O. Henry Memorial Award Prize Stories of 1921
Part 4 out of 8
Martin went within and the crew waited for a high-ball order that did
not come. In his private car, alone, Martin Garrity was pacing the
floor. The call of the old division, which he had loved and built, was
upon him, swaying him with all the force of memory.
"I guess we could sell the flivver----" he was repeating. "Then I've
got me diamond ... and Jewel ... she's got a bit, besides what we've
saved bechune us. And he'll win the test, anyhow ... they'll never
beat him over this division ... if I give him back what I've earned
... and if he wins anyhow------"
Up ahead they still waited. Fifteen minutes. Twenty. At last a figure
appeared in the cab of the big rotary, looking for a last time at that
bleak little section house and the bare flagpole. Then:
"Start 'er up and give 'er hell!"
Martin was on the job once more, while outside his old section snipes
cheered, and reminded him that their hopes and dreams for a division
still beloved in spite of a downfall rested upon his shoulders. The
whistles screamed. The bells clanged. Smoke poured from the stacks of
the double-header, and the freshening sun, a short time later, glinted
upon the white-splotched equipment, as the great auger followed by its
lesser allies, bored into the mass of snow at Bander Cut.
Hours of backing and filling, of retreats and attacks, hours in which
there came, time after time, the opportunity to quit. But Martin did
not give the word. Out the other side they came, the steam shooting
high, and on toward the next obstacle, the first of forty, lesser and
greater, which lay between them and Montgomery City.
Afternoon ... night. Still the crunching, whining roar of the rotary
as it struck the icy stretches fought against them in vain, then
retreated until pick and bar and dynamite could break the way for its
further attack. Midnight, and one by one the exhausted crew approached
the white-faced, grim-lipped man who stood tense and determined in the
rotary cab. One by one they asked the same question:
"Hadn't we better tie up for the night?"
"Goon! D'ye hear me? Goon! What is it ye are, annyhow, a bunch of
white-livered cowards that ye can't work without rest?"
The old, dynamic, bulldozing force, the force that had made men hate
Martin Garrity only to love him, had returned into its full power, the
force that had built him from a section snipe to the exalted possessor
of the blue pennon which once had fluttered from that flagpole, was
again on the throne, fighting onward to the conclusion of a purpose,
no matter what it might wreck for him personally, no matter what the
cost might be to him in the days to come. He was on his last job--he
knew that. The mail contract might be won a thousand times over, but
there ever would rest the stigma that he had received a telegram which
should have been plain to him, and that he had failed to carry out its
hidden orders. But with the thought of it Martin straightened, and he
roared anew the message which carried tired, aching men through the
"Go on! Go on! What's stoppin' ye? Are ye going to let these
milk-an'-water fellys over here say that ye tried and quit?"
Early morning--and there came Sni-a-bend Hill, with the snow packed
against it in a new plane which obliterated the railroad as though it
had never been there. Hot coffee came from the containers, sandwiches
from the baskets, and the men ate and drank as they worked--all but
Garrity. This was the final battle, and with it came his battle cry:
"Keep goin'! This is the tough one--we've got to go on--we've got to
And on they went. The streaking rays of dawn played for a moment upon
an untroubled mound of white, smooth and deep upon the eastern end of
Sni-a-bend. Then, as though from some great internal upheaval, the
mass began to tremble. Great heaps of snow broke from their place and
tumbled down the embankment. From farther at the rear, steam,
augmented by the vapours of melting snow and the far-blown gushes of
spitting smoke, hissed upward toward the heights of the white-clad
hill. Then a bulging break--the roar of machinery, and a monster came
grinding forth, forcing its way hungrily onward, toward the next and
smaller contest. Within the giant auger a man turned to Garrity.
"Guess it's over, Boss. They said up at Glen Echo--"
A silent nod. Then Garrity turned, and reaching into the
telegram-blank holder at the side of the cab, brought forth paper and
an envelope. Long he wrote as the rotary clattered along, devouring
the smaller drifts in steady succession, a letter of the soul, a
letter which told of an effort that had failed, of a decision that
could not hold. And it told, too, of the return of all that Martin had
worked for--Mr. Barstow had been good to him, and he, Martin Garrity,
could not take his money and disobey him. He'd pay him back.
Whistles sounded, shrieking in answer to the tooting of others from
far away, the wild eerie ones of yard engines, the deeper, throatier
tones of factories. It was the end. Montgomery City!
Slowly Martin addressed the envelope, and as the big bore came to a
stop, evaded the thronging crowds and sought the railroad mail box. He
raised the letter....
"Mr. Garrity!" He turned. The day agent was running toward him. "Mr.
Garrity, Mr. Barstow wants to see you. He's here--in the station. He
came to see the finish."
So the execution must be a personal one! The letter was crunched into
a pocket. Dimly, soddenly, Martin followed the agent. As through a
haze he saw the figure of Barstow, and felt that person tug at his
"Come over here, where we can talk in private!" There was a queer ring
in the voice and Martin obeyed. Then--"Shake, Old Kid!"
Martin knew that a hand was clasping his. But why?
"You made it! I knew you would. Didn't I tell you we'd get our pound
"But--but the contract----"
"To thunder with the contract!" came the happy answer of Barstow. "If
you had only answered the 'phone, you wouldn't be so much in the dark.
What do I care about mail contracts now--with the best two lines in
Missouri under my supervision? Don't you understand? This was the hole
that I had prayed for this O.R. & T. bunch to get into from the first
minute I saw that snow. They would have been tied up for a week
longer--if it hadn't been for us. Can't you see? It was the argument I
needed--that politics isn't what counts--it's brains and doing things!
Now do you understand? Well"--and Barstow stood off and laughed--"if I
have to diagram things for you, the money interests behind the O.R. &
T. have seen the light. I'll admit it took about three hours of
telephoning to New York to cause the illumination; but they've seen
it, and that's enough. They also have agreed to buy the Ozark Central
and to merge the two. Further, they have realized that the only
possible president of the new lines is a man with brains like, for
instance, Lemuel C. Barstow, who has working directly with him a
general superintendent--and don't overlook that general part--a
_general_ superintendent named Martin Garrity!"
By MILDRED CRAM
From _Metropolitan Magazine_
We were seated in the saloon of a small steamer which plies between
Naples and Trieste on irregular schedule. Outside, the night was
thickly black and a driving rain swept down the narrow decks.
"You Englishmen laugh at ghosts," the Corsican merchant said. "In my
country, we are less pretentious. Frankly, we are afraid. You, too,
are afraid, and so you laugh! A difference, it seems to me, which
lies, not in the essence but in the manner."
Doctor Fenton smiled queerly. "Perhaps. What do any of us know about
it, one way or the other? Ticklish business! We poke a little too far
beyond our ken and get a shock that withers our souls. Cosmic force!
We stumble forward, bleating for comfort, and fall over a charged
cable. It may have been put there to hold us out--or in."
Aldobrandini, the Italian inventor, was playing cards with a German
engineer. He lost the game to his opponent, and turning about in his
chair, came into the conversation.
"You are talking about ghosts. I have seen them. Once in the Carso.
Again on the campagna near Rome. I met a company of Caesar's
legionaries tramping through a bed of asphodels. The asphodels lay
down beneath those crushing sandals, and then stood upright again,
The engineer shuffled the cards between short, capable fingers.
"Ghosts. Yes, I agree; there are such things. Created out of our
subconscious selves; mirages of the mind; photographic spiritual
projections; hereditary memories. There are always explanations."
Doctor Fenton poked into the bowl of his pipe with a broad thumb. "Did
any of you happen to know the English poet, Cecil Grimshaw? No? I'll
tell you a story about him if you care to listen. A long story, I warn
you. Very curious. Very suggestive. I cannot vouch for the entire
truth of it, since I got the tale from many sources--a word here, a
chance encounter there, and at last only the puzzling reports of men
who saw Grimshaw out in Africa. He wasn't a friend of mine, or I
wouldn't tell these things."
Aldobrandini's dark eyes softened. He leaned forward. "Cecil Grimshaw
... We Latins admire his work more than that of any modern
The doctor tipped his head back against the worn red velvet of the
lounge. An oil lamp, swinging from the ceiling, seemed to isolate him
in a pool of light. Outside, the invisible sea raced astern, hissing
slightly beneath the driving impact of the rain.
I first heard of Grimshaw [the doctor began] in my student days in
London. He was perhaps five years my senior, just beginning to be
famous, not yet infamous, but indiscreet enough to get himself talked
about. He had written a little book of verse, "Vision of Helen," he
called it, I believe.... The oblique stare of the hostile Trojans.
Helen coifed with flame. Menelaus. Love ... Greater men than Grimshaw
had written of Priam's tragedy. His audacity called attention to his
imperfect, colourful verse, his love of beauty, his sense of the
exotic, the strange, the unhealthy. People read his book on the sly
and talked about it in whispers. It was indecent, but it was
beautiful. At that time you spoke of Cecil Grimshaw with disapproval,
if you spoke of him at all, or, if you happened to be a prophet, you
saw in him the ultimate bomb beneath the Victorian literary edifice.
And so he was.
I saw him once at the Alhambra--poetry in a top hat! He wore evening
clothes that were a little too elaborate, a white camellia in his
buttonhole, and a thick-lensed monocle on a black ribbon. During the
entr'acte he stood up and surveyed the house from pit to gallery, as
if he wanted to be seen. He was very tall and the ugliest man in
England. Imagine the body of a Lincoln, the hands of a woman, the jaw
and mouth of Disraeli, an aristocratic nose, unpleasant eyes, and then
that shock of yellow hair--hyacinthine--the curly locks of an insane
virtuoso or a baby prodigy.
"Who is that?" I demanded.
"Grimshaw. The chap who wrote the book about naughty Helen. _La belle
Helene_ and the shepherd boy."
I stared. Everyone else stared. The pit stopped shuffling and giggling
to gaze at that prodigious monstrosity, and people in the boxes turned
their glasses on him. Grimshaw seemed to be enjoying it. He spoke to
someone across the aisle and smiled, showing a set of huge white
teeth, veritable tombstones.
"Abominable," I said.
But I got his book and read it. He was the first Englishman to dare
break away from literary conventions. Of course he shocked England. He
was a savage aesthete. I read the slim volume through at one sitting;
I was horrified and fascinated.
I met Grimshaw a year later. He was having a play produced at the
Lyceum--"The Labyrinth"--with Esther Levenson as Simonetta. She
entertained for him at her house in Chelsea and I got myself invited
because I wanted to see the atrocious genius at close range. He wore a
lemon-coloured vest and lemon-yellow spats.
"How d'you do?" he said, gazing at me out of those queer eyes of his.
"I hear that you admire my work."
