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The Troll Garden and Selected Stories by Willa Cather.

Part 5 out of 5

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means about the Marriage; 'e told me today as 'ow 'e never
wanted it sold unfinished. Is that it, Sir 'Ugh?'

"He smiled an' nodded slight an' closed 'is eyes. 'Thank
you, Jymes,' says Lydy Elling, placid. Then 'e opened 'is eyes
an' looked long and 'ard at Lydy Elling.

"'Of course I'll try to do as you'd wish about the picture,
'Ugh, if that's w'at's troublin' you,' she says quiet. With that
'e closed 'is eyes and 'e never opened 'em. He died unconscious
at four that mornin'.

"You see, sir, Lydy Elling was always cruel 'ard on the
Marriage. From the first it went wrong, an' Sir 'Ugh was
out of temper pretty constant. She came into the studio one day
and looked at the picture an 'asked 'im why 'e didn't throw it up
an' quit aworriting 'imself. He answered sharp, an' with that she
said as 'ow she didn't see w'at there was to make such a row
about, no'ow. She spoke 'er mind about that picture, free; an'
Sir 'Ugh swore 'ot an' let a 'andful of brushes fly at 'is study,
an' Lydy Elling picked up 'er skirts careful an' chill, an'
drifted out of the studio with 'er eyes calm and 'er chin 'igh.
If there was one thing Lydy Elling 'ad no comprehension of, it
was the usefulness of swearin'. So the Marriage was a sore
thing between 'em. She is uncommon calm, but uncommon bitter, is
Lydy Elling. She's never come anear the studio since that day she
went out 'oldin' up of 'er skirts. W'en 'er friends goes over she
excuses 'erself along o' the strain. Strain--Gawd!" James ground
his wrath short in his teeth.

"I'll tell you what I'll do, James, and it's our only hope. I'll
see Lady Ellen tomorrow. The Times says she returned today.
You take the picture back to its place, and I'll do what I can
for it. If anything is done to save it, it must be done through
Lady Ellen Treffinger herself, that much is clear. I can't think
that she fully understands the situation. If she did, you know,
she really couldn't have any motive--" He stopped suddenly.
Somehow, in the dusky lamplight, her small, close-sealed face
came ominously back to him. He rubbed his forehead and knitted
his brows thoughtfully. After a moment he shook his head and
went on: "I am positive that nothing can be gained by highhanded
methods, James. Captain Gresham is one of the most popular men
in London, and his friends would tear up Treffinger's bones if he
were annoyed by any scandal of our making--and this scheme you
propose would inevitably result in scandal. Lady Ellen has, of
course, every legal right to sell the picture. Treffinger made
considerable inroads upon her estate, and, as she is about to
marry a man without income, she doubtless feels that she has a
right to replenish her patrimony."

He found James amenable, though doggedly skeptical. He went
down into the street, called a carriage, and saw James and his
burden into it. Standing in the doorway, he watched the carriage
roll away through the drizzling mist, weave in and out among the
wet, black vehicles and darting cab lights, until it was
swallowed up in the glare and confusion of the Strand. "It is
rather a fine touch of irony," he reflected, "that he, who is so
out of it, should be the one to really care. Poor Treffinger,"
he murmured as, with a rather spiritless smile, he turned back
into his hotel. "Poor Treffinger; sic transit gloria."

The next afternoon MacMaster kept his promise. When he
arrived at Lady Mary Percy's house he saw preparations for a
function of some sort, but he went resolutely up the steps,
telling the footman that his business was urgent. Lady Ellen
came down alone, excusing her sister. She was dressed for
receiving, and MacMaster had never seen one so beautiful.
The color in her cheeks sent a softening glow over her small,
delicately cut features.

MacMaster apologized for his intrusion and came unflinchingly
to the object of his call. He had come, he said, not only to offer
her his warmest congratulations, but to express his regret that a
great work of art was to leave England.

Lady Treffinger looked at him in wide-eyed astonishment.
Surely, she said, she had been careful to select the best of the
pictures for the X--- gallery, in accordance with Sir Hugh
Treffinger's wishes.

"And did he--pardon me, Lady Treffinger, but in mercy set my
mind at rest--did he or did he not express any definite wish
concerning this one picture, which to me seems worth all the
others, unfinished as it is?"

Lady Treffinger paled perceptibly, but it was not the pallor
of confusion. When she spoke there was a sharp tremor in her
smooth voice, the edge of a resentment that tore her like pain.
"I think his man has some such impression, but I believe it to be
utterly unfounded. I cannot find that he ever expressed any wish
concerning the disposition of the picture to any of his friends.
Unfortunately, Sir Hugh was not always discreet in his remarks to
his servants."

"Captain Gresham, Lady Ellingham, and Miss Ellingham,"
announced a servant, appearing at the door.

There was a murmur in the hall, and MacMaster greeted the
smiling Captain and his aunt as he bowed himself out.

To all intents and purposes the Marriage of Phaedra was
already entombed in a vague continent in the Pacific, somewhere
on the other side of the world.

A Wagner Matinee

I received one morning a letter, written in pale ink on
glassy, blue-lined notepaper, and bearing the postmark of a
little Nebraska village. This communication, worn and rubbed,
looking as though it had been carried for some days in a coat
pocket that was none too clean, was from my Uncle Howard and
informed me that his wife had been left a small legacy by a
bachelor relative who had recently died, and that it would be
necessary for her to go to Boston to attend to the settling of
the estate. He requested me to meet her at the station and
render her whatever services might be necessary. On examining
the date indicated as that of her arrival I found it no later
than tomorrow. He had characteristically delayed writing until,
had I been away from home for a day, I must have missed the good
woman altogether.

The name of my Aunt Georgiana called up not alone her own
figure, at once pathetic and grotesque, but opened before my feet
a gulf of recollection so wide and deep that, as the letter
dropped from my hand, I felt suddenly a stranger to all the
present conditions of my existence, wholly ill at ease and out of
place amid the familiar surroundings of my study. I became, in
short, the gangling farm boy my aunt had known, scourged with
chilblains and bashfulness, my hands cracked and sore from the
corn husking. I felt the knuckles of my thumb tentatively, as
though they were raw again. I sat again before her parlor organ,
fumbling the scales with my stiff, red hands, while she, beside
me, made canvas mittens for the huskers.

The next morning, after preparing my landlady somewhat, I
set out for the station. When the train arrived I had some
difficulty in finding my aunt. She was the last of
the passengers to alight, and it was not until I got her into the
carriage that she seemed really to recognize me. She had come
all the way in a day coach; her linen duster had become black
with soot, and her black bonnet gray with dust, during the
journey. When we arrived at my boardinghouse the landlady put
her to bed at once and I did not see her again until the next

Whatever shock Mrs. Springer experienced at my aunt's
appearance she considerately concealed. As for myself, I saw my
aunt's misshapen figure with that feeling of awe and respect with
which we behold explorers who have left their ears and fingers
north of Franz Josef Land, or their health somewhere along the
Upper Congo. My Aunt Georgiana had been a music teacher at the
Boston Conservatory, somewhere back in the latter sixties. One
summer, while visiting in the little village among the Green
Mountains where her ancestors had dwelt for generations, she had
kindled the callow fancy of the most idle and shiftless of all
the village lads, and had conceived for this Howard Carpenter one
of those extravagant passions which a handsome country boy of
twenty-one sometimes inspires in an angular, spectacled woman of
thirty. When she returned to her duties in Boston, Howard
followed her, and the upshot of this inexplicable infatuation was
that she eloped with him, eluding the reproaches of her family
and the criticisms of her friends by going with him to the
Nebraska frontier. Carpenter, who, of course, had no money, had
taken a homestead in Red Willow County, fifty miles from the
railroad. There they had measured off their quarter section
themselves by driving across the prairie in a wagon, to the wheel
of which they had tied a red cotton handkerchief, and counting
off its revolutions. They built a dugout in the red hillside,
one of those cave dwellings whose inmates so often reverted to
primitive conditions. Their water they got from the lagoons
where the buffalo drank, and their slender stock of provisions
was always at the mercy of bands of roving Indians. For thirty
years my aunt had not been further than fifty miles from the

