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´╗┐Title: Alexander's Bridge
Author: Cather, Willa Sibert, 1873-1947
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Alexander's Bridge" ***

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ALEXANDER'S BRIDGE

by Willa Cather



ALEXANDER'S BRIDGE  by Willa Cather



CHAPTER I


Late one brilliant April afternoon Professor Lucius Wilson stood at the
head of Chestnut Street, looking about him with the pleased air of a man
of taste who does not very often get to Boston. He had lived there as a
student, but for twenty years and more, since he had been Professor of
Philosophy in a Western university, he had seldom come East except to
take a steamer for some foreign port. Wilson was standing quite still,
contemplating with a whimsical smile the slanting street, with its worn
paving, its irregular, gravely colored houses, and the row of naked
trees on which the thin sunlight was still shining. The gleam of the
river at the foot of the hill made him blink a little, not so much
because it was too bright as because he found it so pleasant. The few
passers-by glanced at him unconcernedly, and even the children who
hurried along with their school-bags under their arms seemed to find it
perfectly natural that a tall brown gentleman should be standing there,
looking up through his glasses at the gray housetops.

The sun sank rapidly; the silvery light had faded from the bare boughs
and the watery twilight was setting in when Wilson at last walked down
the hill, descending into cooler and cooler depths of grayish shadow.
His nostril, long unused to it, was quick to detect the smell of wood
smoke in the air, blended with the odor of moist spring earth and the
saltiness that came up the river with the tide. He crossed Charles
Street between jangling street cars and shelving lumber drays, and after
a moment of uncertainty wound into Brimmer Street. The street was quiet,
deserted, and hung with a thin bluish haze. He had already fixed his
sharp eye upon the house which he reasoned should be his objective
point, when he noticed a woman approaching rapidly from the opposite
direction. Always an interested observer of women, Wilson would have
slackened his pace anywhere to follow this one with his impersonal,
appreciative glance. She was a person of distinction he saw at once,
and, moreover, very handsome. She was tall, carried her beautiful head
proudly, and moved with ease and certainty. One immediately took for
granted the costly privileges and fine spaces that must lie in the
background from which such a figure could emerge with this rapid and
elegant gait. Wilson noted her dress, too,--for, in his way, he had an
eye for such things,--particularly her brown furs and her hat. He got
a blurred impression of her fine color, the violets she wore, her white
gloves, and, curiously enough, of her veil, as she turned up a flight of
steps in front of him and disappeared.

Wilson was able to enjoy lovely things that passed him on the wing as
completely and deliberately as if they had been dug-up marvels, long
anticipated, and definitely fixed at the end of a railway journey. For
a few pleasurable seconds he quite forgot where he was going, and only
after the door had closed behind her did he realize that the young woman
had entered the house to which he had directed his trunk from the South
Station that morning. He hesitated a moment before mounting the steps.
"Can that," he murmured in amazement,--"can that possibly have been Mrs.
Alexander?"

When the servant admitted him, Mrs. Alexander was still standing in the
hallway. She heard him give his name, and came forward holding out her
hand.

"Is it you, indeed, Professor Wilson? I was afraid that you might get
here before I did. I was detained at a concert, and Bartley telephoned
that he would be late. Thomas will show you your room. Had you rather
have your tea brought to you there, or will you have it down here with
me, while we wait for Bartley?"

Wilson was pleased to find that he had been the cause of her rapid walk,
and with her he was even more vastly pleased than before. He followed
her through the drawing-room into the library, where the wide back
windows looked out upon the garden and the sunset and a fine stretch
of silver-colored river. A harp-shaped elm stood stripped against the
pale-colored evening sky, with ragged last year's birds' nests in its
forks, and through the bare branches the evening star quivered in the
misty air. The long brown room breathed the peace of a rich and amply
guarded quiet. Tea was brought in immediately and placed in front of the
wood fire. Mrs. Alexander sat down in a high-backed chair and began to
pour it, while Wilson sank into a low seat opposite her and took his cup
with a great sense of ease and harmony and comfort.

"You have had a long journey, haven't you?" Mrs. Alexander asked, after
showing gracious concern about his tea. "And I am so sorry Bartley is
late. He's often tired when he's late. He flatters himself that it is
a little on his account that you have come to this Congress of
Psychologists."

"It is," Wilson assented, selecting his muffin carefully; "and I hope he
won't be tired tonight. But, on my own account, I'm glad to have a few
moments alone with you, before Bartley comes. I was somehow afraid that
my knowing him so well would not put me in the way of getting to know
you."

"That's very nice of you." She nodded at him above her cup and smiled,
but there was a little formal tightness in her tone which had not been
there when she greeted him in the hall.

Wilson leaned forward. "Have I said something awkward? I live very far
out of the world, you know. But I didn't mean that you would exactly
fade dim, even if Bartley were here."

Mrs. Alexander laughed relentingly. "Oh, I'm not so vain! How terribly
discerning you are."

She looked straight at Wilson, and he felt that this quick, frank glance
brought about an understanding between them.

He liked everything about her, he told himself, but he particularly
liked her eyes; when she looked at one directly for a moment they were
like a glimpse of fine windy sky that may bring all sorts of weather.

"Since you noticed something," Mrs. Alexander went on, "it must have
been a flash of the distrust I have come to feel whenever I meet any of
the people who knew Bartley when he was a boy. It is always as if they
were talking of someone I had never met. Really, Professor Wilson, it
would seem that he grew up among the strangest people. They usually say
that he has turned out very well, or remark that he always was a fine
fellow. I never know what reply to make."

Wilson chuckled and leaned back in his chair, shaking his left foot
gently. "I expect the fact is that we none of us knew him very well,
Mrs. Alexander. Though I will say for myself that I was always confident
he'd do something extraordinary."

Mrs. Alexander's shoulders gave a slight movement, suggestive of
impatience. "Oh, I should think that might have been a safe prediction.
Another cup, please?"

"Yes, thank you. But predicting, in the case of boys, is not so easy as
you might imagine, Mrs. Alexander. Some get a bad hurt early and lose
their courage; and some never get a fair wind. Bartley"--he dropped his
chin on the back of his long hand and looked at her admiringly--"Bartley
caught the wind early, and it has sung in his sails ever since."

Mrs. Alexander sat looking into the fire with intent preoccupation, and
Wilson studied her half-averted face. He liked the suggestion of stormy
possibilities in the proud curve of her lip and nostril. Without that,
he reflected, she would be too cold.

"I should like to know what he was really like when he was a boy. I
don't believe he remembers," she said suddenly. "Won't you smoke, Mr.
Wilson?"

Wilson lit a cigarette. "No, I don't suppose he does. He was never
introspective. He was simply the most tremendous response to stimuli I
have ever known. We didn't know exactly what to do with him."

A servant came in and noiselessly removed the tea-tray. Mrs. Alexander
screened her face from the firelight, which was beginning to throw
wavering bright spots on her dress and hair as the dusk deepened.

"Of course," she said, "I now and again hear stories about things that
happened when he was in college."

"But that isn't what you want." Wilson wrinkled his brows and looked at
her with the smiling familiarity that had come about so quickly. "What
you want is a picture of him, standing back there at the other end of
twenty years. You want to look down through my memory."

She dropped her hands in her lap. "Yes, yes; that's exactly what I
want."

At this moment they heard the front door shut with a jar, and Wilson
laughed as Mrs. Alexander rose quickly. "There he is. Away with
perspective! No past, no future for Bartley; just the fiery moment. The
only moment that ever was or will be in the world!"

The door from the hall opened, a voice called "Winifred?" hurriedly,
and a big man came through the drawing-room with a quick, heavy tread,
bringing with him a smell of cigar smoke and chill out-of-doors air.
When Alexander reached the library door, he switched on the lights
and stood six feet and more in the archway, glowing with strength
and cordiality and rugged, blond good looks. There were other
bridge-builders in the world, certainly, but it was always Alexander's
picture that the Sunday Supplement men wanted, because he looked as a
tamer of rivers ought to look. Under his tumbled sandy hair his head
seemed as hard and powerful as a catapult, and his shoulders looked
strong enough in themselves to support a span of any one of his ten
great bridges that cut the air above as many rivers.


After dinner Alexander took Wilson up to his study. It was a large room
over the library, and looked out upon the black river and the row of
white lights along the Cambridge Embankment. The room was not at all
what one might expect of an engineer's study. Wilson felt at once
the harmony of beautiful things that have lived long together without
obtrusions of ugliness or change. It was none of Alexander's doing, of
course; those warm consonances of color had been blending and mellowing
before he was born. But the wonder was that he was not out of place
there,--that it all seemed to glow like the inevitable background for
his vigor and vehemence. He sat before the fire, his shoulders deep in
the cushions of his chair, his powerful head upright, his hair rumpled
above his broad forehead. He sat heavily, a cigar in his large, smooth
hand, a flush of after-dinner color in his face, which wind and sun and
exposure to all sorts of weather had left fair and clear-skinned.

"You are off for England on Saturday, Bartley, Mrs. Alexander tells me."

"Yes, for a few weeks only. There's a meeting of British engineers, and
I'm doing another bridge in Canada, you know."

"Oh, every one knows about that. And it was in Canada that you met your
wife, wasn't it?"

"Yes, at Allway. She was visiting her great-aunt there. A most remarkable
old lady. I was working with MacKeller then, an old Scotch engineer who
had picked me up in London and taken me back to Quebec with him. He had
the contract for the Allway Bridge, but before he began work on it he
found out that he was going to die, and he advised the committee to turn
the job over to me. Otherwise I'd never have got anything good so early.
MacKeller was an old friend of Mrs. Pemberton, Winifred's aunt. He had
mentioned me to her, so when I went to Allway she asked me to come to
see her. She was a wonderful old lady."

"Like her niece?" Wilson queried.

Bartley laughed. "She had been very handsome, but not in Winifred's way.
When I knew her she was little and fragile, very pink and white, with
a splendid head and a face like fine old lace, somehow,--but perhaps I
always think of that because she wore a lace scarf on her hair. She had
such a flavor of life about her. She had known Gordon and Livingstone
and Beaconsfield when she was young,--every one. She was the first woman
of that sort I'd ever known. You know how it is in the West,--old people
are poked out of the way. Aunt Eleanor fascinated me as few young women
have ever done. I used to go up from the works to have tea with her, and
sit talking to her for hours. It was very stimulating, for she couldn't
tolerate stupidity."

"It must have been then that your luck began, Bartley," said Wilson,
flicking his cigar ash with his long finger. "It's curious, watching
boys," he went on reflectively. "I'm sure I did you justice in the
matter of ability. Yet I always used to feel that there was a weak spot
where some day strain would tell. Even after you began to climb, I stood
down in the crowd and watched you with--well, not with confidence. The
more dazzling the front you presented, the higher your facade rose, the
more I expected to see a big crack zigzagging from top to bottom,"--he
indicated its course in the air with his forefinger,--"then a crash and
clouds of dust. It was curious. I had such a clear picture of it. And
another curious thing, Bartley," Wilson spoke with deliberateness and
settled deeper into his chair, "is that I don't feel it any longer. I am
sure of you."

Alexander laughed. "Nonsense! It's not I you feel sure of; it's
Winifred. People often make that mistake."

"No, I'm serious, Alexander. You've changed. You have decided to leave
some birds in the bushes. You used to want them all."

Alexander's chair creaked. "I still want a good many," he said rather
gloomily. "After all, life doesn't offer a man much. You work like the
devil and think you're getting on, and suddenly you discover that you've
only been getting yourself tied up. A million details drink you dry.
Your life keeps going for things you don't want, and all the while
you are being built alive into a social structure you don't care a rap
about. I sometimes wonder what sort of chap I'd have been if I hadn't
been this sort; I want to go and live out his potentialities, too. I
haven't forgotten that there are birds in the bushes."

Bartley stopped and sat frowning into the fire, his shoulders thrust
forward as if he were about to spring at something. Wilson watched him,
wondering. His old pupil always stimulated him at first, and then vastly
wearied him. The machinery was always pounding away in this man, and
Wilson preferred companions of a more reflective habit of mind. He could
not help feeling that there were unreasoning and unreasonable activities
going on in Alexander all the while; that even after dinner, when most
men achieve a decent impersonality, Bartley had merely closed the door
of the engine-room and come up for an airing. The machinery itself was
still pounding on.

Bartley's abstraction and Wilson's reflections were cut short by a
rustle at the door, and almost before they could rise Mrs. Alexander was
standing by the hearth. Alexander brought a chair for her, but she shook
her head.

"No, dear, thank you. I only came in to see whether you and Professor
Wilson were quite comfortable. I am going down to the music-room."

"Why not practice here? Wilson and I are growing very dull. We are tired
of talk."

"Yes, I beg you, Mrs. Alexander," Wilson began, but he got no further.

"Why, certainly, if you won't find me too noisy. I am working on the
Schumann `Carnival,' and, though I don't practice a great many hours,
I am very methodical," Mrs. Alexander explained, as she crossed to an
upright piano that stood at the back of the room, near the windows.

Wilson followed, and, having seen her seated, dropped into a chair
behind her. She played brilliantly and with great musical feeling.
Wilson could not imagine her permitting herself to do anything badly,
but he was surprised at the cleanness of her execution. He wondered how
a woman with so many duties had managed to keep herself up to a standard
really professional. It must take a great deal of time, certainly, and
Bartley must take a great deal of time. Wilson reflected that he had
never before known a woman who had been able, for any considerable
while, to support both a personal and an intellectual passion. Sitting
behind her, he watched her with perplexed admiration, shading his eyes
with his hand. In her dinner dress she looked even younger than in
street clothes, and, for all her composure and self-sufficiency, she
seemed to him strangely alert and vibrating, as if in her, too, there
were something never altogether at rest. He felt that he knew pretty
much what she demanded in people and what she demanded from life, and he
wondered how she squared Bartley. After ten years she must know him;
and however one took him, however much one admired him, one had to admit
that he simply wouldn't square. He was a natural force, certainly, but
beyond that, Wilson felt, he was not anything very really or for very
long at a time.

Wilson glanced toward the fire, where Bartley's profile was still
wreathed in cigar smoke that curled up more and more slowly. His
shoulders were sunk deep in the cushions and one hand hung large and
passive over the arm of his chair. He had slipped on a purple velvet
smoking-coat. His wife, Wilson surmised, had chosen it. She was clearly
very proud of his good looks and his fine color. But, with the glow of
an immediate interest gone out of it, the engineer's face looked tired,
even a little haggard. The three lines in his forehead, directly above
the nose, deepened as he sat thinking, and his powerful head drooped
forward heavily. Although Alexander was only forty-three, Wilson thought
that beneath his vigorous color he detected the dulling weariness of
on-coming middle age.


The next afternoon, at the hour when the river was beginning to
redden under the declining sun, Wilson again found himself facing Mrs.
Alexander at the tea-table in the library.

"Well," he remarked, when he was bidden to give an account of himself,
"there was a long morning with the psychologists, luncheon with Bartley
at his club, more psychologists, and here I am. I've looked forward to
this hour all day."

Mrs. Alexander smiled at him across the vapor from the kettle. "And do
you remember where we stopped yesterday?"

"Perfectly. I was going to show you a picture. But I doubt whether I
have color enough in me. Bartley makes me feel a faded monochrome. You
can't get at the young Bartley except by means of color." Wilson paused
and deliberated. Suddenly he broke out: "He wasn't a remarkable student,
you know, though he was always strong in higher mathematics. His work
in my own department was quite ordinary. It was as a powerfully equipped
nature that I found him interesting. That is the most interesting thing
a teacher can find. It has the fascination of a scientific discovery. We
come across other pleasing and endearing qualities so much oftener than
we find force."

"And, after all," said Mrs. Alexander, "that is the thing we all live
upon. It is the thing that takes us forward."

Wilson thought she spoke a little wistfully. "Exactly," he assented
warmly. "It builds the bridges into the future, over which the feet of
every one of us will go."

"How interested I am to hear you put it in that way. The bridges into
the future--I often say that to myself. Bartley's bridges always seem to
me like that. Have you ever seen his first suspension bridge in Canada,
the one he was doing when I first knew him? I hope you will see it
sometime. We were married as soon as it was finished, and you will laugh
when I tell you that it always has a rather bridal look to me. It is
over the wildest river, with mists and clouds always battling about it,
and it is as delicate as a cobweb hanging in the sky. It really was
a bridge into the future. You have only to look at it to feel that it
meant the beginning of a great career. But I have a photograph of it
here." She drew a portfolio from behind a bookcase. "And there, you see,
on the hill, is my aunt's house."