"You have been misinformed," I replied. "Your work interests me,
because I am a student of nervous and mental diseases."
"All of the characters in your poem, 'The Vision of Helen,' are
neurotics. They suffer from morbid fears, delusions, hysteria, violent
mental and emotional complexities. A text-book in madness."
Grimshaw laughed. "You flatter me. I am attracted by neurotic types.
Insanity has its source in the unconscious, and we English are afraid
of looking inward." He glanced around the crowded room with an amused
and cynical look. "Most of these people are as bad as my Trojans,
Doctor Fenton. Only they conceal their badness, and it isn't good for
We talked for a few moments. I amused him, I think, by my diagnosis of
his Helen's mental malady. But he soon tired of me and his restless
gaze went over my head, searching for admiration. Esther Levenson
brought Ellen Terry over and he forgot me entirely in sparkling for
the good lady--showing his teeth, shaking his yellow locks, bellowing
like a centaur.
"The fellow's an ass," I decided.
But when "The Labyrinth" was produced, I changed my mind. There again
was that disturbing loveliness. It was a story of the passionate
Florence of Lorenzo the Magnificent, and Esther Levenson drifted
through the four long acts against a background of Tuscan walls,
scarlet hangings, oaths, blood-spilling, dark and terrible vengeance.
Grimshaw took London by the throat and put it down on its knees.
Then for a year or two he lived on his laurels, lapping up admiration
like a drunkard in his cups. Unquestionably, Esther Levenson was his
mistress, since she presided over his house in Cheyne Walk. They say
she was not the only string to his lute. A Jewess, a Greek poetess,
and a dancer from Stockholm made up his amorous medley at that time.
Scandalized society flocked to his drawing-room, there to be received
by Simonetta herself, wearing the blanched draperies and tragic pearls
of the labyrinth he had made for her. Grimshaw offered no apologies.
He was the uncrowned laureate and kings can do no wrong. He was
painted by the young Sargent, of course, and by the aging
Whistler--you remember the butterfly's portrait of him in a yellow
kimono leaning against a black mantel? I, for one, think he was vastly
amused by all this fury of admiration; he despised it and fed upon it.
If he had been less great, he would have been utterly destroyed by it,
I went to Vienna, and lost track of him for several years. Then I
heard that he had married a dear friend of mine--Lady Dagmar Cooper,
one of the greatest beauties and perhaps the sternest prude in
England. She wrote me, soon after that unbelievable mating: "I have
married Cecil Grimshaw. I know you won't approve; I do not altogether
approve myself. He is not like the men I have known--not at all
_English_. But he intrigues me; there is a sense of power behind his
awfulness--you see I know that he is awful! I think I will be able to
make him look at things--I mean visible, material things--my way. We
have taken a house in town and he has promised to behave--no more
Chelsea parties, no dancers, no yellow waistcoats and chrysanthemums.
That was all very well for his 'student' days. Now that he is a
personage, it will scarcely do. I am tremendously interested and
Interested and happy! She was a typical product of Victoria's reign, a
beautiful creature whose faith was pinned to the most unimportant
things--class, position, a snobbish religion, a traditional morality
and her own place in an intricate little world of ladies and
gentlemen. God save us! What was Cecil Grimshaw going to do in an
atmosphere of titled bores, bishops, military men, and cautious
statesmen? I could fancy him in his new town house, struggling through
some endless dinner party--his cynical, stone-gray eyes sweeping up
and down the table, his lips curled in that habitual sneer, his mind,
perhaps, gone back to the red-and-blue room in Chelsea, where he had
been wont to stand astride before the black mantel, bellowing
indecencies into the ears of witty modernists. Could he bellow any
Apparently not. I heard of him now and then from this friend and that.
He was indeed "behaving" well. He wrote nothing to shock the
sensibilities of his wife's world--a few fantastic short stories,
touched with a certain childish spirituality, and that was all. They
say that he bent his manners to hers--a tamed centaur grazing with a
milk-white doe. He grew a trifle fat. Quite like a model English
husband, he called Dagmar "My dear" and drove with her in the Park at
the fashionable hour, his hands crossed on the head of his cane, his
eyes half closed. She wrote me: "I am completely happy. So is Cecil.
Surely he can have made no mistake in marrying me."
You all know that this affectation of respectability did not last
long--not more than five years; long enough for the novelty to wear
off. The genius or the devil that was in Cecil Grimshaw made its
reappearance. He was tossed out of Dagmar's circle like a burning rock
hurled from the mouth of a crater; he fell into Chelsea again. Esther
Levenson had come back from the States and was casting about for a
play. She sought out Grimshaw and with her presence, her grace and
pallor and seduction, lured him into his old ways. "The leaves are
yellow," he said to her, "but still they dance in a south wind. The
altar fires are ash and grass has grown upon the temple floor---- I
have been away too long. Get me my pipe, you laughing dryad, and I
will play for you."
He played for her and all England heard. Dagmar heard and pretended
acquiescence. According to her lights, she was magnificent--she
invited Esther Levenson to Broadenham, the Grimshaw place in Kent, nor
did she wince when the actress accepted. When I got back to England,
Dagmar was fighting for his soul with all the weapons she had. I went
to see her in her cool little town house, that house so typical of
her, so untouched by Grimshaw. And, looking at me with steady eyes,
she said: "I'm sorry Cecil isn't here. He's writing again--a play--for
Esther Levenson, who was Simonetta, you remember?"
I promised you a ghost story. If it is slow in coming, it is because
all these things have a bearing on the mysterious, the extraordinary
things that happened----
You probably know about the last phase of Grimshaw's career--who
doesn't? There is something fascinating about the escapades of a
famous man, but when he happens also to be a great poet, we cannot
forget his very human sins--in them he is akin to us.
Not all you have heard and read about Grimshaw's career is true. But
the best you can say of him is bad enough. He squandered his own
fortune first--on Esther Levenson and the production of "The Sunken
City"--and then stole ruthlessly from Dagmar; that is, until she found
legal ways to put a stop to it. We had passed into Edward's reign and
the decadence which ended in the war had already set in--Grimshaw was
the last of the "pomegranate school," the first of the bolder, more
sinister futurists. A frank hedonist. An intellectual voluptuary. He
set the pace, and a whole tribe of idolaters and imitators panted at
his heels. They copied his yellow waistcoats, his chrysanthemums, his
eye-glass, his bellow. Nice young men, otherwise sane, let their hair
grow long like their idol's and professed themselves unbelievers.
Unbelievers in what? God save us! Ten years later most of them were
wading through the mud of Flanders, believing something pretty
One night I was called to the telephone by the Grimshaws' physician.
I'll tell you his name, because he has a lot to do with the rest of
the story--Doctor Waram, Douglas Waram--an Australian.
"Grimshaw has murdered a man," he said briefly. "I want you to help
me. Come to Cheyne Walk. Take a cab. Hurry."
Of course I went, with a very clear vision of the future of Dagmar,
Lady Cooper, to occupy my thoughts during that lurching drive through
the slippery streets. I knew that she was at Broadenham, holding up
her head in seclusion.
Grimshaw's house was one of a row of red brick buildings not far from
the river. Doctor Waram himself opened the door to me.
"I say, this is an awful mess," he said, in a shocked voice. "The
woman sent for me--Levenson, that actress. There's some mystery. A man
dead--his head knocked in. And Grimshaw sound asleep. It may be
hysterical, but I can't wake him. Have a look before I get the
I followed him into the studio, the famous Pompeian room, on the
second floor. I shall never forget the frozen immobility of the three
actors in the tragedy. Esther Levenson, wrapped in peacock-blue
scarves, stood upright before the black mantel, her hands crossed on
her breast. Cecil Grimshaw was lying full length on a brick-red satin
couch, his head thrown back, his eyes closed. The dead man sprawled on
the floor, face down, between them. Two lamps made of sapphire glass
swung from the gilded ceiling.... Bowls of perfumed, waxen flowers. A
silver statuette of a nude girl. A tessellated floor strewn with rugs.
Orange trees in tubs. Cigarette smoke hanging motionless in the still,
I stooped over the dead man. "Who is he?"
"Tucker. Leading man in 'The Sunken City.' Look at Grimshaw, will you?
We mustn't be too long--"
I went to the poet. The inevitable monocle was still caught and held
by the yellow thatch of his thick brow. He was breathing slowly.
"Grimshaw," I said, touching his forehead, "open your eyes."
He did so, and I was startled by the expression of despair in their
depths. "Ah," he-said, "it's the psychopathologist."
"How did this happen?"
He sat up--I am convinced that he had been faking that drunken
sleep--and stared at the sprawling figure on the floor. "Tucker
quarrelled with me," he said. "I knocked him down and his forehead
struck against the table. Then he crawled over here and died. From
fright, d'you think?" He shuddered. "Take him away, Waram, will you?
I've got work to do."
Suddenly Esther Levenson spoke in a flat voice, without emotion: "It
isn't true! He struck him with that silver statuette. Like this----"
She made a violent gesture with both arms. "And before God in heaven,
I'll make him pay for it. I will! I will! I will!"
"Keep still," I said sharply.
Grimshaw looked up at her. He made a gesture of surrender. Then he
smiled. "Simonetta," he said, "you are no better than the rest."
She sobbed, ran over to him, and went down on her knees, twisting her
arms about his waist. There was a look of distaste in Grimshaw's eyes;
he stared into her distraught face a moment, then he freed himself
from her arms and got to his feet.
"I think I'll telephone to Dagmar," he said.
But Waram shook his head. "I'll do that. I'm sorry, Grimshaw; the
police will have to know. While we're waiting for them, you might
write a letter to Mrs. Grimshaw. I'll see that she gets it in the
I don't remember whether the poet wrote to Dagmar then or not. But
surely you remember how she stayed by him during the trial--still
Victorian in her black gown and veil, mourning for the hope that was
dead, at least! You remember his imprisonment; the bitter invective of
his enemies; the defection of his followers; the dark scandals that
filled the newspapers, offended public taste, and destroyed Cecil
Grimshaw's popularity in an England that had worshipped him!
Esther Levenson lied to save him. That was the strangest thing of all.
She denied what she had told us that night of the tragedy. Tucker, she
said, had been in love with her; he followed her to Grimshaw's house
in Chelsea and quarrelled violently with the poet. His death was an
accident. Grimshaw had not touched the statuette. When he saw what had
happened, he telephoned to Doctor Waram and then lay down on the
couch--apparently fainted there, for he did not speak until Doctor
Fenton came. Waram perjured himself, too--for Dagmar's sake. He had
not, he swore, heard the actress speak of a silver statuette, or of
revenge before God.... And since there was nothing to prove how the
blow had been struck, save the deep dent in Tucker's forehead,
Grimshaw was set free.
