The Foolish Virgin
Part 3 out of 6
metals. Beneath the benches were piled automobile
supplies of every kind.
"You know how to use all these machines, Jim?" she
asked in wonder.
"Sure, and then some!" he answered with a wave of
his slender hand.
"You're a wizard----"
"Now the den?" he said briskly.
She followed him through the hall and into the
large front corner room overlooking Avenue B and
Eighteenth Street. The morning sun flooded the front
and the afternoon sun poured into the side windows.
The furniture was solid mahogany--a bed, bureau,
chiffonier, couch and three chairs. The windows were
fitted with wood-paneled shutters, shades and heavy
draperies. A thick, soft carpet of faded red covered
"It's a nice room, Jim, but I'd like to dust it for
you," she said with a smile.
"Sure. I'm for giving you the right to dust it
every morning, Kiddo, beginning now. Let's find a
She blushed and moved a step toward the door.
"Just a little while. You know it's been only ten
days since we met----"
"But we've lived some in that time, haven't we?"
"An eternity, I think," she said reverently.
"I want to marry right now, girlie!" he pleaded
desperately. "If that spider gets you in her den
again, I just feel like it's good night for me."
"Nonsense. You can't believe me such a silly
child. I'm a woman. I love you. Do you think the
foolish prejudice of a friend could destroy my love for
the man whom I have chosen for my mate?"
"No, but I want it fixed and then it's fixed--and
they can say what they please. Marry me tonight!
You've got the ring. You're going to in a little
while, anyhow. What's the use to wait and lose these
days out of our life? What's the sense of it? Don't
you know me by this time? Don't you trust me by this
She slipped her hand gently into his.
"I trust you utterly. And I feel that I've known
you since the day I was born----"
"Then why--why wait a minute?"
"You can't understand a girl's feelings, dear--only
a little while and it's all right."
He sat down on the couch in silence, rose and
walked to the window. She watched him struggling with
He turned suddenly.
"Look here, Kiddo, I've got to leave on that trip
to the mountains of North Carolina. I've got to get
down there before Christmas. I must be back here by
the first of the year. Gee--I can't go without you!
You don't want to stay here without me, do you?"
A sudden pallor overspread her face. For the first
time she realized how their lives had become one in the
sweet intimacy of the past ten days.
"You must go now?" she gasped.
"Yes. I've made my arrangements. I've business
back here the first of the year that can't wait. Marry
me and go with me. We'll take our honeymoon down
there. By George, we'll go together in the car! Every
day by each other's side over hundreds and hundreds of
miles! Say, ain't you game? Come on! It's a
crime to send me away without you. How can you do it?"
"I can't--I'm afraid," she faltered.
"You'll marry me, then?"
"Yes!" she whispered. "What is the latest day you
"Next Saturday, if we go in the car----"
"All right,"--she was looking straight into the
depths of his soul now--"next Saturday."
He clasped her in his arms and held her with
The consummation of her life's dream was too near, too
sweet and wonderful for Jane's croakings to distress
Mary Adams beyond the moment. She had, of course,
wished her friend to be present at the wedding--yet the
curt refusal had only aroused anew her pity at stupid
prejudices. It was out of the question to ask her
father to leave his work in the Kentucky mountains and
come all the way to New York. She would surprise him
with the announcement. After all, she was the one
human being vitally concerned in this affair, and the
only one save the man whose life would be joined to
In five minutes after the painful scene with Jane
she had completely regained her composure, and her face
was radiant with happiness when she waved to Jim. He
was standing before the door in the car, waiting to
take her to the City Hall to get the marriage
"Gee!" he cried, "you're the prettiest, sweetest
thing that ever walked this earth, with those cheeks
all flaming like a rose! Are you happy?"
She motioned him to keep his seat and sprang
lightly to his side.
"Aren't you happy, sir?" she added gayly.
"I am, yes--but to tell you the truth, I'm
beginning to get scared. You know what to do, don't
you, when we get before that preacher?"
"Of course, silly----"
"I never saw a wedding in my life."
She pressed his hand tenderly.
"I swear it. You'll have to tell me how to
"We'll rehearse it all tonight. I'll show you.
I've seen hundreds of people married. My father's a
preacher, you know."
"Yes, I know that," he went on solemnly; "that's
what gives me courage. I knew you'd understand
everything. I'm counting on you, Kiddo--if you fall
down, we're gone. I'll run like a turkey."
"It's easy," she laughed.
"And this license business--how do we go about
that? What'll they do to us?"
"Nothing, goose! We just march up to the clerk and
demand the license. He asks us a lot of questions----"
"Questions! What sort of questions?"
"The names of your father and mother--whether
you've been married before and where you live and how
old you are----"
"Ask you about your business?" he interrupted,
"No. They think if you can pay the license fee you
can support your wife, I suppose."
"How much is it?"
"I don't know, here. It used to be two dollars in
"That's cheap--must come higher in this burg. I
brought along a hundred."
"There's a lot of graft in this town. I'll be
ready. I've got to get 'em--don't care how high they
"There'll be no graft in this, Jim," she protested
"Well, it'll be the first time I ever got by
without it--believe me!"
The ease with which the license was obtained was
more than Jim could understand. All the way back from
the City Hall he expected to be held up at every
corner. He kept looking over his shoulder to see if
they were being followed.
Arrived in her room, they discussed their plans for
the day of days.
"I'll come round soon in the morning, and we'll
spend the whole day at the Beach," he suggested.
She lifted her hands in protest.
"Not on our wedding-day, Jim!"
"It's not good form. The groom should not see the
bride that day until they meet at the altar."
"Let's change it!"
"No, sir, the old way's the best. I'll spend the
day in saying good-by to the past. You'll call for me
at six o'clock. We'll go to Dr. Craddock's house and
be married in time for our wedding dinner."
The lover smiled, and his drooping eyelids fell
still lower as he watched her intently.
"I want that dinner here in this little place,
She blushed and protested.
"I thought we'd go to the Beach and spend the night
"Here, girlie, here! I love this little place--
it's so like you. Get the old wild-cat who cleans up
for you to fix us a dinner here all by ourselves--
"She'd do anything for me--yes."
"Then fix it here--I want to be just with you--
don't you understand?"
"Yes," she whispered. "But I'd rather spend that
first day of our new life in a strange place--and the
Beach we both love--hadn't you just as leave go there,
"No. The waiters will stare at us, and hear us
"We can have our meals served in our room.
