Harry Leon Wilson
Part 7 out of 7
"Well, son, I ain't no ways alarmed but what you'll soon be on your
feet again in that respect--say by next Tuesday or Wednesday. I wish
the money was comin' back as easy."
"Well, there are girls in Montana City."
"You could do worse. That reminds me--I happened to meet Shepler to-day
and he got kind of confidential,--talkin' over matters. He said he'd
never really felt sure about the affections of a certain young woman,
especially after that night at the Oldakers'--he'd never felt dead sure
of her until you went broke. He said you never could know anything
about a woman--not really."
"He knows something about that one, all right, if he knows she wouldn't
have any use for me now. Shepler's coming on with the ladies. I feel
quite hopeful about him."
The Departure of Uncle Peter--And Some German Philosophy
The Bineses, with the exception of Psyche, were at breakfast a week
later. Miss Bines had been missing since the day that Mr. and Mrs.
Cecil G. H. Mauburn had left for Montana City to put the Bines home in
Uncle Peter and Mrs. Bines had now determined to go, leaving Percival
to follow when he had closed his business affairs.
"It's like starting West again to make our fortune," said Uncle Peter.
He had suffered himself to regain something of his old cheerfulness of
"I wish you two would wait until they can get the car here, and go back
with me," said Percival. "We can go back in style even if we didn't
save much more than a get-away stake."
But his persuasions were unavailing.
"I can't stand it another day," said Mrs. Bines, "and those letters
keep coming in from poor suffering people that haven't heard the news."
"I'm too restless to stay," declared Uncle Peter. "I declare, with
spring all greenin' up this way I'd be found campin' up in Central Park
some night and took off to the calaboose. I just got to get out again
where you can feel the wind blow and see a hundred miles and don't have
to dodge horseless horse-cars every minute. It's a wonder one of 'em
ain't got me in this town. You come on in the car, and do the style fur
the family. One of them common Pullmans is good enough fur Marthy and
me. And besides, I got to get Billy Brue back. He's goin' plumb daft
lookin' night and day fur that man that got his thirty dollars and his
breastpin. He says there'll be an ambulance backed up at the spot where
he meets him--makes no difference if it's right on Fifth Avenue.
Billy's kind of nearsighted at that, so I'm mortal afraid he'll make a
mistake one of these nights and take some honest man's money and
trinkets away from him."
"Well, here's a _Sun_ editorial to take back with us," said Percival;
"you remember we came East on one." He read aloud:
"The great fall in the price of copper, Western Trolley, and cordage
stocks has ruined thousands of people all over this country. These
losses are doubtless irreparable so far as the stocks in question are
concerned. The losers will have to look elsewhere for recovery. That
they will do so with good courage is not to be doubted. It might be
argued with reasonable plausibility that Americans are the greatest
fatalists in the world; the readiest to take chances and the least
given to whining when the cards go against them.
"A case in point is that of a certain Western family whose fortune has
been swept away by the recent financial hurricane. If ever a man liked
to match with Destiny, not 'for the beers,' but for big stakes, the
young head of the family in question appears to have been that man. He
persisted in believing that the power and desire of the rich men
controlling these three stocks were great enough to hold their
securities at a point far above their actual value. In this persistence
he displayed courage worthy of a better reward. A courage, moreover
--the gambler's courage--that is typically American. Now he has had a
plenty of that pleasure of losing which, in Mr. Fox's estimation, comes
next to the pleasure of winning.
"From the point of view of the political economist or the moralist,
thrift, saving, and contentment with a modest competence are to be
encouraged, and the propensity to gamble is to be condemned. We stand
by the copy-book precepts. Yet it is only honest to confess that there
is something of this young American's love for chances in most of us.
American life is still so fluid, the range of opportunity so great, the
national temperament so buoyant, daring, and hopeful, that it is easier
for an American to try his luck again than to sit down snugly and enjoy
what he has. The fun and the excitement of the game are more than the
game. There are Americans and plenty of them who will lose all they
have in some magnificent scheme, and make much less fuss about it than
a Paris shopkeeper would over a bad twenty-franc piece.
"Our disabled young Croesus from the West is a luminous specimen of the
type. The country would be less interesting without his kind, and, on
the whole, less healthy--for they provide one of the needed ferments.
May the young man make another fortune in his own far West--and come
once more to rattle the dry bones of our Bourse!"
"He'll be too much stuck on Montana by the time he gets that fortune,"
observed Uncle Peter.
"I will _that,_ Uncle Peter. Still it's pleasant to know we've won
their good opinion."
"Excuse me fur swearin', Marthy," said Uncle Peter, turning to Mrs.
Bines, "but he can win a better opinion than that in Montana fur a damn
sight less money."
"That editor is right," said Mrs. Bines, "what he says about American
life being 'fluid.' There's altogether too much drinking goes on here,
and I'm glad my son quit it."
Percival saw them to the train.
"Take care of yourself," said Uncle Peter at parting. "You know I ain't
any good any more, and you got a whole family, includin' an Englishman,
dependin' on you--we'll throw him on the town, though, if he don't
take out his first papers the minute I get there."
His last shot from the rear platform was:
"Change your name back to 'Pete,' son, when you get west of Chicago.
'Tain't anything fancy, but it's a crackin' good business name fur a
"All right, Uncle Peter,--and I hope I'll have a grandson that thinks
as much of it as I do of yours."
When they had gone, he went back to the work of final adjustment. He
had the help of Coplen, whom they had sent for. With him he was busy
for a week. By lucky sales of some of the securities that had been
hypothecated they managed to save a little; but, on the whole, it was
what Percival described it, "a lovely autopsy."
At last the vexatious work was finished, and he was free again. At the
end of the final day's work he left the office of Fouts in Wall Street,
and walked up Broadway. He went slowly, enjoying the freedom from care.
It was the afternoon of a day when the first summer heat had been felt,
and as he loitered before shop windows or walked slowly through that
street where all move quickly and most very hurriedly, a welcome little
breeze came up from the bay to fan him and encourage his spirit of
At Union Square, when he would have taken a car to go the remainder of
the distance, he saw Shepler, accompanied by Mrs. Van Geist and Miss
Milbrey, alight from a victoria and enter a jeweller's.
He would have passed on, but Miss Milbrey had seen him, and stood
waiting in the doorway while Shepler and Mrs. Van Geist went on into
"Mr. Bines--I'm _so_ glad!"
She stood, flushed with pleasure, radiant in stuff of filmy pink, with
little flecks at her throat and waist of the first tender green of new
leaves. She was unaffectedly delighted to see him.
"You are Miss Spring?" he said when she had given him her hand--"and
you've come into all your mother had that was worth inheriting, haven't
"Mr. Bines, shall we not see you now? I wanted so much to talk with you
when I heard everything. Would it be impertinent to say I sympathised
He looked over her shoulder, in where Shepler and Mrs. Van Geist were
inspecting a tray of jewels.
"Of course not impertinent--very kind--only I'm really not in need of
any sympathy at all. You won't understand it; but we don't care so much
for money in the West--for the loss of it--not so much as you New
Yorkers would. Besides we can always make a plenty more."
The situation was, emphatically, not as he had so often dreamed it when
she should marvel, perhaps regretfully, over his superiority to her
husband as a money-maker. His only relief was to belittle the
importance of his loss.
"Of course we've lost everything, almost--but I've not been a bit
downcast about it. There's more where it came from, and no end of fun
going after it. I'm looking forward to the adventures, I can tell you.
And every one will be glad to see me there; they won't think the less
of me, I assure you, because I've made a fluke here!"
"Surely, Mr. Bines, no one here could think less of you. Indeed, I
think more of you. I think it's fine and big to go back with such
courage. Do you know, I wish I were a man--I'd show them!"
"Really, Miss Milbrey--"
He looked over her shoulder again, and saw that Shepler was waiting for
"I think your friends are impatient."
"They can wait. Mr. Bines, I wonder if you have quite a correct idea of
all New York people."
"Probably not; I've met so few, you know."
"Well, of course,--but of those you've met?"
"You can't know what my ideas are."
"I wish we might have talked more--I'm sure--when are you leaving?"
"I shall leave to-morrow."
"And we're leaving for the country ourselves. Papa and mamma go
to-morrow--and, Mr. Bines, I _should_ have liked another talk with
you--I wish we were dining at the Oldakers' again."
He observed Shepler strolling toward them.
"I shall be staying with Aunt Cornelia a few days after to-morrow."
Shepler came up.
"And I shall be leaving to-morrow, Miss Milbrey."
"Ah, Bines, glad to see you!"
The accepted lover looked Miss Milbrey over with rather a complacent
air--with the unruffled confidence of assured possession. Percival
fancied there was a look almost of regret in the girl's eyes.
