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  • 1919
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forced it from her.”

“Enough!” Orsi commanded. “One can see plainly that you have been duped; some things may be overlooked…. You have talked enough.”

Mochales moved easily forward.

“You pudding!” he said in a low even voice. “Do you talk to me–Abrego y Mochales?”

A dark tide of passion, visible even in the night, flooded Orsi’s countenance.

“Leave!” he insisted, “Or I’ll have you flung into the bay.”

A deep silence followed, in which Lavinia could hear the stir of the water against the walls below. A sharp fear entered her heart, a new dread of the Spaniard. He was completely outside the circle of impulses which she understood and to which she reacted. He was not a part of her world; he coldly menaced the foundations of all right and security. Her worship of romance died miserably. In a way, she thought, she was responsible for the present horrible situation; it was the result of the feeling she had had for Mochales. Lavinia was certain that if Gheta had not known of it the Spaniard would have been quickly dropped by the elder. She was suddenly conscious of the perfume he always bore; that, curiously, lent him a strange additional oppression.

“Mochales,” he said in a species of strained wonderment, “threatened … thrown into the bay! Mochales–the Flower of Spain! And by a helpless mound of fat, a tub of entrails—-“

“Cesare!” Lavinia cried in an energy of desperation. “Come! Don’t listen to him.”

Orsi released her grasp.

“I believe you are at the Grand Hotel?” he addressed the other man.

“Until I hear from you.”

“To-morrow—-“

All the heat had apparently evaporated from their words; they spoke with a perfunctory politeness. Cesare Orsi said:

“I will order the launch.”

In a few minutes the palpitations of the steam died in the direction of Naples.

VII

Lavinia followed her husband to their rooms, where he sat smoking one of his long black cigars. He was pale; his brow was wet and his collar wilted. She stood beside him and he patted her arm.

“Everything is in order,” he assured her.

A species of blundering tenderness for him possessed her; an unexpected throb of her being startled and robbed her of words. He mistook her continued silence.

“All I have is yours,” he explained; “it is your right. I can see now that–that my money was all I had to offer you. The only thing of value I possess. I should have realized that a girl, charming like yourself, couldn’t care for a mound of fat.” Her tenderness rose till it choked in her throat, blurred what she had to say.

“Cesare,” she told him, “Gheta was right; at one time I was in love with Mochales.” He turned with a startled exclamation; but she silenced him. “He was, it seemed, all that a girl might admire–dark and mysterious and handsome. He was romantic. I demanded nothing else then; now something has happened that I don’t altogether understand, but it has changed everything for me. Cesare, your money never made any difference in my feeling for you–it didn’t before and it doesn’t to- night–” She hesitated and blushed painfully, awkwardly.

The cigar fell from his hand and he rose, eagerly facing her.

“Lavinia,” he asked, “is it possible–do you mean that you care the least about me?”

“It must be that, Cesare, because I am so terribly afraid.”

Later he admitted ruefully:

“But no man should resemble, as I do, a great oyster. I shall pay very dearly for my laziness.”

“You are not going to fight Mochales!” she protested. “It would be insanity.”

“Insanity,” he agreed promptly. “Yet I can’t permit myself to be the target for vile tongues.”

Lavinia abruptly left him and hurried to her sister’s room. The door was locked; she knocked, but got no response.

“Gheta,” she called, low and urgently, “open at once! Your plans have gone dreadfully wrong. Gheta!” she said more sharply into the answering silence. “Cesare has had a terrific argument with Mochales, and worse may follow. Open!” There was still no answer, and suddenly she beat upon the door with her fists. “Liar!” she cried thinly through the wood. “Liar! You bitter old stick! I’ll make you eat that necklace, pearl for pearl, sorrow for sorrow!”

A feeling of impotence overwhelmed her at the implacable stillness that succeeded her hysterical outburst. She stood with a pounding heart, and clasped straining fingers.

Abrego y Mochales could kill Cesare without the slightest shadow of a question. There was, she recognized, something essentially feminine in the saturnine bullfighter; his pride had been severely assaulted; and therefore he would be–in his own, less subtle manner–as dangerous as Gheta. Cesare’s self-esteem, too, had been wounded in its most vulnerable place–he had been insulted before her. But, even if the latter refused to proceed, Mochales, she knew, would force an acute conclusion. There was nothing to be got from her sister and she slowly returned to her chamber, from which she could hear Orsi’s heavy footfalls.

She mechanically removed the square emerald that hung from a platinum thread about her neck, took off her rings, and proceeded to the small iron safe where valuables were kept. As she swung open the door a sheet of paper slipped forward from an upper compartment. It bore a printed address … in the Strada San Lucia. She saw that it was the blackmailing letter Cesare had received from the Neapolitan secret society, demanding two thousand lire. She recalled what he had said at the time–if she had an enemy her gown could be spoiled in the foyer of the opera; a man ruined at his club…. Even murders were ascribed to it.

She held the letter, gazing fixedly at the address, mentally repeating again and again the significance of its contents. She thought of showing it to Cesare, suggesting—-But she realized that, bound by a conventional honor, he would absolutely refuse to listen to her.

Almost subconsciously she folded the sheet and hid it in her dress. Kneeling before the safe she procured a long red envelope. It contained the sum of money her father had given her at the wedding. It was her dot–a comparatively small amount, he had said at the time with an apologetic smile; but it was absolutely, unquestionably her own. This, when she locked the safe, remained outside.

When she had hidden the letter and envelope in her dressing table Cesare stood in the doorway. He was still pale, but composed, and held himself with simple dignity.

“Some men,” he said, “are not so happy, even for an hour.”

A sudden passionate necessity to save him swept over her.

In the morning Orsi remained at the villa, but he sent the launch in early with an urgent summons for the Cavaliere Nelli. Later, when he asked for Lavinia, he was told that she had gone to Naples; and when the boat returned, Nelli–a military figure, with hair and mustache like yellowish white silk–assisted her to the wall. She was closely veiled against the sparkling flood of light and bay, and hurried directly to her room.

There she knelt on a praying chair before a small alcoved altar with tall wax tapers, and remained a long while. She was disturbed by a sudden ringing report below; it was Cesare practising with a dueling pistol. Lavinia remembered, from laughing comments in Florence, that her husband was an atrocious shot. The sound was repeated at irregular intervals through an unbearably long morning.

Gheta, she learned, had refused the morning chocolate and, with her maid, had collected and packed all her effects. Lavinia had no desire to see her. The situation now was past Gheta’s mending.

After luncheon Lavinia remained in her room, Nelli departed for Naples and Cesare joined her. It was evident that he was greatly disturbed; but he spoke to her evenly. He was possessed by an impotent rage at his unwieldy body and clumsy hand. This alternated with an evident wonderment at the position in which he found himself and a great tenderness for Lavinia.

At dusk they were in Lavinia’s room waiting for a message from Naples. Lavinia was leaning across the marble ledge of her window, gazing over the dim blue sweep of water to the distant flowering lights. She heard sudden footsteps and, half turning, saw her husband tearing open an envelope.

“Lavinia!” he cried. “There has been an accident in the elevator of the Grand Hotel, and Mochales–is dead!” She hung upon the ledge now for support. “The attendant, a new man, started the car too soon and caught Mochales—-” She sank down upon her knees in an attitude of prayer, and Cesare Orsi stood reverently bowed.

“The will of God!” he muttered.

A long slow shiver passed over Lavinia, and he bent and lifted her in his arms.

TOL’ABLE DAVID

I

He was the younger of two brothers, in his sixteenth year; and he had his father’s eyes–a tender and idyllic blue. There, however, the obvious resemblance ended. The elder’s azure gaze was set in a face scarred and riven by hardship, debauch and disease; he had been–before he had inevitably returned to the mountains where he was born–a brakeman in the lowest stratum of the corruption of small cities on big railroads; and his thin stooped body, his gaunt head and uncertain hands, all bore the stamp of ruinous years. But in the midst of this his eyes, like David’s, retained their singularly tranquil color of sweetness and innocence.

David was the youngest, the freshest thing imaginable; he was overtall and gawky, his cheeks were as delicately rosy as apple blossoms, and his smile was an epitome of ingenuous interest and frank wonder. It was as if some quality of especial fineness, lingering unspotted in Hunter Kinemon, had found complete expression in his son David. A great deal of this certainly was due to his mother, a thick solid woman, who retained more than a trace of girlish beauty when she stood back, flushed from the heat of cooking, or, her bright eyes snapping, tramped with heavy pails from the milking shed on a winter morning.

Both the Kinemon boys were engaging. Allen, almost twenty-one, was, of course, the more conspicuous; he was called the strongest youth in Greenstream County. He had his mother’s brown eyes; a deep bony box of a chest; rippling shoulders; and a broad peaceful countenance. He drove the Crabapple stage, between Crabapple, the village just over the back mountain, and Beaulings, in West Virginia. It was twenty-six miles from point to point, a way that crossed a towering range, hung above a far veil of unbroken spruce, forded swift glittering streams, and followed a road that passed rare isolated dwellings, dominating rocky and precarious patches and hills of cultivation. One night Allen slept in Beaulings; the next he was home, rising at four o’clock in order to take his stage out of Crabapple at seven sharp.

It was a splendid job, and brought them thirty-five dollars a month; not in mere trade at the store, but actual money. This, together with Hunter Kinemon’s position, tending the rich bottom farm of State Senator Gait, gave them a position of ease and comfort in Greenstream. They were a very highly esteemed family.

Gait’s farm was in grazing; it extended in deep green pastures and sparkling water between two high mountainous walls drawn across east and west. In the morning the rising sun cast long delicate shadows on one side; at evening the shadow troops lengthened across the emerald valley from the other. The farmhouse occupied a fenced clearing on the eastern rise, with a gray huddle of barn and sheds below, a garden patch of innumerable bean poles, and an incessant stir of snowy chickens. Beyond, the cattle moved in sleek chestnut-brown and orange herds; and farther out flocks of sheep shifted like gray-white clouds on a green-blue sky.

It was, Mrs. Kinemon occasionally complained, powerful lonely, with the store two miles up the road, Crabapple over a heft of a rise, and no personable neighbors; and she kept a loaded rifle in an angle of the kitchen when the men were all out in a distant pasturage. But David liked it extremely well; he liked riding an old horse after the steers, the all-night sap boilings in spring groves, the rough path across a rib of the mountain to school.