"This is better," he insisted. "I want to spend
one day here alone with you, before we go--just to feel
that you're all mine. You see, if I walk in here and
own the place, I'll know that better than any other
way. I've just set my heart on it, Kiddo--what's the
She lifted her lips to his.
"All right, dear. It shall be as you wish.
Tomorrow I will be all yours--in life, in death, in
eternity. Your happiness will be the one thing for
which I shall plan and work."
Ella was very happy in the honor conferred
on her. She was given entire charge of the place,
and spent the day in feverish preparation for the
dinner. She insisted on borrowing a larger table from
the little fat woman next door, to hold the extra
dishes. She dressed herself in her best. Her raven
black hair was pressed smooth and shining down the
sides of her pale temples.
The work was completed by three o'clock in the
afternoon, and Mary lay in her window lazily watching
the crowds scurrying home. The offices closed early on
Ella was puttering about the room, adding little
touches here and there in a pretense of still being
busy. As a matter of fact, she was watching the girl
from her one eye with a wistful tenderness she had not
dared as yet to express in words. Twice Mary had
turned suddenly and seen her thus. Each time Ella had
started as if caught in some act of mischief and asked
an irrelevant question to relieve her embarrassment.
Mary could feel her single eye fixed on her now in
a deep, brooding look. It made her uncomfortable.
She turned slowly and spoke in gentle tones.
"You've been so sweet to me today, Ella--father and
mother and best friend. I'll never forget your
kindness. You'd better rest awhile now until we go to
Dr. Craddock's. I want you to be there, too----"
"To see the marriage--ja?" she asked softly.
"Oh, no, my dear, no--I stay here and wait for you
to come. I keep the lights burning bright. I welcome
the bride and groom to their little home--ja."
A quick glance of suspicion shot from Mary's blue
eyes. Could it be possible that this forlorn
scrubwoman would carry her hostility to her lover to
the same point of ungracious refusal to witness the
ceremony? It was nonsense, of course. Ella would feel
out of place in the minister's parlor, that was all.
She wouldn't insist.
"All right, Ella; you can receive us here with
ceremony. You'll be our maid, butler, my father, my
mother and my friends!"
There was a moment's silence and still no move on
Ella's part to go. The girl felt her single eye again
fixed on her in mysterious, wistful gaze. She would
send her away if it were possible without hurting her
Mary lifted her eyes suddenly, and Ella stirred
awkwardly and smiled.
"I hope you are very happy, meine liebe--ja?"
"I couldn't be happier if I were in Heaven," was
the quick answer.
"I'm so glad----"
Again an awkward pause.
"I was once young and pretty like you, meine
liebe," she began dreamily, "--slim and straight and
Mary held her breath in eager expectancy. Ella was
going to lift the veil from the mystery of her life,
stirred by memories which the coming wedding had
"And you had a thrilling romance--Ella? I always
Again silence, and then in low tones the woman told
"Ja--a romance, too. I was so young and
foolish--just a baby myself--not sixteen. But I was
full of life and fun, and I had a way of doing what I
"The man was older than me--Oh, a lot older--with
gray hairs on the side of his head. I was wild about
him. I never took to kids. They didn't seem to like
She paused as if hesitating to give her full
confidence, and quickly went on:
"My folks were German. They couldn't speak
English. I learned when I was five years old. They
didn't like my lover. We quarrel day and night. I say
they didn't like him because they could not speak his
language. They say he was bad. I fight for him, and
run away and marry him----"
Again she paused and drew a deep breath.
"Ah, I was one happy little fool that year! He
make good wages on the docks--a stevedore. They had a
strike, and he got to drinking. The baby came----"
She stopped suddenly.
"You had a little baby, Ella?" the girl asked in a
"Ja--ja" she sobbed--"so sweet, so good--so
quiet--so beautiful she was. I was very happy--like a
little girl with a doll--only she laugh and cry and coo
and pull my hair! He stop the drink a little while
when she come, and he got work. And then he begin
worse and worse. It seem like he never loved me any
more after the baby. He curse me, he quarrel. He
begin to strike me sometimes. I laugh and cry at first
and make up and try again----"
Again she paused as if for courage to go on, and
choked into silence.
"Yes--and then?" the girl asked.
"And then he come home one night wild drunk. He
stumble and fall across the cradle and hurt my baby so
she never cry--just lie still and tremble--her eyes
wide open at first and then they droop and close and
"He laugh and curse and strike me, and I fight him
like a tiger. He was strong--he throw me down on the
floor and gouge my eye out with his big claw----"
"Oh, my God," Mary sobbed.
Ella sprang to her feet and bent over the girl with
"You keep my secret, meine liebe?"
"I never tell a soul on earth what I tell you now--
I just eat my heart out and keep still all the years, I
can tell you--ja?"
"Yes, I'll keep it sacred--go on----"
"When I know he gouge my eye out, I go wild. I get
my hand on his throat and choke him still. I drag him
to the stairs and throw him head first all the way down
to the bottom. He fall in a heap and lie still. I run
down and drag him to the door. I kick his face and he
never move. He was dead. I kick him again--and again.
And then I laugh--I laugh--I laugh in his dead
face--I was so glad I kill him!"
She sank in a paroxysm of sobs on the floor, and
the girl touched her smooth black hair tenderly,
strangled with her own emotions.
Ella rose at last and brushed the tears from her
"Now, you know, meine liebe! Why I tell you
this today, I don't know--maybe I must! I dream once
like you dream today----"
The girl slipped her arms around the drooping,
pathetic figure and stroked it tenderly.
"The sunshine is for some, maybe," Ella went on
pathetically; "for some the clouds and the storms. I
hope you are very, very happy today and all the
"I will be, Ella, I'm sure. I'll always love you
"Maybe I make you sad because I tell you----"
"No--no! I'm glad you told me. The knowledge of
your sorrow will make my life the sweeter. I shall be
more humble in my joy."
It never occurred to the girl for a moment that
this lonely, broken woman had torn her soul's deepest
secret open in a last pathetic effort to warn her of
the danger of her marriage. The wistful, helpless
look in her eye meant to Mary only the anguish of
memories. Each human heart persists in learning the
big lessons of life at first hand. We refuse to learn
any other way. The tragedies of others interest us as
fiction. We make the application to others--never to
Jim's familiar footstep echoed through the hall,
and Mary sprang to the door with a cry of joy.
Ella hurried into the kitchenette and busied herself
with dinner. Jim's unexpectedly early arrival broke
the spell of the tragedy to which Mary had listened
with breathless sympathy. Her own future she faced
without a shadow of doubt or fear.