But Mrs. Springer knew nothing of all this, and must have
been considerably shocked at what was left of my kinswoman.
Beneath the soiled linen duster which, on her arrival, was the most
conspicuous feature of her costume, she wore a black stuff dress,
whose ornamentation showed that she had surrendered herself
unquestioningly into the hands of a country dressmaker. My poor
aunt's figure, however, would have presented astonishing
difficulties to any dressmaker. Originally stooped, her shoulders
were now almost bent together over her sunken chest. She wore no
stays, and her gown, which trailed unevenly behind, rose in a sort
of peak over her abdomen. She wore ill-fitting false teeth, and
her skin was as yellow as a Mongolian's from constant exposure to
a pitiless wind and to the alkaline water which hardens the most
transparent cuticle into a sort of flexible leather.

I owed to this woman most of the good that ever came my way
in my boyhood, and had a reverential affection for her. During
the years when I was riding herd for my uncle, my aunt, after
cooking the three meals--the first of which was ready at six
o'clock in the morning-and putting the six children to bed, would
often stand until midnight at her ironing board, with me at the
kitchen table beside her, hearing me recite Latin declensions and
conjugations, gently shaking me when my drowsy head sank down
over a page of irregular verbs. It was to her, at her ironing or
mending, that I read my first Shakespeare', and her old textbook
on mythology was the first that ever came into my empty hands.
She taught me my scales and exercises, too--on the little parlor
organ, which her husband had bought her after fifteen years,
during which she had not so much as seen any instrument, but an
accordion that belonged to one of the Norwegian farmhands. She
would sit beside me by the hour, darning and counting while I
struggled with the "Joyous Farmer," but she seldom talked to me
about music, and I understood why. She was a pious woman; she
had the consolations of religion and, to her at least, her
martyrdom was not wholly sordid. Once when I had been doggedly
beating out some easy passages from an old score of
Euryanthe I had found among her music books, she came up to
me and, putting her hands over my eyes, gently drew my head back
upon her shoulder, saying tremulously, "Don't love it so well,
Clark, or it may be taken from you. Oh, dear boy, pray that
whatever your sacrifice may be, it be not that."

When my aunt appeared on the morning after her arrival she
was still in a semi-somnambulant state. She seemed not to realize
that she was in the city where she had spent her youth, the place
longed for hungrily half a lifetime. She had been so wretchedly
train-sick throughout the journey that she bad no recollection of
anything but her discomfort, and, to all intents and purposes,
there were but a few hours of nightmare between the farm in Red
Willow County and my study on Newbury Street. I had planned a
little pleasure for her that afternoon, to repay her for some of
the glorious moments she had given me when we used to milk
together in the straw-thatched cowshed and she, because I was
more than usually tired, or because her husband had spoken
sharply to me, would tell me of the splendid performance of the
Huguenots she had seen in Paris, in her youth. At two
o'clock the Symphony Orchestra was to give a Wagner program, and I
intended to take my aunt; though, as I conversed with her I grew
doubtful about her enjoyment of it. Indeed, for her own sake, I
could only wish her taste for such things quite dead, and the
long struggle mercifully ended at last. I suggested our visiting
the Conservatory and the Common before lunch, but she seemed
altogether too timid to wish to venture out. She questioned me
absently about various changes in the city, but she was chiefly
concerned that she had forgotten to leave instructions about
feeding half-skimmed milk to a certain weakling calf, "old
Maggie's calf, you know, Clark," she explained, evidently having
forgotten how long I had been away. She was further troubled
because she had neglected to tell her daughter about the freshly
opened kit of mackerel in the cellar, which would spoil if it
were not used directly.

I asked her whether she had ever heard any of the Wagnerian
operas and found that she had not, though she was perfectly
familiar with their respective situations, and had once possessed
the piano score of The Flying Dutchman. I began to think it
would have been best to get her back to Red Willow County without
waking her, and regretted having suggested the concert.

From the time we entered the concert hall, however, she was
a trifle less passive and inert, and for the first time seemed to
perceive her surroundings. I had felt some trepidation lest she
might become aware of the absurdities of her attire, or might
experience some painful embarrassment at stepping suddenly into
the world to which she had been dead for a quarter of a century.
But, again, I found how superficially I had judged her. She sat
looking about her with eyes as impersonal, almost as stony, as
those with which the granite Rameses in a museum watches the
froth and fret that ebbs and flows about his pedestal-separated
from it by the lonely stretch of centuries. I have seen this
same aloofness in old miners who drift into the Brown Hotel at
Denver, their pockets full of bullion, their linen soiled, their
haggard faces unshaven; standing in the thronged corridors as
solitary as though they were still in a frozen camp on the Yukon,
conscious that certain experiences have isolated them from their
fellows by a gulf no haberdasher could bridge.

We sat at the extreme left of the first balcony, facing the
arc of our own and the balcony above us, veritable hanging
gardens, brilliant as tulip beds. The matinee audience was made
up chiefly of women. One lost the contour of faces and figures--
indeed, any effect of line whatever-and there was only the color
of bodices past counting, the shimmer of fabrics soft and firm,
silky and sheer: red, mauve, pink, blue, lilac, purple, ecru,
rose, yellow, cream, and white, all the colors that an
impressionist finds in a sunlit landscape, with here and there
the dead shadow of a frock coat. My Aunt Georgiana regarded them
as though they had been so many daubs of tube-paint on a palette.

When the musicians came out and took their places, she gave
a little stir of anticipation and looked with quickening interest
down over the rail at that invariable grouping, perhaps the first
wholly familiar thing that had greeted her eye since she had left
old Maggie and her weakling calf. I could feel how all those
details sank into her soul, for I had not forgotten how they had
sunk into mine when. I came fresh from plowing forever and
forever between green aisles of corn, where, as in a treadmill,
one might walk from daybreak to dusk without perceiving a shadow
of change. The clean profiles of the musicians, the gloss of
their linen, the dull black of their coats, the beloved shapes of
the instruments, the patches of yellow light thrown by the green-
shaded lamps on the smooth, varnished bellies of the cellos and
the bass viols in the rear, the restless, wind-tossed forest of
fiddle necks and bows-I recalled how, in the first orchestra I
had ever heard, those long bow strokes seemed to draw the heart
out of me, as a conjurer's stick reels out yards of paper ribbon
from a hat.

The first number was the Tannhauser overture. When the
horns drew out the first strain of the Pilgrim's chorus my Aunt
Georgiana clutched my coat sleeve. Then it was I first realized
that for her this broke a silence of thirty years; the
inconceivable silence of the plains. With the battle between the
two motives, with the frenzy of the Venusberg theme and its
ripping of strings, there came to me an overwhelming sense of the
waste and wear we are so powerless to combat; and I saw again the
tall, naked house on the prairie, black and grim as a wooden
fortress; the black pond where I had learned to swim, its margin
pitted with sun-dried cattle tracks; the rain-gullied clay banks
about the naked house, the four dwarf ash seedlings where the
dishcloths were always hung to dry before the kitchen door. The
world there was the flat world of the ancients; to the east, a
cornfield that stretched to daybreak; to the west, a corral that
reached to sunset; between, the conquests of peace, dearer bought
than those of war.

