Part 7 out of 7
"It always has," replied Katie.
Mrs. Prescott stole a keen look at her, seeing that she was not answered.
They had had some strange talks on that homeward trip, talks to stir in
the older woman's mind vague apprehensions for the daughter of her old
friend. It did not seem to Mrs. Prescott what she called "best" that a
woman--and particularly an unmarried one--should be doing as much
thinking as Katie seemed to be doing. She wished Katie would not read
such strange books; she was sure Walt Whitman, for one, could not be a
good influence. What would happen to the world if the women of Katie's
class were to--let down the bars, she vaguely and uneasily thought it.
And she was too fond of Katie to want her to venture out of shelter.
"Well it ought to, Katie dear. I don't know who has the right to
thrill to it, if you haven't. Doesn't it make you think of those sturdy
forefathers of yours who came to it long ago, when it was an unknown
land, and braved dangers for it? Your people have always fought for it,
Katie. There would be no country had not such lives as theirs been
given to it."
Katie was peering off at the faint outlines which one moment seemed
discernible in the mist and the next seemed but a phantom of the
imagination, as the truth which is to stand out bold and incontestable
may at first suggest itself so faintly through the dream as to be
called a phantom of the imagination. "True," she said. "And fine. And
equally true and fine that there's just as much to fight for now as
there ever was."
"Oh yes," murmured Mrs. Prescott, "we must still have the army, of
"The fighting's not in the army," said Katie, to herself rather than to
The older woman sighed. "I'm afraid I don't understand you, Katie." After
a pause she added, sadly: "Something seems happening in the world that is
driving older people and younger people apart."
Katie turned to her affectionately. "Oh, no."
But more affectionately than convincingly. Mrs. Prescott looked at her
wistfully: so strong, so buoyant, so fearless and so fine; she felt an
impulse to keep her, though for what--from what--she would not have been
able to say.
"Katie dear," she said gently, "I get a glimpse of what you mean in
there still being things to fight for. You mean new ideas; new things. I
know you're stirred by something. I feel your enthusiasm; it shines from
your face. Enthusiasm is a splendid thing in the young, Katie. In any of
us. New things there always are to fight for, of course. But, dear
Katie--the old things? Those beautiful _old_ things which the
generations have left us? Things fought for, tested, mellowed by our
fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers? Aren't they a little
too precious, too hardly won, too freighted with memories to be lightly
Katie looked at her friend's face, itself so incontestably the gift of
the generations. It made vivid her own mother's face, and that her own
struggle. "I don't think," she said tremulously, "that you are justified
in saying they are 'lightly' cast aside."
They were silent, looking off at the land which was breaking through the
mists, responding in their different ways to the different things it was
saying to them.
"It seems to me," Mrs. Prescott began uncertainly, "that it is not for
women--particularly women to whom they have come as directly as to you
and me--to cast them off at all. We seem to be in strange days. Days of
change. To me, Katie, it seems that the work for the women--_our_
women--is in preserving those things, dear things left to us, holding
them safe and unharmed through the destroying days of change."
She had grown more sure of herself in speaking.
The last came staunchly.
"It seems," she added, "that it would be enough for us to do. And the
thing for which we are best fitted."
Katie was silent; she could not bear to say to her friend--her mother's
friend--that it did not seem to her enough to do, or the thing for which
she was best fitted.
She was the less drawn to the idea because of a face she could see down
in the steerage: face of an immigrant girl who was also turning eager
face, not to the land for which her forefathers had fought, but to that
which would be the land of her descendants.
She had seen her there before, face set toward the land into which she
was venturing. She had become interested in her. She seemed so eager. And
thinking back to the things seen in her search for Ann, other things she
had been reading of late, a fear for that girl--pity for her--more than
that, sense of responsibility about her grew big in Katie.
It made it seem that there was bigger and more tender work for women than
preserving inviolate those things women had left. As she drew near the
harbor of New York she was more interested in the United States of
America as related to that girl than as associated with her own
forefathers who had fought for it long before.
And as it had been for them to fight in the new land, it seemed that it
was for her, not merely to cherish the fact of their having fought, not
holding that as something apart--something setting her apart, but to
fight herself; not under the old standards because they had been their
standards, but under whatsoever standards best served the fight. It even
seemed that the one way to keep alive those things they had left her was
to let them shape themselves in whatever form the new spirit--new
demands--would shape them.
Mrs. Prescott was troubled by her silence. "Katie dear," she said, "you
come of a long line of fine and virtuous women. In these days when
everything seems attacked--endangered--_that_, at least--that thing most
dear to women--most indispensable--must be held inviolate. And by such as
you. Wherever your ideas may carry you, don't let _that_ be touched.
Remember that the safety of the world for women goes, if you do."
It turned Katie to Ann. Safety _she_ had found. Then again she looked
down at the immigrant girl--beautiful girl that she was. And wondered.
She turned to Mrs. Prescott with a tear on her eyelashes and a smile a
little hard about her lips. "Would you say that 'fine and virtuous women'
have succeeded in keeping the world a perfectly safe place for women?"
Mrs. Prescott was repelled, but Katie did not notice. She was looking
with a passionate sternness off at New York. "Let _anything_ be touched,"
she spoke it with deep feeling. "I say _nothing's_ too precious to be
touched--if touching it can make things better!"
Mrs. Prescott had gone below. Katie feared that she had wounded her, and
was sorry. She had not been able to help it. The face of that immigrant
girl was too tragically eager.
They were almost in now, close to Governor's Island, over which the flag
was flying. It gripped her as it had never done before.
"Boy," she said to Worth, perched on a coil of rope beside her, "there's
your country. Country your people came to a long time ago, and fought
for, and some of them died for. And you'll grow up, Worth, and _you'll_
fight for it. Not the way they fought; it won't need you to fight for it
that way; _they_ did that--and now that's done. But there will be lots
for you to fight for, too; harder fights to fight, I think, than any they
fought. You'll fight to make it a better place for men and women and
little children to live in. Not by firing guns at other men, Worth, but
by being as wise and kind and as honest and fair as you know how to be."
It was her voice moved him; it had been vibrant with real passion.
But after a moment the face of the child of many soldiers clouded. "But
won't I have _any_ gun 'tall, Aunt Kate?" he asked wistfully.
She smiled at the stubborn persistence of militarism. "I'm afraid not,
dear. I hope we're not going to have so many guns when you're a man. But,
Worth, if you don't have the gun, other little boys will have more to
eat. There are lots of little boys and girls in the world now haven't
enough to eat just because there are so many guns. Wouldn't you rather
do without the gun and know that nobody was going hungry?"
"I--guess so," faltered Worth, striving to be magnanimous but
"But, Aunt Kate," he pursued after another silence, "what's father making
guns for--if there aren't going to be any?"
