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Title: The Trail of the Hawk - A Comedy of the Seriousness of Life
Author: Lewis, Sinclair, 1885-1951
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 "The Trail of the Hawk - A Comedy of the Seriousness of Life" ***

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                         Transcriber's Note.

       The Table of Contents is not part of the original book.

       In page 212 there is an incomplete sentence "Poor Tad was". This
       sentence is incomplete in this book as well as the many editions
       verified.



   [Illustration: [See page 290
    THE COLD BREEZE ENLIVENED THEM, THE STERNNESS OF THE SWIFT, CRUEL
    RIVER AND MILES OF BROWN SHORE MADE THEM GRAVELY HAPPY.]



                             THE TRAIL OF

                               THE HAWK


                               A COMEDY

                          OF THE SERIOUSNESS

                               OF LIFE



                                  BY

                            SINCLAIR LEWIS

                              AUTHOR OF

                            OUR MR. WRENN



                     HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS

                         NEW YORK AND LONDON



                        THE TRAIL OF THE HAWK

                Copyright, 1915, by Harper & Brothers

       *       *       *       *       *



CONTENTS


CHAPTER                 PAGE

Part I                   1

CHAPTER I                3
CHAPTER II              16
CHAPTER III             26
CHAPTER IV              35
CHAPTER V               46
CHAPTER VI              58
CHAPTER VII             71
CHAPTER VIII            78
CHAPTER IX              86
CHAPTER X              100
CHAPTER XI             106
CHAPTER XII            115

Part II                125

CHAPTER XIII           127
CHAPTER XIV            135
CHAPTER XV             146
CHAPTER XVI            156
CHAPTER XVII           162
CHAPTER XVIII          167
CHAPTER XIX            174
CHAPTER XX             179
CHAPTER XXI            187
CHAPTER XXII           202
CHAPTER XXIII          210

Part III               223

CHAPTER XXIV           225
CHAPTER XXV            231
CHAPTER XXVI           242
CHAPTER XXVII          248
CHAPTER XXVIII         261
CHAPTER XXIX           270
CHAPTER XXX            282
CHAPTER XXXI           290
CHAPTER XXXII          300
CHAPTER XXXIII         310
CHAPTER XXXIV          324
CHAPTER XXXV           333
CHAPTER XXXVI          342
CHAPTER XXXVII         352
CHAPTER XXXVIII        362
CHAPTER XXXIX          368
CHAPTER XL             379
CHAPTER XLI            387
CHAPTER XLII           400

       *       *       *       *       *



TO THE OPTIMISTIC REBELS THROUGH
WHOSE TALK AT LUNCHEON THE AUTHOR
WATCHES THE MANY-COLORED SPECTACLE
OF LIFE--GEORGE SOULE, HARRISON
SMITH, ALLAN UPDEGRAFF, F. K. NOYES,
ALFRED HARCOURT, B. W. HUEBSCH.

       *       *       *       *       *



Part I

THE ADVENTURE OF YOUTH


THE TRAIL OF THE HAWK


CHAPTER I


Carl Ericson was being naughty. Probably no boy in Joralemon was being
naughtier that October Saturday afternoon. He had not half finished
the wood-piling which was his punishment for having chased the family
rooster thirteen times squawking around the chicken-yard, while
playing soldiers with Bennie Rusk.

He stood in the middle of the musty woodshed, pessimistically kicking
at the scattered wood. His face was stern, as became a man of eight
who was a soldier of fortune famed from the front gate to the
chicken-yard. An unromantic film of dirt hid the fact that his
Scandinavian cheeks were like cream-colored silk stained with
rose-petals. A baby Norseman, with only an average boy's prettiness,
yet with the whiteness and slenderness of a girl's little finger. A
back-yard boy, in baggy jacket and pants, gingham blouse, and cap
whose lining oozed back over his ash-blond hair, which was tangled now
like trampled grass, with a tiny chip riding grotesquely on one flossy
lock.

The darkness of the shed displeased Carl. The whole basic conception
of work bored him. The sticks of wood were personal enemies to which
he gave insulting names. He had always admired the hard bark and
metallic resonance of the ironwood, but he hated the poplar--"popple"
it is called in Joralemon, Minnesota. Poplar becomes dry and dusty,
and the bark turns to a monstrously mottled and evil greenish-white.
Carl announced to one poplar stick, "I could lick you! I'm a gen'ral,
I am." The stick made no reply whatever, and he contemptuously shied
it out into the chickweed which matted the grubby back yard. This
necessitated his sneaking out and capturing it by stalking it from the
rear, lest it rouse the Popple Army.

He loitered outside the shed, sniffing at the smoke from burning
leaves--the scent of autumn and migration and wanderlust. He glanced
down between houses to the reedy shore of Joralemon Lake. The surface
of the water was smooth, and tinted like a bluebell, save for one
patch in the current where wavelets leaped with October madness in
sparkles of diamond fire. Across the lake, woods sprinkled with
gold-dust and paprika broke the sweep of sparse yellow stubble, and a
red barn was softly brilliant in the caressing sunlight and lively air
of the Minnesota prairie. Over there was the field of valor, where
grown-up men with shiny shotguns went hunting prairie-chickens; the
Great World, leading clear to the Red River Valley and Canada.

Three mallard-ducks, with necks far out and wings beating hurriedly,
shot over Carl's head. From far off a gun-shot floated echoing through
forest hollows; in the waiting stillness sounded a rooster's crow,
distant, magical.

"I want to go hunting!" mourned Carl, as he trailed back into the
woodshed. It seemed darker than ever and smelled of moldy chips. He
bounced like an enraged chipmunk. His phlegmatic china-blue eyes
filmed with tears. "Won't pile no more wood!" he declared.

Naughty he undoubtedly was. But since he knew that his father, Oscar
Ericson, the carpenter, all knuckles and patched overalls and bad
temper, would probably whip him for rebellion, he may have acquired
merit. He did not even look toward the house to see whether his mother
was watching him--his farm-bred, worried, kindly, small, flat-chested,
pinch-nosed, bleached, twangy-voiced, plucky Norwegian mother. He
marched to the workshop and brought a collection of miscellaneous
nails and screws out to a bare patch of earth in front of the
chicken-yard. They were the Nail People, the most reckless band of
mercenaries the world has ever known, led by old General Door-Hinge,
who was somewhat inclined to collapse in the middle, but possessed of
the unusual virtue of eyes in both ends of him. He had explored the
deepest cañons of the woodshed, and victoriously led his ten-penny
warriors against the sumacs in the vacant lot beyond Irving Lamb's
house.

Carl marshaled the Nail People, sticking them upright in the ground.
After reasoning sternly with an intruding sparrow, thus did the
dauntless General Door-Hinge address them:

"Men, there's a nawful big army against us, but le's die like men, my
men. Forwards!"

As the veteran finished, a devastating fire of stones enfiladed the
company, and one by one they fell, save for the commander himself, who
bowed his grizzled wrought-steel head and sobbed, "The brave boys done
their duty."

From across the lake rolled another gun-shot.

Carl dug his grimy fingers into the earth. "Jiminy! I wisht I was out
hunting. Why can't I never go? I guess I'll pile the wood, but I'm
gonna go seek-my-fortune after that."

       *       *       *       *       *

Since Carl Ericson (some day to be known as "Hawk" Ericson) was the
divinely restless seeker of the romance that must--or we die!--lie
beyond the hills, you first see him in action; find him in the year
1893, aged eight, leading revolutions in the back yard. But equally,
since this is a serious study of an average young American, there
should be an indication of his soil-nourished ancestry.

Carl was second-generation Norwegian; American-born, American in
speech, American in appearance, save for his flaxen hair and
china-blue eyes; and, thanks to the flag-decked public school,
overwhelmingly American in tradition. When he was born the "typical
Americans" of earlier stocks had moved to city palaces or were
marooned on run-down farms. It was Carl Ericson, not a Trowbridge or a
Stuyvesant or a Lee or a Grant, who was the "typical American" of his
period. It was for him to carry on the American destiny of extending
the Western horizon; his to restore the wintry Pilgrim virtues and the
exuberant, October, partridge-drumming days of Daniel Boone; then to
add, in his own or another generation, new American aspirations for
beauty.

They are the New Yankees, these Scandinavians of Wisconsin and
Minnesota and the Dakotas, with a human breed that can grow, and a
thousand miles to grow in. The foreign-born parents, when they first
come to the Northern Middlewest, huddle in unpainted farm-houses with
grassless dooryards and fly-zizzing kitchens and smelly dairies, set
on treeless, shadeless, unsoftened leagues of prairie or bunched in
new clearings ragged with small stumps. The first generation are alien
and forlorn. The echoing fjords of Trondhjem and the moors of Finmark
have clipped their imaginations, silenced their laughter, hidden with
ice their real tenderness. In America they go sedulously to the bare
Lutheran church and frequently drink ninety-per-cent. alcohol. They
are also heroes, and have been the makers of a new land, from the days
of Indian raids and ox-teams and hillside dug-outs to now, repeating
in their patient hewing the history of the Western Reserve.... In one
generation or even in one decade they emerge from the desolation of
being foreigners. They, and the Germans, pay Yankee mortgages with
blood and sweat. They swiftly master politics, voting for honesty
rather than for hand-shakes; they make keen, scrupulously honest
business deals; send their children to school; accumulate land--one
section, two sections--or move to town to keep shop and ply skilled
tools; become Methodists and Congregationalists; are neighborly with
Yankee manufacturers and doctors and teachers; and in one generation,
or less, are completely American.

So was it with Carl Ericson. His carpenter father had come from
Norway, by way of steerage and a farm in Wisconsin, changing his name
from Ericsen. Ericson senior owned his cottage and, though he still
said, "Aye ban going," he talked as naturally of his own American
tariff and his own Norwegian-American Governor as though he had five
generations of Connecticut or Virginia ancestry.

Now, it was Carl's to go on, to seek the flowering.

       *       *       *       *       *

Unconscious that he was the heir-apparent of the age, but decidedly
conscious that the woodshed was dark, Carl finished the pile.

From the step of the woodshed he regarded the world with plaintive
boredom.

"Ir-r-r-r-rving!" he called.

No answer from Irving, the next-door boy.

The village was rustlingly quiet. Carl skipped slowly and unhappily to
the group of box-elders beside the workshop and stuck his finger-nails
into the cobwebby crevices of the black bark. He made overtures for
company on any terms to a hop-robin, a woolly worm, and a large blue
fly, but they all scorned his advances, and when he yelled an
ingratiating invitation to a passing dog it seemed to swallow its tail
and ears as it galloped off. No one else appeared.

Before the kitchen window he quavered:

"Ma-ma!"

In the kitchen, the muffled pounding of a sad-iron upon the padded
ironing-board.

"Ma!"

Mrs. Ericson's whitey-yellow hair, pale eyes, and small nervous
features were shadowed behind the cotton fly-screen.

"Vell?" she said.

"I haven't got noth-ing to do-o."

"Go pile the vood."

"I piled piles of it."

"Then you can go and play."

"I _been_ playing."

"Then play some more."

"I ain't got nobody to play with."

"Then find somebody. But don't you step vun step out of this yard."

"I don't see _why_ I can't go outa the yard!"

"Because I said so."

Again the sound of the sad-iron.

Carl invented a game in which he was to run in circles, but not step
on the grass; he made the tenth inspection that day of the drying
hazelnuts whose husks were turning to seal-brown on the woodshed roof;
he hunted for a good new bottle to throw at Irving Lamb's barn; he
mended his sling-shot; he perched on a sawbuck and watched the street.
Nothing passed, nothing made an interesting rattling, except one
democrat wagon.

From over the water another gun-shot murmured of distant hazards.

Carl jumped down from the sawbuck and marched deliberately out of the
yard, along Oak Street toward The Hill, the smart section of
Joralemon, where live in exclusive state five large houses that get
painted nearly every year.

"I'm gonna seek-my-fortune. I'm gonna find Bennie and go swimming," he
vowed. Calmly as Napoleon defying his marshals, General Carl
disregarded the sordid facts that it was too late in the year to go
swimming, and that Benjamin Franklin Rusk couldn't swim, anyway. He
clumped along, planting his feet with spats of dust, very dignified
and melancholy but, like all small boys, occasionally going mad and
running in chase of nothing at all till he found it.

He stopped before the House with Mysterious Shutters.

Carl had never made b'lieve fairies or princes; rather, he was in the
secret world of boyhood a soldier, a trapper, or a swing-brakeman on
the M. & D. R.R. But he was bespelled by the suggestion of grandeur in
the iron fence and gracious trees and dark carriage-shed of the House
with Shutters. It was a large, square, solid brick structure, set
among oaks and sinister pines, once the home, or perhaps the mansion,
of Banker Whiteley, but unoccupied for years. Leaves rotted before the
deserted carriage-shed. The disregarded steps in front were seamed
with shallow pools of water for days after a rain. The windows had
always been darkened, but not by broad-slatted outside shutters,
smeared with house-paint to which stuck tiny black hairs from the
paint-brush, like the ordinary frame houses of Joralemon. Instead,
these windows were masked with inside shutters haughtily varnished to
a hard refined brown.

To-day the windows were open, the shutters folded; furniture was being
moved in; and just inside the iron gate a frilly little girl was
playing with a whitewashed conch-shell.

She must have been about ten at that time, since Carl was eight. She
was a very dressy and complacent child, possessed not only of a clean
white muslin with three rows of tucks, immaculate bronze boots, and a
green tam-o'-shanter, but also of a large hair-ribbon, a ribbon sash,
and a silver chain with a large, gold-washed, heart-shaped locket. She
was softly plump, softly gentle of face, softly brown of hair, and
softly pleasant of speech.

"Hello!" said she.

"H'lo!"

"What's your name, little boy?"

"Ain't a little boy. I'm Carl Ericson."

"Oh, are you? I'm----"

"I'm gonna have a shotgun when I'm fifteen." He shyly hurled a stone
at a telegraph-pole to prove that he was not shy.

"My name is Gertie Cowles. I came from Minneapolis. My mamma owns part
of the Joralemon Flour Mill.... Are you a nice boy? We just moved here
and I don't know anybody. Maybe my mamma will let me play with you if
you are a nice boy."

"I jus' soon come play with you. If you play soldiers.... My pa 's the
smartest man in Joralemon. He builded Alex Johnson's house. He's got a
ten-gauge gun."

"Oh.... My mamma 's a widow."

Carl hung by his arms from the gate-pickets while she breathed,
"M-m-m-m-m-m-y!" in admiration at the feat.

"That ain't nothing. I can hang by my knees on a trapeze.... What did
you come from Minneapolis for?"

"We're going to live here," she said.

"Oh."

"I went to the Chicago World's Fair with my mamma this summer."

"Aw, you didn't!"

"I did so. And I saw a teeny engine so small it was in a walnut-shell
and you had to look at it through a magnifying-glass and it kept on
running like anything."

"Huh! that's nothing! Ben Rusk, he went to the World's Fair, too, and
he saw a statchue that was bigger 'n our house and all pure gold. You
didn't see that."

"I did so! And we got cousins in Chicago and we stayed with them, and
Cousin Edgar is a very _prominent_ doctor for eyenear and stummick."

"Aw, Ben Rusk's pa is a doctor, too. And he's got a brother what's
going to be a sturgeon."

"I got a brother. He's a year older than me. His name is Ray....
There's lots more people in Minneapolis than there is in Joralemon.
There's a hundred thousand people in Minneapolis."

"That ain't nothing. My pa was born in Christiania, in the Old
Country, and they's a million million people there."

"Oh, there is not!"

"Honest there is."

"Is there, honest?" Gertie was admiring now.

He looked patronizingly at the red-plush furniture which was being
splendidly carried into the great house from Jordan's dray--an old
friend of Carl's, which had often carried him banging through town. He
condescended:

"Jiminy! You don't know Bennie Rusk nor nobody, do you! I'll bring him
and we can play soldiers. And we can make tents out of carpets. Did
you ever run through carpets on the line?"

He pointed to the row of rugs and carpets airing beside the
carriage-shed.

"No. Is it fun?"

"It's awful scary. But I ain't afraid."

He dashed at the carpets and entered their long narrow tent. To tell
the truth, when he stepped from the sunshine into the intense darkness
he was slightly afraid. The Ericsons' one carpet made a short passage,
but to pass on and on and on through this succession of heavy rug
mats, where snakes and poisonous bugs might hide, and where the
rough-threaded, gritty under-surface scratched his pushing hands, was
fearsome. He emerged with a whoop and encouraged her to try the feat.
She peeped inside the first carpet, but withdrew her head, giving
homage:

"Oh, it's so _dark_ in there where you went!"

He promptly performed the feat again.

As they wandered back to the gate to watch the furniture-man Gertie
tried to regain the superiority due her years by remarking, of a large
escritoire which was being juggled into the front door, "My papa
bought that desk in Chicago----"

Carl broke in, "I'll bring Bennie Rusk, and me and him 'll teach you
to play soldiers."

"My mamma don't think I ought to play games. I've got a lot of dolls,
but I'm too old for dolls. I play Authors with mamma, sometimes. And
dominoes. Authors is a very nice game."

"But maybe your ma will let you play Indian squaw, and me and Bennie
'll tie you to a stake and scalp you. That won't be rough like
soldiers. But I'm going to be a really-truly soldier. I'm going to be
a norficer in the army."

"I got a cousin that's an officer in the army," Gertie said grandly,
bringing her yellow-ribboned braid round over her shoulder and gently
brushing her lips with the end.

"Cross-your-heart?"

"Um-huh."

"Cross-your-heart, hope-t'-die if you ain't?"

"Honest he's an officer."

"Jiminy crickets! Say, Gertie, could he make me a norficer? Let's go
find him. Does he live near here?"

"Oh my, no! He's 'way off in San Francisco."

"Come on. Let's go there. You and me. Gee! I like you! You got a'
awful pertty dress."

"'Tain't polite to compliment me to my face. Mamma says----"

"Come on! Let's go! We're going!"

"Oh no. I'd like to," she faltered, "but my mamma wouldn't let me. She
don't let me play around with boys, anyway. She's in the house now.
And besides, it's 'way far off across the sea, to San Francisco; it's
beyond the salt sea where the Mormons live, and they all got seven
wives."

"Beyond the sea like Christiania? Ah, 'tain't! It's in America,
because Mr. Lamb went there last winter. 'Sides, even if it was across
the sea, couldn't we go an' be stow'ways, like the Younger Brothers
and all them? And Little Lord Fauntleroy. He went and was a lord, and
he wasn't nothing but a' orphing. My ma read me about him, only she
don't talk English very good, but we'll go stow'ways," he wound up,
triumphantly.

"Gerrrrrrtrrrrrude!" A high-pitched voice from the stoop.

Gertie glowered at a tall, meager woman with a long green-and-white
apron over a most respectable black alpaca gown. Her nose was large,
her complexion dull, but she carried herself so commandingly as to be
almost handsome and very formidable.

"Oh, dear!" Gertie stamped her foot. "Now I got to go in. I never can
have any fun. Good-by, Carl----"

He urgently interrupted her tragic farewell. "Say! Gee whillikins! I
know what we'll do. You sneak out the back door and I'll meet you, and
we'll run away and go seek-our-fortunes and we'll find your
cousin----"

"Gerrrtrrrude!" from the stoop.

"Yes, mamma, I'm just coming." To Carl: "'Sides, I'm older 'n you and
I'm 'most grown-up, and I don't believe in Santy Claus, and onc't I
taught the infant class at St. Chrysostom's Sunday-school when the
teacher wasn't there; anyway, I and Miss Bessie did, and I asked them
'most all the questions about the trumpets and pitchers. So I couldn't
run away. I'm too old."

"Gerrrtrrrude, come here this _instant_!"

"Come on. I'll be waiting," Carl demanded.

She was gone. She was being ushered into the House of Mysterious
Shutters by Mrs. Cowles. Carl prowled down the street, a fine, new,
long stick at his side, like a saber. He rounded the block, and waited
back of the Cowles carriage-shed, doing sentry-go and planning the
number of parrots and pieces of eight he would bring back from San
Francisco. _Then_ his father and mother would be sorry they'd talked
about him in their Norwegian!

"Carl!" Gertie was running around the corner of the carriage-shed.
"Oh, Carl, I had to come out and see you again, but I can't go
seek-our-fortunes with you, 'cause they've got the piano moved in now
and I got to practise, else I'll grow up just an ignorant common
person, and, besides, there's going to be tea-biscuits and honey for
supper. I saw the honey."

He smartly swung his saber to his shoulder, ordering, "Come on!"

Gertie edged forward, perplexedly sucking a finger-joint, and followed
him along Lake Street toward open country. They took to the Minnesota
& Dakota railroad track, a natural footpath in a land where the trains
were few and not fast, as was the condition of the single-tracked M. &
D. of 1893. In a worried manner Carl inquired whether San Francisco
was northwest or southeast--the directions in which ran all
self-respecting railroads. Gertie blandly declared that it lay to the
northwest; and northwest they started--toward the swamps and the first
forests of the Big Woods.

He had wonderlands to show her along the track. To him every detail
was of scientific importance. He knew intimately the topography of the
fields beside the track; in which corner of Tubbs's pasture, between
the track and the lake, the scraggly wild clover grew, and down what
part of the gravel-bank it was most exciting to roll. As far along the
track as the Arch, each railroad tie (or sleeper) had for him a
personality: the fat, white tie, which oozed at the end into an
awkward knob, he had always hated because it resembled a flattened
grub; a new tamarack tie with a sliver of fresh bark still on it,
recently put in by the section gang, was an entertaining stranger; and
he particularly introduced Gertie to his favorite, a wine-colored tie
which always smiled.

Gertie, though _noblesse oblige_ compelled her to be gracious to the
imprisoned ties writhing under the steel rails, did not really show
much enthusiasm till he led her to the justly celebrated Arch. Even
then she boasted of Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling and Lake
Calhoun; but, upon his grieved solicitation, declared that, after all,
the Twin Cities had nothing to compare with the Arch--a sandstone
tunnel full twenty feet high, miraculously boring through the railroad
embankment, and faced with great stones which you could descend by
lowering yourself from stone to stone. Through the Arch ran the creek,
with rare minnows in its pools, while important paths led from the
creek to a wilderness of hazelnut-bushes. He taught her to tear the
drying husks from the nuts and crack the nuts with stones. At his
request Gertie produced two pins from unexpected parts of her small
frilly dress. He found a piece of string, and they fished for perch in
the creek. As they had no bait whatever, their success was not large.

A flock of ducks flew low above them, seeking a pond for the night.

"Jiminy!" Carl cried, "it's getting late. We got to hurry. It's awful
far to San Francisco and--I don't know--gee! where'll we sleep
to-night?"

"We hadn't ought to go on, had we?"

"Yes! Come on!"



CHAPTER II


From the creek they tramped nearly two miles, through the dark
gravel-banks of the railroad cut, across the high trestle over
Joralemon River where Gertie had to be coaxed from stringer to
stringer. They stopped only when a gopher in a clearing demanded
attention. Gertie finally forgot the superiority of age when she saw
Carl whistle the quivering gopher-cry, while the gopher sat as though
hypnotized on his pile of fresh black earth. Carl stalked him. As
always happened, the gopher popped into his hole just before Carl
reached him; but it certainly did seem that he had nearly been caught;
and Gertie was jumping with excitement when Carl returned, strutting,
cocking his saber-stick over his shoulder.

Gertie was tired. She, the Minneapolis girl, had not been much awed by
the railroad ties nor the Arch, but now she tramped proudly beside the
man who could catch gophers, till Carl inquired:

"Are you gettin' awful hungry? It's a'most supper-time."

"Yes, I _am_ hungry," trustingly.

"I'm going to go and swipe some 'taters. I guess maybe there's a
farm-house over there. I see a chimbly beyond the slough. You stay
here."

"I dassn't stay alone. Oh, I better go home. I'm scared."

"Come on. I won't let nothing hurt you."

They circled a swamp surrounded by woods, Carl's left arm about her,
his right clutching the saber. Though the sunset was magnificent and a
gay company of blackbirds swayed on the reeds of the slough, dusk was
sneaking out from the underbrush that blurred the forest floor, and
Gertie caught the panic fear. She wished to go home at once. She saw
darkness reaching for them. Her mother would unquestionably whip her
for staying out so late. She discovered a mud-smear on the side of her
skirt, and a shoe-button was gone. She was cold. Finally, if she
missed supper at home she would get no tea-biscuits and honey.
Gertie's polite little stomach knew its rights and insisted upon them.

"I wish I hadn't come!" she lamented. "I wish I hadn't. Do you s'pose
mamma will be dreadfully angry? Won't you 'splain to her? You will,
won't you?"

It was Carl's duty, as officer commanding, to watch the blackened
stumps that sprang from the underbrush. And there was Something, 'way
over in the woods, beyond the trees horribly gashed to whiteness by
lightning. Perhaps the Something hadn't moved; perhaps it _was_ a
stump----

But he answered her loudly, so that lurking robbers might overhear: "I
know a great big man over there, and he's a friend of mine; he's a
brakie on the M. & D., and he lets me ride in the caboose any time I
want to, and he's right behind us. (I was just making b'lieve, Gertie;
I'll 'splain everything to your mother.) He's bigger 'n anybody!" More
conversationally: "Aw, Jiminy! Gertie, don't cry! Please don't. I'll
take care of you. And if you ain't going to have any supper we'll
swipe some 'taters and roast 'em." He gulped. He hated to give up, to
return to woodshed and chicken-yard, but he conceded: "I guess maybe
we hadn't better go seek-our-fortunes no more to----"

A long wail tore through the air. The children shrieked together and
fled, stumbling in dry bog, weeping in terror. Carl's backbone was all
one prickling bar of ice. But he waved his stick fiercely, and,
because he had to care for her, was calm enough to realize that the
wail must have been the cry of the bittern.

"It wasn't nothing but a bird, Gertie; it can't hurt us. Heard 'em
lots of times."

Nevertheless, he was still trembling when they reached the edge of a
farm-yard clearing beyond the swamp. It was gray-dark. They could see
only the mass of a barn and a farmer's cabin, both new to Carl.
Holding her hand, he whispered:

"They must be some 'taters or 'beggies in the barn. I'll sneak in and
see. You stand here by the corn-crib and work out some ears between
the bars. See--like this."

He left her. The sound of her frightened snivel aged him. He tiptoed
to the barn door, eying a light in the farm-house. He reached far up
to the latch of the broad door and pulled out the wooden pin. The
latch slipped noisily from its staple. The door opened with a groaning
creek and banged against the barn.

Paralyzed, hearing all the silence of the wild clearing, he waited.
There was a step in the house. The door opened. A huge farmer,
tousle-haired, black-bearded, held up a lamp and peered out. It was
the Black Dutchman.

The Black Dutchman was a living legend. He often got drunk and rode
past Carl's home at night, lashing his horses and cursing in German.
He had once thrashed the school-teacher for whipping his son. He had
no friends.

"Oh dear, oh dear, I wisht I was home!" sobbed Carl; but he started to
run to Gertie's protection.

The Black Dutchman set down the lamp. "_Wer ist da?_ I see you!
Damnation!" he roared, and lumbered out, seizing a pitchfork from the
manure-pile.

Carl galloped up to Gertie, panting, "He's after us!" and dragged her
into the hazel-bushes beyond the corn-crib. As his country-bred feet
found and followed a path toward deeper woods, he heard the Black
Dutchman beating the bushes with his pitchfork, shouting:

"Hiding! I know vere you are! _Hah!_"

Carl jerked his companion forward till he lost the path. There was no
light. They could only crawl on through the bushes, whose malicious
fingers stung Gertie's face and plucked at her proud frills. He lifted
her over fallen trees, freed her from branches, and all the time,
between his own sobs, he encouraged her and tried to pretend that
their incredible plight was not the end of the world, whimpering:

"We're a'most on the road now, Gertie; honest we are. I can't hear him
now. I ain't afraid of him--he wouldn't dast hurt us or my pa would
fix him."

"Oh! I hear him! He's coming! Oh, please save me, Carl!"

"Gee! run fast!... Aw, I don't hear him. I ain't afraid of him!"

They burst out on a grassy woodland road and lay down, panting. They
could see a strip of stars overhead; and the world was dark, silent,
in the inscrutable night of autumn. Carl said nothing. He tried to
make out where they were--where this road would take them. It might
run deeper into the woods, which he did not know as he did the Arch
environs; and he had so twisted through the brush that he could not
tell in what direction lay either the main wagon-road or the M. & D.
track.

He lifted her up, and they plodded hand in hand till she said:

"I'm awful tired. It's awful cold. My feet hurt awfully. Carl dear,
oh, pleassssse take me home now. I want my mamma. Maybe she won't whip
me now. It's so dark and--ohhhhhh----" She muttered, incoherently:
"There! By the road! He's waiting for us!" She sank down, her arm over
her face, groaning, "Don't hurt me!"

Carl straddled before her, on guard. There was a distorted mass
crouched by the road just ahead. He tingled with the chill of fear,
down through his thighs. He had lost his stick-saber, but he bent,
felt for, and found another stick, and piped to the shadowy watcher:

"I ain't af-f-fraid of you! You gwan away from here!"

The watcher did not answer.

"I know who you are!" Bellowing with fear, Carl ran forward, furiously
waving his stick and clamoring: "You better not touch me!" The stick
came down with a silly, flat clack upon the watcher--a roadside
boulder. "It's just a rock, Gertie! Jiminy, I'm glad! It's just a
rock!... Aw, I knew it was a rock all the time! Ben Rusk gets scared
every time he sees a stump in the woods, and he always thinks it's a
robber."

Chattily, Carl went back, lifted her again, endured her kissing his
cheek, and they started on.

"I'm so cold," Gertie moaned from time to time, till he offered:

"I'll try and build a fire. Maybe we better camp. I got a match what I
swiped from the kitchen. Maybe I can make a fire, so we better camp."

"I don't want to camp. I want to go home."

"I don't know where we are, I told you."

"Can you make a regular camp-fire? Like Indians?"

"Um-huh."

"Let's.... But I rather go home."

"_You_ ain't scared now. _Are_ you, Gertie? Gee! you're a' awful brave
girl!"

"No, but I'm cold and I wisht we had some tea-biscuits----"

Ever too complacent was Miss Gertrude Cowles, the Good Girl in
whatever group she joined; but she seemed to trust in Carl's heroism,
and as she murmured of a certain chilliness she seemed to take it for
granted that he would immediately bring her some warmth. Carl had
never heard of the romantic males who, in fiction, so frequently offer
their coats to ladies fair but chill; yet he stripped off his jacket
and wrapped it about her, while his gingham-clad shoulders twitched
with cold.

"I can hear a crick, 'way, 'way over there. Le's camp by it," he
decided.

They scrambled through the brush, Carl leading her and feeling the
way. He found a patch of long grass beside the creek; with only his
tremulous hands for eyes he gathered leaves, twigs, and dead branches,
and piled them together in a pyramid, as he had been taught to do by
the older woods-faring boys.

It was still; no wind; but Carl, who had gobbled up every word he had
heard about deer-hunting in the north woods, got a great deal of
interesting fear out of dreading what might happen if his one match
did not light. He made Gertie kneel beside him with the jacket
outspread, and he hesitated several times before he scratched the
match. It flared up; the leaves caught; the pile of twigs was
instantly aflame.

He wept, "Jiminy, if it hadn't lighted!..." By and by he announced,
loudly, "I wasn't afraid," to convince himself, and sat up, throwing
twigs on the fire grandly.

Gertie, who didn't really appreciate heroism, sighed, "I'm hungry
and----"

"My second-grade teacher told us a story how they was a' arctic
explorer and he was out in a blizzard----"

"----and I wish we had some tea-biscuits," concluded Gertie,
companionably but firmly.

"I'll go pick some hazelnuts."

He left her feeding the flame. As he crept away, the fire behind him,
he was dreadfully frightened, now that he had no one to protect. A few
yards from the fire he stopped in terror. He clutched a branch so
tightly that it creased his palm. Two hundred yards away, across the
creek, was the small square of a lighted window hovering detached in
the darkness.

For a panic-filled second Carl was sure that it must be the Black
Dutchman's window. His tired child-mind whined. But there was no creek
near the Black Dutchman's. Though he did not want to venture up to
the unknown light, he growled, "I will if I want to!" and limped
forward.

He had to cross the creek, the strange creek whose stepping-stones he
did not know. Shivering, hesitant, he stripped off his shoes and
stockings and dabbled the edge of the water with reluctant toes, to
see if it was cold. It was.

"Dog-gone!" he swore, mightily. He plunged in, waded across.

He found a rock and held it ready to throw at the dog that was certain
to come snapping at him as he tiptoed through the clearing. His wet
legs smarted with cold. The fact that he was trespassing made him feel
more forlornly lost than ever. But he stumbled up to the one-room
shack that was now shaping itself against the sky. It was a house
that, he believed, he had never seen before. When he reached it he
stood for fully a minute, afraid to move. But from across the creek
whimpered Gertie's call:

"Carl, oh, _Carl_, where are you?"

He had to hurry. He crept along the side of the shack to the window.
It was too high in the wall for him to peer through. He felt for
something to stand upon, and found a short board, which he wedged
against the side of the shack.

He looked through the dusty window for a second. He sprang from the
board.

Alone in the shack was the one person about Joralemon more feared,
more fabulous than the Black Dutchman--"Bone" Stillman, the man who
didn't believe in God.

Bone Stillman read Robert G. Ingersoll, and said what he thought.
Otherwise he was not dangerous to the public peace; a lone old
bachelor farmer. It was said that he had been a sailor or a policeman,
a college professor or a priest, a forger or an embezzler. Nothing
positive was known except that three years ago he had appeared and
bought this farm. He was a grizzled man of fifty-five, with a long,
tobacco-stained, gray mustache and an open-necked blue-flannel shirt.
To Carl, beside the shack, Bone Stillman was all that was demoniac.

Gertie was calling again. Carl climbed upon his board and resumed his
inspection, seeking a course of action.

The one-room shack was lined with tar-paper, on which were pinned
lithographs of Robert G. Ingersoll, Karl Marx, and Napoleon. Under a
gun-rack made of deer antlers was a cupboard half filled with dingy
books, shotgun shells, and fishing tackle. Bone was reading by a pine
table still littered with supper-dishes. Before him lay a clean-limbed
English setter. The dog was asleep. In the shack was absolute
stillness and loneliness intimidating.

While Carl watched, Bone dropped his book and said, "Here, Bob, what
d'you think of single-tax, heh?"

Carl gazed apprehensively.... No one but Bone was in the shack.... It
was said that the devil himself sometimes visited here.... On Carl was
the chill of a nightmare.

The dog raised his head, stirred, blinked, pounded his tail on the
floor, and rose, a gentlemanly, affable chap, to lay his muzzle on
Bone's knee while the solitary droned:

"This fellow says in this book here that the city 's the natural place
to live--aboriginal tribes prove man 's naturally gregarious. What
d'you think about it, heh, Bob?... Bum country, this is. No thinking.
What in the name of the seven saintly sisters did I ever want to be a
farmer for, heh?

"Let's skedaddle, Bob.

"I ain't an atheist. I'm an agnostic.

"Lonely, Bob? Go over and talk to his whiskers, Karl Marx. He's
liberal. He don't care what you say. He---- Oh, shut up! You're damn
poor company. Say something!"

Carl, still motionless, was the more agonized because there was no
sound from Gertie, not even a sobbing call. Anything might have
happened to her. While he was coaxing himself to knock on the pane,
Stillman puttered about the shack, petting the dog, filling his pipe.
He passed out of Carl's range of vision toward the side of the room in
which was the window.

A huge hand jerked the window open and caught Carl by the hair. Two
wild faces stared at each other, six inches apart.

"I saw you. Came here to plague me!" roared Bone Stillman.

"Oh, mister, oh please, mister, I wasn't. Me and Gertie is lost in the
woods--we----Ouch! Oh, _please_ lemme go!"

"Why, you're just a brat! Come here."

The lean arm of Bone Stillman dragged Carl through the window by the
slack of his gingham waist.

"Lost, heh? Where's t'other one--Gertie, was it?"

"She's over in the woods."

"Poor little tyke! Wait 'll I light my lantern."

The swinging lantern made friendly ever-changing circles of light, and
Carl no longer feared the dangerous territory of the yard. Riding
pick-a-back on Bone Stillman, he looked down contentedly on the dog's
deferential tail beside them. They found Gertie asleep by the fire.
She scarcely awoke as Stillman picked her up and carried her back to
his shack. She nestled her downy hair beneath his chin and closed her
eyes.

Stillman said, cheerily, as he ushered them into his mansion: "I'll
hitch up and take you back to town. You young tropical tramps! First
you better have a bite to eat, though. What do kids eat, bub?"

The dog was nuzzling Carl's hand, and Carl had almost forgotten his
fear that the devil might appear. He was flatteringly friendly in his
answer: "Porritch and meat and potatoes--only I don't like potatoes,
and--_pie!_"

"'Fraid I haven't any pie, but how'd some bacon and eggs go?" As he
stoked up his cannon-ball stove and sliced the bacon, Stillman
continued to the children, who were shyly perched on the buffalo-robe
cover of his bed, "Were you scared in the woods?"

"Yes, sir."

"Don't ever for----Da----Blast that egg! Don't forget this, son:
nothing outside of you can ever hurt you. It can chew up your toes,
but it can't reach you. Nobody but you can hurt you. Let me try to
make that clear, old man, if I can....

"There's your fodder. Draw up and set to. Pretty sleepy, are you? I'll
tell you a story. J' like to hear about how Napoleon smashed the
theory of divine rule, or about how me and Charlie Weems explored
Tiburon? Well----"

Though Carl afterward remembered not one word of what Bone Stillman
said, it is possible that the outcast's treatment of him as a grown-up
friend was one of the most powerful of the intangible influences which
were to push him toward the great world outside of Joralemon. The
school-bound child--taught by young ladies that the worst immorality
was whispering in school; the chief virtue, a dull quietude--was here
first given a reasonable basis for supposing that he was not always to
be a back-yard boy.

The man in the flannel shirt, who chewed tobacco, who wrenched
infinitives apart and thrust profane words between, was for fifteen
minutes Carl's Froebel and Montessori.

Carl's recollection of listening to Bone blurs into one of being
somewhere in the back of a wagon beside Gertie, wrapped in buffalo
robes, and of being awakened by the stopping of the wagon when Bone
called to a band of men with lanterns who were searching for the
missing Gertie. Apparently the next second he was being lifted out
before his home, and his aproned mother was kissing him and sobbing,
"Oh, my boy!" He snuggled his head on her shoulder and said:

"I'm cold. But I'm going to San Francisco."



CHAPTER III


Carl Ericson, grown to sixteen and long trousers, trimmed the
arc-lights for the Joralemon Power and Lighting Company, after school;
then at Eddie Klemm's billiard-parlor he won two games of Kelly pool,
smoked a cigarette of flake tobacco and wheat-straw paper, and
"chipped in" five cents toward a can of beer.

A slender Carl, hesitating in speech, but with plenty to say; rangy as
a setter pup, silken-haired; his Scandinavian cheeks like petals at an
age when his companions' faces were like maps of the moon; stubborn
and healthy; wearing a celluloid collar and a plain black
four-in-hand; a blue-eyed, undistinguished, awkward, busy proletarian
of sixteen, to whom evening clothes and poetry did not exist, but who
quivered with inarticulate determinations to see Minneapolis, or even
Chicago. To him it was sheer romance to parade through town with a tin
haversack of carbons for the arc-lights, familiarly lowering the
high-hung mysterious lamps, while his plodding acquaintances "clerked"
in stores on Saturdays, or tended furnaces. Sometimes he donned the
virile--and noisy--uniform of an electrician: army gauntlets, a coil
of wire, pole-climbers strapped to his legs. Crunching his steel spurs
into the crisp pine wood of the lighting-poles, he carelessly ascended
to the place of humming wires and red cross-bars and green-glass
insulators, while crowds of two and three small boys stared in awe
from below. At such moments Carl did not envy the aristocratic leisure
of his high-school classmate, Fatty Ben Rusk, who, as son of the
leading doctor, did not work, but stayed home and read library books.

Carl's own home was not adapted to the enchantments of a boy's
reading. Perfectly comfortable it was, and clean with the hard
cleanness that keeps oilcloth looking perpetually unused, but it was
so airlessly respectable that it doubled Carl's natural restlessness.
It had been old Oscar Ericson's labor of love, but the carpenter loved
shininess more than space and leisure. His model for a house would
have been a pine dry-goods box grained in imitation of oak. Oscar
Ericson radiated intolerance and a belief in unimaginative, unresting
labor. Every evening, collarless and carpet-slippered, ruffling his
broom-colored hair or stroking his large, long chin, while his
shirt-tab moved ceaselessly in time to his breathing, he read a
Norwegian paper. Carl's mother darned woolen socks and thought about
milk-pans and the neighbors and breakfast. The creak of rockers filled
the unventilated, oilcloth-floored sitting-room. The sound was as
unchanging as the sacred positions of the crayon enlargement of Mrs.
Ericson's father, the green-glass top-hat for matches, or the violent
ingrain rug with its dog's-head pattern.

Carl's own room contained only plaster walls, a narrow wooden bed, a
bureau, a kitchen chair. Fifteen minutes in this irreproachable home
sent Carl off to Eddie Klemm's billiard-parlor, which was not
irreproachable.

He rather disliked the bitterness of beer and the acrid specks of
cigarette tobacco that stuck to his lips, but the "bunch at Eddie's"
were among the few people in Joralemon who were conscious of life.
Eddie's establishment was a long, white-plastered room with a
pressed-steel ceiling and an unswept floor. On the walls were
billiard-table-makers' calendars and a collection of cigarette-premium
chromos portraying bathing girls. The girls were of lithographic
complexions, almost too perfect of feature, and their lips were more
than ruby. Carl admired them.

       *       *       *       *       *

A September afternoon. The sixteen-year-old Carl was tipped back in a
chair at Eddie Klemm's, one foot on a rung, while he discussed village
scandals and told outrageous stories with Eddie Klemm, a brisk
money-maker and vulgarian aged twenty-three, who wore a "fancy vest"
and celluloid buttons on his lapels. Ben Rusk hesitatingly poked his
head through the door.

Eddie Klemm called, with business-like cordiality: "H'lo, Fatty! Come
in. How's your good health? Haven't reformed, have you? Going to join
us rough-necks? Come on; I'll teach you to play pool. Won't cost you a
cent."

"No, I guess I hadn't better. I was just looking for Carl."

"Well, well, Fatty, ain't we ree-fined! Why do we guess we hadn't to
probably maybe oughtn't to had better?"

"Oh, I don't know. Some day I'll learn, I guess," sighed Fatty Ben
Rusk, who knew perfectly that with a doctor father, a religious
mother, and an effeminate taste for reading he could never be a town
sport.

"Hey! watch out!" shrieked Eddie.

"Wh-what's the matter?" gasped Fatty.

"The floor 's falling on you!"

"Th--th----Aw, say, you're kidding me," said Fatty, weakly, with a
propitiating smile.

"Don't worry, son; you're the third guy to-day that I've caught on
that! Stick around, son, and sit in any time, and I'll learn you some
pool. You got just the right build for a champ player. Have a
cigarette?"

The social amenities whereby Joralemon prepares her youth for the
graces of life having been recognized, Fatty Rusk hitched a chair
beside Carl, and muttered:

"Say, Carl, here's what I wanted to tell you: I was just up to the
Cowleses' to take back a French grammar I borrowed to look at----Maybe
that ain't a hard-looking language! What d'you think? Mrs. Cowles told
me Gertie is expected back to-morrow."

"Gee whiz! I thought she was going to stay in New York for two years!
And she's only been gone six months."

"I guess Mrs. Cowles is kind of lonely without her," Ben mooned.

"So now you'll be all nice and in love with Gertie again, heh? It
certainly gets me why you want to fall in love, Fatty, when you could
go hunting."

"If you'd read about King Arthur and Galahad and all them instead of
reading the _Scientific American_, and about these fool horseless
carriages and stuff----There never will be any practical use for
horseless carriages, anyway."

"There will----" growled Carl.

"My mother says she don't believe the Lord ever intended us to ride
without horses, or what did He give us horses for? And the things
always get stuck in the mud and you have to walk home--mother was
reading that in a newspaper, just the other day."

"Son, let me tell you, I'll own a horseless carriage some day, and I
bet I go an average of twenty miles an hour with it, maybe forty."

"Oh, rats! But I was saying, if you'd read some library books you'd
know about love. Why, what 'd God put love in the world for----"

"Say, will you quit explaining to me about what God did things for?"

"Ouch! Quit! Awwww, quit, Carl.... Say, listen; here's what I wanted
to tell you: How if you and me and Adelaide Benner and some of us went
down to the depot to meet Gertie, to-morrow? She comes in on the
twelve-forty-seven."

"Well, all right. Say, Bennie, you don't want to be worried when I kid
you about being in love with Gertie. I don't think I'll ever get
married. But it's all right for you."

       *       *       *       *       *

Saturday morning was so cool, so radiant, that Carl awakened early to
a conviction that, no matter how important meeting Gertie might be in
the cosmic scheme, he was going hunting. He was down-stairs by five.
He fried two eggs, called Dollar Ingersoll, his dog--son of Robert
Ingersoll Stillman, gentleman dog--then, in canvas hunting-coat and
slouch-hat, tramped out of town southward, where the woods ended in
prairie. Gertie's arrival was forgotten.

It was a gipsy day. The sun rolled splendidly through the dry air,
over miles of wheat stubble, whose gray-yellow prickles were
transmuted by distance into tawny velvet, seeming only the more
spacious because of the straight, thin lines of barbed-wire fences
lined with goldenrod, and solitary houses in willow groves. The dips
and curves of the rolling plain drew him on; the distances satisfied
his eyes. A pleasant hum of insects filled the land's wide serenity
with hidden life.

Carl left a trail of happy, monotonous whistling behind him all day,
as his dog followed the winding trail of prairie-chickens, as a covey
of chickens rose with booming wings and he swung his shotgun for a
bead. He stopped by prairie-sloughs or bright-green bogs to watch for
a duck. He hailed as equals the occasional groups of hunters in
two-seated buggies, quartering the fields after circling dogs. He
lunched contentedly on sandwiches of cold lamb, and lay with his arms
under his head, gazing at a steeple fully ten miles away.

By six of the afternoon he had seven prairie-chickens tucked inside
the long pocket that lined the tail of his coat, and he headed for
home, superior to miles, his quiet eyes missing none of the purple
asters and goldenrod.

As he began to think he felt a bit guilty. The flowers suggested
Gertie. He gathered a large bunch, poking stalks of aster among the
goldenrod, examining the result at arm's-length. Yet when he stopped
at the Rusks' in town, to bid Bennie take the rustic bouquet to
Gertie, he replied to reproaches:

"What you making all the fuss about my not being there to meet her
for? She got here all right, didn't she? What j' expect me to do? Kiss
her? You ought to known it was too good a day for hunting to miss....
How's Gert? Have a good time in New York?"

Carl himself took the flowers to her, however, and was so shyly
attentive to her account of New York that he scarcely stopped to speak
to the Cowleses' "hired girl," who was his second cousin.... Mrs.
Cowles overheard him shout, "Hello, Lena! How's it going?" to the
hired girl with cousinly ease. Mrs. Cowles seemed chilly. Carl
wondered why.

       *       *       *       *       *

From month to month of his junior year in high school Carl grew more
discontented. He let the lines of his Cicero fade into a gray blur
that confounded Cicero's blatant virtue and Cataline's treachery,
while he pictured himself tramping with snow-shoes and a mackinaw coat
into the snowy solemnities of the northern Minnesota tamarack swamps.
Much of his discontent was caused by his learned preceptors. The
teachers for this year were almost perfectly calculated to make any
lad of the slightest independence hate culture for the rest of his
life. With the earnestness and industry usually ascribed to the devil,
"Prof" Sybrant E. Larsen (B. A. Platonis), Miss McDonald, and Miss
Muzzy kept up ninety-five per cent. discipline, and seven per cent.
instruction in anything in the least worth while.

Miss Muzzy was sarcastic, and proud of it. She was sarcastic to Carl
when he gruffly asked why he couldn't study French instead of "all
this Latin stuff." If there be any virtue in the study of Latin (and
we have all forgotten all our Latin except the fact that "suburb"
means "under the city"--_i. e._, a subway), Carl was blinded to it for
ever. Miss Muzzy wore eye-glasses and had no bosom. Carl's father used
to say approvingly, "Dat Miss Muzzy don't stand for no nonsense," and
Mrs. Dr. Rusk often had her for dinner.... Miss McDonald, fat and
slow-spoken and kind, prone to use the word "dearie," to read
Longfellow, and to have buttons off her shirt-waists, used on Carl a
feminine weapon more unfair than the robust sarcasm of Miss Muzzy. For
after irritating a self-respecting boy into rudeness by pawing his
soul with damp, puffy hands, she would weep. She was a kind, honest,
and reverent bovine. Carl sat under her supervision in the junior
room, with its hardwood and blackboards and plaster, high windows and
portraits of Washington and a President who was either Madison or
Monroe (no one ever remembered which). He hated the eternal school
smell of drinking-water pails and chalk and slates and varnish; he
loathed the blackboard erasers, white with crayon-dust; he found
inspiration only in the laboratory where "Prof" Larsen mistaught
physics and rebuked questions about the useless part of
chemistry--that is, the part that wasn't in their text-books.

As for literature, Ben Rusk persuaded him to try Captain Marryat and
Conan Doyle. Carl met Sherlock Holmes in a paper-bound book, during a
wait for flocks of mallards on the duck-pass, which was a little
temple of silver birches bare with November. He crouched down in his
canvas coat and rubber boots, gun across knees, and read for an hour
without moving. As he tramped home, into a vast Minnesota sunset like
a furnace of fantastic coals, past the garnet-tinged ice of lakes, he
kept his gun cocked and under his elbow, ready for the royal robber
who was dogging the personage of Baker Street.

He hunted much; distinguished himself in geometry and chemistry;
nearly flunked in Cicero and English; learned to play an
extraordinarily steady game of bottle pool at Eddie Klemm's.

And always Gertie Cowles, gently hesitant toward Ben Rusk's affection,
kept asking Carl why he didn't come to see her oftener, and play
tiddledywinks.

On the Friday morning before Christmas vacation, Carl and Ben Rusk
were cleaning up the chemical laboratory, its pine experiment-bench
and iron sink and rough floor. Bennie worried a rag in the sink with
the resigned manner of a man who, having sailed with purple banners
the sunset sea of tragedy, goes bravely on with a life gray and weary.

The town was excited. Gertie Cowles was giving a party, and she had
withdrawn her invitation to Eddie Klemm. Gertie was staying away from
high school, gracefully recovering from a cold. For two weeks the
junior and senior classes had been furtively exhibiting her
holly-decked cards of invitation. Eddie had been included, but after
his quarrel with Howard Griffin, a Plato College freshman who was
spending the vacation with Ray Cowles, it had been explained to Eddie
that perhaps he would be more comfortable not to come to the party.

Gertie's brother, Murray, or "Ray," was the town hero. He had
captained the high-school football team. He was tall and very
black-haired, and he "jollied" the girls. It was said that twenty
girls in Joralemon and Wakamin, and a "grass widow" in St. Hilary,
wrote to him. He was now a freshman in Plato College, Plato,
Minnesota. He had brought home with him his classmate, Howard Griffin,
whose people lived in South Dakota and were said to be wealthy.
Griffin had been very haughty to Eddie Klemm, when introduced to that
brisk young man at the billiard-parlor, and now, the town eagerly
learned, Eddie had been rejected of society.

In the laboratory Carl was growling: "Well, say, Fatty, if it was
right for them to throw Eddie out, where do I come in? His dad 's a
barber, and mine 's a carpenter, and that's just as bad. Or how about
you? I was reading that docs used to be just barbers."

"Aw, thunder!" said Ben Rusk, the doctor's scion, uncomfortably,
"you're just arguing. I don't believe that about doctors being
barbers. Don't it tell about doctors 'way back in the Bible? Why, of
course! Luke was a physician! 'Sides, it ain't a question of Eddie's
being a barber's son. I sh'd think you'd realize that Gertie isn't
well. She wouldn't want to have to entertain both Eddie and Griffin,
and Griffin 's her guest; and besides----"

"You're getting all tangled up. If I was to let you go on you'd trip
over a long word and bust your dome. Come on. We've done enough
cleaning. Le's hike. Come on up to the house and help me on my bobs. I
got a new scheme for pivoting the back sled.... You just wait till
to-night. I'm going to tell Gertie and Mister Howard Griffin just what
I think of them for being such two-bit snobs. And your future
ma-in-law. Gee! I'm glad I don't have to be in love with anybody, and
become a snob! Come on."

Out of this wholesome, democratic, and stuffy village life Carl
suddenly stepped into the great world. A motor-car, the first he had
ever seen, was drawn up before the Hennepin House.

He stopped. His china-blue eyes widened. His shoulders shot forward to
a rigid stoop of astonishment. His mouth opened. He gasped as they ran
to join the gathering crowd.

"A horseless carriage! Do you get that? There's one _here_!" He
touched the bonnet of the two-cylinder 1901 car, and worshiped. "Under
there--the engine! And there's where you steer.... I _will_ own
one!... Gee! you're right, Fatty; I believe I will go to college. And
then I'll study mechanical engineering."

"Thought you said you were going to try and go to Annapolis and be a
sailor."

"No. Rats! I'm going to own a horseless carriage, and I'm going to
tour every state in the Union.... Think of seeing mountains! And the
ocean! And going twenty miles an hour, like a train!"



CHAPTER IV


While Carl prepared for Gertie Cowles's party by pressing his trousers
with his mother's flat-iron, while he blacked his shoes and took his
weekly sponge-bath, he was perturbed by partisanship with Eddie Klemm,
and a longing for the world of motors, and some anxiety as to how he
could dance at the party when he could not dance.