Wilson took up the photograph. "Bartley was telling me something about
your aunt last night. She must have been a delightful person."

Winifred laughed. "The bridge, you see, was just at the foot of the
hill, and the noise of the engines annoyed her very much at first. But
after she met Bartley she pretended to like it, and said it was a good
thing to be reminded that there were things going on in the world. She
loved life, and Bartley brought a great deal of it in to her when
he came to the house. Aunt Eleanor was very worldly in a frank,
Early-Victorian manner. She liked men of action, and disliked young
men who were careful of themselves and who, as she put it, were always
trimming their wick as if they were afraid of their oil's giving out.
MacKeller, Bartley's first chief, was an old friend of my aunt, and
he told her that Bartley was a wild, ill-governed youth, which really
pleased her very much. I remember we were sitting alone in the dusk
after Bartley had been there for the first time. I knew that Aunt
Eleanor had found him much to her taste, but she hadn't said anything.
Presently she came out, with a chuckle: `MacKeller found him sowing
wild oats in London, I believe. I hope he didn't stop him too soon. Life
coquets with dashing fellows. The coming men are always like that. We
must have him to dinner, my dear.' And we did. She grew much fonder
of Bartley than she was of me. I had been studying in Vienna, and she
thought that absurd. She was interested in the army and in politics, and
she had a great contempt for music and art and philosophy. She used to
declare that the Prince Consort had brought all that stuff over out of
Germany. She always sniffed when Bartley asked me to play for him. She
considered that a newfangled way of making a match of it."

When Alexander came in a few moments later, he found Wilson and his wife
still confronting the photograph. "Oh, let us get that out of the way,"
he said, laughing. "Winifred, Thomas can bring my trunk down. I've
decided to go over to New York to-morrow night and take a fast boat. I
shall save two days."



CHAPTER II


On the night of his arrival in London, Alexander went immediately to the
hotel on the Embankment at which he always stopped, and in the lobby he
was accosted by an old acquaintance, Maurice Mainhall, who fell upon him
with effusive cordiality and indicated a willingness to dine with him.
Bartley never dined alone if he could help it, and Mainhall was a good
gossip who always knew what had been going on in town; especially, he
knew everything that was not printed in the newspapers. The nephew of
one of the standard Victorian novelists, Mainhall bobbed about among the
various literary cliques of London and its outlying suburbs, careful to
lose touch with none of them. He had written a number of books himself;
among them a "History of Dancing," a "History of Costume," a "Key to
Shakespeare's Sonnets," a study of "The Poetry of Ernest Dowson," etc.
Although Mainhall's enthusiasm was often tiresome, and although he was
often unable to distinguish between facts and vivid figments of his
imagination, his imperturbable good nature overcame even the people whom
he bored most, so that they ended by becoming, in a reluctant manner,
his friends. In appearance, Mainhall was astonishingly like the
conventional stage-Englishman of American drama: tall and thin, with
high, hitching shoulders and a small head glistening with closely
brushed yellow hair. He spoke with an extreme Oxford accent, and when he
was talking well, his face sometimes wore the rapt expression of a very
emotional man listening to music. Mainhall liked Alexander because he
was an engineer. He had preconceived ideas about everything, and his
idea about Americans was that they should be engineers or mechanics. He
hated them when they presumed to be anything else.

While they sat at dinner Mainhall acquainted Bartley with the fortunes
of his old friends in London, and as they left the table he proposed
that they should go to see Hugh MacConnell's new comedy, "Bog Lights."

"It's really quite the best thing MacConnell's done," he explained as
they got into a hansom. "It's tremendously well put on, too. Florence
Merrill and Cyril Henderson. But Hilda Burgoyne's the hit of the piece.
Hugh's written a delightful part for her, and she's quite inexpressible.
It's been on only two weeks, and I've been half a dozen times already.
I happen to have MacConnell's box for tonight or there'd be no chance of
our getting places. There's everything in seeing Hilda while she's fresh
in a part. She's apt to grow a bit stale after a time. The ones who have
any imagination do."

"Hilda Burgoyne!" Alexander exclaimed mildly. "Why, I haven't heard of
her for--years."

Mainhall laughed. "Then you can't have heard much at all, my dear
Alexander. It's only lately, since MacConnell and his set have got hold
of her, that she's come up. Myself, I always knew she had it in her. If
we had one real critic in London--but what can one expect? Do you know,
Alexander,"--Mainhall looked with perplexity up into the top of the
hansom and rubbed his pink cheek with his gloved finger,--"do you know,
I sometimes think of taking to criticism seriously myself. In a way, it
would be a sacrifice; but, dear me, we do need some one."

Just then they drove up to the Duke of York's, so Alexander did not
commit himself, but followed Mainhall into the theatre. When they
entered the stage-box on the left the first act was well under way, the
scene being the interior of a cabin in the south of Ireland. As they sat
down, a burst of applause drew Alexander's attention to the stage. Miss
Burgoyne and her donkey were thrusting their heads in at the half door.
"After all," he reflected, "there's small probability of her recognizing
me. She doubtless hasn't thought of me for years." He felt the
enthusiasm of the house at once, and in a few moments he was caught up
by the current of MacConnell's irresistible comedy. The audience
had come forewarned, evidently, and whenever the ragged slip of a
donkey-girl ran upon the stage there was a deep murmur of approbation,
every one smiled and glowed, and Mainhall hitched his heavy chair a
little nearer the brass railing.

"You see," he murmured in Alexander's ear, as the curtain fell on
the first act, "one almost never sees a part like that done without
smartness or mawkishness. Of course, Hilda is Irish,--the Burgoynes have
been stage people for generations,--and she has the Irish voice. It's
delightful to hear it in a London theatre. That laugh, now, when she
doubles over at the hips--who ever heard it out of Galway? She saves
her hand, too. She's at her best in the second act. She's really
MacConnell's poetic motif, you see; makes the whole thing a fairy tale."

The second act opened before Philly Doyle's underground still, with
Peggy and her battered donkey come in to smuggle a load of potheen
across the bog, and to bring Philly word of what was doing in the world
without, and of what was happening along the roadsides and ditches with
the first gleam of fine weather. Alexander, annoyed by Mainhall's sighs
and exclamations, watched her with keen, half-skeptical interest. As
Mainhall had said, she was the second act; the plot and feeling alike
depended upon her lightness of foot, her lightness of touch, upon the
shrewdness and deft fancifulness that played alternately, and sometimes
together, in her mirthful brown eyes. When she began to dance, by way of
showing the gossoons what she had seen in the fairy rings at night, the
house broke into a prolonged uproar. After her dance she withdrew from
the dialogue and retreated to the ditch wall back of Philly's burrow,
where she sat singing "The Rising of the Moon" and making a wreath of
primroses for her donkey.

When the act was over Alexander and Mainhall strolled out into the
corridor. They met a good many acquaintances; Mainhall, indeed, knew
almost every one, and he babbled on incontinently, screwing his small
head about over his high collar. Presently he hailed a tall, bearded
man, grim-browed and rather battered-looking, who had his opera cloak
on his arm and his hat in his hand, and who seemed to be on the point of
leaving the theatre.

"MacConnell, let me introduce Mr. Bartley Alexander. I say! It's going
famously to-night, Mac. And what an audience! You'll never do anything
like this again, mark me. A man writes to the top of his bent only
once."

The playwright gave Mainhall a curious look out of his deep-set faded
eyes and made a wry face. "And have I done anything so fool as that,
now?" he asked.

"That's what I was saying," Mainhall lounged a little nearer and dropped
into a tone even more conspicuously confidential. "And you'll never
bring Hilda out like this again. Dear me, Mac, the girl couldn't
possibly be better, you know."

MacConnell grunted. "She'll do well enough if she keeps her pace and
doesn't go off on us in the middle of the season, as she's more than
like to do."

He nodded curtly and made for the door, dodging acquaintances as he
went.

"Poor old Hugh," Mainhall murmured. "He's hit terribly hard. He's been
wanting to marry Hilda these three years and more. She doesn't take up
with anybody, you know. Irene Burgoyne, one of her family, told me in
confidence that there was a romance somewhere back in the beginning. One
of your countrymen, Alexander, by the way; an American student whom she
met in Paris, I believe. I dare say it's quite true that there's never
been any one else." Mainhall vouched for her constancy with a loftiness
that made Alexander smile, even while a kind of rapid excitement was
tingling through him. Blinking up at the lights, Mainhall added in
his luxurious, worldly way: "She's an elegant little person, and quite
capable of an extravagant bit of sentiment like that. Here comes Sir
Harry Towne. He's another who's awfully keen about her. Let me introduce
you. Sir Harry Towne, Mr. Bartley Alexander, the American engineer."

Sir Harry Towne bowed and said that he had met Mr. Alexander and his
wife in Tokyo.

Mainhall cut in impatiently.

"I say, Sir Harry, the little girl's going famously to-night, isn't
she?"

Sir Harry wrinkled his brows judiciously. "Do you know, I thought the
dance a bit conscious to-night, for the first time. The fact is, she's
feeling rather seedy, poor child. Westmere and I were back after the
first act, and we thought she seemed quite uncertain of herself. A
little attack of nerves, possibly."

He bowed as the warning bell rang, and Mainhall whispered: "You know
Lord Westmere, of course,--the stooped man with the long gray mustache,
talking to Lady Dowle. Lady Westmere is very fond of Hilda."

When they reached their box the house was darkened and the orchestra
was playing "The Cloak of Old Gaul." In a moment Peggy was on the stage
again, and Alexander applauded vigorously with the rest. He even leaned
forward over the rail a little. For some reason he felt pleased and
flattered by the enthusiasm of the audience. In the half-light he looked
about at the stalls and boxes and smiled a little consciously, recalling
with amusement Sir Harry's judicial frown. He was beginning to feel a
keen interest in the slender, barefoot donkey-girl who slipped in and
out of the play, singing, like some one winding through a hilly field.
He leaned forward and beamed felicitations as warmly as Mainhall himself
when, at the end of the play, she came again and again before the
curtain, panting a little and flushed, her eyes dancing and her eager,
nervous little mouth tremulous with excitement.

When Alexander returned to his hotel--he shook Mainhall at the door of
the theatre--he had some supper brought up to his room, and it was late
before he went to bed. He had not thought of Hilda Burgoyne for years;
indeed, he had almost forgotten her. He had last written to her from
Canada, after he first met Winifred, telling her that everything was
changed with him--that he had met a woman whom he would marry if he
could; if he could not, then all the more was everything changed for
him. Hilda had never replied to his letter. He felt guilty and unhappy
about her for a time, but after Winifred promised to marry him he really
forgot Hilda altogether. When he wrote her that everything was changed
for him, he was telling the truth. After he met Winifred Pemberton he
seemed to himself like a different man. One night when he and Winifred
were sitting together on the bridge, he told her that things had
happened while he was studying abroad that he was sorry for,--one thing
in particular,--and he asked her whether she thought she ought to know
about them. She considered a moment and then said "No, I think not,
though I am glad you ask me. You see, one can't be jealous about things
in general; but about particular, definite, personal things,"--here
she had thrown her hands up to his shoulders with a quick, impulsive
gesture--"oh, about those I should be very jealous. I should torture
myself--I couldn't help it." After that it was easy to forget, actually
to forget. He wondered to-night, as he poured his wine, how many times
he had thought of Hilda in the last ten years. He had been in London
more or less, but he had never happened to hear of her. "All the same,"
he lifted his glass, "here's to you, little Hilda. You've made things
come your way, and I never thought you'd do it.

"Of course," he reflected, "she always had that combination of something
homely and sensible, and something utterly wild and daft. But I never
thought she'd do anything. She hadn't much ambition then, and she was
too fond of trifles. She must care about the theatre a great deal more
than she used to. Perhaps she has me to thank for something, after
all. Sometimes a little jolt like that does one good. She was a daft,
generous little thing. I'm glad she's held her own since. After all,
we were awfully young. It was youth and poverty and proximity, and
everything was young and kindly. I shouldn't wonder if she could laugh
about it with me now. I shouldn't wonder-- But they've probably spoiled
her, so that she'd be tiresome if one met her again."

Bartley smiled and yawned and went to bed.



CHAPTER III


The next evening Alexander dined alone at a club, and at about nine
o'clock he dropped in at the Duke of York's. The house was sold out
and he stood through the second act. When he returned to his hotel he
examined the new directory, and found Miss Burgoyne's address still
given as off Bedford Square, though at a new number. He remembered that,
in so far as she had been brought up at all, she had been brought up in
Bloomsbury. Her father and mother played in the provinces most of the
year, and she was left a great deal in the care of an old aunt who was
crippled by rheumatism and who had had to leave the stage altogether. In
the days when Alexander knew her, Hilda always managed to have a lodging
of some sort about Bedford Square, because she clung tenaciously to such
scraps and shreds of memories as were connected with it. The mummy
room of the British Museum had been one of the chief delights of her
childhood. That forbidding pile was the goal of her truant fancy, and
she was sometimes taken there for a treat, as other children are taken
to the theatre. It was long since Alexander had thought of any of
these things, but now they came back to him quite fresh, and had a
significance they did not have when they were first told him in his
restless twenties. So she was still in the old neighborhood, near
Bedford Square. The new number probably meant increased prosperity. He
hoped so. He would like to know that she was snugly settled. He looked
at his watch. It was a quarter past ten; she would not be home for a
good two hours yet, and he might as well walk over and have a look at
the place. He remembered the shortest way.

It was a warm, smoky evening, and there was a grimy moon. He went
through Covent Garden to Oxford Street, and as he turned into Museum
Street he walked more slowly, smiling at his own nervousness as he
approached the sullen gray mass at the end. He had not been inside the
Museum, actually, since he and Hilda used to meet there; sometimes
to set out for gay adventures at Twickenham or Richmond, sometimes to
linger about the place for a while and to ponder by Lord Elgin's marbles
upon the lastingness of some things, or, in the mummy room, upon the
awful brevity of others. Since then Bartley had always thought of the
British Museum as the ultimate repository of mortality, where all the
dead things in the world were assembled to make one's hour of youth
the more precious. One trembled lest before he got out it might somehow
escape him, lest he might drop the glass from over-eagerness and see it
shivered on the stone floor at his feet. How one hid his youth under his
coat and hugged it! And how good it was to turn one's back upon all that
vaulted cold, to take Hilda's arm and hurry out of the great door and
down the steps into the sunlight among the pigeons--to know that
the warm and vital thing within him was still there and had not been
snatched away to flush Caesar's lean cheek or to feed the veins of some
bearded Assyrian king. They in their day had carried the flaming liquor,
but to-day was his! So the song used to run in his head those summer
mornings a dozen years ago. Alexander walked by the place very quietly,
as if he were afraid of waking some one.

He crossed Bedford Square and found the number he was looking for. The
house, a comfortable, well-kept place enough, was dark except for the
four front windows on the second floor, where a low, even light was
burning behind the white muslin sash curtains. Outside there were window
boxes, painted white and full of flowers. Bartley was making a third
round of the Square when he heard the far-flung hoof-beats of a
hansom-cab horse, driven rapidly. He looked at his watch, and was
astonished to find that it was a few minutes after twelve. He turned and
walked back along the iron railing as the cab came up to Hilda's number
and stopped. The hansom must have been one that she employed regularly,
for she did not stop to pay the driver. She stepped out quickly and
lightly. He heard her cheerful "Good-night, cabby," as she ran up the
steps and opened the door with a latchkey. In a few moments the lights
flared up brightly behind the white curtains, and as he walked away
he heard a window raised. But he had gone too far to look up without
turning round. He went back to his hotel, feeling that he had had a good
evening, and he slept well.