He had been a year in prison. He drove away from the jail in a cab
with Doctor Waram, and when the crowd saw that he was wearing the old
symbol--a yellow chrysanthemum--a hiss went up that was like a geyser
of contempt and ridicule. Grimshaw's pallid face flushed. But he
lifted his hat and smiled into the host of faces as the cab jerked
He went at once to Broadenham. Years later, Waram told me about the
meeting between those two--the centaur and the milk-white doe! Dagmar
received him standing and she remained standing all during the
interview. She had put aside her mourning for a dress made of some
clear blue stuff, and Waram said that as she stood in the breakfast
room, with a sun-flooded window behind her, she was very lovely
Grimshaw held out his hands, but she ignored them. Then Grimshaw
smiled and shrugged his shoulders and said: "I have made two
discoveries this past year: That conventionalized religion is the most
shocking evil of our day, and that you, my wife, are in love with
Dagmar held her ground. There was in her eyes a look of inevitable
security. She was mistress of the house, proprietor of the land,
conscious of tradition, prerogative, position. The man she faced had
nothing except his tortured imagination. For the first time in her
life she was in a position to hurt him. So she looked away from him to
Waram and confirmed his discovery with a smile full of pride and
"My dear fellow," Grimshaw shouted, clapping Waram on the back, "I'm
confoundedly pleased! We'll arrange a divorce for Dagmar. Good heaven,
she deserves a decent future. I'm not the sort for her. I hate the
things she cares most about. And now I'm done for in England. Just to
make it look conventional--nice, Victorian, _English_, you
understand--you and I can go off to the Continent together while
Dagmar's getting rid of me. There'll be no trouble about that. I'm
properly dished. Besides, I want freedom. A new life. Beauty, without
having to buck this confounded distrust of beauty. Sensation, without
being ashamed of sensation. I want to drop out of sight. Reform? No! I
am being honest."
So they went off together, as friendly as you please, to France. Waram
was still thinking of Dagmar; Grimshaw was thinking only of himself.
He swaggered up and down the Paris boulevards showing his tombstone
teeth and staring at the women. "The Europeans admire me," he said to
Waram. "May England go to the devil." He groaned. "I despise
respectability, my dear Waram. You and Dagmar are well rid of me. I
see I'm offending you here in Paris--you look nauseated most of the
time. Let's go on to Switzerland and climb mountains."
Waram _was_ nauseated. They went to Salvan and there a curious thing
They were walking one afternoon along the road to Martigny. The valley
was full of shadows like a deep green cup of purple wine. High above
them the mountains were tipped with flame. Grimshaw walked slowly--he
was a man of great physical laziness--slashing his cane at the
tasselled tips of the crowding larches. Once, when a herd of little
goats trotted by, he stood aside and laughed uproariously, and the
goatherd's dog, bristling, snapped in passing at his legs.
Waram was silent, full of bitterness and disgust. They went on again,
and well down the springlike coils of the descent of Martigny they
came upon the body of a man--one of those wandering vendors of
pocket-knives and key-rings, scissors and cheap watches. He lay on his
back on a low bank by the roadside. His hat had rolled off into a pool
of muddy water. Doctor Waram saw, as he bent down to stare at the
face, that the fellow looked like Grimshaw. Not exactly, of course.
The nose was coarser--it had not that Wellington spring at the bridge,
nor the curved nostrils. But it might have been a dirty, unshaven,
dead Grimshaw lying there. Waram told me that he felt a shock of
gratification before he heard the poet's voice behind him: "What's
this? A drunkard?" He shook his head and opened the dead man's shirt
to feel for any possible flutter of life in the heart. There was none.
And he thought: "If this were only Grimshaw! If the whole miserable
business were only done with."
"By Jove!" Grimshaw said. "The chap looks like me! I thought I was the
ugliest man in the world. I know better... D'you suppose he's German,
or Lombardian? His hands are warm. He must have been alive when the
goatherd passed just now. Nothing you can do?"
Waram stayed where he was, on his knees. He tore his eyes away from
the grotesque dead face and fixed them on Grimshaw. He told me that
the force of his desire must have spoken in that look because Grimshaw
started and stepped back a pace, gripping his cane. Then he laughed.
"Why not?" he said. "Let this be me. And I'll go on, with that
clanking hardware store around my neck. It can be done, can't it?
Better for you and for Dagmar. I'm not being philanthropic. I'm
looking, not for a reprieve, but for release. No one knows this fellow
in Salvan--he probably came up from the Rhone and was on his way to
Chamonix. What d'you think was the matter with him?"
"Heart," Doctor Waram answered.
"Well, what d'you say? This pedlar and I are social outcasts. And
there is Dagmar in England, weeping her eyes out because of divorce
courts and more public washing of dirty linen. You love her. I don't!
Why not carry this fellow to the _rochers_, to-night after dark?
To-morrow, when I have changed clothes with him, we can throw him into
the valley. It's a good thousand feet or more. Would there be much
left of that face, for purposes of identification? I think not. You
can take the mutilated body back to England and I can go on to
Chamonix, as he would have gone." Grimshaw touched the pedlar with his
That is exactly what they did. The body, hidden near the roadside
until nightfall, was carried through the woods to the _rochers du
soir_, that little plateau on the brink of the tremendous wall of rock
which rises from the Rhone valley to the heights near Salvan. There
the two men left it and returned to their hotel to sleep.
In the morning they set out, taking care that the proprietor of the
hotel and the professional guide who hung about the village should
know that they were going to attempt the descent of the "wall" to the
valley. The proprietor shook his head and said: "_Bonne chance,
messieurs_!" The guide, letting his small blue eyes rest for a moment
on Grimshaw's slow-moving hulk, advised them gravely to take the road.
"The tall gentleman will not arrive," he remarked.
"Nonsense," Grimshaw answered.
They went off together, laughing. Grimshaw was wearing his conspicuous
climbing clothes--tweed jacket, yellow suede waistcoat,
knickerbockers, and high-laced boots with hob-nailed soles. His green
felt hat, tipped at an angle, was ornamented with a little orange
feather. He was in tremendous spirits. He bellowed, made faces at
scared peasant children in the village, swung his stick. They stopped
at a barber shop in the place and those famous hyacinthine locks were
clipped. Waram insisted upon this, he told me, because the pedlar's
hair was fairly short and they had to establish some sort of a
tonsorial alibi. When the floor of the little shop was thick with the
sheared "petals," Grimshaw shook his head, brushed off his shoulders,
and smiled. "It took twenty years to create that visible
personality--and behold, a Swiss barber destroys it in twenty minutes!
I am no longer a living poet. I am already an immortal--halfway up the
flowery slopes of Olympus, impatient to go the rest of the way.
"Shall we be off?"
"By all means," Waram said.
They found the body where they had hidden it the night before, and in
the shelter of a little grove of larches Grimshaw stripped and then
reclothed himself in the pedlar's coarse and soiled under-linen, the
worn corduroy trousers, the flannel shirt, short coat, and old black
velvet hat. Waram was astounded by the beauty and strength of
Grimshaw's body. Like the pedlar, he was blonde-skinned, thin-waisted,
broad of back.
Grimshaw shuddered as he helped to clothe the dead pedlar in his own
fashionable garments. "Death," he said. "Ugh! How ugly. How
terrifying. How abominable."
They carried the body across the plateau. The height where they stood
was touched by the sun, but the valley below was still immersed in
shadow, a broad purple shadow threaded by the shining Rhone.
"Well?" Waram demanded. "Are you eager to die? For this means death
for you, you know."
"A living death," Grimshaw said. He glanced down at the replica of
himself. A convulsive shudder passed through him from head to foot;
his face twisted; his eyes dilated. He made a strong effort to control
himself and whispered: "I understand. Go ahead. Do it. I can't. It is
like destroying me myself.... I can't. Do it--"
Waram lifted the dead body and pushed it over the edge. Grimshaw,
trembling violently, watched it fall. I think, from what Doctor Waram
told me many years later, that the poet must have suffered the
violence and terror of that plummet drop, must have felt the tearing
clutch of pointed rocks in the wall face, must have known the leaping
upward of the earth, the whine of wind in his bursting ears, the dizzy
spinning, the rending, obliterating impact at last....
The pedlar lay in the valley. Grimshaw stood on the brink of the
"wall." He turned, and saw Doctor Waram walking quickly away across
the plateau without a backward glance. They had agreed that Waram was
to return at once to the village and report the death of "his friend,
Mr. Grimshaw." The body, they knew, would be crushed beyond
recognition--a bruised and broken fragment, like enough to Cecil
Grimshaw to pass whatever examination would be given it. Grimshaw
himself was to go through the wood to the highroad, then on to Finhaut
and Chamonix and into France. He was never again to write to Dagmar,
to return to England, or to claim his English property....
Can you imagine his feelings--deprived of his arrogant personality,
his fame, his very identity, clothed in another man's dirty garments,
wearing about his neck a clattering pedlar's outfit, upon his feet the
clumsy boots of a peasant? Grimshaw--the exquisite futurist, the
daffodil, apostle of the aesthetic!
He stood for a moment looking after Douglas Waram. Once, in a panic,
he called. But Waram disappeared between the larches, without,
apparently, having heard. Grimshaw wavered, unable to decide upon the
way to the highroad. He could not shake off a sense of loneliness and
terror, as if he himself had gone whirling down to his death. Like a
man who comes slowly back from the effects of ether, he perceived, one
by one, the familiar aspects of the landscape--the delicate flowers
powdering the plateau, the tasselled larches on the slope, the lofty
snow-peaks still suffused with rosy morning light. This, then, was the
world. This clumsy being, moving slowly toward the forest, was
himself--not Cecil Grimshaw but another man. His mind sought clumsily
for a name. Pierre--no, not Pierre; too common-place! Was he still
fastidious? No. Then Pierre, by all means! Pierre Pilleux. That would
do. Pilleux. A name suggestive of a good amiable fellow, honest and
slow. When he got down into France he would change his identity
again--grow a beard, buy some decent clothes. A boulevardier... gay,
perverse, witty.... The thought delighted him and he hurried through
the forest, anxious to pass through Salvan before Doctor Waram got
there. He felt extraordinarily light and exhilarated now, intoxicated,
vibrant. His spirit soared; almost he heard the rushing of his old
self forward toward some unrecognizable and beautiful freedom.
When he struck the road the sun was high and it was very hot. Little
spirals of dust kicked up at his heels. He was not afraid of
recognition. Happening to glance at his hands, he became aware of
their whiteness, and stooping, rubbed them in the dust.