Her reproaches to Jim were entirely perfunctory, on
the sin of his early call on their wedding-day.
"Naughty boy!" she cried with mock severity. "At
this unseemly hour!"
He glanced about the room nervously.
"Anybody in there?"
He nodded toward the kitchenette.
"Send her away."
"What's the matter?"
Mary let Ella out from the little private hall
without her seeing Jim, and returned.
"For heaven's sake, man, what ails you?" she asked
"Say--I forgot that thing already. We got to go
over it again. What if I miss it?"
He mopped his brow and looked at his watch.
"By the time we get to that preacher's house, I
won't know my first name if you don't help me."
Mary laughed softly and kissed him.
"You can't miss it. All you've got to do is say,
`I will' when he asks you the question, put the ring on
my finger when he tells you, and repeat the words after
him--he and I will do the rest."
"Say my question over again."
"`Wilt thou have this woman to thy wedded wife, to
live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate
of matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her, honor,
and keep her in sickness and in health; and, forsaking
all others, keep thee only unto her, so long as ye both
She looked at him and laughed.
"Why don't you answer?"
"Yes--that's the end of the question. Say, `I
"Oh, I will all right! What scares me is that I'll
jump in on him and say `I will' before he gets halfway
through. Seems to me when he says, `Wilt thou have
this woman to be thy wedded wife?' I'll just have to
choke myself there to keep from saying, `You bet your
life I will, Parson!'"
"It won't hurt anything if you say, `I will'
several times," she assured him.
"It wouldn't queer the job?"
"Not in the least. I've often heard them say, `I
will' two or three times. Wait until you hear the
words, `so long as ye both shall live----'"
"`So long as ye both shall live,'" he repeated
"The other speech you say after the minister."
"He won't bite off more than I can chew at one
time, will he?"
"No, silly--just a few words----"
"Because if he does, I'll choke."
Jim drew his watch again, mopped his brow, and
gazed at Mary's serene face with wonder.
"Say, Kiddo, you're immense--you're as cool as a
"Of course. Why not? It's my day of joy and
perfect peace--the day I've dreamed of since the dawn
of maidenhood. I'm marrying the man of my
choice--the one man God made for me of all men on
earth. I know this--I'm content."
"Let me hang around here till time--won't you?" he
"We must have Ella come back to fix the table."
"Sure. I just didn't want her to hear me tell you
that I had cold feet. I'm better now."
Ella moved about the room with soft tread, watching
Jim with sullen, concentrated gaze when he was not
The lovers sat on the couch beside the window,
holding each other's hands and watching in silence the
hurrying crowds pass below. Now that his panic was
over, Jim began to breathe more freely, and the time
As the shadows slowly fell, they rang the bell at
the parson's house beside the church, and his good wife
ushered them into the parlor. The little Craddocks
crowded in--six of them, two girls and four boys, their
ages ranging from five to nineteen.
Sweet memories crowded the girl's heart from her
happy childhood. She had never missed one of these
affairs at home. Her father was a very popular
minister and his home the Mecca of lovers for miles
Craddock, like her father, was inclined to be
conservative in his forms. Marriage he held with
the old theologians to be a holy sacrament. He never
used the new-fangled marriage vows. He stuck to the
formula of the Book of Common Prayer.
When she stood before the preacher in this
beautiful familiar scene which she had witnessed so
many times at home, Mary's heart beat with a joy that
was positively silly. She tried to be serious, and the
dimple would come in her cheek in spite of every
As Craddock's musical voice began the opening
address, the memory of a foolish incident in her
father's life flashed through her mind, and she
wondered if Jim in his excitement had forgotten his
pocket-book and couldn't pay the preacher.
"Dearly beloved," he began, "we are gathered
together here in the sight of God----"
Mary tried to remember that she was in the sight of
God, but she was so foolishly happy she could only
remember that funny scene. A long-legged Kentucky
mountain bridegroom at the close of the ceremony had
turned to her father and drawled:
"Well, parson, I ain't got no money with me--but I
want to give ye five dollars. I've got a fine dawg.
He's worth ten. I'll send him to ye fur five--if it's
The children had giggled and her father blushed.
"Oh, that's all right," he had answered. "Money's
no matter. Forget the five. I hope you'll be very
Two weeks later a crate containing the dog had come
by express. On the tag was scrawled:
Dear Parson:--I like Nancy so well, I send ye the
hole dawg, anyhow.
She hadn't a doubt that Jim would feel the same
way--but she hoped he hadn't forgotten his pocketbook.
The scene had flashed through her mind in a single
moment. She had bitten her lips and kept from laughing
by a supreme effort. Not a word of the solemn
ceremonial, however, had escaped her consciousness.
"And in the face of this company," the preacher's
rich voice was saying, "to join together this Man and
this Woman in holy Matrimony; which is commended of St.
Paul to be honorable among all men: and therefore is
not by any to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly;
but reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in
the fear of God. Into this holy estate these two
persons present come now to be joined. If any man
can show just cause, why they may not lawfully be
joined together, let him now speak, or else hereafter
for ever hold his peace."
Craddock paused, and his piercing eyes searched the
man and woman before him.
"I require to charge you both, as ye will answer at
the dreadful day of judgment, when the secrets of all
hearts shall be disclosed, that if either of you know
any impediment, why ye may not be lawfully joined
together in Matrimony, ye do now confess it----"
Again he paused. The perspiration stood in beads
on Jim's forehead, and he glanced uneasily at Mary from
the corners of his drooping eyes. A smile was playing
about her mouth, and Jim was cheered.
"For be ye well assured," the preacher continued,
"that if any persons are joined together otherwise than
as God's Word doth allow, their marriage is not
He turned with deliberation to Jim and transfixed
him with the first question of the ceremony. The groom
was hypnotized into a state of abject terror. His ears
heard the words; the mind recorded but the vaguest idea
of what they meant.
"Wilt thou have this Woman to thy wedded wife,
to live together after God's ordinance in the holy
estate of Matrimony? Wilt thou love her, comfort her,
honor, and keep her in sickness and in health; and,
forsaking all others, keep thee only unto her, so long
as ye both shall live?"
Jim's mouth was open; his lower jaw had dropped in
dazed awe, and he continued to stare straight into the
preacher's face until Mary pressed his arm and
"I will--yes, I will--you bet I will!" he hastened
The children giggled, and the preacher's lips
He turned quickly to Mary.