The overture closed; my aunt released my coat sleeve, but
she said nothing. She sat staring at the orchestra through a
dullness of thirty years, through the films made little by little
by each of the three hundred and sixty-five days in every one of
them. What, I wondered, did she get from it? She had been a good
pianist in her day I knew, and her musical education had been
broader than that of most music teachers of a quarter of a
century ago. She had often told me of Mozart's operas and
Meyerbeer's, and I could remember hearing her sing, years ago,
certain melodies of Verdi's. When I had fallen ill with a fever
in her house she used to sit by my cot in the evening--when the
cool, night wind blew in through the faded mosquito netting
tacked over the window, and I lay watching a certain bright star
that burned red above the cornfield--and sing "Home to our
mountains, O, let us return!" in a way fit to break the heart of
a Vermont boy near dead of homesickness already.

I watched her closely through the prelude to Tristan and
, trying vainly to conjecture what that seething turmoil
of strings and winds might mean to her, but she sat mutely staring
at the violin bows that drove obliquely downward, like the
pelting streaks of rain in a summer shower. Had this music any
message for her? Had she enough left to at all comprehend this
power which had kindled the world since she had left it? I was
in a fever of curiosity, but Aunt Georgiana sat silent upon her
peak in Darien. She preserved this utter immobility throughout
the number from The Flying Dutchman, though her fingers
worked mechanically upon her black dress, as though, of themselves,
they were recalling the piano score they had once played. Poor old
hands! They had been stretched and twisted into mere tentacles to
hold and lift and knead with; the palms unduly swollen, the
fingers bent and knotted--on one of them a thin, worn band that
had once been a wedding ring. As I pressed and gently quieted
one of those groping hands I remembered with quivering eyelids
their services for me in other days.

Soon after the tenor began the "Prize Song," I heard a quick
drawn breath and turned to my aunt. Her eyes were closed, but
the tears were glistening on her cheeks, and I think, in a moment
more, they were in my eyes as well. It never really died, then--
the soul that can suffer so excruciatingly and so interminably;
it withers to the outward eye only; like that strange moss which
can lie on a dusty shelf half a century and yet, if placed in
water, grows green again. She wept so throughout the development
and elaboration of the melody.

During the intermission before the second half of the concert, I
questioned my aunt and found that the "Prize Song" was not new to
her. Some years before there had drifted to the farm in Red Willow
County a young German, a tramp cowpuncher, who had sung the chorus
at Bayreuth, when he was a boy, along with the other peasant boys
and girls. Of a Sunday morning he used to sit on his
gingham-sheeted bed in the hands' bedroom which opened off the
kitchen, cleaning the leather of his boots and saddle, singing the
"Prize Song," while my aunt went about her work in the kitchen.
She had hovered about him until she had prevailed upon him to join
the country church, though his sole fitness for this step, insofar
as I could gather, lay in his boyish face and his possession of
this divine melody. Shortly afterward he had gone to town on the
Fourth of July, been drunk for several days, lost his money at a
faro table, ridden a saddled Texan steer on a bet, and disappeared
with a fractured collarbone. All this my aunt told me huskily,
wanderingly, as though she were talking in the weak lapses of

"Well, we have come to better things than the old Trovatore
at any rate, Aunt Georgie?" I queried, with a well-meant effort
at jocularity.

Her lip quivered and she hastily put her handkerchief up to
her mouth. From behind it she murmured, "And you have been
hearing this ever since you left me, Clark?" Her question was the
gentlest and saddest of reproaches.

The second half of the program consisted of four numbers from the
Ring, and closed with Siegfried's funeral march. My
aunt wept quietly, but almost continuously, as a shallow vessel
overflows in a rainstorm. From time to time her dim eyes looked
up at the lights which studded the ceiling, burning softly under
their dull glass globes; doubtless they were stars in truth to
her. I was still perplexed as to what measure of musical
comprehension was left to her, she who had heard nothing but the
singing of gospel hymns at Methodist services in the square frame
schoolhouse on Section Thirteen for so many years. I was wholly
unable to gauge how much of it had been dissolved in soapsuds, or
worked into bread, or milked into the bottom of a pail.

The deluge of sound poured on and on; I never knew what she
found in the shining current of it; I never knew how far it bore
her, or past what happy islands. From the trembling of her face
I could well believe that before the last numbers she had been
carried out where the myriad graves are, into the gray,
nameless burying grounds of the sea; or into some world of death
vaster yet, where, from the beginning of the world, hope has lain
down with hope and dream with dream and, renouncing, slept.

The concert was over; the people filed out of the hall
chattering and laughing, glad to relax and find the living level
again, but my kinswoman made no effort to rise. The harpist
slipped its green felt cover over his instrument; the flute
players shook the water from their mouthpieces; the men of the
orchestra went out one by one, leaving the stage to the chairs
and music stands, empty as a winter cornfield.

I spoke to my aunt. She burst into tears and sobbed pleadingly.
"I don't want to go, Clark, I don't want to go!"

I understood. For her, just outside the door of the concert
hall, lay the black pond with the cattle-tracked bluffs; the
tall, unpainted house, with weather-curled boards; naked as a
tower, the crook-backed ash seedlings where the dishcloths hung
to dry; the gaunt, molting turkeys picking up refuse about the
kitchen door.

Paul's Case

A Study in Temperament

It was Paul's afternoon to appear before the faculty of the
Pittsburgh High School to account for his various misdemeanors.
He had been suspended a week ago, and his father had called at
the Principal's office and confessed his perplexity about his
son. Paul entered the faculty room suave and smiling. His
clothes were a trifle outgrown, and the tan velvet on the collar
of his open overcoat was frayed and worn; but for all that there
was something of the dandy about him, and he wore an opal pin in
his neatly knotted black four-in-hand, and a red carnation in his
buttonhole. This latter adornment the faculty somehow felt was
not properly significant of the contrite spirit befitting a boy
under the ban of suspension.

Paul was tall for his age and very thin, with high, cramped
shoulders and a narrow chest. His eyes were remarkable for a
certain hysterical brilliancy, and he continually used them in a
conscious, theatrical sort of way, peculiarly offensive in a boy.
The pupils were abnormally large, as though he were addicted to
belladonna, but there was a glassy glitter about them which that
drug does not produce.

When questioned by the Principal as to why he was there Paul
stated, politely enough, that he wanted to come back to school.
This was a lie, but Paul was quite accustomed to lying; found it,
indeed, indispensable for overcoming friction. His teachers were
asked to state their respective charges against him, which they
did with such a rancor and aggrievedness as evinced that this was
not a usual case, Disorder and impertinence were among the
offenses named, yet each of his instructors felt that it was
scarcely possible to put into words the real cause of the trouble,
which lay in a sort of hysterically defiant manner of the boy's; in
the contempt which they all knew he felt for them, and which he
seemingly made not the least effort to conceal. Once, when he
had been making a synopsis of a paragraph at the blackboard, his
English teacher had stepped to his side and attempted to guide
his hand. Paul had started back with a shudder and thrust his
hands violently behind him. The astonished woman could scarcely
have been more hurt and embarrassed had he struck at her. The
insult was so involuntary and definitely personal as to be
unforgettable. in one way and another he had made all his
teachers, men and women alike, conscious of the same feeling of
physical aversion. In one class he habitually sat with his hand
shading his eyes; in another he always looked out of the window
during the recitation; in another he made a running commentary on
the lecture, with humorous intention.

