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O Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919 by Various

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O. HENRY MEMORIAL AWARD

PRIZE STORIES

of 1919

CHOSEN BY THE SOCIETY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS

1924

CONTENTS

ENGLAND TO AMERICA. By Margaret Prescott Montague

"FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO." By Wilbur Daniel Steele

THEY GRIND EXCEEDING SMALL. By Ben Ames Williams

ON STRIKE. By Albert Payson Terhune.

THE ELEPHANT REMEMBERS. By Edison Marshall

TURKEY RED. By Frances Gilchrist Wood

FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS REWARD. By Melville Davisson Post

THE BLOOD OF THE DRAGON. By Thomas Grant Springer

"HUMORESQUE." By Fannie Hurst

THE LUBBENY KISS. By Louise Rice.

THE TRIAL IN TOM BELCHER'S STORE. By Samuel A. Derieux

PORCELAIN CUPS. By James Branch Cabell

THE HIGH COST OF CONSCIENCE. By Beatrice Ravenel

THE KITCHEN GODS. By G.F. Alsop

APRIL 25TH, AS USUAL. By Edna Ferber

INTRODUCTION

On April 18, 1918, the Society of Arts and Sciences of New York City
paid tribute to the memory of William Sydney Porter at a dinner in
honour of his genius. In the ball-room of the Hotel McAlpin there
gathered, at the speakers' table, a score of writers, editors and
publishers who had been associated with O. Henry during the time he
lived in Manhattan; in the audience, many others who had known him, and
hundreds yet who loved his short stories.

Enthusiasm, both immediate and lasting, indicated to the Managing
Director of the Society, Mr. John F. Tucker, that he might progress
hopefully toward an ideal he had, for some time, envisioned. The goal
lay in the establishing of a memorial to the author who had transmuted
realistic New York into romantic Bagdad-by-the-Subway.

When, therefore, in December, 1918, Mr. Tucker called a committee for
the purpose of considering such a memorial, he met a glad response. The
first question, "What form shall the monument assume?" drew tentative
suggestions of a needle in Gramercy Square, or a tablet affixed to the
corner of O. Henry's home in West Twenty-sixth Street. But things of
iron and stone, cold and dead, would incongruously commemorate the
dynamic power that moved the hearts of living men and women, "the master
pharmacist of joy and pain," who dispensed "sadness tinctured with a
smile and laughter that dissolves in tears."

In short, then, it was decided to offer a minimum prize of $250 for the
best short story published in 1919, and the following Committee of Award
was appointed:

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS, Ph.D.
EDWARD J. WHEELER, Litt.D.
ETHEL WATTS MUMFORD
ROBERT WILSON NEAL, M.A.
MERLE ST. CROIX WRIGHT, D.D.

It is significant that this committee had no sooner begun its round
table conferences than the Society promised, through the Director, funds
for two prizes. The first was fixed at $500, the second at $250.

At a meeting in January, 1919, the Committee of Award agreed upon the
further conditions that the story must be the work of an American
author, and must first appear in 1919 in an American publication. At the
same time an Honorary Committee was established, composed of writers and
editors, whose pleasure it might be to offer advice and propose stories
for consideration. The Honorary Committee consisted of

GERTRUDE ATHERTON
EDWARD J. O'BRIEN
FANNIE HURST
JOHN MACY
BURGES JOHNSON
MRS. EDWIN MARKHAM
ROBERT MORSS LOVETT
JOHN S. PHILLIPS
WILLIAM MARION REEDY
VIRGINIA RODERICK
WALTER ROBERTS
CHARLES G. NORRIS
EDWARD E. HALE
MAX EASTMAN
CHARLES CALDWELL DOBIE
MARGARET SHERWOOD
HAMLIN GARLAND
JAMES BRANCH CABELL
STUART P. SHERMAN
WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE
STEPHEN LEACOCK
MAJOR RUPERT HUGHES
EUGENE MANLOVE RHODES

The Committee of Award read throughout the year, month by month, scores
of stories, rejecting many, debating over others, and passing up a
comparative few for final judgment. In January, out of the hundred or
more remaining, they salvaged the following:

1. The Kitchen Gods, by Guglielma Alsop (_Century_, September).

2. Facing It, by Edwina Stanton Babcock (_Pictorial Review_, June).

3. The Fairest Sex, by Mary Hastings Bradley (_Metropolitan_, March).

4. Bargain Price, by Donn Byrne (_Cosmopolitan_, March).

5. Porcelain Cups, by James Branch Cabell (_Century_, November).

6. Gum Shoes, 4-B, by Forrest Crissey (_Harper's_, December).

7. The Trial in Tom Belcher's Store, by Samuel A. Derieux (_American_,
June).

8. April Twenty-fifth As Usual, by Edna Ferber (_Ladies Home Journal_,
July).

9. The Mottled Slayer, by George Gilbert (_Sunset_, August).

10. Dog Eat Dog, by Ben Hecht (_The Little Review_, April).

11. Blue Ice, by Joseph Hergesheimer (_Saturday Evening Post_, December
13).

12. Innocence, by Rupert Hughes (_Cosmopolitan_, September).

13. Humoresque, by Fannie Hurst (_Cosmopolitan_, March).

14. The Yellow Streak, by Ellen La Motte (_Century_, March).

15. The Elephant Remembers, by Edison Marshall (_Everybody's_, October).

16. England to America, by Margaret Prescott Montague (_Atlantic_,
September).

17. Five Thousand Dollars Reward, by Melville D. Post (_Saturday Evening
Post_, February 15).

18. The Lubbeny Kiss, by Louise Rice (_Ainslee's_, October).

19. The High Cost of Conscience, by Beatrice Ravenel (_Harper's_,
January).

20. The Red Mark, by John Russell (_Collier's_, April 15).

21. The Trap, by Myra Sawhill (_American_, May).

22. Evening Primroses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, July).

23. Autumn Crocuses, by Anne D. Sedgwick (_Atlantic_, August).

24. The Blood of the Dragon, by Thomas Grant Springer (_Live Stories_,
May).

25. Contact, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harper's_, March).

26. For They Know not What They Do, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Pictorial
Review_, July).

27. La Guiablesse, by Wilbur Daniel Steele (_Harpers_, September).

28. On Strike, by Albert Payson Terhune (_The Popular Magazine_,
October).

29. The Other Room, by Mary Heaton Vorse (_McCall's_, April).

30. They Grind Exceeding Small, by Ben Ames Williams (_Saturday Evening
Post_, September 13).

31. On the Field of Honour, by Ben Ames Williams (_American_, March).

32. Turkey Red, by Frances Gilchrist Wood (_Pictorial Review_,
November).

Although the exiguity of the vessel forbids inclusion of all these
stories, yet the Committee wish to record them as worthy of preservation
under covers. Publishing by title, therefore, carries all the honour
attached to publishing the complete story.

Awarding the prizes proved difficult. No title stood first on all the
lists: rated best by one judge, any story lost rank through lower rating
by another. But the following held from first place to fifth place on
the separate final lists: "La Guiablesse," "England to America," "For
They Know not What They Do," "Evening Primroses," "Autumn Crocuses,"
"Humoresque," "The Red Mark," "They Grind Exceeding Small," "On Strike,"
"The Elephant Remembers," "Contact," and "Five Thousand Dollars Reward."
It will be observed that three of Wilbur Daniel Steele's narratives
appear. If the prize had been announced as going to the author of more
stories rated first, he would have received it. But by the predetermined
conditions, it must fall to the author of the best story, and according
to a recognized system of counts,[A] the best is "England to America";
the second best, "For They Know not What They Do." The first award,
therefore, goes to Miss Margaret Prescott Montague; the second to Mr.
Wilbur Daniel Steele.

[Footnote A:
Since there were five judges, the system used was the following:

A story of place 1 was given 5 points
" " " " 2 " " 4 "
" " " " 3 " " 3 "
" " " " 4 " " 2 "
" " " " 5 " " 1 point.]

The Committee were remarkably unanimous in answering the question, "What
is a short-story?"; but they differed, rather violently, over the
fulfilment of requirements by the various illustrations. Without doubt,
the most provocative of these was Mr. Steele's "Contact." Three of the
Committee think it a short-story; two declare it an article; all agree
that no finer instance of literature in brief form was published in
1919.

Their diverging views, however, challenged curiosity: what did the
publishers think about it? The editor of _Harper's_ wrote:

"Contact" was written by Mr. Steele after a personal visit to the North
Sea fleet. It is a faithful portrayal of the work done by our destroyers
and therefore falls under the category of "articles."

And the Author:

I am not quite sure what to say. The piece, "Contact," of which you
speak, was in a sense drawn from life, that is to say it is made up of a
number of impressions gained while I was at sea with the U.S. destroyers
off the coast of France. The characters are elaborations of real
characters, and the "contact" told of was such a one as I actually
witnessed. Otherwise, the chronology of events, conversations, etc.,
were gathered from various sources and woven to the best of my ability
so as to give a picture of the day's work of our convoying forces in the
War.

These data reconcile, in part, the conflicting points of view, or at
least show the tenability of each.

In addition to the first requisite of _struggle_, "the story's the
thing," the judges sought originality, excellence in organization of
plot incidents, skill in characterization, power in moving
emotions--and, again, they differed over their findings. One member
would have awarded the prize to "La Guiablesse" on its original motif--a
ship is jealous of a woman--on its masterful employment of suggestion,
unique presentation of events, and on all the other counts. Another,
while recognizing the essential bigness of the tale, regards it as
somewhat crudely constructed and as extending the use of suggestion into
the mist of obscurity.

Or, take characterization. Mary Hastings Bradley's "The Fairest Sex"
represents, in the climax, a reporter's fiancee betraying the
whereabouts of a young woman who is, technically, a criminal. One of the
Committee held that, under the circumstances, the psychology is false:
others "believed" that particular girl did that particular thing.

Best narrative always compels belief: the longer the period of belief
the greater the story. This business of convincing the reader requires
more labour than the average writer seems to care about performing. Any
reader is willing to be held--for a time. But how many stories compel
recollection of plot and characters as indubitably a part of all that
one has met?

Too frequently the writer neglects the value of atmosphere, forgetful of
its weight in producing conviction. The tale predominantly of atmosphere
(illustrated in the classic "Fall of the House of Usher"), revealing
wherever found the ability of the author to hold a dominant mood in
which as in a calcium light characters and arts are coloured, this tale
occurs so rarely as to challenge admiration when it does occur. "For
They Know not What They Do" lures the reader into its exotic air and
holds him until he, too, is suffused, convinced.