"Wilt thou have this Man to thy wedded husband, to
live together after God's ordinance, in the holy estate
of Matrimony? Wilt thou obey him, and serve him, love,
honor, and keep him in sickness and in health; and,
forsaking all others, keep thee only unto him, so long
as ye both shall live?"
With quick, clear voice, Mary answered:
"Please join your right hands and repeat after
He fixed Jim with his gaze and spoke with
deliberation, clause by clause:
"I, James, take thee, Mary, to my wedded wife, to
have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for
worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in
health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part,
according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I plight
thee my troth."
Jim's throat at first was husky with fear, but he
caught each clause with quick precision and repeated
them without a hitch.
He smiled and congratulated himself: "I got ye
that time, old cull!"
The preacher's eyes sought Mary's:
"I, Mary, take thee, James, to my wedded husband,
to have and to hold from this day forward, for better
for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in
health, to love, cherish, and to obey, till death do us
part, according to God's holy ordinance; and thereto I
give thee my troth."
In the sweetest musical voice, quivering with
happiness, the girl repeated the words.
Again the preacher's eyes sought Jim's:
AND THE MAN SHALL GIVE UNTO THE WOMAN A RING----
The groom fumbled in his pocket and found at
last the ring, which he handed to Mary. The minister
at once took it from her hand and handed it back to
The bride lifted her left hand, deftly extending
the fourth finger, and the groom slipped the ring on,
and held it firmly gripped as he had been instructed.
"With this ring I thee wed----"
"With this ring I thee wed----" Jim repeated
"----and with all my worldly goods I thee
"----and with all my worldly goods I thee
"In the Name of the Father----"
"In the Name of the Father----"
"----and of the Son----"
"----and of the Son----"
"----and of the Holy Ghost----"
"----and of the Holy Ghost----"
The voice of the preacher's prayer that followed
rang far-away and unreal to the heart of the girl. Her
vivid imagination had leaped the years. Her spirit did
not return to earth and time and place until the
minister seized her right hand and joined it to Jim's.
"Those whom God hath joined together let no man put
"Forasmuch as James Anthony and Mary Adams have
consented together in holy wedlock, and have witnessed
the same before God and this company, and thereto have
given and pledged their troth, each to the other, and
have declared the same by giving and receiving a Ring,
and by joining hands; I pronounce that they are Man and
Wife, In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Ghost. Amen."
The preacher lifted his hands solemnly above their
"God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Ghost,
bless, preserve, and keep you; the Lord mercifully with
His favor look upon you, and fill you with all
spiritual benediction and grace; that ye may so live
together in this life, that in the world to come ye may
have life everlasting. AMEN."
The preacher took Mary's hand.
"Your father is my friend, child. This is for
He bent quickly and kissed her lips, while Jim
gasped in astonishment.
The minister's wife congratulated them both. The
two older children smilingly advanced and added their
voices in good wishes.
Mary whispered to Jim:
"Don't forget the preacher's fee!"
"Lord, how much? Will fifty be enough? It's all
"Give him twenty. We'll need the rest."
It was not until they were seated in the waiting
cab and sank back among the shadows, that Jim crushed
her in his arms and kissed her until she cried for
"The gall of that preacher, kissing you!" he
muttered savagely. "You know, I come within an ace of
pasting him one on the nose!"
The lights burned in the hall with unusual brightness.
Ella stood in the open door of the room, through which
the light was streaming. With its radiance came the
perfume of roses--the scrub-woman's gift of love. The
room was a bower of gorgeous flowers. She had spent
her last cent in this extravagance.
Mary swept the place with a look of amazement.
"Oh, Ella," she cried, "how could you be so silly!"
"You like them, ja?" Ella asked softly.
"They're glorious--but you should not have made
such a sacrifice for me."
"For myself, maybe, I do it--all for myself to make
me happy, too, tonight."
She dismissed the subject with a wave of her hand
and placed the chairs beside the beautifully set table.
"Dinner is all ready," she announced
cheerfully. "And shall I go now and leave you?
Or will you let me serve your dinner first?"
A sudden panic seized the bride.
"Stay and serve the dinner, Ella, if you will," she
Jim frowned, but seated himself in business-like
"All right; I'm ready for it, old girl!"
With soft tread and swift, deft touch, Ella served
the dinner, standing prim and stiff and ghost-like
behind Jim's chair between the courses.
The bride watched her, fascinated by the pallor of
her haggard face and the queer suggestion of Death
which her appearance made in spite of the background of
flowers. She had dressed herself in a simple skirt and
shirtwaist of spotless white. The material seemed to
be draped on her tall figure, thin to emaciation. The
chalk-like pallor of her face brought out with
startling sharpness the deep, hollow caverns beneath
her straight eyebrows. Her single eye shone unusually
Gradually the grim impression grew that Death was
hovering over her bridal feast--a foolish fancy which
persisted in her highly-wrought nervous state. Yet the
idea, once fixed, could not be crushed. In vain she
used her will to bring her wandering mind back to
the joyous present. Each time she lifted her eyes they
rested upon the silent, white figure with its single
eye piercing the depths of her soul.
She could endure it no longer. She nodded and
smiled wanly at Ella.
"You may go now!"
The woman gazed at the bride in surprise.
"I shall come again--yes?"
"Tomorrow morning, Ella, you may help me."
The white figure paused uncertainly at the door,
and her drawling voice breathed her parting word
The bride closed her eyes and answered.
"Good night, Ella!"
The door closed. Jim rose quickly and bolted it.
"Thank God!" he exclaimed fervently. He fixed his
slumbering eyes on his wife for a moment, saw the
frightened look, walked quickly back to the table and
took his seat.
"Now, Kiddo, we can eat in peace."
"Yes, I'd rather be alone," she sighed.
"I must say," Jim went on briskly, "that parson of
yours did give us a run for our money."
"I like the old, long ceremony best."
"Well, you see, I ain't never had much choice--
but do you know what I thought was the best thing
"UNTIL DEATH DO US PART! Gee how he did ring
out on that! His voice sounded to me like a big bell
somewhere away up in the clouds. Did you hear me sing
it back at him?"
Mary smiled nervously.
"You had found your voice then."
"You bet I had! I muffed that first one, though,
"A little. It didn't matter." She answered
He fixed his eyes on her again.
"No," she gasped.
"What's the use!" he cried in low, vibrant tones,
springing to his feet. "I don't want to eat this
stuff--I just want to eat you!"
Mary rose tremblingly and moved instinctively to
He clasped her form in his arms and crushed with
"Until death do us part!" he whispered
She answered with a kiss.
