely. Yet whenever
Imogen strove to pay her tithes and plunged bravely into her
plans for study next winter, Flavia grew absent-minded and
interrupted her by amazing generalizations or by such
embarrassing questions as, "And these grim studies really have
charm for you; you are quite buried in them; they make other
things seem light and ephemeral?"
"I rather feel as though I had got in here under false
pretenses," Imogen confided to Miss Broadwood. "I'm sure I don't
know what it is that she wants of me."
"Ah," chuckled Jemima, "you are not equal to these heart to
heart talks with Flavia. You utterly fail to communicate to her
the atmosphere of that untroubled joy in which you dwell. You
must remember that she gets no feeling out of things
herself, and she demands that you impart yours to her by some
process of psychic transmission. I once met a blind girl, blind
from birth, who could discuss the peculiarities of the Barbizon
school with just Flavia's glibness and enthusiasm. Ordinarily
Flavia knows how to get what she wants from people, and her
memory is wonderful. One evening I heard her giving Frau
Lichtenfeld some random impressions about Hedda Gabler which she
extracted from me five years ago; giving them with an impassioned
conviction of which I was never guilty. But I have known other
people who could appropriate your stories and opinions; Flavia
is infinitely more subtle than that; she can soak up the very
thrash and drift of your daydreams, and take the very thrills
off your back, as it were."
After some days of unsuccessful effort, Flavia withdrew
herself, and Imogen found Hamilton ready to catch her when she
was tossed afield. He seemed only to have been awaiting this
crisis, and at once their old intimacy reestablished itself as a
thing inevitable and beautifully prepared for. She convinced
herself that she had not been mistaken in him, despite all the
doubts that had come up in later years, and this renewal of faith
set more than one question thumping in her brain. "How did he,
how can he?" she kept repeating with a tinge of her childish
resentment, "what right had he to waste anything so fine?"
When Imogen and Arthur were returning from a walk before
luncheon one morning about a week after M. Roux's departure, they
noticed an absorbed group before one of the hall windows. Herr
Schotte and Restzhoff sat on the window seat with a newspaper
between them, while Wellington, Schemetzkin, and Will Maidenwood
looked over their shoulders. They seemed intensely interested,
Herr Schotte occasionally pounding his knees with his fists in
ebullitions of barbaric glee. When imogen entered the hall,
however, the men were all sauntering toward the breakfast room
and the paper was lying innocently on the divan. During luncheon
the personnel of that window group were unwontedly animated and
agreeable all save Schemetzkin, whose stare was blanker than
ever, as though Roux's mantle of insulting indifference
had fallen upon him, in addition to his own oblivious self-
absorption. Will Maidenwood seemed embarrassed and annoyed; the
chemist employed himself with making polite speeches to Hamilton.
Flavia did not come down to lunch--and there was a malicious
gleam under Herr Schotte's eyebrows. Frank Wellington announced
nervously that an imperative letter from his protecting syndicate
summoned him to the city.
After luncheon the men went to the golf links, and Imogen,
at the first opportunity, possessed herself of the newspaper
which had been left on the divan. One of the first things that
caught her eye was an article headed "Roux on Tuft Hunters; The
Advanced American Woman as He Sees Her; Aggressive, Superficial,
and Insincere." The entire interview was nothing more nor less
than a satiric characterization of Flavia, aquiver with
irritation and vitriolic malice. No one could mistake it; it was
done with all his deftness of portraiture. Imogen had not finished
the article when she heard a footstep, and clutching the paper she
started precipitately toward the stairway as Arthur entered. He
put out his hand, looking critically at her distressed face.
"Wait a moment, Miss Willard," he said peremptorily, "I want
to see whether we can find what it was that so interested our
friends this morning. Give me the paper, please."
Imogen grew quite white as he opened the journal. She
reached forward and crumpled it with her hands. "Please don't,
please don't," she pleaded; "it's something I don't want you to
see. Oh, why will you? it's just something low and despicable
that you can't notice."
Arthur had gently loosed her hands, and he pointed her to a chair.
He lit a cigar and read the article through without comment. When
he had finished it he walked to the fireplace, struck a match, and
tossed the flaming journal between the brass andirons.
"You are right," he remarked as he came back, dusting his
hands with his handkerchief. "It's quite impossible to comment.
There are extremes of blackguardism for which we have no name.
The only thing necessary is to see that Flavia gets no
wind of this. This seems to be my cue to act; poor girl."
Imogen looked at him tearfully; she could only murmur, "Oh,
why did you read it!"
Hamilton laughed spiritlessly. "Come, don't you worry about
it. You always took other people's troubles too seriously. When
you were little and all the world was gay and everybody happy,
you must needs get the Little Mermaid's troubles to grieve over.
Come with me into the music room. You remember the musical
setting I once made you for the Lay of the Jabberwock? I was
trying it over the other night, long after you were in bed, and I
decided it was quite as fine as the Erl-King music. How I wish I
could give you some of the cake that Alice ate and make you a
little girl again. Then, when you had got through the glass door
into the little garden, you could call to me, perhaps, and tell
me all the fine things that were going on there. What a pity it
is that you ever grew up!" he added, laughing; and Imogen, too,
was thinking just that.
At dinner that evening, Flavia, with fatal persistence,
insisted upon turning the conversation to M. Roux. She had been
reading one of his novels and had remembered anew that Paris set
its watches by his clock. Imogen surmised that she was tortured
by a feeling that she had not sufficiently appreciated him while
she had had him. When she first mentioned his name she was
answered only by the pall of silence that fell over the company.
Then everyone began to talk at once, as though to correct a false
position. They spoke of him with a fervid, defiant admiration,
with the sort of hot praise that covers a double purpose. Imogen
fancied she could see that they felt a kind of relief at what the
man had done, even those who despised him for doing it; that they
felt a spiteful hate against Flavia, as though she had tricked
them, and a certain contempt for themselves that they had been
beguiled. She was reminded of the fury of the crowd in the fairy
tale, when once the child had called out that the king was in his
night clothes. Surely these people knew no more about Flavia
than they had known before, but the mere fact that the
thing had been said altered the situation. Flavia, meanwhile,
sat chattering amiably, pathetically unconscious of her nakedness.