Then a strange thing happened. Another herd of goats trotted down from
the grassy slopes and spilled into the road-way. And another dog with
lolling tongue and wagging tail wove in and out, shepherding the
little beasts. They eddied about Grimshaw, brushing against him, their
moon-stone eyes full of a vague terror of that barking guardian at
their heels. The dog drove them ahead, circled, and with a low whine
came back to Grimshaw, leaping up to lick his hand.
Grimshaw winced, for he had never had success with animals. Then, with
a sudden change of mood, he stooped and caressed the dog's head.
"A good fellow," he said in French to the goatherd.
The goatherd looked at him curiously. "Not always," he answered. "He
is an unpleasant beast with most strangers. For you, he seems to have
taken a fancy.... What have you got there--any two-bladed knives?"
Grimshaw started and recovered himself with: "Knives. Yes. All sorts."
The goatherd fingered his collection, trying the blades on his broad
"You come from France," he said.
Grimshaw nodded. "From Lyons."
"I thought so. You speak French like a gentleman."
Grimshaw shrugged. "That is usual in Lyons."
The peasant paid for the knife he fancied, placing two francs in the
poet's palm. Then he whistled to the dog and set off after his flock.
But the dog, whining and trembling, followed Grimshaw, and would not
be shaken off until Grimshaw had pelted him with small stones. I think
the poet was strangely flattered by this encounter. He passed through
Salvan with his head in the air, challenging recognition. But there
was no recognition. The guide who had said "The tall monsieur will not
arrive" now greeted him with a fraternal: "How is trade?"
"Very good, thanks," Grimshaw said.
Beyond the village he quickened his pace, and easing the load on his
back by putting his hands under the leather straps, he swung toward
Finhaut. Behind him he heard the faint ringing of the church bells in
Salvan. Waram had reported the "tragedy." Grimshaw could fancy the
excitement--the priest hurrying toward the "wall" with his crucifix in
his hands; the barber, a-quiver with morbid excitement; the stolid
guide, not at all surprised, rather gratified, preparing to make the
descent to recover the body of that "tall monsieur" who had, after
all, "arrived." The telegraph wires were already humming with the
message. In a few hours Dagmar would know.
He laughed aloud. The white road spun beneath him. His hands, pressed
against his body by the weight of the leather straps, were hot and
wet; he could feel the loud beating of his heart.
His senses were acute; he had never before felt with such
gratification the warmth of the sun or known the ecstasy of motion. He
saw every flower in the roadbank, every small glacial brook, every new
conformation of the snow clouds hanging above the ragged peaks of the
Argentieres. He sniffed with delight the pungent wind from off the
glaciers, the short, warm puffs of grass-scented air from the fields
in the Valley of Trient. He noticed the flight of birds, the lazy
swinging of pine boughs, the rainbow spray of waterfalls. Once he
shouted and ran, mad with exuberance. Again he flung himself down by
the roadside and, lying on his back, sang outrageous songs and laughed
and slapped his breast with both hands.
That night he came to Chamonix and got lodging in a small hotel on the
skirts of the town. His spirits fell when he entered the room. He put
his pedlar's pack on the floor and sat down on the narrow bed,
suddenly conscious of an enormous fatigue. His feet burned, his legs
ached, his back was raw where the heavy pack had rested. He thought:
"What am I doing here? I have nothing but the few hundred pounds Waram
gave me. I'm alone. Dead and alive."
He scarcely looked up when the door opened and a young girl came in,
carrying a pitcher of water and a coarse towel. She hesitated and said
rather prettily: "You'll be tired, perhaps?"
Grimshaw felt within him the tug of the old personality. He stared at
her, suddenly conscious that she was a woman and that she was smiling
at him. Charming, in her way. Bare arms. A little black bodice laced
over a white waist. Straight blonde hair, braided thickly and twisted
around her head. A peasant, but pretty.... You see, his desire was to
frighten her, as he most certainly would have frightened her had he
been true to Cecil Grimshaw. But the impulse passed, leaving him sick
and ashamed. He heard her saying: "A sad thing occurred to-day down
the valley. A gentleman.... Salvan ... a very famous gentleman.... And
they have telegraphed his wife.... I heard it from Simon Ravanel....
It seems that the gentleman was smashed to bits--_brise en morceau.
Epouvantable, n'est ce pas_?"
Grimshaw began to tremble. "Yes, yes," he said irritably. "But I am
tired, little one. Go out, and shut the door!"
The girl gave him a startled glance, frightened at last, but for
nothing more than the lost look in his eyes. He raised his arms, and
she fled with a little scream.
Grimshaw sat for a moment staring at the door. Then with a violent
gesture he threw himself back on the bed, buried his face in the dirty
pillow and wept as a child weeps, until, just before dawn, he fell
As far as the public knows, Cecil Grimshaw perished on the
"wall"--perished and was buried at Broadenham beneath a pyramid of
chrysanthemums. Perished, and became an English immortal--his sins
erased by his unconscious sacrifice. Perished, and was forgiven by
Dagmar. Yet hers was the victory--he belonged to her at last. She had
not buried his body at Broadenham, but she had buried his work there.
He could never write again....
During those days of posthumous whitewashing he read the papers with a
certain contemptuous eagerness. Some of them he crumpled between his
hands and threw away. He hated his own image, staring balefully from
the first page of the illustrated reviews. He despised England for
honouring him. Once, happening upon a volume of the "Vision of
Helen"--the first edition illustrated by Beardsley--in a book-stall at
Aix-les-Bains, he read it from cover to cover.
"Poor stuff," he said to the bookseller, tossing it down again. "Give
me 'Ars ne Lupin'." And he paid two sous for a paper-covered,
dog-eared, much-thumbed copy of the famous detective story, not
because he intended to read it, but in payment for his hour of
disillusionment. Then he slung his pack over his shoulders and tramped
out into the country. He laughed aloud at the thought of Helen and her
idolaters. A poetic hoax. Overripe words. Seductive sounds. Nonsense!
"Surely I can do better than that to-day," he thought.
He saw two children working in a field, and called to them.
"If you will give me a cup of cold water," he said, "I'll tell you a
The boy put down his spade, went to a brook which threaded the field
and came back with an earthenware jug full to the brim. The little
girl stared gravely at Grimshaw while he drank. Grimshaw wiped his
mouth with the back of his hand.
"What story shall it be?" he demanded.
The little girl said quickly: "The black king and the white princess
and the beast who lived in the wood."
"Not that one," the boy cried. "Tell us about a battle."
"I will sing about life," Grimshaw said.
It was hot in the field. A warm, sweet smell rose from the spaded
earth and near by the brook rustled through the grass like a beautiful
silver serpent. Grimshaw sat cross-legged on the ground and words spun
from his lips--simple words. And he sang of things he had recently
learned--the gaiety of birds, the strength of his arms, the scent of
dusk, the fine crystal of a young moon, wind in a field of wheat....
At first the children listened. Then, because he talked so long, the
little girl leaned slowly over against his shoulder and fell asleep,
while the boy fingered the knives, jangled the key-rings, clipped
grass stalks with the scissors, and wound the watches one after the
other. The sun was low before Grimshaw left them. "When you are grown
up," he said, "remember that Pierre Pilleux sang to you of life."
"_Oui, monsieur_," the boy said politely. "But I should like a watch."
Grimshaw shook his head. "The song is enough."
Thereafter he sang to any one who would listen to him. I say that he
sang--I mean, of course, that he spoke his verses; it was a minstrel's
simple improvisation. But there are people in the villages of southern
France who still recall that ungainly, shambling figure. He had grown
a beard; it crinkled thickly, hiding his mouth and chin. He laughed a
great deal. He was not altogether clean. And he slept wherever he
could find a bed--in farmhouses, cheap hotels, haylofts, stables, open
fields. Waram's few hundred pounds were gone. The poet lived by his
wits and his gift of song. And for the first time in his remembrance
he was happy.
Then one day he read in _Le Matin_ that Ada Rubenstein was to play
"The Labyrinth" in Paris. Grimshaw was in Poitiers. He borrowed three
hundred francs from the proprietor of a small cafe in the Rue Carnot,
left his pack as security, and went to Paris. Can you imagine him in
the theatre--it was the Odeon, I believe--conscious of curious, amused
glances--a peasant, bulking conspicuously in that scented auditorium?
When the curtain rose, he felt again the familiar pain of creation. A
rush of hot blood surged around his heart. His temples throbbed. His
eyes filled with tears. Then the flood receded and left him trembling
with weakness. He sat through the rest of the performance without
emotion of any sort. He felt no resentment, no curiosity.
This was the last time he showed any interest in his old existence. He
went back to Poitiers, and then took to the road again. People who saw
him at that time have said that there was always a pack of dogs at his
heels. Once a fashionable spaniel followed him out of Lyons and he was
arrested for theft. You understand, he never made any effort to
attract the little fellows--they joined on, as it were, for the
journey. And it was a queer fact that after a few miles they always
whined, as if they were disappointed about something, and turned
He finally heard that Dagmar had married Waram. She had waited a
decent interval--Victorian to the end! A man who happened to be in
Marseilles at the time told me that "that vagabond poet, Pilleux,
appeared in one of the cafes, roaring drunk, and recited a marriage
poem--obscene, vicious, terrific. A crowd came in from the street to
listen. Some of them laughed. Others were frightened. He was an ugly
brute--well over six feet tall, with a blonde beard, a hooked nose,
and a pair of eyes that saw beyond reality. He was fascinating. He
could turn his eloquence off and on like a tap. He sat in a drunken
stupor, glaring at the crowd, until someone shouted: "_Eh bien,
Pilleux_--you were saying?" Then the deluge! He had a peasant's
acceptance of the elemental facts of life--it was raw, that hymn of
his! The women of the streets who had crowded into the caf listened
with a sort of terror; they admired him. One of them said: "Pilleux's
wife betrayed him." He lifted his glass and drank. "No, _ma petite_,"
he said politely, "she buried me."
That night his pack was stolen from him. He was too drunk to know or
to care. They say that he went from cafe to cafe, paying for wine with
verse, and getting it, too! At his heels a crowd of loafers, frowsy
women and dogs. His hat gone. His eyes mad. A trickle of wine through
his beard. Bellowing. Bellowing again--the untamed centaur cheated of
And now, perhaps, I can get back to the reasons for this story. And I
am almost at the end of it....
In the most obscure alley in Marseilles there is a caf frequented by
sailors, riff-raff from the waterfront and thieves. Grimshaw appeared
there at midnight. A woman clung to his arm. She had no eyes for any
one else. Her name, I believe, was Marie--a very humble Magdalen of
that tragic back-water of civilization. Putting her cheek against
Grimshaw's arm, she listened to him with a curious patience as one
listens to the eloquence of the sea.