For the next few days Alexander was very busy. He took a desk in the
office of a Scotch engineering firm on Henrietta Street, and was at work
almost constantly. He avoided the clubs and usually dined alone at his
hotel. One afternoon, after he had tea, he started for a walk down the
Embankment toward Westminster, intending to end his stroll at Bedford
Square and to ask whether Miss Burgoyne would let him take her to the
theatre. But he did not go so far. When he reached the Abbey, he turned
back and crossed Westminster Bridge and sat down to watch the trails of
smoke behind the Houses of Parliament catch fire with the sunset. The
slender towers were washed by a rain of golden light and licked by
little flickering flames; Somerset House and the bleached gray pinnacles
about Whitehall were floated in a luminous haze. The yellow light poured
through the trees and the leaves seemed to burn with soft fires. There
was a smell of acacias in the air everywhere, and the laburnums were
dripping gold over the walls of the gardens. It was a sweet, lonely kind
of summer evening. Remembering Hilda as she used to be, was doubtless
more satisfactory than seeing her as she must be now--and, after all,
Alexander asked himself, what was it but his own young years that he was
remembering?

He crossed back to Westminster, went up to the Temple, and sat down to
smoke in the Middle Temple gardens, listening to the thin voice of the
fountain and smelling the spice of the sycamores that came out heavily
in the damp evening air. He thought, as he sat there, about a great many
things: about his own youth and Hilda's; above all, he thought of how
glorious it had been, and how quickly it had passed; and, when it had
passed, how little worth while anything was. None of the things he had
gained in the least compensated. In the last six years his reputation
had become, as the saying is, popular. Four years ago he had been called
to Japan to deliver, at the Emperor's request, a course of lectures
at the Imperial University, and had instituted reforms throughout the
islands, not only in the practice of bridge-building but in drainage and
road-making. On his return he had undertaken the bridge at Moorlock,
in Canada, the most important piece of bridge-building going on in
the world,--a test, indeed, of how far the latest practice in bridge
structure could be carried. It was a spectacular undertaking by reason
of its very size, and Bartley realized that, whatever else he might do,
he would probably always be known as the engineer who designed the great
Moorlock Bridge, the longest cantilever in existence. Yet it was to him
the least satisfactory thing he had ever done. He was cramped in every
way by a niggardly commission, and was using lighter structural material
than he thought proper. He had vexations enough, too, with his work at
home. He had several bridges under way in the United States, and they
were always being held up by strikes and delays resulting from a general
industrial unrest.

Though Alexander often told himself he had never put more into his work
than he had done in the last few years, he had to admit that he had
never got so little out of it. He was paying for success, too, in the
demands made on his time by boards of civic enterprise and committees
of public welfare. The obligations imposed by his wife's fortune
and position were sometimes distracting to a man who followed his
profession, and he was expected to be interested in a great many worthy
endeavors on her account as well as on his own. His existence was
becoming a network of great and little details. He had expected that
success would bring him freedom and power; but it had brought only power
that was in itself another kind of restraint. He had always meant to
keep his personal liberty at all costs, as old MacKeller, his first
chief, had done, and not, like so many American engineers, to become a
part of a professional movement, a cautious board member, a Nestor de
pontibus. He happened to be engaged in work of public utility, but he
was not willing to become what is called a public man. He found himself
living exactly the kind of life he had determined to escape. What, he
asked himself, did he want with these genial honors and substantial
comforts? Hardships and difficulties he had carried lightly; overwork
had not exhausted him; but this dead calm of middle life which
confronted him,--of that he was afraid. He was not ready for it. It was
like being buried alive. In his youth he would not have believed such a
thing possible. The one thing he had really wanted all his life was to
be free; and there was still something unconquered in him, something
besides the strong work-horse that his profession had made of him. He
felt rich to-night in the possession of that unstultified survival;
in the light of his experience, it was more precious than honors or
achievement. In all those busy, successful years there had been nothing
so good as this hour of wild light-heartedness. This feeling was the
only happiness that was real to him, and such hours were the only ones
in which he could feel his own continuous identity--feel the boy he had
been in the rough days of the old West, feel the youth who had worked
his way across the ocean on a cattle-ship and gone to study in Paris
without a dollar in his pocket. The man who sat in his offices in Boston
was only a powerful machine. Under the activities of that machine the
person who, in such moments as this, he felt to be himself, was fading
and dying. He remembered how, when he was a little boy and his father
called him in the morning, he used to leap from his bed into the full
consciousness of himself. That consciousness was Life itself. Whatever
took its place, action, reflection, the power of concentrated thought,
were only functions of a mechanism useful to society; things that could
be bought in the market. There was only one thing that had an absolute
value for each individual, and it was just that original impulse, that
internal heat, that feeling of one's self in one's own breast.

When Alexander walked back to his hotel, the red and green lights were
blinking along the docks on the farther shore, and the soft white stars
were shining in the wide sky above the river.

The next night, and the next, Alexander repeated this same foolish
performance. It was always Miss Burgoyne whom he started out to find,
and he got no farther than the Temple gardens and the Embankment. It
was a pleasant kind of loneliness. To a man who was so little given
to reflection, whose dreams always took the form of definite ideas,
reaching into the future, there was a seductive excitement in renewing
old experiences in imagination. He started out upon these walks half
guiltily, with a curious longing and expectancy which were wholly
gratified by solitude. Solitude, but not solitariness; for he walked
shoulder to shoulder with a shadowy companion--not little Hilda
Burgoyne, by any means, but some one vastly dearer to him than she had
ever been--his own young self, the youth who had waited for him upon the
steps of the British Museum that night, and who, though he had tried to
pass so quietly, had known him and come down and linked an arm in his.

It was not until long afterward that Alexander learned that for him this
youth was the most dangerous of companions.


One Sunday evening, at Lady Walford's, Alexander did at last meet Hilda
Burgoyne. Mainhall had told him that she would probably be there. He
looked about for her rather nervously, and finally found her at the
farther end of the large drawing-room, the centre of a circle of men,
young and old. She was apparently telling them a story. They were
all laughing and bending toward her. When she saw Alexander, she rose
quickly and put out her hand. The other men drew back a little to let
him approach.

"Mr. Alexander! I am delighted. Have you been in London long?"

Bartley bowed, somewhat laboriously, over her hand. "Long enough to have
seen you more than once. How fine it all is!"

She laughed as if she were pleased. "I'm glad you think so. I like it.
Won't you join us here?"

"Miss Burgoyne was just telling us about a donkey-boy she had in Galway
last summer," Sir Harry Towne explained as the circle closed up again.
Lord Westmere stroked his long white mustache with his bloodless hand
and looked at Alexander blankly. Hilda was a good story-teller. She was
sitting on the edge of her chair, as if she had alighted there for a
moment only. Her primrose satin gown seemed like a soft sheath for her
slender, supple figure, and its delicate color suited her white Irish
skin and brown hair. Whatever she wore, people felt the charm of her
active, girlish body with its slender hips and quick, eager shoulders.
Alexander heard little of the story, but he watched Hilda intently. She
must certainly, he reflected, be thirty, and he was honestly delighted
to see that the years had treated her so indulgently. If her face had
changed at all, it was in a slight hardening of the mouth--still eager
enough to be very disconcerting at times, he felt--and in an added
air of self-possession and self-reliance. She carried her head, too, a
little more resolutely.

When the story was finished, Miss Burgoyne turned pointedly to
Alexander, and the other men drifted away.

"I thought I saw you in MacConnell's box with Mainhall one evening, but
I supposed you had left town before this."

She looked at him frankly and cordially, as if he were indeed merely an
old friend whom she was glad to meet again.

"No, I've been mooning about here."

Hilda laughed gayly. "Mooning! I see you mooning! You must be the
busiest man in the world. Time and success have done well by you, you
know. You're handsomer than ever and you've gained a grand manner."

Alexander blushed and bowed. "Time and success have been good friends to
both of us. Aren't you tremendously pleased with yourself?"

She laughed again and shrugged her shoulders. "Oh, so-so. But I want to
hear about you. Several years ago I read such a lot in the papers about
the wonderful things you did in Japan, and how the Emperor decorated
you. What was it, Commander of the Order of the Rising Sun? That sounds
like `The Mikado.' And what about your new bridge--in Canada, isn't it,
and it's to be the longest one in the world and has some queer name I
can't remember."

Bartley shook his head and smiled drolly. "Since when have you
been interested in bridges? Or have you learned to be interested in
everything? And is that a part of success?"

"Why, how absurd! As if I were not always interested!" Hilda exclaimed.

"Well, I think we won't talk about bridges here, at any rate." Bartley
looked down at the toe of her yellow slipper which was tapping the rug
impatiently under the hem of her gown. "But I wonder whether you'd think
me impertinent if I asked you to let me come to see you sometime and
tell you about them?"

"Why should I? Ever so many people come on Sunday afternoons."

"I know. Mainhall offered to take me. But you must know that I've been
in London several times within the last few years, and you might very
well think that just now is a rather inopportune time--"

She cut him short. "Nonsense. One of the pleasantest things about
success is that it makes people want to look one up, if that's what you
mean. I'm like every one else--more agreeable to meet when things are
going well with me. Don't you suppose it gives me any pleasure to do
something that people like?"

"Does it? Oh, how fine it all is, your coming on like this! But I didn't
want you to think it was because of that I wanted to see you." He spoke
very seriously and looked down at the floor.

Hilda studied him in wide-eyed astonishment for a moment, and then
broke into a low, amused laugh. "My dear Mr. Alexander, you have strange
delicacies. If you please, that is exactly why you wish to see me. We
understand that, do we not?"

Bartley looked ruffled and turned the seal ring on his little finger
about awkwardly.

Hilda leaned back in her chair, watching him indulgently out of her
shrewd eyes. "Come, don't be angry, but don't try to pose for me, or to
be anything but what you are. If you care to come, it's yourself I'll
be glad to see, and you thinking well of yourself. Don't try to wear a
cloak of humility; it doesn't become you. Stalk in as you are and don't
make excuses. I'm not accustomed to inquiring into the motives of my
guests. That would hardly be safe, even for Lady Walford, in a great
house like this."

"Sunday afternoon, then," said Alexander, as she rose to join her
hostess. "How early may I come?"

She gave him her hand and flushed and laughed. He bent over it a little
stiffly. She went away on Lady Walford's arm, and as he stood watching
her yellow train glide down the long floor he looked rather sullen. He
felt that he had not come out of it very brilliantly.



CHAPTER IV


On Sunday afternoon Alexander remembered Miss Burgoyne's invitation and
called at her apartment. He found it a delightful little place and he
met charming people there. Hilda lived alone, attended by a very pretty
and competent French servant who answered the door and brought in the
tea. Alexander arrived early, and some twenty-odd people dropped in
during the course of the afternoon. Hugh MacConnell came with his
sister, and stood about, managing his tea-cup awkwardly and watching
every one out of his deep-set, faded eyes. He seemed to have made a
resolute effort at tidiness of attire, and his sister, a robust, florid
woman with a splendid joviality about her, kept eyeing his freshly
creased clothes apprehensively. It was not very long, indeed, before his
coat hung with a discouraged sag from his gaunt shoulders and his hair
and beard were rumpled as if he had been out in a gale. His dry
humor went under a cloud of absent-minded kindliness which, Mainhall
explained, always overtook him here. He was never so witty or so sharp
here as elsewhere, and Alexander thought he behaved as if he were an
elderly relative come in to a young girl's party.

The editor of a monthly review came with his wife, and Lady Kildare,
the Irish philanthropist, brought her young nephew, Robert Owen, who had
come up from Oxford, and who was visibly excited and gratified by his
first introduction to Miss Burgoyne. Hilda was very nice to him, and he
sat on the edge of his chair, flushed with his conversational efforts
and moving his chin about nervously over his high collar. Sarah Frost,
the novelist, came with her husband, a very genial and placid old
scholar who had become slightly deranged upon the subject of the fourth
dimension. On other matters he was perfectly rational and he was easy
and pleasing in conversation. He looked very much like Agassiz, and
his wife, in her old-fashioned black silk dress, overskirted and
tight-sleeved, reminded Alexander of the early pictures of Mrs.
Browning. Hilda seemed particularly fond of this quaint couple, and
Bartley himself was so pleased with their mild and thoughtful converse
that he took his leave when they did, and walked with them over to
Oxford Street, where they waited for their 'bus. They asked him to come
to see them in Chelsea, and they spoke very tenderly of Hilda. "She's a
dear, unworldly little thing," said the philosopher absently; "more like
the stage people of my young days--folk of simple manners. There aren't
many such left. American tours have spoiled them, I'm afraid. They have
all grown very smart. Lamb wouldn't care a great deal about many of
them, I fancy."

Alexander went back to Bedford Square a second Sunday afternoon. He had
a long talk with MacConnell, but he got no word with Hilda alone, and
he left in a discontented state of mind. For the rest of the week he was
nervous and unsettled, and kept rushing his work as if he were preparing
for immediate departure. On Thursday afternoon he cut short a committee
meeting, jumped into a hansom, and drove to Bedford Square. He sent up
his card, but it came back to him with a message scribbled across the
front.

     So sorry I can't see you.  Will you come and
     dine with me Sunday evening at half-past seven?

     H.B.

When Bartley arrived at Bedford Square on Sunday evening, Marie,
the pretty little French girl, met him at the door and conducted him
upstairs. Hilda was writing in her living-room, under the light of a
tall desk lamp. Bartley recognized the primrose satin gown she had worn
that first evening at Lady Walford's.

"I'm so pleased that you think me worth that yellow dress, you know," he
said, taking her hand and looking her over admiringly from the toes of
her canary slippers to her smoothly parted brown hair. "Yes, it's very,
very pretty. Every one at Lady Walford's was looking at it."

Hilda curtsied. "Is that why you think it pretty? I've no need for
fine clothes in Mac's play this time, so I can afford a few duddies for
myself. It's owing to that same chance, by the way, that I am able to
ask you to dinner. I don't need Marie to dress me this season, so she
keeps house for me, and my little Galway girl has gone home for a visit.
I should never have asked you if Molly had been here, for I remember you
don't like English cookery."

Alexander walked about the room, looking at everything.

"I haven't had a chance yet to tell you what a jolly little place I
think this is. Where did you get those etchings? They're quite unusual,
aren't they?"

"Lady Westmere sent them to me from Rome last Christmas. She is very
much interested in the American artist who did them. They are all
sketches made about the Villa d'Este, you see. He painted that group of
cypresses for the Salon, and it was bought for the Luxembourg."

Alexander walked over to the bookcases. "It's the air of the whole place
here that I like. You haven't got anything that doesn't belong. Seems to
me it looks particularly well to-night. And you have so many flowers. I
like these little yellow irises."

"Rooms always look better by lamplight--in London, at least. Though
Marie is clean--really clean, as the French are. Why do you look at the
flowers so critically? Marie got them all fresh in Covent Garden market
yesterday morning."

"I'm glad," said Alexander simply. "I can't tell you how glad I am to
have you so pretty and comfortable here, and to hear every one saying
such nice things about you. You've got awfully nice friends," he added
humbly, picking up a little jade elephant from her desk. "Those fellows
are all very loyal, even Mainhall. They don't talk of any one else as
they do of you."

Hilda sat down on the couch and said seriously: "I've a neat little sum
in the bank, too, now, and I own a mite of a hut in Galway. It's not
worth much, but I love it. I've managed to save something every year,
and that with helping my three sisters now and then, and tiding poor
Cousin Mike over bad seasons. He's that gifted, you know, but he will
drink and loses more good engagements than other fellows ever get. And
I've traveled a bit, too."

Marie opened the door and smilingly announced that dinner was served.

"My dining-room," Hilda explained, as she led the way, "is the tiniest
place you have ever seen."

It was a tiny room, hung all round with French prints, above which ran a
shelf full of china. Hilda saw Alexander look up at it.

"It's not particularly rare," she said, "but some of it was my
mother's. Heaven knows how she managed to keep it whole, through all our
wanderings, or in what baskets and bundles and theatre trunks it hasn't
been stowed away. We always had our tea out of those blue cups when I
was a little girl, sometimes in the queerest lodgings, and sometimes on
a trunk at the theatre--queer theatres, for that matter."

It was a wonderful little dinner. There was watercress soup, and sole,
and a delightful omelette stuffed with mushrooms and truffles, and two
small rare ducklings, and artichokes, and a dry yellow Rhone wine of
which Bartley had always been very fond. He drank it appreciatively and
remarked that there was still no other he liked so well.

"I have some champagne for you, too. I don't drink it myself, but I like
to see it behave when it's poured. There is nothing else that looks so
jolly."

"Thank you. But I don't like it so well as this." Bartley held the
yellow wine against the light and squinted into it as he turned the
glass slowly about. "You have traveled, you say. Have you been in Paris
much these late years?"