... The Committee were not insensible to style. But expert phrasing,
glowing appreciation of words and exquisite sense of values, the texture
of the story fabric--all dropped into the abyss of the unimportant after
the material they incorporated had been judged. No man brings home
beefsteak in silk or sells figs as thistles.

The Committee accepted style as the fit medium for conveying the
matter....

Since the Committee confess to catholicity of taste, the chosen stories
reveal predilection for no one type. They like detective stories, and
particularly those of Melville Davisson Post. A follower of the founder
of this school of fiction, he has none the less advanced beyond his
master and has discovered other ways than those of the Rue Morgue. "Five
Thousand Dollars Reward" in its brisk action, strong suspense, and
humorous denouement carries on the technique so neatly achieved in "The
Doomdorf Mystery" and other tales about Uncle Abner.

The Committee value, also, the story about animals: universal interest
in puzzles, in the science of ratiocination, is not more pronounced than
the interest in rationalizing the brute. "The Mottled Slayer" and "The
Elephant Remembers" offer sympathetic studies of struggles in the animal
world. Mr. Marshall's white elephant will linger as a memory, even as
his ghost remains, longer than the sagacious play-fellow of Mr.
Gilbert's little Indian; but nobody can forget the battle the latter
fought with the python.

For stories about the home the Committee have a weakness: Miss Ferber's
"April Twenty-fifth As Usual," cheerfully proclaiming the inevitableness
of spring cleaning, might be published with the sub-title, An Epic of
the Housekeeper.

They were alert for reflections of life--in America and elsewhere. The
politics of "Gum Shoes, 4-B"; the local court of law in "Tom Belcher's
Store"; the frozen west of "Turkey Red" seemed to them to meet the
demand that art must hold the mirror up to nature.

In particular, the Committee hoped to find good stories of the war. Now
that fiction containing anything of the Great Struggle is anathema to
editors, and must wait for that indefinite time of its revival, it was
like getting a last bargain to read "Facing It," "Humoresque,"
"Contact," "Autumn Crocuses," and "England to America." In these small
masterpieces is celebrated either manhood which keeps a rendezvous with
death.

The Committee accepted style as the fit medium for conveying the
matter....

Since the Committee confess to catholicity of taste, the chosen stories
reveal predilection for no one type. They like detective stories, and
particularly those of Melville Davisson Post. A follower of the founder
of this school of fiction, he has none the less advanced beyond his
master and has discovered other ways than those of the Rue Morgue. "Five
Thousand Dollars Reward" in its brisk action, strong suspense, and
humorous denouement carries on the technique so neatly achieved in "The
Doomdorf Mystery" and other tales about Uncle Abner.

The Committee value, also, the story about animals: universal interest
in puzzles, in the science of ratiocination, is not more pronounced than
the interest in rationalizing the brute. "The Mottled Slayer" and "The
Elephant Remembers" offer sympathetic studies of struggles in the animal
world. Mr. Marshall's white elephant will linger as a memory, even as
his ghost remains, longer than the sagacious play-fellow of Mr.
Gilbert's little Indian; but nobody can forget the battle the latter
fought with the python.

For stories about the home the Committee have a weakness: Miss Ferber's
"April Twenty-fifth As Usual," cheerfully proclaiming the inevitableness
of spring cleaning, might be published with the sub-title, An Epic of
the Housekeeper.

They were alert for reflections of life--in America and elsewhere. The
politics of "Gum Shoes, 4-B"; the local court of law in "Tom Belcher's
Store"; the frozen west of "Turkey Red" seemed to them to meet the
demand that art must hold the mirror up to nature.

In particular, the Committee hoped to find good stories of the war. Now
that fiction containing anything of the Great Struggle is anathema to
editors, and must wait for that indefinite time of its revival, it was
like getting a last bargain to read "Facing It," "Humoresque,"
"Contact," "Autumn Crocuses," and "England to America." In these small
masterpieces is celebrated either manhood which keeps a rendezvous with
death, womanhood which endures, or the courage of men and women which
meets bodily misfortune and the anguish of personal loss. Leon Kantor of
"Humoresque" and the young Virginian of "England to America" will bring
back, to all who read, their own heroes. It is fitting that Miss
Montague's story should have received the first prize: poignant, short
in words, great in significance, it will stand a minor climactic peak in
that chain of literature produced during the actual progress of the
World War.

* * * * *

In the estimation of the Committee the year 1919 was not one of
pre-eminent short stories. Why? There are several half-satisfactory
explanations. Some of the acknowledged leaders, seasoned authors, have
not been publishing their average annual number of tales. Alice Brown,
Donn Byrne, Irvin Cobb, Edna Ferber, Katharine Gerould, Fannie Hurst and
Mary W. Freeman are represented by spare sheaves. Again, a number of new
and promising writers have not quite attained sureness of touch;
although that they are acquiring it is manifest in the work of Ben Ames
Williams, Edison Marshall, Frances Wood, Samuel Derieux, John Russell,
Beatrice Ravenel and Myra Sawhill. Too frequently, there is "no story":
a series of episodes however charmingly strung out is not a story; a
sketch, however clever or humorous, is not a story; an essay, however
wisely expounding a truth, is not a story. So patent are these facts,
they are threadbare from repetition; yet of them succeeding aspirants
seem to be as ignorant as were their predecessors--who at length found
knowledge. For obvious reasons, names of authors who succeed in a
certain literary form, but who produce no story are omitted.

Again, some stories just miss the highest mark. A certain one, praised
by a magazine editor as the best of the year, suffers in the opinion of
the Committee, or part of the Committee, from an introduction too long
and top-heavy. It not only mars the symmetry of the whole, this
introduction, but starts the reader in the wrong direction. One thing
the brief story must not do is to begin out of tone, to promise what it
does not fulfil, or to lead out a subordinate character as though he
were chief.... Another story suffers from plethora of phrasing, and even
of mere diction. Stevenson believed few of his words too precious to be
cut; contemporary writers hold their utterances in greater esteem.... A
third story shows by its obvious happy ending that the author has
catered to magazine needs or what he conceives to be editorial policies.
Such an author requires a near "Smart Set" sparkle or a pseudo-Atlantic
Monthly sobriety; he develops facility, but at the expense, ultimately,
of conventionality, dullness and boredom.

According to the terms which omit foreign authors from possible
participation in the prize, the work of Achmed Abdullah, Britten Austin,
Elinor Mordaunt and others was in effect non-existent for the Committee.
"Reprisal," by Mr. Austin, ranks high as a specimen of real short-story
art, strong in structure, rich in suggestion. "The Honourable
Gentleman," by the mage from Afghanistan, in reflecting Oriental life in
the Occident, will take its place in literary history. Elinor Mordaunt's
modernized biblical stories--"The Strong Man," for instance--in showing
that the cycles repeat themselves and that today is as one of five
thousand years ago exemplify the universality of certain motifs, fables,
characters.

But, having made allowance for the truths just recounted, the Committee
believe that the average of stories here bound together is high. They
respond to the test of form and of life. "The Kitchen Gods" grows from
five years of service to the women of China--service by the author, who
is a doctor of medicine. "Porcelain Cups" testifies to the interest a
genealogist finds in the Elizabethan Age and, more definitely, in the
life of Christopher Marlowe. The hardships of David, in the story by Mr.
Derieux, are those of a boy in a particular Southern neighbourhood the
author knows. Miss Louise Rice, who boasts a strain of Romany blood,
spends part of her year with the gypsies. Mr. Terhune is familiar, from
the life, with his prototypes of "On Strike." "Turkey Red" relates a
real experience, suited to fiction or to poetry--if Wordsworth was
right--for it is an instance of emotion remembered in tranquility. In
these and all the others, the story's the thing.

Some of them, perhaps, were produced _because_ their creators were
consciously concerned about the art of creation. "Blue Ice," by Joseph
Hergesheimer, proclaims itself a study in technique, a thing of careful
workmanship. "Innocence," by Rupert Hughes, with "Read It Again" and
"The Story I Can't Write" boldly announce his desire to get the most out
of the material. "For They Know not What They Do," an aspiration of
spirit, is fashioned as firmly as the Woolworth Tower.

Just here it may be observed that the Committee noticed a tendency of
the present day story which only the future can reveal as significant or
insignificant. It is this: in spite of the American liking for the brief
tale, as Poe termed it--the conte, as the French know it--in spite of an
occasional call from magazines for stories of fewer than 5,000 words,
yet the number of these narratives approaching perfection is
considerably less than that of the longer story. Whether the long
short-story gives greater entertainment to the greater number may be
questioned. To state that it is farthest from the practice of O. Henry
invites a logical and inevitable conclusion. He wrote two hundred
stories averaging about fifteen pages each. Whether it may be greater
literature is another matter; if it escapes tediousness it may impress
by its weight. If the Committee had selected for publication all the
longest stories in the list of thirty-two, this volume would contain the
same number of words, but only half the titles.

The Honorary Committee expressed, some of them, to the Committee of
Award certain preferences. William Marion Reedy wrote: "I read and
printed one very good story called 'Baby Fever.' I think it is one of
the best stories of the year." John Phillips, though stating that he had
not followed short stories very closely, thought the best one he had
read "The Theatrical Sensation of Springtown," by Bess Streeter Aldrich
(_American_, December). Mrs. Edwin Markham commended Charles Finger's
"Canassa" (_Reedy's Mirror_, October 30). W. Adolphe Roberts submitted
a number of stories from _Ainslee's:_ "Young Love," by Nancy Boyd; "The
Token from the Arena," by June Willard; "The Light," by Katherine
Wilson. He also drew attention to "Phantom," by Mildred Cram (_Green
Book_, March). That the Committee of Award, after a careful study of
these and other recommendations, failed to confirm individual high
estimates is but another illustration of the disagreement of doctors. To
all those of the Honorary Committee who gave encouragement and aid the
Committee of Award is most grateful.

There remains the pleasure of thanking, also, the authors and publishers
who have kindly granted permission for the reprinting of the stories
included in this volume. The Committee of Award would like them to know
that renewal of the O. Henry prize depends upon their generous
cooperation.

BLANCHE COLTON WILLIAMS.

NEW YORK CITY, February 29, 1920.

_O. HENRY MEMORIAL AWARD PRIZE STORIES 1919_

ENGLAND TO AMERICA

By MARGARET PRESCOTT MONTAGUE

From _Atlantic Monthly_

I.