He clumped up the new stone steps of the Cowles house carelessly, not
unusually shy, ready to tell Gertie what he thought of her treatment
of Eddie. Then the front door opened and an agonized Carl was
smothered in politeness. His second cousin, Lena, the Cowleses' "hired
girl," was opening the door, stiff and uncomfortable in a cap, a black
dress, and a small frilly apron that dangled on her boniness like a
lace kerchief pinned on a broom-handle. Murray Cowles rushed up. He
was in evening clothes!

Behind Murray, Mrs. Cowles greeted Carl with thawed majesty: "We are
so glad to have you, Carl. Won't you take your things off in the room
at the head of the stairs?"

An affable introduction to Howard Griffin (also in evening clothes)
was poured on Carl like soothing balm. Said Griffin: "Mighty glad to
meet you, Ericson. Ray told me you'd make a ripping sprinter. The
captain of the track team 'll be on the lookout for you when you get
to Plato. Course you're going to go there. The U. of Minn. is too
big.... You'll _do_ something for old Plato. Wish I could. But all I
can do is warble like a darn' dicky-bird. Have a cigarette?... They're
just starting to dance. Come on, old man. Come on, Ray."

Carl was drawn down-stairs and instantly precipitated into a dance
regarding which he was sure only that it was either a waltz, a
two-step, or something else. It filled with glamour the Cowles
library--the only parlor in Joralemon that was called a library, and
the only one with a fireplace or a polished hardwood floor. Grandeur
was in the red lambrequins over the doors and windows; the bead
portière; a hand-painted coal-scuttle; small, round paintings of
flowers set in black velvet; an enormous black-walnut bookcase with
fully a hundred volumes; and the two lamps of green-mottled shades and
wrought-iron frames, set on pyrographed leather skins brought from New
York by Gertie. The light was courtly on the polished floor. Adelaide
Benner--a new Adelaide, in chiffon over yellow satin, and
patent-leather slippers--grinned at him and ruthlessly towed him into
the tide of dancers. In the spell of society no one seemed to remember
Eddie Klemm. Adelaide did not mention the incident.

Carl found himself bumping into others, continually apologizing to
Adelaide and the rest--and not caring. For he saw a vision! Each time
he turned toward the south end of the room he beheld Gertie Cowles
glorified.

She was out of ankle-length dresses! She looked her impressive
eighteen, in a foaming long white mull that showed her soft throat. A
red rose was in her brown hair. She reclined in a big chair of leather
and oak and smiled her gentlest, especially when Carl bobbed his head
to her.

He had always taken her as a matter of course; she had no age, no sex,
no wonder. That afternoon she had been a negligible bit of Joralemon,
to be accused of snobbery toward Eddie Klemm, and always to be watched
suspiciously lest she "spring some New York airs on us."... Gertie had
craftily seemed unchanged after her New York enlightenment till
now--here she was, suddenly grown-up and beautiful, haloed with a
peculiar magic, which distinguished her from all the rest of the
world.

"She's the one that would ride in that horseless carriage when I got
it!" Carl exulted. "That must be a train, that thing she's got on."

After the dance he disposed of Adelaide Benner as though she were only
a sister. He hung over the back of Gertie's chair and urged: "I was
awful sorry to hear you were sick.... Say, you look wonderful,
to-night."

"I'm so glad you could come to my party. Oh, I must speak to you
about----Do you suppose you would ever get very, very angry at poor
me? Me so bad sometimes."

He cut an awkward little caper to show his aplomb, and assured her, "I
guess probably I'll kill you some time, all right."

"No, listen, Carl; I'm dreadfully serious. I hope you didn't go and
get dreadfully angry at me about Eddie Klemm. I know Eddie 's good
friends with you. And I did want to have him come to my party. But you
see it was this way: Mr. Griffin is our guest (he likes you a _lot_,
Carl. Isn't he a dandy fellow? I guess Adelaide and Hazel 're just
crazy about him. I think he's just as swell as the men in New York).
Eddie and he didn't get along very well together. It isn't anybody's
fault, I don't guess. I thought Eddie would be lots happier if he
didn't come, don't you see?"

"Oh no, of course; oh yes, I see. Sure. I can see how----Say, Gertie,
I never did know you could look so grown-up. I suppose now you'll
never play with me."

"I want you to be a good friend of mine always. We always have been
awfully good friends, haven't we?"

"Yes. Do you remember how we ran away?"

"And how the Black Dutchman chassssed us!" Her sweet and complacent
voice was so cheerful that he lost his awe of her new magic and
chortled:

"And how we used to play pum-pum-pull-away."

She delicately leaned her cheek on a finger-tip and sighed: "Yes, I
wonder if we shall ever be so happy as when we were young.... I don't
believe you care to play with me so much now."

"Oh, gee! Gertie! Like to----!" The shyness was on him again. "Say,
are you feeling better now? You're all over being sick?"

"Almost, now. I'll be back in school right after vacation."

"It's you that don't want to play, I guess.... I can't get over that
long white dress. It makes you look so--oh, you know, so, uh----"

"They're going to dance again. I wish I felt able to dance."

"Let me sit and talk to you, Gertie, instead of dancing."

"I suppose you're dreadfully bored, though, when you could be down at
the billiard-parlor?"

"Yes, I could! Not! Eddie Klemm and his fancy vest wouldn't have much
chance, alongside of Griffin in his dress-suit! Course I don't want to
knock Eddie. Him and me are pretty good side-kicks----"

"Oh no; I understand. It's just that people have to go with their own
class, don't you think?"

"Oh Yes. Sure. I do think so, myself." Carl said it with a spurious
society manner. In Gertie's aristocratic presence he desired to keep
aloof from all vulgar persons.

"Of course, I think we ought to make allowances for Eddie's father,
Carl, but then----"

She sighed with the responsibilities of _noblesse oblige_; and Carl
gravely sighed with her.

He brought a stool and sat at her feet. Immediately he was afraid that
every one was watching him. Ray Cowles bawled to them, as he passed in
the waltz, "Watch out for that Carl, Gert. He's a regular badix."

Carl's scalp tickled, but he tried to be very offhand in remarking:
"You must have gotten that dress in New York, didn't you? Why haven't
you ever told me about New York? You've hardly told me anything at
all."

"Well, I like that! And you never been near me to give me a chance!"

"I guess I was kind of scared you wouldn't care much for Joralemon,
after New York."

"Why, Carl, you mustn't say that to me!"

"I didn't mean to hurt your feelings, Gertie, honestly I didn't. I was
just joking. I didn't think you'd take me seriously."

"As though I could forget my old friends, even in New York!"

"I didn't think that. Straight. Please tell me about New York. That's
the place, all right. Jiminy! wouldn't I like to go there!"

"I wish you could have been there, Carl. We had such fun in my school.
There weren't any boys in it, but we----"

"No boys in it? Why, how's that?"

"Why, it was just for girls."

"I see," he said, fatuously, completely satisfied.

"We did have the best times, Carl. I _must_ tell you about one awfully
naughty thing Carrie--she was my chum in school--and I did. There was
a stock company on Twenty-third Street, and we were all crazy about
the actors, especially Clements Devereaux, and one afternoon Carrie
told the principal she had a headache, and I asked if I could go home
with her and read her the assignments for next day (they called the
lessons 'assignments' there), and they thought I was such a meek
little country mouse that I wouldn't ever fib, and so they let us go,
and what do you think we did? She had tickets for 'The Two Orphans' at
the stock company. (You've never seen 'The Two Orphans,' have you?
It's perfectly splendid. I used to weep my eyes out over it.) And
afterward we went and waited outside, right near the stage entrance,
and what do you think? The leading man, Clements Devereaux, went
right by us as near as I am to you. Oh, _Carl_, I wish you could have
seen him! Maybe he wasn't the handsomest thing! He had the blackest,
curliest hair, and he wore a thumb ring."

"I don't think much of all these hamfatters," growled Carl. "Actors
always go broke and have to walk back to Chicago. Don't you think it
'd be better to be a civil engineer or something like that, instead of
having to slick up your hair and carry a cane? They're just dudes."

"Why! of course, Carl, you silly boy! You don't suppose I'd take
Clements seriously, do you? You silly boy!"

"I'm not a boy."

"I don't mean it that way." She sat up, touched his shoulder, and sank
back. He blushed with bliss, and the fear that some one had seen, as
she continued: "I always think of you as just as old as I am. We
always will be, won't we?"

"Yes!"

"Now you must go and talk to Doris Carson. Poor thing, she always is a
wall-flower."

However much he thought of common things as he left her, beyond those
common things was the miracle that Gertie had grown into the one
perfect, divinely ordained woman, and that he would talk to her again.
He danced the Virginia reel. Instead of clumping sulkily through the
steps, as at other parties, he heeded Adelaide Benner's lessons, and
watched Gertie in the hope that she would see how well he was dancing.
He shouted a demand that they play "Skip to Maloo," and cried down the
shy girls who giggled that they were too old for the childish
party-game. He howled, without prejudice in favor of any particular
key, the ancient words:

    "Rats in the sugar-bowl, two by two,
    Bats in the belfry, two by two,
    Rats in the sugar-bowl, two by two,
        Skip to Maloo, my darling."

In the nonchalant company of the smarter young bachelors up-stairs he
smoked a cigarette. But he sneaked away. He paused at the bend in the
stairs. Below him was Gertie, silver-gowned, wonderful. He wanted to
go down to her. He would have given up his chance for a motor-car to
be able to swagger down like an Eddie Klemm. For the Carl Ericson who
sailed his ice-boat over inch-thick ice was timid now. He poked into
the library, and in a nausea of discomfort he conversed with Mrs.
Cowles, Mrs. Cowles doing the conversing.

"Are you going to be a Republican or a Democrat, Carl?" asked the
forbidding lady.

"Yessum," mumbled Carl, peering over at Gertie's throne, where Ben
Rusk was being cultured.

"I hope you are having a good time. We always wish our young friends
to have an especially good time at Gertrude's parties," Mrs. Cowles
sniffed, and bowed away.

Carl sat beside Adelaide Benner in the decorous and giggling circle
that ringed the room, waiting for the "refreshments." He was healthily
interested in devouring maple ice-cream and chocolate layer-cake. But
all the while he was spying on the group gathering about Gertie--Ben
Rusk, Howard Griffin, and Joe Jordan. He took the most strategic
precautions lest some one think that he wanted to look at Gertie; made
such ponderous efforts to prove he was care-free that every one knew
something was the matter.

Ben Rusk was taking no part in the gaiety of Howard and Joe. The
serious man of letters was not easily led into paths of frivolity.
Carl swore to himself: "Ben 's the only guy I know that's got any
delicate feelings. He appreciates how Gertie feels when she's sick,
poor girl. He don't make a goat of himself, like Joe.... Or maybe he's
got a stomach-ache."

"Post-office!" cried Howard Griffin to the room at large. "Come on!
We're all of us going to be kids again, and play post-office. Who's
the first girl wants to be kissed?"

"The idea!" giggled Adelaide Benner.

"Me for Adelaide!" bawled Joe Jordan.

"Oh, Jo-oe, bet I kiss Gertie!" from Irving Lamb.

"The idea!"

"Just as if we were children----"

"He must think we're kids again----"

"Shamey! Winnie wants to be kissed, and Carl won't----"

"I don't, either, so there----"

"I think it's awful."

"Bet I kiss Gertie----"

Carl was furious at all of them as they strained their shoulders
forward from their chairs and laughed. He asked himself, "Haven't
these galoots got any sense?"

To speak so lightly of kissing Gertie! He stared at the smooth
rounding of her left cheek below the cheek-bone till it took a
separate identity, and its white softness filled the room.

Ten minutes afterward, playing "post-office," he was facing Gertie in
the semi-darkness of the sitting-room, authorized by the game to kiss
her; shut in with his divinity.

She took his hand. Her voice was crooning, "Are you going to kiss me
terribly hard?"

He tried to be gracefully mocking: "Oh yes! Sure! I'm going to eat you
alive."

She was waiting.

He wished that she would not hold his hand. Within he groaned, "Gee
whiz! I feel foolish!" He croaked: "Do you feel better, now? You'll
catch more cold in here, won't you? There's kind of a draught. Lemme
look at this window."

Crossing to the obviously tight window, he ran his finger along the
edge of the sash with infinite care. He trembled. In a second, _now_,
he had to turn and make light of the lips which he would fain have
approached with ceremony pompous and lingering.

Gertie flopped into a chair, laughing: "I believe you're afraid to
kiss me! 'Fraid cat! You'll never be a squire of dames, like those
actors are! All right for you!"

"I am not afraid!" he piped.... Even his prized semi-bass voice had
deserted him.... He rushed to the back of her chair and leaned over,
confused, determined. Hastily he kissed her. The kiss landed on the
tip of her cold nose.

And the whole party was tumbling in, crying:

"Time 's up! You can't hug her all evening!"

"Did you see? He kissed her on the nose!"

"Did he? Ohhhhh!"

"Time 's up. Can't try it again."

Joe Jordan, in the van, was dancing fantastically, scraping his
forefinger at Carl, in token of disgrace.

The riotous crowd, Gertie and Carl among them, flooded out again. To
show that he had not minded the incident of the misplaced kiss, Carl
had to be very loud and merry in the library for a few minutes; but
when the game of "post-office" was over and Mrs. Cowles asked Ray to
turn down the lamp in the sitting-room, Carl insisted:

"I'll do it, Mrs. Cowles; I'm nearer 'n Ray," and bolted.

He knew that he was wicked in not staying in the library and
continuing his duties to the party. He had to crowd into a minute all
his agonizing and be back at once.

It was beautiful in the stilly sitting-room, away from the noisy
crowd, to hear love's heart beating. He darted to the chair where
Gertie had sat and guiltily kissed its arm. He tiptoed to the table,
blew out the lamp, remembered that he should only have turned down the
wick, tried to raise the chimney, burnt his fingers, snatched his
handkerchief, dropped it, groaned, picked up the handkerchief, raised
the chimney, put it on the table, searched his pockets for a match,
found it, dropped it, picked it up from the floor, dropped his knife
from his pocket as he stooped, felt itchy about the scalp, picked up
the knife, relighted the lamp, exquisitely adjusted the chimney--and
again blew out the flame. And swore.

As darkness whirled into the room again the vision of Gertie came
nearer. Then he understood his illness, and gasped: "Great jumping
Jupiter on a high mountain! I guess--I'm--in--love! _Me!_"

The party was breaking up. Each boy, as he accompanied a girl from the
yellow lamplight into the below-zero cold, shouted and scuffled the
snow, to indicate that there was nothing serious in his attentions,
and immediately tried to manoeuver his girl away from the others.
Mrs. Cowles was standing in the hall--not hurrying the guests away,
you understand, but perfectly resigned to accepting any
farewells--when Gertie, moving gently among them with little sounds of
pleasure, penned Carl in a corner and demanded:

"Are you going to see some one home? I suppose you'll forget poor me
completely, now!"

"I will not!"

"I wanted to tell you what Ray and Mr. Griffin said about Plato and
about being lawyers. Isn't it nice you'll know them when you go to
Plato?"

"Yes, it 'll be great."

"Mr. Griffin 's going to be a lawyer and maybe Ray will, too, and why don't
you think about being one? You can get to be a judge and know all the best
people. It would be lovely.... Refining influences--they--that's----"

"I couldn't ever be a high-class lawyer like Griffin will," said Carl,
his head on one side, much pleased.

"You silly boy, of course you could. I think you've got just as much
brains as he has, and Ray says they all look up to him even in Plato.
And I don't see why Plato isn't just as good--of course it isn't as
large, but it's so select and the faculty can give you so much more
individual attention, and I don't see why it isn't every bit as good
as Yale and Michigan and all those Eastern colleges.... Howard--Mr.
Griffin--he says that he wouldn't ever have thought of being a lawyer
only a girl was such a good influence with him, and if you get to be a
famous man, too, maybe I'll have been just a teeny-weeny bit of an
influence, too, won't I?"

"Oh _yes_!"

"I must get back now and say good-by to my guests. Good night, Carl."

"I am going to study--you just watch me; and if I do get to go to
Plato----Oh, gee! you always have been a good influence----" He
noticed that Doris Carson was watching them. "Well, I gotta be going.
I've had a peach of a time. Good night."

Doris Carson was expectantly waiting for one of the boys to "see her
home," but Carl guiltily stole up to Ben Rusk and commanded:

"Le's hike, Fatty. Le's take a walk. Something big to tell you."



CHAPTER V


Carl kicked up the snow in moon-shot veils. The lake boomed. For all
their woolen mittens, ribbed red-cotton wristlets, and plush caps with
ear-laps, the cold seared them. Carl encouraged Ben to discourse of
Gertie and the delights of a long and hopeless love. He discovered
that, actually, Ben had suddenly fallen in love with Adelaide Benner.
"Gee!" he exulted. "Maybe that gives me a chance with Gertie, then.
But I won't let her know Ben ain't in love with her any more. Jiminy!
ain't it lucky Gertie liked me just when Ben fell in love with
somebody else! Funny the way things go; and her never knowing about
Ben." He laid down his cards. While they plowed through the hard
snow-drifts, swinging their arms against their chests like milkmen, he
blurted out all his secret: that Gertie was the "slickest girl in
town"; that no one appreciated her.

"Ho, ho!" jeered Ben.

"I thought you were crazy about her, and then you start kidding about
her! A swell bunch of chivalry you got, you and your Galahad! You----"

"Don't you go jumping on Galahad, or I'll fight!"

"He was all right, but you ain't," said Carl. "You hadn't ought to
ever sneer at love."

"Why, you said, just this afternoon----"

"You poor yahoo, I was only teasing you. No; about Gertie. It's like
this: she was telling me a lot about how Griffin 's going to be a
lawyer, about how much they make in cities, and I've about decided
I'll be a lawyer."

"Thought you were going to be a mechanical engineer?"

"Well, can't a fellow change his mind? When you're an engineer you're
always running around the country, and you never get shaved or
anything, and there ain't any refining influences----"

The absorbing game of "what we're going to be" made them forget snow
and cold-squeezed fingers. Ben, it was decided, was to own a newspaper
and support C. Ericson, Attorney-at-Law, in his dramatic run for state
senator.

Carl did not mention Gertie again. But it all meant Gertie.

       *       *       *       *       *

Carl made his round trimming the arc-lights next day, apparently a
rudely healthy young person, but really a dreamer love-lorn and
misunderstood. He had found a good excuse for calling on Gertie, at
noon, and had been informed that Miss Gertrude was taking a nap. He
determined to go up the lake for rabbits. He doubted if he would ever
return, and wondered if he would be missed. Who would care if he froze
to death? He wouldn't! (Though he did seem to be taking certain
precautions, by donning a mackinaw coat, two pairs of trousers, two
pairs of woolen socks, and shoe-packs.)

He was graceful as an Indian when he swept, on skees he had made
himself, across miles of snow covering the lake and dazzling in the
diffused light of an even gray sky. The reeds by the marshy shore were
frost-glittering and clattered faintly. Marshy islands were lost in
snow. Hummocks and ice-jams and the weaving patterns of mink tracks
were blended in one white immensity, on which Carl was like a fly on a
plaster ceiling. The world was deserted. But Carl was not lonely. He
forgot all about Gertie as he cached his skees by the shore and
prowled through the woods, leaping on brush-piles and shooting quickly
when a rabbit ran out.

When he had bagged three rabbits he was besieged by the melancholy of
loneliness, the perfection of the silver-gowned Gertie. He wanted to
talk. He thought of Bone Stillman.

It was very likely that Bone was, as usual in winter, up beyond Big
Bend, fishing for pickerel with tip-ups. A never-stopping dot in the
dusk, Carl headed for Big Bend, three miles away.

The tip-up fisher watches a dozen tip-ups--short, automatic
fishing-rods, with lines running through the ice, the pivoted arm
signaling the presence of a fish at the bait. Sometimes, for warmth,
he has a tiny shanty, perhaps five feet by six in ground area, heated
by a powder-can stove. Bone Stillman often spent the night in his
movable shanty on the lake, which added to his reputation as village
eccentric. But he was more popular, now, with the local sporting
gentlemen, who found that he played a divine game of poker.

"Hello, son!" he greeted Carl. "Come in. Leave them long legs of yours
up on shore if there ain't room."

"Say, Bone, do you think a fellow ever ought to join a church?"

"Depends. Why?"

"Well, suppose he was going to be a lawyer and go in for politics?"

"Look here. What 're you thinking of becoming a lawyer for?"

"Didn't say I was."

"Of course you're thinking of it. Look here. Don't you know you've got a
chance of seeing the world? You're one of the lucky people that can have a
touch of the wanderlust without being made useless by it--as I have. You
may, you _may_ wander in thought as well as on freight-trains, and discover
something for the world. Whereas a lawyer----They're priests. They decide
what's holy and punish you if you don't guess right. They set up codes that
it takes lawyers to interpret, and so they perpetuate themselves. I don't
mean to say you're extraordinary in having a chance to wander. Don't get
the big-head over it. You're a pretty average young American. There's
plenty of the same kind. Only, mostly they get tied up to something before
they see what a big world there is to hike in, and I want to keep you from
that. I'm not roasting lawyers----Yes, I am, too. They live in calf-bound
books. Son, son, for God's sake live in life."

"Yes, but look here, Bone; I was just thinking about it, that's all.
You're always drumming it into me about not taking anything for
granted. Anyway, by the time I go to Plato I'll know----"

"D'you mean to say you're going to that back-creek nunnery? That
Blackhaw University? Are you going to play checkers all through life?"

"Oh, I don't know, now, Bone. Plato ain't so bad. A fellow's got to go
some place so he can mix with people that know what's the proper thing
to do. Refining influences and like that."

"Proper! _Refining!_ Son, son, are you going to get Joralemonized? If
you want what the French folks call the grand manner, if you're going
to be a tip-top, A Number 1, genuwine grand senyor, or however they
pronounce it, why, all right, go to it; that's one way of playing a
big game. But when it comes down to a short-bit, fresh-water
sewing-circle like Plato College, where an imitation scholar teaches
you imitation translations of useless classics, and amble-footed girls
teach you imitation party manners that 'd make you just as plumb
ridic'lous in a real _salon_ as they would in a lumber-camp,
why----Oh, sa-a-a-y! I've got it. Girls, eh? What girl 've you been
falling in love with to get this Plato idea from, eh?"

"Aw, I ain't in love, Bone."

"No, I don't opine you are. At your age you got about as much chance
of being in love as you have of being a grandfather. But somehow I
seem to have a little old suspicion that you _think_ you're in love.
But it's none of my business, and I ain't going to ask questions
about it." He patted Carl on the shoulder, moving his arm with
difficulty in their small, dark space. "Son, I've learned this in my
life--and I've done quite some hiking at that, even if I didn't have
the book-l'arnin' and the git-up-and-git to make anything out of my
experience. It's a thing I ain't big enough to follow up, but I know
it's there. Life is just a little old checker game played by the
alfalfa contingent at the country store unless you've got an ambition
that's too big to ever quite lasso it. You want to know that there's
something ahead that's bigger and more beautiful than anything you've
ever seen, and never stop till--well, till you can't follow the road
any more. And anything or anybody that doesn't pack any surprises--get
that?--_surprises_ for you, is dead, and you want to slough it like a
snake does its skin. You want to keep on remembering that Chicago's
beyond Joralemon, and Paris beyond Chicago, and beyond Paris--well,
maybe there's some big peak of the Himalayas."

For hours they talked, Bone desperately striving to make his dreams
articulate to Carl--and to himself. They ate fish fried on the
powder-can stove, with half-warm coffee. They walked a few steps
outside the shack in the ringing cold, to stretch stiff legs. Carl saw
a world of unuttered freedom and beauty forthshadowed in Bone's cloudy
speech. But he was melancholy. For he was going to give up his
citizenship in wonderland for Gertie Cowles.

       *       *       *       *       *

Gertie continued to enjoy ill health for another week. Every evening
Carl walked past her house, hoping that he might see her at a window,
longing to dare to call. Each night he pictured rescuing her from
things--rescuing her from fire, from drowning, from evil men. He felt
himself the more bound to her by the social recognition of having his
name in the _Joralemon Dynamite_, the following Thursday:

     One of the pleasantest affairs of the holiday season among
     the younger set was held last Friday evening, when Gertrude
     Cowles entertained a number of her young friends at a party
     at her mother's handsome residence on Maple Hill. Among
     those present were Mesdames Benner and Rusk, who came in for
     a brief time to assist in the jollities of the evening,
     Misses Benner, Carson, Wesselius, Madlund, Ripka, Smith,
     Lansing, and Brick; and Messrs. Ray Cowles, his classmate
     Howard Griffin, who is spending his vacation here from Plato
     College, Carl Ericson, Joseph Jordan, Irving Lamb, Benjamin
     Rusk, Nels Thorsten, Peter Schoenhof, and William T. Upham.
     After dancing and games, which were thoroughly enjoyed by
     all present, and a social hour spent in discussing the
     events of the season in J. H. S., a most delicious repast
     was served and the party adjourned, one and all voting that
     they had been royally entertained.

The glory was the greater because at least seven names had been
omitted from the list of guests. Such social recognition satisfied
Carl--for half an hour. Possibly it nerved him finally to call on
Gertie.

Since for a week he had been dreading a chilly reception when he
should call, he was immeasurably surprised when he did call and got
what he expected. He had not expected the fates to be so treacherous
as to treat him as he expected, after he had disarmed them by
expecting it.

When he rang the bell he was an immensely grown-up lawyer (though he
couldn't get his worn, navy-blue tie to hang exactly right). He turned
into a crestfallen youth as Mrs. Cowles opened the door and
waited--waited!--for him to speak, after a crisp:

"Well? What is it, Carl?"

"Why, uh, I just thought I'd come and see how Gertie is."

"Gertrude is much better, thank you. I presume she will return to
school at the end of vacation."

The hall behind Mrs. Cowles seemed very stately, very long.

"I've heard a lot saying they hoped she was better."

"You may tell them that she is better."

Mrs. Cowles shivered. No one could possibly have looked more like a
person closing a door without actually closing one. "Lena!" she
shrieked, "close the kitchen door. There's a draught." She turned back
to Carl.

The shy lover vanished. An angry young man challenged, "If Gertie 's
up I think I'll come in a few minutes and see her."

"Why, uh----" hesitated Mrs. Cowles.

He merely walked in past her. His anger kept its own council, for he
could depend upon Gertie's warm greeting--lonely Gertie, he would
bring her the cheer of the great open.

The piano sounded in the library, and the voice of the one perfect
girl mingled with a man's tenor in "Old Black Joe." Carl stalked into
the library. Gertie was there, much corseted, well powdered, wearing a
blue foulard frenziedly dotted with white, and being cultured in
company with Dr. Doyle, the lively young dentist who had recently
taken an office in the National Bank Block. He was a graduate of the
University of Minnesota--dental department. He had oily black hair,
and smiled with gold-filled teeth before one came to the real point of
a joke. He sang in the Congregational church choir, and played tennis
in a crimson-and-black blazer--the only one in Joralemon.

To Carl Dr. Doyle was dismayingly mature and smart. He horribly feared
him as a rival. For the second time that evening he did not balk fate
by fearing it. The dentist was a rival. After fluttering about the
mature charms of Miss Dietz, the school drawing-teacher, and taking a
tentative buggy-ride or two with the miller's daughter, Dr. Doyle was
bringing all the charm of his professional position and professional
teeth and patent-leather shoes to bear upon Gertie.

And Gertie was interested. Obviously. She was all of eighteen
to-night. She frowned slightly as she turned on the piano-stool at
Carl's entrance, and mechanically: "This is a pleasant surprise."
Then, enthusiastically: "Isn't it too bad that Dr. Doyle was out of
town, or I would have invited him to my party, and he would have given
us some of his lovely songs.... Do try the second verse, doctor. The
harmony is so lovely."

Carl sat at the other end of the library from Gertie and the piano,
while Mrs. Cowles entertained him. He obediently said "Yessum" and
"No, 'm" to the observations which she offered from the fullness of
her lack of experience of life. He sat straight and still. Behind his
fixed smile he was simultaneously longing to break into the musical
fiesta, and envying the dentist's ability to get married without
having to wait to grow up, and trying to follow what Mrs. Cowles was
saying.

She droned, while crocheting with high-minded industry a useless
piano-scarf, "Do you still go hunting, Carl?"

"Yessum. Quite a little rabbit-hunting. Oh, not very much."

(At the distant piano, across the shining acres of floor, the mystical
woman and a dentist had ceased singing, and were examining a fresh
sheet of music. The dentist coyly poked his finger at her coiffure,
and she slapped the finger, gurgling.)

"I hope you don't neglect your school work, though, Carl." Mrs. Cowles
held the scarf nearer the lamp and squinted at it, deliberately and
solemnly, through the eye-glasses that lorded it atop her severe nose.
A headachy scent of moth-balls was in the dull air. She forbiddingly
moved the shade of the lamp about a tenth of an inch. She removed some
non-existent dust from the wrought-iron standard. Her gestures said
that the lamp was decidedly more chic than the pink-shaded hanging
lamps, raised and lowered on squeaking chains, which characterized
most Joralemon living-rooms. She glanced at the red lambrequin over
the nearest window. The moth-ball smell grew more stupifying.

Carl felt stuffy in the top of his nose as he mumbled, "Oh, I work
pretty hard at chemistry, but, gee! I can't see much to all this
Latin."

"When you're a little _older_, Carl, you'll _learn_ that the things
you like now aren't necessarily the things that are _good_ for you. I
used to say to Gertrude--of course she is older than you, but she
hasn't been a young lady for so very long, even yet--and I used to say
to her, 'Gertrude, you will do exactly what I _tell_ you to, and not
what you _want_ to do, and we shall make--no--more--words--_about_
it!' And I think she _sees_ now that her mother was right about some
things! Dr. Doyle said to me, and of course you know, Carl, that he's
a very fine scholar--our pastor told me that the doctor reads French
better than _he_ does, and the doctor's told me some things about
modern French authors that I didn't know, and I used to read French
almost as well as English, when I was a girl, my teachers all told
me--and he says that he thinks that Gertrude has a very fine mind, and
he was _so_ glad that she hasn't been taken in by all this wicked,
hysterical way girls have to-day of thinking they know more than their
mothers."

"Yes, she is--Gertie is----I think she's got a very fine mind," Carl
commented.

(From the other end of the room Gertie could be overheard confiding to
the dentist in tones of hushed and delicious adult scandal, "They say
that when she was in St. Paul she----")

"So," Mrs. Cowles serenely sniffed on, while the bridge of Carl's nose
felt broader and broader, stretching wider and wider, as that stuffy
feeling increased and the intensive heat stung his eyelids, "you see
you mustn't think because you'd rather play around with the boys than
study Latin, Carl, that it's the fault of your Latin-teacher." She
nodded at him with a condescending smile that was infinitely
insulting.

He knew it and resented it, but he did not resent it actively, for he
was busy marveling, "How the dickens is it I never heard Doc Doyle was
stuck on Gertie? Everybody thought he was going with Bertha. Dang him,
anyway! The way he snickers, you'd think she was his best girl."

Mrs. Cowles was loftily pursuing her pillared way: "Latin was _known_
to be the best study for developing the mind a long, long time----"
And her clicking crochet-needles impishly echoed, "A long, _long_
time," and the odor of moth-balls got down into Carl's throat, while
in the golden Olympian atmosphere at the other end of the room Gertie
coyly pretended to slap the dentist's hand with a series of tittering
taps. "A long, _long_ time before either you or I were born, Carl, and
we can't very well set ourselves up to be wiser than the wisest men
that ever lived, now _can_ we?" Again the patronizing smile. "That
would scarcely----"

Carl resolved: "This 's got to stop. I got to do something." He felt
her monologue as a blank steel wall which he could not pierce. Aloud:
"Yes, that's so, I guess. Say, that's a fine dress Gertie 's got on
to-night, ain't it.... Say, I been learning to play crokinole at Ben
Rusk's. You got a board, haven't you? Would you like to play? Does the
doctor play?"

"Indeed, I haven't the slightest idea, but I have very little doubt
that he does--he plays tennis so beautifully. He is going to teach
Gertrude, in the spring." She stopped, and again held the scarf up to
the light. "I am so glad that my girly, that was so naughty once and
ran away with you--I don't think I shall _ever_ get over the awful
fright I had that night!--I am so glad that, now she is growing up,
clever people like Dr. Doyle appreciate her so much, so very much."

She dropped her crochet to her lap and stared squarely at Carl. Her
warning that he would do exceedingly well to go home was more than
plain. He stared back, agitated but not surrendering. Deliberately,
almost suavely, with ten years of experience added to the sixteen
years that he had brought into the room, he said:

"I'll see if they'd like to play." He sauntered to the other end of
the room, abashed before the mystic woman, and ventured: "I saw Ray,
to-day.... I got to be going, pretty quick, but I was wondering if you
two felt like playing some crokinole?"

Gertie said, slowly: "I'd like to, Carl, but----Unless you'd like to
play, doctor?"

"Why of course it's _comme il faut_ to play, Miss Cowles, but I was
just hoping to have the pleasure of hearing you make some more of your
delectable music," bowed the dentist, and Gertie bowed back; and their
smiles joined in a glittery bridge of social aplomb.

"Oh yes," from Carl, "that--yes, do----But you hadn't ought to play
too much if you haven't been well."

"Oh, Carl!" shrieked Gertie. "'Ought not to,' not 'hadn't ought to'!"

"'Ought not to,'" repeated Mrs. Cowles, icily, while the dentist waved
his hand in an amused manner and contributed:

"Ought not to say 'hadn't ought to,' as my preceptor used to tell
me.... I'd like to hear you sing Longfellow's 'Psalm of Life,' Miss
Cowles."

"Don't you think Longfellow's a bum poet?" growled Carl. "Bone
Stillman says Longfellow's the grind-organ of poetry. Like this: 'Life
is re-al, life is ear-nest, tum te diddle dydle dum!'"

"Carl," ordered Mrs. Cowles, "you will please to never mention that
Stillman person in my house!"

"Oh, Carl!" rebuked Gertie. She rose from the piano-stool. Her essence
of virginal femininity, its pure and cloistered and white-camisoled
odor, bespelled Carl to fainting timidity. And while he was thus
defenseless the dentist thrust:

"Why, they tell me Stillman doesn't even believe the Bible!"

Carl was not to retrieve his credit with Gertie, but he couldn't
betray Bone Stillman. Hastily: "Yes, maybe, that way----Oh, say,
doctor, Pete Jordan was telling me" (liar!) "that you were one of the
best tennis-players at the U."

Gertie sat down again.

The dentist coyly fluffed his hair and deprecated, "Oh no, I wouldn't
say that!"

Carl had won. Instantly they three became a country club of urban
aristocrats, who laughed at the poor rustics of Joralemon for knowing
nothing of golf and polo. Carl was winning their tolerance--though not
their close attention--by relating certain interesting facts from the
inside pages of the local paper as to how far the tennis-rackets sold
in one year would extend, if laid end to end, when he saw Gertie and
her mother glance at the hall. Gertie giggled. Mrs. Cowles frowned. He
followed their glance.

Clumping through the hall was his second cousin, Lena, the Cowleses'
"hired girl." Lena nodded and said, "Hallo, Carl!"

Gertie and the dentist raised their eyebrows at each other.

Carl talked for two minutes about something, he did not know what, and
took his leave. In the intensity of his effort to be resentfully
dignified he stumbled over the hall hat-rack. He heard Gertie yelp
with laughter.

"I _got_ to go to college--be worthy of her!" he groaned, all the way
home. "And I can't afford to go to the U. of M. I'd like to be free,
like Bone says, but I've got to go to Plato."



CHAPTER VI


Plato College, Minnesota, is as earnest and undistinguished, as
provincially dull and pathetically human, as a spinster missionary.
Its two hundred or two hundred and fifty students come from the
furrows, asking for spiritual bread, and are given a Greek root.
Red-brick buildings, designed by the architect of county jails, are
grouped about that high, bare, cupola-crowned gray-stone barracks, the
Academic Building, like red and faded blossoms about a tombstone. In
the air is the scent of crab-apples and meadowy prairies, for a time,
but soon settles down a winter bitter as the learning of the Rev. S.
Alcott Wood, D.D., the president. The town and college of Plato
disturb the expanse of prairie scarce more than a group of haystacks.
In winter the walks blur into the general whiteness, and the trees
shrink to chilly skeletons, and the college is like five blocks set on
a frozen bed-sheet--no shelter for the warm and timid soul, yet no
windy peak for the bold. The snow wipes out all the summer-time
individuality of place, and the halls are lonelier at dusk than the
prairie itself--far lonelier than the yellow-lighted jerry-built shops
in the town. The students never lose, for good or bad, their touch
with the fields. From droning class-rooms the victims of education see
the rippling wheat in summer; and in winter the impenetrable wall of
sky. Footsteps and quick laughter of men and girls, furtively flirting
along the brick walls under the beautiful maples, do make Plato dear
to remember. They do not make it brilliant. They do not explain the
advantages of leaving the farm for another farm.

To the freshman, Carl Ericson, descending from the dusty smoking-car
of the M. & D., in company with tumultuous youths in pin-head caps and
enormous sweaters, the town of Plato was metropolitan. As he walked
humbly up Main Street and beheld two four-story buildings and a marble
bank and an interurban trolley-car, he had, at last, an idea of what
Minneapolis and Chicago must be. Two men in sweaters adorned with a
large "P," athletes, generals, heroes, walked the streets in the
flesh, and he saw--it really was there, for him!--the "College Book
Store," whose windows were filled with leather-backed treatises on
Greek, logic, and trigonometry; and, finally, he was gaping through a
sandstone gateway at four buildings, each of them nearly as big as the
Joralemon High School, surrounding a vast stone castle.

He entered the campus. He passed an old man with white side-whiskers
and a cord on his gold-rimmed eye-glasses; an aged old man who might
easily be a professor. A blithe student with "Y. M. C. A. Receptn.
Com." large on his hat-band, rushed up to Carl, shook his hand busily,
and inquired:

"Freshman, old man? Got your room yet? There's a list of
rooming-houses over at the Y. M. Come on, I'll show you the way."

He was received in Academe, in Arcadia, in Elysium; in fact, in Plato
College.

He was directed to a large but decomposing house conducted by the
widow of a college janitor, and advised to take a room at $1.75 a week
for his share of the rent. That implied taking with the room a large,
solemn room-mate, fresh from teaching country school, a heavy,
slow-spoken, serious man of thirty-one, named Albert Smith, registered
as A. Smith, and usually known as "Plain Smith." Plain Smith sat
studying in his cotton socks, and never emptied the wash-basin. He
remarked, during the first hour of their discourse in the groves of
Academe: "I hope you ain't going to bother me by singing and
skylarking around. I'm here to work, bub." Smith then returned to the
large books which he was diligently scanning that he might find
wisdom, while Carl sniffed at the brown-blotched wall-paper, the faded
grass matting, the shallow, standing wardrobe.... He liked the house,
however. It had a real bath-room! He could, for the first time in his
life, splash in a tub. Perhaps it would not be regarded as modern
to-day; perhaps effete souls would disdain its honest tin tub, smeared
with a paint that peeled instantly; but it was elegance and the
Hesperides compared with the sponge and two lard-pails of hot water
from the Ericson kitchen reservoir, which had for years been his
conception of luxurious means of bathing.

Also, there were choicer spirits in the house. One man, who pressed
clothes for a living and carried a large line of cigarettes in his
room, was second vice-president of the sophomore class. As smoking was
dourly forbidden to all Platonians, the sophomore's room was a refuge.
The sophomore encouraged Carl in his natural talent for cheerful
noises, while Plain Smith objected even to singing while one dressed.

Like four of his classmates, Carl became a waiter at Mrs. Henkel's
student boarding-house, for his board and two dollars a week. The two
dollars constituted his pin-money--a really considerable sum for
Plato, where the young men were pure and smoked not, neither did they
drink; where evening clothes were snobbish and sweaters thought rather
well of; where the only theatrical attractions were week-stand
melodramas playing such attractions as "Poor but True," or the Rev.
Sam J. Pitkins's celebrated lecture on "The Father of Lies," annually
delivered at the I.O.O.F. Hall.

Carl's father assured him in every letter that he was extravagant. He
ran through the two dollars in practically no time at all. He was a
member in good and regular standing of the informal club that hung
about the Corner Drug Store, to drink coffee soda and discuss
athletics and stare at the passing girls. He loved to set off his
clear skin and shining pale hair with linen collars, though soft
roll-collar shirts were in vogue. And he was ready for any wild
expedition, though it should cost fifty or sixty cents. With the
sophomore second vice-president and John Terry of the freshman class
(usually known as "the Turk") he often tramped to the large
neighboring town of Jamaica Mills to play pool, smoke Turkish
cigarettes, and drink beer. They always chorused Plato songs, in
long-drawn close harmony. Once they had imported English ale, out of
bottles, and carried the bottles back to decorate and distinguish
their rooms.

Carl's work at the boarding-house introduced him to pretty girl
students, and cost him no social discredit whatever. The little
college had the virtue of genuine democracy so completely that it
never prided itself on being democratic. Mrs. Henkel, proprietor of
the boarding-house, occasionally grew sarcastic to her student waiters
as she stooped, red-faced and loosened of hair, over the range; she
did suggest that they "kindly wash up a few of the dishes now and then
before they went gallivantin' off." But songs arose from the freshmen
washing and wiping dishes; they chucklingly rehashed jokes; they
discussed the value of the "classical course" _versus_ the "scientific
course." While they waited on table they shared the laughter and
arguments that ran from student to student through Mrs. Henkel's
dining-room--a sunny room bedecked with a canary, a pussy-cat, a
gilded rope portière, a comfortable rocker with a Plato cushion, a
Garland stove with nickel ornaments, two geraniums, and an oak-framed
photograph of the champion Plato football team of 1899.

Carl was readily accepted by the men and girls who gathered about the
piano in the evening. His graceful-seeming body, his puppyish
awkwardness, his quietly belligerent dignity, his eternal quest of
new things, won him respect; though he was too boyish to rouse
admiration, except in the breast of fat, pretty, cheerful,
fuzzy-haired, candy-eating Mae Thurston. Mae so influenced Carl that
he learned to jest casually; and he practised a new dance, called the
"Boston," which Mae had brought from Minneapolis, though as a rival to
the waltz and two-step the new dance was ridiculed by every one. He
mastered all the _savoir faire_ of the boarding-house. But he was
always hurrying away from it to practise football, to prowl about the
Plato power-house, to skim through magazines in the Y. M. C. A.
reading-room, even to study.

Beyond the dish-washing and furnace-tending set he had no probable
social future, though everybody knew everybody at Plato. Those
immaculate upper-classmen, Murray Cowles and Howard Griffin, never
invited him to their room (in a house on Elm Street with a screened
porch and piano sounds). He missed Ben Rusk, who had gone to Oberlin
College, and Joe Jordan, who had gone to work for the Joralemon
Specialty Manufacturing Company.

Life at Plato was suspicious, prejudiced, provincial, as it affected
the ambitious students; and for the weaker brethren it was
philandering and vague. The class work was largely pure rot--arbitrary
mathematics, antiquated botany, hesitating German, and a veritable
military drill in the conjunction of Greek verbs conducted by a man
with a non-com. soul, a pompous, sandy-whiskered manikin with cold
eyes and a perpetual cold in the nose, who had inflicted upon a
patient world the four-millionth commentary on Xenophon. Few of the
students realized the futility of it all; certainly not Carl, who
slept well and believed in football.

The life habit justifies itself. One comes to take anything as a
matter of course; to take one's neighbors seriously, whether one lives
in Plato or Persia, in Mrs. Henkel's kitchen or a fo'c's'le. The
Platonians raced toward their various goals of high-school teaching,
or law, or marriage, or permanently escaping their parents; they made
love, and were lazy, and ate, and swore off bad habits, and had
religious emotions, all quite naturally; they were not much bored,
rarely exhilarated, always ready to gossip about their acquaintances;
precisely like a duke or a delicatessen-keeper. They played out their
game. But it was so tiny a game, so played to the exclusion of all
other games, that it tended to dwarf its victims--and the restless
children, such as Carl, instinctively resent this dwarfing. They seek
to associate themselves with other rebels. Carl's unconscious rebel
band was the group of rowdyish freshmen who called themselves "the
Gang," and loafed about the room of their unofficial captain, John
Terry, nicknamed "the Turk," a swarthy, large-featured youth with a
loud laugh, a habit of slapping people upon the shoulder, an ingenious
mind for deviltry, and considerable promise as a football end.

Most small local colleges, and many good ones, have their "gangs" of
boys, who presumably become honorable men and fathers, yet who in
college days regard it as heroic to sneak out and break things, and as
humorous to lead countryside girls astray in sordid amours. The more
cloistered the seat of learning, the more vicious are the active boys,
to keep up with the swiftness of life forces. The Turk's gang painted
the statues of the Memorial Arch; they stole signs; they were the
creators of noises unexpected and intolerable, during small, quiet
hours of moonlight.

As the silkworm draws its exquisite stuff from dowdy leaves, so youth
finds beauty and mystery in stupid days. Carl went out unreservedly to
practise with the football squad; he had a joy of martyrdom in
tackling the dummy and peeling his nose on the frozen ground. He knew
a sacred aspiration when Mr. Bjorken, the coach, a former University
of Minnesota star, told him that he might actually "make" the team in
a year or two; that he had twice as much chance as Ray Cowles,
who--while Carl was thinking only of helping the scrub team to
win--was too engrossed in his own dignity as a high-school notable to
get into the scrimmage.

At the games, among the Gang on the bleachers, Carl went mad with
fervor. He kept shooting to his feet, and believed that he was saving
his country every time he yelled in obedience to the St. Vitus
gestures of the cheer-leader, or sang "On the Goal-line of Plato" to
the tune of "On the Sidewalks of New York." Tears of a real patriotism
came when, at the critical moment of a losing game against the
Minnesota Military Institute, with sunset forlorn behind bare trees,
the veteran cheer-leader flung the hoarse Plato rooters into another
defiant yell. It was the never-say-die of men who rose, with clenched
hands and arms outstretched, to the despairing need of their college,
and then--Lord! They hurled up to their feet in frenzy as Pete Madlund
got away with the ball for a long run and victory.... The next week,
when the University of Keokuk whipped them, 40 to 10, Carl stood
weeping and cheering the defeated Plato team till his throat burned.

He loved the laughter of the Turk, Mae Thurston's welcome, experiments
in the physics laboratory. And he was sure that he was progressing
toward the state of grace in which he might aspire to marry Gertie
Cowles.

He did not think of her every day, but she was always somewhere in his
thoughts, and the heroines of magazine stories recalled some of her
virtues to his mind, invariably. The dentist who had loved her had
moved away. She was bored. She occasionally wrote to Carl. But she was
still superior--tried to "influence him for good" and advised him to
"cultivate nice people."

He was convinced that he was going to become a lawyer, for her sake,
but he knew that some day he would be tempted by the desire to become
a civil or a mechanical engineer.

       *       *       *       *       *

A January thaw. Carl was tramping miles out into the hilly country
north of Plato. He hadn't been able to persuade any of the Gang to
leave their smoky loafing-place in the Turk's room, but his own lungs
demanded the open. With his heavy boots swashing through icy pools,
calling to an imaginary dog and victoriously running Olympic races
before millions of spectators, he defied the chill of the day and
reached Hiawatha Mound, a hill eight miles north of Plato.

Toward the top a man was to be seen crouched in a pebbly, sunny
arroyo, peering across the bleak prairie, a lone watcher. Ascending,
Carl saw that it was Eugene Field Linderbeck, a Plato freshman. That
amused him. He grinningly planned a conversation. Every one said that
"Genie Linderbeck was queer." A precocious boy of fifteen, yet the
head of his class in scholarship; reported to be interested in Greek
books quite outside of the course, fond of drinking tea, and devoid of
merit in the three manly arts--athletics, flirting, and breaking rules
by smoking. Genie was small, anemic, and too well dressed. He
stuttered slightly and was always peering doubtfully at you with large
and childish eyes that were made more eerie by his pale, bulbous
forehead and the penthouse of tangled mouse-brown hair over it.... The
Gang often stopped him on the campus to ask mock-polite questions
about his ambition, which was to be a teacher of English at Harvard or
Yale. Not very consistently, but without ever wearying of the jest,
they shadowed him to find out if he did not write poetry; and while no
one had actually caught him, he was still suspect.

Genie said nothing when Carl called, "H'lo, son!" and sat on a
neighboring rock.

"What's trouble, Genie? You look worried."

"Why don't any of you fellows like me?"

Carl felt like a bug inspected by a German professor. "W-why, how
d'you mean, Genie?"

"None of you take me seriously. You simply let me hang around. And you
think I'm a grind. I'm not. I like to read, that's all. Perhaps you
think I shouldn't like to go out for athletics if I could! I wish I
could run the way you can, Ericson. Darn it! I was happy out here by
myself on the Mound, where every prospect pleases, and--'n' now here I
am again, envying you."

"Why, son, I--I guess--I guess we admire you a whole lot more than we
let on to. Cheer up, old man! When you're valedictorian and on the
debating team and wallop Hamlin you'll laugh at the Gang, and we'll be
proud to write home we know you." Carl was hating himself for ever
having teased Genie Linderbeck. "You've helped me a thundering lot
whenever I've asked you about that blame Greek syntax. I guess we're
jealous of you. You--uh--you don't want to _let_ 'em kid you----"

Carl was embarrassed before Genie's steady, youthful, trusting gaze.
He stooped for a handful of pebbles, with which he pelted the
landscape, maundering, "Say, why don't you come around to the Turk's
room and get better acquainted with the Gang?"

"When shall I come?"

"When? Oh, why, thunder!--you know, Genie--just drop in any time."

"I'll be glad to."

Carl was perspiring at the thought of what the Gang would do to him
when they discovered that he had invited Genie. But he was game. "Come
up to my room whenever you can, and help me with my boning," he added.
"You mustn't ever get the idea that we're conferring any blooming
favor by having you around. It's you that help us. Our necks are
pretty well sandpapered, I'm afraid.... Come up to my room any
time.... I'll have to be hiking on if I'm going to get much of a walk.
Come over and see me to-night."

"I wish you'd come up to Mr. Frazer's with me some Sunday afternoon
for tea, Ericson."

Henry Frazer, M.A. (Yale), associate professor of English literature,
was a college mystery. He was a thin-haired young man, with a
consuming love of his work, which was the saving of souls by teaching
Lycidas and Comus. This was his first year out of graduate school, his
first year at Plato--and possibly his last. It was whispered about
that he believed in socialism, and the president, the Rev. Dr. S.
Alcott Wood, had no patience with such silly fads.

Carl marveled, "Do you go to Frazer's?"

"Why, yes!"

"Thought everybody was down on him. They say he's an anarchist, and I
know he gives fierce assignments in English lit.; that's what all the
fellows in his classes say."

"All the fools are down on him. That's why I go to his house."

"Don't the fellows--uh--kind of----"

"Yes," piped Genie in his most childish tone of anger, his tendency to
stammer betraying him, "they k-kid me for liking Frazer. He's--he's
the only t-teacher here that isn't p-p-p----"

"Spit!"

"----provincial!"

"What d'you mean by 'provincial'?"

"Narrow. Villagey. Do you know what Bernard Shaw says----?"

"Never read a word of him, my son. And let me tell you that my idea of
no kind of conversation is to have a guy spring 'Have you read?' on me
every few seconds, and me coming back with: 'No, I haven't. Ain't it
interesting!' If that's the brand of converse at Prof Frazer's you can
count me out."

Genie laughed. "Think how much more novelty you get out of roasting me
like that than telling Terry he's got 'bats in his belfry' ten or
twelve times a day."

"All right, my son; you win. Maybe I'll go to Frazer's with you.
Sometime."

The Sunday following Carl went to tea at Professor Henry Frazer's.

The house was Platonian without, plain and dumpy, with gingerbread
Gothic on the porch, blistered paint, and the general lines of a
prairie barn, but the living-room was more nearly beautiful than any
room Carl had seen. In accordance with the ideal of that era it had
Mission furniture with large leather cushions, brown wood-work, and
tan oatmeal paper scattered with German color prints, instead of the
patent rockers and carbon prints of Roman monuments which adorned the
houses of the other professors. While waiting with Genie Linderbeck
for the Frazers to come down, Carl found in a rack on the oak table
such books as he had never seen: exquisite books from England, bound
in terra-cotta and olive-green cloth with intricate gold designs,
heavy-looking, but astonishingly light to the hand; books about Celtic
legends and Provençal jongleurs, and Japanese prints and other matters
of which he had never heard; so different from the stained text-books
and the shallow novels by brisk ladies which had constituted his
experiences of literature that he suddenly believed in culture.

Professor Frazer appeared, walking into the room _after_ his fragile
wife and gracious sister-in-law, and Carl drank tea (with lemon
instead of milk in it!) and listened to bewildering talk and to a few
stanzas, heroic or hauntingly musical, by a new poet, W. B. Yeats, an
Irishman associated with a thing called the Gaelic Movement. Professor
Frazer had a funny, easy friendliness; his sister-in-law, a Diana in
brown, respectfully asked Carl about the practicability of motor-cars,
and all of them, including two newly come "high-brow" seniors,
listened with nodding interest while Carl bashfully analyzed each of
the nine cars owned in Plato and Jamaica Mills. At dusk the Diana in
brown played MacDowell, and the light of the silken-shaded lamp was
on a print of a fairy Swiss village.

That evening Carl wrestled with the Turk for one hour,
catch-as-catch-can, on the Turk's bed and under it and nearly out of
the window, to prove the value of Professor Frazer and culture. Next
morning Carl and the Turk enrolled in Frazer's optional course in
modern poetry, a desultory series of lectures which did not attempt
Tennyson and Browning. So Carl discovered Shelley and Keats and Walt
Whitman, Swinburne and Rossetti and Morris. He had to read by crawling
from word to word as though they were ice-cakes in a cataract of
emotion. The allusiveness was agonizing. But he pulled off his shoes,
rested his feet on the foot-board of his bed, drummed with a pair of
scissors on his knee, and persisted in his violent pursuit of the
beautiful. Meanwhile his room-mate, Plain Smith, flapped the pages of
a Latin lexicon or took a little recreation by reading the Rev. Mr.
Todd's _Students' Manual_, that gem of the alarm-clock and
water-bucket epoch in American colleges.