Hilda lowered one of the candle-shades carefully. "Oh, yes, I go over to
Paris often. There are few changes in the old Quarter. Dear old Madame
Anger is dead--but perhaps you don't remember her?"

"Don't I, though! I'm so sorry to hear it. How did her son turn out? I
remember how she saved and scraped for him, and how he always lay abed
till ten o'clock. He was the laziest fellow at the Beaux Arts; and
that's saying a good deal."

"Well, he is still clever and lazy. They say he is a good architect when
he will work. He's a big, handsome creature, and he hates Americans as
much as ever. But Angel--do you remember Angel?"

"Perfectly. Did she ever get back to Brittany and her bains de mer?"

"Ah, no. Poor Angel! She got tired of cooking and scouring the coppers
in Madame Anger's little kitchen, so she ran away with a soldier, and
then with another soldier. Too bad! She still lives about the Quarter,
and, though there is always a soldat, she has become a blanchisseuse de
fin. She did my blouses beautifully the last time I was there, and was
so delighted to see me again. I gave her all my old clothes, even my old
hats, though she always wears her Breton headdress. Her hair is still
like flax, and her blue eyes are just like a baby's, and she has the
same three freckles on her little nose, and talks about going back to
her bains de mer."

Bartley looked at Hilda across the yellow light of the candles and broke
into a low, happy laugh. "How jolly it was being young, Hilda! Do you
remember that first walk we took together in Paris? We walked down to
the Place Saint-Michel to buy some lilacs. Do you remember how sweet
they smelled?"

"Indeed I do. Come, we'll have our coffee in the other room, and you can
smoke."

Hilda rose quickly, as if she wished to change the drift of their talk,
but Bartley found it pleasant to continue it.

"What a warm, soft spring evening that was," he went on, as they sat
down in the study with the coffee on a little table between them; "and
the sky, over the bridges, was just the color of the lilacs. We walked
on down by the river, didn't we?"

Hilda laughed and looked at him questioningly. He saw a gleam in her
eyes that he remembered even better than the episode he was recalling.

"I think we did," she answered demurely. "It was on the Quai we met
that woman who was crying so bitterly. I gave her a spray of lilac,
I remember, and you gave her a franc. I was frightened at your
prodigality."

"I expect it was the last franc I had. What a strong brown face she had,
and very tragic. She looked at us with such despair and longing, out
from under her black shawl. What she wanted from us was neither our
flowers nor our francs, but just our youth. I remember it touched me
so. I would have given her some of mine off my back, if I could. I had
enough and to spare then," Bartley mused, and looked thoughtfully at his
cigar.

They were both remembering what the woman had said when she took the
money: "God give you a happy love!" It was not in the ingratiating
tone of the habitual beggar: it had come out of the depths of the poor
creature's sorrow, vibrating with pity for their youth and despair
at the terribleness of human life; it had the anguish of a voice of
prophecy. Until she spoke, Bartley had not realized that he was in love.
The strange woman, and her passionate sentence that rang out so sharply,
had frightened them both. They went home sadly with the lilacs, back
to the Rue Saint-Jacques, walking very slowly, arm in arm. When they
reached the house where Hilda lodged, Bartley went across the court with
her, and up the dark old stairs to the third landing; and there he had
kissed her for the first time. He had shut his eyes to give him the
courage, he remembered, and she had trembled so--

Bartley started when Hilda rang the little bell beside her. "Dear me,
why did you do that? I had quite forgotten--I was back there. It was
very jolly," he murmured lazily, as Marie came in to take away the
coffee.

Hilda laughed and went over to the piano. "Well, we are neither of us
twenty now, you know. Have I told you about my new play? Mac is writing
one; really for me this time. You see, I'm coming on."

"I've seen nothing else. What kind of a part is it? Shall you wear
yellow gowns? I hope so."

He was looking at her round slender figure, as she stood by the piano,
turning over a pile of music, and he felt the energy in every line of
it.

"No, it isn't a dress-up part. He doesn't seem to fancy me in fine
feathers. He says I ought to be minding the pigs at home, and I suppose
I ought. But he's given me some good Irish songs. Listen."

She sat down at the piano and sang. When she finished, Alexander shook
himself out of a reverie.

"Sing `The Harp That Once,' Hilda. You used to sing it so well."

"Nonsense. Of course I can't really sing, except the way my mother
and grandmother did before me. Most actresses nowadays learn to sing
properly, so I tried a master; but he confused me, just!"

Alexander laughed. "All the same, sing it, Hilda."

Hilda started up from the stool and moved restlessly toward the window.
"It's really too warm in this room to sing. Don't you feel it?"

Alexander went over and opened the window for her. "Aren't you afraid
to let the wind low like that on your neck? Can't I get a scarf or
something?"

"Ask a theatre lady if she's afraid of drafts!" Hilda laughed. "But
perhaps, as I'm so warm--give me your handkerchief. There, just in
front." He slipped the corners carefully under her shoulder-straps.
"There, that will do. It looks like a bib." She pushed his hand away
quickly and stood looking out into the deserted square. "Isn't London a
tomb on Sunday night?"

Alexander caught the agitation in her voice. He stood a little behind
her, and tried to steady himself as he said: "It's soft and misty. See
how white the stars are."

For a long time neither Hilda nor Bartley spoke. They stood close
together, looking out into the wan, watery sky, breathing always more
quickly and lightly, and it seemed as if all the clocks in the world
had stopped. Suddenly he moved the clenched hand he held behind him
and dropped it violently at his side. He felt a tremor run through the
slender yellow figure in front of him.

She caught his handkerchief from her throat and thrust it at him without
turning round. "Here, take it. You must go now, Bartley. Good-night."

Bartley leaned over her shoulder, without touching her, and whispered in
her ear: "You are giving me a chance?"

"Yes. Take it and go. This isn't fair, you know. Good-night."

Alexander unclenched the two hands at his sides. With one he threw down
the window and with the other--still standing behind her--he drew her
back against him.

She uttered a little cry, threw her arms over her head, and drew his
face down to hers. "Are you going to let me love you a little, Bartley?"
she whispered.



CHAPTER V


It was the afternoon of the day before Christmas. Mrs. Alexander had
been driving about all the morning, leaving presents at the houses of
her friends. She lunched alone, and as she rose from the table she spoke
to the butler: "Thomas, I am going down to the kitchen now to see Norah.
In half an hour you are to bring the greens up from the cellar and put
them in the library. Mr. Alexander will be home at three to hang them
himself. Don't forget the stepladder, and plenty of tacks and
string. You may bring the azaleas upstairs. Take the white one to Mr.
Alexander's study. Put the two pink ones in this room, and the red one
in the drawing-room."

A little before three o'clock Mrs. Alexander went into the library to
see that everything was ready. She pulled the window shades high, for
the weather was dark and stormy, and there was little light, even in
the streets. A foot of snow had fallen during the morning, and the wide
space over the river was thick with flying flakes that fell and wreathed
the masses of floating ice. Winifred was standing by the window when
she heard the front door open. She hurried to the hall as Alexander came
stamping in, covered with snow. He kissed her joyfully and brushed away
the snow that fell on her hair.

"I wish I had asked you to meet me at the office and walk home with me,
Winifred. The Common is beautiful. The boys have swept the snow off the
pond and are skating furiously. Did the cyclamens come?"

"An hour ago. What splendid ones! But aren't you frightfully
extravagant?"

"Not for Christmas-time. I'll go upstairs and change my coat. I shall be
down in a moment. Tell Thomas to get everything ready."

When Alexander reappeared, he took his wife's arm and went with her into
the library. "When did the azaleas get here? Thomas has got the white
one in my room."

"I told him to put it there."

"But, I say, it's much the finest of the lot!"

"That's why I had it put there. There is too much color in that room for
a red one, you know."

Bartley began to sort the greens. "It looks very splendid there, but I
feel piggish to have it. However, we really spend more time there than
anywhere else in the house. Will you hand me the holly?"

He climbed up the stepladder, which creaked under his weight, and
began to twist the tough stems of the holly into the frame-work of the
chandelier.

"I forgot to tell you that I had a letter from Wilson, this morning,
explaining his telegram. He is coming on because an old uncle up in
Vermont has conveniently died and left Wilson a little money--something
like ten thousand. He's coming on to settle up the estate. Won't it be
jolly to have him?"

"And how fine that he's come into a little money. I can see him posting
down State Street to the steamship offices. He will get a good many
trips out of that ten thousand. What can have detained him? I expected
him here for luncheon."

"Those trains from Albany are always late. He'll be along sometime this
afternoon. And now, don't you want to go upstairs and lie down for
an hour? You've had a busy morning and I don't want you to be tired
to-night."

After his wife went upstairs Alexander worked energetically at the
greens for a few moments. Then, as he was cutting off a length of
string, he sighed suddenly and sat down, staring out of the window at
the snow. The animation died out of his face, but in his eyes there was
a restless light, a look of apprehension and suspense. He kept clasping
and unclasping his big hands as if he were trying to realize something.
The clock ticked through the minutes of a half-hour and the afternoon
outside began to thicken and darken turbidly. Alexander, since he first
sat down, had not changed his position. He leaned forward, his hands
between his knees, scarcely breathing, as if he were holding himself
away from his surroundings, from the room, and from the very chair in
which he sat, from everything except the wild eddies of snow above the
river on which his eyes were fixed with feverish intentness, as if he
were trying to project himself thither. When at last Lucius Wilson was
announced, Alexander sprang eagerly to his feet and hurried to meet his
old instructor.

"Hello, Wilson. What luck! Come into the library. We are to have a lot
of people to dinner to-night, and Winifred's lying down. You will
excuse her, won't you? And now what about yourself? Sit down and tell me
everything."

"I think I'd rather move about, if you don't mind. I've been sitting in
the train for a week, it seems to me." Wilson stood before the fire with
his hands behind him and looked about the room. "You HAVE been busy.
Bartley, if I'd had my choice of all possible places in which to spend
Christmas, your house would certainly be the place I'd have chosen.
Happy people do a great deal for their friends. A house like this
throws its warmth out. I felt it distinctly as I was coming through
the Berkshires. I could scarcely believe that I was to see Mrs. Bartley
again so soon."

"Thank you, Wilson. She'll be as glad to see you. Shall we have tea now?
I'll ring for Thomas to clear away this litter. Winifred says I always
wreck the house when I try to do anything. Do you know, I am quite
tired. Looks as if I were not used to work, doesn't it?" Alexander
laughed and dropped into a chair. "You know, I'm sailing the day after
New Year's."

"Again? Why, you've been over twice since I was here in the spring,
haven't you?"

"Oh, I was in London about ten days in the summer. Went to escape the
hot weather more than anything else. I shan't be gone more than a month
this time. Winifred and I have been up in Canada for most of the autumn.
That Moorlock Bridge is on my back all the time. I never had so much
trouble with a job before." Alexander moved about restlessly and fell to
poking the fire.

"Haven't I seen in the papers that there is some trouble about a
tidewater bridge of yours in New Jersey?"

"Oh, that doesn't amount to anything. It's held up by a steel strike. A
bother, of course, but the sort of thing one is always having to put up
with. But the Moorlock Bridge is a continual anxiety. You see, the truth
is, we are having to build pretty well to the strain limit up there.
They've crowded me too much on the cost. It's all very well if
everything goes well, but these estimates have never been used for
anything of such length before. However, there's nothing to be done.
They hold me to the scale I've used in shorter bridges. The last thing a
bridge commission cares about is the kind of bridge you build."


When Bartley had finished dressing for dinner he went into his study,
where he found his wife arranging flowers on his writing-table.

"These pink roses just came from Mrs. Hastings," she said, smiling, "and
I am sure she meant them for you."

Bartley looked about with an air of satisfaction at the greens and the
wreaths in the windows. "Have you a moment, Winifred? I have just now
been thinking that this is our twelfth Christmas. Can you realize it?"
He went up to the table and took her hands away from the flowers, drying
them with his pocket handkerchief. "They've been awfully happy ones, all
of them, haven't they?" He took her in his arms and bent back, lifting
her a little and giving her a long kiss. "You are happy, aren't you
Winifred? More than anything else in the world, I want you to be happy.
Sometimes, of late, I've thought you looked as if you were troubled."

"No; it's only when you are troubled and harassed that I feel worried,
Bartley. I wish you always seemed as you do to-night. But you don't,
always." She looked earnestly and inquiringly into his eyes.

Alexander took her two hands from his shoulders and swung them back and
forth in his own, laughing his big blond laugh.

"I'm growing older, my dear; that's what you feel. Now, may I show you
something? I meant to save them until to-morrow, but I want you to
wear them to-night." He took a little leather box out of his pocket and
opened it. On the white velvet lay two long pendants of curiously worked
gold, set with pearls. Winifred looked from the box to Bartley and
exclaimed:--

"Where did you ever find such gold work, Bartley?"

"It's old Flemish. Isn't it fine?"

"They are the most beautiful things, dear. But, you know, I never wear
earrings."

"Yes, yes, I know. But I want you to wear them. I have always wanted
you to. So few women can. There must be a good ear, to begin with, and
a nose"--he waved his hand--"above reproach. Most women look silly in
them. They go only with faces like yours--very, very proud, and just a
little hard."

Winifred laughed as she went over to the mirror and fitted the delicate
springs to the lobes of her ears. "Oh, Bartley, that old foolishness
about my being hard. It really hurts my feelings. But I must go down
now. People are beginning to come."

Bartley drew her arm about his neck and went to the door with her. "Not
hard to me, Winifred," he whispered. "Never, never hard to me."

Left alone, he paced up and down his study. He was at home again, among
all the dear familiar things that spoke to him of so many happy years.
His house to-night would be full of charming people, who liked and
admired him. Yet all the time, underneath his pleasure and hopefulness
and satisfaction, he was conscious of the vibration of an unnatural
excitement. Amid this light and warmth and friendliness, he sometimes
started and shuddered, as if some one had stepped on his grave.
Something had broken loose in him of which he knew nothing except
that it was sullen and powerful, and that it wrung and tortured him.
Sometimes it came upon him softly, in enervating reveries. Sometimes it
battered him like the cannon rolling in the hold of the vessel. Always,
now, it brought with it a sense of quickened life, of stimulating
danger. To-night it came upon him suddenly, as he was walking the floor,
after his wife left him. It seemed impossible; he could not believe it.
He glanced entreatingly at the door, as if to call her back. He heard
voices in the hall below, and knew that he must go down. Going over to
the window, he looked out at the lights across the river. How could this
happen here, in his own house, among the things he loved? What was it
that reached in out of the darkness and thrilled him? As he stood
there he had a feeling that he would never escape. He shut his eyes and
pressed his forehead against the cold window glass, breathing in the
chill that came through it. "That this," he groaned, "that this should
have happened to ME!"


On New Year's day a thaw set in, and during the night torrents of rain
fell. In the morning, the morning of Alexander's departure for England,
the river was streaked with fog and the rain drove hard against the
windows of the breakfast-room. Alexander had finished his coffee and
was pacing up and down. His wife sat at the table, watching him. She was
pale and unnaturally calm. When Thomas brought the letters, Bartley sank
into his chair and ran them over rapidly.

"Here's a note from old Wilson. He's safe back at his grind, and says he
had a bully time. `The memory of Mrs. Bartley will make my whole winter
fragrant.' Just like him. He will go on getting measureless satisfaction
out of you by his study fire. What a man he is for looking on at life!"
Bartley sighed, pushed the letters back impatiently, and went over to
the window. "This is a nasty sort of day to sail. I've a notion to call
it off. Next week would be time enough."

"That would only mean starting twice. It wouldn't really help you out at
all," Mrs. Alexander spoke soothingly. "And you'd come back late for all
your engagements."

Bartley began jingling some loose coins in his pocket. "I wish things
would let me rest. I'm tired of work, tired of people, tired of trailing
about." He looked out at the storm-beaten river.

Winifred came up behind him and put a hand on his shoulder. "That's
what you always say, poor Bartley! At bottom you really like all these
things. Can't you remember that?"

He put his arm about her. "All the same, life runs smoothly enough with
some people, and with me it's always a messy sort of patchwork. It's
like the song; peace is where I am not. How can you face it all with so
much fortitude?"