"Lord, but English people are funny!"

This was the perplexed mental ejaculation that young Lieutenant
Skipworth Cary, of Virginia, found his thoughts constantly reiterating
during his stay in Devonshire. Had he been, he wondered, a confiding
fool, to accept so trustingly Chev Sherwood's suggestion that he spend a
part of his leave, at least, at Bishopsthorpe, where Chev's people
lived? But why should he have anticipated any difficulty here, in this
very corner of England which had bred his own ancestors, when he had
always hit it off so splendidly with his English comrades at the Front?
Here, however, though they were all awfully kind,--at least, he was sure
they meant to be kind,--something was always bringing him up short:
something that he could not lay hold of, but which made him feel like a
blind man groping in a strange place, or worse, like a bull in a
china-shop. He was prepared enough to find differences in the American
and English points of view. But this thing that baffled him did not seem
to have to do with that; it was something deeper, something very
definite, he was sure--and yet, what was it? The worst of it was that he
had a curious feeling as if they were all--that is, Lady Sherwood and
Gerald; not Sir Charles so much--protecting him from himself--keeping
him from making breaks, as he phrased it. That hurt and annoyed him, and
piqued his vanity. Was he a social blunderer, and weren't a Virginia
gentleman's manners to be trusted in England without leading-strings?
He had been at the Front for several months with the Royal Flying
Corps, and when his leave came, his Flight Commander, Captain Cheviot
Sherwood, discovering that he meant to spend it in England, where he
hardly knew a soul, had said his people down in Devonshire would be
jolly glad to have him stop with them; and Skipworth Cary, knowing that,
if the circumstances had been reversed, his people down in Virginia
would indeed have been jolly glad to entertain Captain Sherwood, had
accepted unhesitatingly. The invitation had been seconded by a letter
from Lady Sherwood,--Chev's mother,--and after a few days sight-seeing
in London, he had come down to Bishopsthorpe, very eager to know his
friend's family, feeling as he did about Chev himself. "He's the finest
man that ever went up in the air," he had written home; and to his own
family's disgust, his letters had been far more full of Chev Sherwood
than they had been of Skipworth Cary.

And now here he was, and he almost wished himself away--wished almost
that he was back again at the Front, carrying on under Chev. There, at
least, you knew what you were up against. The job might be hard enough,
but it wasn't baffling and queer, with hidden undercurrents that you
couldn't chart. It seemed to him that this baffling feeling of
constraint had rushed to meet him on the very threshold of the
drawing-room, when he made his first appearance.

As he entered, he had a sudden sensation that they had been awaiting him
in a strained expectancy, and that, as he appeared, they adjusted unseen
masks and began to play-act at something. "But English people don't
play-act very well," he commented to himself, reviewing the scene
afterward.

Lady Sherwood had come forward and greeted him in a manner which would
have been pleasant enough, if he had not, with quick sensitiveness, felt
it to be forced. But perhaps that was English stiffness.

Then she had turned to her husband, who was standing staring into the
fireplace, although, as it was June, there was no fire there to stare
at.

"Charles," she said, "here is Lieutenant Cary"; and her voice had a
certain note in it which at home Cary and his sister Nancy were in the
habit of designating "mother-making-dad-mind-his-manners."

At her words the old man--and Cary was startled to see how old and
broken he was--turned round and held out his hand, "How d'you do?" he
said jerkily, "how d'you do?" and then turned abruptly back again to the
fireplace.

"Hello! What's up! The old boy doesn't like me!" was Cary's quick,
startled comment to himself.

He was so surprised by the look the other bent upon him that he
involuntarily glanced across to a long mirror to see if there was
anything wrong with his uniform. But no, that appeared to be all right.
It was himself, then--or his country; perhaps the old sport didn't fall
for Americans.

"And here is Gerald," Lady Sherwood went on in her low remote voice,
which somehow made the Virginian feel very far away.

It was with genuine pleasure, though with some surprise, that he turned
to greet Gerald Sherwood, Chev's younger brother, who had been,
tradition in the corps said, as gallant and daring a flyer as Chev
himself, until he got his in the face five months ago.

"I'm mighty glad to meet you," he said eagerly, in his pleasant, muffled
Southern voice, grasping the hand the other stretched out, and looking
with deep respect at the scarred face and sightless eyes.

Gerald laughed a little, but it was a pleasant laugh, and his hand-clasp
was friendly.

"That's real American, isn't it?" he said. "I ought to have remembered
and said it first. Sorry."

Skipworth laughed too. "Well," he conceded, "we generally are glad to
meet people in my country, and we don't care who says it first. But," he
added. "I didn't think I'd have the luck to find you here."

He remembered that Chev had regretted that he probably wouldn't see
Gerald, as the latter was at St. Dunstan's, where they were re-educating
the blinded soldiers.

The other hesitated a moment, and then said rather awkwardly, "Oh, I'm
just home for a little while; I only got here this morning, in fact."

Skipworth note the hesitation. Did the old people get panicky at the
thought of entertaining a wild man from Virginia, and send an SOS for
Gerald, he wondered.

"We are so glad you could come to us," Lady Sherwood said rather hastily
just then. And again he could not fail to note that she was prompting
her husband.

The latter reluctantly turned round, and said, "Yes, yes, quite so.
Welcome to Bishopsthorpe, my boy," as if his wife had pulled a string,
sand he responded mechanically, without quite knowing what he said.
Then, as his eyes rested a moment on his guest, he looked as if he would
like to bolt out of the room. He controlled himself, however, and,
jerking round again to the fireplace, went on murmuring, "Yes, yes,
yes," vaguely--just like the dormouse at the Mad Tea-Party, who went to
sleep, saying, "Twinkle, twinkle, twinkle," Cary could not help thinking
to himself.

But after all, it wasn't really funny, it was pathetic. Gosh, how
doddering the poor old boy was! Skipworth wondered, with a sudden twist
at his heart, if the war was playing the deuce with his home people,
too. Was his own father going to pieces like this, and had his mother's
gay vivacity fallen into that still remoteness of Lady Sherwood's? But
of course not! The Carys hadn't suffered as the poor Sherwoods had, with
their youngest son, Curtin, killed early in the war, and now Gerald
knocked out so tragically. Lord, he thought, how they must all bank on
Chev! And of course they would want to hear at once about him. "I left
Chev as fit as anything, and he sent all sorts of messages," he
reported, thinking it more discreet to deliver Chev's messages thus
vaguely than to repeat his actual carefree remark, which had been, "Oh,
tell 'em I'm jolly as a tick."

But evidently there was something wrong with the words as they were, for
instantly he was aware of that curious sense of withdrawal on their
part. Hastily reviewing them, he decided that they had sounded too
familiar from a stranger and a younger man like himself. He supposed he
ought not to have spoken of Chev by his first name. Gee, what sticklers
they were! Wouldn't his family--dad and mother and Nancy--have fairly
lapped up any messages from him, even if they had been delivered a bit
awkwardly? However, he added, as a concession to their point of view,
"But of course, you'll have had later news of Captain Sherwood."

To which, after a pause, Lady Sherwood responded, "Oh, yes," in that
remote and colourless voice which might have meant anything or nothing.

At this point dinner was announced.

Lady Sherwood drew her husband away from the empty fireplace, and Gerald
slipped his arm through the Virginian's, saying pleasantly, "I'm
learning to carry on fairly well at St. Dunstan's, but I confess I still
like to have a pilot."

To look at the tall young fellow beside him, whose scarred face was so
reminiscent of Chev's untouched good looks, who had known all the
immense freedom of the air, but who was now learning to carry on in the
dark, moved Skipworth Cary to generous homage.

"You know my saying I'm glad to meet you isn't just American," he said
half shyly, but warmly. "It's plain English, and the straight truth.
I've wanted to meet you awfully. The oldsters are always holding up your
glorious exploits to us newcomers. Withers never gets tired telling
about that fight of yours with the four enemy planes. And besides," he
rushed on eagerly, "I'm glad to have a chance to tell Chev's
brother--Captain Sherwood's brother, I mean--what I think of him. Only
as a matter of fact, I can't," he broke off with a laugh. "I can't put
it exactly into words, but I tell you I'd follow that man straight into
hell and out the other side--or go there alone if he told me to. He is
the finest chap that ever flew."

And then he felt as if a cold douche had been flung in his face, for
after a moment's pause, the other returned, "That's awfully good of
you," in a voice so distant and formal that the Virginian could have
kicked himself. What an ass he was to be so darned enthusiastic with an
Englishman! He supposed it was bad form to show any pleasure over praise
of a member of your family. Lord, if Chev got the V.C., he reckoned it
would be awful to speak of it. Still, you would have thought Gerald
might have stood for a little praise of him. But then, glancing sideways
at his companion, he surprised on his face a look so strange and
suffering that it came to him almost violently what it must be never to
fly again; to be on the threshold of life, with endless days of
blackness ahead. Good God! How cruel he had been to flaunt Chev in his
face! In remorseful and hasty reparation he stumbled on. "But the old
fellows are always having great discussions as to which was the
best--you or your brother. Withers always maintains you were."

"Withers lies, then!" the other retorted. "I never touched Chev--never
came within a mile of him, and never could have."

They reached the dinner-table with that, and young Cary found himself
bewildered and uncomfortable. If Gerald hadn't liked praise of Chev, he
had liked praise of himself even less, it seemed.

Dinner was not a success. The Virginian found that, if there was to be
conversation, the burden of carrying it on was upon him, and gosh! they
don't mind silences in this man's island, do they? he commented
desperately to himself, thinking how different it was from America. Why,
there they acted as if silence was an egg that had just been laid, and
everyone had to cackle at once to cover it up. But here the talk
constantly fell to the ground, and nobody but himself seemed concerned
to pick it up. His attempt to praise Chev had not been successful, and
he could understand their not wanting to hear about flying and the war
before Gerald.

So at last, in desperation, he wandered off into descriptions of
America, finding to his relief, that he had struck the right note at
last. They were glad to hear about the States, and Lady Sherwood
inquired politely if the Indians still gave them much trouble; and when
he assured her that in Virginia, except for the Pocahontas tribe, they
were all pretty well subdued, she accepted his statement with complete
innocency. And he was so delighted to find at last a subject to which
they were evidently cordial, that he was quite carried away, and would
up by inviting them all to visit his family in Richmond, as soon as soon
as the war was over.