"This is no place for thee," he said to her. "Leave me now, _ma
But she laughed and went with him. Imagine that room--foul air, sanded
floor, kerosene lamps, an odour of bad wine, tobacco, and stale
humanity. Grimshaw pushed his way to a table and sat down with a surly
Gascon and an enormous Negro from some American ship in the harbour.
They brought the poet wine but he did not drink it--sat staring at the
smoky ceiling, assailed by a sudden sharp vision of Dagmar and Waram
at Broadenham, alone together for the first time, perhaps on the
terrace in the starlight, perhaps in Dagmar's bright room which had
always been scented, warm, remote----
He had been reciting, of course, in French. Now he broke abruptly into
English. No one but the American Negro understood. The proprietor
shouted: "Hi, there, Pilleux--no gibberish!" The woman, her eyes on
Grimshaw's face, said warningly: "Ssh! He speaks English. He is
clever, this poet! Pay attention." And the Negro, startled, jerked his
drunken body straight and listened.
I don't know what Grimshaw said. It must have been a poem of home, the
bitter longing of an exile for familiar things. At any rate, the Negro
was touched--he was a Louisianian, a son of New Orleans. He saw the
gentleman, where you and I, perhaps, would have seen only a maudlin
savage. There is no other explanation for the thing that happened....
The Gascon, it seems, hated poetry. He tipped over Grimshaw's glass,
spilling the wine into the woman's lap. She leaped back, trembling
with rage, swearing in the manner of her kind.
"Quiet," Grimshaw said. And her fury receded before his glance; she
melted, acquiesced, smiled. Then Grimshaw smiled, too, and putting the
glass to rights with a leisurely gesture, said, "Cabbage. Son of pig,"
and flipped the dregs into the Gascon's face.
The fellow groaned and leaped. Grimshaw didn't stir--he was too drunk
to protect himself. But the Negro saw what was in the Gascon's hand.
He kicked back his chair, stretched out his arms--too late. The
Gascon's knife, intended for Grimshaw, sliced into his heart. He
coughed, looked at the man he had saved with a strange questioning,
Grimshaw was sobered instantly. They say that he broke the Gascon's
arm before the crowd could separate them. Then he knelt down by the
dying Negro, turned him gently over and lifted him in his arms,
supporting that ugly bullet head against his knee. The Negro coughed
again, and whispered: "I saw it comin', boss." Grimshaw said simply:
"I'm scared, boss."
"That's all right. I'll see you through."
"I'm dyin', boss."
"Is it hard?"
"Hold my hand. That's right. Nothing to be afraid of."
The Negro's eyes fixed themselves on Grimshaw's face--a sombre look
came into their depths. "I'm goin', boss."
Grimshaw lifted him again. As he did so, he was conscious of feeling
faint and dizzy. The Negro's blood was warm on his hands and wrists,
but it was not wholly that--He had a sensation of rushing forward; of
pressure against his ear-drums; a violent nausea; the crowd of curious
faces blurred, disappeared--he was drowning in a noisy darkness.... He
gasped, struggled, struck out with his arms, shouted, went down in
that suffocating flood of unconsciousness....
Opening his eyes after an indeterminate interval, he found himself in
the street. The air was cool after the fetid staleness of that room.
He was still holding the Negro's hand. And above them the stars
burned, remote and calm, like beacon lamps in a dark harbour....
The Negro whimpered: "I don't know the way, boss. I'm lost."
"Where is your ship?"
"In the _Vieux Port_, near the fort."
They walked together through the silent streets. I say that they
walked. It was rather that Grimshaw found himself on the quay, the
Negro still at his side. A few prowling sailors passed them. But for
the most part the waterfront was deserted. The ships lay side by
side--an intricate tangle of bowsprits and rigging, masts and chains.
Around them the water was black as basalt, only that now and again a
spark of light was struck by the faint lifting of the current against
the immovable hulls.
The Negro shuffled forward, peering. A lantern flashed on one of the
big schooners. Looking up, Grimshaw saw the name: "_Anne Beebe, New
Orleans_." A querulous voice, somewhere on the deck, demanded: "That
you, Richardson?" And then, angrily: "This damned place--dark as
hell.... Who's there?"
Grimshaw answered: "One of your crew."
The man on deck stared down at the quay a moment. Then, apparently
having seen nothing, he turned away, and the lantern bobbed aft like a
drifting ember. The Negro moaned. Holding both hands over the deep
wound in his breast, he slowly climbed the side ladder, turned once,
to look at Grimshaw, and disappeared....
Grimshaw felt again the rushing darkness. Again he struggled. And
again, opening his eyes after a moment of blankness, he found himself
kneeling on the sanded floor of the cafe, holding the dead Negro in
his arms. He glanced down at the face, astounded by the look of placid
satisfaction in those wide-open eyes, the smile of recognition, of
gratification, of some nameless and magnificent content....
The woman Marie touched his shoulder. "The fellow's dead, _m'sieur_.
We had better go."
Grimshaw followed her into the street. He noticed that there were no
stars. A bitter wind, forerunner of the implacable _mistral_, had come
up. The door of the cafe slammed behind them, muffling a sudden uproar
of voices that had burst out with his going....
Grimshaw had a room somewhere in the Old Town; he went there, followed
by the woman. He thought: "I am mad! Mad!" He was frightened, not by
what had happened to him, but because he could not understand. Nor can
I make it clear to you, since no explanation is final when we are
dealing with the inexplicable....
When they reached his room, Marie lighted the kerosene lamp and,
smoothing down her black hair with both hands, said simply: "I stay
"You must not," Grimshaw answered.
"I love you," she said. "You are a great man. _C'est ca_. That is
that! Besides, I must love someone--I mean, do for someone. You think
that I like pleasure. Ah! Perhaps. I am young. But my heart follows
you. I stay here."
Grimshaw stared at her without hearing. "I opened the door. I went
beyond.... I am perhaps mad. Perhaps privileged. Perhaps what they
have always called me--an incorrigible poet." Suddenly he jumped to
his feet and shouted: "I went a little way with his soul! Victory!
The woman Marie put her hands on his shoulders and pushed him back
into his chair again. She thought, of course, that he was drunk. So
she attempted a simple seduction, striving to call attention to
herself by the coquetries of her kind. Grimshaw pushed her aside and
lay down on the bed with his arms crossed over his eyes. Had he
witnessed a soul's first uncertain steps into a new state? One thing
he knew--he had himself suffered the confusion of death, and had
shared the desperate struggle to penetrate the barrier between the
mortal and the immortal, the known and the unknown, the real and the
incomprehensible. With that realization, he stepped finally out of his
personality into that of the mystic philosopher, Pierre Pilleux. He
heard the woman Marie saying: "Let me stay. I am unhappy." And without
opening his eyes, simply making a brief gesture, he said: "_Eh bien_."
And she stayed.
She never left him again. In the years that followed, wherever
Grimshaw was, there also was Marie--little, swarthy, broad of cheek
and hip, unimaginative, faithful. She had a passion for service. She
cooked for Grimshaw, knitted woollen socks for him, brushed and mended
his clothes, watched out for his health--often, I am convinced, she
stole for him. As for Grimshaw, he didn't know that she existed,
beyond the fact that she was there and that she made material
existence endurable. He never again knew physical love. That I am sure
of, for I have talked with Marie. "He was good to me," she said. "But
he never loved me." And I believe her.
That night of the Negro's death Grimshaw stood in a wilderness of his
own. He emerged from it a believer in life after death. He preached
this belief in the slums of Marseilles. It began to be said of him
that his presence made death easy, that the touch of his hand steadied
those who were about to die. Feverish, terrified, reluctant, they
became suddenly calm, wistful, and passed quietly as one falls asleep.
"Send for Pierre Pilleux" became a familiar phrase in the Old Town.
I do not believe that he could have touched these simple people had he
not looked the part of prophet and saint. The old Grimshaw was gone.
In his place an emaciated fanatic, unconscious of appetite, unaware of
self, with burning eyes and tangled beard! That finished ugliness
turned spiritual--a self-flagellated aesthete. He claimed that he
could enter the shadowy confines of the "next world." Not heaven. Not
hell. A neutral ground between the familiar earth and an inexplicable
territory of the spirit. Here, he said, the dead suffered
bewilderment; they remembered, desired, and regretted the life they
had just left, without understanding what lay ahead. So far he could
go with them. So far and no farther....
Personal immortality is the most alluring hope ever dangled before
humanity. All of us secretly desire it. None of us really believe in
it. As you say, all of us are afraid and some of us laugh to hide our
fear. Grimshaw wasn't afraid. Nor did he laugh. He _knew_. And you
remember his eloquence--seductive words, poignant, delicious,
memorable words! In his Chelsea days, he had made you sultry with
hate. Now, as Pierre Pilleux, he made you believe in the shining
beauty of the indestructible, the unconquerable dead. You saw them, a
host of familiar figures, walking fearlessly away from you toward the
brightness of a distant horizon. You heard them, murmuring together,
as they passed out of sight, going forward to share the common and
Well.... The pagan had disappeared in the psychic! Cecil Grimshaw's
melancholy and pessimism, his love of power, his delight in cruelty,
in beauty, in the erotic, the violent, the strange, had vanished!
Pierre Pilleux was a humanitarian. Cecil Grimshaw never had been.
Grimshaw had revolted against ugliness as a dilettante objects to the
mediocre in art. Pierre Pilleux was conscious of social ugliness.
Having become aware of it, he was a potent rebel. He began to write in
French, spreading his revolutionary doctrine of facile spiritual
reward. He splintered purgatory into fragments; what he offered was an
earthly paradise--humanity given eternal absolution, freed of fear,
prejudice, hatred--above all, of fear--and certain of endless life.
Now that we have entered the cosmic era, we look back at him with
understanding. Then, he was a radical and an atheist.
Of course he had followers--seekers after eternity who drank his
promises like thirsty wanderers come upon a spring in the desert. To
some of them he was a god. To some, a mystic. To some, a healer. To
some--and they were the ones who finally controlled his destiny--he
was simply a dangerous lunatic.
Two women in Marseilles committed suicide--they were followers,
disciples, whatever you choose to call them. At any rate, they
believed that where it was so simple a matter to die, it was foolish
to stay on in a world that had treated them badly. One had lost a son,
the other a lover. One shot herself; the other drowned herself in the
canal. And both of them left letters addressed to Pilleux--enough to
damn him in the eyes of authority. He was told that he might leave
France, or take the consequences--a mild enough warning, but it
worked. He dared not provoke an inquiry into his past. So he shipped
on board a small Mediterranean steamer as fireman, and disappeared, no
one knew where.