Hamilton lounged, fingering the stem of his wineglass,
gazing down the table at one face after another and studying the
various degrees of self-consciousness they exhibited. Imogen's
eyes followed his, fearfully. When a lull came in the spasmodic
flow of conversation, Arthur, leaning back in his chair, remarked
deliberately, "As for M. Roux, his very profession places him
in that class of men whom society has never been able to accept
unconditionally because it has never been able to assume that
they have any ordered notion of taste. He and his ilk remain,
with the mountebanks and snake charmers, people indispensable to
our civilization, but wholly unreclaimed by it; people whom we
receive, but whose invitations we do not accept."
Fortunately for Flavia, this mine was not exploded until
just before the coffee was brought. Her laughter was pitiful to
hear; it echoed through the silent room as in a vault, while she
made some tremulously light remark about her husband's drollery,
grim as a jest from the dying. No one responded and she sat
nodding her head like a mechanical toy and smiling her white, set
smile through her teeth, until Alcee Buisson and Frau Lichtenfeld
came to her support.
After dinner the guests retired immediately to their rooms,
and Imogen went upstairs on tiptoe, feeling the echo of breakage
and the dust of crumbling in the air. She wondered whether
Flavia's habitual note of uneasiness were not, in a manner,
prophetic, and a sort of unconscious premonition, after all. She
sat down to write a letter, but she found herself so nervous, her
head so hot and her hands so cold, that she soon abandoned the
effort. just as she was about to seek Miss Broadwood, Flavia
entered and embraced her hysterically.
"My dearest girl," she began, "was there ever such an
unfortunate and incomprehensible speech made before? Of course
it is scarcely necessary to explain to you poor Arthur's lack of
tact, and that he meant nothing. But they! Can they be
expected to understand? He will feel wretchedly about it when
he realizes what he has done, but in the meantime? And M. Roux,
of all men! When we were so fortunate as to get him, and he made
himself so unreservedly agreeable, and I fancied that, in his way,
Arthur quite admired him. My dear, you have no idea what that
speech has done. Schemetzkin and Herr Schotte have already sent
me word that they must leave us tomorrow. Such a thing from a
host!" Flavia paused, choked by tears of vexation and despair.
Imogen was thoroughly disconcerted; this was the first time
she had ever seen Flavia betray any personal emotion which was
indubitably genuine. She replied with what consolation she
could. "Need they take it personally at all? It was a mere
observation upon a class of people--"
"Which he knows nothing whatever about, and with whom he has
no sympathy," interrupted Flavia. "Ah, my dear, you could not be
expected to understand. You can't realize, knowing Arthur
as you do, his entire lack of any aesthetic sense whatever. He is
absolutely nil, stone deaf and stark blind, on that side.
He doesn't mean to be brutal, it is just the brutality of utter
ignorance. They always feel it--they are so sensitive to
unsympathetic influences, you know; they know it the moment they
come into the house. I have spent my life apologizing for him
and struggling to conceal it; but in spite of me, he wounds them;
his very attitude, even in silence, offends them. Heavens! Do I
not know? Is it not perpetually and forever wounding me? But
there has never been anything so dreadful as this--never! If I
could conceive of any possible motive, even!"
"But, surely, Mrs. Hamilton, it was, after all, a mere
expression of opinion, such as we are any of us likely to venture
upon any subject whatever. It was neither more personal nor more
extravagant than many of M. Roux's remarks."
"But, Imogen, certainly M. Roux has the right. It is a part
of his art, and that is altogether another matter. Oh, this is
not the only instance!" continued Flavia passionately, "I've
always had that narrow, bigoted prejudice to contend with. It
has always held me back. But this--!"
"I think you mistake his attitude," replied Imogen, feeling
a flush that made her ears tingle. "That is, I fancy he is more
appreciative than he seems. A man can't be very demonstrative
about those things--not if he is a real man. I should not think
you would care much about saving the feelings of people who are
too narrow to admit of any other point of view than their own."
She stopped, finding herself in the impossible position of
attempting to explain Hamilton to his wife; a task which, if once
begun, would necessitate an entire course of enlightenment which
she doubted Flavia's ability to receive, and which she could
offer only with very poor grace.
"That's just where it stings most"--here Flavia began pacing
the floor--"it is just because they have all shown such tolerance
and have treated Arthur with such unfailing consideration that I
can find no reasonable pretext for his rancor. How can he fail
to see the value of such friendships on the children's account,
if for nothing else! What an advantage for them to grow up among
such associations! Even though he cares nothing about these
things himself he might realize that. Is there nothing I could
say by way of explanation? To them, I mean? If someone were to
explain to them how unfortunately limited he is in these
"I'm afraid I cannot advise you," said Imogen decidedly,
"but that, at least, seems to me impossible."
Flavia took her hand and glanced at her affectionately,
nodding nervously. "Of course, dear girl, I can't ask you to be
quite frank with me. Poor child, you are trembling and your
hands are icy. Poor Arthur! But you must not judge him by this
altogether; think how much he misses in life. What a cruel shock
you've had. I'll send you some sherry, Good night, my dear."
When Flavia shut the door Imogen burst into a fit of nervous
Next morning she awoke after a troubled and restless night. At
eight o'clock Miss Broadwood entered in a red and white striped
"Up, up, and see the great doom's image!" she cried, her
eyes sparkling with excitement. "The hall is full of
trunks, they are packing. What bolt has fallen? It's you, ma
cherie, you've brought Ulysses home again and the slaughter has
begun!" she blew a cloud of smoke triumphantly from her lips and
threw herself into a chair beside the bed.