Katie's smile was not one Worth would be likely to get much from. "Ask
father," she said rather grimly. "I think he might find the question
Worth continued solemn. "But, Aunt Kate--won't there be anybody
'tall to kill?"
"Why, honey," she laughed, "does it really seem to you such a gloomy
world--world in which there will be nobody to kill? Don't worry, dear.
The world's getting so interesting we're going to find lots of things
more fun than guns."
"Maybe," said Worth, "if I don't have a gun you'll get me an air-ship,
"Maybe so," she laughed.
"The man that mends the boats says I'll have an air-ship before I die,
She gave Worth a sudden little squeeze, curiously jubilant at the
possibility of his having an air-ship before he died. And she viewed the
city of sky-scrapers adoringly--tenderly--mistily. "Oh Worthie," she
whispered, "isn't it _lovely_ to be getting home?"
She found it difficult to adjust herself to the Ann who had luncheon
with her the next day. The basis of their association had shifted and it
had been too unique for it to be a simple matter to appear unconscious
of the shifting.
She had not seen Ann since the day they said the cruel things to each
other. Wayne had thought it best that way, saying that Ann must have no
more emotional excitement. She had acquiesced the more readily as at the
time she was not courting emotional excitement for herself.
And now the Ann sitting across the table from her was not the logical
sequence of things experienced in last summer's search for Ann. She was
not the sum of her thoughts about Ann--visioning through her, not the
expression of the things Ann had opened up. It was hard, indeed, to think
of her as in any sense related to them, at all suggestive of them.
An Ann radiating life rather than sorrowing for it was an Ann she did not
know just what to do with.
And there was something disturbing in that rich glow of happiness. She
did not believe that Ann's something somewhere could be stenography. Yet
her radiance--the deep, warm quality of it--suggested nothing so much as
a something somewhere attained. It seemed to Katie rather remarkable if
the prospect of soon being able to earn her own living could make a
girl's eyes as wonderful as that.
There was no mistaking her delight in seeing Katie and Worth. And a
sense of the old relationship was there--deep and tender sense of it;
but something had gone from it, or been added to it. It was not the
all in all.
Truth was, Ann was more at home with her than she was with Ann.
After luncheon they went up to Katie's room for a little chat. Katie
talked about stenography and soon came to be conscious of that being a
vapid thing to be talking about.
"What pretty furs," she said, in the pause following the collapse of
That seemed to mean more. "Yes, aren't they lovely?" responded Ann, with
happy enthusiasm. "They were my Christmas present--from Wayne."
The way Ann said Wayne--in the old days she had never said it at all--led
instantly, though without her knowing by what path, to that strange fear
of hers in finding Ann so free from fear.
Ann was blushing a little: the "Wayne" had slipped out so easily, and so
prettily. "He thought I needed them. It's often so cold here, you know."
"Why certainly one needs furs," said Katie firmly, as if there could be
no question as to _that_.
Katie's great refuge was activity. She got up and began taking some
dresses from her trunk.
Then, just to show herself that she was not afraid, that there was
nothing to be afraid about, she asked lightly: "What in the world brings
Wayne up to New York so much?"
Ann was affectionately stroking her muff. She looked up at Katie shyly,
but with a warm little smile. There was a pause which seemed to hover
over it before she said softly: "Why, Katie, I think perhaps I bring him
up to New York."
Everything in Katie seemed to tighten--close up. She gave her most
cobwebby dress a perilous shake and said in flat voice: "Wayne's very
kind, I'm sure."
Ann did not reply; she was still stroking her muff; that smile which
hovered tenderly over something had not died on her lips. It made her
mouth, her whole face, softly lovely. It did something else. Made it
difficult for Katie to go on pretending with herself.
Though she made a last stand. It was a dreadful state of affairs, she
told herself, if Ann had been so absurd as to fall in love with
Wayne--_Wayne_--just because he had been kind in helping her get a start.
She followed that desperately. "Oh yes, Wayne's really very kind at
heart. And then of course he's always been especially interested in you,
because of me."
Ann looked up at her. The look kept deepening, sank far down beneath
Katie's shallow pretense.
"Well, Katie," Ann began, with the gentle dignity of one whom life has
taken into the fold, "as long as we seem into this, I'd rather go on.
Wayne said I was to do just as I liked about telling you. Just as it
happened to come up. But I think you ought to know he is not interested
in just the way you think." She paused before it, then said softly, with
a tremulous pride: "He cares for me, Katie--and wants to marry me."
"He can't do that! He _can't do that_!"
It came quick and sharp. Quick and sharp as fire answering attack.
She sat down. The sharpness had gone and her voice was shaking as she
said: "You certainly must know, Ann, that he can't do that."
So they faced each other--and the whole of it. It was all opened up now.
"It's very strange to me," Katie added hotly, "that you wouldn't
It seemed impossible for Ann to speak; the attack had been too quick and
too sharp; evidently, too unexpected.
"I told him so," she finally whispered. "Told and told him so. That you
would feel--this way. That it--couldn't be. He said no. That you
felt--all differently--after last summer. And I thought so, too. Your
letters sounded that way."
Katie covered her eyes for a second. It was too much as if the things she
was feeling differently about were the things she was losing.
"And when you want to be happy," Ann went on, "it's not so hard to
persuade yourself--be persuaded." She stopped with a sob.
"I know that," was wrung wretchedly from Katie.
"And since--since I _have_ been happy--let myself think it could be--it
just hasn't seemed it _could_ be any other way. So I stopped
thinking--hadn't been thinking--took it for granted--"
Again it wrung from Katie the this time unexpressed admission that there
was nothing much easier than coming to look upon one's happiness as the
"And Wayne kept saying," Ann went on, sobs back of her words, "that all
human beings are entitled to work out their lives in their own way. You
believed that, he said. And I--I thought you did, too. Your letters--"
"No," said Katie bitterly, "what I believed was that _I_ was entitled to
work out _my_ life in my own way. Wayne got his life mixed up with mine."
The laugh which followed them was more bitter, more wretched than
She had persuaded herself the more easily that she was entitled to work
out her life in her own way because she had assumed Wayne would be there
to stand guard over the things left from other days. He was to stay
there, fixed, leaving her free to go.
She could not have explained why it was that the things she had been
thinking did not seem to apply to Wayne.
The thing grew to something monstrous. There whirled through her mind a
frenzied idea as to what they would do about sending Major Barrett a
Other things whirled through her mind--as jeers, jibes, they came, a
laugh behind them. A something somewhere was very commendable while it
remained abstract! Having a fine large understanding about Ann had
nothing to do with having Ann for a sister-in-law! "Calls" were less
beautiful when responded to by one's brother! _This_ (and this tore an
ugly wound) was what came of helping people in their quests for
It was followed by a frantic longing to be with Mrs. Prescott--in the
shelter of her philosophy, hugging tight those things left by the women
of other days. Frightened, outraged, her impulse was to fly back to those
well worn ways of yesterday.