His teachers felt this afternoon that his whole attitude was
symbolized by his shrug and his flippantly red carnation flower,
and they fell upon him without mercy, his English teacher leading
the pack. He stood through it smiling, his pale lips parted over
his white teeth. (His lips were continually twitching, and be had
a habit of raising his eyebrows that was contemptuous and
irritating to the last degree.) Older boys than Paul had broken
down and shed tears under that baptism of fire, but his set smile
did not once desert him, and his only sign of discomfort was the
nervous trembling of the fingers that toyed with the buttons of
his overcoat, and an occasional jerking of the other hand that
held his hat. Paul was always smiling, always glancing about
him, seeming to feel that people might be watching him and trying
to detect something. This conscious expression, since it was as
far as possible from boyish mirthfulness, was usually attributed
to insolence or "smartness."

As the inquisition proceeded one of his instructors repeated
an impertinent remark of the boy's, and the Principal asked him
whether he thought that a courteous speech to have made a
woman. Paul shrugged his shoulders slightly and his eyebrows

"I don't know," he replied. "I didn't mean to be polite or
impolite, either. I guess it's a sort of way I have of saying
things regardless."

The Principal, who was a sympathetic man, asked him whether
he didn't think that a way it would be well to get rid of. Paul
grinned and said he guessed so. When he was told that he could
go he bowed gracefully and went out. His bow was but a
repetition of the scandalous red carnation.

His teachers were in despair, and his drawing master voiced
the feeling of them all when he declared there was something
about the boy which none of them understood. He added: "I don't
really believe that smile of his comes altogether from insolence;
there's something sort of haunted about it. The boy is not
strong, for one thing. I happen to know that he was born in
Colorado, only a few months before his mother died out there of a
long illness. There is something wrong about the fellow."

The drawing master had come to realize that, in looking at
Paul, one saw only his white teeth and the forced animation of
his eyes. One warm afternoon the boy had gone to sleep at his
drawing board, and his master had noted with amazement what a
white, blue-veined face it was; drawn and wrinkled like an old
man's about the eyes, the lips twitching even in his sleep, and
stiff with a nervous tension that drew them back from his teeth.

His teachers left the building dissatisfied and unhappy;
humiliated to have felt so vindictive toward a mere boy, to have
uttered this feeling in cutting terms, and to have set each other
on, as it were, in the gruesome game of intemperate reproach.
Some of them remembered having seen a miserable street cat set at
bay by a ring of tormentors.

As for Paul, he ran down the hill whistling the "Soldiers' Chorus"
from Faust, looking wildly behind him now and then to see
whether some of his teachers were not there to writhe under his
lightheartedness. As it was now late in the afternoon and Paul
was on duty that evening as usher at Carnegie Hall, he decided
that he would not go home to supper. When he reached the
concert hall the doors were not yet open and, as it was chilly
outside, he decided to go up into the picture gallery--always
deserted at this hour--where there were some of Raffelli's gay
studies of Paris streets and an airy blue Venetian scene or two
that always exhilarated him. He was delighted to find no one in
the gallery but the old guard, who sat in one corner, a newspaper
on his knee, a black patch over one eye and the other closed.
Paul possessed himself of the peace and walked confidently up and
down, whistling under his breath. After a while he sat down before
a blue Rico and lost himself. When he bethought him to look at his
watch, it was after seven o'clock, and he rose with a start and ran
downstairs, making a face at Augustus, peering out from the cast
room, and an evil gesture at the Venus de Milo as he passed her on
the stairway.

When Paul reached the ushers' dressing room half a dozen
boys were there already, and he began excitedly to tumble into
his uniform. It was one of the few that at all approached
fitting, and Paul thought it very becoming-though he knew that
the tight, straight coat accentuated his narrow chest, about
which he was exceedingly sensitive. He was always considerably
excited while be dressed, twanging all over to the tuning of the
strings and the preliminary flourishes of the horns in the music
room; but tonight he seemed quite beside himself, and he teased
and plagued the boys until, telling him that he was crazy, they
put him down on the floor and sat on him.

Somewhat calmed by his suppression, Paul dashed out to the
front of the house to seat the early comers. He was a model
usher; gracious and smiling he ran up and down the aisles;
nothing was too much trouble for him; he carried messages and
brought programs as though it were his greatest pleasure in life,
and all the people in his section thought him a charming boy,
feeling that he remembered and admired them. As the house
filled, he grew more and more vivacious and animated, and the
color came to his cheeks and lips. It was very much as though
this were a great reception and Paul were the host. just as the
musicians came out to take their places, his English teacher
arrived with checks for the seats which a prominent
manufacturer had taken for the season. She betrayed some
embarrassment when she handed Paul the tickets, and a hauteur
which subsequently made her feel very foolish. Paul was
startled for a moment, and had the feeling of wanting to put her
out; what business had she here among all these fine people and
gay colors? He looked her over and decided that she was not
appropriately dressed and must be a fool to sit downstairs in
such togs. The tickets had probably been sent her out of
kindness, he reflected as he put down a seat for her, and she had
about as much right to sit there as he had.

When the symphony began Paul sank into one of the rear seats
with a long sigh of relief, and lost himself as he had done
before the Rico. It was not that symphonies, as such, meant
anything in particular to Paul, but the first sigh of the
instruments seemed to free some hilarious and potent spirit
within him; something that struggled there like the genie in the
bottle found by the Arab fisherman. He felt a sudden zest of
life; the lights danced before his eyes and the concert hall
blazed into unimaginable splendor. When the soprano soloist came
on Paul forgot even the nastiness of his teacher's being there
and gave himself up to the peculiar stimulus such personages
always had for him. The soloist chanced to be a German woman, by
no means in her first youth, and the mother of many children; but
she wore an elaborate gown and a tiara, and above all she had
that indefinable air of achievement, that world-shine upon her,
which, in Paul's eyes, made her a veritable queen of Romance.

After a concert was over Paul was always irritable and
wretched until he got to sleep, and tonight he was even more than
usually restless. He had the feeling of not being able to let
down, of its being impossible to give up this delicious
excitement which was the only thing that could be called living
at all. During the last number he withdrew and, after hastily
changing his clothes in the dressing room, slipped out to the
side door where the soprano's carriage stood. Here he began
pacing rapidly up and down the walk, waiting to see her come out.

Over yonder, the Schenley, in its vacant stretch, loomed big and
square through the fine rain, the windows of its twelve stories
glowing like those of a lighted cardboard house under a Christmas
tree. All the actors and singers of the better class stayed there
when they were in the city, and a number of the big manufacturers
of the place lived there in the winter. Paul had often hung about
the hotel, watching the people go in and out, longing to enter and
leave schoolmasters and dull care behind him forever.