Carl never understood Genie Linderbeck's conviction that words are
living things that dream and sing and battle. But he did learn that
there was speech transcending the barking of the Gang.

In the spring of his freshman year Carl gave up waiting on table and
drove a motor-car for a town banker. He learned every screw and spring
in the car. He also made Genie go out with him for track athletics.
Carl won his place on the college team as a half-miler, and viciously
assaulted two freshmen and a junior for laughing at Genie's legs,
which stuck out of his large running-pants like straws out of a
lemonade-glass.

In the great meet with Hamlin University, though Plato lost most of
the events, Carl won the half-mile race. He was elected to the
exclusive fraternity of Ray Cowles and Howard Griffin, Omega Chi
Delta, just before Commencement. That excited him less than the fact
that the Turk and he were to spend the summer up north, in the
hard-wheat country, stringing wire for the telephone company with a
gang of Minneapolis wiremen.

Oh yes. And he would see Gertie in Joralemon.... She had written to
him with so much enthusiasm when he had won the half-mile.



CHAPTER VII


He saw Gertie two hours after he had reached Joralemon for a week's
stay before going north. They sat in rockers on the grass beside her
stoop. They were embarrassed, and rocked profusely and chattily. Mrs.
Cowles was surprised and not much pleased to find him, but Gertie
murmured that she had been lonely, and Carl felt that he must be nobly
patient under Mrs. Cowles's slight. He got so far as to sigh, "O
Gertie!" but grew frightened, as though he were binding himself for
life. He wished that Gertie were not wearing so many combs stuck all
over her pompadoured hair. He noted that his rocker creaked at the
joints, and thought out a method of strengthening it by braces. She
bubbled that he was going to be the Big Man in his class. He said,
"Aw, rats!" and felt that his collar was too tight.... He went home.
His father remarked that Carl was late for supper, that he had been
extravagant in Plato, and that he was unlikely to make money out of
"all this runnin' races." But his mother stroked his hair and called
him her big boy.... He tramped out to Bone Stillman's shack, impatient
for the hand-clasp of the pioneer, and grew eloquent, for the first
time since his home-coming, as he described Professor Frazer and the
delights of poesy. A busy week Carl had in Joralemon. Adelaide Benner
gave a porch-supper for him. They sat under the trees, laughing, while
in the dimly lighted street bicycles whirred, and box-elders he had
always known whispered that this guest of honor was Carl Ericson, come
home a hero.

The cycling craze still existed in Joralemon. Carl rented a wheel for
a week from the Blue Front Hardware Store. Once he rode with a party
of boys and girls to Tamarack Lake. Once he rode to Wakamin with Ben
Rusk, home from Oberlin College. The ride was not entirely enjoyable,
because Oberlin had nearly two thousand students and Ben was amusedly
superior about Plato. They did, however, enjoy the stylishness of
buying bottles of strawberry pop at Wakamin.

Twice Carl rode to Tamarack Lake with Gertie. They sat on the shore,
and while he shied flat skipping-stones across the water and flapped
his old cap at the hovering horse-flies he babbled of the Turk's
"stunts," and the banker's car, and the misty hinterlands of Professor
Frazer's lectures. Gertie appeared interested, and smiled at regular
intervals, but so soon as Carl fumbled at one of Frazer's abstract
theories she interrupted him with highly concrete Joralemon gossip....
He suspected that she had not kept up with the times. True, she
referred to New York, but as the reference was one she had been using
these two years he still identified her with Joralemon.... He did not
even hold her hand, though he wondered if it might not be possible;
her hand lay so listlessly by her skirt, on the sand.... They rode
back in twilight of early June. Carl was cheerful as their wheels
crunched the dirt roads in a long, crisp hum. The stilly rhythm of
frogs drowned the clank of their pedals, and the sky was vast and pale
and wistful.

Gertie, however, seemed less cheerful.

On the last evening of his stay in Joralemon Gertie gave him a
hay-ride party. They sang "Seeing Nelly Home," and "Merrily We Roll
Along," and "Suwanee River," and "My Old Kentucky Home," and "My
Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean," and "In the Good Old Summertime," under a
delicate new moon in a sky of apple-green. Carl pressed Gertie's hand;
she returned the pressure so quickly that he was embarrassed. He
withdrew his hand as quickly as possible, ostensibly to help in the
unpacking of the basket of ginger-ale and chicken sandwiches and three
cakes (white-frosted, chocolate layer, and banana cake).

The same group said good-by to Carl at the M. & D. station. As the
train started, Carl saw Gertie turn away disconsolately, her shoulders
so drooping that her blouse was baggy in the back. He mourned that he
had not been more tender with her that week. He pictured himself
kissing Gertie on the shore of Tamarack Lake, enfolded by afternoon
and the mystery of sex and a protecting reverence for Gertie's
loneliness. He wanted to go back--back for one more day, one more ride
with Gertie. But he picked up a mechanics magazine, glanced at an
article on gliders, read in the first paragraph a prophecy about
aviation, slid down in his seat with his head bent over the
magazine--and the idyl of Gertie and afternoon was gone.

He was reading the article on gliders in June, 1905, so early in the
history of air conquest that its suggestions were miraculous to him;
for it was three years before Wilbur Wright was to startle the world
by his flights at Le Mans; four years before Blériot was to cross the
Channel--though, indeed, it was a year and a half after the Wrights'
first secret ascent in a motor-driven aeroplane at Kittyhawk, and
fourteen years after Lilienthal had begun that epochal series of
glider-flights which was followed by the experiments of Pilcher and
Chanute, Langley and Montgomery.

The article declared that if gasoline or alcohol engines could be made
light enough we should all be aviating to the office in ten years;
that now was the time for youngsters to practise gliding, as pioneers
of the new age. Carl "guessed" that flying would be even better than
automobiling. He made designs for three revolutionary new aeroplanes,
drawing on the margins of the magazine with a tooth-mark-pitted pencil
stub.

Gertie was miles back, concealed behind piles of triplanes and
helicopters and following-surface monoplanes which the wizard
inventor, C. Ericson, was creating and ruthlessly destroying.... A
small boy was squalling in the seat opposite, and Carl took him from
his tired mother and lured him into a game of tit-tat-toe.

He joined the Turk and the wire-stringers at a prairie
hamlet--straggly rows of unpainted frame shanties, the stores with
tin-corniced false fronts that pretended to be two stories high. There
were pig-pens in the dooryards, and the single church had a square,
low, white steeple like the paper cap which Labor wears in the
posters. Farm-wagons were hitched before a gloomy saloon. Carl was
exceeding glum. But the Turk introduced him to a University of
Minnesota Pharmacy School student who was with the crew during
vacation, and the three went tramping across breezy, flowered
prairies. So began for Carl a galloping summer.

The crew strung telephone wire from pole to pole all day, playing the
jokes of hardy men, and on Sunday loafed in haystacks, recalling
experiences from Winnipeg to El Paso. Carl resolved to come back to
this life of the open, with Gertie, after graduation. He would buy a
ranch "on time." Or the Turk and Carl would go exploring in Alaska or
the Orient. "Law?" he would ask himself in monologues, "law? Me in a
stuffy office? Not a chance!"

The crew stayed for four weeks in a boom town of nine thousand,
installing a complete telephone system. South-east of the town lay
rolling hills. As Carl talked with the Turk and the Pharmacy School
man on a hilltop, the first evening of their arrival, he told them the
scientific magazine's prophecies about aviation, and noted that these
hills were of the sort Lilienthal would probably have chosen for his
glider-flights.

"Say! by the great Jim Hill, let's make us a glider!" he exulted,
sitting up, his eyelids flipping rapidly.

"Sure!" said the Pharmacy man. "How would you make one?"

"Why--uh--I guess you could make a frame out of willow--have to; the
willows along the creeks are the only kind of trees near here. You'd
cover it with varnished cotton--that's what Lilienthal did, anyway.
But darned if I know how you'd make the planes curved--cambered--like
he did. You got to have it that way. I suppose you'd use curved stays.
Like a quarter barrel-hoop.... I guess it would be better to try to
make a Chanute glider--just a plain pair of sup'rimposed planes,
instead of one all combobulated like a bat's wings, like Lilienthal's
glider was.... Or we could try some experiments with paper
models----Oh no! Thunder! Let's make a glider."

They did.

They studied with aching heads the dry-looking tables of lift and
resistance for which Carl telegraphed to Chicago. Stripped to their
undershirts, they worked all through the hot prairie evenings in the
oil-smelling, greasy engine-room of the local power-house, in front of
the dynamos, which kept evilly throwing out green sparks and rumbling
the mystic syllable "Om-m-m-m," to greet their modern magic.

They hunted for three-quarter-inch willow rods, but discarded them for
seasoned ash from the lumber-yard. They coated cotton with thin
varnish. They stopped to dispute furiously over angles of incidence,
bellowing, "Well, look here then, you mutton-head; I'll draw it for
you."

On their last Sunday in the town they assembled the glider,
single-surfaced, like a monoplane, twenty-two feet in span, with a
tail, and with a double bar beneath the plane, by which the pilot was
to hang, his hands holding cords attached to the entering edge of the
plane, balancing the glider by movements of his body.

At dawn on Monday they loaded the glider upon a wagon and galloped
with it out to a forty-foot hill. They stared down the easy slope,
which grew in steepness and length every second, and thought about
Lilienthal's death.

"W-w-well," shivered the Turk, "who tries it first?"

All three pretended to be adjusting the lashings, waiting for one
another, till Carl snarled, "Oh, all _right_! I'll do it if I got to."

"Course it breaks my heart to see you swipe the honor," the Turk said,
"but I'm unselfish. I'll let you do it. Brrrr! It's as bad as the
first jump into the swimming-hole in spring."

Carl was smiling at the comparison as they lifted the glider, with him
holding the bars beneath. The plane was instantly buoyed up like a
cork on water as the fifteen-mile head-wind poured under it. He
stopped smiling. This was a dangerous living thing he was going to
guide. It jerked at him as he slipped his arms over the suspended
bars. He wanted to stop and think this all over. "Get it done!" he
snapped at himself, and began to run down-hill, against the wind.

The wind lifted the plane again. With a shock Carl knew that his feet
had left the ground. He was actually flying! He kicked wildly in air.
All his body strained to get balance in the air, to control itself, to
keep from falling, of which he now felt the world-old instinctive
horror.

The plane began to tip to one side, apparently irresistibly, like a
sheet of paper turning over in the wind. Carl was sick with fear for a
tenth of a second. Every cell in his body shrank before coming
disaster. He flung his legs in the direction opposite to the tipping
of the plane. With this counter-balancing weight, the glider righted.
It was running on an even keel, twenty-five feet above the sloping
ground, while Carl hung easily by the double bar beneath, like a
circus performer with a trapeze under each arm. He ventured to glance
down. The turf was flowing beneath him, a green and sunny blur. He
exulted. Flying!

The glider dipped forward. Carl leaned back, his arms wide-spread. A
gust struck the plane, head on. Overloaded at the back, it tilted
back, then soared up to thirty-five or forty feet. Slow-seeming,
inevitable, the whole structure turned vertically upward.

Carl dangled there against a flimsy sheet of wood and cotton, which
for part of a second stuck straight up against the wind, like a paper
on a screen-door.

The plane turned turtle, slithered sidewise through the air, and
dropped, horizontal now, but upside down, Carl on top.

Thirty-five, forty feet down.

"I'm up against it," was his only thought while he was falling.

The left tip of the plane smashed against the ground, crashing,
horribly jarring. But it broke the fall. Carl shot forward and landed
on his shoulder.

He got up, rubbing his shoulder, wondering at the suspended life in
the faces of the other two as they ran down-hill toward him.

"Jiminy," he said. "Glad the glider broke the fall. Wish we had time
to make a new glider, with wing-warp. Say, we'll be late on the job.
Better beat it P. D. Q."

The others stood gaping.



CHAPTER VIII


A pile of shoes and nose-guards and bicycle-pumps and broken
hockey-sticks; a wall covered with such stolen signs as "East College
Avenue," and "Pants Presser Ladys Garments Carefully Done," and "Dr.
Sloats Liniment for Young and Old"; a broken-backed couch with a
red-and-green afghan of mangy tassels; an ink-spattered wooden table,
burnt in small black spots along the edges; a plaster bust of Martha
Washington with a mustache added in ink; a few books; an inundation of
sweaters and old hats; and a large, expensive mouth-organ--such were a
few of the interesting characteristics of the room which Carl and the
Turk were occupying as room-mates for sophomore year at Plato.

Most objectionable sounds came from the room constantly: the Gang's
songs, suggestive laughter, imitations of cats and fowls and
fog-horns. These noises were less ingenious, however, than the devices
of the Gang for getting rid of tobacco-smoke, such as blowing the
smoke up the stove.

Carl was happy. In this room he encouraged stammering Genie Linderbeck
to become adaptable. Here he scribbled to Gertie and Ben Rusk little
notes decorated with badly drawn caricatures of himself loafing. Here,
with the Turk, he talked out half the night, planning future glory in
engineering. Carl adored the Turk for his frankness, his lively
speech, his interest in mechanics--and in Carl.

Carl was still out for football, but he was rather light for a team
largely composed of one-hundred-and-eighty-pound Norwegians. He had a
chance, however. He drove the banker's car two or three evenings a
week and cared for the banker's lawn and furnace and cow. He still
boarded at Mrs. Henkel's, as did jolly Mae Thurston, whom he took for
surreptitious rides in the banker's car, after which he wrote
extra-long and pleasant letters to Gertie. It was becoming harder and
harder to write to Gertie, because he had, in freshman year, exhausted
all the things one can say about the weather without being profane.
When, in October, a new bank clerk stormed, meteor-like, the Joralemon
social horizon, and became devoted to Gertie, as faithfully reported
in letters from Joe Jordan, Carl was melancholy over the loss of a
comrade. But he strictly confined his mourning to leisure hours--and
with books, football, and chores for the banker, he was a busy young
man.... After about ten days it was a relief not to have to plan
letters to Gertie. The emotions that should have gone to her Carl
devoted to Professor Frazer's new course in modern drama.

This course was officially announced as a study of Bernard Shaw,
Ibsen, Strindberg, Pinero, Hauptmann, Sudermann, Maeterlinck,
D'Annunzio, and Rostand; but unofficially announced by Professor
Frazer as an attempt to follow the spirit of to-day wherever it should
be found in contemporary literature. Carl and the Turk were bewildered
but staunchly enthusiastic disciples of the course. They made every
member of the Gang enroll in it, and discouraged inattention in the
lecture-room by dexterous side-kicks.

Even to his ex-room-mate, Plain Smith, the grim and slovenly
school-teacher who had called him "bub" and discouraged his
confidences, Carl presented the attractions of Professor Frazer's
lectures when he met him on the campus. Smith looked quizzical and
"guessed" that plays and play-actin' were useless, if not actually
immoral.

"Yes, but this isn't just plays, my young friend," said Carl, with a
hauteur new but not exceedingly impressive to Plain Smith. "He takes
up all these new stunts, all this new philosophy and stuff they have
in London and Paris. There's something besides Shakespeare and the
Bible!" he added, intending to be spiteful. It may be stated that he
did not like Plain Smith.

"What new philosophy?"

"The spirit of brotherhood. I suppose you're too orthodox for that!"

"Oh no, sonny, not for that, not for that. And it ain't so _very_ new.
That's what Christ taught! No, sonny, I ain't so orthodox but what I'm
willing to have 'em show me anything that tries to advance
brotherhood. Not that I think it's very likely to be found in a lot of
Noo York plays. But I'll look in at one lesson, anyway," and Plain
Smith clumped away, humming "Greenland's Icy Mountains."

Professor Frazer's modern drama course began with Ibsen. The first
five lectures were almost conventional; they were an attempt to place
contemporary dramatists, with reflections on the box-office
standpoint. But his sixth lecture began rather unusually.

There was an audience of sixty-four in Lecture-room A--earnest girl
students bringing out note-books and spectacle-cases, frivolous girls
feeling their back hair, and the men settling down with a "Come, let's
get it over!" air, or glowing up worshipingly, like Eugene Field
Linderbeck, or determined not to miss anything, like Carl--the
captious college audience, credulous as to statements of fact and
heavily unresponsive to the spirit. Professor Frazer, younger than
half a dozen of the plow-trained undergraduates, thin of hair and
sensitive of face, sitting before them, with one hand in his pocket
and the other nervously tapping the small reading-table, spoke
quietly:

"I'm not going to be a lecturer to-day. I'm not going to analyze the
plays of Shaw which I assigned to you. You're supposed to have read
them yourselves. I am going to imagine that I am at tea in New Haven,
or down in New York, at dinner in the basement of the old Brevoort,
talking with a bunch of men who are trying to find out where the world
is going, and why and when and how, and asking who are the prophets
who are going to show it the way. We'd be getting excited over Shaw
and Wells. There's something really worth getting excited over.

"These men have perceived that this world is not a crazy-quilt of
unrelated races, but a collection of human beings completely related,
with all our interests--food and ambitions and the desire to
play--absolutely in common; so that if we would take thought all
together, and work together, as a football team does, we would start
making a perfect world.

"That's what socialism--of which you're beginning to hear so much, and
of which you're going to hear so much more--means. If you feel
genuinely impelled to vote the Republican ticket, that's not my
affair, of course. Indeed, the Socialist party of this country
constitutes only one branch of international socialism. But I do
demand of you that you try to think for yourselves, if you are going
to have the nerve to vote at all--think of it--to vote how this whole
nation is to be conducted! Doesn't that tremendous responsibility
demand that you do something more than inherit your way of voting?
that you really think, think hard, why you vote as you do?... Pardon
me for getting away from the subject proper--yet am I, actually? For
just what I have been saying is one of the messages of Shaw and Wells.

"The great vision of the glory that shall be, not in one sudden
millennium, but slowly advancing toward joys of life which we can no
more prevision than the aboriginal medicine-man could imagine the
X-ray! I wish that this were the time and the place to rhapsodize
about that vision, as William Morris has done, in _News from Nowhere_.
You tell me that the various brands of socialists differ so much in
their beliefs about this future that the bewildered layman can make
nothing at all of their theories. Very well. They differ so much
because there are so many different things we _can_ do with this human
race.... The defeat of death; the life period advancing to ten-score
years all crowded with happy activity. The solution of labor's
problem; increasing safety and decreasing hours of toil, and a way out
for the unhappy consumer who is ground between labor and capital. A
real democracy and the love of work that shall come when work is not
relegated to wage-slaves, but joyously shared in a community inclusive
of the living beings of all nations. France and Germany uniting
precisely as Saxony and Prussia and Bavaria have united. And, most of
all, a general realization that the fact that we cannot accomplish all
these things at once does not indicate that they are hopeless; an
understanding that one of the wonders of the future is the fact that
we shall _always_, in all ages, have improvements to look forward to.

"Fellow-students, object as strongly as you wish to the petty
narrowness and vituperation of certain street-corner ranters, but do
not be petty and narrow and vituperative in doing it!

"Now, to relate all this to the plays of Bernard Shaw. When he
says----"

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Frazer's utterances seem tamely conservative nowadays; but
this was in 1905, in a small, intensely religious college among the
furrows. Imagine a devout pastor when his son kicks the family Bible
and you have the mental state of half the students of Plato upon
hearing a defense of socialism. Carl, catching echoes of his own talks
with Bone Stillman in the lecture, exultantly glanced about, and found
the class staring at one another with frightened anxiety. He saw the
grim Plain Smith, not so much angry as ill. He saw two class clowns
snickering at the ecstasy in the eyes of Genie Linderbeck.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the corner drug-store, popularly known as "The Club," where all
the college bloods gather to drink lemon phosphate, an excited old
man, whose tieless collar was almost concealed by his tobacco-stained
beard, pushed back his black slouch-hat with the G. A. R. cord, and
banged his fist on the prescription-counter, shouting, half at the
clerk and half at the students matching pennies on the soda-counter,
"I've lived in Plato, man and boy, for forty-seven years--ever since
it wa'n't nothing but a frontier trading-post. I packed logs on my
back and I tramped fifty-three miles to get me a yoke of oxen. I
remember when the Indians went raiding during the war and the cavalry
rode here from St. Paul. And this town has always stood for decency
and law and order. But when things come to such a pass that this
fellow Frazer or any of the rest of these infidels from one of these
here Eastern colleges is allowed to stand up on his hind legs in a
college building and bray about anarchism and tell us to trample on
the old flag that we fought for, and none of these professors that
call themselves 'reverends' step in and stop him, then let me tell you
I'm about ready to pull up stakes and go out West, where there's
patriotism and decency still, and where they'd hang one of these
foreign anarchists to the nearest lamp-post, yes, sir, and this fellow
Frazer, too, if he encouraged them in their crank notions. Got no
right in the country, anyway. Better deport 'em if they ain't
satisfied with the way we run things. I won't stand for preaching
anarchism, and never knew any decent place that would, never since I
was a baby in Canada. Yes, sir, I mean it; I'm an old man, but I'd
pull up stakes and go plugging down the Santa Fe trail first, and I
mean it."

"Here's your Bog Bitters, Mr. Goff," said the clerk, hastily, as a
passer-by was drawn into the store by the old man's tirade.

Mr. Goff stalked out, muttering, and the college sports at the
soda-counter grinned at one another. But Gus Osberg, of the junior
class, remarked to Carl Ericson: "At that, though, there's a good
deal to what old Goff says. Bet a hat Prexy won't stand for Prof
Frazer's talking anarchy. Fellow in the class told me it was fierce
stuff he was talking. Reg'lar anarchy."

"Rats! It wasn't anything of the kind," protested Carl. "I was there
and I heard the whole thing. He just explained what this Bernard Shaw
that writes plays meant by socialism."

"Well, even so, don't you think it's kind of unnecessary to talk
publicly, right out in a college lecture-room, about socialism?"
inquired a senior who was high up in the debating society.

"Well, thunder----!" was all Carl said, as the whole group stared at
him. He felt ridiculous; he was afraid of seeming to be a "crank." He
escaped from the drug-store.

When he arrived at Mrs. Henkel's boarding-house for supper the next
evening he found the students passing from hand to hand a copy of the
town paper, the _Plato Weekly Times_, which bore on the front page
what the town regarded as a red-hot news story:

PLATO PROFESSOR

TALKS SEDITIOUSLY

     As we go to press we learn that rumors are flying about the
     campus that the "powers that be" are highly incensed by the
     remarks of a well-known member of the local faculty praising
     Socialism and other form of anarchy. It is said that one of
     the older members of the faculty will demand from the erring
     teacher an explanation of his remarks which are alleged to
     have taken the form of a defense of the English anarchist
     Bernhard Shaw. Those on the que vive are expecting
     sensational developments and campus talk is so extensively
     occupied with discussions of the affair that the important
     coming game with St. John's college is almost forgotten.

     While the TIMES has always supported Plato College as one of
     the chief glories in the proud crown of Minnesota learning,
     we can but illy stomach such news. It goes without saying
     that we cannot too strongly disapprove express our
     disapproval of such incendiary utterances and we shall
     fearlessly report the whole of this fair let the chips fall
     where they may.

"There, Mr. Ericson," said Mrs. Henkel, a plump, decent, disapproving
person, who had known too many generations of great Platonians to be
impressed by anything, "you see what the public thinks of your
Professor Frazer. I told you people wouldn't stomach such news, and I
wouldn't wonder if they strongly disapproved."

"This ain't anything but gossip," said Carl, feebly; but as he read
the account in the _Weekly Times_ he was sick and frightened, such was
his youthful awe of print. He wanted to beat the mossy-whiskered
editor of the _Times_, who always had white food-stains on his lapels.
When he raised his eyes the coquette Mae Thurston tried to cheer him:
"It 'll all come out in the wash, Eric; don't worry. These editors
have to have something to write about or they couldn't fill up the
paper."

He pressed her foot under the table. He was chatty, and helped to keep
the general conversation away from the Frazer affair; but he was
growing more and more angry, with a desire for effective action which
expressed itself within him only by, "I'll show 'em! Makes me so
_sore_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Everywhere they discussed and rediscussed Professor Frazer: in the
dressing-room of the gymnasium, where the football squad dressed in
the sweat-reeking air and shouted at one another, balancing each on
one leg before small lockers, and rubbing themselves with brown,
unclean Turkish towels; in the neat rooms of girl co-eds with their
banners and cushions and pink comforters and chafing-dishes of nut
fudge and photographic postal-cards showing the folks at home; in the
close, horse-smelling, lap-robe and whip scattered office of the town
livery-stable, where Mr. Goff droned with the editor of the _Times_.

Everywhere Carl heard the echoes, and resolved, "I've got to _do_
something!"



CHAPTER IX


The day of Professor Frazer's next lecture, a rain-sodden day at the
end of October, with the stubble-fields bleakly shelterless beyond the
campus. The rain splashed up from pools on the worn brick walks and
dripped from trees and whipped about buildings, soaking the legs and
leaving them itchingly wet and the feet sloshily uncomfortable. Carl
returned to his room at one; talked to the Turk, his feet thrust
against the side of their rusty stove. He wanted to keep three
o'clock, the hour of Frazer's lecture, from coming. "I feel as if I
was in for a fight and scared to death about it. Listen to that rain
outside. Gee! but the old dame keeps these windows dirty. I hope
Frazer will give it to them good and hard. I wish we could applaud
him. I do feel funny, like something tragic was going to happen."

"Oh, tie that dog outside," yawned the Turk, stanch adherent of Carl,
and therefore of Professor Frazer, but not imaginative. "Come on,
young Kerl; I'll play you a slick little piece on the mouth-organ.
Heh?"

"Oh, thunder! I'm too restless to listen to anything except a cannon."
Carl stumped to the window and pondered on the pool of water flooding
the graying grass stems in the shabby yard.

When it was time to start for Professor Frazer's lecture the Turk
blurted: "Why don't we stay away and forget about it? Get her off your
nerves. Let's go down to the bowling-alley and work up a sweat."

"Not a chance, Turk. He'll want all the supporters he's got. And you'd
hate to stay away as much as I would. I feel cheered up now; all
ready for the scrap. Yip! Come on!"

"All right, governor. I like the scrap, all right, but I don't want to
see you get all worked up."

Through the rain, across the campus, an unusual number of students in
shining, cheap, black raincoats were hastening to the three o'clock
classes, clattering up the stone steps of the Academic Building,
talking excitedly, glancing up at the arched door as though they
expected to see something startling. Dozens stared at Carl. He felt
rather important. It was plain that he was known as a belligerent, a
supporter of Professor Frazer. As he came to the door of Lecture-room
A he found that many of the crowd were deserting their proper classes
to attend the Frazer event. He bumped down into his own seat, gazing
back superciliously at the outsiders who were edging into unclaimed
seats at the back of the room or standing about the door--students
from other classes, town girls, the young instructor in French,
German, and music; a couple of town club-women in glasses and galoshes
and woolen stockings bunchy at the ankles. Every one was rapidly
whispering, watching every one else, peeping often at the platform and
the small door beside it through which Professor Frazer would enter.
Carl had a smile ready for him. But there was no chance that the smile
would be seen. There must have been a hundred and fifty in the room,
seated and standing, though there were but seventy in the course, and
but two hundred and fifty-six students in the whole college that year.

Carl looked back. He clenched his fist and pounded the soft side of it
on his thigh, drawing in his breath, puffing it out with a long
exasperated "Hellll!" For the Greek professor, the comma-sized,
sandy-whiskered martinet, to whom nothing that was new was moral and
nothing that was old was to be questioned by any undergraduate,
stalked into the room like indignant Napoleon posing before two guards
and a penguin at St. Helena. A student in the back row thriftily gave
the Greek god his seat. The god sat down, with a precise nod.
Instantly a straggly man with a celluloid collar left the group by the
door, whisked over to the Greek professor, and fawned upon him. It was
the fearless editor and owner (also part-time type-setter) of the
_Plato Weekly Times_, who dated back to the days of Washington
flat-bed hand-presses and pure Jeffersonian politics, and feared
neither man nor devil, though he was uneasy in the presence of his
landlady. He ostentatiously flapped a wad of copy-paper in his left
hand, and shook a spatter of ink-drops from a fountain-pen as he
interviewed the Greek professor, who could be seen answering
pompously. Carl was hating them both, fearing the Greek as a faculty
spy on Frazer, picturing himself kicking the editor, when he was aware
of a rustling all over the room, of a general turning of heads toward
the platform.

He turned. He was smiling like a shy child in his hero-worship.
Professor Frazer was inconspicuously walking through the low door
beside the platform. Frazer's lips were together. He was obviously
self-conscious. His motions were jerky. He elaborately did not look at
the audience. He nearly stumbled on the steps up to the platform. His
hand shook as he drew papers from a leather portfolio and arranged
them on the small reading-table. One of the papers escaped and sailed
off the platform, nearly to the front row. Nearly every one in the
room snickered. Frazer flushed. A girl student in the front row
nervously bounded out of her seat, picked up the paper, and handed it
up to Frazer. They both fumbled it, and their heads nearly touched.
Most of the crowd laughed audibly.

Professor Frazer sat down in his low chair, took out his watch with a
twitching hand, and compared his time with the clock at the back of
the room--and so closely were the amateur executioners observing their
victim that every eye went back to the clock as well. Even Carl was
guilty of that imitation. Consequently he saw the editor, standing at
the back, make notes on his copy-paper and smirk like an ill-bred
hound stealing a bone. And the Greek professor stared at Frazer's
gauche movements with a grim smugness that indicated, "Quite the sort
of thing I expected." The Greek's elbows were on the arm of the seat,
and he held up before his breast a small red-leather-covered note-book
which he superciliously tapped with a thin pencil. He was waiting.
Like a judge of the Inquisition....

"Old Greek 's going to take notes and make a report to the faculty
about what Frazer says," reflected Carl. "If I could only get hold of
his notes and destroy them!"

Carl turned again. It was just three. Professor Frazer had risen.
Usually he sat while lecturing. Fifty whispers commented on that fact;
fifty regular members of the course became self-important through
knowing it. Frazer was leaning slightly against the table. It moved an
inch or two with his weight, but by this time every one was too
high-strung to laugh. He was pale. He re-arranged his papers. He had
to clear his throat twice before he could speak, in the now silent,
vulturishly attentive room, smelling of wet second-rate clothes.

The gusty rain could be heard. They all hitched in their seats.

"Oh, Frazer _can't_ be going to retract," groaned Carl; "but he's
scared."

Carl suddenly wished himself away from all this useless conflict; out
tramping the wet roads with the Turk, or slashing through the puddles
at thirty-five miles an hour in the banker's car. He noted stupidly
that Genie Linderbeck's hair was scarcely combed. He found he was
saying, "Frazer 'll flunk, flunk, flunk; he's going to flunk, flunk,
flunk."

Then Frazer spoke. His voice sounded harsh and un-rhythmical, but soon
swung into the natural periods of a public speaker as he got into his
lecture:

"My friends," said he, "a part of you have come here legitimately, to hear
a lecture; a part to satisfy the curiosity aroused by rumors to the effect
that I am likely to make indecorous and indecent remarks, which your
decorum and decency make you wish to hear, and of which you will carry away
evil and twisted reports, to gain the reputation of being fearless
defenders of the truth. It is a temptation to gratify your desire and shock
you--a far greater temptation than to be repentant and reactionary. Only,
it occurs to me that this place and time are supposed to be devoted to a
lecture by Henry Frazer on his opinions about contemporary drama. It is in
no sense to be given to the puling defense of a martyr, nor to the
sensational self-advertisement of either myself or any of you. I have no
intention of devoting any part of my lecture, aside from these introductory
adumbrations, to the astonishing number of new friends whose bright and
morning faces I see before me. I shall neither be so insincerely tactful as
to welcome you, nor so frightened as to ignore you. Nor shall I invite you
to come to me with any complaints you have about me. I am far too busy with
my real work!

"I am not speaking patiently. I am not patient with you! I am not
speaking politely. Truly, I do not think that I shall much longer be
polite!

"Wait. That sounds now in my ears as rhetorical! Forgive me, and
translate my indiscretions into more colloquial language.

"Though from rumors I have overheard, I fancy some of you will do
that, anyway.... And now, I think, you see where I stand.

"Now then. For such of you as have a genuine interest in the brilliant
work of Bernard Shaw I shall first continue the animadversions on the
importance of his social thought, endeavor to link it with the great
and growing vision of H. G. Wells (novelist and not dramatist though
he is, because of the significance of his new books, _Kips_ and
_Mankind in the Making_), and point out the serious purpose that seems
to me to underlie Shaw's sarcastic pictures of life's shams.

"In my last lecture I endeavored to present the destructive side of
present social theories as little as possible; to dwell more on the
keen desire of the modern thinkers for constructive imagination. But I
judge that I was regarded as too destructive, which amuses me, and to
which I shall apply the antidote of showing how destructive modern
thought is and must be--whether running with sootily smoking torch of
individuality in Bakunin, or hissing in Nietzsche, or laughing at
Olympus in Bernard Shaw. My 'radicalism' has been spoken of. Radical!
Do you realize that I am not suggesting that there might possibly some
day be a revolution in America, but rather that now I am stating that
there is, this minute, and for some years has been, an actual state of
warfare between capital and labor? Do you know that daily more people
are saying openly and violently that we starve our poor, we stuff our
own children with useless bookishness, and work the children of others
in mills and let them sell papers on the streets in red-light
districts at night, and thereby prove our state nothing short of
insane? If you tell me that there is no revolution because there are
no barricades, I point to actual battles at Homestead, Pullman, and
the rest. If you say that there has been no declaration of war, open
war, I shall read you editorials from _The Appeal to Reason_.

"Mind you, I shall not say whether I am enlisted for or against the
revolutionary army. But I demand that you look about you and
understand the significance of the industrial disturbances and
religious unrest of the time. Never till then will you understand
anything--certainly not that Shaw is something more than an _enfant
terrible_; Ibsen something more than an ill-natured old man with
dyspepsia and a silly lack of interest in skating. Then you will
realize that in the most extravagant utterances of a red-shirted
strike-leader there may be more fervent faith and honor, oftentimes,
than in the virgin prayers of a girl who devoutly attends Christian
Endeavor, but presumes to call Emma Goldman 'that dreadful woman.'
Follow the labor-leader. Or fight him, good and hard. But do not
overlook him.

"But I must be more systematic. When John Tanner's independent
chauffeur, of whom you have--I hope you have--read in _Man and
Superman_----"

       *       *       *       *       *

Carl looked about. Many were frowning; a few leaning sidewise to
whisper to neighbors, with a perplexed head-shake that plainly meant,
"I don't quite get that." Wet feet were shifted carefully; breaths
caught quickly; hands nervously played with lower lips. The Greek
professor was writing something. Carl's ex-room-mate, Plain Smith, was
rigid, staring unyieldingly at the platform. Carl hated Smith's
sinister stillness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Frazer was finishing his lecture:

"If it please you, flunk this course, don't read a single play I
assign to you, be disrespectful, disbelieve all my contentions. And I
shall still be content. But do not, as you are living souls, blind
yourself to the fact that there is a world-wide movement to build a
wider new world--and that the world needs it--and that in Jamaica
Mills, on land owned by a director of Plato College, there are two
particularly vile saloons which you must wipe out before you disprove
me!" Silence for ten seconds. Then, "That is all."

The crowd began to move hesitatingly, while Professor Frazer hastily
picked up his papers and raincoat and hurried out through the door
beside the platform. Voices immediately rose in a web of talk,
many-colored, hot-colored.

Carl babbled to the man next him, "He sure is broad. He doesn't care
whether they're conservative or not. And some sensation at the end!"

"Heh? What? Him?" The sophomore was staring.

"Yes. Why, sure! Whadya mean?" demanded Carl.

"Well, and wha' do _you_ mean by 'broad'? Sure! He's broad just like a
razor edge."

"Heh?" echoed the next man down the row, a Y. M. C. A. senior. "Do you
mean to say you liked it?"

"Why, sure! Why not? Didn't you?"

"Oh yes. Yes indeed! All he said was that scarlet women like Emma
Goldman were better than a C. E. girl, and that he hoped his students
would bluff the course and flunk it, and that we could find booze at
Jamaica Mills, and a few little things like that. That's all. Sure!
That's the sort of thing we came here to study." The senior was
buttoning his raincoat with angry fingers. "That's----Why, the man was
insane! And the way he denounced decency and----Oh, I can't talk about
it!"

"W-w-w-well by gosh, of all the--the----" spluttered Carl. "You and
your Y. M. C. A.--calling yourself religious, and misrepresenting like
that--you and your----Why, you ain't worth arguing with. I don't
believe you 'came to study' anything. You know it all already."
Passionate but bewildered, trying not to injure the cause of Frazer by
being nasty, he begged: "Straight, didn't you like his spiel? Didn't
it give you some new ideas?"

The senior vouchsafed: "No, 'me and my Y. M.' didn't like it. Now
don't let me keep you, Ericson. I suppose you'll be wanting to join
dear Mr. Frazer in a highball; you're such a pet of his. Did he teach
you to booze? I understand you're good at it."

"You apologize or I'll punch your face off," said Carl. "I don't
understand Professor Frazer's principles like I ought to. I'm not
fighting for them. Prob'ly would if I knew enough. But I don't like
your face. It's too long. It's like a horse's face. It's an insult to
Frazer to have a horse-faced guy listen to him. You apologize for
having a horse face, see?"

"You're bluffing. You wouldn't start anything here, anyway."

"Apologize!" Carl's fist was clenched. People were staring.

"Cut it out, will you! I didn't mean anything."

"You wouldn't," snapped Carl, and rammed his way out, making wistful
boyish plans to go to Frazer with devotion and offers of service in a
fight whose causes grew more confused to him every moment. Beside him,
as he hurried off to football practice, strode a big lineman of the
junior class, cajoling:

"Calm down, son. You can't lick the whole college."

"But it makes me so sore----"

"Oh, I know, but it strikes me that no matter how much you like
Frazer, he was going pretty far when he said that anarchists had more
sense than decent folks."

"He didn't! You didn't get him. He meant----O Lord, what's the use!"

He did not say another word as they hastened to the gymnasium for
indoor practice.

He was sure that they who knew of his partisanship would try to make
him lose his temper. "Dear Lord, please just let me take out just one
bonehead and beat him to a pulp, and then I'll be good and not open my
head again," was his perfectly reverent prayer as he stripped before
his locker.

Carl and most of the other substitutes had to wait, and most of them
gossiped of the lecture. They all greedily discussed Frazer's charge
that some member of the corporation owned saloon lots, and tried to
decide who it was, but not one of them gave Frazer credit. Twenty
times Carl wanted to deny; twenty times speech rose in him so hotly
that he drew a breath and opened his mouth; but each time he muttered
to himself: "Oh, shut up! You'll only make 'em worse." Students who
had attended the lecture declared that Professor Frazer had advocated
bomb-throwing and obscenity, and the others believed, marveling,
"Well, well, well, well!" with unctuous appreciation of the scandal.

Still Carl sat aloof on a pair of horizontal bars, swinging his legs
with agitated quickness, while the others covertly watched him--slim,
wire-drawn, his china-blue eyes blurred with fury, his fair Norse skin
glowing dull red, his chest strong under his tight football jersey; a
clean-carved boy.

The rubber band of his nose-guard snapped harshly as he plucked at it,
playing a song of hatred on that hard little harp.

An insignificant thing made him burst out. Tommy La Croix, the French
Canuck, a quick, grinning, evil-spoken, tobacco-chewing, rather
likeable young thug, stared directly at Carl and said, loudly:
"'Nother thing I noticed was that Frazer didn't have his pants
pressed. Funny, ain't it, that when even these dudes from Yale get to
be cranks they're short on baths and tailors?"

Carl slid from the parallel bars. He walked up to the line of
substitutes, glanced sneeringly along them, dramatized himself as a
fighting rebel, remarked, "Half of you are too dumm to get Frazer, and
the other half are old-woman gossips and ought to be drinking tea,"
and gloomed away to the dressing-room, while behind him the
substitutes laughed, and some one called: "Sorry you don't like us,
but we'll try to bear up. Going to lick the whole college, Ericson?"

His ears burned, in the dressing-room. He did not feel that they had
been much impressed.

       *       *       *       *       *

To tell the next day or two in detail would be to make many books
about the mixed childishness and heroic fineness of Carl's
partisanship; to repeat a thousand rumors running about the campus to
the effect that the faculty would demand Frazer's resignation; to
explain the reason why Frazer's charge that a Plato director owned
land used by saloons was eagerly whispered for a little while, then
quite forgotten, while Frazer's reputation as a "crank" was never
forgotten, so much does muck resent the muck-raker; to describe Carl's
brief call on Frazer and his confusing discovery that he had nothing
to say; to repeat the local paper's courageous reports of the Frazer
affair, Turk's great oath to support Frazer "through hell and high
water," Turk's repeated defiance: "Well, by golly! we'll show the
mutts, but I wish we could _do_ something"; to chronicle dreary
classes whose dullness was evident to Carl, now, after his interest in
Frazer's lectures.

       *       *       *       *       *

Returning from Genie Linderbeck's room, Carl found a letter from
Gertie Cowles on the black-walnut hat-rack. Without reading it, but
successfully befooling himself into the belief that he was glad to
have it, he went whistling up to his room.

Ray Cowles and Howard Griffin, those great seniors, sat tilted back in
wooden chairs, and between them was the lord of the world, Mr.
Bjorken, the football coach, a large, amiable, rather religious young
man, who believed in football, foreign missions, and the Democratic
party.

"Hello! Waiting for me or the Turk?" faltered Carl, gravely shaking
hands all round.

"Just dropped up to see you for a second," said Mr. Bjorken.

"Sorry the Turk wasn't here." Carl had an ill-defined feeling that he
wanted to keep them from becoming serious as long as he could.

Ray Cowles cleared his throat. Never again would the black-haired
Adonis, blossom of the flower of Joralemon, be so old and sadly sage
as then. "We want to talk to you seriously about something--for your
own sake. You know I've always been interested in you, and Howard, and
course we're interested in you as frat brothers, too. For old
Joralemon and Plato, eh? Mr. Bjorken believes--might as well tell him
now, don't you think, Mr. Bjorken?"

The coach gave a regally gracious nod. Hitching about on the wood-box,
Carl felt the bottom drop out of his anxious stomach.

"Well, Mr. Bjorken thinks you're practically certain to make the team
next year, and maybe you may even get put in the Hamlin game for a few
minutes this year, and get your P."

"Honest?"

"Yes, if you do something for old Plato, same 's you expect her to do
something for you." Ray was quite sincere. "But not if you put the
team discipline on the bum and disgrace Omega Chi. Of course I can't
speak as an actual member of the team, but still, as a senior, I hear
things----"

"How d'you mean 'disgrace'?"

"Don't you know that because you've been getting so savage about
Frazer the whole team 's getting mad?" said the coach. "Cowles and
Griffin and I have been talking over the whole proposition. Your
boosting Frazer----"

"Look here," from Carl, "I won't crawl down on my opinion about
Frazer. Folks haven't understood him."

"Lord love you, son," soothed Howard Griffin, "we aren't trying to
change your opinion of Frazer. We're, your friends, you know. We're
proud of you for standing up for him. Only thing is, now that he's
practically fired, just tell me how it's going to help him or you or
anybody else, now, to make everybody sore by roasting them because
they can't agree with you. Boost; don't knock! Don't make everybody
think you're a crank."

"To be frank," added Mr. Bjorken, "you're just as likely to hurt
Frazer as to help him by stirring up all this bad blood. Look here. I
suppose that if the faculty had already fired Frazer you'd still go
ahead trying to buck them."

"Hadn't thought about it, but suppose I would."

"Afraid it might be that way. But haven't you seen by this time about
how much good it does for one lone sophomore to try and run the
faculty?" It was the coach talking again, but the gravely nodding
mandarin-like heads of Howard and Ray accompanied him. "Mind you, I
don't mean to disparage you personally, but you must admit that you
can't hardly expect to boss everything. Just what good 'll it do to go
on shouting for Frazer? Quite aside from the question of whether he is
likely to get fired or not."

"Well," grunted Carl, nervously massaging his chin, "I don't know as
it will do any direct good--except maybe waking this darn conservative
college up a little; but it does make me so dog-gone sore----"

"Yes, yes, we understand, old man," the coach said, "but on the other
hand here's the direct good of sitting tight and playing the game.
I've heard you speak about Kipling. Well, you're like a young
officer--a subaltern they call it, don't they?--in a Kipling story, a
fellow that's under orders, and it's part of his game to play hard and
keep his mouth shut and to not criticize his superior officers, ain't
it?"

"Oh, I suppose so, but----"

"Well, it's just the same with you. Can't you see that? Think it over.
What would you think of a lieutenant that tried to boss all the
generals? Just same thing.... Besides, if you sit tight, you can make
the team this year, I can practically promise you that. Do understand
this now; it isn't a bribe; we want you to be able to play and _do_
something for old Plato in a _real_ way--in athletics. But you most
certainly can't make the team if you're going to be a disorganizer."

"All we want you to do," put in Ray Cowles, "is not to make a public
spectacle of yourself--as I'm afraid you've been doing. Admire Frazer
all you want to, and talk about him to your own bunch, and don't back
down on your own opinions, only don't think you've got to go round
yelling about him. People get a false idea of you. I hate to have to
tell you this, but several of the fellows, even in Omega Chi, have
spoken about you, and wondered if you really were a regular crank. 'Of
course he isn't, you poor cheese,' I tell 'em, but I can't be around
to answer every one all the time, and you can't lick the whole
college; that ain't the way the world does things. You don't know what
a bad impression you make when you're too brash. See how I mean?"

As the council of seers rose, Carl timidly said to Ray, "Straight,
now, have quite a lot of the fellows been saying I was a goat?"

"Good many, I'm afraid. All talking about you.... It's up to you. All
you got to do is not think you know it all, and keep still. Keep still
till you understand the faculty's difficulties just a little better.
Savvy? Don't that sound fairly reasonable?"



CHAPTER X


They were gone. Carl was full of the nauseating shame which a
matter-of-fact man, who supposes that he is never pilloried, knows
when a conscientious friend informs him that he has been observed,
criticized; that his enthusiasms have been regarded as eccentricities;
his affectionate approaches toward friendship as impertinence.

There seemed to be hundreds of people in the room, nudging one
another, waiting agape for him to do something idiotic; a
well-advertised fool on parade. He stalked about, now shamefaced, now
bursting out with a belligerent, "Aw, rats! I'll show 'em!" now
plaintively beseeching, "I don't suppose I am helping Frazer, but it
makes me so darn sore when nobody stands up for him--and he teaches
stuff they need so much here. Gee! I'm coming to think this is a
pretty rough-neck college. He's the first teacher I ever got anything
out of--and----Oh, hang it! what 'd I have to get mixed up in all this
for, when I was getting along so good? And if it isn't going to help
him----"

His right hand became conscious of Gertie's letter crumpled in his
pocket. As turning the letter over and over gave him surprisingly
small knowledge of its contents, he opened it:

     DEAR CARL,--You are just _silly_ to tease me about any bank
     clerk. I don't like him any more at all and he can go with
     Linda all he likes, much I care!

     We are enjoying good health, though it is getting quite cold
     now and we have the furnace running now and it feels pretty
     good to have it. We had _such_ a good time at Adelaide's
     party she wore such a pretty dress. She flirted terribly
     with Joe Jordan though of course you'll call me a cat for
     telling you because you like her so much better than me &
     all.

     Oh I haven't told you the news yet Joe has accepted a
     position at St. Hilary in the mill there.

     I have some pretty new things for my room, a beautiful
     hand-painted picture. Before Joe goes there is going to be a
     party for him at Semina's. I wish you could come I suppose
     you have learned to dance well, of course you go to lots of
     parties at Plato with all the pretty girls & forget all
     about _me_.

     I wish I was in Minneapolis it is pretty dull here, & such
     good talks you and me had _didn't_ we!

     Oh Carl dear Ray writes us you are sticking up for that
     crazy Professor Frazer. I know it must take lots of courage
     & I admire you _lots_ for it even if Ray doesn't but oh Carl
     dear if you can't do any _good_ by it I hope you won't get
     everybody talking about you without its doing any good, will
     you, Carl?

     I do so expect you to succeed wonderfully & I hope you won't
     blast your career even to stand up for folks when it's too
     late & won't do any good.

     We all expect so much of you--we are waiting! You are our
     knight & you aren't going to forget to keep your armor
     bright, nor forget,

Yours as ever,

GERTIE.

"Mmm!" remarked Carl. "Dun'no' about this knight-and-armor business.
I'd look swell, I would, with a wash-boiler and a few more tons of
junk on. Mmm! 'Expect you to succeed wonderfully----' Oh, I don't
suppose I had ought to disappoint 'em. Don't see where I can help
Frazer, anyway. Not a bit."

The Frazer affair seemed very far from him; very hysterical.

Two of the Gang ambled in with noisy proposals in regard to a game of
poker, penny ante, but the thought of cards bored him. Leaving them in
possession, one of them smoking the Turk's best pipe, which the Turk
had been so careless as to leave in sight, he strolled out on the
street and over to the campus.

There was a light in the faculty-room in the Academic Building, yet it
was not a "first and third Thursday," dates on which the faculty
regularly met. Therefore, it was a special meeting; therefore----

Promptly, without making any plans, Carl ran to the back of the
building, shinned up a water-spout (humming "Just Before the Battle,
Mother"), pried open a class-room window with his large jack-knife, of
the variety technically known as a "toad-stabber" (changing his tune
to "Onward, Christian Soldiers"), climbed in, tiptoed through the
room, stopping often to listen, felt along the plaster walls to find
the door, eased the door open, calmly sat down in the corridor, pulled
off his shoes, said, "Ouch, it's cold on the feets!" slipped into
another class-room in the front of the building, put on his shoes,
crawled out of the window, walked along a limestone ledge one foot
wide to a window of the faculty-room, and peeped in.

All of the eleven assistant professors and full professors, except
Frazer, were assembled, with President S. Alcott Wood in the chair,
and the Greek professor addressing them, referring often to a
red-leather-covered note-book.

"Um! Making a report on Frazer's lecture," said Carl, clinging
precariously to the rough faces of the stones. A gust swooped around
the corner of the building. He swayed, gripped the stones more
tightly, and looked down. He could not see the ground. It was
thirty-five or forty feet down. "Almost fell," he observed. "Gosh! my
hands are chilly!" As he peered in the window again he saw the Greek
professor point directly at the window, while the whole gathering
startled, turned, stared. A young assistant professor ran toward the
door of the room.

"Going to cut me off. Dog-gone it," said Carl. "They'll wait for me at
the math.-room window. Hooray! I've started something."

He carefully moved along the ledge to a point half-way between windows
and waited, flat against the wall.

Again he glanced down from the high, windy, narrow ledge. "It 'd be a
long drop.... My hands are cold.... I could slip. Funny, I ain't
really much scared, though.... Say! Where'd I do just this before? Oh
yes!" He saw himself as little Carl, lost with Gertie in the woods,
caught by Bone Stillman at the window. He laughed out as he compared
the bristly virile face of Bone with the pasty face of the young
professor. "Seems almost as though I was back there doing the same
thing right over. Funny. But I'm not quite as scared as I was then.
Guess I'm growing up. Hel-lo! here's our cunning Spanish Inquisition
rubbering out of the next window."

The window of the mathematics class-room, next to the faculty-room,
had opened. The young professor who was pursuing Carl peppered the
night with violent words delivered in a rather pedagogic voice. "Well,
sir! We have you! You might as well come and give yourself up."

Carl was silent.

The voice said, conversationally: "He's staying out there. I'll see
who it is." Carl half made out a head thrusting itself from the
window, then heard, in _sotto voce_, "I can't see him." Loudly again,
the pursuing professor yapped: "Ah, I see you. You're merely wasting
time, sir. You might just as well come here now. I shall let you stay
there till you do." Softly: "Hurry back into the faculty-room and see
if you can get him from that side. Bet it's one of the sneaking Frazer
faction."

Carl said nothing; did not budge. He peeped at the ledge above him. It
was too far for him to reach it. He tried to discern the mass of the
ground in the confusing darkness below. It seemed miles down. He did
not know what to do. He was lone as a mateless hawk, there on the
ledge, against the wall whose stones were pinchingly cold to the small
of his back and his spread-eagled arms. He swayed slightly; realized
with trembling nausea what would happen if he swayed too much.... He
remembered that there was pavement below him. But he did not think
about giving himself up.

From the mathematics-room window came: "Watch him. I'm going out after
him."

The young professor's shoulders slid out of the window. Carl carefully
turned his head and found that now a form was leaning from the
faculty-room window as well.

"Got me on both sides. Darn it! Well, when they haul me up on the
carpet I'll have the pleasure of telling them what I think of them."

The young professor had started to edge along the ledge. He was coming
very slowly. He stopped and complained to some one back in the
mathematics-room, "This beastly ledge is icy, I'm afraid."

Carl piped: "Look out! Y're slipping!"

In a panic the professor slid back into the window. As his heels
disappeared through it, Carl dashed by the window, running sidewise
along the ledge. While the professor was cautiously risking his head
in the night air outside the window again, gazing to the left, where,
he had reason to suppose, Carl would have the decency to remain, Carl
was rapidly worming to the right. He reached the corner of the
building, felt for the tin water-pipe, and slid down it, with his
coat-tail protecting his hands. Half-way down, the cloth slipped and
his hand was burnt against the corrugated tin. "Consid'able slide," he
murmured as he struck the ground and blew softly on his raw palm.

He walked away--not at all like a melodramatic hero of a
slide-by-night, but like a matter-of-fact young man going to see some
one about business of no great importance. He abstractedly brushed his
left sleeve or his waistcoat, now and then, as though he wanted to
appear neat.