"I'm afraid," said Shepler, "your aunt doesn't want to be kept waiting.
And she's already in a fever for fear you won't prefer the necklace she
insists you ought to prefer."
"Tell Aunt Cornelia, please, that I shall be along in just a moment."
"She's quite impatient, you know," urged Shepler.
Percival extended his hand.
"Good-bye, Miss Milbrey. Don't let me detain you. Sorry I shall not see
She gave him her hand uncertainly, as if she had still something to
say, but could find no words for it.
"Good-bye, Mr. Bines."
"Good-bye, young man," Shepler shook hands with him cordially, "and the
best of luck to you out there. I shall hope to hear good reports from
you. And mind, you're to look us up when you're in town again. We shall
always be glad to see you. Good-bye!"
He led the girl back to the case where the largest diamonds reposed
chastely on their couches of royal velvet.
Percival smiled as he resumed his walk--smiled with all that bitter
cynicism which only youth may feel to its full poignance. Yet,
heartless as she was, he recalled that while she talked to him he had
imprinted an imaginary kiss deliberately upon her full scarlet lips.
And now, too, he was forced to confess that, in spite of his very
certain knowledge about her, he would actually prefer to have
communicated it through the recognised physical media. He laughed
again, more cheerfully.
"The spring has gotten a strangle-hold on my judgment," he said to
At dinner that night he had the company of that estimable German
savant, the Herr Doctor von Herzlich. He did not seek to incur the
experience, but the amiable doctor was so effusive and interested that
he saw no way of avoiding it gracefully. Returned from his
archaeological expedition to Central America, the doctor was now on his
way back to Marburg.
"I pleasure much in your news," said the cheerful man over his first
glass of Rhine wine with the olive in it. "You shall now, if I have
misapprehended you not, develop a new strongness of the character."
Percival resigned himself to listen. He was not unfamiliar with the lot
of one who dines with the learned Von Herzlich.
"Now he's off," he said to himself.
"Ach! It is but now that you shall begin to live. Is it not that while
you planned the money-amassing you were deferring to live--ah,
yes--until some day when you had so much more? Yes? A common
thought-failure it is--a common failure of the to-take-thoughtedness of
life--its capacities and the intentions of the scheme under which we
survive. Ach! So few humans learn that this invitation to live
specifies not the hours, like a five-o'clock. It says--so well as
Father-Mother Nature has learned to write the words to our unseeing
eyes--'at once,' but we ever put off the living we are invited to at
once--until to-morrow-next day, next year--until this or that be done
or won. So now you will find this out. Before, you would have waited
for a time that never came--no matter the all-money you gathered.
"Nor yet, my young friend, shall you take this matter to be of a
seriousness, to be sorrow-worthy. If you take of the courage, you shall
find the world to smile to your face, and father-mother you. You recall
what the English Huxley says--Ah! what fine, dear man, the good Huxley--he
says, yes, in the 'Genealogy of the Beasts,' 'It is a probable hypothesis
that what the world is to organisms in general, each organism is to the
molecules of which it is composed.' So you laugh at the world, the world
it laugh back 'ha! ha! ha!'--then--soly--all your little molecules
obediently respond--you thrill with the happiness--with the power--the
desire--the capacity--you out-go and achieve. Yes? So fret not. Ach! we
fret so much of what it shall be unwise to fret of. It is funny to fret.
Why? Why fret? Yet but the month last, they have excavated at Nippur, from
the pre-Sargonic strata, a lady and a gentleman of the House of Ptah. What
you say in New York--'a damned fine old family,' yes, is it not? I am read
their description, and seen of the photographs.
"They have now the expressions of indifference--of disinterest--without
the prejudice--as if they say, 'Ach! those troubles of ours, three
thousand eight hundred years in the B.C.--nearly come to six thousand
years before now--Ach! those troubles,' say this philosophic-now lady
and gentleman, of the House of Ptah of Babylonia--'such a
silliness--those troubles and frets; it was not the while-worth that we
should ever have sorrowed, because the scheme of time and creation is
suchly big; had we grasped but its bigness, and the littleness of our
span, should we have felt griefs? Nay, nay--_nit_,' like the
street-youths say--would say the lady and gentleman now so passionless
as to have philosophers become. And you, it should mean to you much.
Humans are funniest when they weep and tremble before, like you say,
'the facts in the case.' Ha! I laugh to myself at them often when I
observe. Their funniness of the beards and eyebrows, the bald head, of
the dress, the solemnities of manner, as it were they were persons of
weight. Ah, they are of their insignificance so loftily unconscious.
Was it not great skill--to compel the admiration of the love-worthiest
scientist--to create a unit of a numberless mass of units and then to
enable it to feel each one the importance of the whole, as if each part
were big as the whole? So you shall not fret I say.
"If the fret invade you, you shall do well to lie out in the friendly
space, and look at this small topspinning of a world through the glass
"Yes? You had thought it of such bigness--its concerns of a sublime
tragicness? Yet see now, these funny little animals on the surface of
the spinning-ball. How frantic, as if all things were about to
eventuate, remembering not that nothing ends. So? Observe the marks of
their silliness, their unworthiness. You have reduced the ball to so
big as a melon, yes? Watch the insects run about in the craziness,
laughing, crying, loving their loves, hating their hates, fearing,
fretting--killing one the other in such funny little clothes, made for
such funny little purpose precisely--falling sick over the
money-losings--and the ball so small, but one of such many--as many
stars under the earth, remember, as above it.
"So! you are back to earth; you are a human like the rest, so foolish,
so funny as any--so you say, 'Well, I shall not be more troubled again
yet. I play the same game, but it is only a game, a little game to last
an afternoon--I play my part--yes--the laughing part, crying
part--loving, hating, killing part--what matter if I say it is good?'
If the Maker there be to look down, what joys him most--the coward who
fears and frets, and the whine makes for his soul or body? Ach! no, it
is the one who say, it is _good_--I could not better have done
myself--a great game, yes--'let her rip,' like you West-people
remark--'let her rip--you cannot lose _me_,' like you say also. Ach,
so! And then he say, the great Planner of it,' Ach! I am understood at
last--good!--bright man that,' like you say, also--'bright man that--it
is of a pleasure to see him do well!'
"So, my young friend, you shall pleasure yourself still much yet. It is
of an excellence to pleasure one's self judiciously. The lotus is a
leguminous plant--so excellent for the salad--not for the roast. You
have of the salad overeaten--you shall learn of your successful
capacity for it--you shall do well, then. You have been of the reckless
deportment--you may still be of it. That is not the matter. You shall
be reckless as you like--but without your stored energy surplus to harm
you. Your environment from the now demands of you the faculties you
will most pleasure yourself in developing. You shall produce what you
consume. The gods love such. Ach, yes!"
Some Phenomena Peculiar to Spring
He awoke early, refreshed and intensely alive. With the work done he
became conscious of a feeling of disassociation from the surroundings
in which he had so long been at home. Many words of the talkative
German were running in his mind from the night before. He was glad the
business was off his mind. He would now go the pleasant journey, and
think on the way.
His trunks were ready for the car; and before he went down-stairs his
hand-bag was packed, and the preparations for the start completed.
When, after his breakfast, he read the telegram announcing that the car
had been delayed twenty-four hours in Chicago, he was bored by the
thought that he must pass another day in New York. He was eager now to
be off, and the time would hang heavily.
He tried to recall some forgotten detail of the business that might
serve to occupy him. But the finishing had been thorough.
He ran over in his mind the friends with whom he could spend the time
agreeably. He could recall no one he cared to see. He had no longer an
interest in the town or its people.
He went aimlessly out on to Broadway in the full flood of a spring
morning, breathing the fresh air hungrily. It turned his thought to
places out of the grime and clamour of the city; to woods and fields
where he might rest and feel the stimulus of his new plans. He felt
aloof and sufficient unto himself.
He swung on to an open car bound north, and watched without interest
the early quick-moving workers thronging south on the street, and
crowding the cars that passed him. At Forty-second Street, he changed
to a Boulevard car that took him to the Fort Lee Ferry at One Hundred
and Twenty-fifth Street.
Out on the shining blue river he expanded his lungs to the clean, sweet
air. Excursion boats, fluttering gay streamers, worked sturdily up the
stream. Little yachts, in fresh-laundered suits of canvas, darted
across their bows or slanted in their wakes, looking like white
butterflies. The vivid blue of the sky was flecked with bits of broken
fleece, scurrying like the yachts below. Across the river was a
high-towering bank of green inviting him over its summit to the
languorous freshness beyond.