Nevertheless, he was glad when studying was over for the year. It finished early in May, on account of upland planting, and left David with a great many weeks filled only with work that seem to him unadulterated play. Even that didn’t last all the time; there were hours when he could fish for trout, plentiful in cool rocky pools; or shoot gray squirrels in the towering maples. Then, of evenings, he could listen to Allen’s thrilling tales of the road, of the gambling and fighting among the lumbermen in Beaulings, or of strange people that had taken passage in the Crabapple stage–drummers, for the most part, with impressive diamond rings and the doggonedest lies imaginable. But they couldn’t fool Allen, however believing he might seem…. The Kinemons were listening to such a recital by their eldest son now.

They were gathered in a room of very general purpose. It had a rough board floor and crumbling plaster walls, and held a large scarred cherry bed with high posts and a gayly quilted cover; a long couch, covered with yellow untanned sheepskins; a primitive telephone; some painted wooden chairs; a wardrobe, lurching insecurely forward; and an empty iron stove with a pipe let into an original open hearth with a wide rugged stone. Beyond, a door opened into the kitchen, and back of the bed a raw unguarded flight of steps led up to the peaked space where Allen and David slept.

Hunter Kinemon was extended on the couch, his home-knitted socks comfortably free of shoes, smoking a sandstone pipe with a reed stem. Mrs. Kinemon was seated in a rocking-chair with a stained and torn red plush cushion, that moved with a thin complaint on a fixed base. Allen was over against the stove, his corduroy trousers thrust into greased laced boots, and a black cotton shirt open on a chest and throat like pink marble. And David supported his lanky length, in a careless and dust-colored garb, with a capacious hand on the oak beam of the mantel.

It was May, school had stopped, and a door was open on a warm still dusk. Allen’s tale had come to an end; he was pinching the ear of a diminutive dog–like a fat white sausage with wire-thin legs and a rat tail–that never left him. The smoke from the elder Kinemon’s pipe rose in a tranquil cloud. Mrs. Kinemon rocked vigorously, with a prolonged wail of the chair springs. “I got to put some tallow to that chair,” Kinemon proclaimed.

“The house on Elbow Barren’s took,” Allen told him suddenly–“the one just off the road. I saw smoke in the chimney this evening.”

A revival of interest, a speculation, followed this announcement.

“Any women’ll get to the church,” Mr. Kinemon asserted. “I wonder? Did a person say who were they?”

“I asked; but they’re strange to Crabapple. I heard this though: there weren’t any women to them–just men–father and sons like. I drew up right slow going by; but nobody passed out a word. It’s a middling bad farm place–rocks and berry bushes. I wouldn’t reckon much would be content there.”

David walked out through the open doorway and stood on the small covered portico, that with a bench on each side, hung to the face of the dwelling. The stars were brightening in the sky above the confining mountain walls; there was a tremendous shrilling of frogs; the faint clamor of a sheep bell. He was absolutely, irresponsibly happy. He wished the time would hurry when he’d be big and strong like Allen, and get out into the absorbing stir of the world.

II

He was dimly roused by Allen’s departure in the beginning brightness of the following morning. The road over which the stage ran drew by the rim of the farm; and later David saw the rigid three-seated surrey, the leather mail bags strapped in the rear, trotted by under the swinging whip of his brother. He heard the faint sharp bark of Rocket, Allen’s dog, braced at his side.

David spent the day with his father, repairing the fencing of the middle field, swinging a mall and digging post holes; and at evening his arms ached. But he assured himself he was not tired; any brother of Allen’s couldn’t give in before such insignificant effort. When Hunter Kinemon turned back toward house and supper David made a wide circle, ostensibly to see whether there was rock salt enough out for the cattle, but in reality to express his superabundant youth, staying qualities and unquenchable vivid interest in every foot of the valley.

He saw the meanest kind of old fox, and marked what he thought might be its hole; his flashing gaze caught the obscure distant retreat of ground hogs; he threw a contemptuous clod at the woolly-brained sheep; and with a bent willow shoot neatly looped a trout out upon the grassy bank. As a consequence of all this he was late for supper, and sat at the table with his mother, who never took her place until the men–yes, and boys of her family–had satisfied their appetites. The dark came on and she lighted a lamp swinging under a tin reflector from the ceiling. The kitchen was an addition, and had a sloping shed roof, board sides, a polished stove, and a long table with a red cloth.

His father, David learned, attacking a plateful of brown chicken swimming with greens and gravy, was having another bad spell. He had the familiar sharp pain through his back and his arms hurt him.

“He can’t be drove to a doctor,” the woman told David, speaking, in her concern, as if to an equal in age and comprehension.

David had grown accustomed to the elder’s periods of suffering; they came, twisted his father’s face into deep lines, departed, and things were exactly as before–or very nearly the same. The boy saw that Hunter Kinemon couldn’t support labor that only two or three years before he would have finished without conscious effort. David resolutely ignored this; he felt that it must be a cause of shame, unhappiness, to his father; and he never mentioned it to Allen. Kinemon lay very still on the couch; his pipe, beside him on the floor, had spilled its live core, burning into a length of rag carpet. His face, hung with shadows like the marks of a sooty finger, was glistening with fine sweat. Not a whisper of complaint passed his dry lips. When his wife approached he attempted to smooth out his corrugated countenance. His eyes, as tenderly blue as flowers, gazed at her with a faint masking of humor.

“This is worse’n usual,” she said sharply. “And I ain’t going to have you fill yourself with any more of that patent trash. You don’t spare me by not letting on. I can tell as soon as you’re miserable. David can fetch the doctor from Crabapple to-night if you don’t look better.”

“But I am,” he assured her. “It’s just a comeback of an old ache. There was a power of heavy work to that fence.”

“You’ll have to get more to help you,” she continued. “That Galt’ll let you kill yourself and not turn a hand. He can afford a dozen. I don’t mind housing and cooking for them. David’s only tol’able for lifting, too, while he’s growing.”

“Why,” David protested, “it ain’t just nothing what I do. I could do twice as much. I don’t believe Allen could helt more’n me when he was sixteen. It ain’t just nothing at all.”

He was disturbed by this assault upon his manhood; if his muscles were still a little stringy it was surprising what he could accomplish with them. He would show her to-morrow.

“And,” he added impetuously, “I can shoot better than Allen right now. You ask him if I can’t. You ask him what I did with that cranky twenty- two last Sunday up on the mountain.”

His clear gaze sought her, his lean face quivered with anxiety to impress, convince her of his virility, skill. His jaw was as sharp as the blade of a hatchet. She studied him with a new surprised concern.

“David!” she exclaimed. “For a minute you had the look of a man. A real steady look, like your father. Don’t you grow up too fast, David,” she directed him, in an irrepressible maternal solicitude. “I want a boy– something young–round a while yet.”

Hunter Kinemon sat erect and reached for his pipe. The visible strain of his countenance had been largely relaxed. When his wife had left the room for a moment he admitted to David:

“That was a hard one. I thought she had me that time.”

The elder’s voice was light, steady. The boy gazed at him with intense admiration. He felt instinctively that nothing mortal could shake the other’s courage. And, on top of his mother’s complimentary surprise, his father had confided in him, made an admission that, David realized, must be kept from fretting women. He couldn’t have revealed more to Allen himself.

He pictured the latter swinging magnificently into Beaulings, cracking the whip over the horses’ ears, putting on the grinding brake before the post-office. No one, even in that town of reckless drinking, ever tried to down Allen; he was as ready as he was strong. He had charge of Government mail and of passengers; he carried a burnished revolver in a holster under the seat at his hand. Allen would kill anybody who interfered with him. So would he–David–if a man edged up on him or on his family; if any one hurt even a dog of his, his own dog, he’d shoot him.

An inextinguishable hot pride, a deep sullen intolerance, rose in him at the thought of an assault on his personal liberty, his rights, or on his connections and belongings. A deeper red burned in his fresh young cheeks; his smiling lips were steady; his candid blue eyes, ineffably gentle, gazed widely against the candlelit gloom where he was making his simple preparations for bed. The last feeling of which he was conscious was a wave of sharp admiration, of love, for everything and everybody that constituted his home.

III

Allen, on his return the following evening, immediately opened an excited account of the new family, with no women, on the place by Elbow Barren.

“I heard they were from down hellwards on the Clinch,” he repeated; “and then that they’d come from Kentucky. Anyway, they’re bad. Ed Arbogast just stepped on their place for a pleasant howdy, and some one on the stoop hollered for him to move. Ed, he saw the shine on a rifle barrel, and went right along up to the store. Then they hired Simmons– the one that ain’t good in his head–to cut out bush; and Simmons trailed home after a while with the side of his face all tore, where he’d been hit with a piece of board. Simmons’ brother went and asked them what was it about; and one of the Hatburns–that’s their name– said he’d busted the loony just because!”

“What did Simmons answer back?” Hunter Kinemon demanded, his coffee cup suspended.

“Nothing much; he’d law them, or something like that. The Simmonses are right spindling; they don’t belong in Greenstream either.” David commented: “I wouldn’t have et a thing till I’d got them!” In the ruddy reflection of the lamp his pink-and-blue charm, his shy lips, resembled a pastoral divinity of boyhood. Allen laughed.

“That family, the Hatburns—-” He paused. “Why, they’d just mow you down with the field daisies.”

David flushed with annoyance. He saw his mother studying him with the attentive concern she had first shown the day before yesterday.

“You have no call to mix in with them,” Kinemon told his elder son. “Drive stage and mind your business. I’d even step aside a little from folks like that.”

A sense of surprised disappointment invaded David at his father’s statement. It seemed to him out of keeping with the elder’s courage and determination. It, too, appeared almost spindling. Perhaps he had said it because his wife, a mere woman, was there. He was certain that Allen would not agree with such mildness. The latter, lounging back from the table, narrowed his eyes; his fingers played with the ears of his dog, Rocket. Allen gave his father a cigar and lit one himself, a present from a passenger on the stage. David could see a third in Allen’s shirt pocket, and he longed passionately for the day when he would be old enough to have a cigar offered him. He longed for the time when he, like Allen, would be swinging a whip over the horses of a stage, rambling down a steep mountain, or walking up at the team’s head to take off some weight.

Where the stage line stopped in Beaulings the railroad began. Allen, he knew, intended in the fall to give up the stage for the infinitely wider world of freight cars; and David wondered whether Priest, the storekeeper in Crabapple who had charge of the awarding of the position, could be brought to see that he was as able a driver, almost, as Allen.