She looked at him with that clear gaze which Wilson had so much admired,
which he had felt implied such high confidence and fearless pride. "Oh,
I faced that long ago, when you were on your first bridge, up at old
Allway. I knew then that your paths were not to be paths of peace, but I
decided that I wanted to follow them."

Bartley and his wife stood silent for a long time; the fire crackled in
the grate, the rain beat insistently upon the windows, and the sleepy
Angora looked up at them curiously.

Presently Thomas made a discreet sound at the door. "Shall Edward bring
down your trunks, sir?"

"Yes; they are ready. Tell him not to forget the big portfolio on the
study table."

Thomas withdrew, closing the door softly. Bartley turned away from his
wife, still holding her hand. "It never gets any easier, Winifred."

They both started at the sound of the carriage on the pavement outside.
Alexander sat down and leaned his head on his hand. His wife bent over
him. "Courage," she said gayly. Bartley rose and rang the bell. Thomas
brought him his hat and stick and ulster. At the sight of these, the
supercilious Angora moved restlessly, quitted her red cushion by
the fire, and came up, waving her tail in vexation at these ominous
indications of change. Alexander stooped to stroke her, and then plunged
into his coat and drew on his gloves. His wife held his stick, smiling.
Bartley smiled too, and his eyes cleared. "I'll work like the devil,
Winifred, and be home again before you realize I've gone." He kissed her
quickly several times, hurried out of the front door into the rain, and
waved to her from the carriage window as the driver was starting his
melancholy, dripping black horses. Alexander sat with his hands clenched
on his knees. As the carriage turned up the hill, he lifted one hand and
brought it down violently. "This time"--he spoke aloud and through his
set teeth--"this time I'm going to end it!"


On the afternoon of the third day out, Alexander was sitting well to the
stern, on the windward side where the chairs were few, his rugs over
him and the collar of his fur-lined coat turned up about his ears. The
weather had so far been dark and raw. For two hours he had been
watching the low, dirty sky and the beating of the heavy rain upon
the iron-colored sea. There was a long, oily swell that made exercise
laborious. The decks smelled of damp woolens, and the air was so humid
that drops of moisture kept gathering upon his hair and mustache. He
seldom moved except to brush them away. The great open spaces made
him passive and the restlessness of the water quieted him. He intended
during the voyage to decide upon a course of action, but he held all
this away from him for the present and lay in a blessed gray
oblivion. Deep down in him somewhere his resolution was weakening and
strengthening, ebbing and flowing. The thing that perturbed him went on
as steadily as his pulse, but he was almost unconscious of it. He was
submerged in the vast impersonal grayness about him, and at intervals
the sidelong roll of the boat measured off time like the ticking of a
clock. He felt released from everything that troubled and perplexed
him. It was as if he had tricked and outwitted torturing memories, had
actually managed to get on board without them. He thought of nothing at
all. If his mind now and again picked a face out of the grayness, it was
Lucius Wilson's, or the face of an old schoolmate, forgotten for years;
or it was the slim outline of a favorite greyhound he used to hunt
jack-rabbits with when he was a boy.

Toward six o'clock the wind rose and tugged at the tarpaulin and brought
the swell higher. After dinner Alexander came back to the wet deck,
piled his damp rugs over him again, and sat smoking, losing himself in
the obliterating blackness and drowsing in the rush of the gale. Before
he went below a few bright stars were pricked off between heavily moving
masses of cloud.

The next morning was bright and mild, with a fresh breeze. Alexander
felt the need of exercise even before he came out of his cabin. When he
went on deck the sky was blue and blinding, with heavy whiffs of white
cloud, smoke-colored at the edges, moving rapidly across it. The water
was roughish, a cold, clear indigo breaking into whitecaps. Bartley
walked for two hours, and then stretched himself in the sun until
lunch-time.

In the afternoon he wrote a long letter to Winifred. Later, as he walked
the deck through a splendid golden sunset, his spirits rose continually.
It was agreeable to come to himself again after several days of numbness
and torpor. He stayed out until the last tinge of violet had faded from
the water. There was literally a taste of life on his lips as he
sat down to dinner and ordered a bottle of champagne. He was late in
finishing his dinner, and drank rather more wine than he had meant to.
When he went above, the wind had risen and the deck was almost deserted.
As he stepped out of the door a gale lifted his heavy fur coat about
his shoulders. He fought his way up the deck with keen exhilaration.
The moment he stepped, almost out of breath, behind the shelter of the
stern, the wind was cut off, and he felt, like a rush of warm air, a
sense of close and intimate companionship. He started back and tore his
coat open as if something warm were actually clinging to him beneath it.
He hurried up the deck and went into the saloon parlor, full of women
who had retreated thither from the sharp wind. He threw himself upon
them. He talked delightfully to the older ones and played accompaniments
for the younger ones until the last sleepy girl had followed her mother
below. Then he went into the smoking-room. He played bridge until two
o'clock in the morning, and managed to lose a considerable sum of money
without really noticing that he was doing so.

After the break of one fine day the weather was pretty consistently
dull. When the low sky thinned a trifle, the pale white spot of a sun
did no more than throw a bluish lustre on the water, giving it the dark
brightness of newly cut lead. Through one after another of those gray
days Alexander drowsed and mused, drinking in the grateful moisture. But
the complete peace of the first part of the voyage was over. Sometimes
he rose suddenly from his chair as if driven out, and paced the deck for
hours. People noticed his propensity for walking in rough weather, and
watched him curiously as he did his rounds. From his abstraction and the
determined set of his jaw, they fancied he must be thinking about his
bridge. Every one had heard of the new cantilever bridge in Canada.

But Alexander was not thinking about his work. After the fourth night
out, when his will suddenly softened under his hands, he had been
continually hammering away at himself. More and more often, when he
first wakened in the morning or when he stepped into a warm place after
being chilled on the deck, he felt a sudden painful delight at being
nearer another shore. Sometimes when he was most despondent, when he
thought himself worn out with this struggle, in a flash he was free
of it and leaped into an overwhelming consciousness of himself. On the
instant he felt that marvelous return of the impetuousness, the intense
excitement, the increasing expectancy of youth.



CHAPTER VI


The last two days of the voyage Bartley found almost intolerable. The
stop at Queenstown, the tedious passage up the Mersey, were things that
he noted dimly through his growing impatience. He had planned to stop in
Liverpool; but, instead, he took the boat train for London.

Emerging at Euston at half-past three o'clock in the afternoon,
Alexander had his luggage sent to the Savoy and drove at once to Bedford
Square. When Marie met him at the door, even her strong sense of the
proprieties could not restrain her surprise and delight. She blushed and
smiled and fumbled his card in her confusion before she ran upstairs.
Alexander paced up and down the hallway, buttoning and unbuttoning his
overcoat, until she returned and took him up to Hilda's living-room. The
room was empty when he entered. A coal fire was crackling in the grate
and the lamps were lit, for it was already beginning to grow dark
outside. Alexander did not sit down. He stood his ground over by the
windows until Hilda came in. She called his name on the threshold, but
in her swift flight across the room she felt a change in him and caught
herself up so deftly that he could not tell just when she did it.
She merely brushed his cheek with her lips and put a hand lightly and
joyously on either shoulder. "Oh, what a grand thing to happen on a
raw day! I felt it in my bones when I woke this morning that something
splendid was going to turn up. I thought it might be Sister Kate or
Cousin Mike would be happening along. I never dreamed it would be you,
Bartley. But why do you let me chatter on like this? Come over to the
fire; you're chilled through."

She pushed him toward the big chair by the fire, and sat down on a stool
at the opposite side of the hearth, her knees drawn up to her chin,
laughing like a happy little girl.

"When did you come, Bartley, and how did it happen? You haven't spoken a
word."

"I got in about ten minutes ago. I landed at Liverpool this morning and
came down on the boat train."

Alexander leaned forward and warmed his hands before the blaze. Hilda
watched him with perplexity.

"There's something troubling you, Bartley. What is it?"

Bartley bent lower over the fire. "It's the whole thing that troubles
me, Hilda. You and I."

Hilda took a quick, soft breath. She looked at his heavy shoulders and
big, determined head, thrust forward like a catapult in leash.

"What about us, Bartley?" she asked in a thin voice.

He locked and unlocked his hands over the grate and spread his fingers
close to the bluish flame, while the coals crackled and the clock ticked
and a street vendor began to call under the window. At last Alexander
brought out one word:--

"Everything!"

Hilda was pale by this time, and her eyes were wide with fright. She
looked about desperately from Bartley to the door, then to the windows,
and back again to Bartley. She rose uncertainly, touched his hair with
her hand, then sank back upon her stool.

"I'll do anything you wish me to, Bartley," she said tremulously. "I
can't stand seeing you miserable."

"I can't live with myself any longer," he answered roughly.

He rose and pushed the chair behind him and began to walk miserably
about the room, seeming to find it too small for him. He pulled up a
window as if the air were heavy.

Hilda watched him from her corner, trembling and scarcely breathing,
dark shadows growing about her eyes.

"It . . . it hasn't always made you miserable, has it?" Her eyelids fell
and her lips quivered.

"Always. But it's worse now. It's unbearable. It tortures me every
minute."

"But why NOW?" she asked piteously, wringing her hands.

He ignored her question. "I am not a man who can live two lives," he
went on feverishly. "Each life spoils the other. I get nothing but
misery out of either. The world is all there, just as it used to be,
but I can't get at it any more. There is this deception between me and
everything."

At that word "deception," spoken with such self-contempt, the color
flashed back into Hilda's face as suddenly as if she had been struck
by a whiplash. She bit her lip and looked down at her hands, which were
clasped tightly in front of her.

"Could you--could you sit down and talk about it quietly, Bartley, as if
I were a friend, and not some one who had to be defied?"

He dropped back heavily into his chair by the fire. "It was myself I was
defying, Hilda. I have thought about it until I am worn out."

He looked at her and his haggard face softened. He put out his hand
toward her as he looked away again into the fire.

She crept across to him, drawing her stool after her. "When did you
first begin to feel like this, Bartley?"

"After the very first. The first was--sort of in play, wasn't it?"

Hilda's face quivered, but she whispered: "Yes, I think it must have
been. But why didn't you tell me when you were here in the summer?"

Alexander groaned. "I meant to, but somehow I couldn't. We had only a
few days, and your new play was just on, and you were so happy."

"Yes, I was happy, wasn't I?" She pressed his hand gently in gratitude.
"Weren't you happy then, at all?"

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, as if to draw in again the
fragrance of those days. Something of their troubling sweetness came
back to Alexander, too. He moved uneasily and his chair creaked.

"Yes, I was then. You know. But afterward. . ."

"Yes, yes," she hurried, pulling her hand gently away from him.
Presently it stole back to his coat sleeve. "Please tell me one thing,
Bartley. At least, tell me that you believe I thought I was making you
happy."

His hand shut down quickly over the questioning fingers on his sleeves.
"Yes, Hilda; I know that," he said simply.

She leaned her head against his arm and spoke softly:--

"You see, my mistake was in wanting you to have everything. I wanted you
to eat all the cakes and have them, too. I somehow believed that I could
take all the bad consequences for you. I wanted you always to be happy
and handsome and successful--to have all the things that a great man
ought to have, and, once in a way, the careless holidays that great men
are not permitted."

Bartley gave a bitter little laugh, and Hilda looked up and read in the
deepening lines of his face that youth and Bartley would not much longer
struggle together.

"I understand, Bartley. I was wrong. But I didn't know. You've only to
tell me now. What must I do that I've not done, or what must I not do?"
She listened intently, but she heard nothing but the creaking of his
chair. "You want me to say it?" she whispered. "You want to tell me that
you can only see me like this, as old friends do, or out in the world
among people? I can do that."

"I can't," he said heavily.

Hilda shivered and sat still. Bartley leaned his head in his hands and
spoke through his teeth. "It's got to be a clean break, Hilda. I can't
see you at all, anywhere. What I mean is that I want you to promise
never to see me again, no matter how often I come, no matter how hard I
beg."

Hilda sprang up like a flame. She stood over him with her hands clenched
at her side, her body rigid.

"No!" she gasped. "It's too late to ask that. Do you hear me, Bartley?
It's too late. I won't promise. It's abominable of you to ask me. Keep
away if you wish; when have I ever followed you? But, if you come to me,
I'll do as I see fit. The shamefulness of your asking me to do that! If
you come to me, I'll do as I see fit. Do you understand? Bartley, you're
cowardly!"

Alexander rose and shook himself angrily. "Yes, I know I'm cowardly.
I'm afraid of myself. I don't trust myself any more. I carried it all
lightly enough at first, but now I don't dare trifle with it. It's
getting the better of me. It's different now. I'm growing older, and
you've got my young self here with you. It's through him that I've come
to wish for you all and all the time." He took her roughly in his arms.
"Do you know what I mean?"

Hilda held her face back from him and began to cry bitterly. "Oh,
Bartley, what am I to do? Why didn't you let me be angry with you? You
ask me to stay away from you because you want me! And I've got nobody
but you. I will do anything you say--but that! I will ask the least
imaginable, but I must have SOMETHING!"

Bartley turned away and sank down in his chair again. Hilda sat on the
arm of it and put her hands lightly on his shoulders.

"Just something Bartley. I must have you to think of through the months
and months of loneliness. I must see you. I must know about you. The
sight of you, Bartley, to see you living and happy and successful--can
I never make you understand what that means to me?" She pressed his
shoulders gently. "You see, loving some one as I love you makes the
whole world different. If I'd met you later, if I hadn't loved you so
well--but that's all over, long ago. Then came all those years without
you, lonely and hurt and discouraged; those decent young fellows and
poor Mac, and me never heeding--hard as a steel spring. And then you
came back, not caring very much, but it made no difference."

She slid to the floor beside him, as if she were too tired to sit up any
longer. Bartley bent over and took her in his arms, kissing her mouth
and her wet, tired eyes.

"Don't cry, don't cry," he whispered. "We've tortured each other enough
for tonight. Forget everything except that I am here."

"I think I have forgotten everything but that already," she murmured.
"Ah, your dear arms!"



CHAPTER VII


During the fortnight that Alexander was in London he drove himself hard.
He got through a great deal of personal business and saw a great many
men who were doing interesting things in his own profession. He disliked
to think of his visits to London as holidays, and when he was there he
worked even harder than he did at home.

The day before his departure for Liverpool was a singularly fine one.
The thick air had cleared overnight in a strong wind which brought in a
golden dawn and then fell off to a fresh breeze. When Bartley looked
out of his windows from the Savoy, the river was flashing silver and the
gray stone along the Embankment was bathed in bright, clear sunshine.
London had wakened to life after three weeks of cold and sodden rain.
Bartley breakfasted hurriedly and went over his mail while the hotel
valet packed his trunks. Then he paid his account and walked rapidly
down the Strand past Charing Cross Station. His spirits rose with every
step, and when he reached Trafalgar Square, blazing in the sun, with
its fountains playing and its column reaching up into the bright air,
he signaled to a hansom, and, before he knew what he was about, told the
driver to go to Bedford Square by way of the British Museum.

When he reached Hilda's apartment she met him, fresh as the morning
itself. Her rooms were flooded with sunshine and full of the flowers he
had been sending her. She would never let him give her anything else.

"Are you busy this morning, Hilda?" he asked as he sat down, his hat and
gloves in his hand.

"Very. I've been up and about three hours, working at my part. We open
in February, you know."

"Well, then you've worked enough. And so have I. I've seen all my men,
my packing is done, and I go up to Liverpool this evening. But this
morning we are going to have a holiday. What do you say to a drive out
to Kew and Richmond? You may not get another day like this all winter.
It's like a fine April day at home. May I use your telephone? I want to
order the carriage."

"Oh, how jolly! There, sit down at the desk. And while you are
telephoning I'll change my dress. I shan't be long. All the morning
papers are on the table."

Hilda was back in a few moments wearing a long gray squirrel coat and a
broad fur hat.

Bartley rose and inspected her. "Why don't you wear some of those pink
roses?" he asked.

"But they came only this morning, and they have not even begun to open.
I was saving them. I am so unconsciously thrifty!" She laughed as she
looked about the room. "You've been sending me far too many flowers,
Bartley. New ones every day. That's too often; though I do love to open
the boxes, and I take good care of them."

"Why won't you let me send you any of those jade or ivory things you are
so fond of? Or pictures? I know a good deal about pictures."