He walked off the boat on the farther side and climbed a series of
steep wooden stairways, past a tiny cataract that foamed its way down
to the river. When he reached the top he walked through a stretch of
woods and turned off to the right, down a cool shaded road that wound
away to the north through the fresh greens of oak and chestnut.
He was entranced at once by the royal abandon of spring, this wondrous
time of secret beginnings made visible. The old earth was become as a
young wife from the arms of an ardent spouse, blushing into new life
and beauty for the very joy of love. He breathed the dewy freshness,
and presently he whistled the "Spring Song" of Mendelssohn, that
bubbling, half-joyous, half-plaintive little prayer in melody.
He was well into the spirit of the time and place. His soul sang. The
rested muscles of his body and mind craved the resistance of obstacles.
He rejoiced. He had been wise to leave the city for the fresh,
unspoiled country--the city with all its mean little fears, its petty
immoralities, and its very trifling great concerns. He did not analyse,
more than to remember, once, that the not reticent German would approve
his mood. He had sought the soothing quiet with the unfailing instinct
of the wounded animal.
The mysterious green life in the woods at either side allured him with
its furtive pulsing. But he kept to the road and passed on. He was not
yet far enough from the town.
Some words from a little song ran in his mind as he walked:
"The naked boughs into green leaves slipped,
The longing buds into flowers tripped,
The little hills smiled as if they were glad,
The little rills ran as if they were mad.
"There was green on the earth and blue in the sky,
The chrysalis changed to a butterfly,
And our lovers, the honey-bees, all a-hum,
To hunt for our hearts began to come."
When he came to a village with an electric car clanging through it, he
skirted its borders, and struck off through a woodland toward the
river. Even the village was too human, too modern, for his early-pagan
In the woods he felt that curious thrill of stealth, that impulse to
cautious concealment, which survives in man from the remote days when
enemies beset his forest ways. On a southern hillside he found a
dogwood-tree with its blossomed firmament of white stars. In low, moist
places the violets had sprung through the thatch of leaves and were
singing their purple beauties all unheard. Birds were nesting, and
squirrels chattered and scolded.
Under these more obvious signs and sounds went the steady undertone of
life in root and branch and unfurling leaf--provoking, inciting, making
lawless whomsoever it thrilled.
He came out of the wood on to another road that ran not far from the
river, and set off again to the north along the beaten track.
In an old-fashioned garden in front of a small house a girl bent over a
flower bed, working with a trowel.
He stopped and looked at her over the palings. She was freshly pretty,
with yellow hair blown about her face under the pushed back sunbonnet
of blue. The look in her blue eyes was the look of one who had heard
echoes; who had awakened with the spring to new life and longings,
mysterious and unwelcome, but compelling.
She stood up when he spoke; her sleeves were turned prettily back upon
her fair round arms.
"Yes, the road turns to the left, a bit ahead."
She was blushing.
"You are planting flower seeds."
"Yes; so many flowers were killed by the cold last winter."
"I see; there must a lot of them have died here, but their souls didn't
go far, did they now?"
She went to digging again in the black moist earth. He lingered. The
girl worked on, and her blush deepened. He felt a lawless impulse to
vault the palings, and carry her off to be a flower for ever in some
wooded glade near by. He dismissed it as impracticable. His intentions
would probably be misconstrued.
"I hope your garden will thrive. It has a pretty pattern to follow."
He raised his hat and passed on, thinking; thinking of all the old dead
flowers, and their pretty souls that had gone to bloom in the heaven of
the maid's face.
Before the road turned to the left he found a path leading over to the
top of the palisade. There on a little rocky shelf, hundreds of feet
above the river, he lay a long time in the spring sun, looking over to
the farther shore, where the city crept to the south, and lost its
sharp lines in the smoky distance. There he smoked and gave himself up
to the moment. He was glad to be out of that rush. He could see matters
more clearly now--appraise values more justly. He was glad of
everything that had come. Above all, glad to go back and carry on that
big work of his father's--his father who had done so much to redeem the
wilderness--and incidentally he would redeem his own manhood.
It will be recalled that the young man frequently expressed himself
with regrettable inelegance; that he habitually availed himself,
indeed, of a most infelicitous species of metaphor. It must not be
supposed that this spring day in the spring places had reformed his
manner of delivery. When he chose to word his emotions it was still
done in a manner to make the right-spoken grieve. Thus, going back
toward the road, after reviewing his great plans for the future, he
spoke aloud: "I believe it's going to be a good game."
When he became hungry he thought with relief that he would not be
compelled to seek one of those "hurry-up" lunch places with its clamour
and crowd. What was the use of all that noise and crowding and piggish
hurry? A remark of the German's recurred to him:
"It is a happy man who has divined the leisure of eternity, so he feels
it, like what you say, 'in his bones.'"
When he came out on the road again he thought regretfully of the pretty
girl and her flower bed. He would have liked to go back and suggest
that she sing to the seeds as she put them to sleep in their earth
cradle, to make their awakening more beautiful.
But he turned down the road that led away from the girl, and when he
came to a "wheelman's rest," he ate many sandwiches and drank much
The face of the maid that served him had been no heaven for the souls
of dead flowers. Still she was a girl; and no girl could be wholly
without importance on such a day. So he thought the things he would
have said to her if matters had been different.
When he had eaten, he loafed off again down the road. Through the long
afternoon he walked and lazed, turning into strange lanes and by-roads,
resting on grassy banks, and looking far up. He followed Doctor von
Herzlich's directions, and, going off into space, reduced the earth,
watching its little continents and oceans roll toward him, and viewing
the antics of its queer inhabitants in fancy as he had often in fact
viewed a populous little ant-hill, with its busy, serious citizens.
Then he would venture still farther--away out into timeless space,
beyond even the starry refuse of creation, and insolently regard the
universe as a tiny cloud of dust.
When the shadows stretched in the dusky languor of the spring evening,
he began to take his bearings for the return. He heard the hum and
clang of an electric car off through a chestnut grove.
The sound disturbed him, bringing premonitions of the city's unrest. He
determined to stay out for the night. It was restful--his car would not
arrive until late the next afternoon--there was no reason why he should
not. He found a little wayside hotel whose weather-beaten sign was
ancient enough to promise "entertainment for man and beast."
"Just what I want," he declared. "I'm both of them--man and beast."
Together they ate tirelessly of young chickens broiled, and a green
salad, and a wonderful pie, with a bottle of claret that had stood back
of the dingy little bar so long that it had attained, at least as to
its label, a very fair antiquity.
This time the girl was pretty again, and, he at once discovered, not
indisposed to light conversation. Yet she was a shallow creature, with
little mind for the subtler things of life and the springtime. He
decided she was much better to look at than to talk to. With a just
appreciation of her own charms she appeared to pose perpetually before
an imaginary mirror, regaling him and herself with new postures,
tossing her brown head, curving her supple waist, exploiting her
thousand coquetries. He was pained to note, moreover, that she was more
than conscious of the red-cheeked youth who came in from the carriage
When the man and the beast had been appeased they sat out under a
blossomed apple-tree and smoked together in a fine spirit of amity.
He was not amazed when, in the gloom, he saw the red-cheeked youth with
both arms about the girl--nor was he shocked at detecting instantly
that her struggles were meant to be futile against her assailant's
might. The birds were mating, life was forward, and Nature loves to be
democratically lavish with her choicest secrets. Why not, then, the
blooming, full curved kitchen-maid and the red-cheeked boy-of-all-work?
He smoked and saw the night fall. The dulled bronze jangle of cow-bells
came soothingly to him. An owl called a little way off. Swallows
flashed by in long graceful flights. A bat circled near, indecisively,
as if with a message it hesitated to give. Once he heard the flute-like
warble of a skylark.
He was under the clean, sharp stars of a moonless night. His keen
senses tasted the pungent smoke and the softer feminine fragrance of
the apple-blossoms. His nerves were stilled to pleasant ease, except
when the laugh of the girl floated to him from the grape-arbour back of
the house. That disturbed him to fierce longings--the clear, high
measure of a woman's laugh floating to him in the night. And once she
sang--some song common to her class. It moved him as her laugh did,
making him vibrate to her, as when a practised hand flutters the
strings of a harp. He was glad without knowing why when she stopped.
At ten o'clock he went in from under the peering little stars and fell
asleep in an ancient four-poster. He dreamed that he had the world, a
foot-ball, clasped to his breast, and was running down the field for a
gain of a hundred yards. Then, suddenly, in place of the world, it was
Avice Milbrey in his grasp, struggling frantically to be free; and
instead of behaving like a gentleman he flung both arms around her and
kissed her despite her struggles; kissed her time after time, until she
ceased to strive against him, and lay panting and helpless in his arms.