But that was running away. Ann was there. Ann with the radiance gone;
though, for just that moment, less stricken than defiant. There was
something of the cunning of the desperate thing cornered in the sullen
flash with which she said: "You talked a good deal about wanting me to be
happy. Used to think I had a right to be. When it was Captain Prescott--"
It was unanswerable. The only answer Katie would be prepared to make to
it was that she didn't believe, all things considered, it was a thing she
would have said. But doubtless people lost nice shades of feeling when
they became creatures at bay fighting for life.
And seemingly one would leave nothing unused. "I want you to know,
Katie, that I paid back that money. The missionary money. You made me
feel that it wasn't right. That I--that I ought to pay it back. I earned
the money myself--some work there was for me to do at school. I wanted
to--to buy a white dress with it." Ann was sobbing. "But I didn't. I
sent back the money."
Katie was wildly disposed to laugh. She did not know why, after having
worried about it so much, Ann's having paid back the missionary money
should seem so irrelevant now. But she did not laugh, for Ann was looking
at her as pleadingly, as appealingly, as Worth would have looked after he
had been "bad" and was trying to redeem it by being "good."
With a sob, Ann hid her face against her muff.
Seeing her thus, Katie made cumbersome effort to drag things to less
delicate, less difficult, ground.
"Ann dear," she began, "I--oh I'm _so_ sorry about this. But truly, Ann,
you wouldn't be at all happy with Wayne."
Ann raised her face and looked at her with something that had a dull
semblance to amusement.
"You see," Katie staggered on, "Wayne hasn't a happy temperament. He's
morose. Queer. It wouldn't do at all, Ann, because it would make you both
She found Ann's faint smile irritating. "I ought to know," she added
sharply, "for I've lived in the house with him most of my life."
"You may have lived in the house with him, Katie," gently came Ann's
overwhelming response. "You've never understood him."
Katie openly gasped. But some of her anger passed swiftly into a
wondering how much truth there might be in the preposterous statement.
Wayne as "immune" was another idea jeering at her now. And that further
assumption, which had been there all the while, though only now
consciously recognized, that Wayne's knowing Ann's story, made Ann, to
Living in the same house with people did not seem to have a great deal to
do with knowing their hearts.
"Wayne," Ann had resumed, in voice low and shaken with feeling, "has the
sweetest nature of any one in this world. He's been unhappy just because
he hadn't found happiness. If you could see him with me, Katie, I don't
think you'd say he had an unhappy nature--or worry much about our not
Katie was silent, driven back; vanquished, less by the words than by the
light they had brought to Ann's face.
And what she had been wanting--had thought she was ready to fight
for--was happiness--for every one.
"Of course I know," Ann said, "that that's not it." That light had all
gone from her face. It was twisted, as by something cruel, blighting, as
she said just above a whisper: "There's no use pretending we don't know
what it is."
She turned her face away, shielding it with her muff.
It was all there--right there between them--opened, live, throbbing. All
that it had always meant--all that generations of thinking and feeling
had left around it.
And to Katie, held hard, it was true, all too bitterly true, that she
came of what Mrs. Prescott called a long line of fine and virtuous
women. In her misery it seemed that the one thing one need have no fear
about was losing the things they had left one.
But other things had been left her. The war virtues! The braving and the
fighting and the bearing. Hardihood. Unflinchingness. Unwhimperingness.
Those things fought within her as she watched Ann shaken with the sobs
she was trying to repress.
Well at least she would not play the coward's part with it! She brought
herself to look it straight in the face. And what she saw was that if
she could be brave enough to go herself into a more spacious country,
leaving hurts behind, she must not be so cowardly, so ignobly
inconsistent as to refuse the hurts coming to her through others who
would dare. Through the conflict of many emotions, out of much misery,
she at last wrenched from a sore heart the admission that Wayne had as
much right to be "free" as she had. That if Ann had a right to happiness
at all--and she had always granted her that--she had a right to this. It
was only that now it was she who must pay a price for it. And perhaps
some one always paid a price.
Ann looked up into Katie's colorless, twitching face.
"I hope you and Wayne will be very happy." It came steadily, and with an
The next instant she was sobbing, but trying at the same time to tell Ann
that sisters always acted that way when told of their brothers'
She did not see her brother until evening. "Katie," he demanded sharply,
"have you been disagreeable to Ann?"
She shook her head. "I haven't meant to be, Wayne."
Her face was so wretched that he grew contrite. "You're not pleased?"
"Why, Wayne, you can scarcely expect me to be--wholly pleased, can you?"
"But you always seemed to understand so well. I"--he paused in that
constraint there so often was between them in things delicately
intimate--"I've never told you, Katie, how fine I thought you were. So
big about it."
"It's not so difficult," said Kate, with a touch of her old smile, "to be
'big' about people who aren't marrying into the family."
It seemed that he, too, was not above cornering her. "You know, Katie, it
was your attitude in the beginning that--"
"Just don't bother calling my attention to that, Wayne," she said
sharply. "Please credit me with the intelligence to see it for myself."
Then she went right to the heart of it. "Oh Wayne--think of Major
The dull red that came quickly to his face told how bitterly he had
thought of it, though he only said quietly: "Damn Barrett."
"But you can't damn him. Suppose you were to be stationed at the
He laughed shortly. "Well that, at least, is something upon which I can
set your fears at rest."
She looked up quickly. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, Katie, that my army days are over."
She stared at him. "I don't understand you."
"It shouldn't be so difficult to comprehend. I have resigned my
"Wayne," she asked slowly, "what do you mean?"
"Just what I say. That I have resigned my commission. That I am out of
It made it seem that the whole world was whirling round and round and
that there was nothing to take hold of. "But you can't do that. Why your
whole life is there--friends--traditions--work--future."
"Not my future," he said briefly.
His calm manner made it the more bewildering. "Wayne, I don't see how you
can--in such a light manner--give up such a big thing!"
He turned upon her in manner less calm. "What right have you to say that
it is done in a 'light manner'!"
The words had a familiar sound and she recalled them as like something
she had said to Mrs. Prescott the day before; just the day before, when
she had been so sure of things, and of herself.
"But where is your future then, Wayne?" she asked appealingly. "We know,
don't we, how hard it is for army men to find futures as civilians?"
"I'm going into the forest service."
Katie never could tell why, for the moment, it should have antagonized,
infuriated her that way. "So that's it. That's what got--a poetic notion!
And I suppose," she laughed scornfully, "you're going into the ranks?
What is it they call them? Rangers? Starting in at your age--with your
training--to 'work from the bottom up'--is that it?"