Hilda shook her large hat as she drew the roses out of the tall glass.
"No, there are some things you can't do. There's the carriage. Will you
button my gloves for me?"

Bartley took her wrist and began to button the long gray suede glove.
"How gay your eyes are this morning, Hilda."

"That's because I've been studying. It always stirs me up a little."

He pushed the top of the glove up slowly. "When did you learn to take
hold of your parts like that?"

"When I had nothing else to think of. Come, the carriage is waiting.
What a shocking while you take."

"I'm in no hurry. We've plenty of time."

They found all London abroad. Piccadilly was a stream of rapidly
moving carriages, from which flashed furs and flowers and bright winter
costumes. The metal trappings of the harnesses shone dazzlingly, and the
wheels were revolving disks that threw off rays of light. The parks were
full of children and nursemaids and joyful dogs that leaped and yelped
and scratched up the brown earth with their paws.

"I'm not going until to-morrow, you know," Bartley announced suddenly.
"I'll cut off a day in Liverpool. I haven't felt so jolly this long
while."

Hilda looked up with a smile which she tried not to make too glad. "I
think people were meant to be happy, a little," she said.

They had lunch at Richmond and then walked to Twickenham, where they had
sent the carriage. They drove back, with a glorious sunset behind them,
toward the distant gold-washed city. It was one of those rare afternoons
when all the thickness and shadow of London are changed to a kind of
shining, pulsing, special atmosphere; when the smoky vapors become
fluttering golden clouds, nacreous veils of pink and amber; when all
that bleakness of gray stone and dullness of dirty brick trembles in
aureate light, and all the roofs and spires, and one great dome, are
floated in golden haze. On such rare afternoons the ugliest of cities
becomes the most poetic, and months of sodden days are offset by a
moment of miracle.

"It's like that with us Londoners, too," Hilda was saying. "Everything
is awfully grim and cheerless, our weather and our houses and our ways
of amusing ourselves. But we can be happier than anybody. We can go mad
with joy, as the people do out in the fields on a fine Whitsunday. We
make the most of our moment."

She thrust her little chin out defiantly over her gray fur collar, and
Bartley looked down at her and laughed.

"You are a plucky one, you." He patted her glove with his hand. "Yes,
you are a plucky one."

Hilda sighed. "No, I'm not. Not about some things, at any rate. It
doesn't take pluck to fight for one's moment, but it takes pluck to go
without--a lot. More than I have. I can't help it," she added fiercely.

After miles of outlying streets and little gloomy houses, they reached
London itself, red and roaring and murky, with a thick dampness coming
up from the river, that betokened fog again to-morrow. The streets were
full of people who had worked indoors all through the priceless day and
had now come hungrily out to drink the muddy lees of it. They stood
in long black lines, waiting before the pit entrances of the
theatres--short-coated boys, and girls in sailor hats, all shivering
and chatting gayly. There was a blurred rhythm in all the dull city
noises--in the clatter of the cab horses and the rumbling of the busses,
in the street calls, and in the undulating tramp, tramp of the crowd. It
was like the deep vibration of some vast underground machinery, and like
the muffled pulsations of millions of human hearts.

[See "The Barrel Organ by Alfred Noyes. Ed.] [I have placed it at the
end for your convenience]

"Seems good to get back, doesn't it?" Bartley whispered, as they drove
from Bayswater Road into Oxford Street. "London always makes me want to
live more than any other city in the world. You remember our priestess
mummy over in the mummy-room, and how we used to long to go and bring
her out on nights like this? Three thousand years! Ugh!"

"All the same, I believe she used to feel it when we stood there and
watched her and wished her well. I believe she used to remember," Hilda
said thoughtfully.

"I hope so. Now let's go to some awfully jolly place for dinner before
we go home. I could eat all the dinners there are in London to-night.
Where shall I tell the driver? The Piccadilly Restaurant? The music's
good there."

"There are too many people there whom one knows. Why not that little
French place in Soho, where we went so often when you were here in
the summer? I love it, and I've never been there with any one but you.
Sometimes I go by myself, when I am particularly lonely."

"Very well, the sole's good there. How many street pianos there are
about to-night! The fine weather must have thawed them out. We've had
five miles of `Il Trovatore' now. They always make me feel jaunty. Are
you comfy, and not too tired?"

"I'm not tired at all. I was just wondering how people can ever die.
Why did you remind me of the mummy? Life seems the strongest and most
indestructible thing in the world. Do you really believe that all those
people rushing about down there, going to good dinners and clubs and
theatres, will be dead some day, and not care about anything? I don't
believe it, and I know I shan't die, ever! You see, I feel too--too
powerful!"

The carriage stopped. Bartley sprang out and swung her quickly to
the pavement. As he lifted her in his two hands he whispered: "You
are--powerful!"



CHAPTER VIII


The last rehearsal was over, a tedious dress rehearsal which had lasted
all day and exhausted the patience of every one who had to do with it.
When Hilda had dressed for the street and came out of her dressing-room,
she found Hugh MacConnell waiting for her in the corridor.

"The fog's thicker than ever, Hilda. There have been a great many
accidents to-day. It's positively unsafe for you to be out alone. Will
you let me take you home?"

"How good of you, Mac. If you are going with me, I think I'd rather
walk. I've had no exercise to-day, and all this has made me nervous."

"I shouldn't wonder," said MacConnell dryly. Hilda pulled down her
veil and they stepped out into the thick brown wash that submerged St.
Martin's Lane. MacConnell took her hand and tucked it snugly under his
arm. "I'm sorry I was such a savage. I hope you didn't think I made an
ass of myself."

"Not a bit of it. I don't wonder you were peppery. Those things are
awfully trying. How do you think it's going?"

"Magnificently. That's why I got so stirred up. We are going to hear
from this, both of us. And that reminds me; I've got news for you. They
are going to begin repairs on the theatre about the middle of March, and
we are to run over to New York for six weeks. Bennett told me yesterday
that it was decided."

Hilda looked up delightedly at the tall gray figure beside her. He
was the only thing she could see, for they were moving through a dense
opaqueness, as if they were walking at the bottom of the ocean.

"Oh, Mac, how glad I am! And they love your things over there, don't
they?"

"Shall you be glad for--any other reason, Hilda?"

MacConnell put his hand in front of her to ward off some dark object. It
proved to be only a lamp-post, and they beat in farther from the edge of
the pavement.

"What do you mean, Mac?" Hilda asked nervously.

"I was just thinking there might be people over there you'd be glad to
see," he brought out awkwardly. Hilda said nothing, and as they walked
on MacConnell spoke again, apologetically: "I hope you don't mind my
knowing about it, Hilda. Don't stiffen up like that. No one else knows,
and I didn't try to find out anything. I felt it, even before I knew who
he was. I knew there was somebody, and that it wasn't I."

They crossed Oxford Street in silence, feeling their way. The busses had
stopped running and the cab-drivers were leading their horses. When
they reached the other side, MacConnell said suddenly, "I hope you are
happy."

"Terribly, dangerously happy, Mac,"--Hilda spoke quietly, pressing the
rough sleeve of his greatcoat with her gloved hand.

"You've always thought me too old for you, Hilda,--oh, of course you've
never said just that,--and here this fellow is not more than eight years
younger than I. I've always felt that if I could get out of my old case
I might win you yet. It's a fine, brave youth I carry inside me, only
he'll never be seen."

"Nonsense, Mac. That has nothing to do with it. It's because you seem
too close to me, too much my own kind. It would be like marrying Cousin
Mike, almost. I really tried to care as you wanted me to, away back in
the beginning."

"Well, here we are, turning out of the Square. You are not angry with
me, Hilda? Thank you for this walk, my dear. Go in and get dry things on
at once. You'll be having a great night to-morrow."

She put out her hand. "Thank you, Mac, for everything. Good-night."

MacConnell trudged off through the fog, and she went slowly upstairs.
Her slippers and dressing gown were waiting for her before the fire. "I
shall certainly see him in New York. He will see by the papers that we
are coming. Perhaps he knows it already," Hilda kept thinking as she
undressed. "Perhaps he will be at the dock. No, scarcely that; but I may
meet him in the street even before he comes to see me." Marie placed
the tea-table by the fire and brought Hilda her letters. She looked them
over, and started as she came to one in a handwriting that she did not
often see; Alexander had written to her only twice before, and he did
not allow her to write to him at all. "Thank you, Marie. You may go
now."


Hilda sat down by the table with the letter in her hand, still unopened.
She looked at it intently, turned it over, and felt its thickness with
her fingers. She believed that she sometimes had a kind of second-sight
about letters, and could tell before she read them whether they brought
good or evil tidings. She put this one down on the table in front of her
while she poured her tea. At last, with a little shiver of expectancy,
she tore open the envelope and read:--


Boston, February --

MY DEAR HILDA:--

It is after twelve o'clock. Every one else is in bed and I am sitting
alone in my study. I have been happier in this room than anywhere else
in the world. Happiness like that makes one insolent. I used to think
these four walls could stand against anything. And now I scarcely know
myself here. Now I know that no one can build his security upon the
nobleness of another person. Two people, when they love each other,
grow alike in their tastes and habits and pride, but their moral natures
(whatever we may mean by that canting expression) are never welded. The
base one goes on being base, and the noble one noble, to the end.

The last week has been a bad one; I have been realizing how things used
to be with me. Sometimes I get used to being dead inside, but lately it
has been as if a window beside me had suddenly opened, and as if all the
smells of spring blew in to me. There is a garden out there, with stars
overhead, where I used to walk at night when I had a single purpose and
a single heart. I can remember how I used to feel there, how beautiful
everything about me was, and what life and power and freedom I felt in
myself. When the window opens I know exactly how it would feel to be out
there. But that garden is closed to me. How is it, I ask myself, that
everything can be so different with me when nothing here has changed?
I am in my own house, in my own study, in the midst of all these quiet
streets where my friends live. They are all safe and at peace with
themselves. But I am never at peace. I feel always on the edge of danger
and change.

I keep remembering locoed horses I used to see on the range when I was
a boy. They changed like that. We used to catch them and put them up in
the corral, and they developed great cunning. They would pretend to eat
their oats like the other horses, but we knew they were always scheming
to get back at the loco.

It seems that a man is meant to live only one life in this world. When
he tries to live a second, he develops another nature. I feel as if
a second man had been grafted into me. At first he seemed only a
pleasure-loving simpleton, of whose company I was rather ashamed, and
whom I used to hide under my coat when I walked the Embankment, in
London. But now he is strong and sullen, and he is fighting for his
life at the cost of mine. That is his one activity: to grow strong. No
creature ever wanted so much to live. Eventually, I suppose, he will
absorb me altogether. Believe me, you will hate me then.

And what have you to do, Hilda, with this ugly story? Nothing at all.
The little boy drank of the prettiest brook in the forest and he became
a stag. I write all this because I can never tell it to you, and because
it seems as if I could not keep silent any longer. And because I suffer,
Hilda. If any one I loved suffered like this, I'd want to know it. Help
me, Hilda!

B.A.



CHAPTER IX


On the last Saturday in April, the New York "Times" published an account
of the strike complications which were delaying Alexander's New Jersey
bridge, and stated that the engineer himself was in town and at his
office on West Tenth Street.

On Sunday, the day after this notice appeared, Alexander worked all day
at his Tenth Street rooms. His business often called him to New York,
and he had kept an apartment there for years, subletting it when he went
abroad for any length of time. Besides his sleeping-room and bath, there
was a large room, formerly a painter's studio, which he used as a
study and office. It was furnished with the cast-off possessions of his
bachelor days and with odd things which he sheltered for friends of
his who followed itinerant and more or less artistic callings. Over the
fireplace there was a large old-fashioned gilt mirror. Alexander's big
work-table stood in front of one of the three windows, and above the
couch hung the one picture in the room, a big canvas of charming color
and spirit, a study of the Luxembourg Gardens in early spring, painted
in his youth by a man who had since become a portrait-painter of
international renown. He had done it for Alexander when they were
students together in Paris.


Sunday was a cold, raw day and a fine rain fell continuously. When
Alexander came back from dinner he put more wood on his fire, made
himself comfortable, and settled down at his desk, where he began
checking over estimate sheets. It was after nine o'clock and he was
lighting a second pipe, when he thought he heard a sound at his door.
He started and listened, holding the burning match in his hand; again
he heard the same sound, like a firm, light tap. He rose and crossed the
room quickly. When he threw open the door he recognized the figure that
shrank back into the bare, dimly lit hallway. He stood for a moment in
awkward constraint, his pipe in his hand.

"Come in," he said to Hilda at last, and closed the door behind her. He
pointed to a chair by the fire and went back to his worktable. "Won't
you sit down?"

He was standing behind the table, turning over a pile of blueprints
nervously. The yellow light from the student's lamp fell on his hands
and the purple sleeves of his velvet smoking-jacket, but his flushed
face and big, hard head were in the shadow. There was something about
him that made Hilda wish herself at her hotel again, in the street
below, anywhere but where she was.

"Of course I know, Bartley," she said at last, "that after this you
won't owe me the least consideration. But we sail on Tuesday. I saw that
interview in the paper yesterday, telling where you were, and I thought
I had to see you. That's all. Good-night; I'm going now." She turned and
her hand closed on the door-knob.

Alexander hurried toward her and took her gently by the arm. "Sit down,
Hilda; you're wet through. Let me take off your coat--and your boots;
they're oozing water." He knelt down and began to unlace her shoes,
while Hilda shrank into the chair. "Here, put your feet on this stool.
You don't mean to say you walked down--and without overshoes!"

Hilda hid her face in her hands. "I was afraid to take a cab. Can't you
see, Bartley, that I'm terribly frightened? I've been through this a
hundred times to-day. Don't be any more angry than you can help. I was
all right until I knew you were in town. If you'd sent me a note, or
telephoned me, or anything! But you won't let me write to you, and I had
to see you after that letter, that terrible letter you wrote me when you
got home."

Alexander faced her, resting his arm on the mantel behind him, and began
to brush the sleeve of his jacket. "Is this the way you mean to answer
it, Hilda?" he asked unsteadily.

She was afraid to look up at him. "Didn't--didn't you mean even to say
goodby to me, Bartley? Did you mean just to--quit me?" she asked. "I
came to tell you that I'm willing to do as you asked me. But it's no use
talking about that now. Give me my things, please." She put her hand out
toward the fender.

Alexander sat down on the arm of her chair. "Did you think I had
forgotten you were in town, Hilda? Do you think I kept away by accident?
Did you suppose I didn't know you were sailing on Tuesday? There is a
letter for you there, in my desk drawer. It was to have reached you on
the steamer. I was all the morning writing it. I told myself that if I
were really thinking of you, and not of myself, a letter would be better
than nothing. Marks on paper mean something to you." He paused. "They
never did to me."

Hilda smiled up at him beautifully and put her hand on his sleeve. "Oh,
Bartley! Did you write to me? Why didn't you telephone me to let me know
that you had? Then I wouldn't have come."

Alexander slipped his arm about her. "I didn't know it before, Hilda,
on my honor I didn't, but I believe it was because, deep down in me
somewhere, I was hoping I might drive you to do just this. I've watched
that door all day. I've jumped up if the fire crackled. I think I have
felt that you were coming." He bent his face over her hair.

"And I," she whispered,--"I felt that you were feeling that. But when I
came, I thought I had been mistaken."

Alexander started up and began to walk up and down the room.

"No, you weren't mistaken. I've been up in Canada with my bridge, and
I arranged not to come to New York until after you had gone. Then, when
your manager added two more weeks, I was already committed." He dropped
upon the stool in front of her and sat with his hands hanging between
his knees. "What am I to do, Hilda?"

"That's what I wanted to see you about, Bartley. I'm going to do
what you asked me to do when you were in London. Only I'll do it more
completely. I'm going to marry."

"Who?"

"Oh, it doesn't matter much! One of them. Only not Mac. I'm too fond of
him."

Alexander moved restlessly. "Are you joking, Hilda?"

"Indeed I'm not."

"Then you don't know what you're talking about."

"Yes, I know very well. I've thought about it a great deal, and I've
quite decided. I never used to understand how women did things like
that, but I know now. It's because they can't be at the mercy of the man
they love any longer."

Alexander flushed angrily. "So it's better to be at the mercy of a man
you don't love?"