It was probable Priest would call him too young for the charge of the Government mail. But he wasn’t; Allen had to admit that he, David, was the straighter shot. He wouldn’t step aside for any Hatburn alive. And, he decided, he would smoke nothing but cigars. He considered whether he might light his small clay pipe, concealed under the stoop, before the family; but reluctantly concluded that that day had not yet arrived.

Allen passed driving the next morning as usual, leaving a gray wreath of dust to settle back into the tranquil yellow sunshine; the sun moved from the east barrier to the west; a cool purple dusk filled the valley, and the shrilling of the frogs rose to meet the night. The following day was almost identical–the shadows swept out, shortened under the groves of trees and drew out again over the sheep on the western slope. Before Allen reached home he had to feed and bed his horses, and walk back the two miles over the mountain from Crabapple; and a full hour before the time for his brother’s arrival, David was surprised to see the stage itself making its way over the precarious turf road that led up to the Kinemons’ dwelling. He was standing by the portico, and immediately his mother moved out to his side, as if subconsciously disturbed by the unusual occurrence. David saw, while the stage was still diminutive against the rolling pasture, that Allen was not driving; and there was an odd confusion of figures in a rear seat. Mrs. Kinemon said at once, in a shrill strange voice:

“Something has happened to Allen!” She pressed her hands against her laboring breast; David ran forward and met the surrey as it came through the fence opening by the stable shed. Ed Arbogast was driving; and a stranger–a drummer evidently–in a white-and-black check suit, was holding Allen, crumpled in a dreadful bloody faint.

“Where’s Hunter?” Arbogast asked the boy.

“There he comes now,” David replied, his heart pounding wildly and dread constricting his throat.

Hunter Kinemon and his wife reached the stage at the same moment. Both were plaster-white; but the woman was shaking with frightened concern, while her husband was deliberate and still.

“Help me carry him in to our bed,” he addressed Ed Arbogast.

They lifted Allen out and bore him toward the house, his limp fingers, David saw, trailing through the grass. At first the latter involuntarily turned away; but, objurgating such cowardice, he forced himself to gaze at Allen. He recognized at once that his brother had not been shot; his hip was too smeared and muddy for that. It was, he decided, an accident, as Arbogast and the drummer lead Hunter Kinemon aside. David Kinemon walked resolutely up to the little group. His father gestured for him to go away, but he ignored the elder’s command. He must know what had happened to Allen. The stranger in the checked suit was speaking excitedly, waving trembling hands–a sharp contrast to the grim immobility of the Greenstream men:

“He’d been talking about that family, driving out of Beaulings and saying how they had done this and that; and when we came to where they lived he pointed out the house. A couple of dark-favored men were working in a patch by the road, and he waved his whip at them, in a way of speaking; but they never made a sign. The horses were going slow then; and, for some reason or other, his little dog jumped to the road and ran in on the patch. Sirs, one of those men spit, stepped up to the dog, and kicked it into Kingdom Come.”

David’s hands clenched; and he drew in a sharp sobbing breath.

“This Allen,” the other continued, “pulled in the team and drawed a gun from under the seat before I could move a hand. You can hear me–I wouldn’t have kicked any dog of his for all the gold there is! He got down from the stage and started forward, and his face was black; then he stopped, undecided. He stood studying, with the two men watching him, one leaning careless on a grub hoe. Then, by heaven, he turned and rested the gun on the seat, and walked up to where laid the last of his dog. He picked it up, and says he:

“‘Hatburn, I got Government mail on that stage to get in under contract, and there’s a passenger too–paid to Crabapple; but when I get them two things done I’m coming back to kill you two dead to hear the last trumpet.’

“The one on the hoe laughed; but the other picked up a stone like my two fists and let Allen have it in the back. It surprised him like; he stumbled forward, and the other stepped out and laid the hoe over his head. It missed him mostly, but enough landed to knock Allen over. He rolled into the ditch, like, by the road; and then Hatburn jumped down on him, deliberate, with lumbermen’s irons in his shoes.”

David was conscious of an icy flood pouring through him; a revulsion of grief and fury that blinded him. Tears welled over his fresh cheeks in an audible crying. But he was silenced by the aspect of his father. Hunter Kinemon’s tender blue eyes had changed apparently into bits of polished steel; his mouth was pinched until it was only a line among the other lines and seaming of his worn face.

“I’d thank you to drive the stage into Crabapple, Ed,” he said; “and if you see the doctor coming over the mountain–he’s been rung up for–ask him, please sir, will he hurry.” He turned and walked abruptly away, followed by David.

Allen lay under the gay quilt in the Kinemons’ big bed. His stained clothes drooped from a chair where Mrs. Kinemon had flung them. Allen’s face was like white paper; suddenly it had grown as thin and sharp as an old man’s. Only a slight quiver of his eyelids showed that he was not dead.

Hunter Kinemon sat on the couch, obviously waiting for the doctor. He, too, looked queer, David thought. He wished his father would break the dreadful silence gathering over them; but the only sound was the stirring of the woman in the kitchen, boiling a pot of water. Allen moved and cried out in a knifelike agony, and a flicker of suffering passed over his father’s face.

An intolerable hour dragged out before the doctor arrived; and then David was driven from the room. He sat outside on the portico, listening to the passage of feet about Allen in a high shuddering protest. David’s hands and feet were still cold, but he was conscious of an increasing stillness within, an attitude not unlike his father’s. He held out an arm and saw that it was as steady as a beam of the stoop roof. He was without definite plan or knowledge of what must occur; but he told himself that any decision of Hunter Kinemon’s must not exclude him.

There were four Hatburns; but two Kinemons were better; and he meant his father and himself, for he knew instinctively that Allen was badly hurt. Soon there would be no Hatburns at all. And then the law could do as it pleased. It seemed to David a long way from the valley, from Allen broken in bed, to the next term of court–September–in Crabapple. The Kinemons could protect, revenge, their own.

The doctor passed out, and David entered where his mother was bent above her elder son. Hunter Kinemon, with a blackened rag, was wiping the lock of an old but efficient repeating rifle. His motions were unhurried, careful. Mrs. Kinemon gazed at him with blanching lips, but she interposed no word. There was another rifle, David knew, in the long cupboard by the hearth; and he was moving to secure it when his father’s voice halted him in the middle of the floor. “You David,” he said, “I want you to stop along here with your mother. It ain’t fit for her to be left alone with Allen, and there’s a mess of little things for doing. I want those cows milked dry, and catch in those little Dominicker chickens before that old gander eats them up.”

David was about to protest, to sob out a passionate refusal, when a glimpse of his father’s expression silenced him. He realized that the slightest argument would be worse than futile. There wasn’t a particle of familiar feeling in the elder’s voice; suddenly David was afraid of him. Hunter Kinemon slipped a number of heavily greased cartridges into the rifle’s magazine. Then he rose and said:

“Well, Mattie?”

His wife laid her hand on his shoulder.

“Hunter,” she told him, “you’ve been a mighty sweet and good husband.” He drew his hand slowly and lovingly across her cheek.

“I’m sorry about this, Mattie,” he replied; “I’ve been powerful happy along with you and all of us. David, be a likely boy.” He walked out of the room, across the grass to the stable shed.

“He’s going to drive to Elbow Barren,” David muttered; “and he hadn’t ought to have left me to tend the cows and chickens. That’s for a woman to do. I ought to be right along with him facing down those Hatburns. I can shoot, and my hand is steady as his.”

He stood in the doorway, waiting for the reappearance of his father with the roan horse to hitch to their old buggy. It didn’t occur to David to wonder at the fact that the other was going alone to confront four men. The Kinemons had a mort of friends who would have gladly accompanied, assisted Hunter; but this, the boy told himself, was their own affair–their own pride.

From within came the sound of his mother, crying softly, and of Allen murmuring in his pain. David was appalled by the swift change that had fallen over them–the breaking up of his entire world, the shifting of every hope and plan. He was appalled and confused; the thoughtless unquestioning security of his boyhood had been utterly destroyed. He looked about dazed at the surrounding scene, callous in its total carelessness of Allen’s injury, his haggard father with the rifle. The valley was serenely beautiful; doves were calling from the eaves of the barn; a hen clucked excitedly. The western sky was a single expanse of primrose on which the mountains were jagged and blue.

He had never known the elder to be so long getting the bridle on the roan; the buggy was drawn up outside. An uneasy tension increased within him–a pressing necessity to see his father leading out their horse. He didn’t come, and finally David was forced to walk over to the shed.

The roan had been untied, and turned as the boy entered; but David, at first, failed to find Hunter Kinemon; then he almost stepped on his hand. His father lay across a corner of the earthen floor, with the bridle tangled in stiff fingers, and his blue eyes staring blankly up.

David stifled an exclamation of dread, and forced himself to bend forward and touch the gray face. Only then he realized that he was looking at death. The pain in his father’s back had got him at last! The rifle had been carefully placed against the wall; and, without realizing the significance of his act, David picked it up and laid the cold barrel against his rigid young body.

IV

On the evening after Hunter Kinemon’s burial in the rocky steep graveyard above Crabapple, David and his mother sat, one on the couch, the other in her creaking rocking-chair, lost in heavy silence. Allen moved in a perpetual uneasy pain on the bed, his face drawn and fretful, and shadowed by a soft young beard. The wardrobe doors stood open, revealing a stripped interior; wooden chairs were tied back to back; and two trunks–one of mottled paper, the other of ancient leather–stood by the side of a willow basket filled with a miscellany of housekeeping objects.

What were left of the Kinemons were moving into a small house on the edge of Crabapple; Senator Galt had already secured another tenant for the care of his bottom acres and fat herds. The night swept into the room, fragrant and blue, powdered with stars; the sheep bells sounded in a faintly distant clashing; a whippoorwill beat its throat out against the piny dark.

An overpowering melancholy surged through David; though his youth responded to the dramatic, the tragic change that had enveloped them, at the same time he was reluctant to leave the farm, the valley with its trout and ground hogs, its fox holes and sap boilings. These feelings mingled in the back of his consciousness; his active thoughts were all directed toward the time when, with the rifle, the obligation that he had picked up practically from his dead father’s hand, he would walk up to the Hatburn place and take full payment for Allen’s injury and their paternal loss.

He felt uneasily that he should have gone before this–at once; but there had been a multitude of small duties connected with the funeral, intimate things that could not be turned over to the kindest neighbors; and the ceremony itself, it seemed to him, should be attended by dignity and repose.