It was eleven o'clock next morning before Ella ventured
to rap softly on the door. They had just finished
breakfast. The bride was clearing up the table,
humming a song of her childhood.
Jim caught her in his arms.
"Once more before she comes!"
"Don't kill me!" she laughed.
Jim lounged in the window and smoked his cigarette
while Ella and Mary chattered in the kitchenette.
In half an hour the scrub-woman had made her last
trip with the extra dishes, and the little home was
spick and span.
Mary sprang on the couch and snuggled into Jim's
"I've changed our plans----" he began thoughtfully.
"We won't give up our honeymoon trip?"
she cried in alarm. "That's one dream we MUST
live, Jim, dear. I've set my heart on it."
"Sure we will--sure," he answered quickly. "But
not in that car."
"Because I like you better--you get me, Kiddo?"
She pressed close and whispered:
"I think so."
"You see, that fool car might throw a tire or two.
Believe me, it'll be a job to have her on my hands for
a thousand miles. Of course, if I didn't know you,
little girl, it would be all sorts of fun. But, honest
to God, this game beats the world."
He bent low and kissed her again.
"Where'll we go, then?" she murmured.
"That's what I'm tryin' to dope out. I like the
sea. It lulls me just like whisky puts a drunkard to
sleep. I wish we could get where it's bright and warm
and the sun shines all the time. We could stay two
weeks and then jump on the train and be in Asheville
the day before Christmas."
Mary sprang up excitedly.
"I have it! We'll go to Florida--away down to the
Keys. It's the dream of my life to go there!"
"The Keys what's that?" he asked, puzzled.
"The Keys are little sand islands and reefs that
jut out into the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
The railroad takes us right there."
"It's warm and sunny there now?"
"Just like summer up here. We can go in bathing in
the surf every day."
Jim sprang to his feet.
"Got a bathing suit?"
Yes--a beauty. I've never worn it here."
"It seemed so bold."
"All right. Maybe we can get a Key all by
ourselves for two weeks."
"Wouldn't it be glorious!"
"We'll try it, anyhow. I'll buy the doggoned thing
if they don't ask too much. Pack your traps. I'll go
down to the shop and get my things. We'll be ready to
start in an hour."
By four o'clock they were seated in the drawing-
room of a Pullman car on the Florida Limited, gazing
entranced at the drab landscape of the Jersey meadows.
Three days later, Jim had landed his boat on a tiny
sand reef a half-mile off the coast of Florida with a
tent and complete outfit for camping. Like two romping
children, they tied the boat to a stake and rushed
over the sand-dunes to the beach. They explored their
domain from end to end within an hour. Not a tree
obscured the endless panorama of sea and bay and waving
grass on the great solemn marshes. Piles of soft, warm
seaweed lay in long, dark rows along the high-tide
Mary selected a sand-dune almost exactly the height
and shape of the one on which they sat at Long Beach
the day he told her of his love.
"Here's the spot for our home!" she cried. "Don't
you recognize it?"
"Can't say I've ever been here before. Oh, I got
you--I got you! Long Beach--sure! What do you think
He hurried to the boat and brought the tent. Mary
carried the spade, the pole and pegs.
In half an hour the little white home was shining
on the level sand at the foot of their favorite dune.
The door was set toward the open sea, and the stove
securely placed beneath an awning which shaded it from
the sun's rays.
"Now, Kiddo, a plunge in that shining water the
first thing. I'll give you the tent. I'll chuck my
things out here."
In a fever of joyous haste she threw off her
clothes and donned the dainty, one-piece bathing suit.
She flew over the sand and plunged into the water
before Jim had finished changing to his suit.
She was swimming and diving like a duck in the
lazy, beautiful waters of the Gulf when he reached the
"Come on! Come on!" she shouted.
He waved his hand and finished his cigarette.
"It's glorious! It's mid-summer!" she called.
With a quick plunge he dived into the water,
disappeared and stayed until she began to scan the
surface uneasily. With a splash he rose by her side,
lifting her screaming in his arms. Her bathing-cap was
brushed off, and he seized her long hair in his mouth,
turned and with swift, strong beat carried her
unresisting body to the beach.
He drew her erect and looked into her smiling face.
"That's the way I'd save you if you had called for
help. How'd you like it?"
"It was sweet to give up and feel myself in your
His drooping eyes were devouring her exquisite
figure outlined so perfectly in the clinging suit.
"I was afraid to wear this in New York," she said
"I can't blame you. If you'd ever have gone
on the beach at Coney Island in that, there'd have
been a riot."
He lifted her in his arms and kissed her.
"And you're all mine, Kiddo! It's too good to be
true! I'm afraid to wake up mornings now for fear I'll
find I've just been dreaming."
They plunged again in the water, and side by side
swam far out from the shore, circled gracefully and
Hours they spent snuggling in the warm sand. Not a
sound of the world beyond the bay broke the stillness.
The music of the water's soft sighing came on their
ears in sweet, endless cadence. The wind was gentle
and brushed their cheeks with the softest caress. Far
out at sea, white-winged sails were spread--so far away
they seemed to stand in one spot forever. The deep cry
of an ocean steamer broke the stillness at last.
"We must dress for dinner, Jim!" she sighed.
"We must eat, you know."
"But why dress? I like that style on you. It's
too much trouble to dress."
"All right!" she cried gayly. "We'll have a little
informal dinner this evening. I love to feel the sand
under my feet."
He gathered the wood from the dry drifts above the
waterline and kindled a fire. The salt-soaked sticks
burned fiercely, and the dinner was cooked in a jiffy--
a fresh chicken he had bought, sweet potatoes, and
delicious buttered toast.
They sat in their bathing suits on camp-stools
beside the folding table and ate by moonlight.
The dinner finished, Mary cleared the wooden dishes
while Jim brought heaps of the dry, spongy sea grass
and made a bed in the tent. He piled it two feet high,
packed it down to a foot, and then spread the sheets
"All ready for a stroll down the avenue, Kiddo?" he
called from the door.
"Fifth Avenue or Broadway?" she laughed.
"Oh, the Great White Way--you couldn't miss it!
Just look at the shimmer of the moon on the sands!
Ain't it great?"
Hand in hand, they strolled on the beach and bathed
in the silent flood of the moonlit night--no prying
eyes near save the stars of the friendly southern
"The moon seems different down here, Jim!" she
"It is different," he answered with boyish
enthusiasm. "It's all so still and white!"
"Could we stay here forever?"
He shook his head emphatically.