At last the singer came out, accompanied by the conductor, who
helped her into her carriage and closed the door with a cordial
auf wiedersehen which set Paul to wondering whether she
were not an old sweetheart of his. Paul followed the carriage
over to the hotel, walking so rapidly as not to be far from the
entrance when the singer alighted, and disappeared behind the
swinging glass doors that were opened by a Negro in a tall hat
and a long coat. In the moment that the door was ajar it seemed
to Paul that he, too, entered. He seemed to feel himself go
after her up the steps, into the warm, lighted building, into an
exotic, tropical world of shiny, glistening surfaces and basking
ease. He reflected upon the mysterious dishes that were brought
into the dining room, the green bottles in buckets of ice, as he
had seen them in the supper party pictures of the Sunday
supplement. A quick gust of wind brought the rain down
with sudden vehemence, and Paul was startled to find that he was
still outside in the slush of the gravel driveway; that his boots
were letting in the water and his scanty overcoat was clinging wet
about him; that the lights in front of the concert hall were out
and that the rain was driving in sheets between him and the
orange glow of the windows above him. There it was, what be
wanted--tangibly before him, like the fairy world of a Christmas
pantomime--but mocking spirits stood guard at the doors, and, as
the rain beat in his face, Paul wondered whether he were destined
always to shiver in the black night outside, looking up at it.

He turned and walked reluctantly toward the car tracks. The
end had to come sometime; his father in his nightclothes at the
top of the stairs, explanations that did not explain, hastily
improvised fictions that were forever tripping him up,
his upstairs room and its horrible yellow wallpaper, the creaking
bureau with the greasy plush collarbox, and over his painted
wooden bed the pictures of George Washington and John Calvin, and
the framed motto, "Feed my Lambs," which had been worked in red
worsted by his mother.

Half an hour later Paul alighted from his car and went
slowly down one of the side streets off the main thoroughfare.
It was a highly respectable street, where all the houses were
exactly alike, and where businessmen of moderate means begot and
reared large families of children, all of whom went to Sabbath
school and learned the shorter catechism, and were interested in
arithmetic; all of whom were as exactly alike as their homes, and
of a piece with the monotony in which they lived. Paul never
went up Cordelia Street without a shudder of loathing. His home
was next to the house of the Cumberland minister. He approached
it tonight with the nerveless sense Of defeat, the hopeless
feeling of sinking back forever into ugliness and commonness that
he had always had when he came home. The moment he turned into
Cordelia Street he felt the waters close above his head. After
each of these orgies of living he experienced all the physical
depression which follows a debauch; the loathing of respectable
beds, of common food, of a house penetrated by kitchen odors; a
shuddering repulsion for the flavorless, colorless mass of
everyday existence; a morbid desire for cool things and soft
lights and fresh flowers.

The nearer he approached the house, the more absolutely
unequal Paul felt to the sight of it all: his ugly sleeping
chamber; the cold bathroom with the grimy zinc tub, the cracked
mirror, the dripping spiggots; his father, at the top of the
stairs, his hairy legs sticking out from his nightshirt, his feet
thrust into carpet slippers. He was so much later than usual
that there would certainly be inquiries and reproaches. Paul
stopped short before the door. He felt that he could not be
accosted by his father tonight; that he could not toss again on
that miserable bed. He would not go in. He would tell his
father that he had no carfare and it was raining so hard he had
gone home with one of the boys and stayed all night.

Meanwhile, he was wet and cold. He went around to the back
of the house and tried one of the basement windows, found it
open, raised it cautiously, and scrambled down the cellar wall to
the floor. There he stood, holding his breath, terrified by the
noise he had made, but the floor above him was silent, and there
was no creak on the stairs. He found a soapbox, and carried it
over to the soft ring of light that streamed from the furnace
door, and sat down. He was horribly afraid of rats, so he did
not try to sleep, but sat looking distrustfully at the dark,
still terrified lest he might have awakened his father. In such
reactions, after one of the experiences which made days and
nights out of the dreary blanks of the calendar, when his senses
were deadened, Paul's head was always singularly clear. Suppose
his father had heard him getting in at the window and had come
down and shot him for a burglar? Then, again, suppose his father
had come down, pistol in hand, and he had cried out in time to
save himself, and his father had been horrified to think how
nearly he had killed him? Then, again, suppose a day should come
when his father would remember that night, and wish there had
been no warning cry to stay his hand? With this last supposition
Paul entertained himself until daybreak.

The following Sunday was fine; the sodden November chill was
broken by the last flash of autumnal summer. In the morning Paul
had to go to church and Sabbath school, as always. On seasonable
Sunday afternoons the burghers of Cordelia Street always sat out
on their front stoops and talked to their neighbors on the next
stoop, or called to those across the street in neighborly
fashion. The men usually sat on gay cushions placed upon the
steps that led down to the sidewalk, while the women, in their
Sunday "waists," sat in rockers on the cramped porches, pretending
to be greatly at their ease. The children played in the
streets; there were so many of them that the place resembled the
recreation grounds of a kindergarten. The men on the steps--all
in their shirt sleeves, their vests unbuttoned--sat with their
legs well apart, their stomachs comfortably protruding, and
talked of the prices of things, or told anecdotes of the sagacity
of their various chiefs and overlords. They occasionally looked
over the multitude of squabbling children, listened
affectionately to their high-pitched, nasal voices, smiling to
see their own proclivities reproduced in their offspring, and
interspersed their legends of the iron kings with remarks about
their sons' progress at school, their grades in arithmetic, and
the amounts they had saved in their toy banks.

On this last Sunday of November Paul sat all the afternoon
on the lowest step of his stoop, staring into the street, while
his sisters, in their rockers, were talking to the minister's
daughters next door about how many shirtwaists they had made in
the last week, and bow many waffles someone had eaten at the last
church supper. When the weather was warm, and his father was in
a particularly jovial frame of mind, the girls made lemonade,
which was always brought out in a red-glass pitcher, ornamented
with forget-me-nots in blue enamel. This the girls thought very
fine, and the neighbors always joked about the suspicious color
of the pitcher.

Today Paul's father sat on the top step, talking to a young
man who shifted a restless baby from knee to knee. He happened
to be the young man who was daily held up to Paul as a model, and
after whom it was his father's dearest hope that he would
pattern. This young man was of a ruddy complexion, with a
compressed, red mouth, and faded, nearsighted eyes, over which he
wore thick spectacles, with gold bows that curved about his ears.
He was clerk to one of the magnates of a great steel corporation,
and was looked upon in Cordelia Street as a young man with a
future. There was a story that, some five years ago--he was now
barely twenty-six--he had been a trifle dissipated, but in order
to curb his appetites and save the loss of time and strength that
a sowing of wild oats might have entailed, he had taken his
chief's advice, oft reiterated to his employees, and at twenty-
one had married the first woman whom he could persuade to share
his fortunes. She happened to be an angular schoolmistress, much
older than he, who also wore thick glasses, and who had now borne
him four children, all nearsighted, like herself.

The young man was relating how his chief, now cruising in
the Mediterranean, kept in touch with all the details of
the business, arranging his office hours on his yacht just as
though he were at home, and "knocking off work enough to keep two
stenographers busy." His father told, in turn, the plan his
corporation was considering, of putting in an electric railway
plant in Cairo. Paul snapped his teeth; he had an awful
apprehension that they might spoil it all before he got there.
Yet he rather liked to hear these legends of the iron kings that
were told and retold on Sundays and holidays; these stories of
palaces in Venice, yachts on the Mediterranean, and high play at
Monte Carlo appealed to his fancy, and he was interested in the
triumphs of these cash boys who had become famous, though he had
no mind for the cash-boy stage.

After supper was over and he had helped to dry the dishes,
Paul nervously asked his father whether he could go to George's
to get some help in his geometry, and still more nervously asked
for carfare. This latter request he had to repeat, as his
father, on principle, did not like to hear requests for money,
whether much or little. He asked Paul whether he could not go to
some boy who lived nearer, and told him that he ought not to
leave his schoolwork until Sunday; but he gave him the dime. He
was not a poor man, but he had a worthy ambition to come up in
the world. His only reason for allowing Paul to usher was that
he thought a boy ought to be earning a little.