Now, however, it was over; and only his great duty remained, filling the entire threshold of his existence. He had no plan; only a necessity to perform. It was possible that he would fail–there were four Hatburns; and that chance depressed him. If he were killed there was no one else, for Allen could never take another step. That had been disclosed by the most casual examination of his injury. Only himself, David, remained to uphold the pride of the Kinemons.

He gazed covertly at his mother; she must not, certainly, be warned of his course; she was a woman, to be spared the responsibility borne by men. A feeling of her being under his protection, even advice, had grown within him since he had discovered the death in the stable shed. This had not changed his aspect of blossoming youth, the intense blue candor of his gaze; he sat with his knees bent boyishly, his immature hands locked behind his head.

An open wagon, piled with blankets, carried Allen to Crabapple, and Mrs. Kinemon and David followed in the buggy, a great bundle, folded in the bright quilt, roped behind. They soon crossed the range and dropped into a broader valley. Crabapple lay on a road leading from mountain wall to wall, the houses quickly thinning out into meadow at each end.

A cross-roads was occupied by three stores and the courthouse, a square red-brick edifice with a classic white portico and high lantern; and it was out from that, where the highway had degenerated into a sod-cut trail, that the future home of the Kinemons lay. It was a small somber frame dwelling, immediately on the road, with a rain-washed patch rising abruptly at the back. A dilapidated shed on the left provided a meager shelter for the roan; and there was an aged and twisted apple tree over the broken pump.

“You’ll have to get at that shed, David,” his mother told him; “the first rain would drown anything inside.”

She was settling Allen on the couch with the ragged sheepskin. So he would; but there was something else to attend to first. He would walk over to Elbow Barren, to-morrow. He involuntarily laid his hand on the barrel of the rifle, temporarily leaned against a table, when his mother spoke sharply from an inner doorway.

“You David,” she said; “come right out into the kitchen.”

There he stood before her, with his gaze stubbornly fixed on the bare floor, his mouth tight shut.

“David,” she continued, her voice now lowered, fluctuating with anxiety, “you weren’t reckoning on paying off them Hatburns? You never?” She halted, gazing at him intently. “Why, they’d shoot you up in no time! You are nothing but a–“

“You can call me a boy if you’ve a mind to,” he interrupted; “and maybe the Hatburns’ll kill me–and maybe they won’t. But there’s no one can hurt Allen like that and go plumb, sniggering free; not while I can move and hold a gun.”

“I saw a look to you that was right manlike a week or two back,” she replied; “and I said to myself: ‘There’s David growing up overnight.’ I favored it, too, though I didn’t want to lose you that way so soon. And only last night I said again: ‘Thank God, David’s a man in his heart, for all his pretty cheeks!’ I thought I could build on you, with me getting old and Allen never taking a mortal step. Priest would give you a place, and glad, in the store–the Kinemons are mighty good people. I had it all fixed up like that, how we’d live here and pay regular.

“Oh, I didn’t say nothing to your father when he started out–he was too old to change; but I hoped you would be different. I hoped you would forget your own feeling, and see Allen there on his back, and me … getting along. You’re all we got, David. It’s no use, I reckon; you’ll go like Allen and Hunter, full up with your own pride and never —-” She broke off, gazing bitterly at her hands folded in her calico lap.

A new trouble filled David’s heart. Through the open doorway he could see Allen, twisting on the couch; his mother was older, more worn, than he had realized. She had failed a great deal in the past few days. She was suddenly stripped of her aspect of authority, force; suddenly she appeared negative, dependent. A sharp pity for her arose through his other contending emotions.

“I don’t know how you figure you will be helping Allen by stepping off to be shot instead of putting food in his mouth,” she spoke again. “He’s got nobody at all but you, David.”

That was so; and yet–

“How can I let those skunks set their hell on us?” he demanded passionately. “Why, all Greenstream will think I’m afraid, that I let the Hatburns bust Allen and kill my father. I couldn’t stand up in Priest’s store; I couldn’t bear to look at anybody. Don’t you understand how men are about those things?”

She nodded.

“I can see, right enough–with Hunter in the graveyard and Allen with both hips broke. What I can’t see is what we’ll do next winter; how we’ll keep Allen warm and fed. I suppose we can go to the County Home.”

But that, David knew, was as disgraceful as the other–his own mother, Allen, objects of public charity! His face was clouded, his hands clenched. It was only a chance that he would be killed; there were four Hatburns though. His heart, he thought, would burst with misery; every instinct fought for the expression, the upholding of the family prestige, honor. A hatred for the Hatburns was like a strangling hand at his throat.

“I got to!” he said; but his voice was wavering; the dull conviction seized him that his mother was right.

All the mountains would think of him as a coward–that Kinemon who wouldn’t stand up to the men who had destroyed Allen and his father!

A sob heaved in his chest; rebellious tears streamed over his thin cheeks. He was crying like a baby. He threw an arm up across his eyes and stumbled from the room.

V

However, he had no intention of clerking back of a counter, of getting down rolls of muslin, papers of buttons, for women, if it could be avoided. Priest’s store was a long wooden structure with a painted facade and a high platform before it where the mountain wagons unloaded their various merchandise teamed from the railroad, fifty miles distant. The owner had a small glass-enclosed office on the left as you entered the store; and there David found him. He turned, gazing over his glasses, as the other entered.

“How’s Allen?” he asked pleasantly. “I heard he was bad; but we certainly look to have him back driving stage.”

“I came to see you about that,” David replied. “Allen can’t never drive again; but, Mr. Priest, sir, I can. Will you give me a try?”

The elder ignored the question in the concern he exhibited for Allen’s injury.

“It is a cursed outrage!” he declared. “Those Hatburns will be got up, or my name’s not Priest! We’d have them now, but the jail wouldn’t keep them overnight, and court three months off.”

David preserved a stony silence–the only attitude possible, he had decided, in the face of his patent dereliction.

“Will you try me on the Beaulings stage?” he repeated. “I’ve been round horses all my life; and I can hold a gun straighter than Allen.”

Priest shook his head negatively.

“You are too light–too young,” he explained; “you have to be above a certain age for the responsibility of the mail. There are some rough customers to handle. If you only had five years more now–We are having a hard time finding a suitable man. A damned shame about Allen! Splendid man!”

“Can’t you give it to me for a week,” David persisted, “and see how I do?”

They would have awarded him the position immediately, he felt, if he had properly attended to the Hatburns. He wanted desperately to explain his failure to Priest, but a dogged pride prevented. The storekeeper was tapping on an open ledger with a pen, gazing doubtfully at David.

“You couldn’t be worse than the drunken object we have now,” he admitted. “You couldn’t hold the job permanent yet, but I might let you drive extra–a day or so–till we find a man. I’d like to do what I could for Mrs. Kinemon. Your father was a good man, a good customer…. Come and see me again–say, day after to-morrow.”

This half promise partly rehabilitated his fallen pride. There was no sign in the men he passed that they held him in contempt for neglecting to kill the Hatburns; and his mother wisely avoided the subject. She wondered a little at Priest’s considering him, even temporarily, for the stage; but confined her wonder to a species of compliment. David sat beside Allen, while the latter, between silent spaces of suffering, advised him of the individual characters and attributes of the horses that might come under his guiding reins.

It seemed incredible that he should actually be seated in the driver’s place on the stage, swinging the heavy whip out over a team trotting briskly into the early morning; but there he was. There were no passengers, and the stage rode roughly over a small bridge of loose boards beyond the village. He pulled the horses into a walk on the mountain beyond, and was soon skirting the Gait farm, with its broad fields, where he had lived as a mere boy.

David slipped his hand under the leather seat and felt the smooth handle of the revolver. Then, on an even reach, he wrapped the reins about the whipstock and publicly filled and lighted his clay pipe. The smoke drifted back in a fragrant cloud; the stage moved forward steadily and easily; folded in momentary forgetfulness, lifted by a feeling of mature responsibility, he was almost happy. But he swung down the mountain beyond his familiar valley, crossed a smaller ridge, and turned into a stony sweep rising on the left.

It was Elbow Barren. In an instant a tide of bitterness, of passionate regret, swept over him. He saw the Hatburns’ house, a rectangular bleak structure crowning a gray prominence, with the tender green of young pole beans on one hand and a disorderly barn on the other, and a blue plume of smoke rising from an unsteady stone chimney against an end of the dwelling. No one was visible.

Hot tears filled his eyes as the stage rolled along past the moldy ditch into which Allen had fallen. The mangy curs! His grip tightened on the reins and the team broke into a clattering trot, speedily leaving the Barren behind. But the day had been robbed of its sparkle, his position of its pleasurable pride. He saw again his father’s body on the earthen floor of the stable, the bridle in his stiff fingers; Allen carried into the house. And he, David Kinemon, had had to step back, like a coward or a woman, and let the Hatburns triumph.

The stage drew up before the Beaulings post-office in the middle of the afternoon. David delivered the mail bags, and then led the team back to a stable on the grassy verge of the houses clustered at the end of tracks laid precariously over a green plain to a boxlike station. Beaulings had a short row of unpainted two-story structures, the single street cut into deep muddy scars; stores with small dusty windows; eating houses elevated on piles; an insignificant mission chapel with a tar-papered roof; and a number of obviously masked depots for the illicit sale of liquor.

A hotel, neatly painted white and green, stood detached from the main activity. There, washing his face in a tin basin on a back porch, David had his fried supper, sat for a while outside in the gathering dusk, gazing at the crude-oil flares, the passing dark figures beyond, the still obscured immensity of mountain and forest. And then he went up to a pine sealed room, like the heated interior of a packing box, where he partly undressed for bed.

VI

The next mid-morning, descending the sharp grade toward Elbow Barren, there was no lessening of David’s bitterness against the Hatburns. The flavor of tobacco died in his mouth, he grew unconscious of the lurching heavy stage, the responsibility of the mail, all committed to his care. A man was standing by the ditch on the reach of scrubby grass that fell to the road; and David pulled his team into the slowest walk possible. It was his first actual sight of a Hatburn. He saw a man middling tall, with narrow high shoulders, and a clay-yellow countenance, extraordinarily pinched through the temples, with minute restless black eyes. The latter were the only mobile feature of his slouching indolent pose, his sullen regard. He might have been a scarecrow, David thought, but for that glittering gaze.