Imogen, rising on her elbow, plunged excitedly into the
story of the Roux interview, which Miss Broadwood heard with the
keenest interest, frequently interrupting her with exclamations
of delight. When Imogen reached the dramatic scene which
terminated in the destruction of the newspaper, Miss Broadwood
rose and took a turn about the room, violently switching the
tasselled cords of her bathrobe.
"Stop a moment," she cried, "you mean to tell me that he had
such a heaven-sent means to bring her to her senses and didn't
use it--that he held such a weapon and threw it away?"
"Use it?" cried Imogen unsteadily. "Of course he didn't! He
bared his back to the tormentor, signed himself over to
punishment in that speech he made at dinner, which everyone
understands but Flavia. She was here for an hour last night and
disregarded every limit of taste in her maledictions."
"My dear!" cried Miss Broadwood, catching her hand in
inordinate delight at the situation, "do you see what he has
done? There'll be no end to it. Why he has sacrificed himself to
spare the very vanity that devours him, put rancors in the
vessels of his peace, and his eternal jewel given to the common
enemy of man, to make them kings, the seed of Banquo kings! He is
"Isn't he always that?" cried Imogen hotly. "He's like a
pillar of sanity and law in this house of shams and swollen
vanities, where people stalk about with a sort of madhouse
dignity, each one fancying himself a king or a pope. If you
could have heard that woman talk of him! Why, she thinks him
stupid, bigoted, blinded by middleclass prejudices. She talked
about his having no aesthetic sense and insisted that her artists
had always shown him tolerance. I don't know why it should get
on my nerves so, I'm sure, but her stupidity and assurance are
enough to drive one to the brink of collapse."
"Yes, as opposed to his singular fineness, they are
calculated to do just that," said Miss Broadwood gravely, wisely
ignoring Imogen's tears. "But what has been is nothing to what
will be. Just wait until Flavia's black swans have flown! You
ought not to try to stick it out; that would only make it harder
for everyone. Suppose you let me telephone your mother to wire
you to come home by the evening train?"
"Anything, rather than have her come at me like that again. It
puts me in a perfectly impossible position, and he is so
"Of course it does," said Miss Broadwood sympathetically,
"and there is no good to be got from facing it. I will stay
because such things interest me, and Frau Lichtenfeld will stay
because she has no money to get away, and Buisson will stay
because he feels somewhat responsible. These complications are
interesting enough to cold-blooded folk like myself who have an
eye for the dramatic element, but they are distracting and
demoralizing to young people with any serious purpose in life."
Miss Broadwood's counsel was all the more generous seeing
that, for her, the most interesting element of this denouement
would be eliminated by Imogen's departure. "If she goes now,
she'll get over it," soliloquized Miss Broadwood. "If she stays,
she'll be wrung for him and the hurt may go deep enough to last.
I haven't the heart to see her spoiling things for herself." She
telephoned Mrs. Willard and helped Imogen to pack. She even took
it upon herself to break the news of Imogen's going to Arthur,
who remarked, as he rolled a cigarette in his nerveless fingers:
"Right enough, too. What should she do here with old cynics
like you and me, Jimmy? Seeing that she is brim full of dates and
formulae and other positivisms, and is so girt about with
illusions that she still casts a shadow in the sun. You've been
very tender of her, haven't you? I've watched you. And to think
it may all be gone when we see her next. 'The common fate of all
things rare,' you know. What a good fellow you are, anyway,
Jimmy," he added, putting his hands affectionately on her
Arthur went with them to the station. Flavia was so
prostrated by the concerted action of her guests that she was
able to see Imogen only for a moment in her darkened sleeping
chamber, where she kissed her hysterically, without lifting her
head, bandaged in aromatic vinegar. On the way to the station
both Arthur and Imogen threw the burden of keeping up appearances
entirely upon Miss Broadwood, who blithely rose to the occasion.
When Hamilton carried Imogen's bag into the car, Miss Broadwood
detained her for a moment, whispering as she gave her a large,
warm handclasp, "I'll come to see you when I get back to town;
and, in the meantime, if you meet any of our artists, tell them
you have left Caius Marius among the ruins of Carthage."
The Sculptor's Funeral
A group of the townspeople stood on the station siding of a
little Kansas town, awaiting the coming of the night train, which
was already twenty minutes overdue. The snow had fallen thick
over everything; in the pale starlight the line of bluffs across
the wide, white meadows south of the town made soft, smoke-
colored curves against the clear sky. The men on the siding
stood first on one foot and then on the other, their hands thrust
deep into their trousers pockets, their overcoats open, their
shoulders screwed up with the cold; and they glanced from time to
time toward the southeast, where the railroad track wound along
the river shore. They conversed in low tones and moved about
restlessly, seeming uncertain as to what was expected of them.
There was but one of the company who looked as though he knew
exactly why he was there; and he kept conspicuously apart;
walking to the far end of the platform, returning to the station
door, then pacing up the track again, his chin sunk in the high
collar of his overcoat, his burly shoulders drooping forward, his
gait heavy and dogged. Presently he was approached by a tall,
spare, grizzled man clad in a faded Grand Army suit, who shuffled
out from the group and advanced with a certain deference, craning
his neck forward until his back made the angle of a jackknife
"I reckon she's agoin' to be pretty late ag'in tonight,
Jim," he remarked in a squeaky falsetto. "S'pose it's the snow?"
"I don't know," responded the other man with a shade of
annoyance, speaking from out an astonishing cataract of red beard
that grew fiercely and thickly in all directions.
The spare man shifted the quill toothpick he was chewing to
the other side of his mouth. "It ain't likely that anybody from
the East will come with the corpse, I s'pose," he went on
"I don't know," responded the other, more curtly than before.
"It's too bad he didn't belong to some lodge or other. I
like an order funeral myself. They seem more appropriate for
people of some reputation," the spare man continued, with an
ingratiating concession in his shrill voice, as he carefully
placed his toothpick in his vest pocket. He always carried the
flag at the G. A. R. funerals in the town.
The heavy man turned on his heel, without replying, and walked up
the siding. The spare man shuffled back to the uneasy group.