Paul bounded upstairs, scrubbed the greasy odor of the
dishwater from his hands with the ill-smelling soap he hated, and
then shook over his fingers a few drops of violet water from the
bottle he kept hidden in his drawer. He left the house with his
geometry conspicuously under his arm, and the moment he got out
of Cordelia Street and boarded a downtown car, he shook off the
lethargy of two deadening days and began to live again.

The leading juvenile of the permanent stock company which played at
one of the downtown theaters was an acquaintance of Paul's, and the
boy had been invited to drop in at the Sunday-night rehearsals
whenever he could. For more than a year Paul had spent every
available moment loitering about Charley Edwards's dressing room.
He had won a place among Edwards's following not only because the
young actor, who could not afford to employ a dresser, often found
him useful, but because he recognized in Paul something akin to
what churchmen term "vocation."

It was at the theater and at Carnegie Hall that Paul really
lived; the rest was but a sleep and a forgetting. This was
Paul's fairy tale, and it had for him all the allurement of a
secret love. The moment he inhaled the gassy, painty, dusty odor
behind the scenes, he breathed like a prisoner set free, and felt
within him the possibility of doing or saying splendid,
brilliant, poetic things. The moment the cracked orchestra beat
out the overture from Martha, or jerked at the serenade from
Rigoletto, all stupid and ugly things slid from him, and his
senses were deliciously, yet delicately fired.

Perhaps it was because, in Paul's world, the natural nearly
always wore the guise of ugliness, that a certain element of
artificiality seemed to him necessary in beauty. Perhaps it was
because his experience of life elsewhere was so full of Sabbath-
school picnics, petty economies, wholesome advice as to how to
succeed in life, and the inescapable odors of cooking, that he
found this existence so alluring, these smartly clad men and
women so attractive, that he was so moved by these starry apple
orchards that bloomed perennially under the limelight.

It would be difficult to put it strongly enough how
convincingly the stage entrance of that theater was for Paul the
actual portal of Romance. Certainly none of the company ever
suspected it, least of all Charley Edwards. It was very like the
old stories that used to float about London of fabulously rich
Jews, who had subterranean halls there, with palms, and
fountains, and soft lamps and richly appareled women who never
saw the disenchanting light of London day. So, in the midst of
that smoke-palled city, enamored of figures and grimy toil, Paul
had his secret temple, his wishing carpet, his bit of blue-and-
white Mediterranean shore bathed in perpetual sunshine.

Several of Paul's teachers had a theory that his imagination
had been perverted by garish fiction, but the truth was that he
scarcely ever read at all. The books at home were not such as
would either tempt or corrupt a youthful mind, and as for reading
the novels that some of his friends urged upon him--well, he got
what he wanted much more quickly from music; any sort of music,
from an orchestra to a barrel organ. He needed only the spark, the
indescribable thrill that made his imagination master of his
senses, and he could make plots and pictures enough of his own. It
was equally true that he was not stagestruck-not, at any rate, in
the usual acceptation of that expression. He had no desire to
become an actor, any more than he had to become a musician. He
felt no necessity to do any of these things; what he wanted was
to see, to be in the atmosphere, float on the wave of it, to be
carried out, blue league after blue league, away from everything.

After a night behind the scenes Paul found the schoolroom
more than ever repulsive; the bare floors and naked walls; the
prosy men who never wore frock coats, or violets in their
buttonholes; the women with their dull gowns, shrill voices, and
pitiful seriousness about prepositions that govern the dative.
He could not bear to have the other pupils think, for a moment,
that he took these people seriously; he must convey to them that
he considered it all trivial, and was there only by way of a
jest, anyway. He had autographed pictures of all the members of
the stock company which he showed his classmates, telling them
the most incredible stories of his familiarity with these people,
of his acquaintance with the soloists who came to Carnegie Hall,
his suppers with them and the flowers he sent them. When these
stories lost their effect, and his audience grew listless, he
became desperate and would bid all the boys good-by, announcing
that he was going to travel for a while; going to Naples, to
Venice, to Egypt. Then, next Monday, he would slip back,
conscious and nervously smiling; his sister was ill, and he
should have to defer his voyage until spring.

Matters went steadily worse with Paul at school. In the
itch to let his instructors know how heartily he despised them
and their homilies, and how thoroughly he was appreciated
elsewhere, he mentioned once or twice that he had no time to fool
with theorems; adding--with a twitch of the eyebrows and a touch
of that nervous bravado which so perplexed them--that he was
helping the people down at the stock company; they were old
friends of his.

The upshot of the matter was that the Principal went to
Paul's father, and Paul was taken out of school and put to work.
The manager at Carnegie Hall was told to get another usher in his
stead; the doorkeeper at the theater was warned not to admit him
to the house; and Charley Edwards remorsefully promised the boy's
father not to see him again.

The members of the stock company were vastly amused when
some of Paul's stories reached them--especially the women. They
were hardworking women, most of them supporting indigent husbands
or brothers, and they laughed rather bitterly at having stirred
the boy to such fervid and florid inventions. They agreed with
the faculty and with his father that Paul's was a bad case.

The eastbound train was plowing through a January snowstorm;
the dull dawn was beginning to show gray when the engine whistled
a mile out of Newark. Paul started up from the seat where he had
lain curled in uneasy slumber, rubbed the breath-misted window
glass with his hand, and peered out. The snow was whirling in
curling eddies above the white bottom lands, and the drifts lay
already deep in the fields and along the fences, while here and
there the long dead grass and dried weed stalks protruded black
above it. Lights shone from the scattered houses, and a gang of
laborers who stood beside the track waved their lanterns.

Paul had slept very little, and he felt grimy and uncomfortable.
He had made the all-night journey in a day coach, partly because he
was ashamed, dressed as he was, to go into a Pullman, and partly
because he was afraid of being seen there by some Pittsburgh
businessman, who might have noticed him in Denny & Carson's office.
When the whistle awoke him, he clutched quickly at his breast
pocket, glancing about him with an uncertain smile. But the
little, clay-bespattered Italians were still sleeping, the
slatternly women across the aisle were in open-mouthed oblivion,
and even the crumby, crying babies were for the nonce stilled.
Paul settled back to struggle with his impatience as best he could.

When he arrived at the Jersey City station he hurried through his
breakfast, manifestly ill at ease and keeping a sharp eye about
him. After he reached the Twenty-third Street station, he
consulted a cabman and had himself driven to a men's-furnishings
establishment that was just opening for the day. He spent upward
of two hours there, buying with endless reconsidering and great
care. His new street suit he put on in the fitting room; the frock
coat and dress clothes he had bundled into the cab with his linen.
Then he drove to a hatter's and a shoe house. His next errand was
at Tiffany's, where he selected his silver and a new scarf pin. He
would not wait to have his silver marked, he said. Lastly, he
stopped at a trunk shop on Broadway and had his purchases packed
into various traveling bags.

It was a little after one o'clock when he drove up to the
Waldorf, and after settling with the cabman, went into the
office. He registered from Washington; said his mother and
father had been abroad, and that he had come down to await the
arrival of their steamer. He told his story plausibly and had no
trouble, since he volunteered to pay for them in advance, in
engaging his rooms; a sleeping room, sitting room, and bath.