"Not on your life. This little boy has to work,
you know. Old man John D. Rockefeller might, but it's
early for a young financier to retire."
"A whole week, then?"
"Sure! For a week we'll forget New York."
They sat down on the sand-dune behind the tent and
watched the waters flash in the silvery light, the
world and its fevered life forgotten.
"You're the only thing real tonight, Jim!" she
"And you're the world for me, Kiddo!"
She waked at dawn, with a queer feeling of awe at
the weird, gray light which filtered through the cotton
walls. A sense of oneness with Nature and the beat of
Her eternal heart filled her soul. The soft wash of
the water on the sands seemed to be keeping time to the
throb of her own pulse.
She peered curiously into the face of her sleeping
lover. She had never seen him asleep before. She
started at the transformation wrought by the closing of
his heavy eyelids and the complete relaxation of his
features. The strange, steel-blue coloring of his eyes
had always given his face an air of mystery and charm.
The complete closing of the heavy lids and the
slight droop of the lower jaw had worked a frightful
change. The romance and charm had gone, and instead
she saw only the coarse, brutal strength.
She frowned like a spoiled child, put her dainty
hand under his chin and pressed his mouth together.
"Wake up, sir!" she whispered. "I don't like your
He refused to stir, and she drew the tips of her
fingers across his ears and eyelids.
He rubbed his eyes and muttered:
"Let's take a bath in the sea before sunrise--come
The sleeper groaned heavily, turned over, and in a
moment was again dead to the world.
Mary's eyes were wide now with excitement. The
hours were too marvelous to be lost in sleep. She
could sleep when they must return to the tiresome world
with its endless crowds of people.
She rose softly, ran barefoot to the beach, threw
her night-dress on the sand and plunged, her white,
young body trembling with joy, into the water.
It was marvelous--this wonderful hush of the dawn
over the infinite sea. The air and water melted into a
pearl gray. Far out toward the east, the waters
began to blush at the kiss of the coming sun. The
pearl gray slowly turned into purple. So startling was
the vision, she swam in-shore and stood knee-deep in
the shallows to watch the magic changes. In breathless
wonder she saw the sea and sky and shore turn into a
trembling cloud of dazzling purple. A moment before,
she had caught the water up in her hand and poured it
out in a stream of pearls. She lifted a handful and
poured it out now, each drop a dazzling amethyst. And
even while she looked, the purple was changing to
scarlet--the amethyst into rubies!
A great awe filled her in the solemn hush. She
stood in Nature's vast cathedral, close to God's
heart--her life in harmony with His eternal laws.
How foolish and artificial were the ways of the
far-away, drab, prosaic world of clothes and houses and
furnishings! If she could only live forever in this
Even while the thought surged through her heart,
she lifted her head and saw the red rim of the sun
suddenly break through the sea, and started lest the
white light of day had revealed her to some passing
boatman hurrying to his nets.
Her keen eye quickly swept the circle of the wide,
silent world of sand-dunes, marsh and waters. No
prying eye was near. Only the morning star still
gleaming above saw. And they were twin sisters.
Four days flew on velvet wings before the first
cloud threw its shadow across her life. Jim always
slept until nine o'clock, and refused with dogged good-
natured indifference to stir when she had asked him to
get the wood for breakfast. It was nothing, of course,
to walk a hundred yards to the beach and pick up the
wood, and she did it. The hurt that stung was the
feeling that he was growing indifferent.
She felt for the first time an impulse to box his
lazy jaws as he yawned and turned over for the dozenth
time without rising. He looked for all the world like
a bulldog curled up on his bed of grass.
She shook him at last.
"Jim, dear, you must get up now! Breakfast is
almost ready and it won't be fit to eat if you don't
He opened his heavy eyelids and gazed at her
"All righto----! Just as you say--just as you
"Hurry! Breakfast will be ready before you can
"Gee! Breakfast all ready! You're one smart
little wifie, Kiddo."
The compliment failed to please. She was sure that
he had been fully awake twice before and pretended to
be asleep from sheer laziness and indifference.
The thought hurt.
When they sat down at last to breakfast, she looked
into his half-closed eyes with a sudden start.
"Why, Jim, your eyes are red!"
"What's the matter?"
"You're ill--what is it?"
He grinned sheepishly.
"You couldn't guess now, could you?"
"You haven't been drinking!" she gasped.
"No," he drawled lazily, "I wouldn't say drinking--
I just took one big swallow last night--makes you sleep
good when you're tired. Good medicine! I always carry
a little with me."
A sickening wave went over her. Not that she felt
that he was going to be a drunkard. But the utter
indifference with which he made the announcement was a
painful revelation of the fact that her opinion on such
a question was not of the slightest importance.
That he was now master of the situation he evidently
meant that she should see and understand at once.
She refused to accept the humiliating position
without a struggle and made up her mind to try at once
to mold his character. She would begin by getting him
to cut the slang from his conversation.
"You remember the promise you made me one day
before we were married, Jim?" she asked brightly.
"Which one? You know a fellow's not responsible
for what he promises to get his girl. All's fair in
love and war, they say----"
"I'm going to hold you to this one, sir," she
"All right, little bright eyes," he responded
cheerfully as he lit a cigarette and sent the smoke
curling above his red head.
She sat for a while in silence, studying the man
before her. The task was delicate and difficult. And
she had thought it a mere pastime of love! As her
fiance, he had been wax in her hands. As her husband,
he was a lazy, headstrong, obstinate young animal
grinning good-naturedly at her futile protests. How
long would he grin and bear her suggestions with
patience? The transition from this lazy grin to the
growl of an angry bulldog might be instantaneous.
She would move with the utmost caution--but she
would move and at once. It would be a test of
character between them. She edged her chair close to
his, drew his head down in her lap and ran her fingers
through his thick, red hair.
"Still love me, Jim?" she smiled.
"Crazier over you every day--and you know it, too,
you sly little puss," he answered dreamily.
"You WILL make good your promises?"
"Sure, I will--surest thing you know!"
"You see, Jim dear," she went on tenderly, "I want
to be proud of you----"
"Well, ain't you?"
"Of course I am, silly. I know you and understand
you. But I want all the world to respect you as I do."
She paused and breathed deeply. "They've got to do it,
too, they've got to----"
"Sure, I'll knock their block off--if they don't!"
he broke in.
She raised her finger reprovingly and shook her
"That's just the trouble: you can't do it with your
fists. You can't compel the respect of cultured
men and women by physical force. We've got to win with
"All right, Kiddo--dope it out for me," he
responded lazily. "Dope it out----"
Her lips quivered with the painful recognition of
the task before her. Yet when she spoke, her voice was
low and sweet and its tones even. She gave no sign to
the man whose heavy form rested in her arms.