An Unusual Plan of Action Is Matured
He was awakened by the unaccustomed silence. As he lay with his eyes
open, his first thought was that all things had stopped--the world had
come to its end. Then remembrance came, and he stretched in lazy
enjoyment of the stillness and the soft feather bed upon which he had
slept. Finding himself too wide awake for more sleep, he went over to
the little gable window and looked out. The unfermented wine of another
spring day came to his eager nostrils. The little ball had made another
turn. Its cheek was coming once more into the light. Already the east
was flushing with a wondrous vague pink. The little animals in the city
over there, he thought, would soon be tumbling out of their beds to
begin another of their funny, serious days of trial and failure; to
make ready for another night of forgetfulness, when their absurd little
ant-hill should turn again away from the big blazing star. He sat a
long time at the window, looking out to the east, where the light was
showing; meditating on many idle, little matters, but conscious all the
time of great power within himself.
He felt ready now for any conflict. The need for some great immediate
action pressed upon him. He did not identify it. Something he must
do--he must have action--and that at once. He was glad to think how
Uncle Peter would begin to rejoice in him--secretly at first, and then
to praise him. He was equal to any work. He could not begin it quickly
enough. That queer need to do something at once was still pressing,
By five he was down-stairs. The girl, fresh as a dew-sprayed rose in
the garden outside, brought him breakfast of fruit, bacon and eggs,
coffee and waffles. He ate with relish, delighting meantime in the
girl's florid freshness, and even in the assertive, triumphant whistle
of the youth busy at his tasks outside.
When he set out he meant to reach the car and go back to town at once.
Yet when he came to the road over which he had loitered the day before,
he turned off upon it with slower steps. There was a confusing whirl of
ideas in his brain, a chaos that required all his energy to feed it, so
that the spring went from his step.
Then all at once, a new-born world cohered out of the nebula, and the
sight of its measured, orderly whirling dazed him. He had been seized
with a wish--almost an intention, so stunning in its audacity that he
all but reeled under the shock. It seemed to him that the thing must
have been germinated in his mind without his knowledge; it had lain
there, gathering force while he rested, now to burst forth and dazzle
him with its shine. All that undimmed freshness of longing he had felt
the day before-all the unnamed, unidentified, nameless desires--had
flooded back upon him, but now no longer aimless. They were acutely
definite. He wanted Avice Milbrey,--wanted her with an intensity as
unreasoning as it was resistless. This was the new world he had watched
swimming out of the chaos in his mind, taking its allotted orbit in a
planetary system of possible, rational, matter-of-course proceedings.
And Avice Milbrey was to marry Shepler, the triumphant money-king.
He sat down by the roadside, well-nigh helpless, surrendering all his
forces to the want.
Then there came upon him to reinforce this want a burning sense of
defeat. He remembered Uncle Peter's first warnings in the mine about
"cupboard love;" the gossip of Higbee: "If you were broke, she'd have
about as much use for you--" all the talk he had listened to so long
about marriage for money; and, at the last, Shepler's words to Uncle
Peter: "I was uncertain until copper went to 51." Those were three wise
old men who had talked, men who knew something of women and much of the
world. And they were so irritating in their certainty. What a fine play
to fool them all!
The sense of defeat burned into him more deeply. He had been vanquished,
cheated, scorned, shamefully flouted. The money was gone--all of Uncle
Peter's complaints and biting sarcasms came back to him with renewed
bitterness; but his revenge on Uncle Peter would be in showing him a big
man at work, with no nonsense about him. But Shepler, who was now certain,
and Higbee, who had always been certain,--especially Shepler, with his
easy sense of superiority with a woman over any poor man. That was a
different matter. There was a thing to think about. And he wanted Avice
Milbrey. He could not, he decided, go back without her.
Something of the old lawless spirit of adventure that had spurred on
his reckless forbears urged him to carry the girl back with him. She
didn't love him. He would take her in spite of that; overpower her;
force her to go. It was a revenge of superb audacity. Shepler had not
been sure of her until now. Well, Shepler might be hurled from that
certainty by one hour of determined action.
The great wild wish narrowed itself into a definite plan. He recalled
the story Uncle Peter had told at the Oldakers' about the woman and her
hair. A woman could be coerced if a man knew her weakness. He could
coerce her. He knew it instinctively; and the instinctive belief
rallied to its support a thousand little looks from her, little
intonations of her voice, little turnings of her head when they had
been together. In spite of her calculations, in spite of her love of
money, he could make her feel her weakness. He was a man with the
It was heady wine for the morning. He described himself briefly as a
lunatic, and walked on again. But the crazy notion would not be gone.
The day before he had been passive. Now he was active, acutely aware of
himself and all his wants. He walked a mile trying to dismiss the idea.
He sat down again, and it flooded back upon him with new force.
Her people were gone. She had even intimated a wish to talk with him
again. It could be done quickly. He knew. He felt the primitive
superiority of man's mere brute force over woman. He gloried in his
knotted muscles and the crushing power of his desires.
Afterward, she would reproach him bitterly. They would both be unhappy.
It was no matter. It was the present, the time when he should be
living. He would have her, and Shepler--Shepler might have had the One
Girl mine--but this girl, never!
Again he tried faithfully to walk off the obsession. Again were his
essays at sober reason unavailing.
His mind was set as it had been when he bought the stocks day after day
against the advice of the best judges in the Street. He could not turn
himself back. There must be success. There could not be a giving
up--and there must not be failure.
Hour after hour he alternately walked and rested, combating and
favouring the mad project. It was a foolish little world, and people
were always waiting for another time to begin the living of life. The
German had quoted Martial: "To-morrow I will live, the fool says;
to-day itself's too late. The wise lived yesterday."
If he did go away alone he knew he would always regret it. If he
carried her triumphantly off, doubtless his regret for that would
eventually be as great. The first regret was certain. The latter was
equally plausible; but, if it came, would it not be preferable to the
other? To have held her once--to have taken her away, to have triumphed
over her own calculations, and, best of all, to have triumphed over the
money-king resting fatuously confident behind his wealth, dignifying no
man as rival who was not rich. The present, so, was more than any
possible future, how dire soever it might be.
He was mad to prove to her--and to Shepler--that she was more a woman
than either had supposed,--a woman in spite of herself, weak,
unreasoning; to prove to them both that a determined man has a vital
power to coerce which no money may ever equal.
Not until five o'clock had he by turns urged and fought himself to the
ferry. By that time he had given up arguing. He was dwelling entirely
upon his plan of action. Strive and grope as he would, the thing had
driven him on relentlessly. His reason could not take him beyond the
reach of its goad. Far as he went he loved her even farther. She
belonged to him. He would have her. He seemed to have been storing, the
day before, a vast quantity of energy that he was now drawing lavishly
upon. For the time, he was pure, raw force, needing, to be resistless,
only the guidance of a definite purpose.
He crossed the ferry and went to the hotel, where he shaved and
freshened himself. He found Grant, the porter, waiting for him when he
went downstairs, and gave him written directions to the railroad people
to have the car attached to the Chicago Express leaving at eight the
next morning; also instructions about his baggage.
"I expect there will be two of us, Grant; see that the car is well
stocked; and here, take this; go to a florist's and get about four
dozen pink roses--_la France_--can you remember?--pink--don't take any
other colour, and be sure they're fresh. Have breakfast ready by the
time the train starts."
"Yes, Mistah Puhs'val!" said Grant, and added to himself, "Yo' suttiny
do ca'y yo'se'f mighty han'some, Mistah Man!"
Going out of the hotel, he met Launton Oldaker, with whom he chatted a
few moments, and then bade good-bye.
Oldaker, with a sensitive regard for the decencies, refrained from
expressing the hearty sympathy he felt for a man who would henceforth
be compelled to live out of the world.
Percival walked out to Broadway, revolving his plan. He saw it was but
six o'clock. He could do nothing for at least an hour. When he noted
this he became conscious of his hunger. He had eaten nothing since
morning. He turned into a restaurant on Madison Square and ordered
dinner. When he had eaten, he sat with his coffee for a final smoke of
deliberation. He went over once more the day's arguments for and
against the novel emprise. He had become insensible, however, to all
the dissenting ones. As a last rally, he tried to picture the
difficulties he might encounter. He faced all he could imagine.
"By God, I'll do it!"
"_Oui, monsieur!_" said the waiter, who had been standing dreamily
near, startled into attention by the spoken words.
"That's all--give me the check."
As he went out the door, a young woman passed him, looking him straight
in the eyes. From her light swishing skirts came the faint perfume of
the violet. It chilled the steel of his resolution.
He entered a carriage. It was a hot, humid night. Already the mist was
making grey softness of the air, dulling the street lights to ruddy
orange. Northward, over the breast of Murray Hill a few late carriages
trickled down toward him. Their wheels, when they passed, made swift
reflections in the damp glare of the asphalt.