"No," he replied coldly, "that is not it. You have missed it about as far
as you could. I have no such picturesque notion. I am doing no such
quixotic thing. I value my training too highly for that. It should be
worth too much to them. I don't even scorn personal ambition, or the use
of personal pull, so you see I'm a long way from a heroic figure. I know
I've a brain that can do a certain type of thing. I know I'm well
equipped. Well, so far as the equipment goes, my country did it for me
and I mean to give it back; only I've got to do it in my own way."
"Why, Katie," he resumed after a pause, "I never was more surprised in my
life than to find you so out of sympathy with this. I knew what most
people would think of it, but I quite took it for granted that you would
"It seems a little hard," replied Katie with a tearful laugh, "to
understand the fine things other people do. And, Wayne, I'm so afraid it
will lead to disappointment! Aren't you idealizing this forest service?
Remember Fred's tales of how it's almost strangled by politics. And you
know what that means. Let us not forget Martha Matthews!"
It was a relief to be laughing together over a familiar thing. Martha
Matthews was the daughter of a congressman from somewhere--Katie never
could remember whether it was Texas or Wyoming. She had been asked to
"take her up" at one time when the army appropriation bill was pending
and Martha's father did not seem to realize that the country needed
additional defense. But when Martha discovered that army people were
"perfectly fascinating--and _so_ hospitable" Martha's parent suddenly
awakened to the grave dangers confronting his land. Katie had more than
once observed a mysterious relationship between the fact of the army set
being fashionable in Washington and the fact that the country must be
amply protected, further remarking that army people were just clever
enough to know when to be fascinating.
"No," he came back to it in seriousness, "I don't think I have many
illusions. I know it's far from the perfect thing, but I see it as set
in the right direction. It seems to me that that, in itself, ought to
mean considerable. It's the best thing I know of--for what I have to
offer. Then I want to get out of cities for awhile--get Ann away from
them." He paused over that and fell silent. "Osborne offered me a job,"
he came back to it with a laugh. "Seemed to think I was worth a very
neat sum a year to his company--but that was scarcely my notion. In fact
I doubt if I would have so much confidence in the forest service if it
weren't for his hatred of it. You can judge a thing pretty well by the
character of its enemies. Then I'm enough the creature of habit to want
to go on in a service; I'm schooled to that thing of the collectivity.
But I'll be happier in a service that--despite the weak spots in it--is
in harmony with the big collectivity--rather than hopelessly discordant
with it. And perhaps it needs some more or less disinterested fellows to
help fight for it," he added with a touch of embarrassment, as if
fearing to expose himself.
He had come close enough to self-betrayal for Katie, despite her fear and
confusion, to feel proud of him as he looked then.
"Wayne," she asked, "have you felt this way a long time? Out of sympathy
with the army?"
He did not at once reply, thinking of the night he had sat beside Ann,
night when the whole world was shaken and things he had regarded as fixed
loosened and fell. Just how much had been loosening before that--some, he
knew--just how much would have more or less insecurely held its place had
it not been for that night, he was not prepared to say--even to himself.
"Longer than I knew, I think," he came back to Katie. "One night last
fall I went to a dinner and they drank our toast." He repeated it,
very slowly. "'My country--may she always be right--but right or
"I used to have the real thrill for that toast. That night it almost
choked me. That 'right or wrong' is a spirit I can thrill to no longer.
I'm more interested in getting it right.
"Though I'll own it terrified me, just as it seems to you, to feel it
slipping from me. Recently I had occasion to go up to West Point and I
spent a whole day deliberately trying to get back my old feeling for
things--the whole business that we know so well and that I used to
love so much.
"And, in a way, I could; but as for something gone. That day up at the
Point was one of the saddest of my life. I still loved the trappings.
They still called to me. But I knew that, for me, the spirit was dead.
"Oh I have no sensational declarations to make about the army. I
wouldn't even be prepared to say what I think about disarmament. It's
more complex than most peace advocates seem to see. I only know that the
army's not the thing for me. I can't go on in it, simply because my
feeling for it is gone."
He had been speaking slowly and seriously; his head was bent. Now he
looked up at her. "It was at the close of that day--day up at West
Point--that I resigned my commission. And if you had seen me that night,
Katie, I doubt if you would reproach me with 'doing it lightly.'"
The marks of struggle had come back to his face with the story of it.
They told more than the words.
"Forgive me," she said in her impetuous way. "No, I didn't know. How
awful it is, Wayne, that we _don't_ know--about each other."
She was forced to turn away; but after a moment controlled herself and
turned back to add: "Wayne dear, I think you're right. I'm proud of you."
"Oh, I'm entitled to no halo," he hastened to say. "It's the fellow who
would do it without an income might be candidate for that."
"But you _would_ do it without an income, Wayne," she insisted warmly.
"I don't know. How can I tell whether I would or not?
"And you'll be good to Ann?" he took advantage of her mood to press, as
though that were the one thing she could do for him. "You know, how much
she needs you, Katie."
"I shall certainly want to be good to Ann," she murmured. "Though I don't
think she needs me much--any more."
Something about her went to his heart. "Why, Katie--we all need you."
She shook her head; there were tears, but a smile with them. "Not much,
Wayne. Not now. I'm not--indispensable. Though pray why should one wish
to be anything so terrifying as indispensable?"
"Will you take Worth?" she asked after a little while. "He goes--with
you and Ann?"
"We want him. And Katie, we want you. We're to go to Colorado and fight
the water barons," he laughed. "Aren't you coming with us?"
She shook her head. "Not just now. I want to flit round in the East a
little first. Be gay--renew my youth," she laughed, choking a little.
She drew him to talk of his hopes. "I'll fess up, Katie," he said, when
warmed to it by her sympathy, "that I fear I do have rather a poetic
notion about it. I want to _do_ something--something that will count,
something set in the direction of the future. And I like the idea of
going back to that old frontier--place where I was born--and where mother
went through so much--and where father fought--and because of which he
died. And serving out there now in a way that is just as live--just as
vital--as the way he served then."
He paused; they were both thinking of their father and mother, of how
they might not have understood, of the sadness as well as the triumph
there is in change, that tug at the heart that must so often come when
the new generation sees a little farther down the road than older eyes
can see, the ache in hearts left behind when children of a new day are
called away from places endeared by habit into the incertitude and
perhaps the danger of ways unworn.
"Life seems too fine a thing, Katie, to spend it making instruments of
destruction more deadly. It's not a very happy thought to think of their
being used; and it's not a very stimulating one to think of their not
being. In either case, it doesn't make one too pleased with one's
vocation. And life seems a big enough thing," he added, a little
diffidently, "to try pretty hard to get one's self right with it."
He did not understand the way Katie was looking at him as she replied:
"Yes, Wayne; I know that. I've been thinking that myself."
Something moved her to ask: "Wayne, do you think you would have done it,
if it had not been for Ann?"