He tramped into the telephone-booth of the corner drug-store, called
up Professor Frazer:

"Hello? Professor Frazer?... This is one of your students in modern
drama. I've just learned--I happened to be up in the Academic Building
and I happened to find out that Professor Drood is making a report to
the faculty--special meeting!--about your last lecture. I've got a
hunch he's going to slam you. I don't want to butt in, but I'm awfully
worried; I thought perhaps you ought to know.... Who? Oh, I'm just one
of your students.... You're welcome. Oh, say, Professor, g-good luck.
G'-by."

Immediately, without even the excuse that some evil mind in the Gang
had suggested it, he prowled out to the Greek professor's house and
tied both the front and back gates. Now the fence of that yard was
high and strong and provided with sharp pickets; and the professor was
short and dignified. Carl regretted that he could not wait for the
pleasure of seeing the professor fumble with the knots and climb the
fence. But he had another errand.

He walked to the house of Professor Frazer. He stood on the walk
before it. His shoulders straightened, his heels snapped together, and
he raised his arm in a formal salute.

He had saluted the gentleness of Henry Frazer. He had saluted his own
soul. He cried: "I will stick by him, as long as the Turk or any of
'em. I won't let Omega Chi and the coach scare me--not the whole
caboodle of them. I----Oh, I don't _think_ they can scare me...."



CHAPTER XI


The students of Plato were required to attend chapel every morning.
President S. Alcott Wood earnestly gave out two hymns, and between
them informed the Almighty of the more important news events of the
past twenty-four hours, with a worried advisory manner which indicated
that he felt something should be done about them at once.

President Wood was an honest, anxious body, something like a small,
learned, Scotch linen-draper. He was given to being worried and
advisory and to sitting up till midnight in his unventilated library,
grinding at the task of putting new wrong meanings into perfectly
obvious statements in the Bible. He was a series of circles--round
head with smooth gray hair that hung in a bang over his round
forehead; round face with round red cheeks; absurdly heavy gray
mustache that almost made a circle about his puerile mouth; round
button of a nose; round heavy shoulders; round little stomach in a
gray sack-suit; round dumplings of feet in congress shoes that were
never quite fresh-blacked or quite dusty. A harassed, honorable,
studious, ignorant, humorless, joke-popping, genuinely conscientious
thumb of a man. His prayers were long and intimate.

After the second hymn he would announce the coming social
events--class prayer-meetings and lantern-slide lectures by
missionaries. During the prayer and hymns most of the students hastily
prepared for first-hour classes, with lists of dates inside their
hymn-books; or they read tight-folded copies of the Minneapolis
_Journal_ or _Tribune_. But when the announcements began all Plato
College sat up to attention, for Prexy Wood was very likely to comment
with pedantic sarcasm on student peccadillos, on cards and V-neck
gowns and the unforgivable crime of smoking.

       *       *       *       *       *

As he crawled to the bare, unsympathetic chapel, the morning after
spying on the faculty-room, Carl looked restlessly to the open fields,
sniffed at the scent of burning leaves, watched a thin stream of
blackbirds in the windy sky. He sat on the edge of a pew, nervously
jiggling his crossed legs.

During the prayer and hymns a spontaneously born rumor that there
would be something sensational in President Wood's announcements went
through the student body. The president, as he gave out the hymns, did
not look at the students, but sadly smoothed the neat green cloth on
the reading-stand. His prayer, timid, sincere, was for guidance to
comprehend the will of the Lord.

Carl felt sorry for him. "Poor man 's fussed. Ought to be! I'd be,
too, if I tried to stop a ten-inch gun like Frazer.... He's singing
hard.... Announcements, now.... What's he waiting for? Jiminy! I wish
he'd spring it and get it over.... Suppose he said something about
last night--me----"

President Wood stood silent. His glance drifted from row to row of
students. They moved uneasily. Then his dry, precise voice declaimed:

"My friends, I have an unpleasant duty to perform this morning, but I
have sought guidance in prayer, and I hope----"

Carl was agonizing: "He does know it's me! He'll ball me out and fire
me publicly!... Sit tight, Ericson; hold y' nerve; think of good old
Turk." Carl was not a hero. He was frightened. In a moment now all the
eyes in the room would be unwinkingly focused on him. He hated this
place of crowding, curious young people and drab text-hung walls. In
the last row he noted the pew in which Professor Frazer sat
(infrequently). He could fancy Frazer there, pale and stern. "I'm glad
I spied on 'em. Might have been able to put Frazer wise to something
definite if I could just have overheard 'em."

President Wood was mincing on:

"----and so, my friends, I hope that in devotion to the ideals of the
Baptist Church we shall strive ever onward and upward in even our
smallest daily concerns, _per aspera ad astra_, not in a spirit of
materialism and modern unrest, but in a spirit of duty.

"I need not tell you that there has been a great deal of rumor about
the so-called 'faculty dissensions.' But let me earnestly beseech you
to give me your closest attention when I assure you that there have
been _no_ faculty dissensions. It is true that we have found certain
teachings rather out of harmony with the ideals of Plato College. The
Word of God in the Bible was good enough for our fathers who fought to
defend this great land, and the Bible is still good enough for us, I
guess--and I cannot find anything in the Bible about such doctrines as
socialism and anarchism and evolution. Probably most of you have been
fortunate enough to not have wasted any time on this theory called
'evolution.' If you don't know anything about it you have not lost
anything. Absurd as it may seem, evolution says that we are all
descended from monkeys! In spite of the fact that the Bible teaches us
that we are the children of God. If you prefer to be the children of
monkeys rather than of God, well, all I can say is, I don't!
[Laughter.]

"But the old fellow Satan is always busy going to and fro even in
colleges, and in the unrestrained, overgrown, secularized colleges of
the East they have actually been teaching this doctrine openly for
many years. Indeed, I am told that right at the University of Chicago,
though it is a Baptist institution, they teach this same silly
twaddle of evolution, and I cannot advise any of you to go there for
graduate work. But these scientific fellows that are too wise for the
Bible fall into the pits they themselves have digged, sooner or later,
and they have been so smart in discovering new things about evolution
that they have contradicted almost everything that Darwin, who was the
high priest of this abominable cult, first taught, and they have
turned the whole theory into a hodge-podge of contradictions from
which even they themselves are now turning in disgust. Indeed, I am
told that Darwin's own son has come out and admitted that there is
nothing to this evolution. Well, we could have told him that all
along, and told his father, and saved all their time, for now they are
all coming right back to the Bible. We could have told them in the
first place that the Word of God definitely explains the origin of
man, and that anybody who tried to find out whether we were descended
from monkeys was just about as wise as the man who tried to make a
silk purse out of a sow's ear."

Carl was settled down in his pew, safe.

President Wood was in his stride. "All this evolutionary fad becomes
ridiculous, of course, when a mind that is properly trained in clear
thinking by the diligent perusal of the classics strips it of its
pseudo-scientific rags and shows it straight out from the shoulder, in
the fire of common sense and sound religion. And here is the point of
my disquisition:

"On this selfsame evolution, this bombast of the self-pushing
scientists, are founded _all_ such un-Christian and un-American
doctrines as socialism and anarchism and the lusts of feminism, with
all their followers, such as Shaw and the fellow who tried to shoot
Mr. Frick, and all the other atheists of the stripe that think so well
of themselves that they are quite willing to overthrow the grand old
institutions that our forefathers founded on the Constitution; and
they want to set up instead--oh, they're quite willing to tell us how
to run the government! They want to set up a state in which all of us
who are honest enough to do a day's work shall support the lazy
rascals who aren't. Yet they are very clever men. They can pull the
wool over your eyes and persuade you--if you let them--that a
universal willingness to let the other fellow do the work while you
paint pictures of flowers and write novels about the abominations of
Babylon is going to evolute a superior race! Well, when you think they
are clever, this Shaw and this fellow Wells and all of them that copy
Robert G. Ingersoll, just remember that the cleverest fellow of them
all is the old Satan, and that he's been advocating just such lazy
doctrines ever since he stirred up rebellion and discontent in the
Garden of Eden!

"If these things are so, then the teachings of Professor Henry Frazer,
however sincere he is, are not in accordance with the stand which we
have taken here at Plato. My friends, I want you all to understand me.
Certain young students of Plato appear to have felt that the faculty
have not appreciated Professor Frazer. One of these students, I
presume it was one of them, went so far as to attempt to spy on
faculty meeting last night. Who that man is I have means of finding
out at any time. But I do not wish to. For I cannot believe that he
realized how dishonest was such sneaking.

"I wish to assure the malcontents that I yield to no one in my
admiration of Professor Frazer's eloquence and learning in certain
subjects. Only, we have not found his doctrines quite consistent with
what we are trying to do. They may be a lot more smart and new-fangled
than what we have out here in Minnesota, and we may be a lot of old
fogies, but we are not narrow, and we wish to give him just as much
right of free speech--we wish--there is--uh--no slightest--uh--desire,
in fact, to impose any authority on any one. But against any
perversive doctrine we must in all honesty take a firm stand.

"We carefully explained this to Professor Frazer, and permit me to
inform those young men who have taken it upon themselves to be his
champions, that they would do well to follow his example! For he quite
agrees with us as to the need of keeping the Plato College doctrine
consistent. In fact, he offered his resignation, which we reluctantly
accepted, very, very reluctantly. It will take effect the first of the
month, and, owing to illness in his family, he will not be giving any
lectures before then. Students in his classes, by the way, are
requested to report to the dean for other assignments.... And so you
see how little there is to the cowardly rumors about 'faculty
dissensions'!"

"Liar, liar! Dear God, they've smothered that kind, straight Frazer,"
Carl was groaning.

"Now, my friends, I trust you understand our position, and--uh----"

President Wood drew a breath, slapped the reading-stand, and piped,
angrily:

"We have every desire to permit complete freedom of thought and speech
among the students of Plato, but on my _word_, when it comes to a pass
where a few students can cause this whole great institution to forget
its real tasks and devote all its time to quarreling about a fad like
socialism, then it's time to call a halt!

"If there are any students here who, now that I have explained that
Professor Frazer leaves us of his own free will, still persist in
their stubborn desire to create trouble, and still feel that the
faculty have not treated Professor Frazer properly, or that we have
endeavored to coerce him, then let them stand up, right here and now,
in chapel. I mean it! Let them stop this cowardly running to and fro
and secret gossip. Let them stand right up before us, in token of
protest, here--and--now! or otherwise hold their peace!"

So well trained to the authority of schoolmasters were the students of
Plato, including Carl Ericson, that they sat as uncomfortable as
though they were individually accused by the plump pedant who was
weakly glaring at them, his round, childish hand clutching the sloping
edge of the oak reading-stand, his sack-coat wrinkled at the shoulders
and sagging back from his low linen collar. Carl sighted back at
Frazer's pew, hoping that he would miraculously be there to confront
the dictator. The pew was empty as before. There was no one to protest
against the ousting of Frazer for saying what he believed true.

Then Carl was agitated to find that Carl Ericson, a back-yard boy, was
going to rise and disturb all these learned people. He was frightened
again. But he stood up, faced the president, affectedly folded his
arms, hastily unfolded them and put his hands in his pockets, one foot
before the other, one shoulder humped a little higher than the other.

The whole audience was staring at him. He did not dare peep at them,
but he could hear their murmur of amazement. Now that he was up he
rather enjoyed defying them.

"Well, young man, so you are going to let us know how to run Plato,"
teetered the president. "I'm sure everybody will feel much obliged to
you."

Carl did not move. He was aware of Genie Linderbeck rising, to his
left. No one else was up, but, with Genie's frail adherence, Carl
suddenly desired to rouse every one to stand for Frazer and freedom.
He glanced over at the one man whom he could always trust to follow
him--the Turk. A tiny movement of Carl's lips, a covert up-toss of his
head, warned the Turk to rise now.

The Turk moved, started to rise, slowly, as though under force. He
looked rather shamefaced. He uncrossed his legs and put his hands on
the pew, on either side of his legs.

"Shame!" trembled a girl's voice in the junior section.

"Sit down!" two or three voices of men softly snarled, with a rustle
of mob-muttering.

The Turk hastily crossed his legs and slumped down in his seat. Carl
frowned at him imploringly, then angrily. He felt spiritually naked to
ask support so publicly, but he _had_ to get the Turk up. The Turk
shook his head beseechingly. Carl could fancy him grunting, "Aw,
thunder! I'd like to stand up, but I don't want to be a goat."

Another man rose. "I'll be darned!" thought Carl. It was the one man
who would be expected not to support the heretic Frazer--it was Carl's
rustic ex-room-mate, Plain Smith. Genie was leaning against the pew in
front of him, but Plain Smith bulked more immovable than Carl.

No one joined the three. All through the chapel was an undertone of
amazed comment and a constant low hissing of, "Sssssit down!"

The president, facing them, looked strained. It occurred to Carl that
S. Alcott Wood had his side of the question. He argued about the
matter, feeling detached from his stolidly defiant body. Then he
cursed the president for keeping them there. He wanted to sit down. He
wanted to cry out....

President Wood was speaking. "Is there any one else? Stand up, if
there is. No one else? Very well, young men, I trust that you are now
satisfied with your heroism, which we have all greatly appreciated, I
am sure. [Laughter.] Chapel dismissed."

Instantly a swirl of men surrounded Carl, questioning: "What j' do it
for? Why didn't you keep still?"

He pushed out through them. He sat blind through the first-hour quiz
in physics, with the whole class watching him. The thought of the
Turk's failure to rise kept unhappy vigil in his mind. The same
sequence of reflections ran around like midnight mice in the wall:

"Just when I needed him.... After all his talk.... And us so chummy,
sitting up all hours last night. And then the Turk throws me down....
When he'd said so many times he just wanted the chance to show how
strong he was for Frazer.... Damn coward! I'll go room with Genie. By
gosh----Oh, I got to be fair to the Turk. I don't suppose he could
have done much real good standing up. Course it does make you feel
kind of a poor nut, doing it. Genie looked----Yes, by the Jim Hill!
there you are. Poor little scrawny Genie--oh yes, sure, it was up to
_him_ to stand up. He wasn't afraid. And the Turk, the big stiff, he
was afraid to.... Just when I needed him. After all our talk about
Frazer, sitting up all hours----"

Through the black whirlpool in his head pierced an irritated, "Mr.
Ericson, I said! Have you gone to sleep? I understood you were
excellent at standing up! What is your explanation of the phenomenon?"
The professor of physics and mathematics--the same who had pursued
Carl on the ledge--was speaking to him.

Carl mumbled, sullenly, "Not prepared." The class sniggered. He
devoted a moment to hating them, as pariahs hate, then through his
mind went whirling again, "Just wait till I see the Turk!"



CHAPTER XII


A notice from the president's office, commanding Carl's instant
presence, was in his post-office box. He slouched into the
waiting-room of the offices of the president and dean. He was an
incarnate desire to say exactly what he thought to the round, woolly
President Wood.

Plain Albert Smith was leaving the waiting-room. He seized Carl's hand
with his plowman's paw, and, "Good-by, boy," he growled. There was
nothing gallant about his appearance--his blue-flannel shirt dusty
with white fuzz, his wrinkled brick-red neck, the oyster-like ear at
which he kept fumbling with a seamy finger-nail of his left hand. But
Carl's salute was a salute to the new king.

"How d'you mean 'good-by,' Al?"

"I've just resigned from Plato, Carl."

"How'd you happen to do that? Did they summon you here?"

"No. Just resigned," said Plain Smith. "One time when I was
school-teaching I had a set-to with a school committee of farmers
about teaching the kids a little botany. They said the three R's were
enough. I won out, but I swore I'd stand up for any teacher that tried
to be honest the way he seen it. I don't agree with Frazer about these
socialists and all--fellow that's worked at the plow like I have knows
a man wants to get ahead for his woman and himself, first of all, and
let the walking-delegates go to work, too. But I think he's honest,
all right, and, well, I stood up, and that means losing my
scholarship. They won't try to fire me. Guess I'll mosey on to the U.
of M. Can't probably live there as cheap as here, but a cousin of mine
owns a big shoe-store and maybe I can get a job with him.... Boy, you
were plucky to get up.... Glad we've got each other, finally. I feel
as though you'd freed me from something. God bless you."

To the dean's assistant, in the waiting-room, Carl grandly stated:
"Ericson, 1908. I'm to see the president."

"It's been arranged you're to see the dean instead. Sit down. Dean's
engaged just now."

Carl was kept waiting for a half-hour. He did not like the
transference to the dean, who was no anxious old lamb like S. Alcott
Wood, but a young collegiate climber, with a clipped mustache, a gold
eye-glass chain over one ear, a curt voice, many facts, a spurious
appreciation of music, and no mellowness. He was a graduate of the
University of Chicago, and aggressively proud of it. He had "earned
his way through college," which all tradition and all fiction
pronounce the perfect manner of acquiring a noble independence and
financial ability. Indeed, the blessing of early poverty is in general
praised as the perfect training for acquiring enough wealth to save
one's own children from the curse of early poverty. It would be safer
to malign George Washington and the Boy Scouts, professional baseball
and the Y. M. C. A., than to suggest that working one's way through
college is not necessarily manlier than playing and dreaming and
reading one's way through.

Diffidently, without generalizing, the historian reports this fact
about the dean; he had lost the graciousness of his rustic clergyman
father and developed an itchingly bustling manner, a tremendous
readiness for taking charge of everything in sight, by acquiring
during his undergraduate days a mastery of all the petty ways of
earning money, such as charging meek and stupid wealthy students too
much for private tutoring, and bullying his classmates into
patronizing the laundry whose agent he was.... The dean stuck his
little finger far out into the air when drinking from a cup, and liked
to be taken for a well-dressed man of the world.

The half-hour of waiting gave Carl a feeling of the power of the
authorities. And he kept seeing Plain Smith in his cousin's
shoe-store, trying to "fit" women's shoes with his large red hands.
When he was ordered to "step into the dean's office, now," he stumbled
in, pulling at his soft felt hat.

With his back to Carl, the dean was writing at a roll-top desk. The
burnished top of his narrow, slightly bald head seemed efficient and
formidable. Not glancing up, the dean snapped, "Sit down, young man."

Carl sat down. He crumpled his hat again. He stared at a framed
photograph, and moved his feet about, trying to keep them quiet.

More waiting.

The dean inspected Carl, over his shoulder. He still held his pen. The
fingers of his left hand tapped his desk-tablet. He turned in his
swivel-chair deliberately, as though he was now ready to settle
everything permanently.

"Well, young man, are you prepared to apologize to the president and
faculty?"

"Apologize? What for? The president said those that wanted to
protest----"

"Now we won't have any blustering, if you please, Ericson. I haven't
the slightest doubt that you are prepared to give an exhibition of
martyrdom. That is why I asked the privilege of taking care of you,
instead of permitting you to distress President Wood any further. We
will drop all this posing, if you don't mind. I assure you that it
doesn't make----"

"I----"

"----the slightest impression on me, Ericson. Let's get right down to
business. You know perfectly well that you have stirred up all the
trouble you----"

"I----"

"----could in regard to Mr. Frazer. And I think, I really think, that
we shall either have to have your written apology and your promise to
think a little more before you talk, hereafter, or else we shall have
to request your resignation from college. I am sorry that we
apparently can't run this college to suit you, Ericson, but as we
can't, why, I'm afraid we shall have to ask you not to increase our
inefficiency by making all the trouble you can. Wait now; let's not
have any melodrama! You may as well pick up that hat again. It doesn't
seem to impress me much when you throw it down, though doubtless it
was ver-ee dramatically done, oh yes, indeed, ver-ee dramatic. See
here. I know you, and I know your type, my young friend, and I
haven't----"

"Look here. Why do I get picked out as the goat, the one to apologize?
Because I stood up first? When Prexy said to?"

"Oh, not at all. Say it's because you quite shamelessly made motions
at others while you stood there, and did your best to disaffect men
who hadn't the least desire to join in your trouble-making.... Now I'm
very busy, young man, and I think this is all the time I shall waste
on you. I shall expect to find your written----"

"Say, honest, dean," Carl suddenly laughed, "may I say just one thing
before I get thrown out?"

"Certainly. We have every desire to deal justly with you, and to
always give--always to give you every opportunity----"

"Well, I just wanted to say, in case I resign and don't see you again,
that I admire you for your nerve. I wish I could get over feeling like
a sophomore talking to a dean, and then I could tell you I hadn't
supposed there was anybody could talk to me the way you have and get
away with it. I'd always thought I'd punch their head off, and here
you've had me completely buffaloed. It's wonderful! Honestly, it never
struck me till just this second that there isn't any law that compels
me to sit here and take all this. You had me completely hypnotized."

"You know I might retort truthfully and say I am not accustomed to
have students address me in quite this manner. I'm glad, however, to
find that you are sensible enough not to make an amusing show of
yourself by imagining that you are making a noble fight for freedom.
By decision of the president and myself I am compelled to give you
this one chance only. Unless I find your apology in my letter-box here
by five this evening I shall have to suspend you or bring you up
before the faculty for dismissal. But, my boy, I feel that perhaps,
for all your mistaken notions, you do have a certain amount of
courage, and I want to say a word----"

The dean did say a word; in fact he said a large number of admirable
words, regarding the effect of Carl's possible dismissal on his
friends, his family, and, with an almost tearful climax, on his
mother.

"Now go and think it over; pray over it, unselfishly, my boy, and let
me hear from you before five."

Only----

The reason why Carl _did_ visualize his mother, the reason why the
Ericson kitchen became so clear to him that he saw his tired-faced
mother reaching up to wind the alarm-clock that stood beside the ball
of odd string on the shelf above the water-pail, the reason why he
felt caved-in at the stomach, was that he knew he was going to leave
Plato, and did not know where in the world he was going.

       *       *       *       *       *

A time of quick action; of bursting the bonds even of friendship. He
walked quietly into Genie Linderbeck's neat room, with its rose-hued
comforter on a narrow brass bed, passe-partouted Copley prints, and a
small oak table with immaculate green desk-blotter, and said
good-by.... His hidden apprehension, the cold, empty feeling of his
stomach, the nervous intensity of his motions, told him that he was
already on the long trail that leads to fortune and Bowery
lodging-houses and death and happiness. Even while he was warning
himself that he must not go, that he owed it to his "folks" to
apologize and stay, he was stumbling into the bank and drawing out his
ninety-two dollars. It seemed a great sum. While waiting for it he did
sums on the back of a deposit-slip:

                  92.00 out of bank
                   2.27 in pocket
            about   .10 at room
             -----------------------
            tot.  94.37

        Owe Tailor      1.45
         "  Turk         .25
        To  Mpls.       3.05
To Chi. probably 15 to 18.00
        To N. Y. 20 to 30.00
To Europe (steerage)   40.00
----------------------------
        Total (about)  92.75----would take me to Europe!

"Golly! I could go to Europe, to Europe! now, if I wanted to, and have
maybe two plunks over, for grub on the railroad. But I'd have to allow
something for tips, I guess. Maybe it wouldn't be as much as forty
dollars for steerage. Ought to allow----Oh, thunder! I've got enough
to make a mighty good start seeing the world, anyway."

On the street a boy was selling extras of the _Plato Weekly Times_,
with the heading:

PRESIDENT CRUSHES STUDENT
REBELLION

Plato Demonstration for Anarchist Handled
Without Gloves

Carl read that he and two other students, "who are alleged to have
been concerned in several student pranks," had attempted to break up a
chapel meeting, but had been put to shame by the famous administrator,
S. Alcott Wood. He had never seen his name in the press, except some
three times in the local items of the _Joralemon Dynamite_. It looked
so intimidatingly public that he tried to forget it was there. He
chuckled when he thought of Plain Smith and Genie Linderbeck as
"concerned in student pranks." But he was growing angry. He considered
staying and fighting his opponents to the end. Then he told himself
that he must leave Plato, after having announced to Genie that he was
going.... He had made all of his decision except the actual deciding.

He omitted his noonday dinner and tramped into the country, trying to
plan how and where he would go. As evening came, cloudy and chill in a
low wooded tract miles north of Plato, with dead boughs keening and
the uneasy air threatening a rain that never quite came, the
loneliness of the land seemed to befog all the possibilities of the
future.... He wanted the lamp-lit security of his room, with the Turk
and the Gang in red sweaters, singing ragtime; with the Frazer affair
a bad dream that was forgotten. The world outside Plato would all be
like these lowering woods and dreary swamps.

He turned. He could find solace only in making his mind a blank.
Sullen, dull, he watched the sunset, watched the bellying cumulus
clouds mimic the Grand Cañon. He had to see the Grand Cañon! He
would!... He had turned the corner. His clammy heart was warming. He
was slowly coming to understand that he was actually free to take
youth's freedom.

He saw the vision of the America through which he might follow the
trail like the pioneers whose spiritual descendant he was. How noble
was the panorama that thrilled this one-generation American can be
understood only by those who have smelled our brown soil; not by the
condescending gods from abroad who come hither to gather money by
lecturing on our evil habit of money-gathering, and return to Europe
to report that America is a land of Irish politicians, Jewish
theatrical managers, and mining millionaires who invariably say, "I
swan to calculate"; all of them huddled in unfriendly hotels or in
hovels set on hopeless prairie. Not such the America that lifted
Carl's chin in wonder----

Cities of tall towers; tawny deserts of the Southwest and the flawless
sky of cornflower blue over sage-brush and painted butte; silent
forests of the Northwest; golden China dragons of San Francisco; old
orchards of New England; the oily Gulf of Mexico where tramp steamers
puff down to Rio; a snow-piled cabin among somber pines of northern
mountains. Elsewhere, elsewhere, elsewhere, beyond the sky-line, under
larger stars, where men ride jesting and women smile. Names alluring
to the American he repeated--Shenandoah, Santa Ynez, the Little Big
Horn, Baton Rouge, the Great Smokies, Rappahannock, Arizona, Cheyenne,
Monongahela, Androscoggin; cañon and bayou; sycamore and mesquite;
Broadway and El Camino Real....

He hurled along into Plato. He went to Mrs. Henkel's for supper. He
smiled at the questions dumped upon him, and evaded answering. He took
Mae Thurston aside and told her that he was leaving Plato. He wanted
to call on Professor Frazer. He did not dare. From a pleasant
gentleman drinking tea Frazer had changed to a prophet whom he
revered.

Carl darted into his room. The Turk was waiting for him. Carl cut
short the Turk's apologies for not having supported Frazer, with the
dreadful curt pleasantness of an alienated friend, and, as he began
packing his clothes in two old suit-cases, insisted, "It's all
right--was your biz whether you stood up in chapel or not." He hunted
diligently through the back of the closet for a non-existent shoe, in
order to get away from the shamefaced melancholy which covered the
Turk when Carl presented him with all his books, his skees, and his
pet hockey-stick. He prolonged the search because it had occurred to
him that, as it was now eleven o'clock, and the train north left at
midnight, the Minneapolis train at 2 A.M., it might be well to decide
where he was going when he went away. Well, Minneapolis and Chicago.
Beyond that--he'd wait and see. Anywhere--he could go anywhere in all
the world, now....

He popped out of the closet cheerfully.

While the Turk mooned, Carl wrote short honest notes to Gertie, to his
banker employer, to Bennie Rusk, whom he addressed as "Friend Ben." He
found himself writing a long and spirited letter to Bone Stillman, who
came out of the backwater of ineffectuality as a man who had dared.
Frankly he wrote to his mother--his mammy he wistfully called her. To
his father he could not write. With quick thumps of his fist he
stamped the letters, then glanced at the Turk. He was gay, mature,
business-like, ready for anything. "I'll pull out in half an hour
now," he chuckled.

"Gosh!" sighed the Turk. "I feel as if I was responsible for
everything. Oh, say, here's a letter I forgot to give you. Came this
afternoon."

The letter was from Gertie.

     DEAR CARL,--I hear that you _are_ standing for that Frazer
     just as much as ever and really Carl I think you might
     consider other people's feelings a little and not be so  selfish----

Without finishing it, Carl tore up the letter in a fury. Then, "Poor
kid; guess she means well," he thought, and made an imaginary bow to
her in farewell.

There was a certain amount of the milk of human-kindness in the frozen
husk he had for a time become. But he must be blamed for icily
rejecting the Turk's blundering attempts to make peace. He
courteously--courtesy, between these two!--declined the Turk's offer
to help him carry his suit-cases to the station. That was like a slap.

"Good-by. Hang on tight," he said, as he stooped to the heavy
suit-cases and marched out of the door without looking back.

By some providence he was saved from the crime of chilly
self-righteousness. On the darkness of the stairs he felt all at once
how responsive a chum the Turk had been. He dropped the suit-cases,
not caring how they fell, rushed back into the room, and found the
Turk still staring at the door. He cried:

"Old man, I was----Say, you yahoo, are you going to make me carry both
my valises to the depot?"

They rushed off together, laughing, promising to write to each other.

The Minneapolis train pulled out, with Carl trying to appear
commonplace. None of the sleepy passengers saw that the Golden Fleece
was draped about him or that under his arm he bore the harp of
Ulysses. He was merely a young man taking a train at a way-station.



Part II

THE ADVENTURE OF ADVENTURING



CHAPTER XIII


There are to-day in the mind of Carl Ericson many confused
recollections of the purposeless wanderings which followed his leaving
Plato College. For more than a year he went down, down in the social
scale, down to dirt and poverty and association with the utterly tough
and reckless. But day by day his young joy of wandering matured into
an ease in dealing with whatever man or situation he might meet. He
had missed the opportunity of becoming a respectable citizen which
Plato offered. Now he did all the grubby things which Plato obviated
that her sons might rise to a place in society, to eighteen hundred
dollars a year and the possession of evening clothes and a knowledge
of Greek. But the light danced more perversely in his eyes every day
of his roving.

The following are the several jobs for which Carl first applied in
Chicago, all the while frightened by the roar and creeping shadows of
the city:

Tutoring the children of a millionaire brewer; keeping time on the
Italian and Polack washers of a window-cleaning company; reporting on
an Evanston newspaper; driving a taxicab, a motor-truck; keeping books
for a suburban real-estate firm. He had it ground into him, as grit is
ground into your face when you fall from a bicycle, that every one in
a city of millions is too busy to talk to a stranger unless he sees a
sound reason for talking. He changed the _Joralemon Dynamite's_
phrase, "accept a position" to "get a job"--and he got a job, as
packer in a department store big as the whole of Joralemon. Since the
street throngs had already come to seem no more personal and
separable than the bricks in the buildings, he was not so much
impressed by the crowds in the store as by the number of things for
women to hang upon themselves. He would ramble in at lunch-time to
stare at them and marvel, "You can't beat it!"

From eight till twelve-thirty and from one till six or seven, during
nearly two months, Carl stood in a long, brick-walled, stuffy room,
inundated by floods of things to pack, wondering why he had ever left
Plato to become the slave of a Swede foreman. The Great World, as he
saw it through a tiny hole in one of the opaque wire-glass windows,
consisted of three bars of a rusty fire-escape-landing against a
yellow brick wall, with a smudge of black on the wall below the
landing.

Within two days he was calling the packing-room a prison. The
ceaseless rattle of speckled gray wrapping-paper, the stamp of feet on
the gray cement floor, the greasy gray hair of the packer next to him,
the yellow-stained, cracked, gray wash-bowl that served for thirty
men, such was his food for dreams.

Because his muscles were made of country earth and air he distanced
the packers from the slums, however. He became incredibly swift at
nailing boxes and crates and smashing the heavy wrapping-paper into
shape about odd bundles. The foreman promised to make Carl his
assistant. But on the cold December Saturday when his elevation was
due he glanced out of a window, and farewell all ambition as a packer.

The window belonged to the Florida Bakery and Lunch Room, where Carl
was chastely lunching. There was dirty sawdust on the floor, six pine
tables painted red and adorned with catsup-bottles whose mouths were
clotted with dried catsup, and a long counter scattered with bread and
white cakes and petrified rolls. Behind the counter a snuffling,
ill-natured fat woman in slippers handed bags of crullers to
shrill-voiced children who came in with pennies. The tables were
packed with over-worked and underpaid men, to whom lunch was merely a
means of keeping themselves from feeling inconveniently empty--a state
to which the leadlike viands of the Florida Lunch Room were a certain
prevention.

Carl was gulping down salty beef stew and bitter coffee served in
handleless cups half an inch thick. Beside him, elbow jogging elbow,
was a surly-faced man in overalls. The old German waiters shuffled
about and bawled, "_Zwei_ bif stew, _ein_ cheese-cake." Dishes
clattered incessantly. The sicky-sweet scent of old pastry, of
coffee-rings with stony raisins and buns smeared with dried cocoanut
fibers, seemed to permeate even the bitter coffee.

Carl got down most of his beef stew, attacked and gave up a chunk of
hard boiled potato, and lighted a cheap Virginia cigarette. He glanced
out of the dirty window. Before it, making inquiries of a big,
leisurely policeman, was a slim, exquisite girl of twenty,
rosy-cheeked, smart of hat, impeccable of gloves, with fluffy white
furs beneath her chin, which cuddled into the furs with a hint of a
life bright and spacious. She laughed as she talked to the policeman,
she shrugged her shoulders with the exhilaration of winter, and
skipped away.

"Bet she'd be a peach to know.... Fat chance I'd have to meet her,
wrapping up baby-carriages for the North Shore commuters all day! All
day!... Well, guess I'm going to honorably discharge myself!"

He left the job that afternoon.

His satiny Norse cheeks shone as he raced home through a rising
blizzard, after dinner at the Florida Lunch Room, where he had allowed
himself a ten-cent dessert for celebration.

But when he lolled in his hall bedroom, with his eyes attracted, as
usual, to the three cracks in the blue-painted ceiling which made a
rough map of Africa, when he visioned lands where there were lions and
desert instead of department-store packages, his happiness wilted in
face of the fact that he had only $10.42, with $8.00 due him from the
store the following Tuesday. Several times he subtracted the $3.00 he
owed the landlady from $18.42, but the result persisted in being only
$15.42. He could not make $15.42 appear a reasonable sum with which to
start life anew.

He had to search for a new job that evening. Only--he was so tired; it
was so pleasant to lie there with his sore feet cooling against the
wall, picturing a hunt in Africa, with native servants bringing him
things to eat: juicy steaks and French-fried potatoes and gallons of
ale (a repast which he may have been ignorant in assigning to the
African jungles, but which seemed peculiarly well chosen, after a
lunch-room dinner of watery corned-beef hash, burnt German-fried
potatoes, and indigestible hot mince-pie). His thoughts drifted off to
Plato. But Carl had a certain resoluteness even in these loose days.
He considered the manoeuvers for a new job. He desired one which
would permit him to go to theaters with the girl in white furs whom he
had seen that noon--the unknown fairy of his discontent.

It may be noted that he took this life quite seriously. Though he did
not suppose that he was going to continue dwelling in a hall bedroom,
yet never did he regard himself as a collegian Haroun-al-Raschid on an
amusing masquerade, pretending to be no better than the men with whom
he worked. Carl was no romantic hero incog. He was a workman, and he
knew it. Was not his father a carpenter? his father's best friend a
tailor? Had he not been a waiter at Plato?

But not always a workman. Carl had no conception of world-wide
class-consciousness; he had no pride in being a proletarian. Though
from Bone's musings and Frazer's lectures he had drawn a vague
optimism about a world-syndicate of nations, he took it for granted
that he was going to be rich as soon as he could.

Job. He had to have a job. He got stiffly up from the iron bed,
painfully drew on his shoes, after inspecting the hole in the sole of
the left shoe and the ripped seam at the back of the right. He pulled
tight the paper-thin overcoat which he had bought at a second-hand
dealer's shop, and dared a Chicago blizzard, with needles of snow
thundering by on a sixty-mile gale. Through a street of unutterably
drab stores and saloons he plowed to the Unallied Taxicab Company's
garage. He felt lonely, cold, but he observed with ceaseless interest
the new people, different people, who sloped by him in the dun web of
the blizzard. The American marveled at a recently immigrated Slav's
astrachan cap.

He had hung about the Unallied garage on evenings when he was too poor
to go to vaudeville. He had become decidedly friendly with the night
washer, a youngster from Minneapolis. Trotting up to the washer, who
was digging caked snow from the shoes of a car, he blurted:

"Say, Coogan, I've beat my job at ----'s. How's chances for getting a
taxi to drive? You know I know the game."

"You? Driving a taxi?" stammered the washer. "Why, say, there was a
guy that was a road-tester for the Blix Company and he's got a cousin
that knows Bathhouse John, and that guy with all his pull has been
trying to get on drivin' here for the last six months and ain't landed
it, so you see about how much chance you got!"

"Gosh! it don't look much like I had much chance, for a fact."

"Tell you what I'll do, though. Why don't you get on at some
automobile factory, and then you could ring in as a chauffeur, soon 's
you got some recommends you could take to the Y. M. C. A. employment
bureau." The washer gouged at a clot of ice with his heel, swore
profusely, and went on: "Here. You go over to the Lodestar Motor
Company's office, over on La Salle, Monday, and ask for Bill Coogan,
on the sales end. He's me cousin, and you tell him to give you a card
to the foreman out at the works, and I guess maybe you'll get a job,
all right."

Tuesday morning, after a severe questioning by the foreman, Carl was
given a week's try-out without pay at the Lodestar factory. He proved
to be one of those much-sought freaks in the world of mechanics, a
natural filer. The uninspired filer, unaware of the niceties of the
art, saws up and down, whereas the instinctive filer, like Carl, draws
his file evenly across the metal, and the result fits its socket
truly. So he was given welcome, paid twenty-five cents an hour, and
made full member of exactly such a gang as he had known at Plato,
after he had laughed away the straw boss who tried to make him go ask
for a left-handed monkey-wrench. He roomed at a machinists'
boarding-house, and enjoyed the furious discussions over religion and
the question of air _versus_ water cooling far more than he had ever
enjoyed the polite jesting at Mrs. Henkel's.

He became friendly with the foreman of the repair-shop, and was
promised a "chance." While the driver who made the road-tests of the
cars was ill Carl was called on as a substitute. The older workmen
warned him that no one could begin road-testing so early and hold the
job. But Carl happened to drive the vice-president of the firm. He
discussed bass-fishing in Minnesota with the vice-president, and he
was retained as road-tester, getting his chauffeur's license. Two
months later, when he was helping in the overhauling of a car in the
repair-shop, he heard a full-bodied man with a smart English overcoat
and a supercilious red face ask curtly of the shop foreman where he
could get a "crack shuffer, right away, one that can give the traffic
cops something to do for their money."

The foreman always stopped to scratch his chin when he had to think.
This process gave Carl time to look up from his repairs and blandly
remark: "That's me. Want to try me?"

Half an hour later Carl was engaged at twenty-five dollars a week as
the Ruddy One's driver. Before Monday noon he had convinced the Ruddy
One that he was no servant, but a mechanical expert. He drove the
Ruddy One to his Investments and Securities office in the morning, and
back at five; to restaurants in the evening. Not infrequently, with
the wind whooping about corners, he slept peacefully in the car till
two in the morning, outside a café. And he was perfectly happy. He was
at last seeing the Great World. As he manoeuvered along State Street
he rejoiced in the complications of the traffic and tooted his horn
unnecessarily. As he waited before tall buildings, at noon, he gazed
up at them with a superior air of boredom--because he was so boyishly
proud of being a part of all this titanic life that he was afraid he
might show it. He gloried in every new road, in driving along the Lake
Shore, where the horizon was bounded not by unimaginative land, but by
restless water.

Then the Ruddy One's favorite roads began to be familiar to Carl, too
familiar, and he so hated his sot of an employer that he caught
himself muttering, while driving, "Thank the Lord I sit in front and
don't have to see that chunk of raw beefsteak he calls a neck."

While he waited for the fifth time before a certain expensive but not
exclusive roadhouse, with the bouncing giggles of girls inside
spoiling the spring night, he studied the background as once he had
studied his father's woodshed. He was not, unfortunately, shocked by
wine and women. But he was bored by box-trees. There was a smugly
clipped box-tree on either side of the carriage entrance, the leaves
like cheap green lacquer in the glare of the arc-light, which brought
out all the artificiality of the gray-and-black cinder drive. He felt
that five pilgrimages to even the best of box-trees were enough. It
would be perfectly unreasonable for a free man to come here to stare
at box-trees a sixth time. "All right," he growled. "I guess
my-wandering-boy-to-night is going to beat it again."

While he drove to the garage he pondered: "Is it worth twenty-five
plunks to me to be able to beat it to-night instead of waiting four
days till pay-day? Nope. I'm a poor man."

But at 5 A.M. he was hanging about the railroad-yards at Hammond,
recalling the lessons of youth in "flipping trains"; and at seven he
was standing on the bumpers between two freight-cars, clinging to the
brake-rod, looking out to the open meadows of Indiana, laughing to see
farm-houses ringed with apple-blossoms and sweet with April morning.
The cinders stormed by him. As he swung with the cars, on curves, he
saw the treacherous wheels grinding beneath him. But to the
chuck-a-chuck, chuck-a-chuck, chuck-a-chuck of the trucks he hummed,
"Never turn back, never tur' back, never tur' back."



CHAPTER XIV


A young hobo named Carl Ericson crawled from the rods of an N. & W.
freight-car at Roanoke, Virginia, on a May day, with spring at full
tide and the Judas-trees a singing pink on the slopes of the Blue
Ridge.

"Hm!" grunted the young hobo. "I like these mountains. Guess I'll stay
here awhile.... Virginia! Plantations and Civil War history and
Richmond and everything, and me here!"

A frowzy old hobo poked a somnolent head up from a pile of lumber near
the tracks and yawned welcome to the recruit. "Hello, Slim. How's
tricks?"

"Pretty good. What's the best section to batter for a poke-out,
Billy?"

"To the right, over that way, and straight out."

"Much 'bliged," said Slim--erstwhile Ericson. "Say, j' know of any
jobs in this----"

"Any _whats_?"

"Jobs."

"Jobs? You looking for----Say, you beat it. Gwan. Chase yourself. Gwan
now; don't stand there. You ain't no decent 'bo. You're another of
those Unfortunate Workmen that's spoiling the profesh." The veteran
stared at Carl reprovingly, yet with a little sadness, too, at the
thought of how bitterly he had been deceived in this young comrade,
and his uncombed head slowly vanished amid the lumber.

Carl grinned and started up-town. He walked into four restaurants. At
noon, in white jacket, he was bustling about as waiter in the
dining-room of the Waskahominie Hotel, which had "white service" as a
feature.

Within two days he was boon companion of a guest of the
Waskahominie--Parker Heye, an actor famous from Cape Charles to
Shockeysville, now playing heavies at Roanoke in the Great Riley Tent
Show, Presenting a Popular Repertoire of Famous Melodramas under
Canvas, Rain or Shine, Admittance Twenty-five Cents, Section Reserved
for Colored People, the Best Show under Canvas, This Week Only.

When Parker Heye returned from the theater Carl sat with him in a room
which had calico-like wall-paper, a sunken bed with a comforter out of
which oozed a bit of its soiled cotton entrails, a cracked
water-pitcher on a staggering wash-stand, and a beautiful new cuspidor
of white china hand-painted with pink moss-roses tied with narrow blue
ribbon.

Carl listened credulously to Heye's confidences as to how jealous was
Riley, the actor-manager, of Heye's art, how Heye had "knocked them
all down" in a stock company at Newport News, and what E. H. Sothern
had said to him when they met in Richmond as guests of the Seven Pines
Club.

"Say," rasped Heye, "you're a smart young fellow, good-looking,
ejucated. Why don't you try to get an engagement? I'll knock you down
to Riley. The second juvenile 's going to leave on Saturday, and there
ain't hardly time to get anybody from Norfolk."

"Golly! that 'd be great!" cried Carl, who, like every human being
since Eden, with the possible exceptions of Calvin and Richard
Mansfield, had a secret belief that he could be a powerful actor.

"Well, I'll see what I can do for you," said Heye, at parting,
alternately snapping his suspenders and scratching his head. Though he
was in his stocking-feet and coat-less, though the back of his neck
was a scraggle of hair, Parker Heye was preferable to the three Swiss
waiters snoring in the hot room under the eaves, with its door half
open, opposite the half-open door of the room where negro chambermaids
tumbled and snorted in uncouth slumber. Carl's nose wrinkled with
bitter fastidiousness as he pulled off his clothes, sticky with heat,
and glared at the swathed forms of the waiters. He was the aristocrat
among proletarians, going back to His Own People--of the Great Riley
Tent Show.

       *       *       *       *       *

As second juvenile of the Tent Show, Carl received only twelve dollars
a week, but Mr. Riley made him promises rich as the Orient beryl, and
permitted him to follow the example of two of the bandsmen and pitch a
cot on the trampled hay flooring of the dressing-room tent, behind the
stage. There also Carl prepared breakfast on an alcohol-stove. The
canvas creaked all night; negroes and small boys stuck inquisitive
heads under the edge of the canvas. But it was worth it--to travel on
again; to have his mornings free except for an hour's rehearsal; to
climb to upland meadows of Virginia and Kentucky, among the pines and
laurel and rhododendron; tramping up past the log cabins plastered
with mud, where pickaninnies stared shyly, past glens shining with
dogwood, and friendly streams. Once he sat for an hour on Easter Knob,
gazing through a distant pass whose misty blue he pretended was the
ocean. Once he heard there were moonshiners back in the hills. He
talked to bearded Dunkards and their sunbonneted wives; and when he
found a Confederate veteran he listened to the tale of the defense of
Richmond, delighted to find that the Boys in Gray were not merely
names in the history-books.

Of all these discoveries he wrote to his mother, wishing that her
weary snow-bleached life might know the Southern sun. And the first
five dollars he saved he sent to her.

But as soon as Carl became an actor Parker Heye grew jealous of him,
and was gratingly contemptuous when he showed him how to make up,
among the cheap actors jammed in the men's dressing-room, before a
pine board set on two saw-horses, under the light of a flaring
kerosene-torch. Carl came to hate Heye and his splotched face, his
pale, large eyes and yellow teeth and the bang on his forehead, his
black string tie that was invariably askew, his slovenly blue suit,
his foppishly shaped tan button shoes with "bulldog" toes. Heye
invariably jeered: "Don't make up so heavy.... Well, put a _little_
rouge on your lips. What d'you think you are? A blooming red-lipped
Venus?... Try to learn to walk across the stage as if you had _one_
leg that wasn't wood, anyway.... It's customary to go to sleep when
you're playing a listening rôle, but don't snore!... Oh, you're a
swell actor! Think of me swallering your story about having been t'
college!... Don't make up your eyebrows so heavy, you fool.... Why you
ever wanted to be an actor----!"

The Great Riley agreed with all that Heye said, and marveled with Heye
that he had ever tried an amateur. Carl found the dressing-room a
hay-dusty hell. But he enjoyed acting in "The Widow's Penny," "Alabama
Nell," "The Moonshiner's Daughter," and "The Crook's Revenge" far more
than he had enjoyed picking phrases out of Shakespeare at a vaguely
remembered Plato. Since, in Joralemon and Plato, he had been brought
up on melodrama, he believed as much as did the audience in the plays.
It was a real mountain cabin from which he fired wonderfully loud guns
in "The Moonshiner's Daughter"; and when the old mountaineer cried,
"They ain't going to steal mah gal!" Carl was damp at the eyes, and
swore with real fervor the oath to protect the girl, sure that in the
ravine behind the back-drop his bearded foe-men were lurking.

"The Crook's Revenge" was his favorite, for he was cast as a young
millionaire and wore evening clothes (second-hand). He held off a mob
of shrieking gangsters, crouched behind an overturned table in a
gambling-den. He coolly stroked the lovely hair of the ingénue, Miss
Evelyn L'Ewysse, with one hand, leveled a revolver with the other, and
made fearless jests the while, to the infinite excitement of the
audience, especially of the hyah-hyah-hyahing negroes, whose faces,
under the flicker of lowered calcium-carbide lights, made a segregated
strip of yellow-black polka-dotted with white eye-balls.

When the people were before him, respectful to art under canvas, Carl
could love them; but even the tiniest ragged-breeched darky was bold
in his curiosity about the strolling players when they appeared
outside, and Carl was self-conscious about the giggles and stares that
surrounded him when he stopped on the street or went into a drug-store
for the comfortable solace of a banana split. He was in a rage
whenever a well-dressed girl peeped at him amusedly from a one-lunged
runabout. The staring so flustered him that even the pride of coming
from Chicago and knowing about motors did not prevent his feeling
feeble at the knees as he tried to stalk by the grinning motored
aristocracy. He would return to the show-tent, to hate the few tawdry
drops and flats--the patch of green spattered with dirty white which
variously simulated a daisy-field, a mountainside, and that part of
Central Park directly opposite the Fifth Avenue residence of the
millionaire counterfeiter, who, you remember, always comes out into
the street to plot with his confederates. Carl hated with peculiar
heartiness the anemic, palely varnished, folding garden bench, which
figured now as a seat in the moonshiner's den, and now, with a cotton
leopard-skin draped over it, as a fauteuil in the luxurious
drawing-room of Mrs. Van Antwerp. The garden bench was, however,
associated with his learning to make stage love to Miss Evelyn
L'Ewysse.

It was difficult to appear unconscious of fifty small boys all
smacking their lips in unison, while he kissed the air one centimeter
in front of Miss L'Ewysse's lips. But he learned the art. Indeed, he
began to lessen that centimeter of safety.

Miss Evelyn L'Ewysse (christened Lena Ludwig, and heir presumptive to
one of the best delicatessens in Newport News) reveled in love-making
on and off. Carl was attracted by her constantly, uncomfortably. She
smiled at him in the wings, smoothed her fluffy blond hair at him, and
told him in confidence that she was a high-school graduate, that she
was used to much, oh, _much_ better companies, and was playing under
canvas for a lark. She bubbled: "_Ach_, Louie, say, ain't it hot!
Honest, Mr. Ericson, I don't see how you stand it like you do.... Say,
honest, that was swell business you pulled in the third act last
night.... Say, I know what let's do--let's get up a swell act and get
on the Peanut Circuit. We'd hit Broadway with a noise like seventeen
marine bands.... Say, honest, Mr. Ericson, you do awful well for----I
bet you ain't no amachoor. I bet you been on before."

He devoured it.

One night, finding that Miss Evelyn made no comment on his holding her
hand, he lured her out of the tent during a long wait, trembled, and
kissed her. Her fingers gripped his shoulders agitatedly, plucked at
his sleeve as she kissed him back. She murmured, "Oh, you hadn't ought
to do that." But afterward she would kiss him every time they were
alone, and she told him with confidential giggles of Parker Heye's
awkward attempts to win her. Heye's most secret notes she read, till
Carl seriously informed her that she was violating a trust. Miss
Evelyn immediately saw the light and promised she would "never, never,
never do anythin' like that again, and, honest, she hadn't realized
she was doing anythin' dishon'able, but Heye is such an old pest";
which was an excuse for her weeping on his shoulder and his kissing
the tears away.

All day he looked forward to their meetings. Yet constantly the law of
the adventurer, which means the instinct of practical decency, warned
him that this was no amour for him; that he must not make love where
he did not love; that this good-hearted vulgarian was too kindly to
tamper with and too absurd to love. Only----And again his breath would
draw in with swift exultation as he recalled how elastic were her
shoulders to stroke.

It was summer now, and they were back in Virginia, touring the Eastern
Shore. Carl, the prairie-born, had been within five miles of the open
Atlantic, though he had not seen it. Along the endless flat
potato-fields, broken by pine-groves under whose sultry shadow negro
cabins sweltered, the heat clung persistently. The show-tent was
always filled with a stale scent of people.

At the town of Nankiwoc the hotel was not all it might have been.
Evelyn L'Ewysse announced that she was "good and sick of eating a
vaudeville dinner with the grub acts stuck around your plate in a lot
of birds' bath-tubs--little mess of turnips and a dab of spinach and a
fried cockroach. And when it comes to sleeping another night on a bed
like a gridiron, no--thank--_you_! And believe me, if I see that old
rube hotel-keeper comb his whiskers at the hall hat-rack again--he
keeps a baby comb in his vest pocket with a lead-pencil and a cigar
some drummer gave him--if I have to watch him comb that alfalfa again
I'll bite his ears off and get pinched by the S. P. C. A.!"

With Mrs. Lubley, the old lady and complacent unofficial chaperon of
the show, Eve was going to imitate Carl and the two bandsmen, and
sleep in the dressing-room tent, over half of which was devoted to the
women of the company.

Every day Carl warned himself that he must go no farther, but every
night as Eve and he parted, to sleep with only a canvas partition
between them, he cursed the presence of the show chaperon, and of the
two bandsmen, always distressingly awake and talking till after
midnight.

A hot June night. The whole company had been invited to a dance at the
U. C. V. Hall; the two bandsmen were going; the chaperon--lively old
lady with experience on the burlesque circuit--was gaily going. Carl
and Eve were not. It had taken but one glance between them to decide
that.

They sat outside the silent tent, on a wardrobe trunk. What manner of
night it was, whether starlit or sullen, Carl did not know; he was
aware only that it was oppressive, and that Eve was in his arms in the
darkness. He kissed her moist, hot neck. He babbled incoherently of
the show people, but every word he said meant that he was palpitating
because her soft body was against his. He knew--and he was sure that
she knew--that when they discussed Heye's string tie and pretended to
laugh, they were agitatedly voicing their intoxication.

His voice unsteady, Carl said: "Jiminy! it's so hot, Eve! I'm going to
take off this darn shirt and collar and put on a soft shirt. S-say,
w-why don't you put on a kimono or something? Be so much cooler."

"Oh, I don't know as I ought to----" She was frightened, awed at
Bacchic madness. "D-do you think it would be all right?"

"Why not? Guess anybody's got a right to get cool--night like this.
Besides, they won't be back till 4 P.M. And you got to get cool. Come
on."

And he knew--and he was sure that she knew--that all he said was
pretense. But she rose and said, nebulously, as she stood before him,
ruffling his hair: "Well, I would like to get cool. If you think it's
all right----I'll put on something cooler, anyway."