He was pent force waiting to be translated into action.
He drove first to the Milbrey house, on the chance that she might be at
home. Jarvis answered his ring.
"Miss Milbrey is with Mrs. Van Geist, sir."
Jarvis spoke regretfully. Pie had reasons of his own for believing that
the severance of the Milbrey relationship with Mr. Bines had been
nothing short of calamitous.
He rang Mrs. Van Geist's bell, five minutes later.
"The ladies haven't come back, sir. I don't know where they might be.
Perhaps at the Valners', in Fifty-second Street, sir."
He rang the Valners' bell.
"Mrs. Van Geist and Miss Milbrey? They left at least half an hour ago,
"Go down the avenue slowly, driver!"
At Fortieth Street he looked down to the middle of the block.
Mrs. Van Geist, alone, was just alighting from her coupé.
He signalled the driver.
"Go to the other address again, in Thirty-seventh Street."
Jarvis opened the door.
"Yes, sir--thank you, sir--Miss Milbrey is in, sir. I'll see, sir."
He crossed the Rubicon of a door-mat and stood in the unlighted hall.
At the far end he saw light coming from a door that he knew opened into
Jarvis came into the light. Behind him appeared Miss Milbrey in the
"Miss Milbrey says will you enter the library, Mr. Bines?"
Some Rude Behaviour, of Which Only a Western Man Could Be Guilty
He walked quickly back. At the doorway she gave him her hand, which he
took in silence. "Why--Mr. Bines!--you wouldn't have surprised me last
night. To-night I pictured you on your way West."
Her gown was of dull blue dimity. She still wore her hat, an arch of
straw over her face, with ripe red cherries nodding upon it as she
moved. He closed the door behind him.
"Do come in. I've been having a solitary rummage among old things. It
is my last night here. We're leaving for the country to-morrow, you
She stood by the table, the light from a shaded lamp making her colour
Now she noted that he had not spoken. She turned quickly to him as if
He took a swift little step toward her, still without speaking. She
stepped back with a sudden instinct of fright.
He took two quick steps forward and grasped one of her wrists. He spoke
in cool, even tones, but the words came fast:
"I've come to marry you to-night; to take you away with me to that
Western country. You may not like the life. You may grieve to death for
all I know--but you're going. I won't plead, I won't beg, but I am
going to take you."
She had begun to pull away in alarm when he seized her wrist. His grasp
did not bruise, it did not seem to be tight; but the hand that held it
"Mr. Bines, you forget yourself. Really, this is--"
"Don't waste time. You can say all that needs to be said--I'll give you
time for that before we start--but don't waste the time saying all
those useless things. Don't waste time telling me I'm crazy. Perhaps I
am. We can settle that later."
"Mr. Bines--how absurd! Oh! let me go! You're hurting my wrist!
When he felt the slender wrist trying to writhe from his grasp he had
closed upon it more tightly, and thrusting his other arm quickly behind
her, had drawn her closely to him. Her cries and pleadings were being
smothered down on his breast. Her struggles met only the unbending,
pitiless resistance of steel.
"Don't waste time, I tell you--can't you understand? Be sensible,--talk
if you must--only talk sense."
"Let me go at once--I demand it--quick--oh!"
"Take this hat off!"
He forced the wrist he had been holding down between them, so that she
could not free the hand, and, with his own hand thus freed, he drew out
the two long hat-pins and flung the hat with its storm-tossed cherries
across the room. Still holding her tightly, he put the free hand on her
brow and thrust her head back, so that she was forced to look up at
"Let me see you--I want to see your eyes--they're my eyes now."
Her head strained against his hand to be down again, and all her
strength was exerted to be away. She found she could not move in any
"Oh, you're hurting my neck. What _shall_ I do? I can't scream--think
what it would mean!--you're hurting my neck!"
"You are hurting your _own_ neck--stop it!"
He kissed her face, softly, her cheeks, her eyes, her chin.
"I've loved you so--don't--what's the use? Be sensible. My arms have
starved for you so--do you think they're going to loosen now? Avice
Milbrey--Avice Milbrey--Avice Milbrey!"
His arms tightened about her as he said the name over and over.
"That's poetry--it's all the poetry there is in the world. It's a verse
I say over in the night. You can't understand it yet--it's too deep for
you. It means I must have you--and the next verse means that you must
have me--a poor man--be a poor man's wife--and all the other
verses--millions of them--mean that I'll never give you up--and there's
a lot more verses for you to write, when you understand--meaning that
you'll never give _me_ up--and there's one in the beginning means I'm
going to carry you out and marry you to-night--_now_, do you
understand?--right off--this very night!"
"Oh! Oh! this is so terrible! Oh, it's _so_ awful!"
Her voice broke, and he felt her body quiver with sobs. Her face was
pitifully convulsed, and tears welled in her eyes.
"Let me _go_--let--me--_go_!"
He released her head, but still held her closely to him. Her sobs had
"Here--" he reached for the little lace-edged handkerchief that lay
beside her long gloves and her purse, on the table.
She took it mechanically.
"Please--oh, _please_ let me go--I beg you." She managed it with
difficulty between the convulsions that were rending her.
He put his lips down upon the soft hair.
"I _won't_--do you understand that? Stop talking nonsense."
He thought there would be no end to the sobs.
"Have it out, dear--there's plenty of time."
Once she seemed to have stopped the tears. He turned her face up to his
own again, and softly kissed her wet eyes. Her full lips were parted
before him, but he did not kiss them. The sobs came again.
"There--there!--it will soon be over."
At last she ceased to cry from sheer exhaustion, and when, with his
hand under her chin, he forced up her head again, she looked at him a
full minute and then closed her eyes.
He kissed their lids.
There came from time to time the involuntary quick little indrawings of
breath,--the aftermath of her weeping.
He held her so for a time, while neither spoke. She had become too weak
"My arms have starved for you so," he murmured. She gave no sign.
"Come over here." He led her, unresisting, around to the couch at the
other side of the table.
"Sit here, and we'll talk it over sensibly, before you get ready."
When he released her, she started quickly up toward the door that led
into the hall.
"_Don't_ do that--please don't be foolish."
He locked the door, and put the key in his pocket. Then he went over to
the big folding-doors, and satisfied himself they were locked from the
other side. He went back and stood in front of her. She had watched him
with dumb terror in her face.
"Now we can talk--but there isn't much to be said. How soon can you be
"You _are_ crazy!"
"Possibly--believe what you like."
"How did you ever _dare?_ Oh, how _awful!_"
"If you haven't passed that stage, I'll hold you again."
"No, no--_please_ don't--please stand up again. Sit over there,--I can
"Think quickly. This is Saturday, and to-morrow is their busy day. They
may not sit up late to-night."
She arose with a little shrug of desperation that proclaimed her to be
in the power of a mad man. She looked at her face in the oval mirror,
wiping her eyes and making little passes and pats at her disordered
hair. He went over to her.
"No, no--please go over there again. Sit down a moment--let me think.
I'll talk to you presently."
There was silence for five minutes. He watched her, while she narrowed
her eyes in deep thought.
Then he looked at his watch.
"I can give you an hour, if you've anything to say before it's
She drew a long breath.
"Mr. Bines, are you mad? Can't you be rational?"
"I haven't been irrational, I give you my word, not once since I came
He looked at her steadily. All at once he saw her face go crimson. She
turned her eyes from his with an effort.
"I'm going back to Montana in the morning. I want you to marry me
to-night--I won't even wait one more day--one more hour. I know it's a
thing you never dreamt of--marrying a poor man. You'll look at it as
the most disgraceful act of folly you could possibly commit, and so
will every one else here--but you'll _do_ it. To-morrow at this time
you'll be half-way to Chicago with me."
"Mr. Bines,--I'm perfectly reasonable and serious--I mean it--are you
quite sure you didn't lose your wits when you lost your money?"
"It _may_ be considered a witless thing to marry a girl who would marry
for money--but never mind _that_--I'm used to taking chances."
She glanced up at him, curiously.
"You know I'm to marry Mr. Shepler the tenth of next month."
"Your grammar is faulty--tense is wrong--You should say 'I _was_ to
have married Mr. Shepler.' I'm fastidious about those little things, I
"How can you jest?"
"I can't. Don't think this is any joke. _He'll_ find out."
"Who will find out,--what, pray?"
"He will. He's already said he was afraid there might have been some
nonsense between you and me, because we talked that evening at the
Oldakers'. He told my grandfather he wasn't at all sure of you until
that day I lost my money."
"Oh, I see--and of course you'd like your revenge--carrying me off from
him just to hurt him."