"Then from today we must begin to cut out every
word of slang--it's a bargain?"
"Sure, Mike--I promised!"
"Cut `Sure Mike!'"
She raised her finger severely.
"All right, teacher," he drawled. "What'll we put
in Sure Mike's place? I've found him a handy man!"
Jim grinned good-naturedly.
"Aw hell, Kiddo--that sounds punk!"
"And HELL, Jim, isn't a nice word----"
"Gee, Kid, now look here--can't get along with out
HELL--leave me that one just a little while."
She shook her head.
"And PUNK is expressive, but not suited to
"All right--t'ell with PUNK!" He turned and
looked. "What's the matter now?" he asked.
"Don't you realize what you've just said?"
"What did I say?"
She turned away to hide a tear.
He threw his arms around her neck and drew her lips
down to his.
"Ah, don't worry, Kiddo--I'll do better next time.
Honest to God, I will. That's enough for today. Just
let's love now. T'ell with the rest."
She smiled in answer.
"You promise to try honestly?"
He raised his hand in solemn vow.
Each day's trial ended in a laugh and a kiss until
at last Jim refused to promise any more. He grinned in
obstinate, good-natured silence and let her do the
She watched him with growing wonder and alarm. He
gradually lapsed into little coarse, ugly habits at the
table. She tried playfully to correct them. He took
it good-naturedly at first and then ignored her
suggestions as if she were a kitten complaining at his
She studied him with baffling rage at the mystery
of his personality. The long silences between them
grew from hour to hour. She could see that he was
restless now at the isolation of their sand-island
home. The queer lights and shadows that played in his
cold blue eyes told only too plainly that his mind was
back again in the world of battle. He was fighting
She was glad of it. She could manage him better
there. She would throw him into the company of
educated people and rouse his pride and ambition. She
heard his announcement of their departure on the eighth
day with positive joy.
"Well, Kiddo," he began briskly, "we've got to be
moving. Time to get back to work now. The old town
and the little shop down in Avenue B have been calling
"Today, Jim?" she asked quickly.
"Right away. We'll catch the first train north,
stop two days, Christmas Eve and Christmas, in
Asheville, and then for old New York!"
The journey along the new railroad built on
concrete bridges over miles of beautiful waters was one
of unalloyed joy. They had passed over this stretch of
marvelous engineering at night on their trip down and
had not realized its wonders. For hours the train
seemed to be flying on velvet wings through the ocean.
She sat beside her lover and held his hand. In
spite of her enthusiasm, he would doze. At every turn
of entrancing view she would pinch his arm:
"Look, Jim! Look!"
He would lift his heavy eyelids, grunt good-
naturedly and doze again.
In the dining-car she was in mortal terror at first
lest he should lapse into the coarse table manners into
which he had fallen in camp. She laid his napkin
conspicuously on his plate and saw that he had opened
and put it in place across his lap before ordering the
The moment he found himself in a crowd, the lights
began to flash in his eyes, his broad shoulders lifted
and his whole being was at once alert and on guard. He
followed his wife's lead with unerring certainty.
She renewed her faith in his early reformation,
though his character was a puzzle. He seemed to be
forever watching out of the corners of his slumbering
eyes. She wondered what it meant.
THE REAL MAN
They arrived in Asheville the night before Christmas
Eve. Jim listened to his wife's prattle about the
wonderful views with quiet indifference.
They stopped at the Battery Park Hotel, and she
hoped the waning moon would give them at least a
glimpse of the beautiful valley of the French Broad and
Swannanoa rivers and the dark, towering ranges of
mountains among the stars. She made Jim wait on the
balcony of the room for half an hour, but the clouds
grew denser and he persisted in nodding.
His head dipped lower than usual, and she laughed.
"Poor old sleepy-head!"
"For the love o' Mike, Kiddo--me for the hay.
Won't them mountains wait till morning?"
"All right!" she answered cheerily. "I'll pull you
out at sunrise. The sunrise from our window will be
He rose and stretched his body like a young, well
"I think it's prettier from the bed. But have it
your own way--have it your own way. I'll agree to
anything if you lemme go to sleep now."
She rose as the first gray fires of dawn began to
warm the cloud-banks on the eastern horizon, stood
beside her window and watched in silent ecstasy. Jim
was sleeping heavily. She would not wake him until the
glory of the sunrise was at its height. She loved to
watch the changing lights and shadows in sky and valley
and on distant mountain peaks as the light slowly
filtered over the eastern hills.
She had recovered from the depression of the last
days of their camp. The journey back into the world
had improved Jim's manners. There could be no doubt
about his ambitions. His determination to be a
millionaire was the lever she now meant to work in
raising his social aspirations.
Why should she feel depressed?
Their married life had just begun. The two weeks
they had passed on their honeymoon had been happy
beyond her dreams of happiness. Somehow her
imagination had failed to give any conception of the
wonder and glory of this revelation of life. His
little lapses of selfishness on their sand island
no doubt came from ignorance of what was expected of
For one thing she felt especially thankful. There
had been no ugly confessions of a shady past to cloud
the joy of their love. Her lover might be ignorant of
the ways of polite society. He was equally free of its
sinister vices. She thanked God for that. The soul of
the man she had married was clean of all memories of
women. The love he gave was fierce in its unrestrained
passion--but it was all hers. She gloried in its
She made up her mind, standing there in the soft
light of the dawn, that she would bend his iron will to
her own in the growing, sweet intimacy of their married
life and threw her fears to the winds.
The thin, fleecy clouds that hung over the low
range of the eastern foreground were all aglow now,
with every tint of the rainbow, while the sun's bed
beyond the hills was flaming in scarlet and gold.
She clapped her hands in ecstasy.
"Jim! Jim, dear!"
He made no response, and she rushed to his side and
"You must see this sunrise--get up quick, quick,
dear. It's wonderful."
"What's the matter?" he muttered.
"The sunrise over the mountains--quick--it's
His heavy eyelids drooped and closed. He dropped
on the pillow and buried his face out of sight.
"Ah, Jim dear, do come--just to please me."
"I'm dead, Kiddo--dead to the world," he sighed.
"Don't like to see the sun rise. I never did. Come on
back and let's sleep----"
His last words were barely audible. He was
breathing heavily as his lips ceased to move.