"I think," he replied quietly, "that possibly that is still another thing
I have to thank her for." His face and voice gave Katie a sharp sense of
loneliness, that loneliness which came in seeing how poorly she had
understood him, how little people knew each other.
They talked of a number of things before he suddenly exclaimed: "Oh
Katie, I must tell you. That fellow--what's his name? Mann? The mythical
being known as the man who mends the boats is a fellow you'll have to
avoid, should you ever see him again--which of course is not likely."
She had turned and was looking out at the lights in the street
"Who do you suppose the scoundrel _is_?"
"I'm sure I don't know," she faltered.
"A military _convict_. Attacked an officer. Served time at Leavenworth."
Katie was intent upon the lights down below.
"And what do you suppose he was prying around the Island for?"
"I'm sure I have no idea," she managed to say.
"Going to write a _play_--a play about the _army_! Now what do you
think of that? Darrett found out about it. Oh just the man, you see, to
write a play about the army! And some sensationalists here are going to
put it on. It's the most damnable insolence I ever heard of! They ought
to stop it."
"Oh, I don't know," said Katie, still absorbed in the cabs down below;
"a man has a right to use his experiences--in a play."
"Well a fine view he'll give of it! It's the most insufferable
impertinence I ever knew of!"
She turned around to ask oddly: "Why, Wayne, why all this heat? You're
not in the army any more."
"Well, don't you think I'm not _of_ it, when an upstart like that turns
up to rail at it!"
"But how do you know he'll rail?"
"Oh he'll rail, all right. I know his type. But we'll see to it that it's
pretty generally understood it's military life as presented by a military
"Perhaps you can trust him to make that point clear himself," said Katie
"The _coward_. The _cur_."
She turned upon him hotly. "Look here, Wayne, I don't know why you're so
sure you have a right to say that!"
"I'd like to know why I haven't! Attacked an officer without the
slightest provocation whatsoever! Some kind of a hot-headed taking sides
with a deserter, I believe it was. I suppose this remarkable play is to
be a glorification of desertion," he laughed.
"Well," said Katie with an unsteady laugh, "perhaps there are worse
things to glorify than desertion."
He stared at her. "Come now, Katie, you know better than that."
But Katie was looking at him strangely. "Wayne," she said quietly,
"you're a deserter, yourself."
He flushed, but after an instant laughed. "Really, Katie, you have a
positive genius for saying preposterous things."
"In which there may occasionally lurk a little truth. You _are_
deserting. Why aren't you?"
"I call that about as close to rot as an intelligent person could come,"
he replied hotly. "I'm resigning my commission. It's perfectly regular."
"Yes; being an officer and a gentleman, you _can_ resign your commission,
and have it perfectly regular. Being that same officer and gentleman, you
never were mugged--treated as a prospective criminal; no four thousand
posters bearing your picture will now be sent broadcast over the country;
no fifty dollars is offered lean detectives for your capture; you're in
no chance of being thrown into prison and have your government do all in
its power to wring the manhood out of you! Oh no--an officer and a
gentleman--you resign your commission and go ahead with your life. But
you're leaving the army, aren't you? Deserting it. And why? Because you
don't like the spirit of it. And yet--though you're too big for
it--though it's _time_ for you to desert--you're enough bound by it not
to let the light of your intelligence fall for one single second on the
question of desertion!"
She had held him. He made no reply, looking in bewilderment at her red
cheeks and blazing eyes.
Suddenly her face quivered. "Wayne," she said, "I don't use the term as
a hard name. I'm not using it in just its technical sense, our army
sense. But mayn't desertion be a brave thing? A fine thing? To desert a
thing we've gone beyond--to have the courage to desert it and walk right
off from the dead thing to the live thing--? Oh, don't mind my calling
you a deserter, Wayne," she added, her eyes full of tears, "for the
truth is I'd like to be a deserter myself. But perhaps one deserter is
enough for a family--and you beat me to it." She laughed and turned back
to the cabs.
He wanted to go on with the argument; show her what it was in desertion
that army men despised, make the distinction between deserting and
resigning. But the truth was he was more interested in the things Katie
had said than in the things which could be called in refutation.
And Katie puzzled him; her heat, feeling, not only astonished but worried
him a little. She was standing there now beating a tattoo on the window
pane. He wondered what she was thinking about. The experience as to Ann
revealed Katie to him as having thought about things he would not have
dreamed she was thinking about. What in the world did she mean by saying
she'd like to be a deserter herself? One of her preposterous sayings--but
it was true that considerable truth had often lurked at the heart of
Katie's absurd way of talking.
Watching her, he was drawn to thought of her attractiveness and that made
him wonder whom Katie would marry. He had always been secretly proud of
his sister's popularity; it seemed she should make a brilliant marriage.
Live brilliantly. It was the thing to which she was adapted. Katie was
unique. Distinctive. Secretly, unadmittedly, he was very ambitious for
her. And with a little smile he considered that seemingly Katie was just
shrewd enough to be ambitious for herself. She had steered her little
bark safely past the place where she would be likely to marry a
lieutenant. Was she heading for a general?
So he reflected with humor and affection, watching Katie beat the tattoo
on the window.
Thought of what some one had said of her as the army girl suggested
something that changed his mood, bringing him suddenly to his feet.
"Katie," he demanded, "how much did you ever talk to this fellow? You
don't think, do you, that he was trying to get you for his 'army
girl'--or some such rot? If I thought that--You don't think, do you,
Katie, that that was what he was trying to work you for?"
Katie suddenly raised her hands and pushed back her hair, for the minute
covering her eyes. "No, Wayne," she said, "I don't think that was what he
was trying to 'work me' for."
And unable to bear more, she told him that she was very tired and asked
him to go.
Katie Jones was very gay that winter. She made her home at her uncle's,
near Washington, though most of the time she was in Washington itself,
with various cousins and friends; there were always people wanting Katie,
especially that winter, when she had such unfailing zest for gayety.
They wondered that she should not be more broken up at her brother's
absurd move in quitting the army--just at the time the army offered him
so much. She seemed to take it very easily; though Katie was not one to
take things hard, too light of spirit for that. And they wondered about
his marriage to a girl whom nobody but Katie knew anything about. Katie
seemed devoted to her and happy in the marriage.
"Why, naturally I am pleased," she said to a group of army people who
were inquiring about Wayne's bride. "She is my best friend. The girl I
care most about."
Major Darrett was one of the group. Some one turned to him and asked if
he had met her when she visited Katie at the Arsenal the summer before.
He replied that he had had that pleasure and that she was indeed
beautiful and very charming.
Katie hated him the more for having to be grateful to him.