Gerald accepted at once, with enthusiasm; Lady Sherwood made polite
murmurs, smiling at him in quite a warm and almost, indeed, maternal
manner. Even Sir Charles, who had been staring at the food on his plate
as if he did not quite know what to make of it, came to the surface long
enough to mumble, "Yes, yes, very good idea. Countries must carry on
together--What?"

But that was the only hit of the whole evening, and when the Virginian
retired to his room, as he made an excuse to do early, he was so
confused and depressed that he fell into an acute attack of
homesickness.

Heavens, he thought, as he tumbled into bed, just suppose, now, this was
little old Richmond, Virginia, U.S.A., instead of being Bishopsthorpe,
Avery Cross near Wick, and all the rest of it! And at that, he grinned
to himself. England wasn't such an all-fired big country that you'd
think they'd have to ticket themselves with addresses a yard long, for
fear they'd get lost--now, would you? Well, anyway, suppose it was
Richmond, and his train just pulling into the Byrd Street Station. He
stretched out luxuriously, and let his mind picture the whole familiar
scene. The wind was blowing right, so there was the mellow homely smell
of tobacco in the streets, and plenty of people all along the way to
hail him with outstretched hands and shouts of "Hey, Skip Cary, when did
you get back?" "Welcome home, my boy!" "Well, will you _look_ what the
cat dragged in!" And so he came to his own front door-step, and, walking
straight in, surprised the whole family at breakfast; and yes--doggone
it! if it wasn't Sunday, and they having waffles! And after that his
obliging fancy bore him up Franklin Street, through Monroe Park, and so
to Miss Sally Berkeley's door. He was sound asleep before he reached it,
but in his dreams, light as a little bird, she came flying down the
broad stairway to meet him, and--

But when he waked next morning, he did not find himself in Virginia,
but in Devonshire, where, to his unbounded embarrassment, a white
housemaid was putting up his curtains and whispering something about his
bath. And though he pretended profound slumber, he was well aware that
people do not turn brick-red in their sleep. And the problem of what was
the matter with the Sherwood family was still before him.

II

"They're playing a game," he told himself after a few days. "That is,
Lady Sherwood and Gerald are--poor old Sir Charles can't make much of a
stab at it. The game is to make me think they are awfully glad to have
me, when in reality there's something about me, or something I do, that
gets them on the raw."

He almost decided to make some excuse and get away; but after all, that
was not easy. In English novels, he remembered, they always had a wire
calling them to London; but, darn it all! the Sherwoods knew mighty well
there wasn't any one in London who cared a hoot about him.

The thing that got his goat most, he told himself, was that they
apparently didn't like his friendship with Chev. Anyway they didn't seem
to want him to talk about him; and whenever he tried to express his warm
appreciation for all that the older man had done for him, he was
instantly aware of a wall of reserve on their part, a holding of
themselves aloof from him. That puzzled and hurt him, and put him on his
dignity. He concluded that they thought it was cheeky of a youngster
like him to think that a man like Chev could be his friend; and if that
was the way they felt, he reckoned he'd jolly well better shut up about
it.

But whatever it was that they didn't like about him, they most certainly
did want him to have a good time. He and his pleasure appeared to be for
the time being their chief consideration. And after the first day or so
he began indeed to enjoy himself extremely. For one thing, he came to
love the atmosphere of the old place and of the surrounding country,
which he and Gerald explored together. He liked to think that ancestors
of his own had been inheritors of these green lanes, and pleasant mellow
stretches. Then, too, after the first few days, he could not help seeing
that they really began to like him, which of course was reassuring, and
tapped his own warm friendliness, which was always ready enough to be
released. And besides, he got by accident what he took to be a hint as
to the trouble. He was passing the half-open door of Lady Sherwood's
morning-room, when he heard Sir Charles's voice break out, "Good God,
Elizabeth, I don't see how you stand it! When I see him so straight and
fine-looking, and so untouched, beside our poor lad, and think--and
think--"

Skipworth hurried out of earshot, but now he understood that look of
aversion in the old man's eyes which had so startled him at first. Of
course, the poor old boy might easily hate the sight of him beside
Gerald. With Gerald himself he really got along famously. He was a most
delightful companion, full of anecdotes and history of the countryside,
every foot of which he had apparently explored in the old days with Chev
and the younger brother, Curtin. Yet even with Gerald, Cary sometimes
felt that aloofness and reserve, and that older protective air that they
all showed him. Take, for instance, that afternoon when they were
lolling together on the grass in the park. The Virginian, running on in
his usual eager manner, had plunged without thinking into an account of
a particularly daring bit of flying on Chev's part, when suddenly he
realized that Gerald had rolled over on the grass and buried his face in
his arms, and interrupted himself awkwardly. "But, of course," he said,
"he must have written home about it himself."

"No, or if he did, I didn't hear of it. Go on," Gerald said in a muffled
voice.

A great rush of compassion and remorse overwhelmed the Virginian, and he
burst out penitently, "What a brute I am! I'm always forgetting and
running on about flying, when I know it must hurt like the very devil!"

The other drew a difficult breath. "Yes," he admitted, "what you say
does hurt in a way--in a way you can't understand. But all the same I
like to hear you. Go on about Chev."

So Skipworth went on and finished his account, winding up, "I don't
believe there's another man in the service who could have pulled it
off--but I tell you your brother's one in a million."

"Good God, don't I know it!" the other burst out. "We were all three the
jolliest pals together," he got out presently in a choked voice, "Chev
and the young un and I; and now--"

He did not finish, but Cary guessed his meaning. Now the young un,
Curtin, was dead, and Gerald himself knocked out. But, heavens! the
Virginian though, did Gerald think Chev would go back on him now on
account of his blindness? Well, you could everlastingly bet he wouldn't!

"Chev thinks the world and all of you!" he cried in eager defense of his
friend's loyalty. "Lots of times when we're all awfully jolly together,
he makes some excuse and goes off by himself; and Withers told me it was
because he was so frightfully cut up about you. Withers said he told him
once that he'd a lot rather have got it himself--so you can
everlastingly bank on him!"

Gerald gave a terrible little gasp. "I--I knew he'd feel like that," he
got out. "We've always cared such a lot for each other." And then he
pressed his face harder than ever into the grass, and his long body
quivered all over. But not for long. In a moment he took fierce hold on
himself, muttering, "Well, one must carry on, whatever happens," and
apologized disjointedly. "What a fearful fool you must think me!
And--and this isn't very pippy for you, old chap." Presently, after
that, he sat up, and said, brushing it all aside, "We're facing the old
moat, aren't we? There's an interesting bit of tradition about it that I
must tell you."

And there you were, Cary thought: no matter how much Gerald might be
suffering from his misfortune, he must carry on just the same, and see
that his visitor had a pleasant time. It made the Virginian feel like
an outsider and very young as if he were not old enough for them to show
him their real feelings.

Another thing that he noticed was that they did not seem to want him to
meet people. They never took him anywhere to call and if visitors came
to the house, they showed an almost panicky desire to get him out of the
way. That again hurt his pride. What in heaven's name was the matter
with him anyway!

III

However on the last afternoon of his stay at Bishopsthorpe, he told
himself with a rather rueful grin, that his manners must have improved a
little, for they took him to tea at the rectory.

He was particularly glad to go there because, from certain jokes of
Withers's, who had known the Sherwoods since boyhood, he gathered that
Chev and the rector's daughter were engaged. And just as he would have
liked Chev to meet Sally Berkeley, so he wanted to meet Miss Sybil
Gaylord.

He had little hope of having a tete-a-tete with her, but as it fell out
he did. They were all in the rectory garden together, Gerald and the
rector a little behind Miss Gaylord and himself, as they strolled down a
long walk with high hedges bordering it. On the other side of the hedge
Lady Sherwood and her hostess still sat at the tea-table, and then it
was that Cary heard Mrs. Gaylord say distinctly, "I'm afraid the strain
has been too much for you--you should have let us have him."

To which Lady Sherwood returned quickly. "Oh, no, that would have been
impossible with--"

"Come--come this way--I must show you the view from the arbor," Miss
Gaylord broke in breathlessly; and laying a hand on his arm, she turned
abruptly into a side path.

Glancing down at her the Southerner could not but note the panic and
distress in her fair face. It was so obvious that the overheard words
referred to him, and he was so bewildered by the whole situation that
he burst out impulsively, "I say, what _is_ the matter with me? Why do
they find me so hard to put up with? Is it something I do--or don't they
like Americans? Honestly, I wish you'd tell me."

She stood still at that, looking at him, her blue eyes full of distress
and concern.

"Oh, I am so sorry," she cried. "They would be so sorry to have you
think anything like that."

"But what is it?" her persisted. "Don't they like Americans?"

"Oh, no, it isn't like that--Oh, quite the contrary!" she returned
eagerly.

"Then it's something about me they don't like?"

"Oh, no, no! Least of all, that--_don't_ think that!" she begged.

"But what am I to think then?"

"Don't think anything just yet," she pleaded. "Wait a little, and you
will understand."

She was so evidently distressed that he could not press her further; and
fearing she might think him unappreciative, he said, "Well, whatever it
is, it hasn't prevented me from having a ripping good time. They've seen
to that, and just done everything for my pleasure."

She looked up quickly, and to his relief he saw that for once he had
said the right thing.

"You enjoyed it, then?" she questioned eagerly.

"Most awfully," he assured her warmly. "I shall always remember what a
happy leave they gave me."

She gave a little sigh of satisfaction, "I am so glad," she said. "They
wanted you to have a good time--that was what we all wanted."

He looked at her gratefully, thinking how sweet she was in her fair
English beauty, and how good to care that he should have enjoyed his
leave. How different she was too from Sally Berkeley--why she would have
made two of his little girl! And how quiet! Sally Berkeley, with her
quick glancing vivacity, would have been all around her and off again
like a humming-bird before she could have uttered two words. And yet he
was sure that they would have been friends, just as he and Chev were.
Perhaps they all would be, after the war. And then he began to talk
about Chev, being sure that, had the circumstances been reversed, Sally
Berkeley would have wanted news of him. Instantly he was aware of a
tense listening stillness on her part. That pleased him. Well, she did
care for the old fellow all right, he thought; and though she made no
response, averting her face and plucking nervously at the leaves of the
hedge as they passed slowly along, he went on pouring out his eager
admiration for his friend.

At last they came to a seat in an arbour, from which one looked out upon
a green beneficent landscape. It was an intimate secluded little
spot--and oh, if Sally Berkeley were only there to sit beside him! And
as he thought of this, it came to him whimsically that in all
probability she must be longing for Chev, just as he was for Sally.