"Jim's ez full ez a tick, ez ushel," he commented commiseratingly.
Just then a distant whistle sounded, and there was a
shuffling of feet on the platform. A number of lanky boys of all
ages appeared as suddenly and slimily as eels wakened by the
crack of thunder; some came from the waiting room, where they had
been warming themselves by the red stove, or half-asleep on the
slat benches; others uncoiled themselves from baggage trucks or
slid out of express wagons. Two clambered down from the driver's
seat of a hearse that stood backed up against the siding. They
straightened their stooping shoulders and lifted their heads, and
a flash of momentary animation kindled their dull eyes at that
cold, vibrant scream, the world-wide call for men. It stirred
them like the note of a trumpet; just as it had often stirred the
man who was coming home tonight, in his boyhood.
The night express shot, red as a rocket, from out the eastward
marsh lands and wound along the river shore under the long lines of
shivering poplars that sentineled the meadows, the escaping steam
hanging in gray masses against the pale sky and blotting out the
Milky Way. In a moment the red glare from the headlight streamed
up the snow-covered track before the siding and glittered on the
wet, black rails. The burly man with the disheveled red beard
walked swiftly up the platform toward the approaching train,
uncovering his head as he went. The group of men behind him
hesitated, glanced questioningly at one another, and awkwardly
followed his example. The train stopped, and the crowd shuffled up
to the express car just as the door was thrown open, the spare man
in the G. A. B. suit thrusting his head forward with curiosity.
The express messenger appeared in the doorway, accompanied by a
young man in a long ulster and traveling cap.
"Are Mr. Merrick's friends here?" inquired the young man.
The group on the platform swayed and shuffled uneasily.
Philip Phelps, the banker, responded with dignity: "We have come
to take charge of the body. Mr. Merrick's father is very feeble
and can't be about."
"Send the agent out here," growled the express messenger,
"and tell the operator to lend a hand."
The coffin was got out of its rough box and down on the
snowy platform. The townspeople drew back enough to make room
for it and then formed a close semicircle about it, looking
curiously at the palm leaf which lay across the black cover. No
one said anything. The baggage man stood by his truck, waiting
to get at the trunks. The engine panted heavily, and the fireman
dodged in and out among the wheels with his yellow torch and long
oilcan, snapping the spindle boxes. The young Bostonian, one of
the dead sculptor's pupils who had come with the body, looked
about him helplessly. He turned to the banker, the only one of
that black, uneasy, stoop-shouldered group who seemed enough of
an individual to be addressed.
"None of Mr. Merrick's brothers are here?" he asked uncertainly.
The man with the red heard for the first time stepped up and
joined the group. "No, they have not come yet; the family is
scattered. The body will be taken directly to the house." He
stooped and took hold of one of the handles of the coffin.
"Take the long hill road up, Thompson--it will be easier on
the horses," called the liveryman as the undertaker snapped the
door of the hearse and prepared to mount to the driver's seat.
Laird, the red-bearded lawyer, turned again to the stranger:
"We didn't know whether there would be anyone with him or not,"
he explained. "It's a long walk, so you'd better go up in the
hack." He pointed to a single, battered conveyance, but the young
man replied stiffly: "Thank you, but I think I will go up with
the hearse. If you don't object," turning to the undertaker,
"I'll ride with you."
They clambered up over the wheels and drove off in the
starlight tip the long, white hill toward the town. The lamps in
the still village were shining from under the low, snow-burdened
roofs; and beyond, on every side, the plains reached out into
emptiness, peaceful and wide as the soft sky itself, and wrapped
in a tangible, white silence.
When the hearse backed up to a wooden sidewalk before a naked,
weatherbeaten frame house, the same composite, ill-defined group
that had stood upon the station siding was huddled about the gate.
The front yard was an icy swamp, and a couple of warped planks,
extending from the sidewalk to the door, made a sort of rickety
footbridge. The gate hung on one hinge and was opened wide with
difficulty. Steavens, the young stranger, noticed that something
black was tied to the knob of the front door.
The grating sound made by the casket, as it was drawn from the
hearse, was answered by a scream from the house; the front door was
wrenched open, and a tall, corpulent woman rushed out bareheaded
into the snow and flung herself upon the coffin, shrieking: "My
boy, my boy! And this is how you've come home to me!"
As Steavens turned away and closed his eyes with a shudder
of unutterable repulsion, another woman, also tall, but flat and
angular, dressed entirely in black, darted out of the house and
caught Mrs. Merrick by the shoulders, crying sharply: "Come,
come, Mother; you mustn't go on like this!" Her tone changed to
one of obsequious solemnity as she turned to the banker: "The
parlor is ready, Mr. Phelps."
The bearers carried the coffin along the narrow boards,
while the undertaker ran ahead with the coffin-rests. They
bore it into a large, unheated room that smelled of dampness and
disuse and furniture polish, and set it down under a hanging lamp
ornamented with jingling glass prisms and before a "Rogers group"
of John Alden and Priscilla, wreathed with smilax. Henry
Steavens stared about him with the sickening conviction that
there had been some horrible mistake, and that he had somehow
arrived at the wrong destination. He looked painfully about over
the clover-green Brussels, the fat plush upholstery, among the
hand-painted china plaques and panels, and vases, for some mark
of identification, for something that might once conceivably have
belonged to Harvey Merrick. It was not until he recognized his
friend in the crayon portrait of a little boy in kilts and curls
hanging above the piano that he felt willing to let any of these
people approach the coffin.
"Take the lid off, Mr. Thompson; let me see my boy's face,"
wailed the elder woman between her sobs. This time Steavens
looked fearfully, almost beseechingly into her face, red and
swollen under its masses of strong, black, shiny hair. He
flushed, dropped his eyes, and then, almost incredulously, looked
again. There was a kind of power about her face--a kind of
brutal handsomeness, even, but it was scarred and furrowed by
violence, and so colored and coarsened by fiercer passions that
grief seemed never to have laid a gentle finger there. The long
nose was distended and knobbed at the end, and there were deep
lines on either side of it; her heavy, black brows almost met
across her forehead; her teeth were large and square and set far
apart--teeth that could tear. She filled the room; the men were
obliterated, seemed tossed about like twigs in an angry water,
and even Steavens felt himself being drawn into the whirlpool.