Not once, but a hundred times, Paul had planned this entry
into New York. He had gone over every detail of it with Charley
Edwards, and in his scrapbook at home there were pages of
description about New York hotels, cut from the Sunday papers.
When he was shown to his sitting room on the eighth floor he saw
at a glance that everything was as it should be; there was but
one detail in his mental picture that the place did not realize,
so he rang for the bellboy and sent him down for flowers. He
moved about nervously until the boy returned, putting away his
new linen and fingering it delightedly as he did so. When the
flowers came he put them hastily into water, and then tumbled
into a hot bath. Presently he came out of his white bathroom,
resplendent in his new silk underwear, and playing with the
tassels of his red robe. The snow was whirling so fiercely
outside his windows that he could scarcely see across the street,
but within the air was deliciously soft and fragrant. He put the
violets and jonquils on the taboret beside the couch, and threw
himself down, with a long sigh, covering himself with a Roman
blanket. He was thoroughly tired; he had been in such haste, he
had stood up to such a strain, covered so much ground in the last
twenty-four hours, that he wanted to think how it had all come
about. Lulled by the sound of the wind, the warm air, and the
cool fragrance of the flowers, he sank into deep, drowsy

It had been wonderfully simple; when they had shut him out
of the theater and concert hall, when they had taken away his
bone, the whole thing was virtually determined. The rest was a
mere matter of opportunity. The only thing that at all surprised
him was his own courage-for he realized well enough that he had
always been tormented by fear, a sort of apprehensive dread that,
of late years, as the meshes of the lies he had told closed about
him, had been pulling the muscles of his body tighter and
tighter. Until now he could not remember the time when he had
not been dreading something. Even when he was a little boy it
was always there--behind him, or before, or on either side.
There had always been the shadowed corner, the dark place into
which he dared not look, but from which something seemed always
to be watching him--and Paul had done things that were not pretty
to watch, he knew.

But now he had a curious sense of relief, as though he had
at last thrown down the gauntlet to the thing in the corner.

Yet it was but a day since he had been sulking in the
traces; but yesterday afternoon that he had been sent to the bank
with Denny & Carson's deposit, as usual--but this time he was
instructed to leave the book to be balanced. There was above two
thousand dollars in checks, and nearly a thousand in the bank
notes which he had taken from the book and quietly transferred to
his pocket. At the bank he had made out a new deposit slip. His
nerves had been steady enough to permit of his returning to the
office, where he had finished his work and asked for a full day's
holiday tomorrow, Saturday, giving a perfectly reasonable
pretext. The bankbook, be knew, would not be returned before
Monday or Tuesday, and his father would be out of town for the
next week. From the time he slipped the bank notes into his
pocket until he boarded the night train for New York, he
had not known a moment's hesitation. It was not the first time
Paul had steered through treacherous waters.

How astonishingly easy it had all been; here he was, the
thing done; and this time there would be no awakening, no figure
at the top of the stairs. He watched the snowflakes whirling by
his window until he fell asleep.

When he awoke, it was three o'clock in the afternoon. He
bounded up with a start; half of one of his precious days gone
already! He spent more than an hour in dressing, watching every
stage of his toilet carefully in the mirror. Everything was
quite perfect; he was exactly the kind of boy he had always
wanted to be.

When he went downstairs Paul took a carriage and drove up
Fifth Avenue toward the Park. The snow had somewhat abated;
carriages and tradesmen's wagons were hurrying soundlessly to and
fro in the winter twilight; boys in woolen mufflers were
shoveling off the doorsteps; the avenue stages made fine spots of
color against the white street. Here and there on the corners
were stands, with whole flower gardens blooming under glass
cases, against the sides of which the snowflakes stuck and
melted; violets, roses, carnations, lilies of the valley--somehow
vastly more lovely and alluring that they blossomed thus
unnaturally in the snow. The Park itself was a wonderful stage

When he returned, the pause of the twilight had ceased and
the tune of the streets had changed. The snow was falling
faster, lights streamed from the hotels that reared their dozen
stories fearlessly up into the storm, defying the raging Atlantic
winds. A long, black stream of carriages poured down the avenue,
intersected here and there by other streams, tending
horizontally. There were a score of cabs about the entrance of
his hotel, and his driver had to wait. Boys in livery were
running in and out of the awning stretched across the sidewalk,
up and down the red velvet carpet laid from the door to the
street. Above, about, within it all was the rumble and roar, the
hurry and toss of thousands of human beings as hot for pleasure
as himself, and on every side of him towered the glaring
affirmation of the omnipotence of wealth.

The boy set his teeth and drew his shoulders together in a
spasm of realization; the plot of all dramas, the text of all
romances, the nerve-stuff of all sensations was whirling about
him like the snowflakes. He burnt like a faggot in a tempest.

When Paul went down to dinner the music of the orchestra
came floating up the elevator shaft to greet him. His head
whirled as he stepped into the thronged corridor, and he sank
back into one of the chairs against the wall to get his breath.
The lights, the chatter, the perfumes, the bewildering medley of
color--he had, for a moment, the feeling of not being able to
stand it. But only for a moment; these were his own people, he
told himself. He went slowly about the corridors, through the
writing rooms, smoking rooms, reception rooms, as though he were
exploring the chambers of an enchanted palace, built and peopled
for him alone.

When he reached the dining room he sat down at a table near a
window. The flowers, the white linen, the many-colored
wineglasses, the gay toilettes of the women, the low popping of
corks, the undulating repetitions of the Blue Danube from
the orchestra, all flooded Paul's dream with bewildering radiance.
When the roseate tinge of his champagne was added--that cold,
precious, bubbling stuff that creamed and foamed in his glass--
Paul wondered that there were honest men in the world at all.
This was what all the world was fighting for, he reflected; this
was what all the struggle was about. He doubted the reality of
his past. Had he ever known a place called Cordelia Street, a
place where fagged-looking businessmen got on the early car; mere
rivets in a machine they seemed to Paul,--sickening men, with
combings of children's hair always hanging to their coats, and
the smell of cooking in their clothes. Cordelia Street--Ah, that
belonged to another time and country; had he not always been
thus, had he not sat here night after night, from as far back as
he could remember, looking pensively over just such shimmering
textures and slowly twirling the stem of a glass like this one
between his thumb and middle finger? He rather thought he had.

He was not in the least abashed or lonely. He had no
especial desire to meet or to know any of these people; all
he demanded was the right to look on and conjecture, to watch the
pageant. The mere stage properties were all he contended for.
Nor was he lonely later in the evening, in his lodge at the
Metropolitan. He was now entirely rid of his nervous misgivings,
of his forced aggressiveness, of the imperative desire to show
himself different from his surroundings. He felt now that his
surroundings explained him. Nobody questioned the purple; he had
only to wear it passively. He had only to glance down at his
attire to reassure himself that here it would be impossible for
anyone to humiliate him.

He found it hard to leave his beautiful sitting room to go
to bed that night, and sat long watching the raging storm from
his turret window. When he went to sleep it was with the lights
turned on in his bedroom; partly because of his old timidity, and
partly so that, if he should wake in the night, there would be no
wretched moment of doubt, no horrible suspicion of yellow
wallpaper, or of Washington and Calvin above his bed.