Two years later he reappeared in Africa. Marie was with him. They were
living in a small town on the rim of the desert near Biskra. Grimshaw
occupied a native house--a mere hovel, flat-roofed, sun-baked, bare as
a hermit's cell. Marie had hired herself out as _femme de chambre_ in
the only hotel in the place. "I watched over him," she told me. "And
believe me, _monsieur_, he needed care! He was thin as a ghost. He had
starved more than once during those two years. He told me to go back
to France, to seek happiness for myself. But for me happiness was with
him. I laughed and stayed. I loved him--magnificently, _monsieur_."
Grimshaw was writing again--in French--and his work began to appear in
the Parisian journals, a strange poetic prose impregnated with
mysticism. It was Grimshaw, sublimated. I saw it myself, although at
that time I had not heard Waram's story. The French critics saw it.
"This Pilleux is as picturesque as the English poet, Grimshaw. The
style is identical." Waram saw it. He read everything that Pilleux
wrote--with eagerness, with terror. Finally, driven by curiosity, he
went to Paris, got Pilleux's address from the editor of _Gil Blas_,
and started for Africa.
Grimshaw is a misty figure at the last. You see him faintly--an exile,
racially featureless, wearing a dirty white native robe, his face
wrinkled by exposure to the sun, his eyes burning. Marie says that he
prowled about the village at night, whispering to himself, his head
thrown back, pointing his beard at the stars. He wrote in the cool
hours before dawn, and later, when the village quivered in heat fumes
and he slept, Marie posted what he had written to Paris.
One day he took her head between his hands and said very gently: "Why
don't you get a lover? Take life while you can."
"You say there is eternal life," she protested.
"_N'en doutez-pas_! But you must be rich in knowledge. Put flowers in
your hair. And place your palms against a lover's palms and kiss him
with generosity, _ma petite_. I am not a man; I am a shadow."
Marie slipped her arms around him and, standing on tiptoe, put her
lips against his. "_Je t'aime_," she said simply.
His eyes deepened. There flashed into them the old, mad humour, the
old vitality, the old passion for beauty. The look faded, leaving his
eyes "like flames that are quenched." Marie shivered, covered her face
with her hands, and ran out. "There was no blood in him," she told me.
"He was like a spirit--a ghost. So meagre! So wan! Waxen hands. Yellow
flesh. And those eyes, in which, _monsieur_, the flame was quenched!"
And this is the end of the curious story.... Waram went to Biskra and
from there to the village where Grimshaw lived. Grimshaw saw him in
the street one evening and followed him to the hotel. He lingered
outside until Waram had registered at the _bureau_ and had gone to his
room. Then he went in and sent word that "Pierre Pilleux was below and
ready to see Doctor Waram."
He waited in the "garden" at the back of the hotel. No one was about.
A cat slept on the wall. Overhead the arch of the sky was flooded with
orange light. Dust lay on the leaves of the potted plants and bushes.
It was breathless, hot, quiet. He thought: "Waram has come because
Dagmar is dead. Or the public has found me out!"
Waram came immediately. He stood in the doorway a moment, staring at
the grotesque figure which faced him. He made a terrified gesture, as
if he would shut out what he saw. Then he came into the garden,
steadying himself by holding on to the backs of the little iron garden
chairs. The poet saw that Waram had not changed so very much--a little
gray hair in that thick, black mop, a few wrinkles, a rather stodgy
look about the waist. No more. He was still Waram, neat,
self-satisfied, essentially English.... Grimshaw strangled a feeling
of aversion and said quietly: "Well, Waram. How d'you do? I call
myself Pilleux now."
Waram ignored his hand. Leaning heavily on one of the chairs, he
stared with a passionate intentness. "Grimshaw?" he said at last.
"Why, yes," Grimshaw answered. "Didn't you know?"
Waram licked his lips. In a whisper he said: "I killed you in
Switzerland six years ago. Killed you, you understand."
Grimshaw touched his breast with both hands. "You lie.
"Here I am."
"You are dead."
"Before God, I swear it."
Grimshaw felt once more the on-rushing flood of darkness. His thoughts
flashed back over the years. The "wall." His suffering. The dog. The
song in the field. The Negro. The door that opened. The stars. His own
flesh, fading into spirit, into shadows....
"Dead?" he demanded again.
Waram's eyes wavered. He laughed unsteadily and looked behind him.
"Strange," he said. "I thought I saw----" He turned and went quickly
across the garden into the hotel. Grimshaw called once, in a loud
voice: "Waram!" But the doctor did not even turn his head. Grimshaw
followed him, overtook him, touched his shoulder. Waram paid no
attention. Going to the _bureau_ he said to the proprietor: "You told
me that a Monsieur Pilleux wished to see me."
"_Oui, monsieur_. He was waiting for you in the garden."
"He is not there now."
"But just a moment ago----"
"I am _here_," Grimshaw interrupted.
The proprietor brushed past Waram and peered into the garden. It was
twilight out there now. The cat still slept on the wall. Dust on the
"I'm sorry, _monsieur_. He seems to have disappeared."
Doctor Waram straightened his shoulders. "Ah," he said. "Disappeared.
Exactly." And passing Grimshaw without a glance he went upstairs.
Grimshaw spoke to the proprietor. But the little man bent over the
desk, and began to write in an account book. His pen went on
scratching, inscribing large, flourishing numbers in a neat column....
Grimshaw shrugged and went into the street. The crowds paid no
attention to him--but then, they never had. A dog sniffed at his
heels, whined, and thrust a cold nose into his hand.
He went to his house. "I'll ask Marie," he thought.... She was sitting
before a mirror, her hands clasped under her chin, smiling at
herself.... She had put a flower in her hair. Her lips were parted.
She smiled at some secret thought. Grimshaw watched her a moment; then
with a leap of his heart he touched her shoulder. And she did not
turn, did not move....
He knew! He put his fingers on her cheek, her neck, the shining braids
of her coarse black hair. Then he walked quickly out of the house, out
of the village, toward the desert.
Two men joined him. One of them said: "I have just died." They went on
together, their feet whispering in the sand, walking in a globe of
darkness until the stars came out--then they saw one another's pale
faces and eager, frightened eyes. Others joined them. And others. Men.
Women. A child. Some wept and some murmured and some laughed.
"Is this death?"
"Where now, brother?"
Grimshaw thought: "The end. What next? Beauty. Love. Illusion.
He clasped his hands behind his back, lifted his face to the stars,
walked steadily forward with that company of the dead, into the
desert, out of the story at last.
COMET [Published originally under title, "The Comet."]
By SAMUEL A. DERIEUX
From _American Magazine_
No puppy ever came into the world under more favourable conditions
than Comet. He was descended from a famous family of pointers. Both
his mother and father were champions. Before he opened his eyes, while
he was still crawling about over his brothers and sisters, blind as
puppies are at birth, Jim Thompson, Mr. Devant's kennel master, picked
"That's the best un in the bunch."
When he was only three weeks old he pointed a butterfly that lit in
the yard in front of his nose.
"Come here, Molly," yelled Jim to his wife. "Pointed--the little
When Thompson started taking the growing pups out of the yard, into
the fields to the side of the Devants' great southern winter home, Oak
Knob, it was Comet who strayed farthest from the man's protecting
care. And when Jim taught them all to follow when he said "Heel," to
drop when he said "Drop," and to stand stock-still when he said "Ho,"
he learned far more quickly than the others.
At six months he set his first covey of quail, and remained perfectly
staunch. "He's goin' to make a great dog," said Thompson.
Everything--size, muscle, nose, intelligence, earnestness--pointed to
the same conclusion. Comet was one of the favoured of the gods.
One day, after the leaves had turned red and brown and the mornings
grown chilly, a crowd of people, strangers to him, arrived at Oak
Knob. Then out of the house with Thompson came a big man in tweed
clothes, and the two walked straight to the curious young dogs, who
were watching them with shining eyes and wagging tails.
"Well, Thompson," said the big man, "which is the future champion
you've been writing me about?"
"Pick him out for yourself, sir," said Thompson confidently.
After that they talked a long time planning for the future of Comet.
His yard training was now over (Thompson was only yard trainer), and
he must be sent to a man experienced in training and handling for
"Larsen's the man to bring him out," said the big man in tweeds, who
was George Devant himself. "I saw his dogs work in the Canadian
Thompson spoke hesitatingly, apologetically, as if he hated to bring
the matter up. "Mr. Devant, ... you remember, sir, a long time ago
Larsen sued us for old Ben."
"Yes, Thompson; I remember, now that you speak of it."
"Well, you remember the court decided against him, which was the only
thing it could do, for Larsen didn't have any more right to that dog
than the Sultan of Turkey. But, Mr. Devant, I was there, and I saw
Larsen's face when the case went against him."
Devant looked keenly at Thompson.
"Another thing, Mr. Devant," Thompson went on, still hesitatingly;
"Larsen had a chance to get hold of this breed of pointers and lost
out, because he dickered too long, and acted cheesy. Now they've
turned out to be famous. Some men never forget a thing like that.
Larsen's been talkin' these pointers down ever since, sir."
"Go on," said Devant.
"I know Larsen's a good trainer. But it'll mean a long trip for the
young dog to where he lives. Now, there's an old trainer lives near
here, Wade Swygert. There never was a straighter man than him. He used
to train dogs in England."
Devant smiled. "Thompson, I admire your loyalty to your friends; but I
don't think much of your business sense. We'll turn over some of the
others to Swygert, if he wants 'em. Comet must have the best. I'll
write Larsen to-night, Thompson. To-morrow, crate Comet and send him
Just as no dog ever came into the world under more favourable
auspices, so no dog ever had a bigger "send-off" than Comet. Even the
ladies of the house came out to exclaim over him, and Marian Devant,
pretty, eighteen, and a sports-woman, stooped down, caught his head
between her hands, looked into his fine eyes, and wished him "Good
luck, old man." In the living-room the men laughingly drank toasts to
his future, and from the high-columned portico Marian Devant waved him
good-bye, as in his clean padded crate he was driven off, a bewildered
youngster, to the station.
Two days and two nights he travelled, and at noon of the third day, at
a lonely railroad station in a prairie country that rolled like a
heavy sea, he was lifted, crate and all, off the train. A lean,
pale-eyed, sanctimonious-looking man came toward him.
"Some beauty that, Mr. Larsen," said the agent as he helped Larsen's
man lift the crate onto a small truck.
"Yes," drawled Larsen in a meditative voice, "pretty enough to look
at--but he looks scared--er--timid."
"Of course he's scared," said the agent; "so would you be if they was
to put you in some kind of a whale of a balloon an' ship you in a
crate to Mars."
The station agent poked his hands through the slats and patted the
head. Comet was grateful for that, because everything was strange. He
had not whined nor complained on the trip, but his heart had pounded
fast, and he had been homesick.