"If you say that I'll hold you in my arms again." He started toward
her. "I've loved you _so_, I tell you--all the time--all the time."
"Or perhaps it's a brutal revenge on me,--after thinking I'd only marry
"I've loved you always, I tell you."
He came up to her, more gently now, and took up her hand to kiss it. He
saw the ring.
"Take his ring off!"
She looked up at him with an amused little smile, but did not move. He
reached for the hand, and she put it behind her.
"Take it off," he said, harshly.
He forced her hand out, took off the ring with its gleaming stone, none
too gently, and laid it on the table behind him. Then he covered the
hand with kisses.
"Now it's my hand. Perhaps there was a little of both those feelings
you accuse me of--perhaps I _did_ want to triumph over both you and
Shepler--and the other people who said you'd never marry for anything
but money--but do you think I'd have had either one of those desires if
I hadn't loved you? Do you think I'd have cared how many Sheplers you
married if I hadn't loved you so, night and day?--always turning to you
in spite of everything,--loving you always, under everything--always, I
"Under what--what 'everything'?"
"When I was sure you had no heart--that you couldn't care for any man
except a rich man--that you would marry only for money."
"You thought that?"
"Of course I thought it."
"What has changed you?"
"Nothing. I'm going to change it now by proving differently. I shall
take you against your will--but I shall make you love me--in the end. I
know you--you're a woman, in spite of yourself!"
"You were entirely right about me. I would even have married you
because of the money--"
"Tell me what it is you're holding back--don't wait."
"Let me think--don't talk, please!"
She sat a long time silent, motionless, her eyes fixed ahead. At length
she stirred herself to speak.
"You were right about me, partly--and partly wrong. I don't think I can
make you understand. I've always wanted so much from life--so much more
than it seemed possible to have. The only thing for a girl in my
position and circumstances was to make what is called a good marriage.
I wanted what that would bring, too. I was torn between the desires--or
rather the natural instincts and the trained desires. I had ideals
about loving and being loved, and I had the material ideals of my
experience in this world out here.
"I was untrue to each by turns. Here--I want to show you something."
She took up a book with closely written pages.
"I came here to-night--I won't conceal from you that I thought of you
when I came. It was my last time here, and you had gone, I supposed.
Among other things I had out this old diary to burn, and I had found
this, written on my eighteenth birthday, when I came out--the fond,
romantic, secret ideal of a foolish girl--listen:
"The Soul of Love wed the Soul of Truth and their daughter, Joy, was
born: who was immortal and in whom they lived for ever!'
"You see--that was the sort of moonshine I started in to live. Two or
three times I was a grievous disappointment to my people, and once or
twice, perhaps, I was disappointed myself. I was never quite sure what
I wanted. But if you think I was consistently mercenary you are
mistaken. I shall tell you something more--something no one knows.
There was a man I met while that ideal was still strong and beautiful
to me--but after I'd come to see that here, in this life, it was not
easily to be kept. He was older than I, experienced with women--a lover
of women, I came to understand in time. I was a novelty to him, a fresh
recreation--he enjoyed all those romantic ideals of mine. I thought
then he loved me, and I worshipped him. He was married, but constantly
said he was about to leave his wife, so she would divorce him. I
promised to come to him when it was done. He had married for money and
he would have been poor again. I didn't mind in the least. I tell you
this to show you that I could have loved a poor man, not only well
enough to marry him, but to break with the traditions, and brave the
scandal of going to him in that common way. With all I felt for him I
should have been more than satisfied. But I came in time to see that he
was not as earnest as I had been. He wasn't capable of feeling what I
felt. He was more cowardly than I--or rather, I was more reckless than
he. I suspected it a long time; I became convinced of it a year ago and
a little over. He became hateful to me. I had wasted my love. Then he
became funny. But--you see--I am not altogether what you believed me.
Wait a bit longer, please.
"Then I gave up, almost--and later, I gave up entirely. And when my
brother was about to marry that woman, and Mr. Shepler asked me to
marry him, I consented. It seemed an easy way to end it all. I'd quit
fondling ideals. And you had told me I must do anything I could to keep
Fred from marrying that woman--my people came to say the same
"If he had married her--if they were married now--then you would feel
free to marry me?"
"You would still be the absurdest man in New York--but we can't discuss
that. He isn't going to marry her."
"But he _has_ married her--"
"What do you mean?"
"I supposed you knew--Oldaker told me as I left the hotel. He and your
father were witnesses. The marriage took place this afternoon at the
"You're not deceiving me?"
"Oh, _pardon_ me! please! Of course I didn't mean it--but you stunned
me. And papa said nothing to me about it before he left. The money must
have been too great a temptation to him and to Fred. She has just made
some enormous amount in copper stock or something."
"I know, she had better advice than I had. I'd like to reward the man
who gave it to her."
"And I was sure you were going to marry that other woman."
"How could you think so?"
"Of course I'm not the least bit jealous--it isn't my disposition; but
I _did_ think Florence Akemit wasn't the woman to make you happy--of
course I liked her immensely--and there were reports going
about--everybody seemed so sure--and you were with her so much. Oh, how
I did _hate_ her!"
"I tell you she is a joke and always was."
"It's funny--that's exactly what I told Aunt Cornelia about that--that
"Let's stop joking, then."
"How absurd you are--with my plans all made and the day set--"
There was a knock at the door. He went over and unlocked it. Jarvis was
"Mr. Shepler, Miss Avice."
They looked at each other.
"Jarvis, shut that door and wait outside."
"Yes, Mr. Bines."
"You can't see him."
"But I must,--we're engaged, don't you understand?--of course I must!"
"I tell you I won't let you. Can't you understand that I'm not talking
She tried to evade him and reach the door, but she was caught again in
his arms--held close to him.
"If you like he shall come in now. But he's not going to take you away
from me, as he did in that jeweller's the other night--and you can't
see him at all except as you are now."
She struggled to be free.
"Oh, you're so _brutal_!"
"I haven't begun yet--"
He drew her toward the door.
"Oh, not that--don't open it--I'll tell him--yes, I will!"
"I'm taking no more chances, and the time is short."
Still holding her closely with one arm, he opened the door. The man
stared impassively above their heads--a graven image of
"Miss Milbrey wishes you to say to Mr. Shepler that she is engaged--"
"That I'm ill," she interrupted, still making little struggles to twist
from his grasp, her head still bent down.
"That she is engaged with Mr. Bines, Jarvis, and can't see him. Say it
that way--'Miss Milbrey is engaged with Mr. Bines, and can't see
[Illustration: "'SAY IT THAT WAY--MISS MILBREY IS ENGAGED WITH MR. BINES
AND CAN'T SEE YOU.'"]
He remained standing motionless, as he had been, his eyes still fixed
above them. But the eyes of Jarvis, from long training, did hot require
to be bent upon those things they needed to observe. They saw something
now that was at least two feet below their range.
The girl made a little move with her right arm, which was imprisoned
fast between them, and which some intuition led her captor not to
restrain. The firm little hand worked its way slowly up, went
creepingly over his shoulder and bent tightly about his neck.
"Yes, sir," repeated Jarvis, without the quiver of an eyelid, and went.
He closed the door with his free hand, and they stood as they were
until they heard the noise of the front door closing and the soft
retreating footsteps of the butler.
"Oh, you were mean--_mean_--to shame me so," and floods of tears came
"I hated to do it, but I _had_ to; it was a critical moment. And you
couldn't have made up your mind without it."
She sobbed weakly in his arms, but her own arm was still tight about
his neck. He felt it for the first time.
"But I _had_ made up my mind--I did make it up while we talked."
They were back on the couch. He held her close and she no longer
resisted, but nestled in his arms with quick little sighs, as if
relieved from a great strain. He kissed her forehead and hair as she
dried her eyes.
"Now, rest a little. Then we shall go."
"I've so much to tell you. That day at the jeweller's--well, what could
I do but take one poor last little look of you--to keep?"
"Tell me if you care for me."
"Oh, I do, I do, I do care for you. I _have_--ever since that day we
walked in the woods. I do, I _do_!"
She threw her head back and gave him her lips.
She was crying again and trying to talk.
"I did care for you, and that day I thought you were going to say
something, but you didn't--you were so distant and troubled, and seemed
not even to like me--though I felt sure you loved me. I had thought
you were going to tell me, and I'd have accepted--yes, for the
money--though I liked you so much. Why, when I first met you in that
mine and thought you were a workman, I'm not sure I wouldn't have
married you if you had asked me. But it was different again when I
found out about you. And that day in the woods I thought something had
come between us. Only after dinner you seemed kinder, and I knew at
once you thought better of me, and might even seek me--I knew it in the
way a woman knows things she doesn't know at all. I went into the
library with a candle to look into the mirror, almost sure you were
going to come. Then I heard your steps and I was so glad--but it wasn't
you-I'd been mistaken again-you still disliked me. I was so
disappointed and hurt and heartsick, and he kissed me and soothed me.