Dropping down on the bench beside her, he leaned over, and said with a
friendly, almost brotherly, grin of understanding, "I reckon you're
wishing Captain Sherwood was sitting here, instead of Lieutenant Cary."

The minute the impulsive words were out of his mouth, he knew he had
blundered, been awkward, and inexcusably intimate. She gave a little
choked gasp, and her blue eyes stared up at him, wide and startled. Good
heavens, what a break he had made! No wonder the Sherwoods couldn't
trust him in company! There seemed no apology that he could offer in
words, but at least, he thought, he would show her that he would not
intruded on her secret without being willing to share his with her. With
awkward haste he put his hand into his breast-pocket, and dragged forth
the picture of Sally Berkley he always carried there.

"This is the little girl I'm thinking about," he said, turning very red,
yet boyishly determined to make amends, and also proudly confident of
Sally Berkeley's charms. "I'd like mighty well for you two to know one
another."

She took the picture in silence, and for a long moment stared down at
the soft little face, so fearless, so confident and gay, that smiled
appealingly back at her. Then she did something astonishing,--something
which seemed to him wholly un-English,--and yet he thought it the
sweetest thing he had ever seen. Cupping her strong hands about the
picture with a quick protectiveness, she suddenly raised it to her lips,
and kissed it lightly. "O little girl!" she cried. "I hope you will be
very happy!"

The little involuntary act, so tender, so sisterly and spontaneous,
touched the Virginian extremely.

"Thanks, awfully," he said unsteadily. "She'll think a lot of that, just
as I do--and I know she'd wish you the same."

She made no reply to that, and as she handed the picture back to him, he
saw that her hands were trembling, and he had a sudden conviction that,
if she had been Sally Berkeley, her eyes would have been full of tears.
As she was Sybil Gaylord, however, there were no tears there, only a
look that he never forgot. The look of one much older, protective,
maternal almost, and as if she were gazing back at Sally Berkeley and
himself from a long way ahead on the road of life. He supposed it was
the way most English people felt nowadays. He had surprised it so often
on all their faces, that he could not help speaking of it.

"You all think we Americans are awfully young and raw, don't you?" he
questioned.

"Oh, no, not that," she deprecated. "Young perhaps for these days,
yes--but it is more that you--that your country is so--so unsuffered.
And we don't want you to suffer!" she added quickly.

Yes, that was it! He understood now, and, heavens, how fine it was! Old
England was wounded deep--deep. What she suffered herself she was too
proud to show; but out of it she wrought a great maternal care for the
newcomer. Yes, it _was_ fine--he hoped his country would understand.

Miss Gaylord rose. "There are Gerald and father looking for you," she
said, "and I must go now." She held out her hand. "Thank you for letting
me see her picture, and for everything you said about Captain
Sherwood--for _everything_, remember--I want you to remember."

With a light pressure of her fingers she was gone, slipping away
through the shrubbery, and he did not see her again.

IV

So he came to his last morning at Bishopsthorpe; and as he dressed, he
wished it could have been different; that he were not still conscious of
that baffling wall of reserve between himself and Chev's people, for
whom, despite all, he had come to have a real affection.

In the breakfast-room he found them all assembled, and his last meal
there seemed to him as constrained and difficult as any that had
preceded it. It was over finally, however, and in a few minutes he would
be leaving.

"I can never thank you enough for the splendid time I've had here," he
said as he rose. "I'll be seeing Chev to-morrow, and I'll tell him all
about everything."

Then he stopped dead. With a smothered exclamation, old Sir Charles had
stumbled to his feet, knocking over his chair, and hurried blindly out
of the room; and Gerald said, "_Mother_!" in a choked appeal.

As if it were a signal between them, Lady Sherwood pushed her chair back
a little from the table, her long delicate fingers dropped together
loosely in her lap; she gave a faint sigh as if a restraining mantle
slipped from her shoulders, and, looking up at the youth before her, her
fine pale face lighted with a kind of glory, she said, "No, dear lad,
no. You can never tell Chev, for he is gone."

"_Gone_!" he cried.

"Yes," she nodded back at him, just above a whisper; and now her face
quivered, and the tears began to rush down her cheeks.

"Not _dead_!" he cried. "Not Chev--not that! O my God, Gerald, not
_that_!"

"Yes," Gerald said. "They got him two days after you left."

It was so overwhelming, so unexpected and shocking, above all so
terrible, that the friend he had so greatly loved and admired was gone
out of his life forever, that young Cary stumbled back into his seat,
and, crumpling over, buried his face in his hands, making great uncouth
gasps as he strove to choke back his grief.

Gerald groped hastily around the table, and flung an arm about his
shoulders.

"Steady on, dear fellow, steady," he said, though his own voice broke.

"When did you hear?" Cary got out at last.

"We got the official notice just the day before you came--and Withers
has written us particulars since."

"And you _let_ me come in spite of it! And stay on, when every word I
said about him must have--have fairly _crucified_ each one of you! Oh,
forgive me! forgive me!" he cried distractedly. He saw it all now; he
understood at last. It was not on Gerald's account that they could not
talk of flying and of Chev, it was because--because their hearts were
broken over Chev himself. "Oh, forgive me!" he gasped again.

"Dear lad, there is nothing to forgive," Lady Sherwood returned. "How
could we help loving your generous praise of our poor darling? We loved
it, and you for it; we wanted to hear it, but we were afraid. We were
afraid we might break down, and that you would find out."

The tears were still running down her cheeks. She did not brush them
away now; she seemed glad to have them there at last.

Sinking down on his knees, he caught her hands. "Why did you _let_ me do
such a horrible thing?" he cried. "Couldn't you have trusted me to
understand? Couldn't you _see_ I loved him just as you did--No, no!" he
broke down humbly. "Of course I couldn't love him as his own people did.
But you must have seen how I felt about him--how I admired him, and
would have followed him anywhere--and _of course_ if I had known, I
should have gone away at once."

"Ah, but that was just what we were afraid of," she said quickly. "We
were afraid you would go away and have a lonely leave somewhere. And in
these days a boy's leave is so precious a thing that nothing must spoil
it--_nothing_," she reiterated; and her tears fell upon his hands like
a benediction. "But we didn't do it very well, I'm afraid," she went on
presently, with gentle contrition. "You were too quick and
understanding; you guessed there was something wrong. We were sorry not
to manage better," she apologized.

"Oh, you wonderful, wonderful people!" he gasped. "Doing everything for
my happiness, when all the time--all the time--"

His voice went out sharply, as his mind flashed back to scene after
scene: to Gerald's long body lying quivering on the grass; to Sybil
Gaylord wishing Sally Berkeley happiness out of her own tragedy; and to
the high look on Lady Sherwood's face. They seemed to him themselves,
and yet more than themselves--shining bits in the mosaic of a great
nation. Disjointedly there passed through his mind familiar
words--"these are they who have washed their garments--having come out
of great tribulation." No wonder they seemed older.

"We--we couldn't have done it in America," he said humbly.

He had a desperate desire to get away to himself; to hide his face in
his arms, and give vent to the tears that were stifling him; to weep for
his lost friend, and for this great heartbreaking heroism of theirs.

"But why did you do it?" he persisted. "Was it because I was his
friend?"

"Oh, it was much more than that," Gerald said quickly. "It was a matter
of the two countries. Of course, we jolly well knew you didn't belong to
us, and didn't want to, but for the life of us we couldn't help a sort
of feeling that you did. And when America was in at last, and you
fellows began to come, you seemed like our very own come back after many
years, and," he added a throb in his voice, "we were most awfully glad
to see you--we wanted a chance to show you how England felt."

Skipworth Cary rose to his feet. The tears for his friend were still wet
upon his lashes. Stooping, he took Lady Sherwood's hands in his and
raised them to his lips. "As long as I live, I shall never forget," he
said. "And others of us have seen it too in other ways--be sure America
will never forget, either."

She looked up at his untouched youth out of her beautiful sad eyes, the
exalted light still shining through her tears. "Yes," she said, "you see
it was--I don't know exactly how to put it--but it was England to
America."

"FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO"

BY WILBUR DANIEL STEELE

From _Pictorial Review_

When Christopher Kain told me his story, sitting late in his
dressing-room at the Philharmonic I felt that I ought to say something,
but nothing in the world seemed adequate. It was one of those times when
words have no weight: mine sounded like a fly buzzing in the tomb of
kings. And after all, he did not hear me; I could tell that by the look
on his face as he sat there staring into the light, the lank, dark hair
framing his waxen brow, his shoulders hanging forward, his lean, strong,
sentient fingers wrapped around the brown neck of "Ugo," the 'cello,
tightly.

Agnes Kain was a lady, as a lady was before the light of that poor worn
word went out. Quiet, reserved, gracious, continent, bearing in face and
form the fragile beauty of a rose-petal come to its fading on a windless
ledge, she moved down the years with the stedfast sweetness of the
gentlewoman--gentle, and a woman.

They knew little about her in the city, where she had come with her son.
They did not need to. Looking into her eyes, into the transparent soul
behind them they could ask no other credential for the name she bore and
the lavender she wore for the husband of whom she never spoke.

She spoke of him, indeed, but that was in privacy, and to her son. As
Christopher grew through boyhood, she watched him; in her enveloping
eagerness she forestalled the hour when he would have asked, and told
him about his father, Daniel Kain.

It gave them the added bond of secret-sharers. The tale grew as the boy
grew. Each night when Christopher crept into his mother's bed for the
quiet hour of her voice, it was as if he crept in to another world, the
wind-blown, sky-encompassed kingdom of the Kains, Daniel, his father,
and Maynard, _his_ father, another Maynard before _him_, and all the
Kains--and the Hill and the House, the Willow Wood, the Moor Under the
Cloud, the Beach where the gray seas pounded, the boundless Marsh, the
Lilac hedge standing against the stars.

He knew he would have to be a man of men to measure up to that heritage,
a man strong, grave, thoughtful, kind with the kindness that never
falters, brave with the courage of that dark and massive folk whose
blood ran in his veins. Coming as it did, a world of legend growing up
side by side with the matter-of-fact world of Concord Street, it never
occurred to him to question. He, the boy, was _not_ massive, strong,
or brave; he saw things in the dark that frightened him, his thin
shoulders were bound to droop, the hours of practise on his violin left
him with no blood in his legs and a queer pallor on his brow.