The latter leaned forward, the stage barely moving, and looked unwaveringly at the Hatburn beyond. He wondered whether the man knew him–David Kinemon? But of course he did; all the small details of mountain living circulated with the utmost rapidity from clearing to clearing. He was now directly opposite the other; he could take out the revolver and kill that Hatburn, where he stood, with one precise shot. His hand instinctively reached under the seat. Then he remembered Allen, forever dependent on the couch; his mother, who had lately seemed so old. The stage was passing the motionless figure. David drew a deep painful breath, and swung out his whip with a vicious sweep.

His pride, however, returned when he drove into Crabapple, down the familiar street, past the familiar men and women turning to watch him, with a new automatic measure of attention, in his elevated position. He walked back to his dwelling with a slight swagger of hips and shoulders, and, with something of a flourish, laid down the two dollars he had been paid for the trip to Beaulings.

“I’m to drive again to-morrow,” he stated to his mother and Allen; “after that Priest has a regular man. I suppose, then, I’ll have to go into the store.”

The last seemed doubly difficult now, since he had driven stage. As he disposed of supper, eating half a pie with his cracklings and greens, his mother moved from the stove to the table, refilled his plate, waved the paper streamers of the fly brush above his head, exactly as she had for his father. Already, he assured himself, he had become a man.

The journey to Beaulings the following day was an unremarkable replica of the one before. He saw no Hatburns; the sun wheeled from east to west at apparently the same speed as the stage; and Beaulings held its inevitable surge of turbulent lumbermen, the oil flares made their lurid note on the vast unbroken starry canopy of night.

The morning of his return was heavy with a wet low vapor. The mail bags, as he strapped them to the rear rack, were slippery; the dawn was a slow monotonous widening of dull light. There were no passengers for Crabapple, and David, with his coat collar turned up about his throat, urged the horses to a faster gait through the watery cold.

The brake set up a shrill grinding, and then the stage passed Elbow Barren in a smart rattle and bumping.

After that David slowed down to light his pipe. The horses willingly lingered, almost stopping; and, the memory of the slippery bags at the back of his head, David dismounted, walked to the rear of the stage.

A chilling dread swept through him as he saw, realized, that one of the Government sacks was missing. The straps were loose about the remaining two; in a minute or more they would have gone. Panic seized him, utter misery, at the thought of what Priest, Crabapple, would say. He would be disgraced, contemptuously dismissed–a failure in the trust laid on him.

He collected his faculties by a violent effort; the bags, he was sure, had been safe coming down the last mountain; he had walked part of the way, and he was certain that he would have noticed anything wrong. The road was powerful bad through the Barren….

He got up into the stage, backed the team abruptly on its haunches, and slowly retraced his way to the foot of the descent. There was no mail lying on the empty road. David turned again, his heart pounding against his ribs, tears of mortification, of apprehension, blurring his vision. The bag must have fallen here in Elbow Barren. Subconsciously he stopped the stage. On the right the dwelling of the Hatburns showed vaguely through the mist. No one else could have been on the road. A troubled expression settled on his glowing countenance, a pondering doubt; then his mouth drew into a determined line.

“I’ll have to go right up and ask,” he said aloud.

He jumped down to the road, led the horses to a convenient sapling, where he hitched them. Then he drew his belt tighter about his slender waist and took a step forward. A swift frown scarred his brow, and he turned and transferred the revolver to a pocket in his trousers.

The approach to the house was rough with stones and muddy clumps of grass. A track, he saw, circled the dwelling to the back; but he walked steadily and directly up to the shallow portico between windows with hanging, partly slatted shutters. The house had been painted dark brown a long while before; the paint had weathered and blistered into a depressing harmony with the broken and mossy shingles of the roof, the rust-eaten and sagging gutters festooning the ragged eaves.

David proceeded up the steps, hesitated, and then, his mouth firm and hand steady, knocked. He waited for an apparently interminable space, and then knocked again, more sharply. Now he heard voices within. He waited rigidly for steps to approach, the door to open; but in vain. They had heard, but chose to ignore his summons; and a swift cold anger mounted in him. He could follow the path round to the back; but, he told himself, he–David Kinemon–wouldn’t walk to the Hatburns’ kitchen door. They should meet him at the front. He beat again on the scarred wood, waited; and then, in an irrepressible flare of temper, kicked the door open.

He was conscious of a slight gasping surprise at the dark moldy- smelling hall open before him. A narrow bare stairway mounted above, with a passage at one side, and on each hand entrances were shut on farther interiors. The scraping of a chair, talking came from the left; the door, he saw, was not latched. He pushed it open and entered. There was a movement in the room still beyond, and he walked evenly into what evidently was a kitchen.

The first thing he saw was the mail bag, lying intact on a table. Then he was meeting the concerted stare of four men. One of two, so similar that he could not have distinguished between them, he had seen before, at the edge of the road. Another was very much older, taller, more sallow. The fourth was strangely fat, with a great red hanging mouth. The latter laughed uproariously, a jangling mirthless sound followed by a mumble of words without connective sense. David moved toward the mail bag:

“I’m driving stage and lost those letters. I’ll take them right along.”

The oldest Hatburn, with a pail in his hand, was standing by an opening, obviously at the point of departure on a small errand. He looked toward the two similar men, nearer David.

“Boy,” he demanded, “did you kick in my front door?”

“I’m the Government’s agent,” David replied. “I’ve got to have the mail. I’m David Kinemon too; and I wouldn’t step round to your back door, Hatburn–not if there was a boiling of you!”

“You’ll learn you this,” one of the others broke in: “it will be the sweetest breath you ever draw’d when you get out that back door!”

The elder moved on to the pounded earth beyond. Here, in their presence, David felt the loathing for the Hatburns a snake inspires– dusty brown rattlers and silent cottonmouths. His hatred obliterated every other feeling but a dim consciousness of the necessity to recover the mail bag. He was filled with an overpowering longing to revenge Allen; to mark them with the payment of his father, dead in the stable shed.

His objective senses were abnormally clear, cold: he saw every detail of the Hatburns’ garb–the soiled shirts with buttoned pockets on their left breasts; the stained baggy breeches in heavy boots–such boots as had stamped Allen into nothingness; dull yellow faces and beady eyes; the long black hair about their dark ears.

The idiot thrust his fingers into his loose mouth, his shirt open on a hairy pendulous chest. The Hatburn who had not yet spoken showed a row of tobacco-brown broken teeth.

“He mightn’t get a heave on that breath,” he asserted.

The latter lounged over against a set of open shelves where, David saw, lay a heavy rusted revolver. Hatburn picked up the weapon and turned it slowly in his thin grasp.

“I’m carrying the mail,” David repeated, his hand on the bag. “You’ve got no call on this or on me.”

He added the last with tremendous effort. It seemed unspeakable that he should be there, the Hatburns before him, and merely depart.

“What do you think of putting the stage under a soft little strawberry like that?” the other inquired.

For answer there was a stunning report, a stinging odor of saltpeter; and David felt a sharp burning on his shoulder, followed by a slow warmish wet, spreading.

“I didn’t go to do just that there!” the Hatburn who had fired explained. “I wanted to clip his ear, but he twitched like.”

David picked up the mail bag and took a step backward in the direction he had come. The other moved between him and the door.

“If you get out,” he said, “it’ll be through the hog-wash.”

David placed the bag on the floor, stirred by a sudden realization–he had charge of the stage, official responsibility for the mail. He was no longer a private individual; what his mother had commanded, entreated, had no force here and now. The Hatburns were unlawfully detaining him.

As this swept over him, a smile lighted his fresh young cheeks, his frank mouth, his eyes like innocent flowers. Hatburn shot again; this time the bullet flicked at David’s old felt hat. With his smile lingering he smoothly leveled the revolver from his pocket and shot the mocking figure in the exact center of the pocket patched on his left breast.

David wheeled instantly, before the other Hatburn running for him, and stopped him with a bullet as remorselessly placed as the first. The two men on the floor stiffened grotesquely and the idiot crouched in a corner, whimpering.

David passed his hand across his brow; then he bent and grasped the mail bag. He was still pausing when the remaining Hatburn strode into the kitchen. The latter whispered a sharp oath. David shifted the bag; but the elder had him before he could bring the revolver up. A battering blow fell, knocked the pistol clattering over the floor, and David instinctively clutched the other’s wrist.

The blows multiplied, beating David into a daze, through which a single realization persisted–he must not lose his grip upon the arm that was swinging him about the room, knocking over chairs, crashing against the table, even drawing him across the hot iron of the stove. He must hold on!

He saw the face above him dimly through the deepening mist; it seemed demoniacal, inhuman, reaching up to the ceiling–a yellow giant bent on his destruction….

His mother, years ago, lives away, had read to them–to his father and Allen and himself–about a giant, a giant and David; and in the end—-

He lost all sense of the entity of the man striving to break him against the wooden angles of the room; he had been caught, was twisting, in a great storm; a storm with thunder and cruel flashes of lightning; a storm hammering and hammering at him…. Must not lose his hold on–on life! He must stay fast against everything! It wasn’t his hand gripping the destructive force towering above him, but a strange quality within him, at once within him and aside, burning in his heart and directing him from without.

The storm subsided; out of it emerged the livid face of Hatburn; and then, quite easily, he pitched David back across the floor. He lay there a moment and then stirred, partly rose, beside the mail bag. His pistol was lying before him; he picked it up.

The other was deliberately moving the dull barrel of a revolver up over his body. A sharp sense of victory possessed David, and he whispered his brother’s name. Hatburn fired–uselessly. The other’s battered lips smiled.

Goliath, that was the giant’s name. He shot easily, securely–once.

Outside, the mail bag seemed weighted with lead. He swayed and staggered over the rough declivity to the road. It required a superhuman effort to heave the pack into the stage. The strap with which he had hitched the horses had turned into iron. At last it was untied. He clambered up to the enormous height of the driver’s seat, unwrapped the reins from the whipstock, and the team started forward.

He swung to the lurching of the stage like an inverted pendulum; darkness continually thickened before his vision; waves of sickness swept up to his head. He must keep the horses on the road, forward the Government mail!

A grim struggle began between his beaten flesh, a terrible weariness, and that spirit which seemed to be at once a part of him and a voice. He wiped the blood from his young brow; from his eyes miraculously blue like an ineffable May sky.

“Just a tol’able David,” he muttered weakly–“only just tol’able!”