And after that directly I saw through him, and I knew I truly did love
you just as I'd wanted to love the man who would be my husband--only
all that nonsense about money that had been dinned into me so long kept
me from seeing it at first. But I was sure you didn't care for me when
they talked so about you, and that--you never _did_ care for her, did
you--you _couldn't_ have cared for her, could you?--and yet, after that
night, I'd such a queer little feeling as if you _had_ come for me, and
"Surely a gentleman never sees anything he wasn't meant to see."
"I'm so glad--I should have been _so_ ashamed--"
They were still a moment, while he stroked her hair.
"They'll be turning in early to-night, having to get up to-morrow and
preach sermons--what a dreary place heaven must be compared with this!"
She sat up quickly.
"Oh, I'd forgotten. How awful it is. _Isn't_ it awful?"
"It will soon be over."
"But think of my people, and what's expected of me--think of Mr.
"Shepler's doing some hard thinking for himself by this time."
"Really, you're a dreadful person--"
There was a knock.
"The cabman outside, sir, says how long is he to wait, sir?"
"Tell him to wait all night if I don't come; tell him if he moves off
that spot I'll have his license taken away. Tell him I'm the mayor's
"And, Jarvis, who's in the house besides you?"
"Miss Briggs, the maid, sir--but she's just ready to go out, sir."
"Stop her--say Miss Milbrey wishes to ask a favour of her; and Jarvis."
"Go put on that neat black street coat of yours that fits you so
beautifully in the back, and a purple cravat, and your shiny hat, and
wait for us with Briggs. We shall want you in a moment."
"Yes, Mr. Bines."
She looked at him wonderingly.
"We need two witnesses, you know. I learned that from Oldaker just
"But do give me a _moment_, everything is all so whirling and hazy."
"Yes, I know--like the solar system in its nebulous state. Well, hurry
and make those worlds take shape. I can give you sixty seconds to find
that I'm the North Star. Ach! I have the Doctor von Herzlich been
ge-speaking with--come, come! What's the use of any more delay? I've
wasted nearly three hours here now, dilly-dallying along. But then, a
woman never does know her own mind.
"Put a thing before her--all as plain as the multiplication table--and
she must use up just so much good time telling a man that he's
crazy--and shedding tears because he won't admit that two times two are
thirty-seven." She was silent and motionless for another five minutes,
thinking intently. "Come, time's up."
"I'm ready. I shall marry you, if you think I'm the woman to help you
in that big, new life of yours. They meant me not to know about Fred's
marriage until afterward."
He kissed her.
"I feel so rested and quiet now, as if I'd taken down a big old gate
and let the peace rush in on me. I'm sure it's right. I'm sure I can
She picked up her hat and gloves.
"Now I'll go bathe my eyes and fix my hair."
"I can't let you out of my sight, yet. I'm incredulous. Perhaps in
seventy-five or eighty years--"
"I thought you were so sure."
"While I can reach you, yes."
She gave a low, delicious little laugh. She reached both arms up around
him, pulled down his head and kissed him.
She took up the hat again.
"I'll be down in a moment."
"I'll be up in three, if you're not."
When she had gone he picked up an envelope and put a bill inside.
"Jarvis," he called.
The butler came up from below, dressed for the street.
"Jarvis, put this envelope in the inside of that excellent black coat
of yours and hand it--afterward--to the gentleman we're going to do
"Yes, Mr. Bines."
"And put your cravat down in the back, Jarvis--it makes you look
excited the way it is now."
"Yes, sir; thank you, sir!"
"Is Briggs ready?" "She's waiting, sir."
"Go out and get in the carriage, both of you."
He stood in the hallway waiting for her. It was a quarter-past ten. In
another moment she rustled softly down to him.
"I'm trusting so much to you, and you're trusting so much to me. It's
_such_ a rash step!"
"No, I'm going. Couldn't we stop and take Aunt Cornelia?"
"Aunt Cornelia won't have a chance to worry about this until it's all
over. We'll stop there then, if you like."
"We'll try Doctor Prendle, then. He's almost sure to be in."
"It won't make any difference if he isn't. We'll find one. Those horses
are rested. They can go all night if they must."
"I have Grandmother Loekermann's wedding-ring--of course you didn't
fetch one. Trust a man to forget anything of importance."
His grasp of her hand during the ride did not relax.
The New Argonauts
Mrs. van Geist came flustering out to the carriage.
"You and Briggs may get out here, Jarvis. There, that's for you, and
that's for Briggs--and thank you both very much!"
"Child, child! what does it mean?"
"Mr. Bines is my husband, Mütterchen, and we're leaving for the West in
The excitement did not abate for ten minutes or so. "And do say
something cheerful, dear," pleaded Avice, at parting.
"You mad child--I was always afraid you might do something like this;
but I _will_ say I'm not altogether _sure_ you've acted foolishly."
"Thank you, you dear old Mütterchen! and you'll come to see us--you
shall see how happy I can be with this--this boy--this Lochinvar,
Junior--I'm sure Mrs. Lochinvar always lived happily ever after."
Mrs. Van Geist kissed them both.
"Back to Thirty-seventh Street, driver."
"I shall want you at seven-thirty sharp, to-morrow morning," he said,
as they alighted. "Will you be here, sure?"
"You'll make another one of those if you're on time."
The driver faced the bill toward the nearest street-light and scanned
it. Then he placed it tenderly in the lining of his hat, and said,
"I'll _be_ here, gent!"
"My trunks," Avice reminded him.
"And, driver, send an express wagon at seven sharp. Do you understand,
"Sure, gent, I'll have it here at seven, and be here at seven-thirty."
They went in.
"You've sent Briggs off, and I've all that packing and unpacking to
"You have a husband who is handy at those things."
They went up to her room where two trunks yawned open.
Under her directions and with her help he took out the light summer
things and replaced them with heavier gowns, stout shoes, golf-capes,
"We'll be up on the Bitter Root ranch this summer, and you'll need
heavy things," he had told her.
Sometimes he packed clumsily, and she was obliged to do his work over.
In these intervals he studied with interest the big old room and her
quaint old sampler worked in coloured worsteds that had faded to greys
and dull browns: _"La Nuit Porte Conseil."_
"Grandma Loekermann did it at the convent, ages ago," she told him.
"What a cautious young thing she must have been!"
She leaned against his shoulder.
"But she eloped with her true love, young Annekje Van Schoule; left the
home in Hickory Street one night, and went far away, away up beyond One
Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, somewhere, and then wrote them about
"And left the sampler?"
"She had her husband--she didn't need any old sampler after that--_Le
mariage porte conseil, aussi, monsieur._ And now, you've married your
wife with her wedding-ring, that came from Holland years and years
It was after midnight when they began to pack. When they finished it
was nearly four.
She had laid out a dark dress for the journey, but he insisted that she
put it in a suit-case, and wear the one she had on.
"I shouldn't know you in any other--and it's the colour of your eyes. I
want that colour all over the place."
"But we shall be travelling."
"In our own car. That car has been described in the public prints as a
'suite of palatial apartments with all modern conveniences.'"
"We shall be going West like the old '49-ers, seeking adventure and
"Did they go in their private cars?"
"Some of them went in rolling six-horse Concords, and some walked, and
some of them pushed their baggage across in little hand-carts, but they
had fun at it--and we shall have to work as hard when we get there."
"Dear me! And I'm so tired already. I feel quite done up."
She threw herself on the wide divan, and he fixed pillows under her
"You boy! I'm glad it's all over. Let's rest a moment."
He leaned back by her, and drew her head on to his arm.
"I'm glad, too. It's the hardest day's work I ever did. Are you
"It's so good," she murmured, nestling on his shoulder.
"Uncle Peter took his honeymoon in a big wagon drawn by a mule team,
two hundred miles over the 'Placerville and Red Dog Trail--over the
mountains from California to Nevada. But he says he never had so happy
"He's an old dear! I'll kiss him--how is it you say--'good and plenty.'
Did our Uncle Peter elope, too?"