She went. Carl could hear a rustling in the women's end of the
dressing-room tent. Fevered, he listened to it. Fevered, he changed to
an outing-shirt, open at the throat. He ran out, not to miss a moment
with her.... She had not yet come. He was too overwrought to heed a
small voice in him, a voice born of snow-fields colored with sunset
and trained in the quietudes of Henry Frazer's house, which insisted:
"Go slow! Stop!" A louder voice throbbed like the pulsing of the
artery in his neck, "She's coming!"

Through the darkness her light garment swished against the long grass.
He sprang up. Then he was holding her, bending her head back. He
exulted to find that his gripping hand was barred from the smoothness
of her side only by thin silk that glided and warmed under his
fingers. She sat on his knees and snuggled her loosened hair
tinglingly against his bare chest. He felt that she was waiting for
him to go on.

Suddenly he could not, would not, go on.

"Dearest, we mustn't!" he mourned.

"O Carl!" she sobbed, and stopped his words with clinging lips.

He found himself waiting till she should finish the kiss that he might
put an end to this.

Perhaps he was checked by provincial prejudices about chivalry. But
perhaps he had learned a little self-control. In any case, he had
stopped for a second to think, and the wine of love was gone flat. He
wished she would release him. Also, her hair was tickling his ear. He
waited, patiently, till she should finish the kiss.

Her lips drew violently from his, and she accused, "You don't want to
kiss me!"

"Look here; I want to kiss you, all right--Lord----" For a second his
arms tightened; then he went on, cold: "But we'll both be good and
sorry if we go too far. It isn't just a cowardly caution. It's----Oh,
you know."

"Oh yes, yes, yes, we mustn't go too far, Carl. But can't we just sit
like this? O sweetheart, I am so tired! I want somebody to care for me
a little. That isn't wicked, is it? I want you to take me in your arms
and hold me close, close, and comfort me. I want so much to be
comforted. We needn't go any further, need we?"

"Oh now, good Lord! Eve, look here: don't you know we can't go on and
not go farther? I'm having a hard enough time----" He sprang up,
shakily lighting a cigarette. He stroked her hair and begged: "Please
go, Eve. I guess I haven't got very good control over myself. Please.
You make me----"

"Oh yes, yes, sure! Blame it on me! Sure! I made you let me put on a
kimono! I'm leading your pure white shriveled peanut of a soul into
temptation!... Don't you ever dare speak to me again! Oh,
you--you----"

She flounced away.

Carl caught her, in two steps. "See here, child," he said, gravely,
"if you go off like this we'll both be miserable.... You remember how
happy we were driving out to the old plantation at Powhasset?"

"O Gawd! won't you men never say anything original? Remember it? Of
course I remember it! What do you suppose I wore that little branch of
laurel you picked for me, wore it here, here, at my breast, and I
thought you'd _care_ if I hid it here where there wasn't any grease
paint, and you don't--you don't care--and we picnicked, and I sang all
the time I put up those sandwiches and hid the grape-fruit in the
basket to surprise you----"

"O darling Eve, I don't know how to say how sorry I am, so terribly
sorry I've started things going! It is my fault. But can't you see
I've got to stop it before it's too late, just for that reason? Let's
be chums again."

She shook her head. Her hand crept to his, slid over it, drew it up to
her breast. She was swaying nearer to him. He pulled his hand free and
fled to his tent.

Perhaps his fiercest gibe at himself was that he had had to play the
rôle of virgin Galahad rejecting love, which is praised in books and
ridiculed in clubs. He mocked at his sincere desire to be fair to Eve.
And between mockeries he strained to hear her moving beyond the
canvas partition. He was glad when the bandsmen came larruping home
from the dance.

Next day she went out of her way to be chilly to him. He did not woo
her friendship. He had resigned from the Great Riley Show, and he was
going--going anywhere, so long as he kept going.



CHAPTER XV


He had been a jolly mechanic again, in denim overalls and jumper and a
defiant black skull-cap with long, shiny vizor; the tender of the
motor-boat fleet at an Ontario summer hotel. One day he had looked up,
sweating and greasy, to see Howard Griffin, of Plato, parading past in
white flannels. He had muttered: "I don't want Them to know I've just
been bumming around. I'll go some place else. And I'll do something
worth while." Now he was on the train for New York, meditating
impersonally on his uselessness, considering how free of moss his
rolling had kept him. He could think of no particularly masterful plan
for accumulating moss. If he had not bought a ticket through to New
York he would have turned back, to seek a position in one of the great
automobile factories that now, this early autumn of 1906, were
beginning to distinguish Detroit. Well, he had enough money to last
for one week in New York. He would work in an automobile agency there;
later he would go to Detroit, and within a few years be president of a
motor company, rich enough to experiment with motor-boats and to laugh
at Howard Griffin or any other Platonian.

So he sketched his conquering entrance into New York. Unfortunately it
was in the evening, and, having fallen asleep at Poughkeepsie, he did
not awake till a brakeman shook his shoulder at the Grand Central
Station. He had heard of the old Grand Union Hotel, and drowsily, with
the stuffy nose and sandy eyes and unclean feeling about the teeth
that overpower one who sleeps in a smoking-car, he staggered across
to the hotel and spent his first conquering night in filling a dollar
room with vulgar sounds of over-weary slumber.

But in the morning, when he stared along Forty-second Street; when he
breakfasted at a Childs' restaurant, like a gigantic tiled bath-room,
and realized that the buckwheat cakes were New York buckwheats; when
he sighted the noble _Times_ Building and struck out for Broadway (the
magic name that promised marble palaces, even if it provided two-story
shacks); when he bustled into a carburetor agency and demanded a
job--then he found the gateway of wonder.

But he did not find a job.

Eight nights after his arrival he quietly paid his bill at the hotel;
tipped a curly-headed bell-boy; checked his baggage, which consisted
of a shirt, a razor, and an illustrated catalogue of automobile
accessories; put his tooth-brush in his pocket; bought an evening
paper in order to feel luxurious; and walked down to the Charity
Organization Society, with ten cents in his pocket.

In the Joint Application Bureau, filled with desks and
filing-cabinets, where poor men cease to be men and become Cases, Carl
waited on a long bench till it was his turn to tell his troubles to a
keen, kindly, gray-bearded man behind a roll-top desk. He asked for
work. Work was, it seemed, the one thing the society could not give.
He received a ticket to the Municipal Lodging House.

This was not the hygienic hostelry of to-day, but a barracks on First
Avenue. Carl had a chunk of bread with too much soda in it, and coffee
with too little coffee in it, from a contemptuous personage in a white
jacket, who, though his cuffs were grimy, showed plainly that he was
too good to wait on bums. Carl leaned his elbows on the long scrubbed
table and chewed the bread of charity sullenly, resolving to catch a
freight next day and get out of town.

He slept in a narrow bunk near a man with consumption. The room reeked
of disinfectants and charity.

       *       *       *       *       *

The East Side of New York. A whirlwind of noise and smell and hovering
shadows. The jargon of Jewish matrons in brown shawls and orthodox
wigs, chaffering for cabbages and black cotton stockings and gray
woolen undershirts with excitable push-cart proprietors who had beards
so prophetic that it was startling to see a frivolous cigarette amid
the reverend mane. The scent of fried fish and decaying bits of kosher
meat, and hallways as damnably rotten of floor as they were profitable
to New York's nicest circles. The tall gloom of six-story tenements
that made a prison wall of dulled yellow, bristling with bedding-piled
fire-escapes and the curious heads of frowzy women. A potpourri of
Russian signs, Yiddish newspapers, synagogues with six-pointed gilt
stars, bakeries with piles of rye bread crawling with caraway-seeds,
shops for renting wedding finery that looked as if it could never fit
any one, second-hand furniture-shops with folding iron beds, a filthy
baby holding a baby slightly younger and filthier, mangy cats slinking
from pile to pile of rubbish, and a withered geranium in a tin can
whose label was hanging loose and showed rust-stains amid the dry
paste on its back. Everywhere crowds of voluble Jews in dark clothes,
and noisily playing children that catapulted into your legs. The
lunger-blocks in which we train the victims of Russian tyranny to
appreciate our freedom. A whirlwind of alien ugliness and foul smells
and incessant roar and the deathless ambition of young Jews to know
Ibsen and syndicalism. It swamped the courage of hungry Carl as he
roamed through Rivington Street and Essex and Hester, vainly seeking
jobs from shopkeepers too poor to be able to bathe.

He felt that he, not these matter-of-fact crowds, was alien. He was
hungry and tired. There was nothing heroic to do--just go hungry.
There was no place where he could sit down. The benches of the tiny
hard-trodden parks were full.... If he could sit down, if he could
rest one little hour, he would be able to go and find freight-yards,
where there would be the clean clang of bells and rattle of trucks
instead of gabbled Yiddish. Then he would ride out into the country,
away from the brooding shadows of this town, where there were no
separable faces, but only a fog of ceaselessly moving crowds....

Late that night he stood aimlessly talking to a hobo on a dirty corner
of the Bowery, where the early September rain drizzled through the
gaunt structure of the Elevated. He did not feel the hunger so much
now, but he was meekly glad to learn from his new friend, the hobo,
that in one more hour he could get food in the bread-line. He felt
very boyish, and would have confided the fact that he was starving to
any woman, to any one but this transcontinental hobo, the tramp royal,
trained to scorn hunger. Because he was one of them he watched
incuriously the procession of vagrants, in coats whose collars were
turned up and fastened with safety-pins against the rain. The vagrants
shuffled rapidly by, their shoulders hunched, their hands always in
their trousers pockets, their shoe-heels always ground down and muddy.

And incuriously he watched a saloon-keeper, whose face was plastered
over with a huge mustache, come out and hang a sign, "Porter wanted in
A.M.," on the saloon door.

As he slouched away to join the bread-line, a black deuce in the
world's discard, Carl was wondering how he could get that imperial
appointment as porter in a Bowery saloon. He almost forgot it while
waiting in the bread-line, so occupied was he in hating two collegians
who watched the line with that open curiosity which nice, clean,
respectable young men suppose the poor never notice. He restrained his
desire to go over and quote Greek at them, because they were ignorant
and not to blame for being sure that they were of clay superior to
any one in a bread-line. And partly because he had forgotten his
Greek.

He came back to the Bowery briskly, alone, with the manhood of a loaf
of bread in him. He was going to get that job as porter. He planned
his campaign as a politician plans to become a statesman. He slipped
the sign, "Porter wanted in A.M.," from its nail and hid it beneath
his coat. He tramped the block all night and, as suspicious characters
always do to avoid seeming suspicious, he begged a match from a
policeman who was keeping an eye on him. The policeman chatted with
him about baseball and advised him to keep away from liquor and
missions.

At 5 A.M. Carl was standing at the saloon door. When the bartender
opened it Carl bounced in, slightly dizzy, conscious of the slime of
mud on his fraying trouser-ends.

The saloon had an air of cheap crime and a floor covered with clotted
sawdust. The bar was a slab of dark-brown wood, so worn that
semicircles of slivers were showing. The nasty gutter was still filled
with cigar-ends and puddles of beer and bits of free-lunch cheese.

"I want that job as porter," said Carl.

"Oh, you do, do you? Well, you wait and see who else comes to get it."

"Nobody else is going to come."

"How do you know they ain't?"

Carl drew the sign from beneath his coat and carefully laid it on the
bar. "That's why."

"Well, you got nerve. You got the nerve of a Republican on Fourteenth
Street, like the fellow says. You must want it. Well, all right, I
guess you can have it if the boss don't kick."

Carl was accepted by the "boss," who gave him a quarter and told him
to go out and get a "regular feed." He hummed over breakfast. He had
been accepted again by all men when he had been accepted by the
proprietor of a Bowery saloon. He was going to hold this job, no
matter what happened. The rolling stone was going to gather moss.

For three months Carl took seriously the dirtiest things in the world.
He worked sixteen hours a day for eight dollars a week, cleaning
cuspidors, scrubbing the floor, scattering clean sawdust, cutting the
more rotten portions off the free-lunch meat. As he slopped about with
half-frozen, brittle rags, hoboes pushed him aside and spat on the
floor he had just cleaned.

Of his eight dollars a week he saved four. He rented an airshaft
bedroom in the flat of a Jewish sweatshop worker for one dollar and
seventy-five cents a week. It was occupied daytimes by a cook in an
all-night restaurant, who had taken a bath in 1900 when at Coney
Island on an excursion of the Pip O'Gilligan Association. The room was
unheated, and every night during January Carl debated whether to go to
bed with his shoes on or off.

The sub-landlord's daughter was a dwarfish, blotched-faced, passionate
child of fifteen, with moist eyes and very low-cut waists of coarse
voile (which she pronounced "voyle"). She would stop Carl in the dark
"railroad" hallway and, chewing gum rapidly, chatter about the
aisleman at Wanamacy's, and what a swell time there would be at the
coming ball of the Thomas J. Monahan Literary and Social Club, tickets
twenty-five cents for lady and gent, including hat-check. She let Carl
know that she considered him close-fisted for never taking her to the
movies on Sunday afternoons, but he patted her head and talked to her
like a big brother and kept himself from noticing that she had
clinging hands and would be rather pretty, and he bought her a
wholesome woman's magazine to read--not an entirely complete solution
to the problem of what to do with the girl whom organized society is
too busy to nourish, but the best he could contrive just then.

Sundays, when he was free for part of the day, he took his book of
recipes for mixed drinks to the reading-room of the Tompkins Square
library and gravely studied them, for he was going to be a bartender.

Every night when he staggered from the comparatively clean air of the
street into the fetid chill of his room he asked himself why he--son
of Northern tamaracks and quiet books--went on with this horrible
imitation of living; and each time answered himself that, whether
there was any real reason or not, he was going to make good on one job
at least, and that the one he held. And admonished himself that he was
very well paid for a saloon porter.

If Carl had never stood in the bread-line, if he had never been
compelled to clean a saloon gutter artistically, in order to keep from
standing in that bread-line, he would surely have gone back to the
commonplaceness for which every one except Bone Stillman and Henry
Frazer had been assiduously training him all his life. They who know
how naturally life runs on in any sphere will understand that Carl did
not at the time feel that he was debased. He lived twenty-four hours a
day and kept busy, with no more wonder at himself than is displayed by
the professional burglar or the man who devotes all his youth to
learning Greek or soldiering. Nevertheless, the work itself was so
much less desirable than driving a car or wandering through the
moonlight with Eve L'Ewysse in days wonderful and lost that, to endure
it, to conquer it, he had to develop a control over temper and speech
and body which was to stay with him in windy mornings of daring.

Within three months Carl had become assistant bar-keeper, and now he
could save eight dollars a week. He bought a couple of motor magazines
and went to one vaudeville show and kept his sub-landlord's daughter
from running off with a cadet, wondering how soon she would do it in
any case, and receiving a depressing insight into the efficiency of
society for keeping in the mire most of the people born there.

Three months later, at the end of winter, he was ready to start for
Panama.

He was going to Panama because he had read in a Sunday newspaper of
the Canal's marvels of engineering and jungle.

He had avoided making friends. There was no one to give him farewell
when he emerged from the muck. But he had one task to perform--to
settle with the Saloon Snob.

Petey McGuff was the name of this creature. He was an oldish and
wicked man, born on the Bowery. He had been a heavy-weight
prize-fighter in the days of John L. Sullivan; then he had met John,
and been, ever since, an honest crook who made an excellent living by
conducting a boxing-school in which the real work was done by
assistants. He resembled a hound with a neat black bow tie, and he
drooled tobacco-juice down his big, raw-looking, moist, bristly,
too-masculine chin. Every evening from eleven to midnight Petey McGuff
sat at the round table in the mildewed corner at the end of the bar,
drinking old-fashioned whisky cocktails made with Bourbon, playing
Canfield, staring at the nude models pasted on the milky surface of an
old mirror, and teasing Carl.

"Here, boy, come 'ere an' wipe off de whisky you spilled.... Come on,
you tissy-cat. Get on de job.... You look like Sunday-school Harry.
Mamma's little rosy-cheeked boy.... Some day I'm going to bust your
beezer. Gawd! it makes me sick to sit here and look at dose
goily-goily cheeks.... Come 'ere, Lizzie, an' wipe dis table again. On
de jump, daughter."

Carl held himself in. Hundreds of times he snarled to himself: "I
_won't_ hit him! I will make good on _this_ job, anyway." He created a
grin which he could affix easily.

Now he was leaving. He had proven that he could hold a job; had
answered the unspoken criticisms from Plato, from Chicago garages,
from the Great Riley Show. For the first time since he had deserted
college he had been able to write to his father, to answer the grim
carpenter's unspoken criticisms of the son who had given up his chance
for an "education." And proudly he had sent to his father a little
check. He had a beautiful new fifteen-dollar suit of blue serge at
home. In his pocket was his ticket--steerage by the P. R. R. line to
Colon--and he would be off for bluewater next noon. His feet danced
behind the bar as he filled schooners of beer and scraped off their
foam with a celluloid ruler. He saw himself in Panama, with a clean
man's job, talking to cosmopolitan engineers against a background of
green-and-scarlet jungle. And, oh yes, he was going to beat Petey
McGuff that evening, and get back much of the belligerent self-respect
which he had been drawing off into schooners with the beer.

Old Petey rolled in at two minutes past eleven, warmed his hands at
the gas-stove, poked disapprovingly at the pretzels on the free-lunch
counter, and bawled at Carl: "Hey, keep away from dat cash-register!
Wipe dem goilish tears away, will yuh, Agnes, and bring us a little
health-destroyer and a couple matches."

Carl brought a whisky cocktail.

"Where's de matches, you tissy-cat?"

Carl wiped his hands on his apron and beamed: "Well, so the old soak
is getting too fat and lazy to reach over on the bar and get his own!
You'll last quick now!"

"Aw, is dat so!... For de love of Mike, d'yuh mean to tell me Lizzie
is talking back? Whadda yuh know about dat! Whadda yuh know about dat!
You'll get sick on us here, foist t'ing we know. Where was yuh
hoited?"

Petey McGuff's smile was absolutely friendly. It made Carl hesitate,
but it had become one of the principles of cosmic ethics that he had
to thump Petey, and he growled: "I'll give you all the talking back
you want, you big stiff. I'm getting through to-night. I'm going to
Panama."

"No, straight, is dat straight?"

"That's what I said."

"Well, dat's fine, boy. I been watching yuh, and I sees y' wasn't cut
out to be no saloon porter. I made a little bet with meself you was
ejucated. Why, y'r cuffs ain't even doity--not very doity. Course you
kinda need a shave, but dem little blond hairs don't show much. I seen
you was a gentleman, even if de bums didn't. You're too good t' be a
rum-peddler. Glad y're going, boy, mighty glad. Sit down. Tell us
about it. We'll miss yuh here. I was just saying th' other night to
Mike here dere ain't one feller in a hundred could 'a' stood de
kiddin' from an old he-one like me and kep' his mout' shut and grinned
and said nawthin' to nobody. Dat's w'at wins fights. But, say, boy,
I'll miss yuh, I sure will. I get to be kind of lonely as de boys drop
off--like boozers always does. Oh, hell, I won't spill me troubles
like an old tissy-cat.... So you're going to Panama? I want yuh to sit
down and tell me about it. Whachu taking, boy?"

"Just a cigar.... I'll miss you, too, Petey. Tell you what I'll do.
I'll send you some post-cards from Panama."

Next noon as the S.S. _Panama_ pulled out of her ice-lined dock Carl
saw an old man shivering on the wharf and frantically waving
good-by--Petey McGuff.



CHAPTER XVI


The S.S. _Panama_ had passed Watling's Island and steamed into
story-land. On the white-scrubbed deck aft of the wheel-house Carl sat
with his friends of the steerage--sturdy men all, used to open places;
old Ed, the rock-driller, long, Irish, huge-handed, irate, kindly;
Harry, the young mechanic from Cleveland. Ed and an oiler were
furiously debating about the food aboard:

"Aw, it's rotten, all of it."

"Look here, Ed, how about the chicken they give the steerage on
Sunday?"

"Chicken? I didn't see no chicken. I see some sea-gull, though. No
wonder they ain't no more sea-gulls following us. They shot 'em and
cooked 'em on us."

"Say," mused Harry, "makes me think of when I was ship-building in
Philly--no, it was when I was broke in K. C.--and a guy----"

Carl smiled in content, exulting in the talk of the men of the road,
exulting in his new blue serge suit, his new silver-gray tie with no
smell of the saloon about it, finger-nails that were growing pink
again--and the sunset that made glorious his petty prides. A vast
plane of unrippling plum-colored sea was set with mirror-like pools
where floated tree-branches so suffused with light that the glad heart
blessed them. His first flying-fish leaped silvery from silver sea,
and Carl cried, almost aloud, "This is what I've been wanting all my
life!"

Aloud, to Harry: "Say, what's it like in Kansas? I'm going down
through there some day." He spoke harshly. But the real Carl was
robed in light and the murmurous wake of evening, with the tropics
down the sky-line.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lying in his hot steerage bunk, stripped to his under-shirt, Carl
peered through the "state-room" window to the swishing night sea,
conscious of the rolling of the boat, of the engines shaking her, of
bolts studding the white iron wall, of life-preservers over his head,
of stokers singing in the gangway as they dumped the clinkers
overboard. The _Panama_ was pounding on, on, on, and he rejoiced,
"This is just what I've wanted, always."

       *       *       *       *       *

They are creeping in toward the wharf at Colon. He is seeing Panama!
First a point of palms, then the hospital, the red roofs of the I. C.
C. quarters at Cristobal, and negroes on the sun-blistered wharf.

At last he is free to go ashore in wonderland--a medley of Colon and
Cristobal, Panama and the Canal Zone of 1907; Spiggoty policemen like
monkeys chattering bad Spanish, and big, smiling Canal Zone policemen
in khaki, with the air of soldiers; Jamaica negroes with conical heads
and brown Barbados negroes with Cockney accents; English engineers in
lordly pugrees, and tourists from New England who seem servants of
their own tortoise-shell spectacles; comfortable ebon mammies with
silver bangles and kerchiefs of stabbing scarlet, dressed in starched
pink-and-blue gingham, vending guavas and green Toboga Island
pineapples. Carl gapes at Panamanian nuns and Chilean consuls, French
peasant laborers and indignant Irish foremen and German
concessionaries with dueling scars and high collars. Gold Spanish
signs and Spiggoty money and hotels with American cuspidors and
job-hunters; tin roofs and arcades; shops open to the street in front,
but mysterious within, giving glimpses of the canny Chinese
proprietors smoking tiny pipes. Trains from towns along the Canal, and
sometimes the black funeral-car, bound for Monkey Hill Cemetery.
Gambling-houses where it is considered humorous to play "Where Is My
Wandering Boy To-night?" on the phonograph while wandering boys sit at
poker; and less cleanly places, named after the various states. Negro
wenches in yellow calico dancing to fiddled tunes older than voodoo;
Indian planters coming sullenly in with pale-green bananas; memories
of the Spanish Main and Morgan's raid, of pieces of eight and
cutlasses ho! Capes of cocoanut palms running into a welter of surf;
huts on piles streaked with moss, round whose bases land-crabs scuttle
with a dry rattling that carries far in the hot, moist, still air, and
suggests the corpses of disappeared men found half devoured.

Then, for contrast, the transplanted North, with its seriousness about
the Service; the American avenues and cool breezes of Cristobal, where
fat, bald chiefs of the I. C. C. drive pompously with political guests
who, in 1907, are still incredulous about the success of the military
socialism of the Canal, and where wives from Oklahoma or Boston,
seated in Grand Rapids golden-oak rockers on the screened porches of
bungalows, talk of hats, and children, and mail-orders, and cards, and
The Colonel, and malarial fever, and Chautauqua, and the Culebra
slide.

Colon! A kaleidoscope of crimson and green and dazzling white,
warm-hued peoples and sizzling roofs, with echoes from the high
endeavor of the Canal and whispers from the unknown Bush; drenched
with sudden rain like escaping steam, or languid under the desert
glare of the sky, where hangs a gyre of buzzards whose slow circles
are stiller than death and calmer than wisdom.

"Lord!" sighs Carl Ericson from Joralemon, "this is what I've wanted
ever since I was a kid."

       *       *       *       *       *

At Pedro Miguel, which the Canal employees always called "Peter
McGill," he found work, first as an unofficial time-keeper; presently,
after examinations, as a stationery engineer on the roll of the I. C.
C. Within a month he showed no signs of his Bowery experiences beyond
a shallow hollow in his smooth cheeks. He lived in quarters like a
college dormitory, communistic and jolly, littered with shoes and
cube-cut tobacco and college banners; clean youngsters dropping in for
an easy chat--and behind it all, the mystery of the Bush. His
room-mate, a conductor on the P. R. R., was a globe-trotter, and
through him Carl met the Adventurers, whom he had been questing ever
since he had run away from Oscar Ericson's woodshed. There was a young
engineer from Boston Tech., who swore every morning at 7.07 (when it
rained boiling water as enthusiastically as though it had never done
such a thing before) that he was going to Chihuahua, mining. There was
Cock-eye Corbett, an ex-sailor, who was immoral and a Lancashireman,
and knew more about blackbirding and copra and Kanakas, and the
rum-holes from Nagasaki to Mombasa, than it is healthy for a civil
servant to know.

Every Sunday a sad-faced man with ash-colored hair and bony fingers,
who had been a lieutenant in the Peruvian navy, a teacher in St.
John's College, China, and a sub-contractor for railroad construction
in Montana, and who was now a minor clerk in the cool, lofty offices
of the Materials and Supplies Department, came over from Colon,
relaxed in a tilted-back chair, and fingered the Masonic charm on his
horsehair watch-guard, while he talked with the P. R. R. conductor and
the others about ruby-hunting and the Relief of Peking, and Where is
Hector Macdonald? and Is John Orth dead? and Shall we try to climb
Chimborazo? and Creussot guns and pig-sticking and Swahili tribal
lore. These were a few of the topics regarding which he had inside
information. The others drawled about various strange things which
make a man discontented and bring him no good.

Carl was full member of the circle because of his tales of the Bowery
and the Great Riley Show, and because he pretended to be rather an
authority on motors for dirigibles, about which he read in
_Aeronautics_ at the Y. M. C. A. reading-room. It is true that at this
time, early 1907, the Wrights were still working in obscurity, unknown
even in their own Dayton, though they had a completely successful
machine stowed away; and as yet Glenn Curtiss had merely developed a
motor for Captain Baldwin's military dirigible. But Langley and Maxim
had endeavored to launch power-driven, heavier-than-air machines;
lively Santos Dumont had flipped about the Eiffel Tower in his
dirigible, and actually raised himself from the ground in a ponderous
aeroplane; and in May, 1907, a sculptor named Delagrange flew over six
hundred feet in France. Various crank inventors were "solving the
problem of flight" every day. Man was fluttering on the edge of his
earthy nest, ready to plunge into the air. Carl was able to make
technical-sounding predictions which caught the imaginations of the
restless children.

       *       *       *       *       *

The adventurers kept moving. The beach-combing ex-sailor said that he
was starting for Valparaiso, started for San Domingo, and landed in
Tahiti, whence he sent Carl one post-card, worded, "What price T. T.?"
The engineer from Boston Tech. kept his oath about mining in
Chihuahua. He got the appointment as assistant superintendent of the
Tres Reyes mine--and he took Carl with him.

Carl reached Mexico and breathed the air of high-lying desert and
hill. He found rare days, purposeless and wonderful as the voyages of
ancient Norse Ericsens; days of learning Spanish and sitting quietly
balancing a .32-20 Marlin, waiting for bandits to attack; the joy of
repairing machinery and helping to erect a new crusher, nursing peons
with broken legs, and riding cow-ponies down black mountain trails at
night under an exhilarating splendor of stars. It never seemed to him
that the machinery desecrated the mountains' stern grandeur.

Stolen hours he gave to the building of box-kites with cambered
wings, after rapturously learning, in the autumn of 1908, that in
August a lanky American mechanic named Wilbur Wright had startled the
world by flying an aeroplane many miles publicly in France; that
before this, on July 4, 1908, another Yankee mechanic, Glenn Curtiss,
had covered nearly a mile, for the _Scientific American_ trophy, after
a series of trials made in company with Alexander Graham Bell, J. A.
D. McCurdy, "Casey" Baldwin, and Augustus Post.

He might have gone on until death, dealing with excitable greasers and
hysterical machinery, but for the coming of a new mine superintendent--one
of those Englishmen, stolid, red-mustached, pipe-smoking, eye-brow-lifting,
who at first seem beefily dull, but prove to have known every one from
George Moore to Marconi. He inspected Carl hundreds of times, then told him
that the period had come when he ought to attack a city, conquer it, build
up a reputation cumulatively; that he needed a contrast to Platonians and
Bowery bums and tropical tramps, and even to his beloved engineers.

"You can do everything but order a _petit dîner à deux_, but you must
learn to do that, too. Go make ten thousand pounds and study Pall Mall
and the boulevards, and then come back to us in Mexico. I'll be sorry
to have you go--with your damned old silky hair like a woman's and
your wink when Guittrez comes up here to threaten us--but don't let
the hinterland enslave you too early."

A month later, in January, 1909, aged twenty-three and a half, Carl
was steaming out of El Paso for California, with one thousand dollars
in savings, a beautiful new Stetson hat, and an ambition to build up a
motor business in San Francisco. As the desert sky swam with orange
light and a white-browed woman in the seat behind him hummed Musetta's
song from "La Bohème" he was homesick for the outlanders, whom he was
deserting that he might stick for twenty years in one street and grub
out a hundred thousand dollars.



CHAPTER XVII


On a grassy side-street of Oakland, California, was "Jones & Ericson's
Garage: Gasoline and Repairs: Motor Cycles and Bicycles for Rent:
Oakland Agents for Bristow Magnetos."

It was perhaps the cleverest garage in Oakland and Berkeley for the
quick repairing of motor-cycles; and newly wed owners of family
runabouts swore that Carl Ericson could make a carburetor out of a
tomato-can, and even be agreeable when called on for repairs at 2 A.M.
He had doubled old Jones's business during the nine months--February
to November, 1909--that they had been associated.

Carl believed that he thought of nothing but work and the restaurants
and theaters of civilization. No more rolling for him until he had
gathered moss! He played that he was a confirmed business man. The
game had hypnotized him for nearly a year. He whistled as he cleaned
plugs, and glanced out at the eucalyptus-trees and the sunny road,
without wanting to run away. But just to-day, just this glorious
rain-cleansed November day, with high blue skies and sunlight on the
feathery pepper-trees, he was going to sneak away from work and have a
celebration all by himself.

He was going down to San Mateo to see his first flying-machine!

November, 1909. Blériot had crossed the English Channel; McCurdy had,
in March, 1909, calmly pegged off sixteen miles in the "Silver Dart"
biplane; Paulhan had gone eighty-one miles, and had risen to the
incredible height of five hundred feet, to be overshadowed by Orville
Wright's sixteen hundred feet; Glenn Curtiss had won the Gordon
Bennett cup at Rheims.

California was promising to be in the van of aviation. She was
remembering that her own Montgomery had been one of the pioneers. Los
Angeles was planning a giant meet for January. A dozen cow-pasture
aviators were taking credulous young reporters aside and confiding
that next day, or next week, or at latest next month, they would
startle the world by ascending in machines "on entirely new and
revolutionary principles, on which they had been working for ten
years." Sometimes it was for eight years they had been working. But
always they remarked that "the model from which the machine will be
built has flown perfectly in the presence of some of the most
prominent men in the locality." These machines had a great deal to do
with the mysterious qualities of gyroscopes and helicopters.

Now, Dr. Josiah Bagby, the San Francisco physician and
oil-burning-marine-engine magnate, had really brought three genuine
Blériot monoplanes from France, with Carmeau, graduate of the Blériot
school and licensed French aviator, for working pilot; and was
experimenting with them at San Mateo, near San Francisco, where the
grandsons of the Forty-niners play polo. It had been rumored that he
would open a school for pilots and build Blériot-type monoplanes for
the American market.

Carl had lain awake for an hour the night before, picturing the wonder
of flight that he hoped to see. He rose early, put on his politest
garments, and informed grumpy old Jones that he was off for a
frolic--he wasn't sure, he said, whether he would get drunk or get
married. He crossed the bay, glad of the sea-gulls, the glory of Mt.
Tamalpais, and San Francisco's hill behind fairy hill. He consumed a
Pacific sundæ, with a feeling of holiday, and hummed "Mandalay." On
the trolley to San Mateo he read over and over the newspaper accounts
of Bagby's monoplanes.

Walking through San Mateo, Carl swung his cocky green hat and scanned
the sky for aircraft. He saw none. But as he tramped out on the
flying-field he began to run at the sight of two wide, cambered wings,
rounded at the ends like the end of one's thumb, attached to a fragile
long body of open framework. Men were gathered about it. A man with a
short, crisp beard and a tight woolen toboggan-cap was seated in the
body, the wings stretching on either side of him. He scratched his
beard and gesticulated. A mechanic revolved the propeller, and the
unmuffled motor burst out with a trrrrrrrr whose music rocked Carl's
heart. Black smoke hurled back along the machine. The draught tore at
the hair of two men crouched on the ground holding the tail. They let
go. The monoplane ran forward along the ground, and suddenly was off
it, a foot up, ten feet up--really flying. Carl could see the aviator
calmly staring ahead, working his arms, as the machine turned and
slipped away over distant trees.

His first impression of an aeroplane in the air had nothing to do with
birds or dragon-flies or the miracle of it, because he was completely
absorbed in an impression of Carl Ericson, which he expressed after
this wise:

"I--am--going--to--be--an--aviator!"

And later, "Yes, _that's_ what I've always wanted."

He joined the group in front of the hangar-tent. Workmen were
hammering on wooden sheds back of it. He recognized the owner, Dr.
Bagby, from his pictures: a lean man of sixty with a sallow
complexion, a gray mustache like a rat-tail, a broad, black
countrified slouch-hat on the back of his head, a gray sack-suit which
would have been respectable but unfashionable at any period
whatsoever. He looked like a country lawyer who had served two terms
in the state legislature. His shoes were black, but not blackened, and
had no toe-caps--the comfortable shoes of an oldish man. He was
tapping his teeth with a thin corded forefinger and remarking in a
monotonous voice to a Mexican youth plump and polite and well dressed,
"Wel-l-l-l, Tony, I guess those plugs were better; I guess those plugs
were better. Heh?" Bagby turned to the others, marveled at them as if
trying to remember who they were, and said, slowly, "I guess those
plugs were all right. Heh?"

The monoplane was returning, for a time apparently not moving, like a
black mark painted on the great blue sky; then soaring overhead, the
sharply cut outlines clear as a pen-and-ink drawing; then landing,
bouncing on the slightly uneven ground.

As the French aviator climbed out, Dr. Bagby's sad face brightened and
he suggested: "Those plugs went better, Munseer. Heh? I've been
thinking. Maybe you been giving her too rich a mixture."

While they were wiping the Gnôme engine Carl shyly approached Dr.
Bagby. He felt frightfully an outsider; wondered if he could ever be
intimate with the magician as was the plump Mexican youth they called
"Tony." He said "Uh" once or twice, and blurted, "I want to be an
aviator."

"Yes, yes," said Dr. Bagby, gently, glancing away from Carl to the machine.
He went over, twanged a supporting-wire, and seemed to remember that some
one had spoken to him. He returned to the fevered Carl, walking sidewise,
staring all the while at the resting monoplane, so efficient, yet so quiet
now and slender and feminine. "Yes, yes. So you'd like to be an aviator. So
you'd like--like----(Hey, boy, don't touch that!)----to be an aviator. Yes,
yes. They all would, m' boy. They all would. Well, maybe you can be, some
day. Maybe you can be.... Some day."

"I mean now. Right away. Heard you were going t' start a school. Want
to join."

"Hm, hm," sighed Dr. Bagby, tapping his teeth, jingling his heavy
gold watch-chain, brushing a trail of cigar-ashes from a lapel, then
staring abstractedly at Carl, who was turning his hat swiftly round
and round, so flushed of cheek, so excited of eye, that he seemed
twenty instead of twenty-four. "Yes, yes, so you'd like to join. Tst.
But that would cost you five hundred dollars, you know."

"Right!"

"Well, you go talk to Munseer about it; Munseer Carmeau. He is a very
good aviator. He is a licensed aviator. He knows Henry Farman. He
studied under Blériot. He is the boss here. I'm just the poor old
fellow that stands around. Sometimes Munseer takes me up for a little
ride in our machine; sometimes he takes me up; but he is the boss. He
is the boss, my friend; you'll have to see him." And Dr. Bagby walked
away, apparently much discouraged about life.

Carl was not discouraged about life. He swore that now he would be an
aviator even if he had to go to Dayton or Hammondsport or France.

He returned to Oakland. He sold his share in the garage for $1,150.

Before the end of January he was enrolled as a student in the Bagby
School of Aviation and Monoplane Building.

On an impulse he wrote of his wondrous happiness to Gertie Cowles, but
he tore up the letter. Then proudly he wrote to his father that the
lost boy had found himself. For the first time in all his desultory
writing of home-letters he did not feel impelled to defend himself.



CHAPTER XVIII


Crude were the surroundings where Carmeau turned out some of the best
monoplane pilots America will ever see. There were two rude shed-hangars in
which they kept the three imported Blériots--a single-seat racer of the
latest type, a Blériot XII. passenger-carrying machine with the seat under
the plane, and "P'tite Marie," the school machine, which they usually kept
throttled down to four hundred or five hundred, but in which Carmeau made
such spirited flights as the one Carl had first witnessed. Back of the
hangars was the workshop, which had little architecture, but much
machinery. Here the pupils were building two Blériot-type machines, and
trying to build an eight-cylinder V motor. All these things had Bagby given
for the good of the game, expecting no profit in return. He was one of the
real martyrs of aviation, this sapless, oldish man, never knowing the joy
of the air, yet devoting a lifetime of ability to helping man sprout wings
and become superman.

His generosity did not extend to living-quarters. Most of the students
lived at the hangars and dined on Hamburg sandwiches, fried eggs, and
Mexican _enchiladas_, served at a lunch-wagon anchored near the field.
That lunch-wagon was their club. Here, squatted on high stools,
treating one another to ginger-ale, they argued over torque and angles
of incidence and monoplanes _vs._ biplanes. Except for two unpopular
aristocrats who found boarding-houses in San Mateo, they slept in the
hangars, in their overalls, sprawled on mattresses covered with
horse-blankets. It was bed at eight-thirty. At four or five Carmeau
would crawl out, scratch his beard, start a motor, and set every
neighborhood dog howling. The students would gloomily clump over to
the lunch-wagon for a ham-and-egg breakfast. The first flights began
at dawn, if the day was clear. At eight, when the wind was coming up,
they would be heard in the workshop, adjusting and readjusting,
machining down bearings, testing wing strength, humming and laughing
and busy; a life of gasoline and hammers and straining attempts to get
balance exactly right; a happy life of good fellows and the
achievements of machinery and preparation for daring the upper air; a
life of very ordinary mechanics and of sheer romance!

It is a grievous heresy that aviation is most romantic when the
aviator is portrayed as a young god of noble rank and a collar high
and spotless, carelessly driving a transatlantic machine of perfect
efficiency. The real romance is that a perfectly ordinary young man,
the sort of young man who cleans your car at the garage, a prosaically
real young man wearing overalls faded to a thin blue, splitting his
infinitives, and frequently having for idol a bouncing ingénue,
should, in a rickety structure of wood and percale, be able to soar
miles in the air and fulfil the dream of all the creeping ages.

In English and American fiction there are now nearly as many
aeroplanes as rapiers or roses. The fictional aviators are society
amateurs, wearers of evening clothes, frequenters of The Club,
journalists and civil engineers and lordlings and international agents
and gentlemen detectives, who drawl, "Oh yes, I fly a bit--new
sensation, y' know--tired of polo"; and immediately thereafter use the
aeroplane to raid arsenals, rescue a maiden from robbers or a large
ruby from its lawful but heathenish possessors, or prevent a Zeppelin
from raiding the coast. But they never by any chance fly these
machines before gum-chewing thousands for hire. In England they
absolutely must motor from The Club to the flying-field in a "powerful
Rolls-Royce car." The British aviators of fiction are usually from
Oxford and Eton. They are splendidly languid and modest and smartly
dressed in society, but when they condescend to an adventure or to a
coincidence, they are very devils, six feet of steel and sinew, boys
of the bulldog breed with a strong trace of humming-bird. Like their
English kindred, the Americans take up aviation only for gentlemanly
sport. And they do go about rescuing things. Nothing is safe from
their rescuing. But they do not have Rolls-Royce cars.

Carl and his class at Bagby's were not of this gilded race. Carl's
flying was as sordidly real as laying brick for a one-story laundry in
a mill-town. Therefore, being real, it was romantic and miraculous.

Among Carl's class was Hank Odell, the senior student, tall, thin,
hopelessly plain of face; a drawling, rough-haired, eagle-nosed
Yankee, who grinned shyly and whose Adam's apple worked slowly up and
down when you spoke to him; an unimaginative lover of dogs and
machinery; the descendant of Lexington and Gettysburg and a flinty
Vermont farm; an ex-fireman, ex-sergeant of the army, and ex-teamster.
He always wore a khaki shirt--the wrinkles of which caught the grease
in black lines, like veins--with black trousers, blunt-toed shoes, and
a pipe, the most important part of his costume.

There was the round, anxious, polite Mexican, Tony Beanno, called
"Tony Bean"--wealthy, simple, fond of the violin and of fast motoring.
There was the "school grouch," surly Jack Ryan, the chunky
ex-chauffeur. There were seven nondescripts--a clever Jew from
Seattle, two college youngsters, an apricot-rancher's son, a circus
acrobat who wanted a new line of tricks, a dull ensign detailed by the
navy, and an earnest student of aerodynamics, aged forty, who had
written marvelously dull books on air-currents and had shrinkingly
made himself a fair balloon pilot. The navy ensign and the student
were the snobs who lived away from the hangars, in boarding-houses.

There was Lieutenant Forrest Haviland, detailed by the army--Haviland
the perfect gentle knight, the well-beloved, the nearest approach to
the gracious fiction aviator of them all, yet never drawling in
affected modesty, never afraid of grease; smiling and industrious and
reticent; smooth of hair and cameo of face; wearing khaki
riding-breeches and tan puttees instead of overalls; always a
gentleman, even when he tried to appear a workman. He pretended to be
enthusiastic about the lunch-wagon, and never referred to his three
generations of army officers. But most of the others were shy of him,
and Jack Ryan, the "school grouch," was always trying to get him into
a fight.

Finally, there was Carl Ericson, who slowly emerged as star of them
all. He knew less of aerodynamics than the timid specialist, less of
practical mechanics than Hank Odell; but he loved the fun of daring
more. He was less ferocious in competition than was Jack Ryan, but he
wasted less of his nerve. He was less agile than the circus acrobat,
but knew more of motors. He was less compactly easy than Lieutenant
Haviland, but he took better to overalls and sleeping in hangars and
mucking in grease--he whistled ragtime while Forrest Haviland hummed
MacDowell.

       *       *       *       *       *

Carl's earliest flights were in the school machine, "P'tite Marie,"
behind Carmeau, the instructor. Reporters were always about, talking
of "impressions," and Carl felt that he ought to note his impressions
on his first ascent, but all that he actually did notice was that it
was hard to tell at what instant they left the ground; that when they
were up, the wind threatened to crush his ribs and burst his nostrils;
that there must be something perilously wrong, because the machine
climbed so swiftly; and, when they were down, that it had been worth
waiting a whole lifetime for the flight.

For days he merely flew with the instructor, till he was himself
managing the controls. At last, his first flight by himself.

He had been ordered to try a flight three times about the aerodrome at
a height of sixty feet, and to land carefully, without pancaking--"and
be sure, Monsieur, be veree sure you do not cut off too high from the
ground," said Carmeau.

It was a day when five reporters had gathered, and Carl felt very much
in the limelight, waiting in the nacelle of the machine for the time
to start. The propeller was revolved, Carl drew a long breath and
stuck up his hand--and the engine stopped. He was relieved. It had
seemed a terrific responsibility to go up alone. He wouldn't, now, not
for a minute or two. He knew that he had been afraid. The engine was
turned over once more--and once more stopped. Carl raged, and never
again, in all his flying, did real fear return to him. "What the deuce
is the matter?" he snarled. Again the propeller was revolved, and this
time the engine hummed sweet. The monoplane ran along the ground, its
tail lifting in the blast, till the whole machine seemed delicately
poised on its tiptoes. He was off the ground, his rage leaving him as
his fear had left him.

He exulted at the swiftness with which a distant group of trees shot
at him, under him. He turned, and the machine mounted a little on the
turn, which was against the rules. But he brought her to even keel so
easily that he felt all the mastery of the man who has finally learned
to be natural on a bicycle. He tilted up the elevator slightly and
shot across a series of fields, climbing. It was perfectly easy. He
would go up--up. It was all automatic now--cloche toward him for
climbing; away from him for descent; toward the wing that tipped up,
in order to bring it down to level. The machine obeyed perfectly. And
the foot-bar, for steering to right and left, responded to such light
motions of his foot. He grinned exultantly. He wanted to shout.

He glanced at the barometer and discovered that he was up to two
hundred feet. Why not go on?

He sailed out across San Mateo, and the sense of people below, running
and waving their hands, increased his exultation. He curved about at
the end, somewhat afraid of his ability to turn, but having all the
air there was to make the turn in, and headed back toward the
aerodrome. Already he had flown five miles.

Half a mile from the aerodrome he realized that his motor was
slackening, missing fire; that he did not know what was the matter;
that his knowledge had left him stranded there, two hundred feet above
ground; that he had to come down at once, with no chance to choose a
landing-place and no experience in gliding. The motor stopped
altogether.

The ground was coming up at him too quickly.

He tilted the elevator, and rose. But, as he was volplaning, this cut
down the speed, and from a height of ten feet above a field the
machine dropped to the ground with a flat plop. Something gave
way--but Carl sat safe, with the machine canted to one side.

He climbed out, cold about the spine, and discovered that he had
broken one wheel of the landing-chassis.

All the crowd from the flying-field were running toward him, yelling.
He grinned at the foolish sight they made with their legs and arms
strewn about in the air as they galloped over the rough ground.
Lieutenant Haviland came up, panting: "All right, o' man? Good!" He
seized Carl's hand and wrung it. Carl knew that he had a new friend.

Three reporters poured questions on him. How far had he flown? Was
this really his first ascent by himself? What were his sensations? How
had his motor stopped? Was it true he was a mining engineer, a wealthy
motorist?

Hank Odell, the shy, eagle-nosed Yankee, running up as jerkily as a
cow in a plowed field, silently patted Carl on the shoulder and began
to examine the fractured landing-wheel. At last the instructor, M.
Carmeau.

Carl had awaited M. Carmeau's praise as the crown of his long flight.
But Carmeau pulled his beard, opened his mouth once or twice, then
shrieked: "What the davil you t'ink you are? A millionaire that we
build machines for you to smash them? I tole you to fly t'ree time
around--you fly to Algiers an' back--you t'ink you are another Farman
brother--you are a damn fool! Suppose your motor he stop while you fly
over San Mateo? Where you land? In a well? In a chimney? _Hein?_ You
know naut'ing yet. Next time you do what I tal' you. _Zut!_ That was a
flight, a flight, you make a flight, that was fine, fine, you make the
heart to swell. But nex' time you break the chassis and keel yourself,
_nom d'un tonnerre_, I scol' you!"

Carl was humble. But the _Courier_ reporter spread upon the front page
the story of "Marvelous first flight by Bagby student," and predicted
that a new Curtiss was coming out of California. Under a half-tone ran
the caption, "Ericson, the New Hawk of the Birdmen."

The camp promptly nicknamed him "Hawk." They used it for plaguing him
at first, but it survived as an expression of fondness--Hawk Ericson,
the cheeriest man in the school, and the coolest flier.



CHAPTER XIX


Not all their days were spent in work. There were mornings when the
wind would not permit an ascent and when there was nothing to do in
the workshop. They sat about the lunch-wagon wrangling endlessly, or,
like Carl and Forrest Haviland, wandered through fields which were all
one flame with poppies.

Lieutenant Haviland had given up trying to feel comfortable with the
naval ensign student, who was one of the solemn worthies who clear
their throats before speaking, and then speak in measured terms of
brands of cigars and weather. Gradually, working side by side with
Carl, Haviland seemed to find him a friend in whom to confide. Once or
twice they went by trolley to San Francisco, to explore Chinatown or
drop in on soldier friends of Haviland at the Presidio.

       *       *       *       *       *

From the porch of a studio on Telegraph Hill, in San Francisco, they
were looking down on the islands of the bay, waiting for the return of
an artist whom Haviland knew. Inarticulate dreamers both, they
expressed in monosyllables the glory of bluewater before them, the
tradition of R. L. S. and Frank Norris, the future of aviation. They
gave up the attempt to explain the magic of San Francisco--that
city-personality which transcends the opal hills and rare amber
sunlight, festivals, and the transplanted Italian hill-town of
Telegraph Hill, liners sailing out for Japan, and memories of the
Forty-niners. It was too subtle a spirit, too much of it lay in human
life with the passion of the Riviera linked to the strength of the
North, for them to be able to comprehend its spell.... But regarding
their own ambitions to do, they became eloquent.

"I say," hesitated Haviland, "why is it I can't get in with most of
the fellows at the camp the way you can? I've always been chummy
enough with the fellows at the Point and at posts."

"Because you've been brought up to be afraid to be anything but a
gentleman."

"Oh, I don't think it's that. I can get fond as the deuce of some of
the commonest common soldiers--and, Lord! some of them come from the
Bowery and all sorts of impossible places."

"Yes, but you always think of them as 'common.' They don't think of
each other that way. Suppose I'd worked----Well, just suppose I'd been
a Bowery bartender. Could you be loafing around here with me? Could
you go off on a bat with Jack Ryan?"

"Well, maybe not. Maybe working with Jack Ryan is a good thing for me.
I'm getting now so I can almost stand his stories! I envy you,
knocking around with all sorts of people. Oh, I _wish_ I could call
Ryan 'Jack' and feel easy about it. I can't. Perhaps I've got a little
of the subaltern snob some place in me."

"You? You're a prince."

"If you've elevated me to a princedom, the least I can do is to invite
you down home for a week-end--down to the San Spirito Presidio. My
father's commandant there."

"Oh, I'd like to, but----I haven't got a dress-suit."

"Buy one."

"Yes, I could do that, but----Oh, rats! Forrest, I've been knocking
around so long I feel shy about my table manners and everything. I'd
probably eat pie with my fingers."

"You make me so darn tired, Hawk. You talk about my having to learn to
chum with people in overalls. You've got to learn not to let people in
evening clothes put anything over on you. That's your difficulty from
having lived in the back-country these last two or three years. You
have an instinct for manners. But I did notice that as soon as you
found out I was in the army you spent half the time disliking me as a
militarist, and the other half expecting me to be haughty--Lord knows
what over. It took you two weeks to think of me as Forrest Haviland.
I'm ashamed of you! If you're a socialist you ought to think that
anything you like belongs to you."

"That's a new kind of socialism."

"So much the better. Me and Karl Marx, the economic inventors.... But
I was saying: if you act as though things belong to you people will
apologize to you for having borrowed them from you. And you've _got_
to do that, Hawk. You're going to be one of the best-known fliers in
the country, and you'll have to meet all sorts of big guns--generals
and Senators and female climbers that work the peace societies for
social position, and so on, and you've got to know how to meet
them.... Anyway, I want you to come to San Spirito."

To San Spirito they went. During the three days preceding, Carl was
agonized at the thought of having to be polite in the presence of
ladies. No matter how brusquely he told himself, "I'm as good as
anybody," he was uneasy about forks and slang and finger-nails, and
looked forward to the ordeal with as much pleasure as a man about to
be hanged, hanged in a good cause, but thoroughly.

Yet when Colonel Haviland met them at San Spirito station, and Carl
heard the kindly salutation of the gracious, fat, old Indian-fighter,
he knew that he had at last come home to his own people--an impression
that was the stronger because the house of Oscar Ericson had been so
much house and so little home. The colonel was a widower, and for his
only son he showed a proud affection which included Carl. The three of
them sat in state, after dinner, on the porch of Quarters No. 1,
smoking cigars and looking down to a spur of the Santa Lucia
Mountains, where it plunged into the foam of the Pacific. They talked
of aviation and eugenics and the Benét-Mercier gun, of the post
doctor's sister who had come from the East on a visit, and of a
riding-test, but their hearts spoke of affection.... Usually it is a
man and a woman that make home; but three men, a stranger one of them,
talking of motors on a porch in the enveloping dusk, made for one
another a home to remember always.

They stayed over Monday night, for a hop, and Carl found that the
officers and their wives were as approachable as Hank Odell. They did
not seem to be waiting for young Ericson to make social errors. When
he confessed that he had forgotten what little dancing he knew, the
sister of the post doctor took him in hand, retaught him the waltz,
and asked with patent admiration: "How does it feel to fly? Don't you
get frightened? I'm terribly in awe of you and Mr. Haviland. I know I
should be frightened to death, because it always makes me dizzy just
to look down from a high building."

Carl slipped away, to be happy by himself, and hid in the shadow of
palms on the porch, lapped in the flutter of pepper-trees. The
orchestra began a waltz that set his heart singing. He heard a girl
cry: "Oh, goody! the 'Blue Danube'! We must go in and dance that."

"The Blue Danube." The name brought back the novels of General Charles
King, as he had read them in high-school days; flashed the picture of
a lonely post, yellow-lighted, like a topaz on the night-swathed
desert; a rude ball-room, a young officer dancing to the "Blue
Danube's" intoxication; a hot-riding, dusty courier, hurling in with
news of an Apache outbreak; a few minutes later a troop of cavalry
slanting out through the gate on horseback, with a farewell burning
the young officer's lips.... He was in just such an army story, now!