"Under such circumstances, infinitely!"

There was a flash in her eyes that made Alexander's fall. He got up and
went over to the window, threw it open, and leaned out. He heard Hilda
moving about behind him. When he looked over his shoulder she was lacing
her boots. He went back and stood over her.

"Hilda you'd better think a while longer before you do that. I don't
know what I ought to say, but I don't believe you'd be happy; truly I
don't. Aren't you trying to frighten me?"

She tied the knot of the last lacing and put her boot-heel down firmly.
"No; I'm telling you what I've made up my mind to do. I suppose I
would better do it without telling you. But afterward I shan't have an
opportunity to explain, for I shan't be seeing you again."

Alexander started to speak, but caught himself. When Hilda rose he sat
down on the arm of her chair and drew her back into it.

"I wouldn't be so much alarmed if I didn't know how utterly reckless
you CAN be. Don't do anything like that rashly." His face grew troubled.
"You wouldn't be happy. You are not that kind of woman. I'd never have
another hour's peace if I helped to make you do a thing like that." He
took her face between his hands and looked down into it. "You see, you
are different, Hilda. Don't you know you are?" His voice grew softer,
his touch more and more tender. "Some women can do that sort of thing,
but you--you can love as queens did, in the old time."

Hilda had heard that soft, deep tone in his voice only once before. She
closed her eyes; her lips and eyelids trembled. "Only one, Bartley. Only
one. And he threw it back at me a second time."

She felt the strength leap in the arms that held her so lightly.

"Try him again, Hilda. Try him once again."

She looked up into his eyes, and hid her face in her hands.



CHAPTER X


On Tuesday afternoon a Boston lawyer, who had been trying a case in
Vermont, was standing on the siding at White River Junction when the
Canadian Express pulled by on its northward journey. As the day-coaches
at the rear end of the long train swept by him, the lawyer noticed at
one of the windows a man's head, with thick rumpled hair. "Curious," he
thought; "that looked like Alexander, but what would he be doing back
there in the daycoaches?"

It was, indeed, Alexander.

That morning a telegram from Moorlock had reached him, telling him that
there was serious trouble with the bridge and that he was needed there
at once, so he had caught the first train out of New York. He had taken
a seat in a day-coach to avoid the risk of meeting any one he knew, and
because he did not wish to be comfortable. When the telegram arrived,
Alexander was at his rooms on Tenth Street, packing his bag to go to
Boston. On Monday night he had written a long letter to his wife, but
when morning came he was afraid to send it, and the letter was still in
his pocket. Winifred was not a woman who could bear disappointment. She
demanded a great deal of herself and of the people she loved; and
she never failed herself. If he told her now, he knew, it would be
irretrievable. There would be no going back. He would lose the thing
he valued most in the world; he would be destroying himself and his own
happiness. There would be nothing for him afterward. He seemed to see
himself dragging out a restless existence on the Continent--Cannes,
Hyeres, Algiers, Cairo--among smartly dressed, disabled men of every
nationality; forever going on journeys that led nowhere; hurrying to
catch trains that he might just as well miss; getting up in the morning
with a great bustle and splashing of water, to begin a day that had no
purpose and no meaning; dining late to shorten the night, sleeping late
to shorten the day.

And for what? For a mere folly, a masquerade, a little thing that he
could not let go. AND HE COULD EVEN LET IT GO, he told himself. But he
had promised to be in London at mid-summer, and he knew that he would
go. . . . It was impossible to live like this any longer.

And this, then, was to be the disaster that his old professor had
foreseen for him: the crack in the wall, the crash, the cloud of dust.
And he could not understand how it had come about. He felt that he
himself was unchanged, that he was still there, the same man he had been
five years ago, and that he was sitting stupidly by and letting some
resolute offshoot of himself spoil his life for him. This new force was
not he, it was but a part of him. He would not even admit that it was
stronger than he; but it was more active. It was by its energy that this
new feeling got the better of him. His wife was the woman who had made
his life, gratified his pride, given direction to his tastes and habits.
The life they led together seemed to him beautiful. Winifred still was,
as she had always been, Romance for him, and whenever he was deeply
stirred he turned to her. When the grandeur and beauty of the world
challenged him--as it challenges even the most self-absorbed people--he
always answered with her name. That was his reply to the question put
by the mountains and the stars; to all the spiritual aspects of life.
In his feeling for his wife there was all the tenderness, all the pride,
all the devotion of which he was capable. There was everything but
energy; the energy of youth which must register itself and cut its name
before it passes. This new feeling was so fresh, so unsatisfied and
light of foot. It ran and was not wearied, anticipated him everywhere.
It put a girdle round the earth while he was going from New York to
Moorlock. At this moment, it was tingling through him, exultant, and
live as quicksilver, whispering, "In July you will be in England."

Already he dreaded the long, empty days at sea, the monotonous Irish
coast, the sluggish passage up the Mersey, the flash of the boat train
through the summer country. He closed his eyes and gave himself up to
the feeling of rapid motion and to swift, terrifying thoughts. He was
sitting so, his face shaded by his hand, when the Boston lawyer saw him
from the siding at White River Junction.

When at last Alexander roused himself, the afternoon had waned to
sunset. The train was passing through a gray country and the sky
overhead was flushed with a wide flood of clear color. There was a
rose-colored light over the gray rocks and hills and meadows. Off to the
left, under the approach of a weather-stained wooden bridge, a group of
boys were sitting around a little fire. The smell of the wood smoke blew
in at the window. Except for an old farmer, jogging along the highroad
in his box-wagon, there was not another living creature to be seen.
Alexander looked back wistfully at the boys, camped on the edge of a
little marsh, crouching under their shelter and looking gravely at their
fire. They took his mind back a long way, to a campfire on a sandbar in
a Western river, and he wished he could go back and sit down with them.
He could remember exactly how the world had looked then.

It was quite dark and Alexander was still thinking of the boys, when it
occurred to him that the train must be nearing Allway. In going to his
new bridge at Moorlock he had always to pass through Allway. The train
stopped at Allway Mills, then wound two miles up the river, and then the
hollow sound under his feet told Bartley that he was on his first bridge
again. The bridge seemed longer than it had ever seemed before, and he
was glad when he felt the beat of the wheels on the solid roadbed again.
He did not like coming and going across that bridge, or remembering the
man who built it. And was he, indeed, the same man who used to walk that
bridge at night, promising such things to himself and to the stars? And
yet, he could remember it all so well: the quiet hills sleeping in the
moonlight, the slender skeleton of the bridge reaching out into the
river, and up yonder, alone on the hill, the big white house; upstairs,
in Winifred's window, the light that told him she was still awake and
still thinking of him. And after the light went out he walked alone,
taking the heavens into his confidence, unable to tear himself away from
the white magic of the night, unwilling to sleep because longing was so
sweet to him, and because, for the first time since first the hills were
hung with moonlight, there was a lover in the world. And always there
was the sound of the rushing water underneath, the sound which, more
than anything else, meant death; the wearing away of things under the
impact of physical forces which men could direct but never circumvent or
diminish. Then, in the exaltation of love, more than ever it seemed to
him to mean death, the only other thing as strong as love. Under the
moon, under the cold, splendid stars, there were only those two things
awake and sleepless; death and love, the rushing river and his burning
heart.

Alexander sat up and looked about him. The train was tearing on through
the darkness. All his companions in the day-coach were either dozing or
sleeping heavily, and the murky lamps were turned low. How came he here
among all these dirty people? Why was he going to London? What did it
mean--what was the answer? How could this happen to a man who had lived
through that magical spring and summer, and who had felt that the stars
themselves were but flaming particles in the far-away infinitudes of his
love?

What had he done to lose it? How could he endure the baseness of life
without it? And with every revolution of the wheels beneath him, the
unquiet quicksilver in his breast told him that at midsummer he would be
in London. He remembered his last night there: the red foggy darkness,
the hungry crowds before the theatres, the hand-organs, the feverish
rhythm of the blurred, crowded streets, and the feeling of letting
himself go with the crowd. He shuddered and looked about him at the poor
unconscious companions of his journey, unkempt and travel-stained, now
doubled in unlovely attitudes, who had come to stand to him for the
ugliness he had brought into the world.

And those boys back there, beginning it all just as he had begun it; he
wished he could promise them better luck. Ah, if one could promise any
one better luck, if one could assure a single human being of happiness!
He had thought he could do so, once; and it was thinking of that that he
at last fell asleep. In his sleep, as if it had nothing fresher to work
upon, his mind went back and tortured itself with something years and
years away, an old, long-forgotten sorrow of his childhood.

When Alexander awoke in the morning, the sun was just rising through
pale golden ripples of cloud, and the fresh yellow light was vibrating
through the pine woods. The white birches, with their little unfolding
leaves, gleamed in the lowlands, and the marsh meadows were already
coming to life with their first green, a thin, bright color which
had run over them like fire. As the train rushed along the trestles,
thousands of wild birds rose screaming into the light. The sky was
already a pale blue and of the clearness of crystal. Bartley caught
up his bag and hurried through the Pullman coaches until he found the
conductor. There was a stateroom unoccupied, and he took it and set
about changing his clothes. Last night he would not have believed that
anything could be so pleasant as the cold water he dashed over his head
and shoulders and the freshness of clean linen on his body.

After he had dressed, Alexander sat down at the window and drew into his
lungs deep breaths of the pine-scented air. He had awakened with all his
old sense of power. He could not believe that things were as bad with
him as they had seemed last night, that there was no way to set them
entirely right. Even if he went to London at midsummer, what would that
mean except that he was a fool? And he had been a fool before. That was
not the reality of his life. Yet he knew that he would go to London.

Half an hour later the train stopped at Moorlock. Alexander sprang to
the platform and hurried up the siding, waving to Philip Horton, one
of his assistants, who was anxiously looking up at the windows of the
coaches. Bartley took his arm and they went together into the station
buffet.

"I'll have my coffee first, Philip. Have you had yours? And now, what
seems to be the matter up here?"

The young man, in a hurried, nervous way, began his explanation.

But Alexander cut him short. "When did you stop work?" he asked sharply.

The young engineer looked confused. "I haven't stopped work yet,
Mr. Alexander. I didn't feel that I could go so far without definite
authorization from you."

"Then why didn't you say in your telegram exactly what you thought, and
ask for your authorization? You'd have got it quick enough."

"Well, really, Mr. Alexander, I couldn't be absolutely sure, you know,
and I didn't like to take the responsibility of making it public."

Alexander pushed back his chair and rose. "Anything I do can be made
public, Phil. You say that you believe the lower chords are showing
strain, and that even the workmen have been talking about it, and yet
you've gone on adding weight."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Alexander, but I had counted on your getting here
yesterday. My first telegram missed you somehow. I sent one Sunday
evening, to the same address, but it was returned to me."

"Have you a carriage out there? I must stop to send a wire."

Alexander went up to the telegraph-desk and penciled the following
message to his wife:--

I may have to be here for some time. Can you come up at once? Urgent.

BARTLEY.


The Moorlock Bridge lay three miles above the town. When they were
seated in the carriage, Alexander began to question his assistant
further. If it were true that the compression members showed strain,
with the bridge only two thirds done, then there was nothing to do
but pull the whole structure down and begin over again. Horton kept
repeating that he was sure there could be nothing wrong with the
estimates.

Alexander grew impatient. "That's all true, Phil, but we never were
justified in assuming that a scale that was perfectly safe for an
ordinary bridge would work with anything of such length. It's all very
well on paper, but it remains to be seen whether it can be done in
practice. I should have thrown up the job when they crowded me. It's
all nonsense to try to do what other engineers are doing when you know
they're not sound."

"But just now, when there is such competition," the younger man
demurred. "And certainly that's the new line of development."

Alexander shrugged his shoulders and made no reply.

When they reached the bridge works, Alexander began his examination
immediately. An hour later he sent for the superintendent. "I think you
had better stop work out there at once, Dan. I should say that the lower
chord here might buckle at any moment. I told the Commission that we
were using higher unit stresses than any practice has established, and
we've put the dead load at a low estimate. Theoretically it worked out
well enough, but it had never actually been tried." Alexander put on
his overcoat and took the superintendent by the arm. "Don't look so
chopfallen, Dan. It's a jolt, but we've got to face it. It isn't the end
of the world, you know. Now we'll go out and call the men off quietly.
They're already nervous, Horton tells me, and there's no use alarming
them. I'll go with you, and we'll send the end riveters in first."

Alexander and the superintendent picked their way out slowly over the
long span. They went deliberately, stopping to see what each gang was
doing, as if they were on an ordinary round of inspection. When
they reached the end of the river span, Alexander nodded to the
superintendent, who quietly gave an order to the foreman. The men in the
end gang picked up their tools and, glancing curiously at each other,
started back across the bridge toward the river-bank. Alexander himself
remained standing where they had been working, looking about him. It was
hard to believe, as he looked back over it, that the whole great span
was incurably disabled, was already as good as condemned, because
something was out of line in the lower chord of the cantilever arm.

The end riveters had reached the bank and were dispersing among the
tool-houses, and the second gang had picked up their tools and were
starting toward the shore. Alexander, still standing at the end of the
river span, saw the lower chord of the cantilever arm give a little,
like an elbow bending. He shouted and ran after the second gang, but by
this time every one knew that the big river span was slowly settling.
There was a burst of shouting that was immediately drowned by the scream
and cracking of tearing iron, as all the tension work began to pull
asunder. Once the chords began to buckle, there were thousands of tons
of ironwork, all riveted together and lying in midair without support.
It tore itself to pieces with roaring and grinding and noises that were
like the shrieks of a steam whistle. There was no shock of any kind; the
bridge had no impetus except from its own weight. It lurched neither
to right nor left, but sank almost in a vertical line, snapping and
breaking and tearing as it went, because no integral part could bear for
an instant the enormous strain loosed upon it. Some of the men jumped
and some ran, trying to make the shore.

At the first shriek of the tearing iron, Alexander jumped from the
downstream side of the bridge. He struck the water without injury and
disappeared. He was under the river a long time and had great difficulty
in holding his breath. When it seemed impossible, and his chest was
about to heave, he thought he heard his wife telling him that he could
hold out a little longer. An instant later his face cleared the water.
For a moment, in the depths of the river, he had realized what it would
mean to die a hypocrite, and to lie dead under the last abandonment of
her tenderness. But once in the light and air, he knew he should live to
tell her and to recover all he had lost. Now, at last, he felt sure of
himself. He was not startled. It seemed to him that he had been through
something of this sort before. There was nothing horrible about it.
This, too, was life, and life was activity, just as it was in Boston
or in London. He was himself, and there was something to be done;
everything seemed perfectly natural. Alexander was a strong swimmer, but
he had gone scarcely a dozen strokes when the bridge itself, which had
been settling faster and faster, crashed into the water behind him.
Immediately the river was full of drowning men. A gang of French
Canadians fell almost on top of him. He thought he had cleared them,
when they began coming up all around him, clutching at him and at each
other. Some of them could swim, but they were either hurt or crazed with
fright. Alexander tried to beat them off, but there were too many of
them. One caught him about the neck, another gripped him about the
middle, and they went down together. When he sank, his wife seemed to be
there in the water beside him, telling him to keep his head, that if he
could hold out the men would drown and release him. There was something
he wanted to tell his wife, but he could not think clearly for the
roaring in his ears. Suddenly he remembered what it was. He caught his
breath, and then she let him go.


The work of recovering the dead went on all day and all the following
night. By the next morning forty-eight bodies had been taken out of the
river, but there were still twenty missing. Many of the men had fallen
with the bridge and were held down under the debris. Early on the
morning of the second day a closed carriage was driven slowly along the
river-bank and stopped a little below the works, where the river boiled
and churned about the great iron carcass which lay in a straight line
two thirds across it. The carriage stood there hour after hour, and word
soon spread among the crowds on the shore that its occupant was the wife
of the Chief Engineer; his body had not yet been found. The widows of
the lost workmen, moving up and down the bank with shawls over their
heads, some of them carrying babies, looked at the rusty hired hack many
times that morning. They drew near it and walked about it, but none of
them ventured to peer within. Even half-indifferent sightseers dropped
their voices as they told a newcomer: "You see that carriage over there?
That's Mrs. Alexander. They haven't found him yet. She got off the train
this morning. Horton met her. She heard it in Boston yesterday--heard
the newsboys crying it in the street."