She gave it up, returned to the window and watched
the changing colors until the white light from the
sun's face had touched with life the last shadows of
the valleys and flashed its signals from the farthest
Her whole being quivered in response to the beauty
of this glorious mountain world. The air was wine.
She loved the sapphire skies and the warm, lazy,
caressing touch of the sun of the South.
A sense of bitterness came, just for a moment, that
the man she had chosen for her mate had no eye to see
these wonders and no ear to hear their music. During
the madness of his whirlwind courtship she had gotten
the impression that his spirit was sensitive to
beauty--to the waters of the bay, the sea and the
wooded hills. She must face the facts. Their stay on
the island had convinced her that he had eyes only for
her. She must make the most of it.
It was ten o'clock before Jim could be persuaded to
rise and get breakfast. She literally pulled him up
the stairs to the observatory on the tower of the
"What's the game, Kiddo? What's the game?" he
"Ask me no questions. But do just as I tell you;
Her face was radiant, her hair in a tangle of
riotous beauty about her forehead and temples, her eyes
"Don't look till I tell you!" she cried, as they
emerged on the little minaret which crowns the tower.
"Now open and see the glory of the Lord!" she cried
with joyous awe.
The day was one of matchless beauty. The clouds
that swung low in the early morning had floated higher
and higher till they hung now in shining billows above
the highest balsam-crowned peaks in the distance.
In every direction, as far as the eye could
reach, north, south, east, west, the dark ranges
mounted in the azure skies until the farthest dim lines
melted into the heavens.
"Oh, Jim dear, isn't it wonderful! We're lucky to
get this view on our first day. It's such a good
Jim opened his eyes lazily and puffed his cigarette
in a calm, patronizing way.
"Tough sledding we'd have had with an automobile
over those hills," he said. "We'll try it after lunch,
"We'll go for a ride?" she cried joyfully.
"Yep. Got to hunt up the folks. The mountains
near Asheville!" he said with disgust. "I should say
they are near--and far, too. Holy smoke, I'll bet we
"Where's the Black Mountains, I wonder?" he asked
"Over there!" She pointed to the giant peaks
projecting here and there in dim, blue waves beyond the
Great Craggy Range in the foreground.
"Holy Moses! Do we have to climb those crags
before we start?"
"To go to Black Mountain?"
"Yes. That's where the lawyer said they
lived, under Cat-tail Peak in the Black Mountain
Range--wherever t'ell that is."
"No, no! You don't climb the Great Craggy; you go
around this end of it and follow the Swannanoa River
right up to the foot of Mount Mitchell, the highest
peak this side of the Rockies. The Cat-tail is just
beyond Mount Mitchell."
"You've been there?" he asked in surprise.
"Once, with a party from Asheville. We spent three
days and slept in caves."
"Suppose you'd know the way now?"
"We couldn't miss it. We follow the bed of the
Swannanoa to its source-----"
"Then that settles it. We'll go by ourselves. I
don't want any mutt along to show us the way. We
couldn't get lost nohow, could we?"
"Of course not--all the roads lead to Asheville.
We can ask the way to the house you want, when we reach
the little stopping place at the foot of Mount
"Gee, Kid, you're a wonder!" he exclaimed
admiringly. "Couldn't get along without you, now could
"I hope not, sir!"
"You bet I couldn't! We'll start right away. The
roads will give us a jolt----"
He turned suddenly to go.
"Wait--wait a minute, dear," she pleaded. "You
haven't seen this gorgeous view to the southwest, with
Mount Pisgah looming in the center like some vast
cathedral spire--look, isn't it glorious?"
"Fine! Fine!" he responded in quick, businesslike
"You can look for days and weeks and not begin to
realize the changing beauty of these mountains, clothed
in eternal green! Just think, dear, Mount Pisgah,
there, is forty miles away, and it looks as if you
could stroll over to it in an hour's walk. And there
are twenty-three magnificent peaks like that, all of
them more than six thousand feet high----"
She paused with a frown. He was neither looking
nor listening. He had fallen into a brown study; his
mind was miles away.
"You're not listening, Jim--nor seeing anything,"
she said reproachfully.
"No--Kiddo, we must get ready for that trip. I've
got a letter for a lawyer downtown. I'll find him and
hire a car. I'll be back here for you in an hour.
You'll be ready?"
"Right away, in half an hour----"
"Just pack a suit-case for us both. We'll
stay one night. I'll take a bag, too, that I have
in my trunk."
It was noon before he returned with a staunch
touring car ready for the trip. He opened the little
steamer trunk which he had always kept locked and took
from it a small leather bag. He placed it on the
floor, and, in spite of careful handling, the ring of
metal inside could be distinctly heard.
"What on earth have you got in that queer black
bag?" she asked in surprise.
"Oh, just a lot o' junk from the shop. I thought I
might tinker with it at odd times. I don't want to
leave it here. It's got one of my new models in it."
He carried the bag in his hand, refusing to allow
the porter who came for the suit-case to touch it.
He threw the suit-case in the bottom of the
tonneau. The bag he stowed carefully under the
cushions of the rear seat. The moment he placed his
hand on the wheel of the machine, he was at his best.
Every trace of the street gamin fell from him. Again
he was the eagle-eyed master of time and space. The
machine answered his touch with more than human
obedience. He knew how to humor its mood. He
conserved its power for a hill with unerring accuracy
and threw it over the grades with rarely a pause
to change his speeds. He could turn the sharp curves
with such swift, easy grace that he scarcely caused
Mary's body to swerve an inch. He could sense a rough
place in the road and glide over it with velvet touch.
A tire blew out, five miles up the stream from
Asheville, and the easy, business-like deliberation
with which he removed the old and adjusted the new, was
a revelation to Mary of a new phase of his character.
He never once grunted, or swore, or lost his poise,
or manifested the slightest impatience. He set about
his task coolly, carefully, skillfully, and finished it
quickly and silently.
His long silences at last began to worry her. An
invisible barrier had reared itself between them. The
impression was purely mental--but it was none the less
real and distressing.
There was a look of aloof absorption about him she
had never seen before. At first she attributed it to
the dread of meeting his kinsfolk for the first time,
his fear of what they might be like or what they might
think of him.
He answered her questions cheerfully but
mechanically. Sometimes he stared at her in a cold,
impersonal way and gave no answer, as if her
questions were an impertinence and she were not of
sufficient importance to waste his breath on.
Unable at last to endure the strain, she burst out
"What on earth's the matter with you, Jim?"
"Why?" he asked softly.
"You haven't spoken to me in half an hour, and I've
asked you two questions."
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