She knew that he was sorry for her and grew more and more gay. She could
not talk of it, so was left to disclaim tragedy in frivolity. It was
There were a few serious talks with older army men, men who had known her
father and who were outraged at Wayne's leaving the army when he was
worth so much to it and it to him. In her efforts to make them see, she
was forced to remember what the man who mended the boats said of their
lack of hospitality. They were unable to entertain the idea of there
being any reason for a man's leaving the army when he was being as well
treated in it as Wayne was. Katie's explanations only led them to shake
their heads and say: "Poor Wayne."
It was impossible to bury certain things in her, for those were the
things she must use in defending Wayne. And in defending him, especially
to her uncle, she was forced to know how far those things were from being
decently prepared for burial. She was never more gay than after one of
her defenses of her brother.
The winter had passed and it was late in April, not unlike that May day
just the year before when she had first seen her sister-in-law. Try as
she would she could not keep her thoughts from that day and all that it
had opened up.
She had received a letter from her sister-in-law that morning. It was
hard to realize that the writer of that letter was the Ann of the
Her thoughts of Ann led seductively to the old wonderings which Ann had
in the beginning opened up. She wondered how many of the people with whom
things were all wrong, people whom good people called bad people, were
simply people who had been held from their own. She wondered how many of
those good people would have remained good people had life baffled them,
as it had some of the bad people. The people whom circumstances had made
good people were so sure of themselves. She had observed that it was from
those who had never sailed stormy waters came the quickest and harshest
judgments on bad seamanship in heavy seas.
Ann had met Helen and did not seem to know just what to think about her.
"She's nice, Katie," she wrote, "but I don't understand her very well.
She has so many strange ideas about things. Wayne thinks you and she
would get on famously. She doesn't seem afraid of anything and wants to
do such a lot of things to the world. I'm afraid I'm selfish; I'm so
happy in my own life--it's all so wonderful--that I can't get as excited
about the world as Helen does."
And yet Ann would not have found the world the place she had found it
were it the place Helen would have it. But Ann had found joy and
peace--safety--and was too happy in her own life to get excited about the
world--and thought Helen a little queer!
That was Ann's type--and that was why there were Anns.
Ann was radiant about the mountains and their life in them. "Helen said
it about right, Katie. They're hard on the hair and the skin--but good
for the soul!" They would be for the summer in one of the most beautiful
mountain towns of Colorado and wanted Katie to come and bring Worth.
Wayne had consented to leave him for a time with Katie at their uncle's.
That Katie knew for a concession received for staying in New York with
Ann until after her marriage.
She believed she would go. She was so tired of Zelda Fraser that she
would like to meet Helen. And she would like the mountains. Perhaps they
would do something for _her_ soul--if she had not danced it quite away.
She was getting very wretched about having to be so happy all the time.
She was on her way to Zelda's that afternoon, Zelda having asked her to
come in for a cup of tea and a talk. A whiff of some new scandal, she
supposed. That was the basis of most of Zelda's "talks."
Though possibly she had some things to tell about Harry Prescott's
approaching marriage to Caroline Osborne. Katie had been asked to be a
bridesmaid at that wedding.
"While we have known each other but a short time," Caroline had written
in her too sweet way, "I feel close to you, Katie, because it was through
you Harry and I came together. Then whom would we want as much as you!
And as it is to be something of an army wedding, may I not have you, whom
Harry calls the 'most bully army girl' he ever knew?"
Mrs. Prescott had also written Katie the glad news, saying she was happy,
believing Caroline would make Harry a good wife. Katie was disposed to
believe that she would and was emphatically disposed to believe that Mr.
Osborne would make Harry a good father-in-law. Katie's knowledge of army
finances led her to appreciate the value of the right father-in-law for
an officer and gentleman who must subsist upon his pay.
But she had made an excuse about the wedding, in no mood to be a
bridesmaid, especially to a bride who would enter the bonds of matrimony
on the banks of the Mississippi, just opposite a certain place where
boats were mended.
She walked on very fast toward Zelda's, trying to occupy the whole of her
mind with planning a new gown.
But Zelda had more tender news to break that day than that of a new
scandal. "Katie," she approached it, in Zelda's own delicate fashion,
"what would you think of Major Darrett and me joy-riding through life
"I approve of it," said Katie, with curious heartiness.
"Some joy-ride, don't you think?"
"I can fancy," laughed Katie, "that it might be hard to beat. I think,"
she added, "that he's just the one for you to marry. And I further think,
Zelda, that you're just the one for him to marry."
Zelda looked at her keenly. "No slam on either party?"
"On the contrary, a sort of double-acting approval," she turned it
with a laugh.
"Then as long as your approval has a back action, so to speak, I cop you
out right now, Katie, for a bridesmaid."
"Don't," said Katie quickly. "No, Zelda, I'm not--suitable."
"Oh, too old and worn," she laughed. "Bridesmaids should be buds."
"Showing up the full-blowness of the bride? Don't you think it!"
"So you hastened to get me!"
"Come now, Katie, you know very well why I want you. Why wouldn't I want
you? Anyhow," she exposed it, "father wants you. Father thinks you're so
nice and respectable, Katie."
"And so, for that matter," she added, "does my chosen joy-rider."
"I'm not so sure of his being particularly impressed with my
respectability," replied Katie.
"He's always been quite dippy about you, Katie. I don't know how _I_
ever got him."
Zelda spoke feelingly of the approaching nuptials of her old school
friend. "Cal's considerable of a prissy, but take it from me, Harry
Prescott will see that all father's money doesn't pour into homes for the
friendless--so there's something accomplished. Heaven help the poor
fellow who must live on his pay," sighed Zelda piously.
Major Darrett, too, was to be congratulated on his father-in-law. Just
the father-in-law for a man ambitious to become military attache.
It was nice, Katie told herself as she walked away, to know of so many
weddings. She insisted upon asserting to herself that she was glad all
her friends were getting on so famously.
Though if Zelda persisted, she would have to go West earlier than she had
planned. She could not regard Ann's sister-in-law as suitable person for
attendant at Major Darrett's wedding. That would be a little _too_ much
like playing the clown at a masked ball.
The image was suggested by seeing one of those grotesque figures across
the street. He was advertising some approaching festivity. With the clown
was a monkey. He put the monkey down on the sidewalk and it danced
obediently in just the place where it was put down.
Suddenly it seemed to Katie that she was for all the world like that
monkey--dancing obediently in the place where she was put down, not
asking about the before or after, just dutifully being gay. That monkey
did not know the great story about monkeys; doubtless he was even too
degraded by clowns to yearn for a tree. He only danced at the end of the
string the clown held--all else shut out.
She--shutting out the before and after--was that pathetically festive
little monkey; and society was the clown holding the string--the whole of
it advertising the tawdry thing the clown called life.
Only _she_ knew that there were trees. She had danced frantically in
seeking to forget them, but the string pulled by the clown fretted her
more and more.