Nor was he always grave, thoughtful, kind. He did not often lose his
temper, the river of his young life ran too smooth and deep. But there
were times when he did. Brief passions swept him, blinded him, twisted
his fingers, left him sobbing, retching, and weak as death itself. He
never seemed to wonder at the discrepancy in things, however, any more
than he wondered at the look in his mother's eyes, as she hung over him,
waiting, in those moments of nausea after rage. She had not the look of
the gentlewoman then; she had more the look, a thousand times, of the
prisoner led through the last gray corridor in the dawn.

He saw her like that once when he had not been angry. It was on a day
when he came into the front hall unexpectedly as a stranger was going
out of the door. The stranger was dressed in rough, brown homespun; in
one hand he held a brown velour hat, in the other a thorn stick without
a ferrule. Nor was there anything more worthy of note in his face, an
average-long face with hollowed cheeks, sunken gray eyes, and a high
forehead, narrow, sallow, and moist.

No, it was not the stranger that troubled Christopher. It was his
mother's look at his own blundering entrance, and, when the man was out
of hearing, the tremulous haste of her explanation.

"He came about some papers, you know."

"You mean our _Morning Post?_" Christopher asked her.

She let her breath out all at once and colour flooded her face.

"Yes," she told him. "Yes, yes."

Neither of them said anything more about it.

It was that same day, toward evening, that Christopher broke one of his
long silences, reverting to a subject always near to them both.

"Mother, you've never told me where it is--on the _map_, I mean."

She was looking the other way. She did not turn around.

"I--Chris--I--I haven't a map in the house."

He did not press the matter. He went out into the back yard presently,
under the grape-trellis, and there he stood still for a long time,
staring at nothing particular.

He was growing up.

He went away to boarding-school not long after this, taking with him the
picture of his adored mother, the treasured epic of his dark, strong
fathers, his narrow shoulders, his rare, blind bursts of passion, his
newborn wonder, and his violin. At school they thought him a queer one.

The destinies of men are unaccountable things. Five children in the
village of Deer Bay came down with diphtheria. That was why the academy
shut up for a week, and that was what started Christopher on his way
home for an unexpected holiday. And then it was only by one chance in a
thousand that he should glimpse his mother's face in the down-train
halted at the junction where he himself was changing.

She did not see till he came striding along the aisle of her coach, his
arms full of his things, face flushed, eyes brimming with the surprise
and pleasure of seeing her; his lips trembling questions.

"Why, Mother, what in earth? Where are you going? I'm to have a week at
least, Mother; and here you're going away, and you didn't tell me, and
what is it, and everything?"

His eager voice trailed off. The colour drained out of his face and
there was a shadow in his eyes. He drew back from her the least way.

"What is it, Mother? _Mother!_"

Somewhere on the platform outside the conductor's droning "--_board_"
ran along the coaches. Agnes Kain opened her white lips.

"Get off before it's too late, Christopher. I haven't time to explain
now. Go home, and Mary will see you have everything. I'll be back in a
day or so. Kiss me, and go quickly. Quickly!"

He did not kiss her. He would not have kissed her for worlds. He was to
bewildered, dazed, lost, too inexpressibly hurt. On the platform
outside, had she turned ever so little to look, she might have seen his
face again for an instant as the wheels ground on the rails. Colour was
coming back to it again, a murky colour like the shadow of a red cloud.

They must have wondered, in the coach with her, at the change in the
calm, unobtrusive, well-gowned gentlewoman, their fellow-passenger.
Those that were left after another two hours saw her get down at a
barren station where an old man waited in a carriage. The halt was
brief, and none of them caught sight of the boyish figure that slipped
down from the rearmost coach to take shelter for himself and his dark,
tempest-ridden face behind the shed at the end of the platform--

Christopher walked out across a broad, high, cloudy plain, following a
red road, led by the dust-feather hanging over the distant carriage.

He walked for miles, creeping ant-like between the immensities of the
brown plain and the tumbled sky. Had he been less implacable, less
intent, he might have noticed many things, the changing conformation of
the clouds, the far flight of a gull, the new perfume and texture of the
wind that flowed over his hot temples. But as it was, the sea took him
by surprise. Coming over a little rise, his eyes focused for another
long, dun fold of the plain, it seemed for an instant as if he had lost
his balance over a void; for a wink he felt the passing of a strange
sickness. He went off a little way to the side of the road and sat down
on a flat stone.

The world had become of a sudden infinitely simple, as simple as the
inside of a cup. The land broke down under him, a long, naked slope
fringed at the foot of a ribbon of woods. Through the upper branches he
saw the shingles and chimneys of a pale grey village clinging to a white
beach, a beach which ran up to the left in a bolder flight of cliffs,
showing on their crest a cluster of roofs and dull-green gable-ends
against the sea that lifted vast, unbroken, to the rim of the cup.

Christopher was fifteen, and queer even for that queer age. He had a
streak of the girl in him at his adolescence, and, as he sat there in a
huddle, the wind coming out of this huge new gulf of life seemed to pass
through him, bone and tissue, and tears rolled down his face.

The carriage bearing his strange mother was gone, from sight and from
mind. His eyes came down from the lilac-crowned hill to the beach, where
it showed in white patches through the wood, and he saw that the wood
was of willows. And he remembered the plain behind him, the wide, brown
moor under the could. He got up on his wobbly legs. There were stones
all about him on the whispering wire-grass, and like them the one he had
been sitting on bore a blurred inscription. He read it aloud, for some
reason, his voice borne away faintly on the river of air:

Here Lie The Earthly Remains Of
MAYNARD KAIN, SECOND
Born 1835--Died 1862 For the Preservation of the Union

His gaze went on to another of those worn stones.

MAYNARD KAIN, ESQUIRE
1819-1849

This Monument Erected in His Memory By His Sorrowing
Widow, Harriet Burnam Kain

The windy Gales of the West Indias
Laid claim to His Noble Soul
And Took him on High to his Creator
Who made him Whole.

There was no moss or lichen on this wind-scoured slope. In the falling
dusk the old white stones stood up like the bones of the dead
themselves, and the only sound was the rustle of the wire-grass creeping
over them in a dry tide. The boy had taken off his cap; the sea-wind
moving under the mat of his damp hair gave it the look of some somber,
outlandish cowl. With the night coming on, his solemnity had an elfin
quality. He found what he was looking for at last, and his fingers had
to help his eyes.

DANIEL KAIN

Beloved Husband of Agnes Willoughby Kain

Born 1860--Died 1886

Forgive them, for they know not what they do.

Christopher Kain told me that he left the naked graveyard repeating it
to himself, "Forgive them, for they know not what they do," conscious
less of the words than of the august rhythm falling in with the pulse of
his exaltation.

The velvet darkness that hangs under cloud had come down over the hill
and the great marsh stretching away to the south of it. Agnes Kain stood
in the open doorway, one hand on the brown wood, the other pressed to
her cheek.

"You heard it _that_ time, Nelson?"

"No, ma'am." The old man in the entrance-hall behind her shook his
head. In the thin, blown light of the candelabra which he held high, the
worry and doubt of her deepened on his singularly-unlined face.

"And you might well catch your death in that draft, ma'am."

But she only continued to stare out between the pillars where the
lilac-hedge made a wall of deeper blackness across the night.

"What am I thinking of?" she whispered, and then: _"There!"_

And this time the old man heard it, a nearer, wind-blown hail.

"Mother! Oh, Mother!"

The boy came striding through the gap of the gate in the hedge.

"It's I, Mother! Chris! Aren't you surprised?"

She had no answer. As he came she turned and moved away from the door,
and the old man, peering from under the flat candle flames, saw her face
like wax. And he saw the boy, Christopher, in the doorway, his hands
flung out, his face transfigured.

"Mother! I'm here! Don't you understand?"

He touched her shoulder. She turned to him, as it were, lazily.

"Yes," she breathed. "I see."

He threw his arms about her, and felt her shaking from head to foot. But
he was shaking, too.

"I knew the way!" he cried. "I knew it, Mother, I knew it! I came down
from the Moor and there was the Willow Wood, and I knew the way home.
And when I came, Mother, it was like the trees bowing down their
branches in the dark. And when I came by the Beach, Mother, it was like
a roll of drums beating for me, and when I came to the Hill I saw the
Hedge standing against the sky, and I came, and here I am!"

She expressed no wonder, asked no question.

"Yes," was all she said, and it was as if she spoke of a tree coming to
its leaf, the wind to its height, the tide to its flood.

Had he been less rapt and triumphant he must have wondered more at that
icy lassitude, and at the cloak of ceremony she wrapped about her to
hide a terror. It was queer to hear the chill urbanity of her: "This is
Christopher, Nelson; Christopher, this is your father's servant,
Nelson." It was queerer still to see the fastidious decorum with which
she led him over this, the familiar house of his fathers.

He might have been a stranger, come with a guide-book in his hand. When
he stood on his heels in the big drawing-room, staring up with all his
eyes at the likenesses of those men he had known so well, it was strange
to hear her going on with all the patter of the gallery attendant, names
of painters, prices, dates. He stood before the portrait of Daniel Kain,
his father, a dark-skinned, longish face with a slightly-protruding
nether lip, hollow temples, and a round chin, deeply cleft. As in all
the others, the eyes, even in the dead pigment, seemed to shine with an
odd, fixed luminosity of their own, and like the others from first to
last of the line, it bore upon it the stamp of an imperishable youth.
And all the while he stood there, drinking it in, detail by detail, his
mother spoke, not of the face, but of the frame, some obscure and
unsuspected excellence in the gold-leaf on the frame.

More than once in that stately tour of halls and chambers he found
himself protesting gaily, "I know, Mother! I know, I know!"

But the contagion of his glory did not seem to touch her. Nothing seemed
to touch her. Only once was the fragile, bright shell of her punctilio
penetrated for a moment, and that was when Christopher, lagging, turned
back to a door they were about to pass and threw it open with the happy
laugh of a discoverer. And then, even before she could have hushed him,
the laughter on his lips died of itself.

A man lay on a bed in the room, his face as colourless and still as the
pillow behind it. His eyes were open, but they did not move from the
three candles burning on the high bureau, and he seemed unconscious of
any intrusion.

"I didn't know!" Christopher whispered, shocked, and shamed.