At noon Philip Horton made his way through the crowd with a tray and a
tin coffee-pot from the camp kitchen. When he reached the carriage
he found Mrs. Alexander just as he had left her in the early morning,
leaning forward a little, with her hand on the lowered window, looking
at the river. Hour after hour she had been watching the water, the
lonely, useless stone towers, and the convulsed mass of iron wreckage
over which the angry river continually spat up its yellow foam.

"Those poor women out there, do they blame him very much?" she asked, as
she handed the coffee-cup back to Horton.

"Nobody blames him, Mrs. Alexander. If any one is to blame, I'm afraid
it's I. I should have stopped work before he came. He said so as soon as
I met him. I tried to get him here a day earlier, but my telegram missed
him, somehow. He didn't have time really to explain to me. If he'd got
here Monday, he'd have had all the men off at once. But, you see, Mrs.
Alexander, such a thing never happened before. According to all human
calculations, it simply couldn't happen."

Horton leaned wearily against the front wheel of the cab. He had not had
his clothes off for thirty hours, and the stimulus of violent excitement
was beginning to wear off.

"Don't be afraid to tell me the worst, Mr. Horton. Don't leave me to the
dread of finding out things that people may be saying. If he is blamed,
if he needs any one to speak for him,"--for the first time her voice
broke and a flush of life, tearful, painful, and confused, swept over
her rigid pallor,--"if he needs any one, tell me, show me what to do."
She began to sob, and Horton hurried away.

When he came back at four o'clock in the afternoon he was carrying his
hat in his hand, and Winifred knew as soon as she saw him that they had
found Bartley. She opened the carriage door before he reached her and
stepped to the ground.

Horton put out his hand as if to hold her back and spoke pleadingly:
"Won't you drive up to my house, Mrs. Alexander? They will take him up
there."

"Take me to him now, please. I shall not make any trouble."

The group of men down under the riverbank fell back when they saw a
woman coming, and one of them threw a tarpaulin over the stretcher. They
took off their hats and caps as Winifred approached, and although she
had pulled her veil down over her face they did not look up at her. She
was taller than Horton, and some of the men thought she was the tallest
woman they had ever seen. "As tall as himself," some one whispered.
Horton motioned to the men, and six of them lifted the stretcher
and began to carry it up the embankment. Winifred followed them the
half-mile to Horton's house. She walked quietly, without once breaking
or stumbling. When the bearers put the stretcher down in Horton's spare
bedroom, she thanked them and gave her hand to each in turn. The men
went out of the house and through the yard with their caps in their
hands. They were too much confused to say anything as they went down the
hill.

Horton himself was almost as deeply perplexed. "Mamie," he said to his
wife, when he came out of the spare room half an hour later, "will you
take Mrs. Alexander the things she needs? She is going to do everything
herself. Just stay about where you can hear her and go in if she wants
you."

Everything happened as Alexander had foreseen in that moment of
prescience under the river. With her own hands she washed him clean of
every mark of disaster. All night he was alone with her in the still
house, his great head lying deep in the pillow. In the pocket of his
coat Winifred found the letter that he had written her the night before
he left New York, water-soaked and illegible, but because of its length,
she knew it had been meant for her.

For Alexander death was an easy creditor. Fortune, which had smiled
upon him consistently all his life, did not desert him in the end.
His harshest critics did not doubt that, had he lived, he would have
retrieved himself. Even Lucius Wilson did not see in this accident the
disaster he had once foretold.

When a great man dies in his prime there is no surgeon who can say
whether he did well; whether or not the future was his, as it seemed to
be. The mind that society had come to regard as a powerful and reliable
machine, dedicated to its service, may for a long time have been sick
within itself and bent upon its own destruction.



EPILOGUE


Professor Wilson had been living in London for six years and he was just
back from a visit to America. One afternoon, soon after his return, he
put on his frock-coat and drove in a hansom to pay a call upon Hilda
Burgoyne, who still lived at her old number, off Bedford Square. He
and Miss Burgoyne had been fast friends for a long time. He had first
noticed her about the corridors of the British Museum, where he read
constantly. Her being there so often had made him feel that he would
like to know her, and as she was not an inaccessible person, an
introduction was not difficult. The preliminaries once over, they came
to depend a great deal upon each other, and Wilson, after his day's
reading, often went round to Bedford Square for his tea. They had much
more in common than their memories of a common friend. Indeed, they
seldom spoke of him. They saved that for the deep moments which do not
come often, and then their talk of him was mostly silence. Wilson knew
that Hilda had loved him; more than this he had not tried to know.

It was late when Wilson reached Hilda's apartment on this particular
December afternoon, and he found her alone. She sent for fresh tea
and made him comfortable, as she had such a knack of making people
comfortable.

"How good you were to come back before Christmas! I quite dreaded the
Holidays without you. You've helped me over a good many Christmases."
She smiled at him gayly.

"As if you needed me for that! But, at any rate, I needed YOU. How well
you are looking, my dear, and how rested."

He peered up at her from his low chair, balancing the tips of his long
fingers together in a judicial manner which had grown on him with years.

Hilda laughed as she carefully poured his cream. "That means that I was
looking very seedy at the end of the season, doesn't it? Well, we must
show wear at last, you know."

Wilson took the cup gratefully. "Ah, no need to remind a man of
seventy, who has just been home to find that he has survived all his
contemporaries. I was most gently treated--as a sort of precious relic.
But, do you know, it made me feel awkward to be hanging about still."

"Seventy? Never mention it to me." Hilda looked appreciatively at the
Professor's alert face, with so many kindly lines about the mouth and
so many quizzical ones about the eyes. "You've got to hang about for
me, you know. I can't even let you go home again. You must stay put, now
that I have you back. You're the realest thing I have."

Wilson chuckled. "Dear me, am I? Out of so many conquests and the spoils
of conquered cities! You've really missed me? Well, then, I shall hang.
Even if you have at last to put ME in the mummy-room with the others.
You'll visit me often, won't you?"

"Every day in the calendar. Here, your cigarettes are in this drawer,
where you left them." She struck a match and lit one for him. "But you
did, after all, enjoy being at home again?"

"Oh, yes. I found the long railway journeys trying. People live a
thousand miles apart. But I did it thoroughly; I was all over the place.
It was in Boston I lingered longest."

"Ah, you saw Mrs. Alexander?"

"Often. I dined with her, and had tea there a dozen different times,
I should think. Indeed, it was to see her that I lingered on and on.
I found that I still loved to go to the house. It always seemed as if
Bartley were there, somehow, and that at any moment one might hear his
heavy tramp on the stairs. Do you know, I kept feeling that he must be
up in his study." The Professor looked reflectively into the grate. "I
should really have liked to go up there. That was where I had my last
long talk with him. But Mrs. Alexander never suggested it."

"Why?"

Wilson was a little startled by her tone, and he turned his head so
quickly that his cuff-link caught the string of his nose-glasses and
pulled them awry. "Why? Why, dear me, I don't know. She probably never
thought of it."

Hilda bit her lip. "I don't know what made me say that. I didn't mean to
interrupt. Go on please, and tell me how it was."

"Well, it was like that. Almost as if he were there. In a way, he really
is there. She never lets him go. It's the most beautiful and dignified
sorrow I've ever known. It's so beautiful that it has its compensations,
I should think. Its very completeness is a compensation. It gives her
a fixed star to steer by. She doesn't drift. We sat there evening after
evening in the quiet of that magically haunted room, and watched the
sunset burn on the river, and felt him. Felt him with a difference, of
course."

Hilda leaned forward, her elbow on her knee, her chin on her hand. "With
a difference? Because of her, you mean?"

Wilson's brow wrinkled. "Something like that, yes. Of course, as
time goes on, to her he becomes more and more their simple personal
relation."

Hilda studied the droop of the Professor's head intently. "You didn't
altogether like that? You felt it wasn't wholly fair to him?"

Wilson shook himself and readjusted his glasses. "Oh, fair enough. More
than fair. Of course, I always felt that my image of him was just a
little different from hers. No relation is so complete that it can
hold absolutely all of a person. And I liked him just as he was; his
deviations, too; the places where he didn't square."

Hilda considered vaguely. "Has she grown much older?" she asked at last.

"Yes, and no. In a tragic way she is even handsomer. But colder. Cold
for everything but him. `Forget thyself to marble'; I kept thinking of
that. Her happiness was a happiness a deux, not apart from the world,
but actually against it. And now her grief is like that. She saves
herself for it and doesn't even go through the form of seeing people
much. I'm sorry. It would be better for her, and might be so good for
them, if she could let other people in."

"Perhaps she's afraid of letting him out a little, of sharing him with
somebody."

Wilson put down his cup and looked up with vague alarm. "Dear me, it
takes a woman to think of that, now! I don't, you know, think we ought
to be hard on her. More, even, than the rest of us she didn't choose her
destiny. She underwent it. And it has left her chilled. As to her not
wishing to take the world into her confidence--well, it is a pretty
brutal and stupid world, after all, you know."

Hilda leaned forward. "Yes, I know, I know. Only I can't help being glad
that there was something for him even in stupid and vulgar people. My
little Marie worshiped him. When she is dusting I always know when she
has come to his picture."

Wilson nodded. "Oh, yes! He left an echo. The ripples go on in all of
us. He belonged to the people who make the play, and most of us are only
onlookers at the best. We shouldn't wonder too much at Mrs. Alexander.
She must feel how useless it would be to stir about, that she may as
well sit still; that nothing can happen to her after Bartley."

"Yes," said Hilda softly, "nothing can happen to one after Bartley."

They both sat looking into the fire.



                       *****



THE BARREL ORGAN  by  Alfred Noyes



  There's a barrel-organ caroling across a golden street,
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  And the music's not immortal; but the world has made it sweet
    And fulfilled it with the sunset glow;
  And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
    That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light;
  And they've given it a glory and a part to play again
    In the Symphony that rules the day and the night.

  And now it's marching onward through the realms of old romance,
    And trolling out a fond familiar tune,
  And now it's roaring cannon down to fight the King of France,
    And now it's prattling softly to the moon,
  And all around the organ there's a sea without a shore
    Of human joys and wonders and regrets;
  To remember and to recompense the music evermore
    For what the cold machinery forgets. . . .

  Yes; as the music changes,
    Like a prismatic glass,
  It takes the light and ranges
    Through all the moods that pass;
  Dissects the common carnival
    Of passions and regrets,
  And gives the world a glimpse of all
    The colors it forgets.

  And there LA TRAVIATA sights
    Another sadder song;
  And there IL TROVATORE cries
    A tale of deeper wrong;
  And bolder knights to battle go
    With sword and shield and lance,
  Than ever here on earth below
    Have whirled into--A DANCE!--

  Go down to Kew in lilac time; in lilac time; in lilac time;
  Go down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)
  And you shall wander hand in hand with love in summer's wonderland;
  Go down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)

  The cherry-trees are seas of bloom and soft perfume and sweet perfume,
  The cherry-trees are seas of bloom (and oh, so near to London!)
  And there they say, when dawn is high and all the world's a blaze of sky
  The cuckoo, though he's very shy, will sing a song for London.

  The nightingale is rather rare and yet they say you'll hear him there
  At Kew, at Kew in lilac time (and oh, so near to London!)
  The linnet and the throstle, too, and after dark the long halloo
  And golden-eyed TU-WHIT, TU WHOO of owls that ogle London.

  For Noah hardly knew a bird of any kind that isn't heard
  At Kew, at Kew in lilac time (and oh, so near to London!)
  And when the rose begins to pout and all the chestnut spires are out
  You'll hear the rest without a doubt, all chorusing for London:--

  COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME;
  COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)
  AND YOU SHALL WANDER HAND IN HAND WITH LOVE IN SUMMER'S WONDERLAND;
  COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)

  And then the troubadour begins to thrill the golden street,
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  And in all the gaudy busses there are scores of weary feet
  Marking time, sweet time, with a dull mechanic beat,
  And a thousand hearts are plunging to a love they'll never meet,
  Through the meadows of the sunset, through the poppies and the wheat,
    In the land where the dead dreams go.

  Verdi, Verdi, when you wrote IL TROVATORE did you dream
    Of the City when the sun sinks low
  Of the organ and the monkey and the many-colored stream
  On the Piccadilly pavement, of the myriad eyes that seem
  To be litten for a moment with a wild Italian gleam
  As A CHE LA MORTE parodies the world's eternal theme
    And pulses with the sunset glow?

  There's a thief, perhaps, that listens with a face of frozen stone
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  There's a portly man of business with a balance of his own,
  There's a clerk and there's a butcher of a soft reposeful tone,
  And they're all them returning to the heavens they have known:
  They are crammed and jammed in busses and--they're each of them alone
    In the land where the dead dreams go.

  There's a very modish woman and her smile is very bland
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  And her hansom jingles onward, but her little jeweled hand
  Is clenched a little tighter and she cannot understand
  What she wants or why she wanders to that undiscovered land,
  For the parties there are not at all the sort of thing she planned,
    In the land where the dead dreams go.

  There's an Oxford man that listens and his heart is crying out
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  For the barge the eight, the Isis, and the coach's whoop and shout,
  For the minute gun, the counting and the long disheveled rout,
  For the howl along the tow-path and a fate that's still in doubt,
  For a roughened oar to handle and a race to think about
    In the land where the dead dreams go.

  There's a laborer that listen to the voices of the dead
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  And his hand begins to tremble and his face is rather red
  As he sees a loafer watching him and--there he turns his head
  And stares into the sunset where his April love is fled,
  For he hears her softly singing and his lonely soul is led
    Through the land where the dead dreams go.

  There's and old and hardened demi-rep, it's ringing in her ears,
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  With the wild and empty sorrow of the love that blights and sears,
  Oh, and if she hurries onward, then be sure, be sure she hears,
  Hears and bears the bitter burden of the unforgotten years,
  And her laugh's a little harsher and her eyes are brimmed with tears
    For the land where the dead dreams go.

  There's a barrel-organ caroling across a golden street,
    In the City as the sun sinks low;
  Though the music's only Verdi there's a world to make it sweet
  Just as yonder yellow sunset where the earth and heaven meet
  Mellows all the sooty City!  Hark, a hundred thousand feet
  Are marching on to glory through the poppies and the wheat
    In the land where the dead dreams go.

            So it's Jeremiah, Jeremiah,
              What have you to say
            When you meet the garland girls
              Tripping on their way?

            All around my gala hat
              I wear a wreath of roses
            (A long and lonely year it is
              I've waited for the May!)

            If any one should ask you,
              The reason why I wear it is,
            My own love, my true love, is coming home to-day.

  It's buy a bunch of violets for the lady
    (IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON; IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON!)
  Buy a bunch of violets for the lady;
    While the sky burns blue above:

  On the other side of the street you'll find it shady
    (IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON; IT'S LILAC TIME IN LONDON!)
  But buy a bunch of violets for the lady;
    And tell her she's your own true love.

  There's a barrel-organ caroling across a golden street,
    In the City as the sun sinks glittering and slow;
  And the music's not immortal, but the world has made it sweet
  And enriched it with the harmonies that make a song complete
  In the deeper heavens of music where the night and morning meet,
    As it dies into the sunset glow;

  And it pulses through the pleasures of the City and the pain
    That surround the singing organ like a large eternal light,
  And they've given it a glory and a part of play again
    In the Symphony that rules the day and night.

            And there, as the music changes,
              The song runs round again;
            Once more it turns and ranges
              Through all its joy and pain:
            Dissects the common carnival
              Of passions and regrets;
            And the wheeling world remembers all
              The wheeling song forgets.

            Once more La TRAVIATA sighs
              Another sadder song:
            Once more IL TROVATORE cries
              A tale of deeper wrong;
            Once more the knights to battle go
              With sword and shield and lance,
            Till once, once more, the shattered foe
              Has whirled into--A DANCE--

  Come down to Kew in lilac time; in lilac time; in lilac time;
  Come down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)
  And you shall wander hand in hand with Love in summer's wonderland;
  Come down to Kew in lilac time; (it isn't far from London!)

  COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME; IN LILAC TIME;
  COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)
  AND YOU SHALL WANDER HAND IN HAND WITH LOVE IN SUMMER'S WONDERLAND;
  COME DOWN TO KEW IN LILAC TIME; (IT ISN'T FAR FROM LONDON!)





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