BREAD

I

The train rolling rapidly over the broad salt meadows thunderously entered the long shed of the terminal at the sea. August Turnbull rose from his seat in the Pullman smoking compartment and took down the coat hanging beside him. It was gray flannel; in a waistcoat his shirt sleeves were a visible heavy mauve silk, and there was a complication of gold chains about his lower pockets. Above the coat a finely woven Panama hat with a narrow brim had rested, and with that now on his head he moved arrogantly toward the door.

He was a large man, past the zenith of life, but still vigorous in features and action. His face was full, and, wet from the heat, he mopped it with a heavy linen handkerchief. August Turnbull’s gaze was steady and light blue; his nose was so heavy that it appeared to droop a little from sheer weight, almost resting on the mustache brushed out in a horizontal line across prominent lips; while his neck swelled in a glowing congestion above a wilting collar.

He nodded to several men in the narrow corridor of the car; men like himself in luxurious summer clothes, but for the most part fatter; then in the shed, looking about in vain for Bernard, his son-in-law, he proceeded to the street, where his automobile was waiting. It was a glittering landaulet, folded back and open. Thrusting a wadded evening paper into a crevice he sank in an upholstered corner while his chauffeur skillfully worked out through a small confusion of similar motor activity. Before him a carved glass vase set in a bracket held smilax and yellow rosebuds, and he saw on the floor a fallen gold powder box.

Picking it up his face was suffused by a darker tide; this was the result of stooping and the angry realization that in spite of his prohibition Louise had been using the landaulet again. She must be made to understand that he, her father, had an absolute authority over his family and property. Marriage to Bernard Foster did not relieve her from obedience to the head of the house. Bernard had a car as well as himself; yet August Turnbull knew that his son-in-law–at heart a stingy man–encouraged her to burn the parental gasoline in place of his own. Turned against the public Bernard’s special quality was admirable; he was indeed more successful, richer, than August had been at the other’s age; but Louise and her husband would have to recognize his precedence.

They were moving faster now on a broad paved avenue bound with steel tracks. A central business section was left for a more unpretentious region–small open fruit and fish stands, dingy lodging places, drab corner saloons, with, at the intervals of the cross streets, fleet glimpses of an elevated boardwalk and the luminous space of the sea. Though the day was ending there was no thinning of the vaporous heat, and a sodden humanity, shapeless in bathing suits, was still reluctantly moving away from the beach.

Groups of women with their hair in trailing wet wisps and short uneven skirts dripping on the pavements, gaunt children in scant haphazard garb surged across the broad avenue or with shrill admonishments stood in isolated helpless patches amid the swift and shining procession of automobiles.

August Turnbull was disturbed by the sudden arrest of his progress, and gazing out saw the insignificant cause of delay. He had again removed his hat and a frown drew a visible heavy line between his eyes.

“More police are needed for these crossings,” he complained to the chauffeur; “there is the same trouble every evening. The city shouldn’t encourage such rabbles; they give the place a black eye.”

All the immediate section, he silently continued, ought to be torn down and rebuilt in solid expensive structures. It made him hot and uncomfortable just to pass through the shabby quarter. The people in it were there for the excellent reason that they lacked the ambition, the force to demand better things. They got what they deserved.

August Turnbull made an impatient movement of contempt; the world, success, was for the strong men, the men who knew what they wanted and drove for it in a straight line. There was a great deal of foolishness in the air at present–the war was largely responsible; though, on the other hand, the war would cure a lot of nonsense. But America in particular was rotten with sentimentality; it was that mainly which had involved them here in a purely European affair. Getting into it had been bad business.

Nowhere was the nation’s failing more evident than in the attitude toward women. It had always been maudlin; and now, long content to use their advantages in small ways, women would become a serious menace to the country generally. He had admitted their economic value–they filled every possible place in the large establishment of the Turnbull Bakery; rather, they performed all the light manual labor. There they were more satisfactory than men, more easily controlled–yes, and cheaper. But in Congress, voting, women in communities reporting on factory conditions were a dangerous nuisance.

He had left the poorer part, and the suavity of the succeeding streets rapidly increased to a soothing luxury. Wide cottages occupied velvet- green lawns, and the women he saw were of the sort he approved–closely skirted creatures with smooth shoulders in transparent crepe de Chine. They invited a contemplative eye, the thing for which they were created–a pleasure for men; that and maternity.

The automobile turned toward the sea and stopped at his house midway in the block. It was a square dwelling painted white with a roof of tapestry slate, and broad awning-covered veranda on the sea. A sprinkler was flashing on the lawn, dripping over the concrete pavement and filling the air with a damp coolness. No one was visible and, leaving his hat and coat on a chair in an airy hall furnished in black wicker and flowery chintz hangings on buff walls, he descended to the basement dressing rooms.

In his bathing suit he presented a figure of vigorous glowing well- being. Only the silvering hair at his temples, the fatty bulge across the back of his neck, and a considerable stomach indicated his multiplying years. He left by a lower door, and immediately after was on the sand. The tide was out, the lowering sun obscured in a haze, and the sea undulated with a sullen gleam. Two men were swimming, and farther at the left a woman stood in the water with arms raised to her head. It was cold, but August Turnbull marched out without hesitation and threw himself forward with an uncompromising solid splash.

He swam adequately, but he had not progressed a dozen feet before he was conscious of a strong current sweeping him up the beach, and he regained his feet with an angry flourish. The other men came nearer, and he recognized Bernard Foster, his son-in-law, and Frederick Rathe, whose cottage was directly across the street from the Turnbulls’.

Like August they were big men, with light hair and eyes. They were very strong and abrupt in their movements, they spoke in short harsh periods, and fingered mustaches waxed and rolled into severe points.

“A gully has cut in above,” Bernard explained, indicating a point not far beyond them; “it’s over your head. Watch where you swim.” They were moving away.

“Are you coming over to dinner?” August Turnbull called to Bernard.

“Can’t,” the latter shouted; “Victorine is sick again. Too many chocolate sundaes.”

Left alone, August dived and floated until he was thoroughly cooled; then he turned toward the beach. The woman, whose existence he had forgotten, was leaving at the same time. She approached at an angle, and he was admiring her slim figure when he realized that it was Miss Beggs, his wife’s companion. He had never seen her in a bathing suit before. August Turnbull delayed until she was at his side.

“Good evening.” Her voice was low, and she scarcely lifted her gaze from the sand.

He wondered why–she had been in his house for a month–he had failed completely to notice her previously. He decided that it had been because she was so pale and quiet. Ordinarily he didn’t like white cheeks; and then she had been deceptive; he had subconsciously thought of her as thin.

She stopped and took off her rubber cap, performing that act slowly, while her body, in wet satin, turned like a faultless statue of glistening black marble.

“Do you enjoy bathing in the ocean?” he asked.

A momentary veiled glance accompanied her reply. “Yes,” she said; “though I can’t swim. I like to be beaten by the waves. I like to fight against them.”

She hesitated, then fell definitely back; and he was forced to walk on alone.

His wife’s companion! With the frown once more scoring the line between his eyes he satirically contrasted Miss Beggs, a servant really, and Emmy.

II

His room occupied the front corner on the sea, Emmy’s was beyond; the door between was partly open and he could hear her moving about, but with a cigarette and his hair-brushes he made no acknowledgment of her presence.

The sun was now no more than a diffused gray glow, the sea like unstirred molten silver. The sound of the muffled gong that announced dinner floated up the stairs.

Below, the damask was lit both by rose silk-shaded candles and by the radiance of a suspended alabaster bowl. August Turnbull sat at the head of a table laden with silver and crystal and flowers. There were individual pepper mills–he detested adulterated or stale spices– carved goblets for water, cocktail glasses with enameled roosters, ruby goblets like blown flowers and little gilt-speckled liqueur glasses; there were knives with steel blades, knives all of silver, and gold fruit knives; there were slim oyster forks, entree forks of solid design, and forks of filigree; a bank of spoons by a plate that would be presently removed, unused, for other filled plates.

Opposite him Emmy’s place was still empty, but his son, Morice, in the olive drab and bar of a first lieutenant, together with his wife, was already present. August was annoyed by any delay: one of the marks of a properly controlled household, a house admirably conscious of the importance of order–and obedience–was an utter promptness at the table. Then, silent and unsubstantial as a shadow, Emmy Turnbull slipped into her seat.

August gazed at her with the secret resentment more and more inspired by her sickness. At first he had been merely dogmatic–she must recover under the superlative advice and attention he was able to summon for her. Then his impatience had swung about toward all doctors–they were a pack of incompetent fools, medicine was nothing more than an organized swindle. They had tried baths, cures, innumerable infallible treatments–to no purpose. Finally he had given up all effort, all hope; he had given her up. And since then it had been difficult to mask his resentment.

The butler, a white jacket taking the place of the conventional somber black, poured four cocktails from a silver mixer and placed four dishes of shaved ice, lemon rosettes and minute pinkish clams before August Turnbull, Morice and his wife, and Miss Beggs, occupying in solitude a side of the table. Then he set at Mrs. Turnbull’s hand a glass of milk thinned with limewater and an elaborate platter holding three small pieces of zwieback.

She could eat practically nothing.

It was the particular character of her state that specially upset August Turnbull. He was continually affronted by the spectacle of Emmy seated before him sipping her diluted milk, breaking her dry bread, in the midst of the rich plenty he provided. Damn it, he admitted, it got on his nerves!

The sting of the cocktail whipped up his eagerness for the iced tender clams. His narrowed gaze rested on Emmy; she was actually seven years older than he, but from her appearance she might be a hundred, a million. There was nothing but her painfully slow movements to distinguish her from a mummy.

The plates were again removed and soup brought on, a clear steaming amber-green turtle, and with it crisp wheat rolls. Morice’s wife gave a sigh of satisfaction at the latter.

“My,” she said, “they’re elegant! I’m sick and tired of war bread.”

She was a pinkish young woman with regular features and abundant coppery hair. Marriage had brought her into the Turnbull family from the chorus of a famous New York roof beauty show. August had been at first displeased, then a certain complacency had possessed him–Morice, who was practically thirty years old, had no source of income other than that volunteered by his father, and it pleased the latter to keep them depending uncertainly on what he was willing to do. It insured just the attitude from Rosalie he most enjoyed, approved, in a youthful and not unhandsome woman. He liked her soft scented weight hanging on his arm and the perfumed kiss with which she greeted him in the morning.