And everything continued to be strange: the treeless country through
which he was driven, the bald house and huge barns where he was lifted
out, the dogs that crowded about him when he was turned into the
kennel yard. These eyed him with enmity and walked round and round
him. But he stood his ground staunchly for a youngster, returning
fierce look for fierce look, growl for growl, until the man called him
away and chained him to a kennel.
For days Comet remained chained, a stranger in a strange land. Each
time at the click of the gate announcing Larson's entrance he sprang
to his feet from force of habit, and stared hungrily at the man for
the light he was accustomed to see in human eyes. But with just a
glance at him the man would turn one or more of the other dogs loose
and ride off to train them.
But he was not without friends of his own kind. Now and then another
young dog (he alone was chained up) would stroll his way with wagging
tail, or lie down near by, in that strange bond of sympathy that is
not confined to man. Then Comet would feel better and would want to
play, for he was still half puppy. Sometimes he would pick up a stick
and shake it, and his partner would catch the other end. They would
tug and growl with mock ferocity, and then lie down and look at each
If any attention had been paid him by Larsen, Comet would have quickly
overcome his feeling of strangeness. He was no milksop. He was like an
overgrown boy, off at college or in some foreign city. He was
sensitive, and not sure of himself. Had Larsen gained his confidence,
it would all have been different. And as for Larsen--he knew that
One fine sunny afternoon Larsen entered the yard, came straight to
him, and turned him loose. In the exuberance of his spirits he ran
round and round the yard, barking in the faces of his friends. Larsen
let him out, mounted a horse, and commanded him to heel. He obeyed
with wagging tail.
A mile or more down the road Larsen turned off into the fields. Across
his saddle was something the young pointer had had no experience
with--a gun. That part of his education Thompson had neglected, at
least put off, for he had not expected that Comet would be sent away
so soon. That was where Thompson had made a mistake.
At the command "Hi on" the young pointer ran eagerly around the horse,
and looked up into the man's face to be sure he had heard aright. At
something he saw there the tail and ears drooped momentarily, and
there came over him again a feeling of strangeness, almost of dismay.
Larsen's eyes were mere slits of blue glass, and his mouth was set in
a thin line.
At a second command, though, he galloped off swiftly, boldly. Round
and round an extensive field of straw he circled, forgetting any
feeling of strangeness now, every fibre of his being intent on the
hunt, while Larsen, sitting on his horse, watched him with appraising
Suddenly there came to Comet's nose the smell of game birds, strong,
pungent, compelling. He stiffened into an earnest, beautiful point.
Heretofore in the little training he had had Thompson had come up
behind him, flushed the birds, and made him drop. And now Larsen,
having quickly dismounted and tied his horse, came up behind him, just
as Thompson had done, except that in Larsen's hand was the gun.
The old-fashioned black powder of a generation ago makes a loud
explosion. It sounds like a cannon compared with the modern smokeless
powder now used by all hunters. Perhaps it was only an accident that
had caused Larsen before he left the house to load his pump gun with
black powder shells.
As for Comet he only knew that the birds rose; then above his head
burst an awful roar, almost splitting his tender eardrums, shocking
every sensitive nerve, filling him with terror such as he had never
felt before. Even then, in the confusion and horror of the surprise,
he turned to the man, head ringing, eyes dilated. A single reassuring
word, and he would have steadied. As for Larsen, though, he declared
afterward (to others and to himself even) that he noticed no
nervousness in the dog; that he was only intent on getting several
birds for breakfast.
Twice, three times, four times, the pump gun bellowed in its
cannon-like roar, piercing the eardrums, shattering the nerves. Comet
turned; one more glance backward at a face, strange, exultant--and
then the puppy in him conquered. Tail tucked, he ran away from that
Miles he ran. Now and then, stumbling over briars, he yelped. Not once
did he look back. His tail was tucked, his eyes crazy with fear.
Seeing a house, he made for that. It was the noon hour, and a group of
farm hands was gathered in the yard. One of them, with a cry "Mad
dog!" ran into the house after a gun. When he came out, they told him
the dog was under the porch. And so he was. Pressed against the wall,
in the darkness, the magnificent young pointer with the quivering soul
waited, panting, eyes gleaming, the horror still ringing in his ears.
Here Larsen found him that afternoon. A boy crawled underneath the
porch and dragged him out. He, who had started life favoured of the
gods, who that morning even had been full of high spirits, who had
circled a field like a champion, was now a cringing, shaking creature,
like a homeless cur.
And thus it happened that Comet came home, in disgrace--a gun-shy dog,
a coward, expelled from college, not for some youthful prank, but
because he was--yellow. And he knew he was disgraced. He saw it in the
face of the big man, Devant, who looked at him in the yard where he
had spent his happy puppyhood, then turned away. He knew it because of
what he saw in the face of Jim Thompson.
In the house was a long and plausible letter, explaining how it
I did everything I could. I never was as surprised in my life. The
As for the other inhabitants of the big house, their minds were full
of the events of the season: de luxe hunting parties, more society
events than hunts; lunches in the woods served by uniformed butlers;
launch rides up the river; arriving and departing guests. Only one of
them, except Devant himself, gave the gun-shy dog a thought. Marian
Devant came out to visit him in his disgrace. She stooped before him
as she had done on that other and happier day, and again caught his
head between her hands. But his eyes did not meet hers, for in his dim
way he knew he was not now what he had been.
"I don't believe he's yellow--inside!" she declared, looking up at
Thompson, her cheeks flushed.
Thompson shook his head.
"I tried him with a gun, Miss Marian," he declared. "I just showed it
to him, and he ran into his kennel."
"I'll go get mine. He won't run from me."
But at sight of her small gun it all came back. Again he seemed to
hear the explosion that had shattered his nerves. The Terror had
entered his very soul. In spite of her pleading, he made for his
kennel. Even the girl turned away from him now. And as he lay panting
in the shelter of his kennel he knew that never again would men look
at him as they had looked, or life be sweet to him as it had been.
Then there came to Oak Knob an old man to see Thompson. He had been on
many seas, he had fought in a dozen wars, and had settled at last on a
little truck farm near by. Somewhere, in his life full of adventure
and odd jobs, he had trained dogs and horses. His face was lined and
seamed, his hair was white, his eyes piercing, blue and kind. Wade
Swygert was his name.
"There's been dirty work," he said, when he looked at the dog. "I'll
take him if you're goin' to give him away."
Give him away--who had been Championship hope!
Marian Devant came out and looked into the face of the old man,
"Can you cure him?" she demanded.
"I doubt it, miss," was the sturdy answer.
"You will try?"
The blue eyes lighted up. "Yes, I'll try."
"Then you can have him. And--if there's any expense----"
"Come, Comet," said the old man.
That night, in a neat, humble house, Comet ate supper placed before
him by a stout old woman, who had followed this old man to the ends of
the world. That night he slept before their fire. Next day he followed
the old man all about the place. Several days and nights passed this
way, then, while he lay before the fire, old Swygert came in with a
gun. At sight of it Comet sprang to his feet. He tried to rush out of
the room, but the doors were closed. Finally, he crawled under the
Every night after that Swygert got out the gun, until he crawled under
the bed no more. Finally, one day the man fastened the dog to a tree
in the yard, then came out with a gun. A sparrow lit in a tree, and he
shot it. Comet tried to break the rope. All his panic had returned;
but the report had not shattered him as that other did, for the gun
was loaded light.
After that, frequently the old man shot a bird in his sight, loading
the gun more and more heavily, and each time after the shot coming to
him, showing him the bird, and speaking to him kindly, gently. But for
all that the Terror remained in his heart.
One afternoon the girl, accompanied by a young man, rode over on
horseback, dismounted, and came in. She always stopped when she was
"It's mighty slow business," old Swygert reported; "I don't know
whether I'm makin' any headway or not."
That night old Mrs. Swygert told him she thought he had better give it
up. It wasn't worth the time and worry. The dog was just yellow.
Swygert pondered a long time. "When I was a kid," he said at last,
"there came up a terrible thunderstorm. It was in South America. I was
water boy for a railroad gang, and the storm drove us in a shack.
While lightnin' was hittin' all around, one of the grown men told me
it always picked out boys with red hair. My hair was red, an' I was
little and ignorant. For years I was skeered of lightnin'. I never
have quite got over it. But no man ever said I was yellow."
Again he was silent for a while. Then he went on: "I don't seem to be
makin' much headway, I admit that. I'm lettin' him run away as far as
he can. Now I've got to shoot an' make him come toward the gun
himself, right while I'm shootin' it."
Next day Comet was tied up and fasted, and next, until he was gaunt
and famished. Then, on the afternoon of the third day, Mrs. Swygert,
at her husband's direction, placed before him, within reach of his
chain, some raw beefsteak. As he started for it, Swygert shot. He drew
back, panting, then, hunger getting the better of him, started again.
Again Swygert shot.
After that for days Comet "Ate to music," as Swygert expressed it.
"Now," he said, "he's got to come toward the gun when he's not even
Not far from Swygert's house is a small pond, and on one side the
banks are perpendicular. Toward this pond the old man, with the gun
under his arm and the dog following, went. Here in the silence of the
woods, with just the two of them together, was to be a final test.
On the shelving bank Swygert picked up a stick and tossed it into the
middle of the pond with the command to "fetch." Comet sprang eagerly
in and retrieved it. Twice this was repeated. But the third time, as
the dog approached the shore, Swygert picked up the gun and fired.
Quickly the dog dropped the stick, then turned and swam toward the
other shore. Here, so precipitous were the banks, he could not get a
foothold. He turned once more and struck out diagonally across the
pond. Swygert met him and fired.
Over and over it happened. Each time, after he fired, the old man
stooped down with extended hand and begged him to come on. His face
was grim now, and, though the day was cool, sweat stood out on his
brow. "You'll face the music," he said, "or you'll drown. Better be
dead than called yellow."
The dog was growing weary now. His head was barely above water. His
efforts to clamber up the opposite bank were feeble, frantic. Yet,
each time as he drew near the shore Swygert fired.
He was not using light loads now. He was using the regular load of the
bird hunter. Time had passed for temporizing. The sweat was standing
out all over his face. The sternness in his eyes was terrible to see,
for it was the sternness of a man who is suffering.
A dog can swim a long time. The sun dropped over the trees. Still the
firing went on, regularly, like a minute gun.
Just before the sun set an exhausted dog staggered toward an old man
almost as exhausted as he. The dog had been too near death and was too
faint to care now for the gun that was being fired over his head. On
and on he came, toward the man, disregarding the noise of the gun. It
would not hurt him, that he knew at last. He might have many enemies,
but the gun, in the hands of this man, was not one of them. Suddenly
old Swygert sank down and took the dripping dog in his arms.
"Old boy," he said, "old boy."