The daughter--the tall, rawboned woman in crepe, with a
mourning comb in her hair which curiously lengthened her long
face sat stiffly upon the sofa, her hands, conspicuous for their
large knuckles, folded in her lap, her mouth and eyes drawn down,
solemnly awaiting the opening of the coffin. Near the door stood
a mulatto woman, evidently a servant in the house, with a timid
bearing and an emaciated face pitifully sad and gentle.
She was weeping silently, the corner of her calico apron lifted
to her eyes, occasionally suppressing a long, quivering sob.
Steavens walked over and stood beside her.
Feeble steps were heard on the stairs, and an old man, tall
and frail, odorous of pipe smoke, with shaggy, unkept gray hair
and a dingy beard, tobacco stained about the mouth, entered
uncertainly. He went slowly up to the coffin and stood, rolling
a blue cotton handkerchief between his hands, seeming so pained
and embarrassed by his wife's orgy of grief that he had no
consciousness of anything else.
"There, there, Annie, dear, don't take on so," he quavered
timidly, putting out a shaking hand and awkwardly patting her
elbow. She turned with a cry and sank upon his shoulder with
such violence that he tottered a little. He did not even glance
toward the coffin, but continued to look at her with a dull,
frightened, appealing expression, as a spaniel looks at the whip.
His sunken cheeks slowly reddened and burned with miserable
shame. When his wife rushed from the room her daughter strode
after her with set lips. The servant stole up to the coffin,
bent over it for a moment, and then slipped away to the kitchen,
leaving Steavens, the lawyer, and the father to themselves. The
old man stood trembling and looking down at his dead son's face.
The sculptor's splendid head seemed even more noble in its rigid
stillness than in life. The dark hair had crept down upon the
wide forehead; the face seemed strangely long, but in it there
was not that beautiful and chaste repose which we expect to find
in the faces of the dead. The brows were so drawn that there
were two deep lines above the beaked nose, and the chin was
thrust forward defiantly. It was as though the strain of life
had been so sharp and bitter that death could not at once wholly
relax the tension and smooth the countenance into perfect peace--
as though he were still guarding something precious and holy,
which might even yet be wrested from him.
The old man's lips were working under his stained beard. He
turned to the lawyer with timid deference: "Phelps and the rest are
comin' back to set up with Harve, ain't they?" he asked. "Thank
'ee, Jim, thank 'ee." He brushed the hair back gently from his
son's forehead. "He was a good boy, Jim; always a good boy. He
was ez gentle ez a child and the kindest of 'em all--only we didn't
none of us ever onderstand him." The tears trickled slowly down
his beard and dropped upon the sculptor's coat.
"Martin, Martin. Oh, Martin! come here," his wife wailed
from the top of the stairs. The old man started timorously:
"Yes, Annie, I'm coming." He turned away, hesitated stood for a
moment in miserable indecision; then he reached back and patted
the dead man's hair softly, and stumbled from the room.
"Poor old man, I didn't think he had any tears left. Seems
as if his eyes would have gone dry long ago. At his age nothing
cuts very deep," remarked the lawyer.
Something in his tone made Steavens glance up. While the
mother had been in the room the young man had scarcely seen
anyone else; but now, from the moment he first glanced into Jim
Laird's florid face and bloodshot eyes, he knew that he had found
what he had been heartsick at not finding before--the feeling,
the understanding, that must exist in someone, even here.
The man was red as his beard, with features swollen and
blurred by dissipation, and a hot, blazing blue eye. His face
was strained--that of a man who is controlling himself with
difficulty--and he kept plucking at his beard with a sort of
fierce resentment. Steavens, sitting by the window, watched him
turn down the glaring lamp, still its jangling pendants with an
angry gesture, and then stand with his hands locked behind him,
staring down into the master's face. He could not help wondering
what link there could have been between the porcelain vessel and
so sooty a lump of potter's clay.
From the kitchen an uproar was sounding; when the dining-
room door opened the import of it was clear. The mother was
abusing the maid for having forgotten to make the dressing for
the chicken salad which had been prepared for the watchers.
Steavens had never heard anything in the least like it; it was
injured, emotional, dramatic abuse, unique and masterly
in its excruciating cruelty, as violent and unrestrained as had
been her grief of twenty minutes before. With a shudder of
disgust the lawyer went into the dining room and closed the door
into the kitchen.
"Poor Roxy's getting it now," he remarked when he came back.
"The Merricks took her out of the poorhouse years ago; and if her
loyalty would let her, I guess the poor old thing could tell
tales that would curdle your blood. She's the mulatto woman who
was standing in here a while ago, with her apron to her eyes.
The old woman is a fury; there never was anybody like her for
demonstrative piety and ingenious cruelty. She made Harvey's
life a hell for him when he lived at home; he was so sick ashamed
of it. I never could see how he kept himself so sweet."
"He was wonderful," said Steavens slowly, "wonderful; but
until tonight I have never known how wonderful."
"That is the true and eternal wonder of it, anyway; that it
can come even from such a dung heap as this," the lawyer cried,
with a sweeping gesture which seemed to indicate much more than
the four walls within which they stood.
"I think I'll see whether I can get a little air. The room
is so close I am beginning to feel rather faint," murmured
Steavens, struggling with one of the windows. The sash was
stuck, however, and would not yield, so he sat down dejectedly
and began pulling at his collar. The lawyer came over, loosened
the sash with one blow of his red fist, and sent the window up a
few inches. Steavens thanked him, but the nausea which had been
gradually climbing into his throat for the last half-hour left
him with but one desire--a desperate feeling that he must get
away from this place with what was left of Harvey Merrick. Oh,
he comprehended well enough now the quiet bitterness of the smile
that he had seen so often on his master's lips!