The scent of royal climbing-roses enveloped Carl as that picture
changed into others. San Spirito Presidio became a vast military
encampment over which Hawk Ericson was flying.... From his monoplane
he saw a fairy town, with red roofs rising to a tower of fantastic
turrets. (That was doubtless the memory of a magazine-cover painted by
Maxfield Parrish.)... He was wandering through a poppy-field with a
girl dusky of eyes, soft black of hair, ready for any jaunt....
Pictures bright and various as tropic shells, born of music and peace
and his affection for the Havilands; pictures which promised him the
world. For the first time Hawk Ericson realized that he might be a
Personage instead of a back-yard boy.... The girl with twilight eyes
was smiling.

       *       *       *       *       *

The Bagby camp broke up on the first of May, with all of them, except
one of the nondescript collegians and the air-current student, more or
less trained aviators. Carl was going out to tour small cities, for
the George Flying Corporation. Lieutenant Haviland was detailed to the
army flying-camp.

Parting with Haviland and kindly Hank Odell, with Carmeau and
anxiously polite Tony Bean, was as wistful as the last night of senior
year. Till the old moon rose, sad behind tulip-trees, they sat on
packing-boxes by the larger hangar, singing in close harmony "Sweet
Adeline," "Teasing," "I've Been Working on the Railroad."... "Hay-ride
classics, with barber-shop chords," the songs are called, but tears
were in Carl's eyes as the minors sobbed from the group of comrades
who made fun of one another and were prosaic and pounded their heels
on the packing-boxes--and knew that they were parting to face death.
Carl felt Forrest Haviland's hand on one shoulder, then an awkward pat
from tough Jack Ryan's paw, as Tony Bean's violin turned the plaintive
half-light into music, and broke its heart in the "Moonlight Sonata."



CHAPTER XX


"Yuh, piston-ring burnt off and put the exhaust-valve on the blink.
That means one cylinder out of business," growled Hawk Ericson. "I
could fly, maybe, but I don't like to risk it in this wind. It was bad
enough this morning when I tried it."

"Oh, this hick town 's going to be the death of us, all right--and
Riverport to-morrow, with a contract nice as pie, if we can only get
there," groaned his manager, Dick George, a fat man with much muscle
and more diamonds. "Listen to that crowd. Yelling for blood. Sounds
like a bunch of lumber-jacks with the circus slow in starting."

The head-line feature of the Onamwaska County spring fair was "Hawk
Ericson, showing the most marvelous aerial feats of the ages with the
scientific marvels of aviation, in his famous French Blériot
flying-machine, the first flying-machine ever seen in this state, no
balloon or fake, come to Onamwaska by the St. L. & N." The spring fair
was usually a small gathering of farmers to witness races and new
agricultural implements, but this time every road for thirty-five
miles was dust-fogged with buggies and democrat wagons and small
motor-cars. Ten thousand people were packed about the race-track.

It was Carl's third aviation event. A neat, though not imposing
figure, in a snug blue flannel suit, with his cap turned round on his
head, he went to the flap of the rickety tent which served as his
hangar. A fierce cry of "Fly! Fly! Why don't he fly?" was coming from
the long black lines edging the track, and from the mound of people on
the small grand stand; the pink blur of their faces turned toward
him--him, Carl Ericson; all of them demanding _him_! The five meek
police of Onamwaska were trotting back and forth, keeping them behind
the barriers. Carl was apprehensive lest this ten-thousandfold demand
drag him out, make him fly, despite a wind that was blowing the flags
out straight, and whisking up the litter of newspapers and
cracker-jack boxes and pink programs. While he stared out, an official
crossing the track fairly leaned up against the wind, which seized his
hat and sailed it to the end of the track.

"Some wind!" Carl grunted, stolidly, and went to the back of the
silent tent, to reread the local papers' accounts of his arrival at
Onamwaska. It was a picturesque narrative of the cheering mob
following him down the street ("Gee! that was _me_ they followed!"),
crowding into the office of the Astor House and making him autograph
hundreds of cards; of girls throwing roses ("Humph! geraniums is more
like it!") from the windows.

"A young man," wrote an enthusiastic female reporter, "handsome as a
Greek god, but honestly I believe he is still in his twenties; and he
is as slim and straight as a soldier, flaxen-haired and
rosy-cheeked--the birdman, the god of the air."

"Handsome as a Greek----" Carl commented. "I look like a Minnesota
Norwegian, and that ain't so bad, but handsome----Urrrrrg!... Sure
they love me, all right. Hear 'em yell. Oh, they love me like a dog
does a bone.... Saint Jemima! talk about football rooting.... Come on,
Greek god, buck up."

He glanced wearily about the tent, its flooring of long, dry grass
stained with ugly dark-blue lubricating-oil, under the tan light
coming through the canvas. His manager was sitting on a suit-case,
pretending to read a newspaper, but pinching his lower lip and
consulting his watch, jogging his foot ceaselessly. Their temporary
mechanic, who had given up trying to repair the lame valve, squatted
with bent head, biting his lip, harkening to the blood-hungry mob.
Carl's own nerves grew tauter and tauter as he saw the manager's
restless foot and the mechanic's tension. He strolled to the
monoplane, his back to the tent-opening.

He started as the manager exclaimed: "Here they come! After us!"

Outside the tent a sound of running.

The secretary of the fair, a German hardware-dealer with an
automobile-cap like a yachting-cap, panted in, gasping: "Come quick!
They won't wait any longer! I been trying to calm 'em down, but they
say you got to fly. They're breaking over the barriers into the track.
The p'lice can't keep 'em back."

Behind the secretary came the chairman of the entertainment committee,
a popular dairyman, who was pale as he demanded: "You got to play
ball, Mr. Ericson. I won't guarantee what 'll happen if you don't play
ball, Mr. Ericson. You got to make him fly, Mr. George. The crowd 's
breaking----"

Behind him charged a black press of people. They packed before the
tent, trying to peer in through the half-closed tent-opening, like a
crowd about a house where a policeman is making an arrest. Furiously:

"Where's the coward? Fake! Bring 'im out! Why don't he fly? He's a
fake! His flying-machine's never been off the ground! He's a
four-flusher! Run 'im out of town! Fake! Fake! Fake!"

The secretary and chairman stuck out deprecatory heads and coaxed the
mob. Carl's manager was an old circus-man. He had removed his collar,
tie, and flashy diamond pin, and was diligently wrapping the thong of
a black-jack about his wrist. Their mechanic was crawling under the
side of the tent. Carl caught him by the seat of his overalls and
jerked him back.

As Carl turned to face the tent door again the manager ranged up
beside him, trying to conceal the black-jack in his hand, and casually
murmuring, "Scared, Hawk?"

"Nope. Too mad to be scared."

The tent-flap was pulled back. Tossing hands came through. The
secretary and chairman were brushed aside. The mob-leader, a
red-faced, loud-voiced town sport, very drunk, shouted, "Come out and
fly or we'll tar and feather you!"

"Yuh, come on, you fake, you four-flusher!" echoed the voices.

The secretary and chairman were edging back into the tent, beside
Carl's cowering mechanic.

Something broke in Carl's hold on himself. With his arm drawn back,
his fist aimed at the point of the mob-leader's jaw, he snarled: "You
can't make me fly. You stick that ugly mug of yours any farther in and
I'll bust it. I'll fly when the wind goes down----You would, would
you?"

As the mob-leader started to advance, Carl jabbed at him. It was not a
very good jab. But the leader stopped. The manager, black-jack in
hand, caught Carl's arm, and ordered: "Don't start anything! They can
lick us. Just look ready. Don't say anything. We'll hold 'em till the
cops come. But nix on the punch."

"Right, Cap'n," said Carl.

It was a strain to stand motionless, facing the crowd, not answering
their taunts, but he held himself in, and in two minutes the yell
came: "Cheese it! The cops!" The mob unwillingly swayed back as
Onamwaska's heroic little band of five policemen wriggled through it,
requesting their neighbors to desist.... They entered the tent and,
after accepting cigars from Carl's manager, coldly told him that Carl
was a fake, and lucky to escape; that Carl would better "jump right
out and fly if he knew what was good for him." Also, they nearly
arrested the manager for possessing a black-jack, and warned him that
he'd better not assault any of the peaceable citizens of beautiful
Onamwaska....

When they had coaxed the mob behind the barriers, by announcing that
Ericson would now go up, Carl swore: "I won't move! They can't make
me!"

The secretary of the fair, who had regained most of his courage, spoke
up, pertly, "Then you better return the five hundred advance, pretty
quick sudden, or I'll get an attachment on your fake flying-machine!"

"You go----Nix, nix, Hawk, don't hit him; he ain't worth it. You go to
hell, brother," said the manager, mechanically. But he took Carl
aside, and groaned: "Gosh! we got to do something! It's worth two
thousand dollars to us, you know. Besides, we haven't got enough cash
in our jeans to get out of town, and we'll miss the big Riverport
purse.... Still, suit yourself, old man. Maybe I can get some money by
wiring to Chicago."

"Oh, let's get it over!" Carl sighed. "I'd love to disappoint
Onamwaska. We'll make fifteen thousand dollars this month and next,
anyway, and we can afford to spit 'em in the eye. But I don't want to
leave you in a hole.... Here you, mechanic, open up that tent-flap.
All the way across.... No, not like _that_, you boob!... So.... Come
on, now, help me push out the machine. Here you, Mr. Secretary, hustle
me a couple of men to hold her tail."

The crowd rose, the fickle crowd, scenting the promised blood, and
applauded as the monoplane was wheeled upon the track and turned to
face the wind. The mechanic and two assistants had to hold it as a
dust-filled gust caught it beneath the wings. As Carl climbed into the
seat and the mechanic went forward to start the engine, another squall
hit the machine and she almost turned over sidewise.

As the machine righted, the manager ran up and begged: "You never in
the world can make it in this wind, Hawk. Better not try it. I'll wire
for some money to get out of town with, and Onamwaska can go soak its
head."

"Nope. I'm gettin' sore now, Dick.... Hey you, mechanic: hurt that
wing when she tipped?... All right. Start her. Quick. While it's
calm."

The engine whirred. The assistants let go the tail. The machine
labored forward, but once it left the ground it shot up quickly. The
head-wind came in a terrific gust. The machine hung poised in air for
a moment, driven back by the gale nearly as fast as it was urged
forward by its frantically revolving propeller.

Carl was as yet too doubtful of his skill to try to climb above the
worst of the wind. If he could only keep a level course----

He fought his way up one side of the race-track. He crouched in his
seat, meeting the sandy blast with bent head. The parted lips which
permitted him to catch his breath were stubborn and hard about his
teeth. His hands played swiftly, incessantly, over the control as he
brought her back to even keel. He warped the wings so quickly that he
balanced like an acrobat sitting rockingly on a tight-wire. He was too
busy to be afraid or to remember that there was a throng of people
below him. But he was conscious that the grand stand, at the side of
the track, half-way down, was creeping toward him.

More every instant did he hate the clamor of the gale and the stream
of minute drops of oil, blown back from the engine, that spattered his
face. His ears strained for misfire of the engine, if it stopped he
would be hurled to earth. And one cylinder was not working. He forgot
that; kept the cloche moving; fought the wind with his will as with
his body.

Now, he was aware of the grand stand below him. Now, of the people at
the end of the track. He flew beyond the track, and turned. The whole
force of the gale was thrown behind him, and he shot back along the
other side of the race-track at eighty or ninety miles an hour.
Instantly he was at the end; then a quarter of a mile beyond the
track, over plowed fields, where upward currents of warm air
increased the pitching of the machine as he struggled to turn her
again and face the wind.

The following breeze was suddenly retarded and he dropped forty feet,
tail down.

He was only forty feet from the ground, falling straight, when he got
back to even keel and shot ahead. How safe the nest of the nacelle
where he sat seemed then! Almost gaily he swung her in a great
wavering circle--and the wind was again in his face, hating him,
pounding him, trying to get under the wings and turn the machine
turtle.

Twice more he worked his way about the track. The conscience of the
beginner made him perform a diffident Dutch roll before the grand
stand, but he was growling, "And that's all they're going to get.
See?"

As he soared to earth he looked at the crowd for the first time. His
vision was so blurred with oil and wind-soreness that he saw the
people only as a mass and he fancied that the stretch of slouch-hats
and derbies was a field of mushrooms swaying and tilted back. He was
curiously unconscious of the presence of women; he felt all the
spectators as men who had bawled for his death and whom he wanted to
hammer as he had hammered the wind.

He was almost down. He cut off his motor, glided horizontally three
feet above the ground, and landed, while the cheers cloaked even the
honking of the parked automobiles.

Carl's manager, fatly galloping up, shrilled, "How was it, old man?"

"Oh, it was pretty windy," said Carl, crawling down and rubbing the
kinks out of his arms. "But I think the wind 's going down. Tell the
announcer to tell our dear neighbors that I'll fly again at five."

"But weren't you scared when she dropped? You went down so far that
the fence plumb hid you. Couldn't see you at all. Ugh! Sure thought
the wind had you. Weren't you scared then? You don't look it."

"Then? Oh! Then. Oh yes, sure, I guess I was scared, all right!...
Say, we got that seat padded so she's darn comfortable now."

The crowd was collecting. Carl's manager chuckled to the president of
the fair association, "Well, that was some flight, eh?"

"Oh, he went down the opposite side of the track pretty fast, but why
the dickens was he so slow going up my side? My eyes ain't so good now
that it does me any good if a fellow speeds up when he's a thousand
miles away. And where's all these tricks in the air----"

"That," murmured Carl to his manager, "is the i-den-ti-cal man that
stole the blind cripple's crutch to make himself a toothpick."



CHAPTER XXI


The great Belmont Park Aero Meet, which woke New York to aviation, in
October, 1910, was coming to an end. That clever new American flier,
Hawk Ericson, had won only sixth place in speed, but he had won first
prize in duration, by a flight of nearly six hours, driving round and
round and round the pylons, hour on hour, safe and steady as a train,
never taking the risk of sensational banking, nor spiraling like
Johnstone, but amusing himself and breaking the tedium by keeping an
eye out on each circuit for a fat woman in a bright lavender top-coat,
who stood out in the dark line of people that flowed beneath. When he
had descended--acclaimed the winner--thousands of heads turned his way
as though on one lever; the pink faces flashing in such October
sunshine as had filled the back yard of Oscar Ericson, in Joralemon,
when a lonely Carl had performed duration feats for a sparrow. That
same shy Carl wanted to escape from the newspaper-men who came running
toward him. He hated their incessant questions--always the same: "Were
you cold? Could you have stayed up longer?"

Yet he had seen all New York go mad over aviation--rather, over news
about aviation. The newspapers had spread over front pages his name
and the names of the other fliers. Carl chuckled to himself, with
bashful awe, "Gee! can you beat it?--that's _me_!" when he beheld
himself referred to in editorial and interview and picture-caption as
a superman, a god. He heard crowds rustle, "Look, there's Hawk
Ericson!" as he walked along the barriers. He heard cautious
predictions from fellow-fliers, and loud declarations from outsiders,
that he was the coming cross-country champion. He was introduced to
the mayor of New York, two Cabinet members, an assortment of Senators,
authors, bank presidents, generals, and society rail-birds. He
regularly escaped from them--and their questions--to help the
brick-necked Hank Odell, from the Bagby School, who had entered for
the meet, but smashed up on the first day, and ever since had been
whistling and working over his machine and encouraging Carl, "Good
work, bud; you've got 'em all going."

With vast secrecy and a perception that this was twice as stirring as
steadily buzzing about in his Blériot, he went down to the Bowery and,
in front of the saloon where he had worked as a porter four years
before, he bought a copy of the _Evening World_ because he knew that
on the third page of it was a large picture of him and a signed
interview by a special-writer. He peered into the saloon windows to
see if Petey McGuff was there, but did not find him. He went to the
street on which he had boarded in the hope that he might do something
for the girl who had been going wrong. The tenement had been torn
down, with blocks of others, to make way for a bridge-terminal, and he
saw the vision of the city's pitiless progress. This quest of old
acquaintances made him think of Joralemon. He informed Gertie Cowles
that he was now "in the aviation game, and everything is going very
well." He sent his mother a check for five hundred dollars, with
awkward words of affection.

A greater spiritual adventure was talking for hours, over a small
table in the basement of the Brevoort, to Lieutenant Forrest Haviland,
who was attending the Belmont Park Meet as spectator. Theirs was the
talk of tried friends; droning on for a time in amused comment, rising
to sudden table-pounding enthusiasms over aviators or explorers, with
exclamations of, "Is that the way it struck you, too? I'm awfully glad
to hear you say that, because that's just the way I felt about it."
They leaned back in their chairs and played with spoons and
reflectively broke up matches and volubly sketched plans of controls,
drawing on the table-cloth.

Carl took the sophisticated atmosphere of the Brevoort quite for
granted. Why _shouldn't_ he be there! And after the interest in him at
the meet it did not hugely abash him to hear a group at a table behind
him ejaculate: "I think that's Hawk Ericson, the aviator! Yes, sir,
that's--who--it--is!"

Finally the gods gave to Carl a new mechanic, a prince of mechanics,
Martin Dockerill. Martin was a tall, thin, hatchet-faced,
tousle-headed, slow-spoken, irreverent Irish-Yankee from Fall River;
the perfect type of American aviators; for while England sends out its
stately soldiers of the air, and France its short, excitable geniuses,
practically all American aviators and aviation mechanics are either
long-faced and lanky, like Martin Dockerill and Hank Odell, or slim,
good-looking youngsters of the college track-team type, like Carl and
Forrest Haviland.

Martin Dockerill ate pun'kin pie with his fingers, played "Marching
through Georgia" on the mouth-organ, admired burlesque-show women in
sausage-shaped pink tights, and wore balbriggan socks that always
reposed in wrinkles over the tops of his black shoes with frayed
laces. But he probably could build a very decent motor in the dark,
out of four tin cans and a crowbar. In A.D. 1910 he still believed in
hell and plush albums. But he dreamed of wireless power-transmission.
He was a Free and Independent American Citizen who called the Count de
Lesseps, "Hey, Lessup." But he would have gone with Carl aeroplaning
to the South Pole upon five minutes' notice--four minutes to devote to
the motor, and one minute to write, with purple indelible pencil, a
post-card to his aunt in Fall River. He was precise about only two
things--motor-timing and calling himself a "mechanician," not a
"mechanic." He became very friendly with Hank Odell; helped him
repair his broken machine, went with him to vaudeville, or stood with
him before the hangar, watching the automobile parties of pretty girls
with lordly chaperons that came to call on Grahame-White and Drexel.
"Some heart-winners, them guys, but I back my boss against them and
ev'body else, Hank," Martin would say.

       *       *       *       *       *

The meet was over; the aviators were leaving. Carl had said farewell
to his new and well-loved friends, the pioneers of aviation--Latham,
Moisant, Leblanc, McCurdy, Ely, de Lesseps, Mars, Willard, Drexel,
Grahame-White, Hoxsey, and the rest. He was in the afterglow of the
meet, for with Titherington, the Englishman, and Tad Warren, the
Wright flier, he was going to race from Belmont Park to New Haven for
a ten-thousand-dollar prize jointly offered by a New Haven millionaire
and a New York newspaper. At New Haven the three competitors were to
join with Tony Bean (of the Bagby School) and Walter MacMonnies
(flying a Curtiss) in an exhibition meet.

Enveloped in baggy overalls over the blue flannel suit which he still
wore when flying, Carl was directing Martin Dockerill in changing his
spark-plugs, which were fouled. About him, the aviators were having
their machines packed, laughing, playing tricks on one another--boys
who were virile men; mechanics in denim who stammered to the
reporters, "Oh, well, I don't know----" yet who were for the time more
celebrated than Roosevelt or Harry Thaw or Bernard Shaw or Champion
Jack Johnson.

Before 9.45 A.M., when the race to New Haven was scheduled to start,
the newspaper-men gathered; but there were not many outsiders. Carl
felt the lack of the stimulus of thronging devotees. He worked
silently and sullenly. It was "the morning after." He missed Forrest
Haviland.

He began to be anxious. Could he get off on time?

Exactly at 9.45 Titherington made a magnificent start in his Henry
Farman biplane. Carl stared till the machine was a dot in the clouds,
then worked feverishly. Tad Warren, the second contestant, was testing
out his motor, ready to go. At that moment Martin Dockerill suggested
that the carburetor was dirty.

"I'll fly with her the way she is," Carl snapped, shivering with the
race-fever.

A cub reporter from the City News Association piped, like a
fox-terrier, "What time 'll you get off, Hawk?"

"Ten sharp."

"No, I mean what time will you really get off!"

Carl did not answer. He understood that the reporters were doubtful
about him, the youngster from the West who had been flying for only
six months. At last came the inevitable pest, the familiarly
suggestive outsider. A well-dressed, well-meaning old bore he was; a
complete stranger. He put his podgy hand on Carl's arm and puffed:
"Well, Hawk, my boy, give us a good flight to-day; not but what you're
going to have trouble. There's something I want to suggest to you. If
you'd use a gyroscope----"

"Oh, beat it!" snarled Carl. He was ashamed of himself--but more angry
than ashamed. He demanded of Martin, aside: "All right, heh? Can I fly
with the carburetor as she is? Heh?"

"All right, boss. Calm down, boss, calm down."

"What do you mean?"

"Look here, Hawk, I don't want to butt in. You can have old Martin for
a chopping-block any time you want to cut wood. But if you don't calm
down you'll get so screwed up mit nerves that you won't have any
control. Aw, come on, boss, speak pretty! Just keep your shirt on and
I'll hustle like a steam-engine."

"Well, maybe you're right. But these assistant aviators in the crowd
get me wild.... All right? Hoorray. Here goes.... Say, don't stop for
anything after I get off. Leave the boys to pack up, and you hustle
over to Sea Cliff for the speed-boat. You ought to be in New Haven
almost as soon as I am."

Calmer now, he peeled off his overalls, drew a wool-lined leather
jacket over his coat, climbed into the cockpit, and inspected the
indicators. As he was testing the spark Tad Warren got away.

Third and last was Carl. The race-fever shook him.

He would try to save time. Like the others, he had planned to fly from
Belmont Park across Long Island to Great Neck, and cross Long Island
Sound where it was very narrow. He studied his map. By flying across
to the vicinity of Hempstead Harbor and making a long diagonal flight
over water, straight over to Stamford, he would increase the factor of
danger, but save many miles; and the specifications of the race
permitted him to choose any course to New Haven. Thinking only of the
new route, taking time only to nod good-by to Martin Dockerill and
Hank Odell, he was off, into the air.

As the ground dropped beneath him and the green clean spaces and
innumerous towns of Long Island spread themselves out he listened to
the motor. Its music was clear and strong. Here, at least, the wind
was light.

He would risk the long over-water flight--very long they thought it in
1910.

In a few minutes he sighted the hills about Roslyn and began to climb,
up to three thousand feet. It was very cold. His hands were almost
numb on the control. He descended to a thousand feet, but the machine
jerked like a canoe shooting rapids, in the gust that swept up from
among the hills. The landscape rose swiftly at him over the ends of
the wings, now on one side, now on the other, as the machine rolled.

His arms were tired with the quick, incessant wing-warping. He rose
again. Then he looked at the Sound, and came down to three hundred
feet, lest he lose his way. For the Sound was white with fog.... No
wind out there!... Water and cloud blurred together, and the sky-line
was lost in a mass of somber mist, which ranged from filmy white to
the cold dead gray of old cigar-ashes. He wanted to hold back, not
dash out into that danger-filled twilight. But already he was roaring
over gray-green marshes, then was above fishing-boats that were slowly
rocking in water dully opaque as a dim old mirror. He noted two men on
a sloop, staring up at him with foolish, gaping, mist-wet faces.
Instantly they were left behind him. He rose, to get above the fog.
Even the milky, sulky water was lost to sight.

He was horribly lonely, abominably lonely.

At five hundred feet altitude he was not yet entirely above the fog.
Land was blotted out. Above him, gray sky and thin writhing filaments
of vapor. Beneath him, only the fog-bank, erupting here and there like
the unfolding of great white flowers as warm currents of air burst up
through the mist-blanket.

Completely solitary. All his friends were somewhere far distant, in a
place of solid earth and sun-warmed hangars. The whole knowable earth
had ceased to exist. There was only slatey void, through which he was
going on for ever. Or perhaps he was not moving. Always the same coil
of mist about him. He was horribly lonely.

He feared that the fog was growing thicker. He studied his compass
with straining eyes. He was startled by a gull's plunging up through
the mist ahead of him, and disappearing. He was the more lonely when
it was gone. His eyebrows and cheeks were wet with the steam. Drops of
moisture shone desolately on the planes. It was an unhealthy shine. He
was horribly lonely.

He pictured what would happen if the motor should stop and he should
plunge down through that flimsy vapor. His pontoonless frail monoplane
would sink almost at once.... It would be cold, swimming. How long
could he keep up? What chance of being found? He didn't want to fall.
The cockpit seemed so safe, with its familiar watch and map-stand and
supporting-wires. It was home. The wings stretching out on either side
of him seemed comfortingly solid, adequate to hold him up. But the
body of the machine behind him was only a framework, not even
inclosed. And cut in the bottom of the cockpit was a small hole for
observing the earth. He could see fog through it, in unpleasant
contrast to the dull yellow of the cloth sides and bottom. Not before
had it daunted him to look down through that hole. Now, however, he
kept his eyes away from it, and, while he watched the compass and
oil-gauge, and kept a straight course, he was thinking of how nasty it
would be to drop, drop down _there_, and have to swim. It would be
horribly lonely, swimming about a wrecked monoplane, hearing steamers'
fog-horns, hopeless and afar.

As he thought that, he actually did hear a steamer hoarsely whistling,
and swept above it, irresistibly. He started; his shoulders drooped.

More than once he wished that he could have seen Forrest Haviland
again before he started. He wished with all the poignancy of man's
affection for a real man that he had told Forrest, when they were
dining at the Brevoort, how happy he was to be with him. He was
horribly lonely.

He cursed himself for letting his thoughts become thin and damp as the
vapor about him. He shrugged his shoulders. He listened thankfully to
the steady purr of the engine and the whir of the propeller. He
_would_ get across! He ascended, hoping for a glimpse of the shore.
The fog-smothered horizon stretched farther and farther away. He was
unspeakably lonely.

Through a tear in the mist he saw sunshine reflected from houses on a
hill, directly before him, perhaps one mile distant. He shouted. He
was nearly across. Safe. And the sun was coming out.

Two minutes later he was turning north, between the water and a town
which his map indicated as Stamford. The houses beneath him seemed
companionable; friendly were the hand-waving crowds, and
factory-whistles gave him raucous greeting.

Instantly, now that he knew where he was, the race-fever caught him
again. Despite the strain of crossing the Sound, he would not for
anything have come down to rest. He began to wonder how afar ahead of
him were Titherington and Tad Warren.

He spied a train running north out of Stamford, swung over above it,
and raced with it. The passengers leaned out of the windows, trainmen
hung perilously from the opened doors of vestibuled platforms, the
engineer tooted his frantic greetings to a fellow-mechanic who, above
him in the glorious bird, sent telepathic greetings which the engineer
probably never got. The engineer speeded up; the engine puffed out
vast feathery plumes of dull black smoke. But he drew away from the
train as he neared South Norwalk.

He was ascending again when he noted something that seemed to be a
biplane standing in a field a mile away. He came down and circled the
field. It was Titherington's Farman biplane. He hoped that the kindly
Englishman had not been injured. He made out Titherington, talking to
a group about the machine. Relieved, he rose again, amused by the
ant-hill appearance as hundreds of people, like black bugs, ran toward
the stalled biplane, from neighboring farms and from a trolley-car
standing in the road.

He should not have been amused just then. He was too low. Directly
before him was a hillside crowned with trees. He shot above the trees,
cold in the stomach, muttering, "Gee! that was careless!"

He sped forward. The race-fever again. Could he pass Tad Warren as he
had passed Titherington? He whirled over the towns, shivering but
happy in the mellow, cool October air, far enough from the water to be
out of what fog the brightening sun had left. The fields rolled
beneath him, so far down that they were turned into continuous and
wonderful masses of brown and gold. He sang to himself. He liked
Titherington; he was glad that the Englishman had not been injured;
but it was good to be second in the race; to have a chance to win a
contest which the whole country was watching; to be dashing into a
rosy dawn of fame. But while he sang he was keeping a tense lookout
for Tad Warren. He had to pass him!

With the caution of the Scotchlike Norwegian, he had the cloche
constantly on the jiggle, with ceaseless adjustments to the wind,
which varied constantly as he passed over different sorts of terrain.
Once the breeze dropped him sidewise. He shot down to gain momentum,
brought her to even keel, and, as he set her nose up again, laughed
boisterously.

Never again would he be so splendidly young, never again so splendidly
sure of himself and of his medium of expression. He was to gain
wisdom, but never to have more joy of the race.

He was sure now that he was destined to pass Tad Warren.

The sun was ever brighter; the horizon ever wider, rimming the
saucer-shaped earth. When he flew near the Sound he saw that the fog
had almost passed. The water was gentle and colored like pearl,
lapping the sands, smoking toward the radiant sky. He passed over
summer cottages, vacant and asleep, with fantastic holiday roofs of
red and green. Gulls soared like flying sickles of silver over the
opal sea. Even for the racer there was peace.

He made out a mass of rock covered with autumn-hued trees to the left,
then a like rock to the right. "West and East Rock--New Haven!" he
cried.

The city mapped itself before him like square building-blocks on a
dark carpet, with railroad and trolley tracks like flashing
spider-webs under the October noon.

So he had arrived, then--and he had not caught Tad Warren. He was
furious.

He circled the city, looking for the Green, where (in this day before
the Aero Club of America battled against over-city flying) he was to
land. He saw the Yale campus, lazy beneath its elms, its towers and
turrets dreaming of Oxford. His anger left him.

He plunged down toward the Green--and his heart nearly stopped. The
spectators were scattered everywhere. How could he land without
crushing some one? With trees to each side and a church in front, he
was too far down to rise again. His back pressed against the back of
the little seat, and seemed automatically to be trying to restrain him
from this tragic landing.

The people were fleeing. In front there was a tiny space. But there
was no room to sail horizontally and come down lightly. He shut off
his motor and turned the monoplane's nose directly at the earth. She
struck hard, bounced a second. Her tail rose, and she started, with
dreadful deliberateness, to turn turtle. With a vault Carl was out of
the cockpit and clear of the machine as she turned over.

Oblivious of the clamorous crowd which was pressing in about him,
cutting off the light, replacing the clean smell of gasoline and the
upper air by the hot odor of many bodies, he examined the monoplane
and found that she had merely fractured the propeller and smashed the
rudder.

Some one was fighting through the crowd to his side--Tony Bean--Tony
the round, polite Mexican from the Bagby School. He was crying:
"_Hombre_, what a landing! You have saved lives.... Get out of the
way, all you people!"

Carl grinned and said: "Good to see you, Tony. What time did Tad
Warren get here? Where's----"

"He ees not here yet."

"What? Huh? How's that? Do I win? That----Say, gosh! I hope he hasn't
been hurt."

"Yes, you win."

A newspaper-man standing beside Tony said: "Warren had to come down at
Great Neck. He sprained his shoulder, but that's all."

"That's good."

"But you," insisted Tony, "aren't you badly jarred, Hawk?"

"Not a bit."

The gaping crowd, hanging its large collective ear toward the two
aviators, was shouting: "Hoorray! He's all right!"--As their voices
rose Carl became aware that all over the city hundreds of
factory-whistles and bells were howling their welcome to him--the
victor.

The police were clearing a way for him. As a police captain touched a
gold-flashing cap to him, Carl remembered how afraid of the police
that hobo Slim Ericson had been.

Tony and he completed examination of the machine, with Tony's
mechanician, and sent it off to a shop, to await Martin Dockerill's
arrival by speed-boat and racing-automobile. Carl went to receive
congratulations--and a check--from the prize-giver, and a reception by
Yale officials on the campus. Before him, along his lane of passage,
was a kaleidoscope of hands sticking out from the wall of
people--hands that reached out and shook his own till they were sore,
hands that held out pencil and paper to beg for an autograph, hands of
girls with golden flowers of autumn, hands of dirty, eager, small
boys--weaving, interminable hands. Dizzy with a world peopled only by
writhing hands, yet moved by their greeting, he made his way across
the Green, through Phelps Gateway, and upon the campus. Twisting his
cap and wishing that he had taken off his leather flying-coat, he
stood upon a platform and heard officials congratulating him.

The reception was over. But the people did not move. And he was very
tired. He whispered to a professor: "Is that a dormitory, there
behind us? Can I get into it and get away?"

The professor beckoned to one of the collegians, and replied, "I
think, Mr. Ericson, if you will step down they will pass you into
Vanderbilt Courtyard--by the gate back of us--and you will be able to
escape."

Carl trusted himself to the bunch of boys forming behind him, and
found himself rushed into the comparative quiet of a Tudor courtyard.
A charming youngster, hatless and sleek of hair, cried, "Right this
way, Mr. Ericson--up this staircase in the tower--and we'll give 'em
the slip."

From the roar of voices to the dusky quietude of the hallway was a
joyous escape. Suddenly Carl was a youngster, permitted to see Yale, a
university so great that, from Plato College, it had seemed an
imperial myth. He stared at the list of room-occupants framed and hung
on the first floor. He peeped reverently through an open door at a
suite of rooms.

He was taken to a room with a large collection of pillows, fire-irons,
Morris chairs, sets of books in crushed levant, tobacco-jars and
pipes--a restless and boyish room, but a real haven. He stared out
upon the campus, and saw the crowd stolidly waiting for him. He
glanced round at his host and waved his hand deprecatingly, then tried
to seem really grown up, really like the famous Hawk Ericson. But he
wished that Forrest Haviland were there so that he might marvel: "Look
at 'em, will you! Waiting for _me!_ Can you beat it? Some start for my
Yale course!"

In a big chair, with a pipe supplied by the youngster, he shyly tried
to talk to a senior in the great world of Yale (he himself had not
been able to climb to seniorhood even in Plato), while the awed
youngster shyly tried to talk to the great aviator.

He had picked up a Yale catalogue and he vaguely ruffled its pages,
thinking of the difference between its range of courses and the petty
inflexible curriculum of Plato. Out of the pages leaped the name
"Frazer." He hastily turned back. There it was: "Henry Frazer, A.M.,
Ph.D., Assistant Professor in English Literature."

Carl rejoiced boyishly that, after his defeat at Plato, Professor
Frazer had won to victory. He forgot his own triumph. For a second he
longed to call on Frazer and pay his respects. "No," he growled to
himself, "I've been so busy hiking that I've forgotten what little
book-learnin' I ever had. I'd like to see him, but----By gum! I'm
going to begin studying again."

Hidden away in the youngster's bedroom for a nap, he dreamed
uncomfortably of Frazer and books. That did not keep him from making a
good altitude flight at the New Haven Meet that afternoon, with his
hastily repaired machine and a new propeller. But he thought of new
roads for wandering in the land of books, as he sat, tired and sleepy,
but trying to appear bright and appreciative, at the big dinner in his
honor--the first sacrificial banquet to which he had been
subjected--with earnest gentlemen in evening clothes, glad for an
excuse to drink just a little too much champagne; with mayors and
councilmen and bankers; with the inevitable stories about the man who
was accused of stealing umbrellas and about the two skunks on a fence
enviously watching a motor-car.

Equally inevitable were the speeches praising Carl's flight as a
"remarkable achievement, destined to live forever in the annals of
sport and heroism, and to bring one more glory to the name of our fair
city."

Carl tried to appear honored, but he was thinking: "Rats! I'll live in
the annals of nothin'! Curtiss and Brookins and Hoxsey have all made
longer flights than mine, in this country alone, and they're aviators
I'm not worthy to fill the gas-tanks of.... Gee! I'm sleepy! Got to
look polite, but I wish I could beat it.... Let's see. Now look here,
young Carl; starting in to-morrow, you begin to read oodles of books.
Let's see. I'll start out with Forrest's favorites. There's _David
Copperfield_, and that book by Wells, _Tono-Bungay_, that's got aerial
experiments in it, and _Jude the Ob--, Obscure_, I guess it is, and
_The Damnation of Theron Ware_ (wonder what he damned), and
_McTeague_, and _Walden_, and _War and Peace_, and _Madame Bovary_,
and some Turgenev and some Balzac. And something more serious. Guess
I'll try William James's book on psychology."

He bought them all next morning. His other belongings had been suited
to rapid transportation, and Martin Dockerill grumbled, "That's a
swell line of baggage, all right--one tooth-brush, a change of socks,
and ninety-seven thousand books."

Two nights later, in a hotel at Portland, Maine, Carl was plowing
through the Psychology. He hated study. He flipped the pages angrily,
and ran his fingers through his corn-colored hair. But he sped on,
concentrated, stopping only to picture a day when the people who
honored him publicly would also know him in private. Somewhere among
them, he believed, was the girl with whom he could play. He would meet
her at some aero race, and she would welcome him as eagerly as he
welcomed her.... Had he, perhaps, already met her? He walked over to
the writing-table and scrawled a note to Gertie Cowles--regarding the
beauty of the Yale campus.



CHAPTER XXII


(_Editor's Note_: The following pages are extracts from a diary kept
by Mr. C. O. Ericson in a desultory fashion from January, 1911, to the
end of April, 1912. They are reprinted quite literally. Apparently Mr.
Ericson had no very precise purpose in keeping his journal. At times
it seems intended as _materia_ for future literary use; at others, as
comments for his own future amusement; at still others, as a sort of
long letter to be later sent to his friend, Lieut. Forrest Haviland,
U.S.A. I have already referred to them in my _Psycho-Analysis of the
Subconscious with Reference to Active Temperaments_, but here reprint
them less for their appeal to us as a scientific study of reactions
than as possessing, doubtless, for those interested in pure narrative,
a certain curt expression of somewhat unusual exploits, however
inferior is their style to a more critical thesis on the adventurous.)


_May 9_, (_1911_). Arrived at Mineola flying field, N. Y. to try out
new Bagby monoplane I have bought. Not much accomodation here yet.
Many of us housed in tents. Not enough hangars. We sit around and tell
lies in the long grass at night, like a bunch of kids out camping.
Went over and had a beer at Peter McLoughlin's today, that's where
Glenn Curtiss started out from to make his first flight for Sci. Amer.
cup.

Like my new Bagby machine better than Blériot in many respects, has
non-lifting tail, as should all modern machines. Rudder and elevator a
good deal like the Nieuport. One passenger. Roomy cockpit and enclosed
fuselage. Blériot control. Nearer streamline than any American plane
yet. Span, 33.6 ft., length 24, chord of wing at fuselage 6´ 5´´.
Chauviere propeller, 6´ 6´´, pitch 4´ 5´´. Dandy new Gnôme engine, 70
h.p., should develop 60 to 80 m.p.h.

Martin Dockerill my mechanician is pretty cute. He said to me to-day
when we were getting work-bench up, "I bet a hat the spectators all
flock here, now. Not that you're any better flier than some of the
other boys, but you got the newest plane for them to write their names
on."

Certainly a scad of people butting in. Come in autos and motor cycles
and on foot, and stand around watching everything you do till you want
to fire a monkey wrench at them.

Hank Odell has joined the Associated Order of the Pyramid and just now
he is sitting out in front of his tent talking to some of the Grand
Worthy High Mighties of it I guess--fat old boy with a yachting cap
and a big brass watch chain and an Order of Pyramid charm big as your
thumb, and a tough young fellow with a black sateen shirt and his hat
on sideways with a cigarette hanging out of one corner of his mouth.

Since I wrote the above a party of sports, the women in fade-away
gowns made to show their streamline forms came butting in, poking
their fingers at everything, while the slob that owned their car
explained everything wrong. "This is a biplane," he says, "you can see
there's a plane sticking out on each side of the place where the
aviator sits, it's a new areoplane (that's the way he pronounced it),
and that dingus in front is a whirling motor." I was sitting here at
the work-bench, writing, hot as hell and sweaty and in khaki pants and
soft shirt and black sneakers, and the Big Boss comes over to me and
says, "Where is Hawk Ericson, my man." "How do I know," I says. "When
will he be back," says he, as though he was thinking of getting me
fired p. d. q. for being fresh. "Next week. He ain't come yet."

He gets sore and says, "See here, my man, I read in the papers to-day
that he has just joined the flying colony. Permit me to inform you
that he is a very good friend of mine. If you will ask him, I am quite
sure that he will remember Mr. Porter Carruthers, who was introduced
to him at the Belmont Park Meet. Now if you will be so good as to show
the ladies and myself about----" Well, I asked Hawk, and Hawk seemed
to be unable to remember his friend Mr. Carruthers, who was one of the
thousand or so people recently introduced to him, but he told me to
show them about, which I did, and told them the Gnôme was built radial
to save room, and the wires overhead were a frame for a little roof
for bad weather, and they gasped and nodded to every fool thing I
said, swallowed it hook line and sinker till one of the females showed
her interest by saying "How fascinating, let's go over to the Garden
City Hotel, Porter, I'm dying for a drink." I hope she died for it.

_May 10_: Up at three, trying out machine. Smashed landing chassis in
coming down, shook me up a little. Interesting how when I rose it was
dark on the ground but once up was a little red in the east like smoke
from a regular fairy city.

Another author out to-day bothering me for what he called "copy."

Must say I've met some darn decent people in this game though. To-day
there was a girl came out with Billy Morrison of the N. Y. Courier,
she is an artist but crazy about outdoor life, etc. Named Istra Nash,
a red haired girl, slim as a match but the strangest face, pale but it
lights up when she's talking to you. Took her up and she was not
scared, most are.

_May 11_: Miss Istra Nash came out by herself. She's thinking quite
seriously about learning to fly. She sat around and watched me work,
and when nobody was looking smoked a cigarette. Has recently been in
Europe, Paris, London, etc.

Somehow when I'm talking to a woman like her I realize how little I
see of women with whom I can be really chummy, tho I meet so many
people at receptions etc. sometimes just after I have been flying
before thousands of people I beat it to my hotel and would be glad for
a good chat with the night clerk, of course I can bank on Martin
Dockerill to the limit but when I talk to a person like Miss Nash I
realize I need some one who knows good art from bad. Though Miss Nash
doesn't insist on talking like a high-brow, indeed is picking up
aviation technologies very quickly. She talks German like a native.

Think Miss Nash is perhaps older than I am, perhaps couple of years,
but doesn't make any difference.

Reading a little German to-night, almost forgot what I learned of it
in Plato.

_May 14, Sunday_: Went into town this afternoon and went with Istra to
dinner at the Lafayette. She told me all about her experiences in
Paris and studying art. She is quite discontented here in N. Y. I
don't blame her much, it must have been bully over in Paree. We sat
talking till ten. Like to see Vedrines fly, and the Louvre and the gay
grisettes too by heck! Istra ought not to drink so many cordials, nix
on the booze you learn when you try to keep in shape for flying,
though Tad Warren doesn't seem to learn it. After ten we went to
studio where Istra is staying on Washington Sq. several of her friends
there and usual excitement and fool questions about being an aviator,
it always makes me feel like a boob. But they saw Istra and I wanted
to be alone and they beat it.

This is really dawn but I'll date it May 14, which is yesterday. No
sleep for me to-night, I'm afraid. Going to fly around NY in aerial
derby this afternoon. Must get plenty sleep now.

_May 15_: Won derby, not much of an event though. Struck rotten
currents over Harlem River, machine rolled like a whale-back.

Istra out here to-morrow. Glad. But after last night afraid I'll get
so I depend on her, and the aviator that keeps his nerve has to be
sort of a friendless cuss some ways.

_May 16_: Istra came out here. Seems very discontented. I'm afraid
she's the kind to want novelty and attention incessantly, she seems to
forget that I'm pretty busy.

_May 17_: Saw Istra in town, she forgot all her discontent and her
everlasting dignity and danced for me then came over and kissed me,
she is truly a wonder, can hum a French song so you think you're among
the peasants, but she expects absolute devotion and constant amusing
and I must stick to my last if a mechanic like me is to amount to
anything.

_May 18_: Istra out here, she sat around and looked bored, wanted to
make me sore, I think. When I told her I had to leave to-morrow
morning for Rochester and couldn't come to town for dinner etc. she
flounced home. I'm sorry, I'm mighty sorry; poor kid she's always
going to be discontented wherever she is, and always getting some one
and herself all wrought up. She always wants new sensations yet
doesn't want to work, and the combination isn't very good. It'd be
great if she really worked at her painting, but she usually stops her
art just this side of the handle of a paint-brush.

Curious thing is that when she'd gone and I sat thinking about her I
didn't miss her so much as Gertie Cowles. I hope I see Gertie again
some day, she is a good pal.

Istra wanted me to name my new monoplane Babette, because she says it
looks "cunning" which the Lord knows it don't, it may look efficient
but not cunning. But I don't think I'll name it anything, tho she says
that shows lack of imagination.

People especially reporters are always asking me this question, do
aviators have imagination? I'm not sure I know what imagination is.
It's like this stuff about "sense of humor." Both phrases are pretty
bankrupt now. A few years ago when I was running a car I would make
believe I was different people, like a king driving through his
kingdom, but when I'm warping and banking I don't have time to think
about making believe. Of course I do notice sunsets and so on a good
deal but that is not imagination. And I do like to go different
places; possibly I take the imagination out that way--I guess
imagination is partly wanting to be places where you aren't--well, I
go when I want to, and I like that better.

Anyway darned if I'll give my monoplane a name. Tad Warren has been
married to a musical comedy soubrette with ringlets of red-brown hair
(Istra's hair is quite bright red, but this woman has dark red hair,
like the color of California redwood chips, no maybe darker) and she
wears a slimpsy bright blue dress with the waist-line nearly down to
her knees, and skirt pretty short, showing a lot of ankle, and a kind
of hat I never noticed before, must be getting stylish now I guess,
flops down so it almost hides her face like a basket. She's a typical
wife for a 10 h.p. aviator with exhibition fever. She and Tad go joy
riding almost every night with a bunch of gasoline and alcohol sports
and all have about five cocktails and dance a new Calif. dance called
the Turkey Trot. This bunch have named Tad's new Wright "Sammy," and
they think it's quite funny to yell "Hello Sammy, how are you, come
have a drink."

I guess I'll call mine a monoplane and let it go at that.

       *       *       *       *       *

_July 14_: Quebec. Lost race Toronto to Quebec. Had fair chance to win
but motor kept misfiring, couldn't seem to get plugs that would work,
and smashed hell out of elevator coming down on tail when landing
here. Glad Hank Odell won, since I lost. Hank has designed new
rocker-arm for Severn motor valves. All of us invited to usual big
dinner, never did see so many uniforms, also members of Canadian
parliament. I don't like to lose a race, but thunder it doesn't bother
me long. Good filet of sole at dinner. Sat near a young lieutenant,
leftenant I suppose it is, who made me think of Forrest Haviland. I
miss Forrest a lot. He's doing some good flying for the army, flying
Curtiss hydro now, and trying out muffler for military scouting. What
I like as much as anything about him is his ease, I hope I'm learning
a little of it anyway. This stuff is all confused but must hustle off
to reception at summer school of Royal College for Females. Must send
all this to old Forrest to read some day--if you ever see this,
Forrest, hello, dear old man, I thought about you when I flew over
military post.

_Later_: Big reception, felt like an awful nut, so shy I didn't hardly
dare look up off the ground. After the formal reception I was taken
around the campus by the Lady President, nice old lady with white hair
and diamond combs in it. What seemed more than a million pretty girls
kept dodging out of doorways and making snapshots of me. Good thing
I've been reading quite a little lately, as the Lady Principal (that
was it, not Lady President) talked very high brow. She asked me what I
thought of this "terrible lower class unrest." Told her I was a
socialist and she never batted an eye--of course an aviator is
permitted to be a nut. Wonder if I am a good socialist as a matter of
fact, I do know that most governments, maybe all, permit most children
to never have a chance, start them out by choking them with dirt and
T.B. germs, but how can we make international solidarity seem
practical to the dub average voters, _how_!

Letter from Gertie to-night, forwarded here. She seems sort of bored
in Joralemon, but is working hard with Village Improvement Committee
of woman's club for rest room for farmers' wives, also getting up P.E.
Sunday school picnic. Be good for Istra if she did common nice things
like that, since she won't really get busy with her painting, but how
she'd hate me for suggesting that she be what she calls "burjoice."
Guess Gertie is finding herself. Hope yours truly but sleepy is
finding himself too. How I love my little bed!



CHAPTER XXIII

(THE DIARY OF MR. ERICSON, CONTINUED.--EDITOR)


_AUGUST 20_, (_1911, as before_): Big Chicago meet over. They sure did
show us a good time. Never saw better meet. Won finals in duration
to-day. Also am second in altitude, but nix on the altitude again, I'm
pretty poor at it. I'm no Lincoln Beachey! Don't see how he breathes.
His 11,578 ft. was _some_ climb.

Tomorrow starts my biggest attempt, by far; biggest distance flight
ever tried in America, and rather niftier than even the European
Circuit and British Circuit that Beaumont has won.

To fly as follows: Chicago to St. Louis to Indianapolis to Columbus to
Washington to Baltimore to Philadelphia to Atlantic City to New York.
The New York Chronicle in company with papers along line gives prize
of $40,000. Ought to help bank account if win, in spite of big
expenses to undergo. Now have $30,000 stowed away, and have sent
mother $3,000.

To fly against my good old teacher M. Carmeau, and Tony Bean, Walter
MacMonnies, M. Beaufort the Frenchman, Tad Warren, Billy Witzer, Chick
Bannard, Aaron Solomons and other good men. Special NY Chronicle
reporter, fellow named Forbes, assigned to me, and he hangs around all
the time, sort of embarrassing (hurray, spelled it right, I guess) but
I'm getting used to the reporters.

Martin Dockerill has an ambition! He said to me to-day, "Say, Hawk, if
you win the big race you got to give me five plunks for my share and
then by gum I'm going to buy two razor-strops." "What for?" I said.
"Oh I bet there ain't anybody else in the world that owns _two_
razor-strops!"

Not much to say about banquet, lots of speeches, good grub.

What tickles me more than anything is my new flying garments--not
clothes but _garments_, by heck! I'm going to be a regular little old
aviator in a melodrama. I've been wearing plain suits and a cap, same
good old cap, always squeegee on my head. But for the big race I've
got riding breeches and puttees and a silk shirt and a tweed Norfolk
jacket and new leather coat and French helmet with both felt and
springs inside the leather--this last really valuable. The real stage
aviator, that's me. Watch the photographers fall for it. I bet Tad
Warren's Norfolk jacket is worth $10,000 a year to him!

I pretended to Martin that I was quite serious about the clothes, the
garments I mean. I dolled myself all up last night and went swelling
into my hangar and anxiously asked Martin if he didn't like the
get-up, and he nearly threw a fit. "Good Lord," he groans, "you look
like an aviator on a Ladies Home Journal cover, guaranteed not to
curse, swear or chaw tobacco. What's become of that girl you was
kissing, last time I seen you on the cover?"

_August 25_: Not much time to write diary on race like this, it's just
saw wood all the time or lose.

Bad wind to-day. Sometimes the wind don't bother me when I am flying,
and sometimes, like to-day, it seems as though the one thing in the
whole confounded world is the confounded wind that roars in your ears
and makes your eyes water and sneaks down your collar to chill your
spine and goes scooting up your sleeves, unless you have gauntlets,
and makes your ears sting. Roar, roar, roar, the wind's worse than the
noisiest old cast-iron tin-can Vrenskoy motor. You want to duck your
head and get down out of it, and Lord it tires you so--aviation isn't
all "brilliant risks" and "daring dives" and that kind of
blankety-blank circus business, not by a long shot it ain't, lots of
it is just sticking there and bucking the wind like a taxi driver
speeding for a train in a storm. Tired to-night and mad.

_September 5_: New York! I win! Plenty smashes but only got jarred. I
beat out Beaufort by eight hours, and Aaron Solomons by nearly a day.
Carmeau's machine hopelessly smashed in Columbus, but he was not hurt,
but poor Tad Warren _killed_ crossing Illinois.

_September 8_: Had no time to write about my reception here in New
York till now.

I've been worrying about poor Tad Warren's wife, bunch of us got
together and made up a purse for her. Nothing more pathetic than these
poor little women that poke down the cocktails to keep excited and
then go to pieces.

I don't believe I was very decent to Tad. Sitting here alone in a
hotel room, it seems twice as lonely after the fuss and feathers these
last few days, a fellow thinks of all the rotten things he ever did.
Poor old Tad. Too late now to cheer him up. Too late. Wonder if they
shouldn't have called off race when he was killed.

Wish Istra wouldn't keep calling me up. Have I _got_ to be rude to
her? I'd like to be decent to her, but I can't stand the cocktail
life. Lord, that time she danced, though.

Poor Tad was [See Transcriber's note.]

Oh hell, to get back to the reception. It was pretty big. Parade of
the Aero Club and Squadron A, me in an open-face hack, feeling like a
boob while sixty leven billion people cheered. Then reception by
mayor, me delivering letter from mayor of Chicago which I had cutely
sneaked out in Chicago and mailed to myself here, N. Y. general
delivery, so I wouldn't lose it on the way. Then biggest dinner I've
ever seen, must have been a thousand there, at the Astor, me very
natty in a new dress suit (hey bo, I fooled them, it was ready-made
and cost me just $37.50 and fitted like my skin.)

Mayor, presidents of boroughs of NY, district attorney, vice president
of U.S., lieut. governor of NY, five or six senators, chief of
ordnance, U.S.A., arctic explorers and hundreds like that, but most of
all Forrest Haviland whom I got them to stick right up near me.
Speeches mostly about me, I nearly rubbed the silver off my flossy new
cigarette case keeping from looking foolish while they were telling
about me and the future of aviation and all them interesting subjects.

Forrest and I sneaked off from the reporters next afternoon, had quiet
dinner down in Chinatown.

We have a bully plan. If we can make it and if he can get leave we
will explore the headwaters of the Amazon with a two-passenger Curtiss
flying boat, maybe next year.