Sunday morning the city was practically snowbound. Paul
breakfasted late, and in the afternoon he fell in with a wild San
Francisco boy, a freshman at Yale, who said he had run down for a
"little flyer" over Sunday. The young man offered to show Paul
the night side of the town, and the two boys went out together
after dinner, not returning to the hotel until seven o'clock the
next morning. They had started out in the confiding warmth of a
champagne friendship, but their parting in the elevator was
singularly cool. The freshman pulled himself together to make
his train, and Paul went to bed. He awoke at two o'clock in the
afternoon, very thirsty and dizzy, and rang for icewater, coffee,
and the Pittsburgh papers.

On the part of the hotel management, Paul excited no suspicion.
There was this to be said for him, that he wore his spoils with
dignity and in no way made himself conspicuous. Even under the
glow of his wine he was never boisterous, though he found the stuff
like a magician's wand for wonder-building. His chief greediness
lay in his ears and eyes, and his excesses were not offensive ones.
His dearest pleasures were the gray winter twilights in his sitting
room; his quiet enjoyment of his flowers, his clothes, his wide
divan, his cigarette, and his sense of power. He could not
remember a time when he had felt so at peace with himself. The
mere release from the necessity of petty lying, lying every day and
every day, restored his self-respect. He had never lied for
pleasure, even at school; but to be noticed and admired, to assert
his difference from other Cordelia Street boys; and he felt a good
deal more manly, more honest, even, now that he had no need for
boastful pretensions, now that he could, as his actor friends used
to say, "dress the part." It was characteristic that remorse did
not occur to him. His golden days went by without a shadow, and he
made each as perfect as he could.

On the eighth day after his arrival in New York he found the whole
affair exploited in the Pittsburgh papers, exploited with a wealth
of detail which indicated that local news of a sensational nature
was at a low ebb. The firm of Denny & Carson announced that the
boy's father had refunded the full amount of the theft and that
they had no intention of prosecuting. The Cumberland minister had
been interviewed, and expressed his hope of yet reclaiming the
motherless lad, and his Sabbath-school teacher declared that she
would spare no effort to that end. The rumor had reached
Pittsburgh that the boy had been seen in a New York hotel, and his
father had gone East to find him and bring him home.

Paul had just come in to dress for dinner; he sank into a
chair, weak to the knees, and clasped his head in his hands. It
was to be worse than jail, even; the tepid waters of Cordelia
Street were to close over him finally and forever. The gray
monotony stretched before him in hopeless, unrelieved years;
Sabbath school, Young People's Meeting, the yellow-papered room,
the damp dishtowels; it all rushed back upon him with a sickening
vividness. He had the old feeling that the orchestra had
suddenly stopped, the sinking sensation that the play was over.
The sweat broke out on his face, and he sprang to his feet,
looked about him with his white, conscious smile, and winked at
himself in the mirror, With something of the old childish belief
in miracles with which he had so often gone to class, all his
lessons unlearned, Paul dressed and dashed whistling down the
corridor to the elevator.

He had no sooner entered the dining room and caught the
measure of the music than his remembrance was lightened by his
old elastic power of claiming the moment, mounting with it, and
finding it all-sufficient. The glare and glitter about him, the
mere scenic accessories had again, and for the last time, their
old potency. He would show himself that he was game, he would
finish the thing splendidly. He doubted, more than ever, the
existence of Cordelia Street, and for the first time he drank his
wine recklessly. Was he not, after all, one of those fortunate
beings born to the purple, was he not still himself and in his
own place? He drummed a nervous accompaniment to the Pagliacci
music and looked about him, telling himself over and over that it
had paid.

He reflected drowsily, to the swell of the music and the
chill sweetness of his wine, that he might have done it more
wisely. He might have caught an outbound steamer and been well
out of their clutches before now. But the other side of the
world had seemed too far away and too uncertain then; he could
not have waited for it; his need had been too sharp. If he had
to choose over again, he would do the same thing tomorrow. He
looked affectionately about the dining room, now gilded with a
soft mist. Ah, it had paid indeed!

Paul was awakened next morning by a painful throbbing in his
head and feet. He had thrown himself across the bed without
undressing, and had slept with his shoes on. His limbs and hands
were lead heavy, and his tongue and throat were parched and
burnt. There came upon him one of those fateful attacks of
clearheadedness that never occurred except when he was physically
exhausted and his nerves hung loose. He lay still, closed his
eyes, and let the tide of things wash over him.

His father was in New York; "stopping at some joint or
other," he told himself. The memory of successive summers on the
front stoop fell upon him like a weight of black water. He had
not a hundred dollars left; and he knew now, more than ever, that
money was everything, the wall that stood between all he loathed
and all he wanted. The thing was winding itself up; he
had thought of that on his first glorious day in New York, and
had even provided a way to snap the thread. It lay on his
dressing table now; he had got it out last night when he came
blindly up from dinner, but the shiny metal hurt his eyes, and he
disliked the looks of it.

He rose and moved about with a painful effort, succumbing now and
again to attacks of nausea. It was the old depression exaggerated;
all the world had become Cordelia Street. Yet somehow he was not
afraid of anything, was absolutely calm; perhaps because he had
looked into the dark corner at last and knew. It was bad enough,
what he saw there, but somehow not so bad as his long fear of it
had been. He saw everything clearly now. He had a feeling that he
had made the best of it, that he had lived the sort of life he was
meant to live, and for half an hour he sat staring at the revolver.
But he told himself that was not the way, so he went downstairs and
took a cab to the ferry.

When Paul arrived in Newark he got off the train and took
another cab, directing the driver to follow the Pennsylvania
tracks out of the town. The snow lay heavy on the roadways and
had drifted deep in the open fields. Only here and there the
dead grass or dried weed stalks projected, singularly black,
above it. Once well into the country, Paul dismissed the
carriage and walked, floundering along the tracks, his mind a
medley of irrelevant things. He seemed to hold in his brain an
actual picture of everything he had seen that morning. He
remembered every feature of both his drivers, of the toothless
old woman from whom he had bought the red flowers in his coat,
the agent from whom he had got his ticket, and all of his fellow
passengers on the ferry. His mind, unable to cope with vital
matters near at hand, worked feverishly and deftly at sorting and
grouping these images. They made for him a part of the ugliness
of the world, of the ache in his head, and the bitter burning on
his tongue. He stooped and put a handful of snow into his mouth
as he walked, but that, too, seemed hot. When he reached a
little hillside, where the tracks ran through a cut some twenty
feet below him, he stopped and sat down.

The carnations in his coat were drooping with the cold, he
noticed, their red glory all over. It occurred to him that all
the flowers he had seen in the glass cases that first night must
have gone the same way, long before this. It was only one
splendid breath they had, in spite of their brave mockery at the
winter outside the glass; and it was a losing game in the end, it
seemed, this revolt against the homilies by which the world is
run. Paul took one of the blossoms carefully from his coat and
scooped a little hole in the snow, where he covered it up. Then
he dozed awhile, from his weak condition, seemingly insensible to
the cold.

The sound of an approaching train awoke him, and he started
to his feet, remembering only his resolution, and afraid lest he
should be too late. He stood watching the approaching
locomotive, his teeth chattering, his lips drawn away from them
in a frightened smile; once or twice he glanced nervously
sidewise, as though he were being watched. When the right moment
came, he jumped. As he fell, the folly of his haste occurred to
him with merciless clearness, the vastness of what he had left
undone. There flashed through his brain, clearer than ever
before, the blue of Adriatic water, the yellow of Algerian sands.

He felt something strike his chest, and that his body was
being thrown swiftly through the air, on and on, immeasurably far
and fast, while his limbs were gently relaxed. Then, because the
picture-making mechanism was crushed, the disturbing visions
flashed into black, and Paul dropped back into the immense design
of things.

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