When the door was closed again his mother explained. She explained at
length, concisely, standing quite still, with one frail, fine hand
worrying the locket she wore at her throat. Nelson stood quite still
too, his attention engrossed in his candle-wicks. And Christopher stood
quite still, and all their shadows--That man was the caretaker, the man,
Christopher was to understand, who had been looking after the place. His
name was Sanderson. He had fallen ill, very ill. In fact, he was dying.
And that was why his mother had had to come down, post-haste, without
warning. To see about some papers. Some papers. Christopher was to
understand--

Christopher understood. Indeed there was not much to understand. And
yet, when they had gone on, he was bothered by it. Already, so young he
was, so ruthless, and so romantic, he had begun to be a little ashamed
of that fading, matter-of-fact world of Concord Street. And it was with
just that world which he wished to forget, that the man lying ill in the
candle-lit chamber was linked in Christopher's memory. For it was the
same man he had seen in the doorway that morning months ago, with a
brown hat in one hand and a thorn stick in the other.

Even a thing like that may be half put aside, though--for a while. And
by the time Christopher went to his room for the night the thought of
the interloper had retired into the back of his mind, and they were all
Kains there on the Hill, inheritors of romance. He found himself bowing
to his mother with a courtliness he had never known, and an "I wish you
a good night," sounding a century old on his lips. He saw the remote,
patrician figure bow as gravely in return, a petal of colour as hard as
paint on the whiteness of either cheek. He did not see her afterward,
though, when the merciful door was closed.

Before he slept he explored the chamber, touching old objects with
reverent finger-tips. He came on a leather case like an absurdly
overgrown beetle, hidden in a corner, and a violoncello was in it. He
had seen such things before, but he had never touched one, and when he
lifted it from the case he had a moment of feeling very odd at the pit
of his stomach. Sitting in his underthings on the edge of the bed, he
held the wine-coloured creature in the crook of his arm for a long time,
the look in his round eyes, half eagerness, half pain, of one pursuing
the shadow of some ghostly and elusive memory.

He touched the C-string by and by with an adventuring thumb. I have
heard "Ugo" sing, myself, and I know what Christopher meant when he said
that the sound did not come out of the instrument, but that it came
_in_ to it, sweeping home from all the walls and corners of the
chamber, a slow, rich, concentric wind of tone. He felt it about him,
murmurous, pulsating, like the sound of surf borne from some far-off
coast.

And then it was like drums, still farther off. And then it was the feet
of marching men, massive, dark, grave men with luminous eyes, and the
stamp on their faces of an imperishable youth.

He sat there so lost and rapt that he heard nothing of his mother's
footsteps hurrying in the hall; knew nothing till he saw her face in the
open doorway. She had forgotten herself this time; that fragile defense
of gentility was down. For a moment they stared at each other across a
gulf of silence, and little by little the boy's cheeks grew as white as
hers, his hands as cold, his lungs as empty of breath.

"What is it, Mother?"

"Oh, Christopher, Christopher--Go to bed, dear."

He did not know why, but of a sudden he felt ashamed and a little
frightened, and, blowing out the candle, he crept under the covers.

The afternoon was bright with a rare sun and the world was quiet.
Christopher lay full-spread on the turf, listening idly to the
"clip-clip" of Nelson's shears as the old man trimmed the hedge.

"And was my father _very_ strong?" he asked with a drowsy pride.

"No, not so very." Nelson stopped clipping and was immediately lost in
the past.

"Only when he was _that_ way five strong men couldn't turn him. I'll
say that. No, if they had to get him with a shotgun that day, 'twas
nobody's fault nor sin. If Guy Bullard seen Daniel there on the sand
with an ax in his hand and foam-like on his lips, and the little ones
cornered where he caught them between cliff and water--Guy's own baby
amongst them--and knowing the sickness of the Kains as he and everybody
else did--why, I'm free and willing to say 'twas his bounden duty to
hold a true aim and pull a steady trigger on Daniel, man of his though I
was, and man of his poor father before him--

"No, I can't make it right to lay blame on any man for it, no more than
I can on them, his brother officers, that broke Maynard's neck with
their tent-pegs the night after Gettysburg. No, no--"

It was evidently a time-worn theme, an argument, an _apologia_, accepted
after years of bitterness and self-searching. He went on with the remote
serenity of age, that has escaped the toils of passion, pursuing the
old, worn path of his mind, his eyes buried in vacancy.

"No, 'twas a mercy to the both of them, father and son, and a man must
see it so. 'Twould be better of course if they could have gone easier,
same as the _old_ Maynard went, thinking himself the Lord our God to
walk on water and calm the West Indy gale. That's better, better for all
hands round. But if it had to come so, in violence and fear, then nobody
need feel the sin of it on his soul--nobody excepting the old man
Bickers, him that told Daniel. For 'twas from that day he began to take
it on.

"I saw it myself. There was Daniel come home from other parts where his
mother had kept him, out of gossip's way, bright as you please and
knowing nothing wrong with the blood of the Kains. And so I say the sin
lays on the loose-wagging tongue of Bickers, for from the day he let it
out to Daniel, Daniel changed. 'Twas like he'd heard his doom, and went
to it. Bickers is dead a long time now, but may the Lord God lay eternal
damnation on his soul!"

Even then there was no heat; the curse had grown a formula. Having come
to the end, the old man's eyes tumbled down painlessly out of the void
and discovered the shears in his hand.

"Dear me, that's so," he said to himself. One thought was enough at a
time. He fell to work again. The steady "clip-clip-clip" moved off
slowly along the hedge. Not once did he remember; not once as the
indefatigable worker shuffled himself out of sight around the house did
he look back with any stirring of recollection at the boyish figure
lying there as still as a shadow cast in the deep grass.

A faintly lop-sided moon swam in the zenith. For three days now that
rare clarity had hung in the sky, and for three nights the moon had
grown. Its benign, poisonous illumination flowed down steeply through
the windows of the dark chamber where Christopher huddled on the bed's
edge, three pale, chill islands spread on the polished floor.

Once again the boy brought the bow home across the shivering strings,
and, as if ears could be thirsty as a drunkard's throat, he drank his
fill of the 'cello's deep, full-membered chord. The air was heavy with
the resonance of marching feet, ghostly feet marching and marching down
upon him in slow, inexorable crescendo as the tides ebbed later among
the sedges on the marsh and the moon grew big. And above the pulse of
the march he seemed to hear another cadence, a thin laughter.

He laughed too, giving himself up to that spectral contagion. He saw the
fat, iridescent bubble with the Hill in it, the House of dreams, the
Beach and the Moor and Willow Wood of fancy, and all the grave, strong,
gentle line of Kains to whom he had been made bow down in worship. He
saw himself taken in, soul and body, by a thin-plated fraud, a cheap
trick of mother's words, as before him, his father had been. And the
faint exhalations from the moon-patches on the floor showed his face
contorted with a still, set grimace of mirth.

Anger came over him in a white veil, twitching his lips and his toes and
bending his fingers in knots. Through the veil a sound crept, a sound he
knew well by this time, secret footfalls in the hall, faltering,
retreating, loitering returning to lag near the door.

How he hated her! It is curious that not once did his passion turn
against his blighted fathers; it was against the woman who had borne
him, the babe, and lied to him, the boy--against her, and against that
man, that interloper, dying in a room below.

The thought that had been willing to creep out of sight into the
back-country of his mind on that first night came out now like a red,
devouring cloud. Who was that man?

What was he dying of--or _supposed_ to be dying of? What had he been
doing that morning in Concord Street? What was he doing here, in the
house of the men who had never grown old and of the boy who would never
grow old? Why had his mother come down here, where he was, so queerly,
so secretly, so frightened?

Christopher would have liked to kill that man. He shivered and licked
his lips. He would have liked to do something bloody and abominable to
that face with the hollow cheeks, the sunken grey eyes, and the
forehead, high, sallow, and moist. He would have liked to take an ax in
his hand and run along the thundering beach and catch that face in a
corner somewhere between cliff and water. The desire to do this thing
possessed him and blinded him like the kiss of lightning.

He found himself on the floor at the edge of the moonlight, full of
weakness and nausea. He felt himself weeping as he crawled back to the
bed, his cheeks and neck bathed in a flood of painless tears. He threw
himself down, dazed with exhaustion.

It seemed to him that his mother had been calling a long while.
"Christopher! What is it? What is it, boy?"

He had heard no footsteps, going or coming; she must have been there all
the time, waiting, listening, her ear pressed to the thick, old paneling
of the door. The thought was like wine; the torment of her whispering
was sweet in his ears.

"Oh, Chris, Chris! You're making yourself sick!"

"Yes," he said. He lifted on an elbow and repeated in a voice which
must have sounded strange enough to the listener beyond the door. "Yes!"
he said. "Yes!"

"Go away!" he cried of a sudden, making a wide, dim, imperious gesture
in the dark.

"No, no," the imploring whisper crept in. "You're making yourself
sick--Christopher--all over nothing--nothing in the world. It's so
foolish--so foolish--foolish! Oh, if I could only tell you,
Christopher--if I could tell you--"

"Tell me _what_?" He shuddered with the ecstasy of his own irony. "Who
that man is? That 'caretaker'? What he's doing here? What _you're_ doing
here?--" He began to scream in a high, brittle voice: "_Go away from
that door! Go away!_"

This time she obeyed. He heard her retreating, soft-footed and
frightened, along the hall. She was abandoning him--without so much as
trying the door, just once again, to see if it were still bolted against
her.

She did not care. She was sneaking off--down the stairs--Oh, yes, he
knew where.

His lips began to twitch again and his finger nails scratched on the
bedclothes. If only he had something, some weapon, an axe, a broad,
keen, glittering axe! He would show them! He was strong, incredibly
strong! Five men could not have turned him back from what he was going
to do--if only he had something.

His hand, creeping, groping, closed on the neck of the 'cello leaning by
the bed. He laughed.

Oh, yes, he would stop her from going down there; he would hold her,
just where she was on the dark stair nerveless, breathless, as long as
he liked, if he liked he would bring her back, cringing, begging.

He drew the bow, and laughed higher and louder yet to hear the booming
discord rocking in upon him from the shadows. Swaying from side to side,
he lashed the hollow creature to madness. They came in the press of the
gale, marching, marching, the wild, dark pageant of his fathers, nearer
and nearer through the moon-struck night.

"Tell me _what_?" he laughed. "_What_?"

And abruptly he slept, sprawled crosswise on the covers, half-clothed,
dishevelled, triumphant.

* * * * *

It was not the same night, but another; whether the next or the next but
one, or two, Christopher can not say. But he was out of doors.

He had escaped from the house at dusk; he knew that.

