O Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1919 by Various

Produced by Stan Goodman, Gene Smethers and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. 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
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Produced by Stan Goodman, Gene Smethers and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team.



of 1919






ENGLAND TO AMERICA. By Margaret Prescott Montague

“FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.” By Wilbur Daniel Steele


ON STRIKE. By Albert Payson Terhune.


TURKEY RED. By Frances Gilchrist Wood


THE BLOOD OF THE DRAGON. By Thomas Grant Springer

“HUMORESQUE.” By Fannie Hurst



PORCELAIN CUPS. By James Branch Cabell



APRIL 25TH, AS USUAL. By Edna Ferber


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:


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


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.


NEW YORK CITY, February 29, 1920.




From _Atlantic Monthly_


“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.


“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!


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.


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.”



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.


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.


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.”


“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–“