Nevertheless, at times there was a gleam in her eyes and an expression at odds with the perfection of her submission; on several occasions Morice had approached him armed with a determination that he, August, knew had been injected from without, undoubtedly by Rosalie. Whatever it had been he quickly disposed of it, but there was a possibility that she might some day undertake a rebellion; and there was added zest in the thought of how he would totally subdue her.

“It’s a wonder something isn’t said to you,” she continued. “They’re awfully strict about wheat now.”

“That,” August Turnbull instructed her heavily, “is a subject we needn’t pursue.”

The truth was that he would permit no interference with what so closely touched his comfort. He was not a horse to eat bran. His bakery–under inspection–conformed rigidly with the Government requirements; but he had no intention of spoiling his own dinners. Any necessary conservation could be effected at the expense of the riffraff through which he had driven coming from the station. Black bread was no new experience to them.

He saw that Miss Beggs’ small white teeth were crushing salted cashew nuts. Noticing her in detail for the first time he realized that she enormously appreciated good food. Why in thunder, since she ate so heartily, didn’t she get fat and rosy! She was one of the thin kind– yet not thin, he corrected himself. Graceful. Why, she must weigh a hundred and twenty-five pounds; and she wasn’t tall.

The butler filled his ruby goblet from a narrow bottle of Rhine wine. It was exactly right, not sweet but full; and the man held for his choice a great platter of beef, beautifully carved into thick crimson slices; the bloodlike gravy had collected in its depression and he poured it over his meat.

“A piece of this,” he told Emmy discontentedly, “would set you right up; put something in your veins besides limewater.”

She became painfully upset at once and fumbled in her lap, with her face averted, as the attention of the table was momentarily directed at her. There was an uncontrollable tremor of her loose colorless mouth.

What a wife for him, August Turnbull! The stimulants and rich flavors and roast filled him with a humming vitality; he could feel his heart beat–as strong, he thought, as a bell. In a way Emmy had deceived him –she probably had always been fragile, but was careful to conceal it from him at their marriage. It was unjust to him. He wished that she would take her farcical meals in her room, and not sit here–a skeleton at the feast. Positively it made him nervous to see her–spoiled his pleasure.

It had become worse lately; he had difficulty in putting her from his mind; he imagined Emmy in conjunction with the bakery, of her slowly starving and the thousands of loaves he produced in a day. There was something unnatural in such a situation; it was like a mockery at him.

A vision of her came to him at the most inopportune moments, lingering until it drove him into a hot rage and a pounding set up at the back of his neck.

The meat was brought back, and he had more of a sweet boiled huckleberry pudding. A salad followed, with a heavy Russian dressing. August Turnbull’s breathing grew thicker, he was conscious of a familiar oppression. He assaulted it with fresh wine.

“I saw Bernard on the beach” he related; “Victorine is sick once more. Chocolate sundaes, Bernard said. She is always stuffing herself at soda-water counters or with candy. They oughtn’t to allow it; the child should be made to eat at the table. When she is here she touches nothing but the dessert. When I was ten I ate everything or not at all. But there is no longer any discipline, not only with children but everywhere.”

“There is a little freedom, though,” Rosalie suggested.

His manner clearly showed displeasure, almost contempt, and he turned to Miss Beggs. “What do you think?” he demanded. “I understand you have been a school-teacher.”

“Oh, you are quite right,” she responded; “at least about children, and it is clear from them that most parents are idiotically lax.” A blaze of discontent, loathing, surprisingly invaded her pallid face.

“A rod of iron,” August recommended.

The contrast between his wife and Miss Beggs recurred, intensified–one an absolute wreck and the other as solidly slender as a birch tree. Fate had played a disgusting trick on him. In the prime of his life he was tied to a hopeless invalid. It put an unfair tension on him. Women were charming, gracious–or else they were nothing. If Emmy’s money had been an assistance at first he had speedily justified its absorption in the business. She owed him, her husband, everything possible. He suddenly pictured mountains of bread, bread towering up into the clouds, fragrant and appetizing; and Emmy, a thing of bones, gazing wistfully at it. August Turnbull, with a feeling like panic, brushed the picture from his mind.

The dessert was apparently a bomb of frozen coffee, but the center revealed a delicious creamy substance flaked with pistache. The cold sweet was exactly what he craved, and he ate it rapidly in a curious mounting excitement. With the coffee he fingered the diminutive glass of golden brandy and a long dark roll of oily tobacco. He lighted this carefully and flooded his head with the coiling bluish smoke. Rosalie was smoking a cigarette–a habit in women which he noisily denounced. She extinguished it in an ash tray, but his anger lingered, an unreasoning exasperation that constricted his throat. Sharply aware of the sultriness of the evening he went hastily out to the veranda.

Morice following him with the evening paper volunteered, “I see German submarines are operating on the Atlantic coast.”

His father asserted: “This country is due for a lesson. It was anxious enough to get into trouble, and now we’ll find how it likes some severe instruction. All the news here is bluff–the national asset. What I hope is that business won’t be entirely ruined later.”

“The Germans will get the lesson,” Rosalie unexpectedly declared at his shoulder.

“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied decidedly. “The German system is a marvel, one of the wonders of civilization.”

She turned away, lightly singing a line from one of her late numbers: “I’ve a Yankee boy bound for Berlin.”

Morice stirred uneasily. “They got a Danish tanker somewhere off Nantucket,” he continued impotently.

August Turnbull refused to be drawn into further speech; he inhaled his cigar with a replete bodily contentment. The oppression of dinner was subsiding. His private opinion of the war was that it would end without a military decision–he regarded the German system as unsmashable–and then, with France deleted and England swamped in internal politics, he saw an alliance of common sense between Germany and the United States. The present hysteria, the sentimentality he condemned, could not continue to stand before the pressure of mercantile necessity. After all, the entire country was not made up of fools.

Morice and his wife wandered off to the boardwalk, and he, August, must have fallen asleep, for he suddenly sat up with a sensation of strangeness and dizzy vision.

He rose and shook it off. It was still light, and he could see Bernard at his automobile, parked before the latter’s cottage.

The younger man caught sight of August at the same moment and called: “We are going to a cafe with the Rathes; will you come?”

He was still slightly confused, his head full, and the ride, the gayety of the crowd, he thought, would do him good.

“Be over for you,” the other added; and later he was crowded into a rear seat between Louise, his daughter, and Caroline Rathe.

Louise was wearing the necklace of platinum and diamonds Bernard Foster had given her last Christmas. It was, August admitted to himself, a splendid present, and must have cost eighteen or twenty thousand dollars. The Government had made platinum almost prohibitive. In things of this kind–the adornment of his wife, of, really, himself, the extension of his pride–Bernard was extremely generous. It was in the small affairs such as gasoline that he was prudent.

Both Caroline Rathe and Louise were handsome women handsomely dressed; he was seated in a nest of soft tulle and ruffled embroidery, of pliant swaying bodies. Their satin-shod feet had high sharp insteps in films of black lace and their fingers glittered with prismatic stones. Bernard was in front with the chauffeur, and Frederick Rathe occupied a small seat at the knees of the three others. He had not made his money, as had August and Bernard, but inherited it with a huge brewery. Frederick was younger than the other men too; but his manner was, if anything, curter. He said things about the present war that made even August Turnbull uneasy.

He was an unusual youth, not devoted to sports and convivial pleasures –as any one might infer, viewing his heavy frame and wealth–but something of a reader. He quoted fragments from philosophical books about the will-to-power and the _Uebermensch_ that stuck like burrs in August Turnbull’s memory, furnishing him with labels, backing, for many of his personally evolved convictions and experience.

They were soon descending the steps to the anteroom of the cafe, where the men left their hats and sticks. As they entered the brilliantly lighted space beyond a captain hurried forward. “Good evening, gentlemen,” he said servilely; “Mr. Turnbull—-“

He ushered them to a table by the rope of an open floor for dancing and removed a reserved card. There he stood attentively with a waiter at his shoulder.

“What will you have?” Frederick Rathe asked generally. “For me nothing but beer. Not the filthy American stuff.” He turned to the servants. “If you still have some of the other. You understand?”

“No beer for me!” Louise exclaimed.

“Champagne,” the captain suggested.

She agreed, but Caroline had a fancy for something else. August Turnbull preferred a Scotch whisky and soda. The cafe was crowded; everywhere drinking multiplied in an illuminated haze of cigarettes. A slight girl in an airy slip and bare legs was executing a furious dance with a powdered youth on the open space. The girl whirled about her partner’s head, a rigid shape in a flutter of white.

They stood limply answering the rattle of applause that followed. A woman in an extravagantly low-cut gown took their place, singing. There was no possibility of mistaking her allusions; August smiled broadly, but Louise and Caroline Rathe watched her with an unmoved sharp curiosity. In the same manner they studied other women in the cafe; more than once August Turnbull hastily averted his gaze at the discovery that his daughter and he were intent upon the same individual.

“The U-boats are at it again,” Bernard commented in a lowered voice.

“And, though it is war,” Frederick added, “every one here is squealing like a mouse. ‘Ye are not great enough to know of hatred and envy,'” he quoted. “‘It is the good war which halloweth every cause.'”

“I wish you wouldn’t say those things here,” his wife murmured.

“‘Thou goest to women?'” he lectured her with mock solemnity. “‘Do not forget thy whip!'”

The whisky ran in a burning tide through August Turnbull’s senses. His surroundings became a little blurred, out of focus; his voice sounded unfamiliar, as though it came from somewhere behind him. Fresh buckets of wine were brought, fresh, polished glasses. His appetite revived, and he ordered caviar. Beyond, a girl in a snake-like dress was breaking a scarlet boiled lobster with a nut cracker; her cigarette smoked on the table edge. Waiters passed bearing trays of steaming food, pitchers of foaming beer, colorless drinks with bobbing sliced limes, purplish sloe gin and sirupy cordials. Bernard’s face was dark and there was a splash of champagne on his dinner shirt. Louise was uncertainly humming a fragment of popular song. The table was littered with empty plates and glasses. Perversely it made August think of Emmy, his wife, and acute dread touched him at the mockery of her wasting despair.

III

The following morning, Thursday, August Turnbull was forced to go into the city. He drove to the Turnbull Bakery in a taxi and dispatched his responsibilities in time for luncheon uptown and an early afternoon train to the shore. The bakery was a consequential rectangle of brick, with the office across the front and a court resounding with the shattering din of ponderous delivery trucks. All the vehicles, August saw, bore a new temporary label advertising still another war bread; there was, too, a subsidiary patriotic declaration: “Win the War With Wheat.”