Now the reception fans have done their darndest and all the excitement
is over including the shouting and I'm starting for Newport to hold a
little private meet of my own, backed by Thomas J. Watersell, the
steel magnate, and by to-morrow night NY will forget me. I realized
that after the big dinner. I got on the subway at Times Square, jumped
quick into the car just as the doors were closing, and the guard
yapped at me, "What are you trying to do, Billy, kill yourself?" He
wasn't spending much time thinking about famous Hawk Ericson, and I
got to thinking how comfortable NY will manage to go on being when
they no longer read in the morning paper whether I dined with the
governor, or with Martin Dockerill at Bazoo Junction Depot Lunch
Counter.

They forget us quick. And already there's a new generation of
aviators. Some of the old giants are gone, poor Moisant and Hoxsey and
Johnstone and the rest killed, and there's coming along a bunch of
youngsters that can fly enough to grab the glory, and they spread out
the glory pretty thin. They go us old fellows except Beachey a few
better on aerial acrobatics, and that's what the dear pee-pul like.
(For a socialist I certainly do despise the pee-pul's _taste_!) I
won't do any flipflops in the air no matter what the county fair
managers write me. Somehow I'd just as soon be alive and exploring the
Amazon with old Forrest as dead after "brilliant feats of fearless
daring." Go to it, kids, good luck, only test your supporting wires,
and don't try to rival Lincoln Beachey, he's a genius.

Glad got a secretary for a couple days to handle all this mail.
Hundreds of begging letters and mash notes from girls since I won the
big prize. Makes me feel funny! One nice thing out of the mail--letter
from the Turk, Jack Terry, that I haven't seen since Plato. He didn't
graduate, his old man died and he is assistant manager of quite a good
sized fisheries out in Oregon, glad to hear from him again. Funny, I
haven't thought of him for a year.

I feel lonely and melancholy to-night in spite of all I do to cheer
up. Let up after reception etc. I suppose. I feel like calling up
Istra, after all, but mustn't. I ought to hit the hay, but I couldn't
sleep. Poor Tad Warren.

(_The following words appear at the bottom of a page, in a faint, fine
handwriting unlike Mr. Ericson's usual scrawl.--The Editor_):

Whatever spirits there be, of the present world or the future, take
this prayer from a plain man who knows little of monism or trinity or
logos, and give to Tad another chance, as a child who never grew up.

       *       *       *       *       *

_September 11_: Off to Kokomo, to fly for Farmers' Alliance.

Easy meet here (Newport, R.I.) yesterday, just straight flying and
passenger carrying. Dandy party given for me after it, by Thomas J.
Watersell, the steel man. Have read of such parties. Bird party, in a
garden, Watersell has many acres in his place and big house with a
wonderful brick terrace and more darn convenient things than I ever
saw before, breakfast room out on the terrace and swimming pool and
little gardens one outside of each guest room, rooms all have private
doors, house is mission style built around patio. All the Newport
swells came to party dressed as birds, and I had to dress as a hawk,
they had the costume all ready, wonder how they got my measurements.
Girls in the dance of the birds. Much silk stockings, very pretty. At
end of dance they were all surrounding me in semi-circle I stood out
on lawn beside Mrs. Watersell, and they bowed low to me, fluttering
their silk wings and flashing out many colored electric globes
concealed in wings and looked like hundreds of rainbow colored
fireflies in the darkness. Just then the big lights were turned on
again and they let loose hundreds of all kinds of birds, and they flew
up all around me, surprised me to death. Then for grub, best
sandwiches I ever ate.

Felt much flattered by it all, somehow did not feel so foolish as at
banquets with speeches.

After the party was all over, quite late, I went with Watersell for a
swim in his private pool. Most remarkable thing I ever saw. He said
everybody has Roman baths and Pompei baths and he was going to go them
one better, so he has an Egyptian bath, the pool itself like the
inside of an ancient temple, long vista of great big green columns and
a big idol at the end, and the pool all in green marble with lights
underneath the water and among the columns, and the water itself just
heat of air, so you can't tell where the water leaves off and the air
above it begins, hardly, and feel as though you were swimming in air
through a green twilight. Darndest sensation I ever felt, and the idol
and columns sort of awe you.

I enjoyed the swim and the room they gave me, but I had lost my
tooth-brush and that kind of spoiled the end of the party.

I noticed Watersell only half introduced his pretty daughter to me,
they like me as a lion but----And yet they seem to like me personally
well enough, too. If I didn't have old Martin trailing along, smoking
his corn-cob pipe and saying what he thinks, I'd die of loneliness
sometimes on the hike from meet to meet. Other times have jolly
parties, but I'd like to sit down with the Cowleses and play poker and
not have to explain who I am.

Funny--never used to feel lonely when I was bumming around on freights
and so on, not paying any special attention to anybody.

_October 23_: I wonder how far I'll ever get as an aviator? The
newspapers all praise me as a hero. Hero, hell! I'm a pretty steady
flier but so would plenty of chauffeurs be. This hero business is
mostly bunk, it was mostly chance my starting to fly at all. Don't
suppose it is all accident to become as great a flier as Garros or
Vedrines or Beachey, but I'm never going to be a Garros, I guess. Like
the man that can jump twelve feet but never can get himself to go any
farther.

_December 1_: Carmeau killed yesterday, flying at San Antone. Motor
backfire, machine caught fire, burned him to death in the air. He was
the best teacher I could have had, patient and wise. I can't write
about him. And I can't get this insane question out of my mind: Was
his beard burned? I remember just how it looked, and think of that
when all the time I ought to remember how clever and darn decent he
was. Carmeau will never show me new stunts again.

And Ely killed in October, Cromwell Dixon gone--the plucky youngster,
Professor Montgomery, Nieuport, Todd Shriver whom Martin Dockerill and
Hank Odell liked so much, and many others, all dead, like Moisant. I
don't think I take any undue risks, but it makes me stop and think.
And Hank Odell with a busted shoulder. Captain Paul Beck once told me
he believed it was mostly carelessness, these accidents, and he
certainly is a good observer, but when I think of a careful
constructor like Nieuport----

Punk money I'm making. Thank heaven there will be one more good year
of the game, 1912, but I don't know about 1913. Looks like the
exhibition game would blow up then--nearly everybody that wants to has
seen an aeroplane fly once, now, and that's about all they want, so
good bye aviation, except for military use and flying boats for
sportsmen. At least good bye during a slump of several years.

Hope to thunder Forrest and I will be able to make our South American
hike, even if it costs every cent I have. That will be something like
it, seeing new country instead of scrapping with fair managers about
money.

_December 22_: Hoorray! Christmas time at sea! Quite excite to smell
the ocean again and go rolling down the narrow gangways between the
white state-room doors. Off for a month's flying in Brazil and
Argentine, with Tony Bean. Will look up data for coming exploration of
Amazon headwaters. Martin Dockerill like a regular Beau Brummel in new
white flannels, parading the deck, making eyes at pretty Greaser
girls. It's good to be _going_.

       *       *       *       *       *

_Feb. 22, 1912_: Geo. W's birthday. He'd have busted that no-lie
proviso if he'd ever advertised an aero meet.

Start of flight New Orleans to St. Louis. Looks like really big times,
old fashioned jubilee all along the road and lots of prizes, though
take a chance. Only measly little $2,500 prize guaranteed, but vague
promises of winnings at towns all along, where stop for short
exhibitions. Each of contestants has to fly at scheduled towns for
percentage of gate receipts.

_Feb. 23_: What a rotten flight to-day. Small crowd out to see me off.
No sooner up than trouble with plugs. Wanted to land, but nothing but
bayous, rice fields, cane breaks, and marshes. Farmer shot at my
machine. Soon motor stopped on me and had to come down awhooping on a
small plowed field. Smashed landing gear and got an awful jar. Nothing
serious though. It was two hours before a local blacksmith and I
repaired chassis and cleaned plugs. I started off after coaching three
scared darkies to hold the tail, while the blacksmith spun the
propeller. He would give it a couple of bats, then dodge out of the
way too soon, while I sat there and tried not to look mad, which by
gum I was plenty mad. Landed in this bum town, called ----, fourth in
the race, and found sweet (?) refuge in this chills and fever hotel.
Wish I was back in New Orleans. Cheer up, having others ahead of me in
the race just adds a little zip to it. Watch me to-morrow. And I'm not
the only hard luck artist. Aaron Solomons busted propeller and nearly
got killed.

_Later._ Cable. Tony Bean is dead. Killed flying. My god, Tony,
impossible to think of him as dead, just a few days ago we were flying
together and calling on senoritas and he playing the fiddle and
laughing, always so polite, like he used to fiddle us into good nature
when we got discouraged at Bagby's school. Seems like it was just
couple minutes ago we drove in his big car through Avenida de Mayo and
everybody cheered him, he was hero of Buenos Aires, yet he treated me
as the Big Chief. Cablegram forwarded from New Orleans, dated
yesterday, "Beanno killed fell 200 feet."

And to-morrow I'll have to be out and jolly the rustic meet managers
again. Want to go off some place and be quiet and think. Wish I could
get away, be off to South America with Forrest.

_February 24_: Rotten luck continues. Back in same town again! Got up
yesterday and motor misfired, had to make quick landing in a bayou and
haul out machine myself aided by scared kids. Got back here and found
gasoline pipe fouled, small piece of tin stuck in it.

Martin feels as bad as I do at Tony's death, tho he doesn't say much
of anything. "Gosh, and Tony such a nice little cuss," was about all
he said, but he looked white around the gills.

_Feb. 25_: Another man has dropped out, I am third but still last in
the race. Race fever got me to-day, didn't care for anything but
winning, got off to a good start, then took chances, machine wobbled
like a board in the surf. Am having some funny kind of chicken creole
I guess it is for lunch, writing this in hotel dining room.

_Later_: Passed Aaron Solomons, am now second in the race, landed here
just three hours behind Walter MacMonnies. Three letters forwarded
here, from Forrest, he is flying daily at army aviation camp, also
from Gertie Cowles, she and her mother are in Minneapolis, attending a
week of grand opera, also to my surprise short note from Jack Ryan,
the grouch, saying he has given up flying and gone back into motor
business.

There won't be much more than money to pay expenses on this trip.

Tomorrow I'll show them some real flying.

_Later_: Telegram from a St. L. newspaper. Sweet business. Says that
promoters of race have not kept promise to remove time limit as they
promised. Doubt if either Walter MacMonnies or I can finish in time
set.

_Feb. 26_: Bad luck continues but made fast flight after two forced
descents, one of them had to make difficult landing, plane down on
railroad track, avoiding telegraph wires, and get machine off track as
could hear train coming, awful job. Nerves not very good. Once when up
at 200 ft. heighth from which Tony Bean fell, I saw his face right in
air in front of me and jumped so I jerked the stuffings out of control
wires.

       *       *       *       *       *

_March 15_: Just out of hospital, after three weeks there, broken leg
still in splints. Glad Walter MacM got thru in time limit, got prize.
Too week and shaky write much, shoulder still hurts.

_March 18_: How I came to fall (fall that broke my leg, three weeks
ago) Was flying over rough country when bad gust came thru hill
defile. Wing crumpled. Up at 400 ft. Machine plunged forward then
sideways. Gosh, I thought, I'm gone, but will live as long as I can,
even a few seconds more, and kept working with elevator, trying to
right her even a little. Ground coming up fast. Must have jumped, I
think. Landed in marsh, that saved my life, but woke up at doctor's
house, leg busted and shoulder bad, etc. Machine shot to pieces, but
Martin Dockerill has it pretty well repaired. He and the doc and I
play poker every day, Martin always wins with his dog-gone funeral
face no matter tho he has an ace full.

_March 24_: Leg all right, pretty nearly. Rigged up steering bar so I
can work it with one foot. Flew a mile to-day, went not badly. Hope to
fly at Springfield, Ill. meet next week. Will be able to make Brazil
trip with Forrest Haviland all right. The dear old boy has been
writing to me every day while I've been on the bum. Newspapers have
made a lot of my flying so soon again, several engagements and now
things look bright again. Reading lots and chipper as can be.

_March 25_: Forrest Haviland is dead He was killed to-day.

_March 27_: Disposed of monoplane by telegraph. Got Martin job with
Sunset Aviation Company.

_March 28_: Started for Europe.

       *       *       *       *       *

_May 8, Paris_: Forrest and I would have met to-day in New York to
perfect plans for Brazil trip.

_May 10_: Am still trying to answer letter from Forrest's father.
Can't seem to make it go right. If I could have seen Forrest again.
But maybe they were right, holding funeral before I could get there.
Captain Faber says Forrest was terribly crushed, falling from 1700 ft.
I wish I didn't keep on thinking of plans for our Brazil trip, then
remembering we won't make it after all. I don't think I will fly till
fall, anyway, though I feel stronger now after rest in England,
Titherington has beautiful place in Devonshire. England seems to stick
to biplane, can't make them see monoplane. Don't think I shall fly
before fall. To-day I would have been with Forrest Haviland in New
York, I think he could have got leave for Brazil trip. We would taken
Martin. Tony promised to meet us in Rio. I like France but can't get
used to language, keep starting to speak Spanish. Maybe I'll fly here
in France but certainly not for some time, though massage has fixed me
all O.K. Am studying French. Maybe shall bicycle thru France. Mem.:
Write to Colonel Haviland when I can.

_Must_ when I can.



Part III

THE ADVENTURE OF LOVE



CHAPTER XXIV


In October, 1912, a young man came with an enthusiastic letter from
the president of the Aero Club to old Stephen VanZile, vice-president
and general manager of the VanZile Motor Corporation of New York. The
young man was quiet, self-possessed, an expert in regard to motors,
used to meeting prominent men. He was immediately set to work at a
tentative salary of $2,500 a year, to develop the plans of what he
called the "Touricar"--an automobile with all camping accessories,
which should enable motorists to travel independent of inns, add the
joy of camping to the joy of touring, and--a feature of nearly all
inventions--add money to the purse of the inventor.

The young man was Carl Ericson, whom Mr. VanZile had seen fly at New
Orleans during the preceding February. Carl had got the idea of the
Touricar while wandering by motor-cycle through Scandinavia and
Russia.

He was, at this time, twenty-seven years old; not at all remarkable in
appearance nor to be considered handsome, but so clean, so well
bathed, so well set-up and evenly tanned, that one thought of the
swimming, dancing, tennis-playing city men of good summer resorts, an
impression enhanced by his sleek corn-silk hair and small, pale
mustache. His clothes came from London, his watch-chain was a thin
line of platinum and gold, his cigarette-case of silver engraved in
inconspicuous bands--a modest and sophisticated cigarette-case, which
he had possessed long enough to forget that he had it. He was
apparently too much the easy, well-bred, rather inexperienced Yale or
Princeton man (not Harvard; there was a tiny twang in his voice, and
he sometimes murmured "Gee!") to know much about life or work, as
yet, and his smooth, rosy cheeks made it absurdly evident that he had
not been away from the college insulation for more than two years.

But when he got to work with draftsman and stenographers, when a curt
kindliness filled his voice, he proved to be concentrated, unafraid of
responsibility, able to keep many people busy; trained to something
besides family tradition and the collegians' naïve belief that it
matters who wins the Next Game.

His hands would have given away the fact that he had done things. They
were large, broad; the knuckles heavy; the palms calloused by
something rougher than oar and tennis-racket. The microscopic traces
of black grease did not for months quite come out of the cracks in his
skin. And two of his well-kept but thick nails had obviously been
smashed.

The men of the same rank as himself in the office, captains and first
lieutenants of business, said that he "simply ate up work." They
fancied, with the eager old-womanishness of office gossip, that he had
a "secret sorrow," for, though he was pleasant enough, he kept very
much to himself. The cause of his retirement from aviation was the
theme of many romantic legends. They did not know precisely what it
was he had done in the pre-historic period of a year before, but they
treated him with reverence instead of the amused aloofness with which
an office usually waits to see whether a new man will prove to be a
fool or a "grouch," a clown or a good fellow. The stenographers and
filing-girls and telephone-girls followed with yearning eyes the
hero's straight back. The girl who discovered, in an old _New York
Chronicle_ lining a bureau drawer, an interview with Carl, became very
haughty over its possession and lent it only to her best lady friends.
The older women, who knew that Carl had had a serious accident,
whispered in cloak-room confidences, "Poor fellow, and so brave about
it."

Yet all the while Carl's china-blue eyes showed no trace of pain nor
sorrow nor that detestable appeal for sympathy called "being brave
about his troubles."

       *       *       *       *       *

There were many thoughtful features which fitted the Touricar for use
in camping--extra-sized baggage-box whose triangular shape made the
car more nearly streamline, special folding silk tents, folding
aluminum cooking-utensils, electric stove run by current from the car,
electric-battery light attached to a curtain-rod. But the distinctive
feature, the one which Carl could patent, was the means by which a bed
was made up inside the car as Pullman seats are turned into berths.
The back of the front seat was hinged, and dropped back to horizontal.
The upholstery back of the back seat could be taken out and also
placed on the horizontal. With blankets spread on the level space thus
provided, with the extra-heavy top and side curtains in place, and the
electric light switched on, tourists had a refuge cleaner than a
country hotel and safer than a tent....

The first Touricar was being built. Carl was circularizing a list of
possible purchasers, and corresponding with makers of camping goods.

Because he was not office-broken he did not worry about the risks of
the new enterprise. The stupid details of affairs had, for him, a
soul--the Adventure of Business.

To be consulted by draftsmen and shop foremen; to feel that if he
should not arrive at 8.30 A.M. to the second the most important part
of all the world's business would be halted and stenographers loll in
expensive idleness; to have the chief, old VanZile, politely anxious
as to how things were going; to plan ways of making a million dollars
and not have the plans seem fantastic--all these made it interesting
to overwork, and hypnotized Carl into a feeling of responsibility
which was less spectacular than flying before thousands, but more in
accordance with the spirit of the time and place.

Inside the office--busy and reaching for success. Outside the
office--frankly bored.

Carl was a dethroned prince. He had been accustomed to a more than
royal court of admirers. Now he was a nobody the moment he went twenty
feet from his desk. He was forgotten. He did not seek out the many
people he had met when he was an aviator and a somebody. He believed,
perhaps foolishly, that they liked him only as a personage, not as a
person. He sat lonely at dinner, in cheap restaurants with stains on
the table-cloths, for he had put much of his capital into the new
Touricar Company, mothered by the VanZile Corporation; and aeroplanes,
accessories, traveling-expenses, and the like had devoured much of his
large earnings at aviation before he had left the game.

In his large, shabby, fairly expensive furnished room on Seventy-fifth
Street he spent unwilling evenings, working on Touricar plans, or
reading French--French technical motor literature, light novels,
Balzac, anything.

He tried to keep in physical form, and, much though the routine and
silly gestures of gymnasium exercises bored him, he took them three
times a week. He could not explain the reason, but he kept his
identity concealed at the gymnasium, giving his name as "O. Ericson."

Even at the Aero Club, where scores knew him by sight, he was a
nobody. Aviation, like all pioneer arts, must look to the men who are
doing new things or planning new things, not to heroes past. Carl was
often alone at lunch at the club. Any group would have welcomed him,
but he did not seek them out. For the first time he really saw the
interior decorations of the club. In the old days he had been much too
busy talking with active comrades to gaze about. But now he stared for
five minutes together at the stamped-leather wall-covering of the
dining-room. He noted, much too carefully for a happy man, the
trophies of the lounging-room. But at one corner he never glanced. For
here was a framed picture of the forgotten Hawk Ericson, landing on
Governor's Island, winner of the flight from Chicago to New York....
Such a beautiful swoop!...

There is no doubt of the fact that he disliked the successful new
aviators, and did so because he was jealous of them. He admitted the
fact, but he could not put into his desire to be a good boy
one-quarter of the force that inspired his resentment at being a
lonely man and a nobody. But, since he knew he was envious, he was
careful not to show it, not to inflict it upon others. He was gracious
and added a wrinkle between his brows, and said "Gosh!" and "ain't"
much less often.

He had few friends these days. Death had taken many; and he was wary
of lion-hunters, who in dull seasons condescend to ex-lions and
dethroned princes. But he was fond of a couple of Aero Club men, an
automobile ex-racer who was a selling-agent for the VanZile
Corporation, and Charley Forbes, the bright-eyed, curly-headed, busy,
dissipated little reporter who had followed him from Chicago to New
York for the _Chronicle_. Occasionally one of the men with whom he had
flown--Hank Odell or Walter MacMonnies or Lieutenant Rutledge of the
navy--came to town, and Carl felt natural again. As for women, the
only girl whom he had known well in years, Istra Nash, the painter,
had gone to California to keep house for her father till she should
have an excuse to escape to New York or Europe again.

Inside the office--a hustling, optimistic young business man. For the
rest of the time--a dethroned prince. Such was Carl Ericson in
November, 1912, when a letter from Gertrude Cowles, which had pursued
him all over America and Europe, finally caught him:

---- West 157th St.

NEW YORK.

CARL DEAR,--Oh such excitement, we have come to _New York_ to live!
Ray has such a good position with a big NY real estate co. & Mama & I
are going to make a home for him even if it's only just a flat (but
it's quite a big one & looks out on the duckiest old house that must
have been adorning Harlem for heaven knows how long,) & our house has
all modern conveniences, elevator & all.

Think, Carl, I'm going to study dancing at Madame Vashkowska's
school--she was with the Russian ballet & really is almost as
wonderful a dancer as Isadora Duncan or Pavlova. Perhaps I'll teach
all these ducky new dances to children some day. I'm just terribly
excited to be here, like the silliest gushiest little girl in the
world. And I do hope so much you will be able to come to NY & honor us
with your presence at dinner, famous aviator--our Carl & we are so
_proud_ of you--if you will still remember simple people like us do
come _any time_. Wonder where you will be when this reaches you.

I read in the papers that your accident isn't serious but I am
worried, oh Carl you must take care of yourself.

Yours as ever,

GERTIE.

P.S. Mama sends her best regards, so does Ray, he has a black mustache
now, we tease him about it dreadfully.

G.

One minute after reading the letter, in his room, Carl was standing on
the chaste black-and-white tiles of the highly respectable
white-arched hall down-stairs asking Information for the telephone
number of ---- West 157th Street, while his landlord, a dry-bearded
goat of a physician who had failed in the practise of medicine and was
now failing in the practise of rooming-houses, listened from the front
of the hall.

Glad to escape from the funereally genteel house, Carl hastily changed
his collar and tie and, like the little boy Carl whom Gertie had
known, dog-trotted to the subway, which was going to take him Home.



CHAPTER XXV


Before the twelve-story Bendingo Apartments, Carl scanned the rows of
windows which pierced the wall like bank-swallows' nests in a bold
cliff.... One group of those windows was home--Joralemon and memories,
Gertie's faith and understanding.... It was she who had always
understood him.... In anticipation he loitered through the big,
marble-and-stucco, rug and rubber-tree, negro hallboy and Jew tenant
hallway.... What would the Cowleses be like, now?

Gertie met him in the coat-smelling private hall of the Cowles
apartment, greeted him with both hands clasping his, and her voice
catching in, "Oh, _Carl_, it's so good to see you!" Behind Gertie was
a swishing, stiff-backed Mrs. Cowles, piping in a high, worn voice:
"Mr. Ericson! A friend from home! And such a famous friend!"

Gertie drew him into the living-room. He looked at her.

He found, not a girl, but a woman of thirty, plump, solid, with the
tiniest wrinkles of past unhappiness or ennui at the corners of her
mouth; but her eyes radiant with sweetness, and her hair appealingly
soft and brown above her wide, calm forehead. She was gowned in
lavender crêpe de Chine, with panniers of satin elaborately sprinkled
with little bunches of futurist flowers; long jet earrings; a low-cut
neck that hinted of a comfortable bosom. Eyes shining, hands firm on
his arm, voice ringing, she was unaffectedly glad to see him--her
childhood playmate, whom she had not beheld for seven years.

Mrs. Cowles was waiting for them to finish their greetings. Carl was
startled to find Mrs. Cowles smaller than he had remembered, her hair
nearly white and not perfectly matched, her face crisscrossed with
wrinkles deeper than her age justified. But her old disapproval of
Carl, son of a carpenter and cousin of a "hired girl," was gone. She
even laughed mildly, like a kitten sneezing. And from a room somewhere
beyond Ray shouted:

"Be right there in a second, old man. Crazy to have a look at you."

Carl did not really see the living-room, their background. Indeed, he
never really saw it. There was nothing to see--chairs and a table and
pictures of meadows and roses. It was comfortable, however, and had
conveniences--a folding card-table, a cribbage-board, score-pads for
whist and five hundred; a humidor of cigars; a large Morris chair and
an ugly but well-padded couch of green tufted velvetine.

They sat about in chairs, talking.

Ray came in, slapped Carl on the back, roared: "Well, here's the
stranger! Holy Mike! have you got a mustache, too? Better shave it off
before Gert starts kidding you about it. Have a cigar?"

Carl felt at home for the first time in a year; for the first time
talked easily.

"Say, Gertie, tell me about my folks, and Bone Stillman."

"Why, I saw your father just before we left, Carl. You know he still
does quite a little business. We got your mother to join the Nautilus
Club--she doesn't go very often; but she had a nice paper about 'Java
and Its Products,' and she helps us a lot with the rest-room. I
haven't seen Mr. Stillman for a long, long time. Ray, what has----"

Ray: "Why, I think old Bone's off on some expedition 'r other. Fellow
told me Bone was some kind of a forest ranger or mine inspector, or
some darn thing, up in the Big Woods. He must be pretty well along
toward seventy now, at that."

Carl: "So dad's getting along well. His letters aren't very
committal.... Oh, say, Gertie, what ever became of Ben Rusk? I've lost
track of him entirely."

Gertie: "Why, didn't you know? He went to Rush Medical College. They
say he did splendidly there; he stood awfully well in his classes, and
now he's in practise with his father, home."

Carl: "Rush?"

Gertie: "Yes, you know, in Chi----"

Carl: "Oh yes, sure; in Chicago; sure, I remember now; I saw it when I
was there one time. Why! That's the school his father went to, wasn't
it?"

Ray: "Yes, sure, that's the one."

The point seemed settled.

Carl: "Well, well, so Ben _did_ study medicine, after----Oh, _say_,
how's Adelaide Benner?"

Gertie: "Why, you'll see her! She's coming to New York in just a
couple of weeks to stay with us till she gets settled. Just think,
she's to have a whole year here, studying domestic science, and then
she's to have a perfectly dandy position teaching in the Fargo High
School. I'm not supposed to tell--you mustn't breathe a _word_ of
it----"

Mrs. Cowles (interrupting): "Adelaide is a good girl....Ray! Don't
tilt your chair!"

Gertie: "Yes, _isn't_ she, mamma.... Well, I was just saying: between
you and me, Carl, she is to have the position in Fargo all ready and
waiting for her, though of course they can't announce it publicly,
with all the cats that would like to get it, and all. Isn't that
fine?"

Carl: "Certainly is.... 'Member the time we had the May party at
Adelaide's, and all I could get for my basket was rag babies and May
flowers? Gee, but I felt out of it!"

Gertie: "We did have some good parties, _didn't_ we!"

Ray: "Don't call that much of a good party for Carl! Ring off, Gert;
you got the wrong number that time, all right!"

Gertie (flushing): "Oh, I _didn't_ mean----But we did have some good
times. Oh, Carl, will you _ever_ forget the time you and I ran away
when we were just babies?"

Carl: "I'll never forget----"

Mrs. Cowles: "I'll never forget that time! My lands! I thought I
should die, I was so frightened."

Carl: "You've forgiven me now, though, haven't you?"

Mrs. Cowles: "My dear boy, of course I have!" (She wiped away a few
tears with a gentlewoman handkerchief of lace and thin linen. Carl
crossed the room and kissed her pale-veined, silvery old hand.
Abashed, he subsided on the couch, and, trying to look as though he
hadn't done it----)

Carl: "Ohhhhh _say_, whatever did become of----Oh, I can't think of
his name----Oh, _you_ know----I know his name well as I do my own, but
it's slipped me, just for the moment----You know, he ran the
billiard-parlor; the son of the----"

(From Mrs. Cowles, a small, disapproving sound; from Ray, a grin of
knowing naughtiness and a violent head-shake.)

Gertie (gently): "Yes.... He--has left Joralemon.... Klemm, you mean."

Carl (hastily, wondering what Eddie Klemm had done): "Oh, I see....
Have there been many changes in Joralemon?"

Mrs. Cowles: "Do you write to your father and mother, Carl? You ought
to."

Carl: "Oh yes, I write to them quite often, now, though for a time I
didn't."

Mrs. Cowles: "I'm glad, my boy. It's pretty good, after all, to have
home folks that you can depend on, isn't it? When I first went to
Joralemon, I thought it was a little pokey, but now I'm older, and
I've been there so long and all, that I'm almost afraid of New York,
and I declare I do get real lonely for home sometimes. I'd be glad to
see Dr. Rusk--Ben's father, I mean, the old doctor--driving by, though
of course you know I lived in Minneapolis a great many years, and I do
feel I ought to take advantage of the opportunities here, and I've
thought quite seriously about taking up French again, it's so long
since I've studied it----You ought to study it; you will find it
cultivates the mind. And you must be sure to write often to your
mother; there's nothing you can depend on like a mother's love, my
boy."

Ray: "Say, look here, Carl, I want to hear something about all this
aviation. How does it feel to fly, anyway? I'd be scared to death;
it's funny, I can't look off the top of a sky-scraper without feeling
as though I wanted to jump. Gosh! I----"

Gertie: "Now you just let Carl tell us when he gets ready, you big,
bad brother! Carl wants to hear all about Home first.... All these
years!... You were asking about the changes. There haven't been so
very many. You know it's a little slow there. Oh, of course, I almost
forgot; why, you haven't been in Joralemon since they built up what
used to be Tubbs's pasture."

Carl: "Not the old pasture by the lake? Well, well! Is that a fact!
Why, gee! I used to snare gophers there!"

Gertie: "Oh yes. Why, you simply wouldn't _know_ it, Carl, it's so
much changed. There must be a dozen houses on it, now. Why, there's
cement walks and everything, and Mr. Upham has a house there, a real
nice one, with a screened-in porch and everything.... Of course you
know they've put in the sewer now, and there's lots of modern
bath-rooms, and almost everybody has a Ford. We would have bought one,
but planning to come away so soon----Oh yes, and they've added a
fire-escape to the school-house."

Carl: "Well, well!... Oh, say, Ray, how is Howard Griffin getting
along?"

Ray: "Why, Howard's graduated from Chicago Law School, and he's
practising in Denver. Doing pretty well, I guess; settled down and got
quite some real-estate holdings.... Have 'nother cigar, old man?...
Say, speaking of Plato, of course you know they ousted old S. Alcott
Woodski from the presidency, for heresy, something about baptism; and
the dean succeeded him.... Poor old cuss, he wasn't as mean as the
dean, anyway.... Say, Carl, I've always thought they gave you a pretty
raw deal there----"

Gertie (interrupting): "Perfectly dreadful!... Ray, _don't_ put your
feet on that couch; I brushed it thoroughly, just this morning.... It
was simply terrible, Carl; I've always said that if Plato couldn't
appreciate her greatest son----"

Mrs. Cowles (sleepily): "Outrageous.... And don't put your feet on
that chair, Ray."

Ray: "Oh, leave my feet alone!... Everybody knew you were dead right
in standing up for Prof Frazer. You remember how I roasted all the
fellows in Omega Chi when they said you were nutty to boost him? And
when you stood up in Chapel----Lord! that was nervy."

Gertie: "Indeed you were right, and now you've got so famous I
guess----"

Carl: "Oh, I ain't so----"

Mrs. Cowles: "I was simply amazed.... Children, if you don't mind, I'm
afraid I must leave you. Mr. Ericson, I'm so ashamed to be sleepy so
early. When we lived in Minneapolis, before Mr. Cowles passed beyond,
he was a regular night-hawk, and we used to sit--sit--" (a yawn)--"sit
up till all hours. But to-night----"

Gertie: "Oh, must you go so soon? I was just going to make Carl a
rarebit. Carl has never seen one of my rarebits."

Mrs. Cowles: "Make him one by all means, my dear, and you young people
sit up and enjoy yourselves just as long as you like. Good night,
all.... Ray, will you please be sure and see that that window is
fastened before you go to bed? I get so nervous when----Mr. Ericson,
I'm very proud to think that one of our Joralemon boys should have
done so well. Sometimes I wonder if the Lord ever meant men to
fly--what with so many accidents, and you know aviators often do get
killed and all. I was reading the other day--such a large
percentage----But we have been so proud that you should lead them all,
I was saying to a lady on the train that we had a friend who was a
famous aviator, and she was so interested to find that we knew you.
Good night."

They had the Welsh rarebit, with beer, and Carl helped to make it.
Gertie summoned him into the scoured kitchen, saying, with a beautiful
casualness, as she tied an apron about him:

"We can't afford a hired girl (I suppose I should say a 'maid'),
because mamma has put so much of our money into Ray's business, so you
mustn't expect anything so very grand. But you'd like to help,
wouldn't you? You're to chop the cheese. Cut it into weenty cubes."

Carl did like to help. He boasted that he was the "champion
cheese-chopper of Harlem and the Bronx, one-thirty-three ringside,"
while Gertie was toasting crackers, and Ray was out buying bottles of
beer in a newspaper. It all made Carl feel more than ever at home....
It was good to be with people of such divine understanding that they
knew what he meant when he said, "I suppose there _have_ been worse
teachers than Prof Larsen----!"

When the rabbit lay pale in death, a saddening _débâcle_ of hardened
cheese, and they sat with their elbows on the Modified Mission
dining-table, Gertie exclaimed:

"Oh, Ray, you _must_ do that new stunt of yours for Carl. It's
screamingly funny, Carl."

Ray rose, had his collar and tie off in two jocund jerks, buttoned his
collar on backward, cheerily turned his waistcoat back side foremost,
lengthened his face to an expression of unctuous sanctimoniousness,
and turned about--transformed in one minute to a fair imitation of a
stage curate. With his hands folded, Ray droned, "Naow, sistern, it
behooveth us heuh in St. Timothee's Chutch," while Carl pounded the
table in his delight at seeing old Ray, the broad-shouldered, the
lady-killer, the capable business man, drop his eyes and yearn.

"Now you must do a stunt!" shrieked Ray and Gertie; and Carl
hesitatingly sang what he remembered of Forrest Haviland's foolish
song:

    "I went up in a balloon so big
    The people on the earth they looked like a pig,
    Like a mice, like a katydid, like flieses and like fleasen."

Then, without solicitation, Gertie decided to dance "Gather the Golden
Sheaves," which she had learned at the school of Mme. Vashkowska, late
(though not very late) of the Russian ballet.

She explained her work; outlined the theory of sensuous and esthetic
dancing; mentioned the backgrounds of Bakst and the glories of
Nijinsky; told her ambition to teach the New Dancing to children. Carl
listened with awe; and with awe did he gaze as Gertie gathered the
Golden Sheaves--purely hypothetical sheaves in a field occupying most
of the living-room.

After the stunts Ray delicately vanished. It was not so much that he
statedly went off to bed as that, presently, he was not there. Gertie
and Carl were snugly alone, and at last he talked--of Forrest Haviland
and Tony Bean, of flying and falling, of excited crowds and the
fog-filled air-lanes.

In turn she told of her ambition to do something modern and urban. She
had hesitated between dancing and making exotic jewelry; she was glad
she had chosen the former; it was so human; it put one in touch with
People.... She had recently gone to dinner with real Bohemians,
spirits of fire, splendidly in contrast with the dull plodders of
Joralemon. The dinner had been at a marvelous place on West Tenth
Street--very foreign, every one drinking wine and eating spaghetti and
little red herrings, and the women fearlessly smoking cigarettes--some
of them. She had gone with a girl from Mme. Vashkowska's school, a
glorious creature from London, Nebraska, who lived with the most
fascinating girls at the Three Arts Club. They had met an artist with
black hair and languishing eyes, who had a Yankee name, but sang
Italian songs divinely, upon the slightest pretext, so bubbling was he
with _joie de vivre_.

Carl was alarmed. "Gosh!" he protested, "I hope you aren't going to
have much to do with the long-haired bunch.... I've invented a name
for them--'the Hobohemians.'"

"Oh no-o! I don't take them seriously at all. I was just glad to go
once."

"Of course some of them are clever."

"Oh yes, aren't they clever!"

"But I don't think they last very well."

"Oh no, I'm sure they don't last well. Oh no, Carl, I'm too old and
fat to be a Bohemian--a Hobohemian, I mean, so----"

"Nonsense! You look so--oh, thunder! I don't know just how to express
it--well, so _real_! It's wonderfully comfortable to be with you-all
again. I don't mean you're just the 'so good to her mother' sort, you
understand. But I mean you're dependable as well as artistic."

"Oh, indeed, I won't take them too seriously. Besides, I suppose lots
of the people that go to Bohemian restaurants aren't really artists at
all; they just go to see the artists; they're just as bromidic as can
be----Don't you hate bromides? Of course I want to see some of that
part of life, but I think----Oh, don't you think those artists and all
are dreadfully careless about morals?"

"Well----"

"Yes," she breathed, reflectively. "No, I keep up with my church and
all--indeed I do. Oh, Carl, you must come to our church--St. Orgul's.
It's too sweet for anything. It's just two blocks from here; and it
isn't so far up here, you know, not with the subway--not like
commuting. It has the _loveliest_ chapel. And the most wonderful
reredos. And the services are so inspiring and high-church; not like
that horrid St. Timothy's at home. I do think a church service ought
to be beautiful. Don't you? It isn't as though we were like a lot of
poor people who have to have their souls saved in a mission.... What
church do you attend? You _will_ come to St. Orgul's some time, won't
you?"

"Be glad to----Oh, say, Gertie, before I forget it, what is Semina
doing now? Is she married?"

Apropos of this subject, Gertie let it be known that she herself was
not betrothed.

Carl had not considered that question; but when he was back in his
room he was glad to know that Gertie was free.

       *       *       *       *       *

At the Omega Chi Delta Club, Carl lunched with Ray Cowles. Two nights
later, Ray and Gertie took Carl and Gertie's friend, the glorious
creature from London, Nebraska, to the opera. Carl did not know much
about opera. In other words, being a normal young American who had
been water-proofed with college culture, he knew absolutely nothing
about it. But he gratefully listened to Gertie's clear explanation of
why Mme. Vashkowska preferred Wagner to Verdi.

He had, in the mean time, received a formal invitation for a party to
occur at Gertie's the coming Friday evening.

Thursday evening Gertie coached him in a new dance, the turkey trot.
She also gave him a lesson in the Boston, with a new dip invented by
Mme. Vashkowska, which was certain to sweep the country, because, of
course, Vashkowska was the only genuinely qualified _maîtresse de
danse_ in America.

It was a beautiful evening. Home! Ray came in, and the three of them
had coffee and thin sandwiches. At Gertie's suggestion, Ray again
turned his collar round and performed his "clergyman stunt." While the
impersonation did not, perhaps, seem so humorous as before, Carl was
amused; and he consented to sing the "I went up in a balloon so big"
song, so that Ray might learn it and sing it at the office.

It was captivating to have Gertie say, quietly, as he left: "I hope
you'll be able to come to the party a little early to-morrow, Carl.
You know we count on you to help us."



CHAPTER XXVI


The party was on at the Cowles flat.

People came. They all set to it, having a party, being lively and gay,
whether they wanted to or not. They all talked at once, and had
delicious shocks over the girl from London, Nebraska, who, having
moved to Washington Place, just a block or two from ever so many
artists, was now smoking a cigarette and, wearing a gown that was
black and clinging. It was no news to her that men had a tendency to
become interested in her ankles. But she still went to church and was
accepted by quite the nicest of the St. Orgul's set, to whom Gertie
had introduced her.

She and Gertie were the only thoroughly qualified representatives of
Art, but Beauty and Gallantry and Wit were common. The conspirators in
holding a party were, on the male side:

An insurance adjuster, who was a frat-brother to Carl and Ray, though
he came from Melanchthon College. A young lawyer, ever so jolly, with
a banjo. A bantling clergyman, who was spoken of with masculine
approval because he smoked a pipe and said charmingly naughty things.
Johnson of the Homes and Long Island Real Estate Company, and his
brother, of the Martinhurst Development Company. Four older men,
ranging from thin-haired to very bald, who had come with their wives
and secretly looked at their watches while they talked brightly with
one another's wives. Five young men whom Carl could not tell apart, as
they all had smooth hair and eye-glasses and smart dress-shirts and
obliging smiles and complimentary references to his aviating. He gave
up trying to remember which was which.

It was equally hard to remember which of the women Gertie knew as a
result of her girlhood visit to New York, which from their membership
in St. Orgul's Church, which from their relation to Minnesota. They
all sat in rows on couches and chairs and called him "You wicked man!"
for reasons none too clear to him. He finally fled from them and
joined the group of young men, who showed an ill-bred and disapproved
tendency to sneak off into Ray's room for a smoke. He did not,
however, escape one young woman who stood out from the _mêlée_--a
young woman with a personality almost as remarkable as that of the
glorious creature from London, Nebraska. This was the more or less
married young woman named Dorothy, and affectionately called
"Tottykins" by all the St. Orgul's group. She was of the kind who look
at men appraisingly, and expect them to come up, be unduly familiar,
and be crushed. She had seven distinct methods of getting men to say
indiscreet things, and three variations of reply, of which the
favorite was to remark with well-bred calmness: "I'm afraid you have
made a slight error, Mr. Uh---- I didn't quite catch your name?
Perhaps they failed to tell you that I attend St. Orgul's evvvv'ry
Sunday, and have a husband and child, and am not at all, really, you
know. I hope that there has been nothing I said that has given you the
idea that I have been looking for a flirtation."

A thin, small female with bobbed hair was Tottykins, who kept her
large husband and her fat, white grub of an infant somewhere in the
back blocks. She fingered a long, gold, religious chain with her
square, stubby hand, while she gazed into men's eyes with what she
privately termed "daring frankness."

Tottykins the fair; Tottykins the modern; Tottykins who had read
_Three Weeks_ and nearly all of a wicked novel in French, and wore a
large gold cross; Tottykins who worked so hard in her little flat
that she had to rest all of every afternoon and morning; Tottykins the
advanced and liberal--yet without any of the extremes of socialists
and artists and vegetarians and other ill-conditioned persons who do
not attend St. Orgul's; Tottykins the firmly domestic, whose husband
grew more worried every year; Tottykins the intensely cultured and
inquisitive about life, the primitively free and pervasively original,
who announced in public places that she wanted always to live like the
spirit of the Dancing Bacchante statue, but had the assistant rector
of St. Orgul's in for coffee, every fourth Monday evening.

Tottykins beckoned Carl to a corner and said, with her manner of
amused condescension, "Now you sit right down here, Hawk Ericson, and
tell me _all_ about aviation."

Carl was not vastly sensitive. He had not disliked the nice young men
with eye-glasses. Not till now did he realize how Tottykins's shrill
references to the Dancing Bacchante and the Bacchanting of her
mud-colored Dutch-fashioned hair had bored him. Ennui was not, of
course, an excuse; but it was the explanation of why he answered in
this wise (very sweetly, looking Tottykins in the eyes and patting her
hand with a brother-like and altogether maddening condescension):

"No, no, that isn't the way, Dorothy. It's quite _passé_ to ask me to
tell you all about aviation. That isn't done, not in 1912. Oh
Dor-o-thy! Oh no, no! No-o! No, no. First you should ask me if I'm
afraid when I'm flying. Oh, always begin that way. Then you say that
there's a curious fact about you--when you're on a high building and
just look down once, then you get so dizzy that you want to jump.
Then, after you've said that----Let's see. You're a church member,
aren't you? Well then, next you'd say, 'Just how does it feel to be up
in an aeroplane?' or if you don't say that then you've simply got to
say, 'Just how does it feel to fly, anyway?' But if you're just
_terribly_ interested, Dorothy, you might ask about biplanes _versus_
monoplanes, and 'Do I think there'll ever be a flight across the
Atlantic?' But whatever you do, Dorothy, don't fail to ask me if I'll
give you a free ride when I start flying again. And we'll fly and
fly----Like birds. You know. Or like the Dancing Bacchante.... That's
the way to talk about aviation.... And now you tell me _all_ about
babies!"

"Really, I'm afraid babies is rather a big subject to tell all about!
At a party! Really, you _know_----"

That was the only time Carl was not bored at the party. And even then
he had spiritual indigestion from having been rude.

For the rest of the time:

Every one knew everybody else, and took Carl aside to tell him that
everybody was "the most conscientious man in our office, Ericson; why,
the Boss would trust him with anything." It saddened Carl to hear the
insurance adjuster boom, "Oh you Tottykins!" across the room, at
ten-minute intervals, like a human fog-horn on the sea of ennui.

They were all so uniformly polite, so neat-minded and church-going and
dull. Nearly all the girls did their hair and coquetries one exactly
like another. Carl is not to be pitied. He had the pleasure of
martyrdom when he heard the younger Johnson tell of Martinhurst, the
Suburb Beautiful. He believed that he had reached the nadir of
boredom. But he was mistaken.

After simple and pleasing refreshments of the wooden-plate and
paper-napkin school, Gertie announced: "Now we're going to have some
stunts, and you're each to give one. I know you all can, and if
anybody tries to beg off--my, what will happen----! My brother has a
new one----"

For the third time that month, Carl saw Ray turn his collar round and
become clerical, while every one rustled with delight, including the
jolly bantling clergyman.

And for the fourth time he saw Gertie dance "Gather the Golden
Sheaves." She appeared, shy and serious, in bloomers and flat
dancing-shoes, which made her ample calves bulge the more; she started
at sight of the harvest moon (and well she may have been astonished,
if she did, indeed, see a harvest moon there, above the gilded buffalo
horns on the unit bookcase), rose to her toes, flapped her arms, and
began to gather the sheaves to her breast, with enough plump and
panting energy to enable her to gather at least a quarter-section of
them before the whistle blew.

It was not only esthetic, but Close to the Soil.

Then, to banjo accompaniment, the insurance adjuster sighed for his
old Kentucky home, which Carl judged to have been located in Brooklyn.
The whole crowd joined in the chorus and----

Suddenly, with a shock that made him despise himself for the cynical
superiority which he had been enjoying, Carl remembered that Forrest
Haviland, Tony Bean, Hank Odell, even surly Jack Ryan and the alien
Carmeau, had sung "My Old Kentucky Home" on their last night at the
Bagby School. He felt their beloved presences in the room. He had to
fight against tears as he too joined in the chorus.... "Then weep no
more, my lady."... He was beside a California poppy-field. The
blossoms slumbered beneath the moon, and on his shoulder was the hand
of Forrest Haviland....

He had repented. He became part of the group. He spoke kindly to
Tottykins. But presently Tottykins postponed her well-advertised
return to her husband and baby, and gave a ten-minute dramatic recital
from Byron; and the younger Johnson sang a Swiss mountaineer song with
yodels.

Gertie looked speculatively at Carl twice during this offering. He knew
that the gods were plotting an abominable thing. She was going to call upon
him for the "stunt" which had been inescapably identified with him, the
song, "I went up in a balloon so big." He met the crisis heroically. He
said loudly, as the shaky strains of the Swiss ballad died on the midnight
mountain air of 157th Street (while the older men concealed yawns and
applauded, and the family in the adjoining flat rapped on the radiator):
"I'm sorry my throat 's so sore to-night. Otherwise I'd sing a song I
learned from a fellow in California--balloon s' big."

Gertie stared at him doubtfully, but passed to a kitten-faced girl
from Minnesota, who was quite ready to give an imitation of a child
whose doll has been broken. Her "stunt" was greeted with, "Oh, how
cun-ning! Please do it again!"

She prepared to do it again. Carl made hasty motions of departure,
pathetically holding his throat.

He did not begin to get restless till he had reached Ninety-sixth
Street and had given up his seat in the subway to a woman who
resembled Tottykins. He wondered if he had not been at the Old Home
long enough. At Seventy-second Street, on an inspiration that came as
the train was entering the station, he changed to a local and went
down to Fifty-ninth Street. He found an all-night garage, hired a
racing-car, and at dawn he was driving furiously through Long Island,
a hundred miles from New York, on a roadway perilously slippery with
falling snow.



CHAPTER XXVII


Carl wished that Adelaide Benner had never come from Joralemon to
study domestic science. He felt that he was a sullen brute, but he
could not master his helpless irritation as he walked with Adelaide
and Gertie Cowles through Central Park, on a snowy Sunday afternoon of
December. Adelaide assumed that one remained in the state of mind
called Joralemon all one's life; that, however famous he might be, the
son of Oscar Ericson was not sufficiently refined for Miss Cowles of
the Big House on the Hill, though he might improve under Cowles
influences. He was still a person who had run away from Plato! But
that assumption was far less irritating than one into which Adelaide
threw all of her faded yearning--that Gertie and he were in love.

Adelaide kept repeating, with coy slyness: "Isn't it too bad you two
have me in the way!" and: "Don't mind poor me. Auntie will turn her
back any time you want her to."

And Gertie merely blushed, murmuring, "Don't be a silly."

At Eightieth Street Adelaide announced: "Now I must leave you
children. I'm going over to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I do love
to see art pictures. I've always wanted to. Now be as good as you can,
you two."

Gertie was mechanical about replying. "Oh, don't run away, Addy dear."

"Oh yes, you two will miss an old maid like me terribly!" And Adelaide
was off, a small, sturdy, undistinguished figure, with an unyielding
loyalty to Gertie and to the idea of marriage.

Carl looked at her bobbing back (with wrinkles in her cloth jacket
over the shoulders) as she melted into the crowd of glossy fur-trimmed
New-Yorkers. He comprehended her goodness, her devotion. He sighed,
"If she'd only stop this hinting about Gertie and me----" He was
repentant of his irritation, and said to Gertie, who was intimately
cuddling her arm into his: "Adelaide's an awfully good kid. Sorry she
had to go."

Gertie jerked her arm away, averted her profile, grated: "If you miss
her so much, perhaps you'd better run after her. Really, I wouldn't
interfere, not for _worlds_!"

"Why, hello, Gertie! What seems to be the matter? Don't I detect a
chill in the atmosphere? So sorry you've gone and gotten refined on
me. I was just going to suggest some low-brow amusement like tea at
the Casino."

"Well, you ought to know a lady doesn't----"

"Oh, now, Gertie dear, not 'lady.'"

"I don't think you're a bit nice, Carl Ericson, I don't, to be making
fun of me when I'm serious. And why haven't you been up to see us?
Mamma and Ray have spoken of it, and you've only been up once since my
party, and then you were----"

"Oh, please let's not start anything. Sorry I haven't been able to get
up oftener, but I've been taking work home. You know how it is--you
know when you get busy with your dancing-school----"

"Oh, I meant to tell you. I'm through, just _through_ with Vashkowska
and her horrid old school. She's a cat and I don't believe she ever
had anything to do with the Russian ballet, either. What do you think
she had the effrontery to tell me? She said that I wasn't practising
and really trying to learn anything. And I've been working myself
into----Really, my nerves were in such a shape, I would have been in
danger of a nervous breakdown if I had kept on. Tottykins told me how
she had a nervous breakdown, and had me see her doctor, such a dear,
Dr. St. Claire, so refined and sympathetic, and he told me I was right
in suspecting that nobody takes Vashkowska seriously any more, and,
besides, I don't think much of all this symbolistic dancing, anyway,
and at last I've found out what I really want to do. Oh, Carl, it's so
wonderful! I'm studying ceramics with Miss Deitz, she's so wonderful
and temperamental and she has the dearest studio on Gramercy Park. Of
course I haven't made anything yet, but I know I'm going to like it so
much, and Miss Deitz says I have a natural taste for vahzes and----"

"Huh? Oh yes, vases. I get you."

"(Don't be vulgar.)----I'm going to go down to her studio and work
every other day, and she doesn't think you have to work like a
scrubwoman to succeed, like that horrid Vashkowska did. Miss Deitz has
a temperament herself. And, oh, Carl, she says that 'Gertrude' isn't
suited to me (and 'Gertie' certainly isn't!) and she calls me
'Eltruda.' Don't you think that's a sweet name? Would you like to call
me 'Eltruda,' sometimes?"

"Look here, Gertie, I don't want to butt in, and I'm guessing at it,
but looks to me as though one of these artistic grafters was working
you. What do you know about this Deitz person? Has she done anything
worth while? And honestly, Gertie----By the way, I don't want to be
brutal, but I don't think I could stand 'Eltruda.' It sounds like
'Tottykins.'"

"Now really, Carl----"

"Wait a second. How do you know you've got what you call a
temperament? Go to it, and good luck, if you can get away with it. But
how do you know it isn't simply living in a flat and not having any
work to do _except_ developing a temperament? Why don't you try
working with Ray in his office? He's a mighty good business man. This
is just a sugges----"

"Now really, this is----"

"Look here, Gertie, the thing I've always admired about you is your
wholesomeness and----"

"'Wholesome!' Oh, that word! As Miss Deitz was saying just the other
day, it's as bad----"

"But you are wholesome, Gertie. That is, if you don't let New York
turn your head; and if you'd use your ability on a real job, like
helping Ray, or teaching--yes, or really sticking to your ceramics or
dancing, and leave the temperament business to those who can get away
with it. No, wait. I know I'm butting in; I know that people won't go
and change their natures because I ask them to; but you see you--and
Ray and Adelaide--you are the friends I depend on, and so I hate to
see----"

"Now, Carl dear, you might let me talk," said Gertie, in tones of
maddening sweetness. "As I think it over, I don't seem to recall that
you've been an authority on temperament for so very long. I seem to
remember that you weren't so terribly wonderful in Joralemon! I'm glad
to be the first to honor what you've done in aviation, but I don't
know that that gives you the right to----"

"Never said it did!" Carl insisted, with fictitious good humor.

"----assume that you are an authority on temperament and art. I'm
afraid that your head has been just a little turned by----"

"Oh, hell.... Oh, I'm sorry. That just slipped."