He had run away, through the hedge and down the back side of the hill,
torn between the two, the death, warm and red like life, and the birth,
pale, chill, and inexorable as death.

Most of that daft night-running will always be blank in Christopher's
mind; moments and moments, like islands of clarity, remain. He brings
back one vivid interval when he found himself seated on his father's
gravestone among the whispering grasses, staring down into the pallid
bowl of the world. And in that moment he knew what Daniel Kain had felt,
and Maynard Kain before him; a passionate and contemptuous hatred for
all the dullards in the world who never dreamed dreams or saw visions or
sang wordless songs or ran naked-hearted in the flood of the full-blown
moon. He hated them because they could not by any possibility comprehend
his magnificent separation, his starry sanity, his kinship with the
gods. And he had a new thirst to obliterate the whole creeping race of
dust-dwellers with one wide, incomparably bloody gesture.

It was late when he found himself back again before the house, and an
ink-black cloud touched the moon's edge. After the airless evening a
wind had sprang up in the east; it thrashed among the lilac-stems as he
came through them and across the turf, silent-footed as an Indian. In
his right hand he had a bread-knife, held butt to thumb, dagger-wise.
Where he had come by the rust-bitten thing no one knows, least of all
himself. In the broken light his eyes shone with a curious luminosity of
their own, absorbed, introspective.

All the windows were dark, and the entrance-hall, when he slipped in
between the pillars, but across its floor he saw light thrown in a
yellow ribbon from the half-closed door of the drawing-room.

It took his attention, laid hands on his imagination. He began to
struggle against it.

He would _not_ go into that room. He was going to another room. To stay
him, he made a picture of the other room in his tumbled mind--the high,
bleak walls, the bureau with the three candles burning wanly, the bed,
the face of the man on the bed. And when his rebellious feet,
surrendering him up to the lure of that beckoning ribbon, had edged as
far as the door, and he had pushed it a little further ajar to get his
head in, he saw that the face itself was there in the drawing-room.

He stood there for some time, his shoulder pressed against the
door-jamb, his eyes blinking.

His slow attention moved from the face to the satin pillows that wedged
it in, and then to the woman that must have been his mother, kneeling
beside the casket with her arms crooked on the shining cover and her
head down between them. And across from her leaned "Ugo," the 'cello,
come down from his chamber to stand vigil at the other shoulder of the
dead.

The first thing that came into his groping mind was a bitter sense of
abandonment. The little core of candle-light hanging in the gloom left
him out. Its unstirring occupants, the woman, the 'cello, and the clay,
seemed sufficient to themselves. His mother had forgotten him. Even
"Ugo," that had grown part and parcel of his madness, had forgotten him.

Bruised, sullen, moved by some deep-lying instinct of the clan, his eyes
left them and sought the wall beyond, where there were those who would
not forget him, come what might, blood of his blood and mind of his own
queer mind. And there among the shadowed faces he searched for one in
vain. As if that candle-lit tableau, somehow holy and somehow
abominable, were not for the eyes of one of them, the face of Daniel,
the wedded husband, had been turned to the wall.

Here was something definite, something Christopher could take hold of,
and something that he would not have.

His mother seemed not to have known he was near till he flung the door
back and came stalking into the light with the rusty bread-knife in his
hand. One would not have imagined there were blood enough left in her
wasted heart, but her face went crimson when she lifted it and saw him.

It brought him up short--the blush, where he had looked for fright. It
shocked him, and, shocking him more than by a thousand laboured words of
explanation, it opened a window in his disordered brain. He stood
gawking with the effort of thought, hardly conscious of his mother's
cry:

"Christopher, I never meant you to know!"

He kept on staring at the ashen face between the pillows, long (as his
own was long), sensitive, worn; and at the 'cello keeping incorruptible
vigil over its dead. And then slowly his eyes went down to his own left
hand, to which that same old wine-brown creature had come home from the
first with a curious sense of fitness and authority and right.

"Who is this man?"

"Don't look at me so! Don't, Chris!"

But he did look at her. Preoccupied as he was, he was appalled at sight
of the damage the half-dozen of days had done. She had been so much the
lady, so perfectly the gentlewoman. To no one had the outward gesture
and symbol of purity been more precious. No whisper had ever breathed
against her. If there had been secrets behind her, they had been dead;
if a skeleton, the closet had been closed. And now, looking down on her,
he was not only appalled, he was a little sickened, as one might be to
find squalor and decay creeping into a familiar and once immaculate
room.

"Who is this man?" he repeated.

"He grew up with me." She half raised herself on her knees in the
eagerness of her appeal. "We were boy and girl together at home in
Maryland. We were meant for each other, Chris. We were always to
marry--always, Chris. And when I went away, and when I married
your--when I married Daniel Kain, _he_ hunted and he searched and he
found me here. He was with me, he stood by me through that awful
year--and--that was how it happened. I tell you, Christopher, darling,
we were meant for each other, John Sanderson and I. He loved me more
than poor Daniel ever did or could, loved me enough to throw away a life
of promise, just to hang on here after every one else was gone, alone
with his 'cello and is one little memory. And I loved him enough
to--to--_Christopher, don't look at me so!"_

His eyes did not waver. You must remember his age, the immaculate,
ruthless, mid-Victorian 'teens; and you must remember his bringing-up.

"And so this was my father," he said. And then he went on without
waiting, his voice breaking into falsetto with the fierceness of his
charge. "And you would have kept on lying to me! If I hadn't happened,
just happened, to find you here, now, you would have gone on keeping me
in the dark! You would have stood by and seen me--well--_go crazy!_ Yes,
go crazy, thinking I was--well, thinking I was meant for it! And all to
save your precious--"

She was down on the floor again, what was left of the gentlewoman,
wailing.

"But you don't know what it means to a woman, Chris! You don't know what
it means to a woman!"

A wave of rebellion brought her up and she strained toward him across
the coffin.

"Isn't it something, then, that I gave you a father with a _mind_? And
if you think you've been sinned against, think of _me_! Sin! You call it
_sin_! Well, isn't it _anything at all_ that by my 'sin' my son's blood
came down to him _clean_? Tell me that!"

He shook himself, and his flame turned to sullenness.

"It's not so," he glowered.

All the girl in him, the poet, the hero-worshipping boy, rebelled. His
harassed eyes went to the wall beyond and the faces there, the ghosts of
the doomed, glorious, youth-ridden line, priceless possessions of his
dreams. He would not lose them: he refused to be robbed of a tragic
birthright. He wanted some gesture puissant enough to turn back and
blot out all that had been told him.

"It's not his!" he cried. And reaching out fiercely he dragged the
'cello away from the coffin's side. He stood for an instant at bay,
bitter, defiant.

"It's not his! It's mine! It's--it's--_ours!_"

And then he fled out into the dark of the entrance-hall and up the black
stairs. In his room there was no moonlight now, for the cloud ran over
the sky and the rain had come.

"It isn't so, it isn't so!" It was like a sob in his throat.

He struck on the full strings. And listening breathless through the
dying discord he heard the liquid whispers of the rain, nothing more. He
lashed with a wild bow, time and again. But something was broken,
something was lost: out of the surf of sound he could no longer fashion
the measure of marching feet. The mad Kains had found him out, and cast
him out. No longer could he dream them in dreams or run naked-hearted
with them in the flood of the moon, for he was no blood of theirs, and
they were gone. And huddling down on the edge of the bed, he wept.

The tears washed his eyes and falling down bathed his strengthless
hands. And beyond the phantom windows, over the marsh and the moor and
the hill that were not his, the graves of strangers and the lost Willow
Wood, lay the healing rain. He heard it in gurgling rivulets along the
gutters overhead. He heard the soft impact, like a kiss, brushing the
reedy cheeks of the marsh, the showery shouldering of branches, the
aspiration of myriad drinking grasses, the far whisper of waters coming
home to the waters of the sea--the long, low melody of the rain.

And by and by he found it was "Ugo," the 'cello, and he was playing.

They went home the following afternoon, he and his mother. Or rather,
she went home, and he with her as far as the Junction, where he changed
for school.

They had not much to say to each other through the journey. The boy had
to be given time. Five years younger, or fifteen years older, it would
have been easier for him to look at his mother. You must remember what
his mother had meant to him, and what, bound up still in the fierce and
sombre battle of adolescence, she must mean to him now.

As for Agnes Kain, she did not look at him, either. Through the changing
hours her eyes rested on the transparent hands lying crossed in her lap.
She seemed very tired and very white. Her hair was not done as tidily,
her lace cuffs were less fresh than they had used to be. About her whole
presence there was a troubling hint of let-down, something obscurely
slovenly, a kind of awkward and unlovely nakedness.

She really spoke to him for the first time at the Junction, when he
stood before her, slim and uncouth under the huge burden of "Ugo,"
fumbling through his leave-taking.

"Christopher," she said, "try not to think of me--always--as--as--well,
when you're older, Christopher, you'll know what I mean."

That was the last time he ever heard her speak. He saw her once again,
but the telegram was delayed and his train was late, and when he came
beside her bed she said nothing. She looked into his eyes searchingly,
for a long while, and died.

* * * * *

That space stands for the interval of silence that fell after
Christopher had told me the story. I thought he had quite finished. He
sat motionless, his shoulders fallen forward, his eyes fixed in the
heart of the incandescent globe over the dressing-table, his long
fingers wrapped around the neck of the 'cello.

"And so she got me through those years," he said. "Those nip-and-tuck
years that followed. By her lie.

"Insanity is a queer thing," he went on, still brooding into the light.
"There's more of it about than we're apt to think. It works in so many
ways. In hobbies, arts, philosophies. Music is a kind of insanity. I
know. I've got mine penned up in the music now, and I think I can keep
it there now, and save my soul."

"Yours?"

"Yes, mine. I know now--now that it's safe for me to know. I was down
at that village by the beach a year or so ago. I'm a Kain, of course,
one of the crazy Kains, after all. John Sanderson was born in the
village and lived there till his death. Only once that folks could
remember had he been away, and that was when he took some papers to the
city for Mrs. Kain to sign. He was caretaker at the old 'Kain place' the
last ten years of his life, and deaf, they said, since his tenth
year--'deaf as a post.' And they told me something else. They said there
was a story that before my father, Daniel, married her, my mother had
been an actress. An actress! You'll understand that I needed no one to
tell me _that_!

"They told me that they had heard a story that she was a _great_
actress. Dear God, if they could only know! When I think of that night
and that setting, that scene! It killed her, and it got me over the
wall--"

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