He remembered that once, when Merrick returned from a visit
home, he brought with him a singularly feeling and suggestive
bas-relief of a thin, faded old woman, sitting and sewing
something pinned to her knee; while a full-lipped, full-blooded
little urchin, his trousers held up by a single gallows,
stood beside her, impatiently twitching her gown to call her
attention to a butterfly he had caught. Steavens, impressed by
the tender and delicate modeling of the thin, tired face, had
asked him if it were his mother. He remembered the dull flush
that had burned up in the sculptor's face.
The lawyer was sitting in a rocking chair beside the coffin,
his head thrown back and his eyes closed. Steavens looked at him
earnestly, puzzled at the line of the chin, and wondering why a
man should conceal a feature of such distinction under that
disfiguring shock of beard. Suddenly, as though he felt the
young sculptor's keen glance, he opened his eyes.
"Was he always a good deal of an oyster?" he asked abruptly.
"He was terribly shy as a boy."
"Yes, he was an oyster, since you put it so," rejoined
Steavens. "Although he could be very fond of people, he always
gave one the impression of being detached. He disliked violent
emotion; he was reflective, and rather distrustful of himself--
except, of course, as regarded his work. He was surefooted
enough there. He distrusted men pretty thoroughly and women even
more, yet somehow without believing ill of them. He was
determined, indeed, to believe the best, but he seemed afraid to
"A burnt dog dreads the fire," said the lawyer grimly, and
closed his eyes.
Steavens went on and on, reconstructing that whole miserable
boyhood. All this raw, biting ugliness had been the portion of
the man whose tastes were refined beyond the limits of the
reasonable--whose mind was an exhaustless gallery of beautiful
impressions, and so sensitive that the mere shadow of a poplar
leaf flickering against a sunny wall would be etched and held
there forever. Surely, if ever a man had the magic word in his
fingertips, it was Merrick. Whatever he touched, he revealed its
holiest secret; liberated it from enchantment and restored it to
its pristine loveliness, like the Arabian prince who fought the
enchantress spell for spell. Upon whatever he had come in
contact with, he had left a beautiful record of the experience--a
sort of ethereal signature; a scent, a sound, a color that was
Steavens understood now the real tragedy of his master's
life; neither love nor wine, as many had conjectured, but a blow
which had fallen earlier and cut deeper than these could have
done--a shame not his, and yet so unescapably his, to bide in his
heart from his very boyhood. And without--the frontier warfare;
the yearning of a boy, cast ashore upon a desert of newness and
ugliness and sordidness, for all that is chastened and old, and
noble with traditions.
At eleven o'clock the tall, flat woman in black crepe
entered, announced that the watchers were arriving, and asked
them "to step into the dining room." As Steavens rose the lawyer
said dryly: "You go on--it'll be a good experience for you,
doubtless; as for me, I'm not equal to that crowd tonight; I've
had twenty years of them."
As Steavens closed the door after him be glanced back at the
lawyer, sitting by the coffin in the dim light, with his chin
resting on his hand.
The same misty group that had stood before the door of the
express car shuffled into the dining room. In the light of the
kerosene lamp they separated and became individuals. The
minister, a pale, feeble-looking man with white hair and blond
chin-whiskers, took his seat beside a small side table and placed
his Bible upon it. The Grand Army man sat down behind the stove
and tilted his chair back comfortably against the wall, fishing
his quill toothpick from his waistcoat pocket. The two bankers,
Phelps and Elder, sat off in a corner behind the dinner table,
where they could finish their discussion of the new usury law and
its effect on chattel security loans. The real estate agent, an
old man with a smiling, hypocritical face, soon joined them. The
coal-and-lumber dealer and the cattle shipper sat on opposite
sides of the hard coal-burner, their feet on the nickelwork.
Steavens took a book from his pocket and began to read. The talk
around him ranged through various topics of local interest while
the house was quieting down. When it was clear that the members
of the family were in bed the Grand Army man hitched his
shoulders and, untangling his long legs, caught his heels on the
rounds of his chair.
"S'pose there'll be a will, Phelps?" he queried in his weak
The banker laughed disagreeably and began trimming his nails
with a pearl-handled pocketknife.
"There'll scarcely be any need for one, will there?" he
queried in his turn.
The restless Grand Army man shifted his position again,
getting his knees still nearer his chin. "Why, the ole man says
Harve's done right well lately," he chirped.
The other banker spoke up. "I reckon he means by that Harve
ain't asked him to mortgage any more farms lately, so as he could
go on with his education."
"Seems like my mind don't reach back to a time when Harve
wasn't bein' edycated," tittered the Grand Army man.
There was a general chuckle. The minister took out his
handkerchief and blew his nose sonorously. Banker Phelps closed
his knife with a snap. "It's too bad the old man's sons didn't
turn out better," he remarked with reflective authority. "They
never hung together. He spent money enough on Harve to stock a
dozen cattle farms and he might as well have poured it into Sand
Creek. If Harve had stayed at home and helped nurse what little
they had, and gone into stock on the old man's bottom farm, they
might all have been well fixed. But the old man had to trust
everything to tenants and was cheated right and left."
"Harve never could have handled stock none," interposed the
cattleman. "He hadn't it in him to be sharp. Do you remember
when he bought Sander's mules for eight-year-olds, when everybody
in town knew that Sander's father-in-law give 'em to his wife for
a wedding present eighteen years before, an' they was full-grown
Everyone chuckled, and the Grand Army man rubbed his knees
with a spasm of childish delight.
"Harve never was much account for anything practical, and he
shore was never fond of work," began the coal-and-lumber dealer.
"I mind the last time he was home; the day he left, when the old
man was out to the barn helpin' his hand hitch up to take
Harve to the train, and Cal Moots was patchin' up the fence, Harve,
he come out on the step and sings out, in his ladylike voice: 'Cal
Moots, Cal Moots! please come cord my trunk.'"