That night Comet lay before the fire, and looked straight into the
eyes of a man, as he used to look in the old days.
Next season Larsen, glancing over his sporting papers, was astonished
to see that among promising Derbys the fall trials had called forth
was a pointer named Comet. He would have thought it some other dog
than the one who had disappointed him so by turning out gun-shy, in
spite of all his efforts to prevent, had it not been for the fact that
the entry was booked as: "Comet; owner, Miss Marian Devant; handler,
Next year he was still more astonished to see in the same paper that
Comet, handled by Swygert, had won first place in a Western trial, and
was prominently spoken of as a National Championship possibility. As
for him, he had no young entries to offer, but was staking everything
on the National Championship, where he was to enter Larsen's Peerless
It was strange how things fell out--but things have a habit of turning
out strangely in field trials, as well as elsewhere. When Larsen
reached the town where the National Championship was to be run, there
on the street, straining at the leash held by old Swygert, whom he
used to know, was a seasoned young pointer, with a white body, a brown
head, and a brown saddle spot--the same pointer he had seen two years
before turn tail and run in that terror a dog never quite overcomes.
But the strangest thing of all happened that night at the drawing,
when, according to the slips taken at random from a hat, it was
declared that on the following Wednesday Comet, the pointer, was to
run with Peerless II.
It gave Larsen a strange thrill, this announcement. He left the
meeting and went straightway to his room. There for a long time he sat
pondering. Next day at a hardware store he bought some black powder
and some shells.
The race was to be run next day, and that night in his room he loaded
half-a-dozen shells. It would have been a study in faces to watch him
as he bent over his work, on his lips a smile. Into the shells he
packed all the powder they could stand, all the powder his trusted gun
could stand, without bursting. It was a load big enough to kill a
bear, to bring down a buffalo. It was a load that would echo and
reecho in the hills.
On the morning that Larsen walked out in front of the judges and the
field, Peerless II at the leash, old Swygert, with Comet at his side,
he glanced around at the "field," or spectators. Among them was a
handsome young woman, and with her, to his amazement, George Devant.
He could not help chuckling inside himself as he thought of what would
happen that day, for once a gun-shy dog, always a gun-shy dog--that
was _his_ experience.
As for Comet, he faced the straw fields eagerly, confidently, already
a veteran. Long ago fear of the gun had left him, for the most part.
There were times when at a report above his head he still trembled,
and the shocked nerves in his ear gave a twinge like that of a bad
tooth. But always at the quiet voice of the old man, his god, he grew
steady, and remained staunch.
Some disturbing memory did start within him to-day as he glanced at
the man with the other dog. It seemed to him as if in another and an
evil world he had seen that face. His heart began to pound fast, and
his tail drooped for a moment. Within an hour it was all to come back
to him--the terror, the panic, the agony of that far-away time.
He looked up at old Swygert, who was his god, and to whom his soul
belonged, though he was booked as the property of Miss Marian Devant.
Of the arrangements he could know nothing, being a dog. Old Swygert,
having cured him, could not meet the expenses of taking him to field
trials. The girl had come to the old man's assistance, an assistance
which he had accepted only under condition that the dog should be
entered as hers, with himself as handler.
"Are you ready, gentlemen?" the judges asked.
"Ready," said Larsen and old Swygert.
And Comet and Peerless II were speeding away across that field, and
behind them came handlers, and judges and spectators, all mounted.
It was a race people still talk about, and for a reason, for strange
things happened that day. At first there was nothing unusual. It was
like any other field trial. Comet found birds, and Swygert, his
handler, flushed them and shot. Comet remained steady. Then Peerless
II found a covey, and Larsen flushed them and shot. And so for an hour
Then Comet disappeared, and old Swygert, riding hard and looking for
him, went out of sight over a hill. But Comet had not gone far. As a
matter of fact, he was near by, hidden in some high straw, pointing a
covey of birds. One of the spectators spied him, and called the
judges' attention to him. Everybody, including Larsen, rode up to him,
but still Swygert had not come back.
They called him, but the old man was a little deaf. Some of the men
rode to the top of the hill but could not see him. In his zeal he had
got a considerable distance away. Meanwhile, here was his dog,
If any one had looked at Larsen's face he would have seen the
exultation there, for now his chance had come--the very chance he had
been looking for. It's a courtesy one handler sometimes extends
another who is absent from the spot, to go in and flush his dog's
"I'll handle this covey for Mr. Swygert," said Larsen to the judges,
his voice smooth and plausible, on his face a smile.
And thus it happened that Comet faced his supreme ordeal without the
steadying voice of his god.
He only knew that ahead of him were birds, and that behind him a man
was coming through the straw, and that behind the man a crowd of
people on horseback were watching him. He had become used to that, but
when, out of the corner of his eye, he saw the face of the advancing
man, his soul began to tremble.
"Call your dog in, Mr. Larsen," directed the judge. "Make him
Only a moment was lost, while Peerless, a young dog himself, came
running in and at a command from Larsen stopped in his tracks behind
Comet, and pointed. Larsen's dogs always obeyed, quickly,
mechanically. Without ever gaining their confidence, Larsen had a way
of turning them into finished field-trial dogs. They obeyed, because
they were afraid not to.
According to the rules the man handling the dog has to shoot as the
birds rise. This is done in order to test the dog's steadiness when a
gun is fired over him. No specification is made as to the size of the
shotgun to be used. Usually, however, small-gauge guns are carried.
The one in Larsen's hands was a twelve gauge, and consequently large.
All morning he had been using it over his own dog. Nobody had paid any
attention to it, because he shot smokeless powder. But now, as he
advanced, he reached into the left-hand pocket of his hunting coat,
where six shells rattled as he hurried along. Two of these he took out
and rammed into the barrels.
As for Comet, still standing rigid, statuesque, he heard, as has been
said, the brush of steps through the straw, glimpsed a face, and
trembled. But only for a moment. Then he steadied, head high, tail
straight out. The birds rose with a whir--and then was repeated that
horror of his youth. Above his ears, ears that would always be tender,
broke a great roar. Either because of his excitement, or because of a
sudden wave of revenge, or of a determination to make sure of the
dog's flight, Larsen had pulled both triggers at once. The combined
report shattered through the dog's eardrums, it shivered through his
nerves, he sank in agony into the straw.
Then the old impulse to flee was upon him, and he sprang to his feet,
and looked about wildly. But from somewhere in that crowd behind him
came to his tingling ears a voice--clear, ringing, deep, the voice of
a woman--a woman he knew--pleading as his master used to plead,
calling on him not to run, but to stand.
"Steady," it said. "Steady, Comet!"
It called him to himself, it soothed him, it calmed him, and he turned
and looked toward the crowd. With the roar of the shotgun the usual
order observed in field trials was broken up. All rules seemed to have
been suspended. Ordinarily, no one belonging to "the field" is allowed
to speak to a dog. Yet the girl had spoken to him. Ordinarily, the
spectators must remain in the rear of the judges. Yet one of the
judges had himself wheeled his horse about and was galloping off, and
Marian Devant had pushed through the crowd and was riding toward the
He stood staunch where he was, though in his ears was still a
throbbing pain, and though all about him was this growing confusion he
could not understand. The man he feared was running across the field
yonder, in the direction taken by the judge. He was blowing his
whistle as he ran. Through the crowd, his face terrible to see, his
own master was coming. Both the old man and the girl had dismounted
now, and were running toward him.
"I heard," old Swygert was saying to her. "I heard it! I might 'a'
known! I might 'a' known!"
"He stood," she panted, "like a rock--oh, the brave, beautiful thing!"
"Where is that----" Swygert suddenly checked himself and looked
A man in the crowd (they had all gathered about now), laughed.
"He's gone after his dog," he said. "Peerless has run away!"
FIFTY-TWO WEEKS FOR FLORETTE
By ELIZABETH ALEXANDER HEERMANN [ELIZABETH ALEXANDER in _Saturday
Evening Post_, August 13,1921.]
It had been over two months since Freddy Le Fay's bill had been paid,
and Miss Nellie Blair was worried. She had written to Freddy's mother
repeatedly, but there had been no answer.
"It's all your own fault, sister. You should never have taken Freddy,"
Miss Eva said sharply. "I told you so at the time, when I saw his
mother's hair. And of course Le Fay is not her real name. It looks to
me like a clear case of desertion."
"I can't believe it. She seemed so devoted," faltered Miss Nellie.
"Oh, a girl like that!" Miss Eva sniffed. "You should never have
"Well, the poor thing was so worried, and if it meant saving a child
from a dreadful life----"
"There are other schools more suitable."
"But, sister, she seemed to have her heart set on ours. She begged me
to make a little gentleman out of him."
"As if you could ever do that!"
"Why not?" asked Mary, their niece.
"That dreadful child!"
"Freddy isn't dreadful!" cried Mary hotly.
"With that atrocious slang! Won't eat his oatmeal! And he's such a
queer child--queer! So pale, never laughs, doesn't like any one. Why
should you take up for him? He doesn't even like you. Hates me, I
"It's because we are so different from the women he has known," said
"I should hope so! Well, sister, what are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know what to do," sighed Miss Nellie. "He hasn't any other
relatives as far as I know. And the summer coming on, what shall we
"Nothing for it but to send him to an orphanage if she doesn't write
soon," said Miss Eva.
"Oh, auntie, you wouldn't!"
"Why not? How can we afford to give children free board and
"It's only one child."
"It would be a dozen, if we once started it."
"I'll wait another month," said Miss Nellie, "and then, really,
something will have to be done."
The girl looked out of the window.
"There he is now," she said, "sitting on the stone wall at the end of
the garden. It's his favourite spot."
"What on earth he wants to sit there for--away from all the other
children! He never plays. Look at him! Just sitting there--not moving.
How stupid!" exclaimed Miss Eva impatiently.
"I do declare, I believe he's fallen asleep," said Miss Nellie.
Freddy was not asleep. He had only to close his eyes and it would all
come back to him. Memories that he could not put into words,
sensations without definite thought, crowded in upon him. The
smell--the thick smell of grease paint, choking powder, dust, gas, old
walls, bodies, and breath, and sharp perfume; the sickening,
delicious, stale, enchanting, never-to-be-forgotten odour of the
theatre; the nerves' sudden tension at the cry of "Ov-a-chure"; their
tingling as the jaded music blares; the lift of the heart as the
curtain rises; the catch in the throat as Florette runs on to do her
Florette was a performer on the trapeze in vaudeville. Her figure was
perfect from the strenuous daily exercise. She was small, young, and a
shade too blonde. First she appeared in a sort of blue evening dress,
except that it was shorter even than a d butante's. She ran out
quickly from the wings, bowed excessively, smiled appealingly, and,
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