He was, as always, fascinated by the mammoth trays of bread, the enormous flood of sustenance produced as the result of his energy and ability. Each loaf was shut in a sanitary paper envelope; the popular superstition, sanitation, had contributed as much as anything to his marked success. He liked to picture himself as a great force, a granary on which the city depended for life; it pleased him to think of thousands of people, men, women and children, waiting for his loaves or perhaps suffering through the inability to buy them.

August left a direction for a barrel of superlative flower to be sent to his cottage, and then with a curious feeling of expectancy he departed. He was unable to grasp the cause of his sudden impatience to be again at the sea. On the train, in the Pullman smoking compartment, his coat swinging on a hook beside him, the vague haste centered surprisingly about the person of Miss Beggs. At first he was annoyed by the reality and persistence of her image; then he slipped into an unquestioning consideration of her.

Never had he seen a more healthy being, and that alone, he told himself, was sufficient to account for his interest. He liked marked physical well-being; particularly, he added, in women. A sick wife, for example, was the most futile thing imaginable; a wife should exist for the comfort and pleasure of her husband. What little Miss Beggs–her name, he now remembered from the checks made out for her, was Meta Beggs–had said was as vigorous as herself. He realized that she had a strong, even rebellious personality. That, in her, however, should not be encouraged–an engaging submission was the becoming attitude for her sex.

He proceeded immediately into the ocean, puffing strenuously and gazing about. No women could be seen. They never had any regularity of habit, he complained silently. After dinner–a surfeit of tenderloin Bordelaise–he walked up the short incline to the boardwalk, where on one of the benches overlooking the sparkling water he saw a slight familiar figure. It was Miss Beggs. Her eyes dwelt on him momentarily and then returned to the horizon.

“You are a great deal alone,” he commented on the far end of the bench.

“It’s because I choose to be,” she answered sharply.

An expression of displeasure was audible in his reply, “You should have no trouble.”

“I ought to explain,” she continued, her slim hands clasped on shapely knees; “I mean that I can’t get what I want”

“So you prefer nothing?”

She nodded.

“That’s different,” August Turnbull declared. “Anybody could see you’re particular. Still, it’s strange you haven’t met–well, one that suited you.”

“What good would it do me–a school-teacher, and now a companion!”

“You might be admired for those very things.”

“Yes, by old ladies, male and female. Not men. There’s just one attraction for them.”

“Well—-“

She turned now and faced him with a suppressed bitter energy. “Clothes,” she said.

“That’s nonsense!” he replied emphatically. “Dress is only incidental.”

“When did you first notice me?” she demanded. “In bathing. That bathing suit cost more than any two of my dresses. It is absolutely right.” August was confused by the keenness of her perception. It wasn’t proper for a woman to understand such facts. He was at a loss for a reply. “Seven men spoke to me in it on one afternoon. It is no good for you to try to reassure me with platitudes; I know better. I ought to, at least.”

August Turnbull was startled by the fire of resentment smoldering under her still pale exterior. Why, she was like a charged battery. If he touched her, he thought, sparks would fly. She was utterly different from Emmy, as different as a live flame from ashes.

It was evident that having at last spoken she intended to unburden herself of long-accumulated passionate words.

“All my life I’ve had to listen to and smile sweetly at ridiculous hypocrisies. I have had to teach them and live them too. But now I’m so sick of them I can’t keep it up a month longer. I could kill some one, easily. In a world where salvation for a woman is in a pair of slippers I have to be damned. If I could have kept my hair smartly done up and worn sheer batiste do you suppose for a minute I’d be a companion to Mrs. Turnbull? I could be going out to the cafes in a landaulet.”

“And looking a lot better than most that do,” he commented without premeditation.

She glanced at him again, and he saw that her eyes were gray, habitually half closed and inviting.

“I’ve had frightfully bad luck,” she went on; “once or twice when it seemed that I was to have a chance, when it appeared brighter– everything went to pieces.”

“Perhaps you want too much,” he suggested.

“Perhaps,” she agreed wearily; “ease and pretty clothes and–a man.” She added the latter with a more musical inflection than he had yet heard.

“Of course,” he proceeded importantly, “there are not a great many men. At least I haven’t found them. As you say, most people are incapable of any power or decision. I always maintain it’s something in the country. Now in—-” He stopped, re-began: “In Europe they are different. There a man is better understood, and women as well.”

“I have never been out of America,” Miss Beggs admitted.

“But you might well have been,” he assured her; “you are more Continental than any one else I can think of.”

He moved toward the middle of the bench and she said quickly: “You must not misunderstand. I am not cheap nor silly. It might have been better for me.” She addressed the fading light on the sea. “Silly women, too, do remarkably well. But I am not young enough to change now.” She rose, gracefully drawn against space; her firm chin was elevated and her hands clenched. “I won’t grow old this way and shrivel like an apple,” she half cried.

It would be a pity, he told himself, watching her erect figure diminish over the boardwalk. He had a feeling of having come in contact with an extraordinarily potent force. By heaven, she positively crackled! He smiled, thinking of the misguided people who had employed her, ignorant of all that underlay that severe prudent manner. At the same time he was flattered that she had confided in him. It was clear she recognized that he, at least, was a man. He was really sorry for her–what an invigorating influence she was!

She had spoken of being no longer young–something over thirty-five he judged–and that brought the realization that he was getting on. A few years now, ten or twelve, and life would be behind him. It was a rare and uncomfortable thought. Usually he saw himself as at the most desirable age–a young spirit tempered by wisdom and experience. But in a flash he read that his prime must depart; every hour left was priceless.

The best part of this must be dedicated to a helpless invalid; a strong current of self-pity set through him. But it was speedily lost in a more customary arrogance. August Turnbull repeated the favorite aphorisms from Frederick Rathe about the higher man. If he believed them at all, if they applied to life in general they were equally true in connection with his home; in short–his wife. Emmy Turnbull couldn’t really be called a wife. There should be a provision to release men from such bonds.

It might be that the will-to-power would release itself. In theory that was well enough, but practically there were countless small difficulties. The strands of life were so tied in, one with another. Opinion was made up of an infinite number of stupid prejudices. In short, no way presented itself of getting rid of Emmy.

His mind returned to Meta Beggs. What a woman she was! What a triumph to master her contemptuous stubborn being!

IV

At least, August reflected with a degree of comfort at breakfast, Emmy didn’t come down in the morning; she hadn’t enough strength. He addressed himself to the demolishment of a ripe Cassaba melon. It melted in his mouth to the consistency of sugary water. His coffee cup had a large flattened bowl, and pouring in the ropy cream with his free hand he lifted the silver cover of a dish set before him. It held spitted chicken livers and bacon and gave out an irresistible odor. There were, too, potatoes chopped fine with peppers and browned; and hot delicately sweetened buns. He emptied two full spits, renewed his coffee and finished the potatoes.

With a butter ball at the center of a bun he casually glanced at the day’s paper. The submarines, he saw, were operating farther south. A small passenger steamer, the _Veronica_ had been torpedoed outside the Delaware Capes.

A step sounded in the hall, and Louise entered the dining room, clad all in white with the exception of a closely fitting yellow hat. After a moment Victorine, a girl small for her age, with a petulant satiated expression, followed.

“It’s a shame,” Louise observed, “that with Morice and his wife in the cottage you have to breakfast alone. I suppose all those theatrical people get up at noon.”

“Not quite,” Rosalie told her from the doorway.

Louise made no reply other than elevating her brows. Victorine looked at the other with an exact mirroring of her mother’s disdain.

“Good morning,” Morice said indistinctly, hooking the collar of his uniform. “It’s a bloody nuisance,” he asserted. “Why can’t they copy the English jacket?”

“It is much better looking,” Louise added.

“Well,” Rosalie proclaimed, “I’m glad to see Morice in any; even if it means nothing more than a desk in the Quartermaster’s Department.”

“That is very necessary,” August Turnbull spoke decidedly.

“Perhaps,” she agreed.

“I think it is bad taste to raise such insinuations.” Louise was severe.

“An army,” August put in, “travels on its stomach. As Louise suggests– we must ask you not to discuss the question in your present tone.” Morice’s wife half-audibly spoke into her melon, and his face reddened. “What did I understand you to say?” he demanded.

“Oh, ‘Swat the fly!'” Rosalie answered hardily.

“Not at all!” he almost shouted. “What you said was ‘Swat the Kaiser!'”

“Well, swat him!”

“It was evident, also, that you did not refer to the Emperor of Germany–but to me.”

“You said it,” she admitted vulgarly. “If any house ever had a Hohenzollern this has.”

“Shut up, Rosalie!” her husband commanded, perturbed; “you’ll spoil everything.”

“It might be better if she continued,” Louise Foster corrected him. “Perhaps then we’d learn something of this–this beauty.”

“I got good money for my face anyhow,” Rosalie asserted. “And no cash premium went with it either. As for going on, I’ll go.” She turned to August Turnbull: “I’ve been stalling round here for nearly a year with Morice scared to death trying to get a piece of change out of you. Now I’m through; I’ve worked hard for a season’s pay, but this is slavery. What you want is an amalgamated lady bootblack and nautch dancer. You’re a joke to a free white woman. I’m sorry for your wife. She ought to slip you a bichloride tablet. If it was worth while I’d turn you over to the authorities for breaking the food regulations.”

She rose, unceremoniously shoving back her chair. “For a fact, I’m tired of watching you eat. You down as much as a company of good boys on the march. Don’t get black in the face; I’d be afraid to if I were you.”

August Turnbull’s rage beat like a hammer at the base of his head. He, too, rose, leaning forward with his napkin crumpled in a pounding fist.

“Get out of my house!” he shouted.

“That’s all right enough,” she replied; “the question is–is Morice coming with me? Is that khaki he has on or a Kate Greenaway suit?”

Morice looked from one to the other in obvious dismay. He had a pleasant dull face and a minute spiked mustache on an irresolute mouth.

“If you stay with me,” she warned him further, “I’ll have you out of that grocery store and into a trench.”

“Pleasant for you, Morice,” Louise explained.

“Things were so comfortable, Rosalie,” he protested despairingly. “What in the name of sense made you stir this all up? The governor won’t do a tap for us now.”

His wife stood by herself, facing the inimical Turnbull front, while Morice wavered between.