"That's Harve for you," approved the Grand Army man
gleefully. "I kin hear him howlin' yet when he was a big feller
in long pants and his mother used to whale him with a rawhide in
the barn for lettin' the cows git foundered in the cornfield when
he was drivin' 'em home from pasture. He killed a cow of mine
that-a-way onc't--a pure Jersey and the best milker I had, an'
the ole man had to put up for her. Harve, he was watchin' the
sun set acros't the marshes when the anamile got away; he argued
that sunset was oncommon fine."
"Where the old man made his mistake was in sending the boy
East to school," said Phelps, stroking his goatee and speaking in
a deliberate, judicial tone. "There was where he got his head
full of traipsing to Paris and all such folly. What Harve
needed, of all people, was a course in some first-class Kansas
City business college."
The letters were swimming before Steavens's eyes. Was it
possible that these men did not understand, that the palm on the
coffin meant nothing to them? The very name of their town would
have remained forever buried in the postal guide had it not been
now and again mentioned in the world in connection with Harvey
Merrick's. He remembered what his master had said to him on the
day of his death, after the congestion of both lungs had shut off
any probability of recovery, and the sculptor had asked his pupil
to send his body home. "It's not a pleasant place to be lying
while the world is moving and doing and bettering," he had said
with a feeble smile, "but it rather seems as though we ought to
go back to the place we came from in the end. The townspeople
will come in for a look at me; and after they have had their say
I shan't have much to fear from the judgment of God. The wings
of the Victory, in there"--with a weak gesture toward his studio--
will not shelter me."
The cattleman took up the comment. "Forty's young for a
Merrick to cash in; they usually hang on pretty well. Probably
he helped it along with whisky."
"His mother's people were not long-lived, and Harvey never
had a robust constitution," said the minister mildly. He would
have liked to say more. He had been the boy's Sunday-school
teacher, and had been fond of him; but he felt that he was not in
a position to speak. His own sons had turned out badly, and it
was not a year since one of them had made his last trip home in
the express car, shot in a gambling house in the Black Hills.
"Nevertheless, there is no disputin' that Harve frequently
looked upon the wine when it was red, also variegated, and it
shore made an oncommon fool of him," moralized the cattleman.
Just then the door leading into the parlor rattled loudly,
and everyone started involuntarily, looking relieved when only
Jim Laird came out. His red face was convulsed with anger, and
the Grand Army man ducked his head when he saw the spark in his
blue, bloodshot eye. They were all afraid of Jim; he was a
drunkard, but he could twist the law to suit his client's needs
as no other man in all western Kansas could do; and there were
many who tried. The lawyer closed the door gently behind him,
leaned back against it and folded his arms, cocking his head a
little to one side. When he assumed this attitude in the
courtroom, ears were always pricked up, as it usually foretold a
flood of withering sarcasm.
"I've been with you gentlemen before," he began in a dry,
even tone, "when you've sat by the coffins of boys born and
raised in this town; and, if I remember rightly, you were never
any too well satisfied when you checked them up. What's the
matter, anyhow? Why is it that reputable young men are as scarce
as millionaires in Sand City? It might almost seem to a stranger
that there was some way something the matter with your
progressive town. Why did Ruben Sayer, the brightest young
lawyer you ever turned out, after he had come home from the
university as straight as a die, take to drinking and forge a
check and shoot himself? Why did Bill Merrit's son die of the
shakes in a saloon in Omaha? Why was Mr. Thomas's son, here,
shot in a gambling house? Why did young Adams burn his mill to
beat the insurance companies and go to the pen?"
The lawyer paused and unfolded his arms, laying one clenched
fist quietly on the table. "I'll tell you why. Because you
drummed nothing but money and knavery into their ears from the
time they wore knickerbockers; because you carped away at them as
you've been carping here tonight, holding our friends Phelps and
Elder up to them for their models, as our grandfathers held up
George Washington and John Adams. But the boys, worse luck, were
young and raw at the business you put them to; and how could they
match coppers with such artists as Phelps and Elder? You wanted
them to be successful rascals; they were only unsuccessful ones--
that's all the difference. There was only one boy ever raised in
this borderland between ruffianism and civilization who didn't
come to grief, and you hated Harvey Merrick more for winning out
than you hated all the other boys who got under the wheels.
Lord, Lord, how you did hate him! Phelps, here, is fond of saying
that he could buy and sell us all out any time he's a mind to;
but he knew Harve wouldn't have given a tinker's damn for his
bank and all his cattle farms put together; and a lack of
appreciation, that way, goes hard with Phelps.
"Old Nimrod, here, thinks Harve drank too much; and this
from such as Nimrod and me!"
"Brother Elder says Harve was too free with the old man's
money--fell short in filial consideration, maybe. Well, we can
all remember the very tone in which brother Elder swore his own
father was a liar, in the county court; and we all know that the
old man came out of that partnership with his son as bare as a
sheared lamb. But maybe I'm getting personal, and I'd better be
driving ahead at what I want to say."
The lawyer paused a moment, squared his heavy shoulders, and
went on: "Harvey Merrick and I went to school together, back
East. We were dead in earnest, and we wanted you all to be proud
of us some day. We meant to be great men. Even 1, and I haven't
lost my sense of humor, gentlemen, I meant to be a great man. I
came back here to practice, and I found you didn't in the least
want me to be a great man. You wanted me to be a shrewd lawyer--
oh, yes! Our veteran here wanted me to get him an increase of
pension, because he had dyspepsia; Phelps wanted a new county
survey that would put the widow Wilson's little bottom
farm inside his south line; Elder wanted to lend money at 5 per
cent a month and get it collected; old Stark here wanted to
wheedle old women up in Vermont into investing their annuities in
real estate mortgages that are not worth the paper they are
written on. Oh, you needed me hard enough, and you'll go on
needing me; and that's why I'm not afraid to plug the truth home
to you this once.