She could not make clear to herself why it had seemed that if Wayne were
to be "free," she could not be; it was as if all the things she had
worked out for herself had been appropriated by her brother. Everybody
could not go into more spacious countries! There were some who must stay
behind and make it right for the deserters.
Wayne's marrying Ann had turned her back to familiar paths. It had
terrified her. There seemed too much involved, too little certainty as to
where one would find one's self if one left the well-known ways.
She had been put in the position of the one hurt just when she had been
steeled to bring the hurt. It gave her a new sense of the
hurts--uncertainty as to the right to deal them.
And probably no monkey would dance more obediently than the monkey
who had run away and been frightened at a glimpse of the vastness of
She would have to remain and explain Wayne, because she felt responsible
about Wayne. It was her venturings had found what had led Wayne to
venture--and, in the end, go. How could she outrage the army as long as
Wayne had done so?
So it had seemed to Katie in her hurt and bewilderment. And the
bewilderment came chiefly because of the hurt. It appalled her to find it
did hurt like that.
But it was spring--and she knew that there were trees!
She paused and watched a gardener removing some debris that had covered a
flower bed. It was spring, and there were new shoots and this gardener
was wise and tender in taking the old things away, that the new shoots
might have air. Katie could see them there--and tender green of them, as
he lifted the old things away that the growing things might come through.
The gardener did not seem to feel he was cruel in taking the dead things
away. As a good gardener, he would scout the idea of its being unkind to
take them away just because they had been there so long. What did that
matter, the wise gardener would scornfully demand, when there were
growing things underneath pushing their way to the light?
And if he were given to philosophizing he might say that the kindest
thing even to the dead things was to let the new things come through.
Thus life would be kept, and all the life that had ever been upon the
earth perpetuated, vindicated, glorified.
It seemed to Katie that what life needed was a saner gardener. Not a
gardener who would smother new shoots with a lot of dead things telling
how shoots should go.
She drew a deep breath, lifted her face to the sky, and _knew_. Knew that
she herself had power to push through the dead things seeking to smother
her. Knew that if she but pushed on they must fall away because it was
life was pushing them away.
She walked on slowly, breathing deep.
And swinging along in the April twilight she had a sense of having
already set her face toward a more spacious country. And of knowing that
it had been inevitable all the time that she should go. The delay had
been but the moment's panic. Her life itself mattered more than what any
group of people thought about her life.
Spring!--and new life upon the earth. It was that life itself, not the
philosophy men had formulated for or against it, was pushing the dead
things away. It was not even arrested by the fear of displacing
She had held herself back for so long that in the very admission that she
longed to see him there was joy approaching the sweetness of seeing him.
A long time she walked in the April twilight--knowing that it was
spring--and that there was new life upon the earth.
Harry Prescott would be married within two weeks. It seemed nothing was
so important as that she witness that ceremony. Dear Harry Prescott, who
would be married on the banks of the Mississippi, close by a certain
place where boats were mended.
It was hard for Katie to contain her delight in Wayne's generosity when
she found he had left his launch with Captain Prescott. "Now wasn't that
just sweet of father?" she exulted to Worth as they walked together down
to the little boat house.
Worth was more dispassionate. "Y--es; but why wouldn't he, Aunt Kate?
Where would he take it?"
"Well, but it's just so nice, dearie, that it's here."
"You going out in it?" he demanded.
Katie looked around. Some soldiers and some golfers in the distance, but
like the day Ann had come upon the Island, no one within immediate range.
"Watts says she's running like a bird, Aunt Kate. Somebody was out this
morning and somebody's going again this afternoon."
"Maybe she won't be here for them to take!"
"You going to take it, Aunt Kate?" he pressed excitedly.
"Well, I don't just _know_, Worth." She looked up the river. She could
see a part of the little island where she had once pulled in to ask about
the underlying principles of life, but not being able to see the other
side of it, how could she be sure whether a launch ride was what she
wanted or not?
"Father says we mustn't go in it alone, Aunt Kate. Shall I see if we can
"N--o; that's not exactly the idea," said Aunt Kate, stepping into
"Goin', Aunt Kate?"
"Why--I don't know. I thought I'd just _sit_ in it a little while."
So Worth joined her for the delightful pastime of just sitting in it for
a little while.
"I'd rather like to find out whether it's in good condition." She turned
to Worth appealing. "It seems we ought to be able to tell father whether
they're taking good care of it, doesn't it, Worth?"
"I guess I'll go and get Watts."
"I don't know why, but I don't seem able to get up a great deal of
enthusiasm for that idea." Her fingers were upon the steering wheel,
longingly. Eyes, too, were longing. Suddenly she started the engine.
"We'll just run round the head of the Island," she said.
So they started up the river--the river as blue and lovely as it had been
that day a year before when she had cheated it, and had begun to see that
life was cheating her.
"Worth," she asked, "what is there on the _other_ side of that
"Why, Aunt Kate--why on the other side of it is the man that mends
"Oh, that so? Funny I never thought of that.
"But I suppose," she began again, "he wouldn't be very likely to be there
mending boats now?"
"Why yes, Aunt Kate, he might be."
"You heard anything about him, Worth?"
"Yes sir; Watts says he has cut him _out_. He says he's _on_ to him."
"That must be a bitter blow," said Aunt Kate. "Watts getting _on_ to
one--and cutting one out.
"Watts say anything about whether he was still mending boats?" she asked
in the off-hand manner people adopt for vital things.
"Why I guess he is, 'cause he made a speech last week--oh there was a
whole _lot_ of men--and he just _sowed seeds of discontentment_."
"Such a busy little sower!" murmured Aunt Kate lovingly.
She knew that he was there, or at least had been there the week before,
for just as she was leaving her uncle's she had received a note from him.
They had not been writing to each other since the brief letter she had
sent him the day after receiving the announcement of her brother's
engagement. This note had been written to tell her no special thing;
simply because, he said, after trying his best for a number of weeks, he
was not longer able to keep from writing. He wrote because he couldn't
help it. He had determined to love her too well to urge her to do what,
knowing it all, she evidently felt could not hold happiness for her. But
the utter desolation of life without her had crumbled the foundation of
In the note he said that his boat-mending days were about over.
They would not have lasted that long only he had had no heart for
But the letter gave Katie heart for other things! Its unmistakable
wretchedness made her superbly radiant.
"Why, Worthie," she exclaimed, "just see here! Here's the very place
where we landed that other time."
"Oh yes, Aunt Kate--it's still here."
She smiled; he could not have done better had he been trying.
"Now I wonder if I could make that landing again. I was proud of the way
I did that before. I don't suppose I could do it again."
That baited him. "Oh yes, I guess you could, Aunt Kate. You just try it."
She demonstrated her skill and then they once more enjoyed the delightful
pastime of just sitting in the launch.