"Not exactly. It was more like abduction complicated with assault and
battery. Uncle Peter is pretty direct in his methods. The young lady's
family thought she could do better with a bloated capitalist who owned
three-eighths of a saw-mill. But Uncle Peter and she thought she
couldn't. So Uncle Peter had to lick her father and two brothers before
he could get her away. He would have licked the purse-proud rival, too,
but the rival ran into the saw-mill he owned the three-eighths of, and
barricaded the whole eight-eighths--the-five-eighths that didn't belong
to him at all, you understand--and then he threatened through a chink
to shoot somebody if Uncle Peter didn't go off about his business. So
Uncle Peter went, not wanting any unnecessary trouble. I've always
suspected he was a pretty ready scrapper in those days, but the poor
old fellow's getting a bit childish now, with all this trouble about
losing the money, and the hard time he had in the snow last winter. By
the way, I forgot to ask, and it's almost too late now, but do you like
"I adore them--aren't kittens the _dearest?"_
"Well--you're healthy--and your nose doesn't really fall below the
specifications, though it doesn't promise that you're any _too_
sensible,--but if you can make up for it by your infatuation for cats,
perhaps it will be all right. Of course I couldn't keep you, you know,
if you weren't very fond of cats, because Uncle Peter'd raise a row--"
She was quite still, and he noted from the change in her soft breathing
that she slept. With his free hand he carefully shook out a folded
steamer rug and drew it over her.
For an hour he watched her, feeling the arm on which she lay growing
numb. He reviewed the day and the crowded night. He _could_ do
something after all. Among other things, now, he would drop a little
note to Higbee and add the news of his marriage as a postscript. She
was actually his wife. How quickly it had come. His heart was full of a
great love for her, but he could not quite repress the pride in his
achievement--and Shepler had not been sure until he was poor!
He lost consciousness himself for a little while.
When he awoke the cold light of the morning was stealing in. He was
painfully cramped, and chilled from the open window. From outside came
the loud chattering of sparrows, and far away he could hear wagons as
they rattled across a street of Belgian blocks from asphalt to asphalt.
The light had been late in coming, and he could see a sullen grey sky,
full of darker clouds.
Above the chiffonier he could see the ancient sampler.
_"La Nuit Porte Conseil."_ It was true.
In the cold, pitiless light of the morning a sudden sickness of
doubting seized him. She would awake and reproach him bitterly for
coercing her. She had been right, the night before,--it was madness.
They had talked afterward so feverishly, as if to forget their
situation. Now she would face it coldly after the sleep.
_"La Nuit Porte Conseil."_ Had he not been a fool? And he loved her so.
He would have her anyway--no matter what she said, now.
She stirred, and her wide-open eyes were staring up at him--staring
with hurt, troubled wonder. The amazement in them grew--she could not
He stopped breathing. His embrace of her relaxed.
And then he saw remembrance--recognition--welcome--and there blazed
into her eyes such a look of whole love as makes men thrill to all
good; such a look as makes them know they are men, and dare all great
deeds to show it. Like a sunrise, it flooded her face with dear,
wondrous beauties,--and still she looked, silent, motionless,--in an
ecstasy of pure realisation. Then her arms closed about his neck with a
swift little rushing, and he--still half-doubting, still curious--felt
himself strained to her. Still more closely she clung, putting out with
her intensity all his misgiving.
She sought his lips with her own--eager, pressing.
"Kiss me--kiss me--kiss me! Oh, it's all true--all true! My best-loved
dream has come all true! I have rested so in your arms. I never knew
rest before. I can't remember when I haven't awakened to doubt, and
worry, and heart-sickness. And now it's peace--dear, dear, dearest
dear, for ever and ever and ever."
They sat up.
"Now we shall go--get me away quickly."
It was nearly seven. Outside the sky was still all gloom.
In the rush of her reassurance he had forgotten his arm. It hung limp
from his shoulder.
"It was cramped."
"And you didn't move it?"
They beat it and kneaded it gaily together, until the fingers were full
of the rushing blood and able again to close warmly over her own little
"Now go, and let me get ready. I won't be long."
He went below to the library, and in the dim grey light picked up a
book, "The Delights of Delicate Eating." He tried another, "101
Sandwiches." The next was "Famous Epicures of the 17th Century." On the
floor was her diary. He placed it on the table. He heard her call him
from the stairs:
"Bring me up that ring from the table, please!"
He went up and handed it to her through the narrowly opened door.
As he went down the stairs he heard the bell ring somewhere below, and
went to the door.
The two trunks were down and out. "They're to go on this car, attached
to the Chicago Express." He wrote the directions on one of his cards
and paid the man.
At seven-thirty the bell rang again. The cabman was there.
"I'm coming. And there are two bags I wish you'd get from my room." He
let her pass him and went up for them.
She went into the library and, taking up the diary, tore out a sheet,
marked heavily upon it with a pencil around the passage she had read
the evening before, and sealed it in an envelope. She addressed it to
her father, and laid it, with a paper-weight on it, upon "The Delights
of Delicate Eating," where he would be sure to find it.
The book itself she placed on the wood laid ready in the grate to
light, touched a match to the crumpled paper underneath and put up the
blower. She stood waiting to see that the fire would burn.
Over the mantel from its yellow canvas looked above her head the
humourously benignant eyes of old Annekje Van Schoule, who had once
removed from Maspeth Kill on Long Island to New Haarlem on the Island
of Manhattan, and carried there, against her father's will, the
yellow-haired girl he had loved. His face now seemed to be pretending
unconsciousness of the rashly acted scenes he had witnessed--lest, if
he betrayed his consciousness, he should be forced, in spite of
himself, to disclose his approval--a thing not fitting for an elderly,
dignified Dutch burgher to do.
She took up a little package she had brought with her and went out to
"There's one errand to do," she said, as they entered the carriage,
"but it's on our way. Have him go up Madison Avenue and deliver this."
She showed him the package addressed: "Mr. Rulon Shepler, Personal."
"And this," she said, giving him an unsealed note. "Read it, please!"
"DEAR RULON SHEPLER:--I am sure you know women too well to have thought
I loved you as a wife should love her husband. And I know your bigness
too well to believe you will feel harshly toward me for deciding that I
could not marry you. I could of course consistently attribute my change
to consideration for you. I should have been very little comfort to
you. If I should tell you just the course I had mapped out for
myself--just what latitude I proposed to claim--I am certain you would
agree with me that I have done you an inestimable favour.
"Yet I have not changed because I do not love you, but because I do
love some one else with all my heart; so that I claim no credit except
for an entirely consistent selfishness. But do try to believe, at the
same time, that my own selfishness has been a kindness to you. I send
you a package with this hasty letter, and beg you to believe that I
shall remain--and am now for the first time--
"AVICE MILBREY BINES.
"P.S. I should have preferred to wait and acquaint you with my change
of intention before marrying, but my husband's plans were made and he
would not let me delay."
He sealed the envelope, placed it securely under the cord that bound
the package, and their driver delivered it to the man who opened
Shepler's door. As their train emerged from the cut at Spuyten Duyvil
and sped to the north along the Hudson, the sun blazed forth.
"There, boy,--I knew the sun must shine to-day."
They had finished their breakfast. One-half of the pink roses were on
the table, and one from the other half was in her hair.
"I ordered the sun turned on at just this point," replied her husband,
with a large air. "I wanted you to see the last of that town under a
cloud, so you might not be homesick so soon."
"You don't know me. You don't know what a good wife I shall be."
"It takes nerve to reach up for a strange support and then kick your
environment out from under you--as Doctor von Herzlich would have said
if he'd happened to think of it."
"But you shall see how I'll help you with your work; I was capable of
it all the time."
"But I had to make you. I had to pick you up just as I did that first
time, and again down in the mine--and you were frightened because you
knew this time I wouldn't let you go."
"Only half-afraid you wouldn't--the other half I was afraid you would.
They got all mixed up--I don't know which was worse."
"Well, I admit I foozled my approach on that copper stock--but I won
you--really my winnings in Wall Street are pretty dazzling after all,
for a man who didn't know the ropes;--there's a mirror directly back of
you, Mrs. Bines, if you wish to look at them--with a pink rose over
that kissy place just at their temple."
She turned and looked, pretending to be quite unimpressed.
"I always was capable of it, I tell you,--boy!"
"What hurt me worst that night, it showed you could love _some_
one--you did have a heart--but you couldn't love me."
She did not seem to hear at first, nor to comprehend when she went back
over his words. Then she stared at him in sudden amazement.
He saw his blunder and looked foolish.
"I see--thank you for saying what you did last night--and you didn't
mind--you came to me anyway, in spite of _that_."
She arose, and would have gone around the table to him, but he met her
with open arms.
"Oh, you boy! you do love me,--you do!"
"I must buy you one of those nice, shiny black ear-trumpets at the
first stop. You can't have been hearing at all well.... See,
sweetheart,--out across the river. That's where our big West is, over
that way--isn't it fresh and green and beautiful?--and how fast you're
going to it--you and your husband. I believe it's going to be a good
game... for us both... my love..."
Back to Full Books