"Well, I came back here and became the damned shyster you
wanted me to be. You pretend to have some sort of respect for
me; and yet you'll stand up and throw mud at Harvey Merrick,
whose soul you couldn't dirty and whose hands you couldn't tie.
Oh, you're a discriminating lot of Christians! There have been
times when the sight of Harvey's name in some Eastern paper has
made me hang my head like a whipped dog; and, again, times when I
liked to think of him off there in the world, away from all this
hog wallow, doing his great work and climbing the big, clean
upgrade he'd set for himself.
"And we? Now that we've fought and lied and sweated and
stolen, and hated as only the disappointed strugglers in a
bitter, dead little Western town know how to do, what have we got
to show for it? Harvey Merrick wouldn't have given one sunset
over your marshes for all you've got put together, and you know
it. It's not for me to say why, in the inscrutable wisdom of
God, a genius should ever have been called from this place of
hatred and bitter waters; but I want this Boston man to know that
the drivel he's been hearing here tonight is the only tribute any
truly great man could ever have from such a lot of sick, side-
tracked, burnt-dog, land-poor sharks as the here-present
financiers of Sand City--upon which town may God have mercy!"
The lawyer thrust out his hand to Steavens as he passed him,
caught up his overcoat in the hall, and had left the house before
the Grand Army man had had time to lift his ducked head and crane
his long neck about at his fellows.
Next day Jim Laird was drunk and unable to attend the
funeral services. Steavens called twice at his office, but was
compelled to start East without seeing him. He had a
presentiment that he would hear from him again, and left his
address on the lawyer's table; but if Laird found it, he never
acknowledged it. The thing in him that Harvey Merrick had loved
must have gone underground with Harvey Merrick's coffin; for it
never spoke again, and Jim got the cold he died of driving across
the Colorado mountains to defend one of Phelps's sons, who had
got into trouble out there by cutting government timber.
"A Death in the Desert"
Everett Hilgarde was conscious that the man in the seat
across the aisle was looking at him intently. He was a large,
florid man, wore a conspicuous diamond solitaire upon his third
finger, and Everett judged him to be a traveling salesman of some
sort. He had the air of an adaptable fellow who had been about
the world and who could keep cool and clean under almost any
The "High Line Flyer," as this train was derisively called
among railroad men, was jerking along through the hot afternoon
over the monotonous country between Holdridge and Cheyenne.
Besides the blond man and himself the only occupants of the car
were two dusty, bedraggled-looking girls who had been to the
Exposition at Chicago, and who were earnestly discussing the cost
of their first trip out of Colorado. The four uncomfortable
passengers were covered with a sediment of fine, yellow dust
which clung to their hair and eyebrows like gold powder. It blew
up in clouds from the bleak, lifeless country through which they
passed, until they were one color with the sagebrush and
sandhills. The gray-and-yellow desert was varied only by
occasional ruins of deserted towns, and the little red boxes of
station houses, where the spindling trees and sickly vines in the
bluegrass yards made little green reserves fenced off in that
confusing wilderness of sand.
As the slanting rays of the sun beat in stronger and
stronger through the car windows, the blond gentleman asked the
ladies' permission to remove his coat, and sat in his lavender
striped shirt sleeves, with a black silk handkerchief tucked
carefully about his collar. He had seemed interested in Everett
since they had boarded the train at Holdridge, and kept
glancing at him curiously and then looking reflectively out of
the window, as though he were trying to recall something. But
wherever Everett went someone was almost sure to look at him with
that curious interest, and it had ceased to embarrass or annoy him.
Presently the stranger, seeming satisfied with his observation,
leaned back in his seat, half-closed his eyes, and began softly
to whistle the "Spring Song" from Proserpine, the cantata
that a dozen years before had made its young composer famous in a
night. Everett had heard that air on guitars in Old Mexico, on
mandolins at college glees, on cottage organs in New England
hamlets, and only two weeks ago he had heard it played on
sleighbells at a variety theater in Denver. There was literally no
way of escaping his brother's precocity. Adriance could live on
the other side of the Atlantic, where his youthful indiscretions
were forgotten in his mature achievements, but his brother had
never been able to outrun Proserpine, and here he found it
again in the Colorado sand hills. Not that Everett was exactly
ashamed of Proserpine; only a man of genius could have
written it, but it was the sort of thing that a man of genius
outgrows as soon as he can.
Everett unbent a trifle and smiled at his neighbor across
the aisle. Immediately the large man rose and, coming over,
dropped into the seat facing Hilgarde, extending his card.
"Dusty ride, isn't it? I don't mind it myself; I'm used to
it. Born and bred in de briar patch, like Br'er Rabbit. I've
been trying to place you for a long time; I think I must have met
"Thank you," said Everett, taking the card; "my name is
Hilgarde. You've probably met my brother, Adriance; people often
mistake me for him."
The traveling man brought his hand down upon his knee with
such vehemence that the solitaire blazed.
"So I was right after all, and if you're not Adriance
Hilgarde, you're his double. I thought I couldn't be mistaken.
Seen him? Well, I guess! I never missed one of his recitals at
the Auditorium, and he played the piano score of Proserpine
through to us once at the Chicago Press Club. I used to be on
the Commercial there before I 146 began to travel
for the publishing department of the concern. So you're Hilgarde's
brother, and here I've run into you at the jumping-off place.
Sounds like a newspaper yarn, doesn't it?"
The traveling man laughed and offered Everett a cigar, and
plied him with questions on the only subject that people ever
seemed to care to talk to Everett about. At length the salesman
and the two girls alighted at a Colorado way station, and Everett
went on to Cheyenne alone.
The train pulled into Cheyenne at nine o'clock, late by a
matter of four hours or so; but no one seemed particularly
concerned at its tardiness except the station agent, who grumbled
at being kept in the office overtime on a summer night. When
Everett alighted from the train he walked down the platform and
stopped at the track crossing, uncertain as to what direction he
should take to reach a hotel. A phaeton stood near the crossing,
and a woman held the reins. She was dressed in white, and her
figure was clearly silhouetted against the cushions, though it