Katie's eyes were misty, her lips trembled to a tender smile as she
finally turned to him. "Worth dear, will you do something for your
"Sure I will, Aunt Kate." Suddenly he guessed it. "Want me to get the man
that mends the boats?"
"I'll _try_ and get him for you, Aunt Kate."
"Try pretty hard, Worthie."
He started, but turned back. "What'll I tell him, Aunt Kate?"
The smile had lingered and the eyes were wonderfully soft just then.
"Tell him I'm here again and want to find out some more about the
underlying principles of life."
"The--now what is it, Aunt Kate?"
"Well just say life," she laughed tremulously. "Life'll do."
She found it hard to keep from crying. There had been too much. It had
been too long. It was not with clear vision she looked over at the big
house where Harry Prescott's wedding feast would be served on the morrow.
It seemed that about half of her life had passed before Worth came
Pretense fell away. "Didn't you get him?"
"Why, Aunt Kate, there's another man there. But don't you feel so bad,
Aunt Kate," he hastened. "We will get him, 'cause that other man is going
to tell him."
"Oh, he--then he is here?"
"Oh yes, he's here. He's just over at the shop."
"I see," said Aunt Kate, very much engaged with something she appeared to
think was trying to get in her eye.
"But, Worth," she asked, when she had blinked the gnat away, "what did
you tell this other man?"
"Why, I just told him. Told him you was here and wanted the _other_
man that mended the boats. The first man. The big man, I said. He
knows who I mean."
"I should hope so," she murmured.
"But what did you tell him I wanted to see him _for_?" she asked,
Worth had sat down and begun upon a raft. "Why, I just told him. Told him
you had come to find out some more about life."
"_Worth!_ Told that to a _strange_ man!"
"But I guess he didn't know what I meant, Aunt Kate. He's one of those
awful dumb folks that talk mostly in foreign languages. I think he's some
kind of a French Pole--or _something_."
She breathed deeper. "Oh, well perhaps one's confidences would be
safe--with a French Pole."
"So he knows you want him, Aunt Kate, but he don't know just what you
want him for."
"Yes; that's quite as well, I think," said Aunt Kate.
The other half of her life had almost passed when again there were
footsteps--very hurried footsteps, these were.
It was not the French Pole, though some one who did not seem at home with
the English tongue, some one who stood there looking at her as if he,
too, wanted to cry.
Worth was the self-possessed member of the party. "Hello there," he said;
"it's been a long time since we saw you, ain't it?"
"It seems to me to have been a--yes, a long time," replied the man who
mended the boats, never taking his eyes from Katie.
Saying nothing more, he pulled in her boat, secured it. Held out his hand
to help her out--forgot to let go the hand when her feet were upon firm
earth. Acted, Worth thought, as though he thought somebody was going to
A steamboat was coming down the river. And Worth!--a much interested
Worth. The man who mended the boats did not seem to find his
surroundings all he could ask.
"I want to show you this island," he began. "It's really quite a
remarkable island. You know, I've been _wanting_ to show it to you.
There's a stone over here--quite--quite an astonishing stone. And a
flower. Queer. Really an astounding flower. I don't believe you ever saw
one like it."
"Pooh!" said Worth, starting on ahead. "I bet _I've_ seen one like it."
"Say--I'll tell you what I'll bet _you_. I'll bet you two dollars and a
quarter you can't get that raft done before we get back!"
"Well I'll just bet _you_ two dollars and a _half_ that I _can_!"
"It's a go!"--and Aunt Kate and the man who mended the boats were off to
find the astonishing stone and the astounding flower, Worth calling after
them: "Now you try to keep him, Aunt Kate. Keep him as long as you can."
It was after she had succeeded in keeping him long enough for
considerable headway to have been made in raft-construction that he
exclaimed: "Katie, will you do something for me?"
Her eyes were asking what there could be that she would not do for him.
"Then _laugh,_ Katie. Oh if you could know how I've longed to hear you
She did laugh, but a sob overtook the laugh. Then laughed again and ran
away from the sob. But the laugh was sweeter for the sob.
"You _will_ laugh, Katie, won't you?" he asked with an anxiety that
touched deep things.
"Why there'll be days and days when I shan't do anything else!" Then her
laughing eyes grew serious. "Though just a little differently, I think.
I've heard the world sobbing, you know."
"But a world that is sobbing needs Katie's laughing." He drew her to him
with something not unlike a sob. "I need it, I know."
There was a wonderful sense of saving herself in knowing again that the
world was sobbing. What she could have borne no longer was drowning the
world's sobs in the world's hollow laughter.
"Katie," he cried, after more time had elapsed without finding either the
astonishing stone or the astounding flower, "here's a little sunny path!
I want you to walk in it."
Laughingly he pushed her over into the narrow strip of sunshine, where
there was just room for Katie's feet.
But Katie shook her head. "What do I care about sunny paths, if I must
walk them alone?" And laughing, too, but with a deepening light in her
eyes, she held out her hand to him.
But it was such a narrow sunny path; there was not room for two.
So Katie made room for him by stepping part way out of the sunshine
herself. Smiling, but eyes speaking for the depth of the meaning, she
said: "I'd rather be only half in the sunshine than be--"
"Be what, Katie?" he whispered.
"Be without you."
"Katie," he asked passionately, "you mean that if walking together we
can't always be all in the sunshine--?"
"The thing that matters," said Katie, "is walking together."
"Over roads where there might be no sunshine? Rough, steep roads,
"Whatever kind, of roads they may be," said Katie, with the steadiness
and the fervor of a devotee repeating a prayer.
They stood there as shadows lengthened across sunny paths, thinking of
the years behind and the years ahead, now speaking of what they would do,
now folded in exquisite silences.
And after the fashion of happy lovers who must hover around calamities
averted, he exclaimed: "Suppose Ann had never come!"
It sent her heart out in a great tenderness to Ann: Ann, out in her
mountains, and happy. Nor was the tenderness less warm in the thought
that Ann would join with Wayne and the others in deploring. Ann, who was
within now, would, Katie knew, grieve over her going without.
But that was only because Ann did not wholly understand. Everything the
matter with everybody was just that they did not wholly understand. She
grew tender toward all the world.
There rose before her vision of a possible day when all would understand;
when none would wish another ill or work another harm; when war and
oppression and greed must cease, not because the laws forbade them, but
because men's hearts gave them no place.
"I see it!" she whispered unconsciously.
Her face was touched with the fine light of visioning. "See what--dear
Katie? Take _me_ in."
"The world when love has saved it!" She remembered their old dispute and
her arms went about his neck as she told him again: "Why 'tis _love_ must
save the world!"
He held her face in his two hands as if he could not look deeply enough.
And as he looked into her eyes a nobler light was in his own.
"As it has saved us," he whispered.
They grew very still, hushed by the wonder of it. In their two hearts
there seemed love enough to redeem the world.