"It _shouldn't_ have slipped, you know. I'm _afraid_ it can't be
passed over so _easily_." Gertie might have been a bustling Joralemon
school-teacher pleasantly bidding the dirty Ericson boy, "Now go and
wash the little hands."

Carl said nothing. He was bored. He wished that he had not become
entangled in their vague discussion of "temperament."

Even more brightly Gertie announced: "I'm afraid you're not in a very
good humor this afternoon. I'm sorry that my plans don't interest you.
Of course, I should be very temperamental if I expected you to
apologize for cursing and swearing, so I think I'll just leave you
here, and when you feel better----" She was infuriatingly cheerful.
"----I should be pleased to have you call me up. Good-by, Carl, and I
hope that your walk will do you good."

She turned into a footpath; left him muttering in tones of youthful
injury, "Jiminy! I've done it now!"

He was in Joralemon.

A victoria drove by with a dowager who did not seem to be humbly
courting the best set in Joralemon. A grin lightened Carl's face. He
chuckled: "By golly! Gertie handled it splendidly! I'm to call up and
be humble, and then--bing!--the least I can do is to propose and be
led to the altar and teach a Sunday-school class at St. Orgul's for
the rest of my life! Come hither, Hawk Ericson, let us hold council.
Here's the way Gertie will dope it out, I guess. ('Eltruda!') I'll
dine in solitary regret for saying 'hell'----No. First I'm to walk
down-town, alone and busy repenting, and then I'll feed alone, and by
eight o'clock I'll be so tired of myself that I'll call up and beg
pretty. Rats! It's rotten mean to dope it out like that, but just the
same----Me that have done what I've done--worried to death over one
accidental 'hell'!... Hey there, you taxi!"

Grandly he rode through the Park, and in an unrepentant manner bowed
to every pretty woman he saw, to the disapproval of their silk-hatted
escorts.

He forgot the existence of Gertie Cowles and the Old Home Folks.

But he really could not afford a taxicab, and he had to make up for it
by economy. At seven-thirty he gloomily entered Miggleton's
Restaurant, on Forty-second Street, the least unbearable of the
"Popular Prices--Tables for Ladies" dens, and slumped down at a table
near the window. There were few diners. Carl was as much a stranger as
on the morning when he had first invaded New York, to find work with
an automobile company, and had passed this same restaurant; still was
he a segregated stranger, despite the fact that, two blocks away, in
the Aero Club, two famous aviators were agreeing that there had never
been a more consistently excellent flight in America than Hawk
Ericson's race from Chicago to New York.

Carl considered the delights of the Cowles flat, Ray's stories about
Plato and business, and the sentimental things Gertie played on the
guitar. He suddenly determined to go off some place and fly an
aeroplane; as suddenly knew that he was not yet ready to return to the
game. He read the _Evening Telegram_ and cheerlessly peered out of the
window at the gray snow-veil which shrouded Forty-second Street.

As he finished his dessert and stirred his coffee he stared into a
street-car stalled in a line of traffic outside. Within the car, seen
through the snow-mist, was a girl of twenty-two or three, with satiny
slim features and ash-blond hair. She was radiant in white-fox furs.
Carl craned to watch. He thought of the girl who, asking a direction
before the Florida Lunch Room in Chicago, had inspired him to become a
chauffeur.

The girl in the street-car was listening to her companion, who was a
dark-haired girl with humor and excitement about life in her face,
well set-up, not tall, in a smartly tailored coat of brown pony-skin
and a small hat that was all lines and no trimming. Both of them
seemed amused, possibly by the lofty melancholy of a traffic policeman
beside the car, who raised his hand as though he had high ideals and a
slight stomach-ache. The dark-haired girl tapped her round knees with
the joy of being alive.

The street-car started. Carl was already losing in the city jungle the
two acquaintances whom he had just made. The car stopped again, still
blocked. Carl seized his coat, dropped a fifty-cent piece on the
cashier's desk, did not wait for his ten cents change, ran across the
street (barely escaping a taxicab), galloped around the end of the
car, swung up on the platform.

As he took a seat opposite the two girls he asked himself just what he
expected to do now. The girls were unaware of his existence. And why
had he hurried? The car had not started again. But he studied his
unconscious conquests from behind his newspaper, vastly content.

In the unnatural quiet of the stalled car the girls were irreverently
discussing "George." He heard enough to know that they were of the
rather smart, rather cultured class known as "New-Yorkers"--they might
be Russian-American princesses or social workers or ill-paid
governesses or actresses or merely persons with one motor-car and a
useful papa in the family.

But in any case they were not of the kind he could pick up.

The tall girl of the ash-blond hair seemed to be named Olive, being
quite unolive in tint, while her livelier companion was apparently
christened Ruth. Carl wearied of Olive's changeless beauty as quickly
as he did of her silver-handled umbrella. She merely knew how to
listen. But the less spectacular, less beautiful, less languorous,
dark-haired Ruth was born a good comrade. Her laughter marked her as
one of the women whom earth-quake and flood and child-bearing cannot
rob of a sense of humor; she would have the inside view, the
sophisticated understanding of everything.

The car was at last free of the traffic. It turned a corner and
started northward. Carl studied the girls.

Ruth was twenty-four, perhaps, or twenty-five. Not tall, slight enough
to nestle, but strong and self-reliant. She had quantities of
dark-brown hair, crisp and glinty, though not sleek, with eyebrows
noticeably dark and heavy. Her smile was made irresistible by her
splendidly shining teeth, fairly large but close-set and white; and
not only the corners of her eyes joined in her smile, but even her
nose, her delicate yet piquant nose, which could quiver like a
deer's. When she laughed, Carl noted, Ruth had a trick of lifting her
heavy lids quickly, and surprising one with a glint of blue eyes where
brown were expected. Her smooth, healthy, cream-colored skin was rosy
with winter, and looked as though in summer it would tan evenly,
without freckles. Her chin was soft, but without a dimple, and her
jaws had a clean, boyish leanness. Her smooth neck and delicious
shoulders were curved, not fatly, but with youth and happiness. They
were square, capable shoulders, with no mid-Victorian droop about
them. Her waist was slender naturally, not from stays. Her short but
not fat fingers were the ideal instruments for the piano. Slim were
her crossed feet, and her unwrinkled pumps (foolish footgear for a
snowy evening) seemed eager to dance.

There was no hint of the coquette about her. Physical appeal this Ruth
had, but it was the allure of sunlight and meadows, of tennis and a
boat with bright, canted sails, not of boudoir nor garden
dizzy-scented with jasmine. She was young and clean, sweet without
being sprinkled with pink sugar; too young to know much about the
world's furious struggle; too happy to have realized its inevitable
sordidness; yet born a woman who would not always wish to be
"protected," and round whom all her circle of life would center....

So Carl inarticulately mused, with the intentness which one gives to
strangers in a quiet car, till he laughed, "I feel as if I knew her
like a book." The century's greatest problem was whether he would
finally prefer her to Olive, if he knew them. If he could speak to
them----But that was, in New York, more difficult than beating a
policeman or getting acquainted with the mayor. He would lose them.

Already they were rising, going out.

He couldn't let them be lost. He glanced out of the window, sprang up
with an elaborate pretense that he had come to his own street. He
followed them out, still conning head-lines in his paper. His grave
absorption said, plain that all might behold, that he was a
respectable citizen to whom it would never occur to pursue strange
young women.

His new friends had been close to him in the illuminated car, but they
were alien, unapproachable, when they stood on an unfamiliar
street-crossing snow-dimmed and silent with night. He stared at a
street-sign and found that he was on Madison Avenue, up in the
Fifties. As they turned east on Fifty-blankth Street he stopped under
the street-light, took an envelope from his pocket, and found on it
the address of that dear old friend, living on Fifty-blankth, on whom
he was going to call. This was to convince the policeman of the
perfect purity of his intentions. The fact that there was no policeman
nearer than the man on fixed post a block away did not lessen Carl's
pleasure in the make-believe. He industriously inspected the
house-numbers as he followed the quickly moving girls, and frequently
took out his watch. Nothing should make him late in calling on that
dear old friend.

Not since Adam glowered at the intruder Eve has a man been so darkly
uninterested in two charmers. He stared clear through them; he looked
over their heads; he observed objects on the other side of the street.
He indignantly told the imaginary policemen who stopped him that he
hadn't even seen the girls till this moment; that he was the victim of
a plot.

The block through which the cavalcade was passing was lined with
shabby-genteel brownstone houses, with high stoops and haughty dark
doors, and dressmakers' placards or doctors' cards in the windows.
Carl was puzzled. The girls seemed rather too cheerful to belong in
this decayed and gloomy block, which, in the days when horsehair
furniture and bankers had mattered, had seemed imposing. But the girls
ascended the steps of a house which was typical of the row, except
that five motor-cars stood before it. Carl, passing, went up the
steps of the next house and rang the bell.

"What a funny place!" he heard one of the girls--he judged that it was
Ruth--remark from the neighboring stoop. "It looks exactly like Aunt
Emma when she wears an Alexandra bang. Do we go right up? Oughtn't we
to ring? It ought to be the craziest party--anarchists----"

"A party, eh?" thought Carl.

"----ought to ring, I suppose, but----Yes, there's sure to be all
sorts of strange people at Mrs. Hallet's----" said the voice of the
other girl, then the door closed upon both of them.

And an abashed Carl realized that a maid had opened the door of the
house at which he himself had rung, and was glaring at him as he
craned over to view the next-door stoop.

"W-where----Does Dr. Brown live here?" he stuttered.

"No, 'e don't," the maid snapped, closing the door.

Carl groaned: "He don't? Dear old Brown? Not live here? Huh? What
shall I do?"

In remarkably good spirits he moved over in front of the house into
which Ruth and Olive had gone. People were coming to the party in twos
and threes. Yes. The men were in evening clothes. He had his
information.

Swinging his stick up to a level with his shoulder at each stride, he
raced to Fifty-ninth Street and the nearest taxi-stand. He was whirled
to his room. He literally threw his clothes off. He shaved hastily,
singing, "Will You Come to the Ball," from "The Quaker Girl," and
slipped into evening clothes and his suavest dress-shirt. Seizing
things all at once--top-hat, muffler, gloves, pocketbook,
handkerchief, cigarette-case, keys--and hanging them about him as he
fled down the decorous stairs, he skipped to the taxicab and started
again for Fifty-blankth Street.

At the house of the party he stopped to find on the letter-box in the
entry the name "Mrs. Hallet," mentioned by Olive. There was no such
name. He tried the inner door. It opened. He cheerily began to mount
steep stairs, which kept on for miles, climbing among slate-colored
walls, past empty wall-niches with toeless plaster statues. The
hallways, dim and high and snobbish, and the dark old double doors,
scowled at him. He boldly returned the scowl. He could hear the
increasing din of a talk-party coming from above. When he reached the
top floor he found a door open on a big room crowded with shrilly
chattering people in florid clothes. There was a hint of brassware and
paintings and silken Turkish rugs.

But no sight of Ruth or Olive.

A maid was bobbing to him and breathing, "That way, please, at the end
of the hall." He went meekly. He did not dare to search the clamorous
crowd for the girls, as yet.

He obediently added his hat and coat and stick to an
uncomfortable-looking pile of wraps writhing on a bed in a small room
that had a Copley print of Sargent's "Prophets," a calendar, and an
unimportant white rocker.

It was time to go out and face the party, but he had stage-fright.
While climbing the stairs he had believed that he was in touch with
the two girls, but now he was separated from them by a crowd, farther
from them than when he had followed them down the unfriendly street.
And not till now did he quite grasp the fact that the hostess might
not welcome him. His glowing game was becoming very dull-toned. He
lighted a cigarette and listened to the beating surf of the talk in
the other room.

Another man came in. Like all the rest, he gave up the brilliant idea
of trying to find an unpreëmpted place for his precious newly ironed
silk hat, and resignedly dumped it on the bed. He was a passable man,
with a gentlemanly mustache and good pumps. Carl knew that fact
because he was comparing his own clothes and deciding that he had none
the worst of it. But he was relieved when the waxed mustache moved a
couple of times, and its owner said, in a friendly way: "Beastly
jam!... May I trouble you for a match?"

Carl followed him out to the hostess, a small, busy woman who made a
business of being vivacious and letting the light catch the fringes of
her gold hair as she nodded. Carl nonchalantly shook hands with her,
bubbling: "So afraid couldn't get here. My play----But at last----"

He was in a panic. But the hostess, instead of calling for the police,
gushed, "_So_ glad you _could_ come!" combining a kittenish mechanical
smile for him with a glance over his shoulder at the temporary butler.
"I want you to meet Miss Moeller, Mr.--uh--Mr----"

"I knew you'd forget it!" Carl was brotherly and protecting in his
manner. "Ericson, Oscar Ericson."

"Oh, of course. How stupid of me! Miss Moeller, want you to meet Mr.
Oscar Ericson--you know----"

"S' happy meet you, Miss Mmmmmmm," said Carl, tremendously well-bred
in manner. "Can we possibly go over and be clever in a corner, do you
think?"

He had heard Colonel Haviland say that, but his manner gave it no
quotation-marks.

Presumably he talked to Miss Moeller about something usual--the snow
or the party or Owen Johnson's novels. Presumably Miss Moeller had
eyes to look into and banalities to look away from. Presumably there
was something in the room besides people and talk and rugs hung over
the bookcases. But Carl never knew. He was looking for Ruth. He did
not see her.

Within ten minutes he had manoeuvered himself free of Miss Moeller
and was searching for Ruth, his nerves quivering amazingly with the
fear that she might already have gone.

How would he ever find her? He could scarce ask the hostess, "Say,
where's Ruth?"

She was nowhere in the fog of people in the big room.... If he could
find even Olive....

Strolling, nodding to perfectly strange people who agreeably nodded
back under the mistaken impression that they were glad to see him, he
systematically checked up all the groups. Ruth was not among the
punch-table devotees, who were being humorous and amorous over
cigarettes; not among the Caustic Wits exclusively assembled in a
corner; not among the shy sisters aligned on the davenport and
wondering why they had come; not in the general maelstrom in the
center of the room.

He stopped calmly to greet the hostess again, remarking, "You look so
beautifully sophisticated to-night," and listened suavely to her
fluttering remarks. He was the picture of the cynical cityman who has
to be nowhere at no especial time. But he was not cynical. He had to
find Ruth!

He escaped and, between the main room and the dining-room, penetrated
a small den filled with witty young men, old stories, cigarette-smoke,
and siphons. Then he charged into the dining-room, where there were
candles and plate much like silver--and Ruth and Olive at the farther
end.



CHAPTER XXVIII


He wanted to run forward, take their hands, cry, "At last!" He seemed
to hear his voice wording it. But, not glancing at them again, he
established himself on a chair by the doorway between the two rooms.

It was safe to watch the two girls in this Babel, where words swarmed
and battled everywhere in the air. Ruth was in a brown velvet frock
whose golden tones harmonized with her brown hair. She was being
enthusiastically talked at by a man to whom she listened with a
courteously amused curiosity. Carl could fancy her nudging Olive, who
sat beside her on the Jacobean settee and was attended by another
talking-man. Carl told Ruth (though she did not know that he was
telling her) that she had no right to be "so blasted New-Yorkishly
superior and condescending," but he admitted that she was scarcely to
blame, for the man made kindergarten gestures and emitted conversation
like air from an exploded tire.

The important thing was that he heard the man call her "Miss Winslow."

"Great! Got her name--Ruth Winslow!"

Watching the man's lips (occasionally trying to find an excuse for
eavesdropping, and giving up the quest because there was no excuse),
he discovered that Ruth was being honored with a thrilling account of
aviation. The talking-man, it appeared, knew a great deal about the
subject. Carl heard through a rift in the cloud of words that the man
had once actually flown, as a passenger with Henry Odell! For five
minutes on end, judging by the motions with which he steered a
monoplane through perilous abysses, the reckless spirit kept flying
(as a passenger). Ruth Winslow was obviously getting bored, and the
man showed no signs of volplaning as yet. Olive's man departed, and
Olive was also listening to the parlor aviator, who was unable to see
that a terrific fight was being waged by the hands of the two girls in
the space down between them. It was won by Ruth's hand, which got a
death-grip on Olive's thumb, and held it, to Olive's agony, while both
girls sat up straight and beamed propriety.

Carl walked over and, smoothly ignoring the pocket entertainer, said:
"So glad to see you, Miss Winslow. I think this is my dance?"

"Y-yes?" from Miss Winslow, while the entertainer drifted off into the
flotsam of the party. Olive went to join a group about the hostess,
who had just come in to stir up mirth and jocund merriment in the
dining-room, as it had settled down into a lower state of exhilaration
than the canons of talk-parties require.

Said Carl to Ruth, "Not that there's any dancing, but I felt you'd get
dizzy if you climbed any higher in that aeroplane."

Ruth tried to look haughty, but her dark lashes went up and her
unexpected blue eyes grinned at him boyishly.

"Gee! she's clever!" Carl was thinking. Since, to date, her only
remark had been "Y-yes?" he may have been premature.

"That was a bully strangle hold you got on Miss Olive's hand, Miss
Winslow."

"You saw our hands?"

"Perhaps.... Tell me a good way to express how superior you and I are
to this fool party and its noise. Isn't it a fool party?"

"I'm afraid it really is."

"What's the purpose of it, anyway? Do the people have to come here and
breathe this air, I wonder? I asked several people that, and I'm
afraid they think I'm crazy."

"But you are here? Do you come to Mrs. Salisbury's often?"

"Never been before. Never seen a person here in my life before--except
you and Miss Olive. Came on a bet. Chap bet I wouldn't dare come
without being invited. I came. Bowed to the hostess and told her I was
so sorry my play-rehearsals made me late, and she was _so_ glad I
could come, _after all_--you know. She's never seen me in her life."

"Oh? Are you a dramatist?"

"I was--in the other room. But I was a doctor out in the hall and a
sculptor on the stairs, so I'm getting sort of confused myself--as
confused as you are, trying to remember who I am, Miss Winslow. You
really don't remember me at all? Tea at--wasn't it at the Vanderbilt?
or the Plaza?"

"Oh yes, that must have been----I was trying to remember----"

Carl grinned. "The chap who introduced me to you called me 'Mr.
Um-m-m,' because he didn't remember my name, either. So you've never
heard it. It happens to be Ericson.... I'm on a mission. Serious one.
I'm planning to go out and buy a medium-sized bomb and blow up this
bunch. I suspect there's poets around."

"I do too," sighed Ruth. "I understand that Mrs. Salisbury always has
seven lawyers and nineteen advertising men and a dentist and a poet
and an explorer at her affairs. Are you the poet or the explorer?"

"I'm the dentist. I think----You don't happen to have done any
authoring, do you?"

"Well, nothing except an epic poyem on Jonah and the Whale, which I
wrote at the age of seven. Most of it consisted of a conversation
between them, while Jonah was in the Whale's stomach, which I think
showed agility on the part of the Whale."

"Then maybe it's safe to say what I think of authors--and more or less
of poets and painters and so on. One time I was in charge of some
mechanical investigations, and a lot of writers used to come around
looking for what they called 'copy.' That's where I first got my
grouch on them, and I've never really got over it; and coming here
to-night and hearing the littery talk I've been thinking how these
authors have a sort of an admiration trust. They make authors the
heroes of their stories and so on, and so they make people think that
writing is sacred. I'm so sick of reading novels about how young Bill,
as had a pure white soul, came to New York and had an 'orrible time
till his great novel was accepted. Authors seem to think they're the
only ones that have ideals. Now I'm in the automobile business, and I
help to make people get out into the country--bet a lot more of them
get out because of motoring than because of reading poetry about
spring. But if I claimed a temperament because I introduce the
motorist's soul to the daisy, every one would die laughing."

"But don't you think that art is the--oh, the object of civilization
and that sort of thing?"

"I do _not_! Honestly, Miss Winslow, I think it would be a good stunt
to get along without any art at all for a generation, and see what we
miss. We probably need dance music, but I doubt if we need opera.
Funny how the world always praises its opera-singers so much and pays
'em so well and then starves its shoemakers, and yet it needs good
shoes so much more than it needs opera--or war or fiction. I'd like to
see all the shoemakers get together and refuse to make any more shoes
till people promised to write reviews about them, like all these
book-reviews. Then just as soon as people's shoes began to wear out
they'd come right around, and you'd read about the new masterpieces of
Mr. Regal and Mr. Walkover and Mr. Stetson."

"Yes! I can imagine it. 'This laced boot is one of the most vital and
gripping and wholesome shoes of the season.' And probably all the
young shoemakers would sit around cafés, looking quizzical and
artistic. But don't you think your theory is dangerous, Mr. Ericson?
You give me an excuse for being content with being a commonplace
Upper-West-Sider. And aren't authors better than commonplaceness?
You're so serious that I almost suspect you of having started to be an
author yourself."

"Really not. As a matter of fact, I'm the kiddy in patched overalls
you used to play with when you kept house in the willows."

"Oh, of course! In the Forest of Arden! And you had a toad that you
traded for my hair-ribbon."

"And we ate bread and milk out of blue bowls!"

"Oh yes!" she agreed, "blue bowls with bunny-rabbits painted on them."

"And giants and a six-cylinder castle, with warders and a donjon keep.
And Jack the Giant-killer. But certainly bunnies."

"Do you really like bunnies?" Her voice caressed the word.

"I like them so much that when I think of them I know that there's one
thing worse than having a cut-rate literary salon, and that's to be
too respectable----"

"Too Upper-West-Side!"

"----to dare to eat bread and milk out of blue bowls."

"Yes, I think I shall have to admit you to the Blue Bowl League, Mr.
Ericson. Speaking of which----Tell me, who did introduce us, you and
me? I feel so apologetic for not remembering."

"Mayn't I be a mystery, Miss Winslow? At least as long as I have this
new shirt, which you observed with some approval while I was drooling
on about authors? It makes me look like a count, you must admit. Or
maybe like a Knight of the Order of the Bunny Rabbit. Please let me be
a mystery still."

"Yes, you may. Life has no mysteries left except Olive's coiffure and
your beautiful shirt.... Does one talk about shirts at a second
meeting?"

"Apparently one does."

"Yes.... To-night, I _must_ have a mystery.... Do you swear, as a man
of honor, that you are at this party dishonorably, uninvited?"

"I do, princess."

"Well, so am I! Olive was invited to come, with a man, but he was
called away and she dragged me here, promising me I should see----"

"Anarchists?"

"Yes! And the only nice lovable crank I've found--except you, with
your vulgar prejudice against the whole race of authors--is a
dark-eyed female who sits on a couch out in the big room, like a Mrs.
St. Simeon Stylites in a tight skirt, and drags you in by her
glittering eye, looking as though she was going to speak about
theosophy, and then asks you if you think a highball would help her
cold."

"I think I know the one you mean. When I saw her she was talking to a
man whose beating whiskers dashed high on a stern and rock-bound
face.... Thank you, I like that fairly well, too, but unfortunately I
stole it from a chap named Haviland. My own idea of witty
conversation: is 'Some car you got. What's your magneto?'"

"Look. Olive Dunleavy seems distressed. The number of questions I
shall have to answer about you!... Well, Olive and I felt very low in
our minds to-day. We decided that we were tired of select
associations, and that we would seek the Primitive, and maybe even
Life in the Raw. Olive knows a woman mountain-climber who always says
she longs to go back to the wilds, so we went down to her flat. We
expected to have raw-meat sandwiches, at the very least, but the
Savage Woman gave us Suchong and deviled-chicken sandwiches and pink
cakes and Nabiscos, and told us how well her son was doing in his Old
French course at Columbia. So we got lower and lower in our minds, and
we decided we had to go down to Chinatown for dinner. We went, too!
I've done a little settlement work----Dear me, I'm telling you too
much about myself, O Man of Mystery! It isn't quite done, I'm afraid."

"Please, Miss Winslow! In the name of the--what was it--Order of the
Blue Bowl?" He was making a mental note that Olive's last name was
Dunleavy.

"Well, I've done some settlement work----Did you ever do any, by any
chance?"

"I once converted a Chinaman to Lutheranism; I think that was my
nearest approach," said Carl.

"My work was the kind where you go in and look at three dirty children
and teach them that they'll be happy if they're good, when you know
perfectly well that their only chance to be happy is to be bad as
anything and sneak off to go swimming in the East River. But it kept
me from being very much afraid of the Bowery (we went down on the
surface cars), but Olive was scared beautifully. There was the
dearest, most inoffensive old man in the most perfect state of
intoxication sitting next to us in the car, and when Olive moved away
from him he winked over at me and said, 'Honor your shruples, ma'am,
ver' good form.' I think Olive thought he was going to murder us--she
was sure he was the wild, dying remnant of a noble race or something.
But even she was disappointed in Chinatown.

"We had expected opium-fiends, like the melodramas they used to have
on Fourteenth Street, before the movies came. But we had a
disgustingly clean table, with a mad, reckless picture worked in silk,
showing two doves and a boiled lotos flower, hanging near us, to
intimidate us. The waiter was a Harvard graduate, I know--perhaps
Oxford--and he said, 'May I sugges' ladies velly nize China dinner?'
He suggested chow-main--we thought it would be either birds' nests or
rats' tails, and it was simply crisp noodles with the most innocuous
sauce.... And the people! They were all stupid tourists like
ourselves, except for a Jap, with his cunnin' Sunday tie, and his
little trousers all so politely pressed, and his clean pocket-hanky.
And he was reading _The Presbyterian_!... Then we came up here, and it
doesn't seem so very primitive here, either. It's most aggravating....
It seems to me I've been telling you an incredible lot about our silly
adventures--you're probably the man who won the Indianapolis
motor-race or discovered electricity or something."

Through her narrative, her eyes had held his, but now she glanced
about, noted Olive, and seemed uneasy.

"I'm afraid I'm nothing so interesting," he said; "but I have wanted
to see new places and new things--and I've more or less seen 'em. When
I've got tired of one town, I've simply up and beat it, and when I got
there--wherever there was--I've looked for a job. And----Well, I
haven't lost anything by it."

"Have you really? That's the most wonderful thing to do in the world.
My travels have been Cook's tours, with our own little Thomas Cook
_and_ Son right in the family--I've never even had the mad freedom of
choosing between a tour of the Irish bogs and an educational
pilgrimage to the shrines of celebrated brewers. My people have always
chosen for me. But I've wanted----One doesn't merely _go_ without
having an objective, or an excuse for going, I suppose."

"I do," declared Carl. "But----May I be honest?"

"Yes."

Intimacy was about them. They were two travelers from a far land, come
together in the midst of strangers.

"I speak of myself as globe-trotting," said Carl. "I have been. But
for a good many weeks I've been here in New York, knowing scarcely any
one, and restless, yet I haven't felt like hiking off, because I was
sick for a time, and because a chap that was going to Brazil with me
died suddenly."

"To Brazil? Exploring?"

"Yes--just a stab at it, pure amateur.... I'm not at all sure I'm just
making-believe when I speak of blue bowls and so on. Tell me. In the
West, one would speak of 'seeing the girls home.' How would one say
that gracefully in New-Yorkese, so that I might have the chance to
beguile Miss Olive Dunleavy and Miss Ruth Winslow into letting me see
them home?"

"Really, we're not a bit afraid to go home alone."

"I won't tease, but----May I come to your house for tea, some time?"

She hesitated. It came out with a rush. "Yes. Do come up. N-next
Sunday, if you'd like."

She bobbed her head to Olive and rose.

"And the address?" he insisted.

"---- West Ninety-second Street.... Good night. I have enjoyed the
blue bowl."

Carl made his decent devoirs to his hostess and tramped up-town
through the flying snow, swinging his stick like an orchestra
conductor, and whistling a waltz.

As he reached home he thought again of his sordid parting with Gertie
in the Park--years ago, that afternoon. But the thought had to wait in
the anteroom of his mind while he rejoiced over the fact that he was
to see his new playmate the coming Sunday.



CHAPTER XXIX


Like a country small boy waiting for the coming of his city cousin,
who will surely have new ways of playing Indians, Carl prepared to see
Ruth Winslow and her background. What was she? Who? Where? He pictured
her as dwelling in everything from a millionaire's imitation château,
with footmen and automatic elevators, to a bachelor girl's flat in an
old-fashioned red-brick Harlem tenement. But more than that: What
would she herself be like against that background?

Monday he could think of nothing but the joy of having discovered a
playmate. The secret popped out from behind everything he did. Tuesday
he was worried by finding himself unable to remember whether Ruth's
hair was black or dark brown. Yet he could visualize Olive's
ash-blond. Why? Wednesday afternoon, when he was sleepy in the office
after eating too much beefsteak and kidney pie, drinking too much
coffee, and smoking too many cigarettes, at lunch with Mr. VanZile,
when he was tortured by the desire to lay his head on his arms and
yield to drowsiness, he was suddenly invaded by a fear that Ruth was
snobbish. It seemed to him that he ought to do something about it
immediately.

The rest of the week he merely waited to see what sort of person the
totally unknown Miss Ruth Winslow might be. His most active occupation
outside the office was feeling guilty over not telephoning to Gertie.

At 3.30 P.M., Sunday, he was already incased in funereal
morning-clothes and warning himself that he must not arrive at Miss
Winslow's before five. His clothes were new, stiff as though they
belonged to a wax dummy. Their lines were straight and without
individuality. He hitched his shoulders about and kept going to the
mirror to inspect the fit of the collar. He repeatedly re brushed his
hair, regarding the unclean state of his military brushes with
disgust. About six times he went to the window to see if it had
started to snow.

At ten minutes to four he sternly jerked on his coat and walked far
north of Ninety-second Street, then back.

He arrived at a quarter to five, but persuaded himself that this was a
smarter hour of arrival than five.

Ruth Winslow's home proved to be a rather ordinary
three-story-and-basement gray stone dwelling, with heavy Russian net
curtains at the broad, clear-glassed windows of the first floor, and
an attempt to escape from the stern drabness of the older type of New
York houses by introducing a box-stoop and steps with a carved stone
balustrade, at the top of which perched a meek old lion of 1890, with
battered ears and a truly sensitive stone nose. A typical house of the
very well-to-do yet not wealthy "upper middle class"; a house
predicating one motor-car, three not expensive maids, brief European
tours, and the best preparatory schools and colleges for the sons.

A maid answered the door and took his card--a maid in a frilly apron
and black uniform--neither a butler nor a slatternly Biddy. In the
hall, as the maid disappeared up-stairs, Carl had an impression of
furnace heat and respectability. Rather shy, uncomfortable, anxious to
be acceptable, warning himself that as a famous aviator he need not be
in awe of any one, but finding that the warning did not completely
take, he drew off his coat and gloves and, after a swift inspection of
his tie, gazed about with more curiosity than he had ever given to any
other house.

For all the stone lion in front, this was quite the old-line
English-basement house, with the inevitable front and back
parlors--though here they were modified into drawing-room and
dining-room. The walls of the hall were decked with elaborate,
meaningless scrolls in plaster bas-relief, echoed by raised circles on
the ceiling just above the hanging chandelier, which was expensive and
hideous, a clutter of brass and knobby red-and-blue glass. The floor
was of hardwood in squares, dark and richly polished, highly
self-respecting--a floor that assumed civic responsibility from a
republican point of view, and a sound conservative business
established since 1875 or 1880. By the door was a huge Japanese vase,
convenient either for depositing umbrellas or falling over in the
dark. Then, a long mirror in a dull-red mahogany frame, and a table of
mahogany so refined that no one would ever dream of using it for
anything more useful than calling-cards. It might have been the table
by the king's bed, on which he leaves his crown on a little purple
cushion at night. Solid and ostentatious.

The drawing-room, to the left, was dark and still and unsympathetic
and expensive; a vista of brocade-covered French-gilt chairs and a
marquetry table and a table of onyx top, on which was one book bound
in ooze calf, and one vase; cream-colored heavy carpet and a crystal
chandelier; fairly meretricious paintings of rocks, and thatched
cottages, and ragged newsboys with faces like Daniel Webster, all of
them in large gilt frames protected by shadow-boxes. In a corner was a
cabinet of gilt and glass, filled with Dresden-china figurines and toy
tables and a carven Swiss musical powder-box. The fireplace was of
smooth, chilly white marble, with an ormolu clock on the mantelpiece,
and a fire-screen painted with Watteau shepherds and shepherdesses,
making silken unreal love and scandalously neglecting silky unreal
sheep. By the hearth were shiny fire-irons which looked as though they
had never been used. The whole room looked as though it had never been
used--except during the formal calls of overdressed matrons with
card-cases and prejudices. The one human piece of furniture in the
room, a couch soft and slightly worn, on which lovers might have sat
and small boys bounced, was trying to appear useless, too, under its
row of stiff satin cushions with gold cords.... Well-dusted chairs on
which no one wished to sit; expensive fireplace that never shone;
prized pictures with less imagination than the engravings on a
bond--that drawing-room had the soul of a banker with side-whiskers.

Carl by no means catalogued all the details, but he did get the effect
of ingrowing propriety. It is not certain that he thought the room in
bad taste. It is not certain that he had any artistic taste whatever;
or that his attack upon the pretensions of authors had been based on
anything more fundamental than a personal irritation due to having met
blatant camp-followers of the arts. And it is certain that one of his
reactions as he surveyed the abject respectability of that room was a
slight awe of the solidity of social position which it represented,
and which he consciously lacked. But, whether from artistic instinct
or from ignorance, he was sure that into the room ought to blow a
sudden great wind, with the scent of forest and snow. He shook his
head when the maid returned, and he followed her up-stairs. Surely a
girl reared here would never run away and play with him.

He heard lively voices from the library above. He entered a room to be
lived in and be happy in, with a jolly fire on the hearth and friendly
people on a big, brown davenport. Ruth Winslow smiled at him from
behind the Colonial silver and thin cups on the tea-table, and as he
saw her light-filled eyes, saw her cock her head gaily in welcome, he
was again convinced that he had found a playmate.

A sensation of being pleasantly accepted warmed him as she cried, "So
glad----" and introduced him, gave him tea and a cake with nuts in it.
From a wing-chair Carl searched the room and the people. There were
two paintings--a pale night sea and an arching Japanese bridge under
slanting rain, both imaginative and well-done. There was a mahogany
escritoire, which might have been stiff but was made human by
scattered papers on the great blotter and books crammed into the
shelves. Other books were heaped on a table as though people had been
reading them. Later he found how amazingly they were assorted--the
latest novel of Robert Chambers beside H. G. Wells's _First and Last
Things_; a dusty expensive book on Italian sculpture near a cheap
reprint of _Dodo_.

The chairs were capacious, the piano a workmanlike upright, not
dominating the room, but ready for music; and in front of the fire was
an English setter, an aristocrat of a dog, with the light glittering
in his slowly waving tail. The people fitted into the easy life of the
room. They were New-Yorkers and, unlike over half of the population,
born there, considering New York a village where one knows everybody
and remembers when Fourteenth Street was the shopping-center. Olive
Dunleavy was shinily present, her ash-blond hair in a new coiffure.
She was arguing with a man of tight morning-clothes and a high-bred
face about the merits of "Parsifal," which, Olive declared, no one
ever attended except as a matter of conscience.

"Now, Georgie," she said, "issa Georgie, you shall have your
opera--and you shall jolly well have it alone, too!" Olive was vivid
about it all, but Carl saw that she was watching him, and he was shy
as he wondered what Ruth had told her.

Olive's brother, Philip Dunleavy, a clear-faced, slender, well-bathed
boy of twenty-six, with too high a forehead, with discontent in his
face and in his thin voice, carelessly well-dressed in a soft-gray
suit and an impressionistic tie, was also inspecting Carl, while
talking to a pretty, commonplace, finishing-school-finished girl. Carl
instantly disliked Philip Dunleavy, and was afraid of his latent
sarcasm.

Indeed, Carl felt more and more that beneath the friendliness with
which he was greeted there was no real welcome as yet, save possibly
on the part of Ruth. He was taken on trial. He was a Mr. Ericson, not
any Mr. Ericson in particular.

Ruth, while she poured tea, was laughing with a man and a girl. Carl
himself was part of a hash-group--an older woman who seemed to know
Rome and Paris better than New York, and might be anything from a
milliner to a mondaine; a keen-looking youngster with tortoise-shell
spectacles; finally, Ruth's elder brother, Mason J. Winslow, Jr., a
tall, thin, solemn, intensely well-intentioned man of thirty-seven,
with a long, clean-shaven face, and a long, narrow head whose growing
baldness was always spoken of as a result of his hard work. Mason J.
Winslow, Jr., spoke hesitatingly, worried over everything, and stood
for morality and good business. He was rather dull in conversation,
rather kind in manner, and accomplished solid things by
unimaginatively sticking at them. He didn't understand people who did
not belong to a good club.

Carl contributed a few careful platitudes to a frivolous discussion of
whether it would not be advisable to solve the woman-suffrage question
by taking the vote away from men and women both and conferring it on
children. Mason Winslow ambled to the big table for a cigarette, and
Carl pursued him. While they stood talking about "the times are bad,"
Carl was spying upon Ruth, and the minute her current group wandered
off to the davenport he made a dash at the tea-table and got there
before Olive's brother, Philip Dunleavy, who was obviously
manoeuvering like himself. Philip gave him a covert "Who are you,
fellow?" glance, took a cake, and retired.

From his wicker chair facing Ruth's, Carl said, gloomily, "It isn't
done."

"Yes," said Ruth, "I know it, but still some very smart people are
doing it this season."

"But do you think the woman that writes 'What the man will wear' in
the theater programs would stand for it?"

"Not," gravely considered Ruth, "if there were black stitching on the
dress-glove. Yet there is some authority for frilled shirts."

"You think it might be considered then?"

"I will not come between you and your haberdasher, Mr. Ericson."

"This is a foolish conversation. But since you think the better
classes do it--gee! it's getting hard for me to keep up this kind of
'Dolly Dialogue.' What I wanted to do was to request you to give me
concisely but fully a sketch of 'Who is Miss Ruth Winslow?' and save
me from making any pet particular breaks. And hereafter, I warn you,
I'm going to talk like my cousin, the carpet-slipper model."

"Name, Ruth Winslow. Age, between twenty and thirty. Father, Mason
Winslow, manufacturing contractor for concrete. Brothers, Mason
Winslow, Jr., whose poor dear head is getting somewhat bald, as you
observe, and Bobby Winslow, ne'er-do-weel, who is engaged in
subverting discipline at medical school, and who dances divinely. My
mother died three years ago. I do nothing useful, but I play a good
game of bridge and possess a voice that those as know pronounce
passable. I have a speaking knowledge of French, a reading knowledge
of German, and a singing knowledge of Italian. I am wearing an
imported gown, for which the House of Winslow will probably never pay.
I live in this house, and am Episcopalian--not so much High Church as
highly infrequent church. I regard the drawing-room down-stairs as the
worst example of late-Victorian abominations in my knowledge, but I
shall probably never persuade father to change it because Mason thinks
it is sacred to the past. My ambition in life is to be catty to the
Newport set after I've married an English diplomat with a divine
mustache. Never having met such a personage outside of _Tatler_ and
_Vogue_, I can't give you very many details regarding him. Oh yes, of
course, he'll have to play a marvelous game of polo and have a château
in Provençe and also a ranch in Texas, where I shall wear
riding-breeches and live next to Nature and have a Chinese cook in
blue silk. I think that's my whole history. Oh, I forgot. I play at
the piano and am very ignorant, and completely immersed in the worst
traditions of the wealthy Micks of the Upper West Side, and I always
pretend that I live here instead of on the Upper East Side because
'the air is better.'"

"What is this Upper West Side? Is it a state of mind?"

"Indeed it is not. It's a state of pocketbook. The Upper West Side is
composed entirely of people born in New York who want to be in
society, whatever that is, and can't afford to live on Fifth Avenue.
You know everybody and went to school with everybody and played in the
Park with everybody, and mostly your papa is in wholesale trade and
haughty about people in retail. You go to Europe one summer and to the
Jersey coast the next. All your clothes and parties and weddings and
funerals might be described as 'elegant.' That's the Upper West Side.
Now the dread truth about you.... Do you know, after the unscrupulous
way in which you followed up a mere chance introduction at a tea
somewhere, I suspect you to be a well-behaved young man who leads an
entirely blameless life. Or else you'd never dare to jump the fence
and come and play in my back yard when all the other boys politely
knock at the front door and get sent home."

"Me--well, I'm a wage-slave of the VanZile Motor people, in charge of
the Touricar department. Age, twenty-eight--almost. Habits, all
bad.... No, I'll tell you. I'm one of those stern, silent men of
granite you read about, and only my man knows the human side of me,
because all the guys on Wall Street tremble in me presence."

"Yes, but then how can you belong to the Blue Bowl Sodality?"

"Um, Yes----I've got it. You must have read novels in which the stern,
silent man of granite has a secret tenderness in his heart, and he
keeps the band of the first cigar he ever smoked in a little safe in
the wall, and the first dollar he ever made in a frame--that's me."

"Of course! The cigar was given him by his flaxen-haired sweetheart
back in Jenkins Corners, and in the last chapter he goes back and
marries her."

"Not always, I hope!" Of what Carl was thinking is not recorded.
"Well, as a matter of fact, I've been a fairly industrious young man
of granite the last few months, getting out the Touricar."

"What is a Touricar? It sounds like an island inhabited by cannibals,
exports hemp and cocoanut, see pink dot on the map, nor' by nor'east
of Mogador."

Carl explained.

"I'm terribly interested," said Ruth. (But she made it sound as though
she really was.) "I think it's so wonderful.... I want to go off
tramping through the Berkshires. I'm so tired of going to the same old
places."

"Some time, when you're quite sure I'm an estimable young Y. M. C. A.
man, I'm going to try to persuade you to come out for a real tramp."

She seemed to be considering the idea, not seriously, but----

Philip Dunleavy eventuated.

For some time Philip had been showing signs of interest in Ruth and
Carl. Now he sauntered to the table, begged for another cup of tea,
said agreeable things in regard to putting orange marmalade in tea,
and calmly established himself. Ruth turned toward him.

Carl had fancied that there was, for himself, in Ruth's voice,
something more friendly, in her infectious smile something more
intimate than she had given the others, but when she turned precisely
the same cheery expression upon Philip, Carl seemed to have lost
something which he had trustingly treasured for years. He was the more
forlorn as Olive Dunleavy joined them, and Ruth, Philip, and Olive
discussed the engagement of one Mary Meldon. Olive recalled Miss
Meldon as she had been in school days at the Convent of the Sacred
Heart. Philip told of her flirtations at the old Long Beach Hotel.

The names of New York people whom they had always known; the names of
country clubs--Baltusrol and Meadow Brook and Peace Waters; the names
of streets, with a sharp differentiation between Seventy-fourth Street
and Seventy-fifth Street; Durland's Riding Academy, the Rink of a
Monday morning, and other souvenirs of a New York childhood; the score
of the last American polo team and the coming dances--these things
shut Carl out as definitely as though he were a foreigner. He was
lonely. He disliked Phil Dunleavy's sarcastic references. He wanted to
run away.

Ruth seemed to realize that Carl was shut out. Said she to Phil
Dunleavy: "I wish you could have seen Mr. Ericson save my life last
Sunday. I had an experience."

"What was that?" asked the man whom Olive called "Georgie," joining
the tea-table set.

The whole room listened as Ruth recounted the trip to Chinatown, Mrs.
Salisbury's party, and the hero who had once been a passenger in an
aeroplane.

Throughout she kept turning toward Carl. It seemed to reunite him to
the company. As she closed, he said:

"The thing that amused me about the parlor aviator was his laying down
the law that the Atlantic will be crossed before the end of 1913, and
his assumption that we'll all have aeroplanes in five years. I know
from my own business, the automobile business, about how much such
prophecies are worth."

"Don't you think the Atlantic will be crossed soon?" asked the
keen-looking man with the tortoise-shell spectacles.

Phil Dunleavy broke in with an air of amused sophistication: "I think
the parlor aviator was right. Really, you know, aviation is too
difficult a subject for the layman to make any predictions
about--either what it can or can't do."

"Oh yes," admitted Carl; and the whole room breathed. "Oh yes."

Dunleavy went on in his thin, overbred, insolent voice, "Now I have it
on good authority, from a man who's a member of the Aero Club, that
next year will be the greatest year aviation has ever known, and that
the Wrights have an aeroplane up their sleeve with which they'll cross
the Atlantic without a stop, during the spring of 1914 at the very
latest."

"That's unfortunate, because the aviation game has gone up completely
in this country, except for hydro-aeroplaning and military aviation,
and possibly it never will come back," said Carl, a hint of pique in
his voice.

"What is your authority for that?" Phil turned a large, bizarre ring
round on his slender left little finger and the whole room waited,
testing this positive-spoken outsider.

"Well," drawled Carl, "I have fairly good authority. Walter
MacMonnies, for instance, and he is probably the best flier in the
country to-day, except for Lincoln Beachey."

"Oh yes, he's a good flier," said Phil, contemptuously, with a shadowy
smile for Ruth. "Still, he's no better than Aaron Solomons, and he
isn't half so great a flier as that chap with the same surname as your
own, Hawk Ericson, whom I myself saw coming up the Jersey coast when
he won that big race to New York.... You see, I've been following this
aviation pretty closely."

Carl saw Ruth's head drop an inch, and her eyes close to a slit as
she inspected him with sudden surprise. He knew that it had just
occurred to her who he was. Their eyes exchanged understanding. "She
does get things," he thought, and said, lightly:

"Well, I honestly hate to take the money, Mr. Dunleavy, but I'm in a
position to know that MacMonnies is a better flier to-day than Ericson
is, be----"

"But see here----"

"----because I happen to _be_ Hawk Ericson."

"What a chump I am!" groaned the man in tortoise-shell spectacles. "Of
course! I remember your picture, now."

Phil was open-mouthed. Ruth laughed. The rest of the room gasped.
Mason Winslow, long and bald, was worrying over the question of How to
Receive Aviators at Tea.

And Carl was shy as a small boy caught stealing the jam.



CHAPTER XXX


At home, early that evening, Carl's doctor-landlord gave him the
message that a Miss Gertrude Cowles had called him up, but had
declined to leave a number. The landlord's look indicated that it was
no fault of his if Carl had friends who were such fools that they
didn't leave their numbers. Carl got even with him by going out to the
corner drug-store to telephone Gertie, instead of giving him a chance
to listen.

"Hello?" said Gertie over the telephone. "Oh, hello, Carl; I just
called up to tell you Adelaide is going to be here this evening, and I
thought perhaps you might like to come up if you haven't anything
better to do."

Carl did have something better to do. He might have used the whole
evening in being psychological about Ruth and Phil Dunleavy and
English-basement houses with cream-colored drawing-rooms. But he went
up to Gertie's.

They were all there--Gertie and Adelaide, Ray and his mother, and Miss
Greene, an unidentified girl from Minneapolis; all playing parcheesi,
explaining that they thought it not quite proper to play cards on
Sunday, but that parcheesi was "different." Ray winked at Carl as they
said it.

The general atmosphere was easy and livable. Carl found himself at
home again. Adelaide told funny anecdotes about her school of domestic
science, and the chief teacher, who wore her hair in a walnut on top
of her head and interrupted a lecture on dietetics to chase a
cockroach with a ruler.

As the others began to disappear, Gertie said to Carl: "Don't go till
I read you a letter from Ben Rusk I got yesterday. Lots of news from
home. Joe Jordan is engaged!"

They were left alone. Gertie glanced at him intimately. He stiffened.
He knew that Gertie was honest, kindly, with enough sense of display
to catch the tricks of a new environment. But to her, matrimony would
be the inevitable sequence of a friendship which Ruth or Olive could
take easily, pleasantly, for its own sake. And Carl, the young man
just starting in business, was un-heroically afraid of matrimony.

Yet his stiffness of attitude disappeared when Gertie had read the
letter from Joralemon and mused, chin on hand, dreamily melancholy: "I
can just see them out sleighing. Sometimes I wish I was out there.
Honest, Carl, for all the sea and the hills here, don't you wish
sometimes it were August, and you were out home camping on a wooded
bluff over a lake?"

"Yes!" he cried. "I've been away so long now that I don't ever feel
homesick for any particular part of the country; but just the same I
would like to see the lakes. And I do miss the prairies sometimes. Oh,
I was reading something the other day--fellow was trying to define the
different sorts of terrain--here it is, cut it out of the paper." He
produced from among a bunch of pocket-worn envelopes and memorandums a
clipping hacked from a newspaper with a nail-file, and read:

"'The combat and mystery of the sea; the uplift of the hills and their
promise of wonder beyond; the kindliness of late afternoon nestling in
small fields, or on ample barns where red clover-tops and long grasses
shine against the gray foundation stones and small boys seek for
hidden entrances to this castle of the farm; the deep holiness of the
forest, whose leaves are the stained glass of a cathedral to grave
saints of the open; all these I love, but nowhere do I find content
save on the mid-western prairie, where the light of sky and plain
drugs the senses, where the sound of meadow-larks at dawn fulfils my
desire for companionship, and the easy creak of the buggy, as we top
rise after rise, bespells me into an afternoon slumber which the
nervous town shall never know.'

"I cut the thing out because I was thinking that the prairies,
stretching out the way they do, make me want to go on and on, in an
aeroplane or any old thing. Lord, Lord! I guess before long I'll have
to be beating it again--like the guy in Kipling that always got sick
of reading the same page too long."

"Oh, but Carl, you don't mean to say you're going to give up your
business, when you're doing so well? And aviation shows what you can
do if you stick to a thing, Carl, and not just wander around like you
used to do. We do want to see you succeed."

His reply was rather weak: "Well, gee! I guess I'll succeed, all
right, but I don't see much use of succeeding if you have to be stuck
down in a greasy city street all your life."

"That's very true, Carl, but do you appreciate the city? Have you ever
been in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, or gone to a single symphony
concert at Carnegie Hall?"

Carl was convinced that Gertie was a highly superior person; that she
was getting far more of the good of New York than he.... He would take
her to a concert, have her explain the significance of the music.

It was never to occur sharply to him that, though Gertie referred
frequently to concerts and pictures, she showed no vast amount of
knowledge about them. She was a fixed fact in his mind; had been for
twenty years. He could have a surface quarrel with her because he knew
the fundamental things in her, and with these, he was sure, no one
could quarrel. His thoughts of Ruth and Olive were delightful
surprises; his impression of Gertie was stable as the Rockies.

       *       *       *       *       *

Carl wasn't sure whether Upper West Side young ladies could be
persuaded to attend a theater party upon short acquaintance, but he
tried, and arranged a party of Ruth and Olive and himself, Walter
MacMonnies (in town on his way from Africa to San Diego), Charley
Forbes of the _Chronicle_ and, for chaperon, the cosmopolitan woman
whom he had met at Ruth's, and who proved to be a Mrs. Tirrell, a
dismayingly smart dressmaker.

When he called for Ruth he expected such a gay girl as had poured tea.
He was awed to find her a _grande dame_ in black velvet, more
dignified, apparently inches taller, and in a vice-regally bad temper.
As they drove off she declared:

"Sorry I'm in such a villainous temper. I hadn't a single pair of
decent white gloves, and I tore some old black Spanish lace on the
gown I was going to wear, and my entire family, whom God
unquestionably sent to be a trial to test me, clustered about my door
while I was dressing and bawled in queries about laundry and other
horribly vulgar things."

Carl did not see much of the play. He was watching Ruth's eyes,
listening to her whispered comments. She declared that she was awed by
the presence of two aviators and a newspaper man. Actually, she was
working, working at bringing out MacMonnies, a shy, broad-shouldered,
inarticulate youth who supposed that he never had to talk.

Carl had planned to go to the Ritz for after-theater supper, but Ruth
and Olive persuaded him to take them to the café of the Rector's of
that time; for, they said, they had never been in a Broadway café, and
they wanted to see the famous actors with their make-ups off.

At the table Carl carried Ruth off in talk, like a young Lochinvar out
of the Middle West. Around them was the storm of highballs and brandy
and club soda, theatrical talk, and a confused mass of cigar-smoke,
shirt-fronts, white shoulders, and drab waiters; yet here was a quiet
refuge for the eternal force of life....

Carl was asking: "Would you rather be a perfect lady and have blue
bowls with bunnies on them for your very worst dissipation, or be like
your mountain-climbing woman and have anarchists for friends one day
and be off hiking through the clouds the next?"

"Oh, I don't know. I know I'm terribly susceptible to the 'nice things
of life,' but I do get tired of being nice. Especially when I have a
bad temper, as I had to-night. I'm not at all imprisoned in a harem,
and as for social aspirations, I'm a nobody. But still I have been
brought up to look at things that aren't 'like the home life of our
dear Queen' as impossible, and I'm quite sure that father believes
that poor people are poor because they are silly and don't try to be
rich. But I've been reading; and I've made--to you it may seem silly
to call it a discovery, but to me it's the greatest discovery I've
ever made: that people are just people, all of them--that the little
mousey clerk may be a hero, and the hero may be a nobody--that the
motorman that lets his beastly car spatter mud on my nice new velvet
skirt may be exactly the same sort of person as the swain who
commiserates with me in his cunnin' Harvard accent. Do you think
that?"

"I know it. Most of my life I've been working with men with dirty
finger-nails, and the only difference between them and the men with
clean nails is a nail-cleaner, and that costs just ten cents at the
corner drug-store. Seriously--I remember a cook I used to talk to on
my way down to Panama once----"

("Panama! How I'd like to go there!")

"----and he had as much culture as anybody I've ever met."

"Yes, but generally do you find very much--oh, courtesy and that sort
of thing among mechanics, as much as among what calls itself 'the
better class'?"

"No, I don't."

"You don't? Why, I thought--the way you spoke----"

"Why, blessed, what in the world would be the use of their trying to
climb if they already had all the rich have? You can't be as gracious
as the man that's got nothing else to do, when you're about one jump
ahead of the steam-roller every second. That's why they ought to
_take_ things. If I were a union man, I wouldn't trust all these
writers and college men and so on, that try to be sympathetic. Not for
one minute. They mean well, but they can't get what it means to a real
workman to have to be up at five every winter morning, with no heat in
the furnished housekeeping room; or to have to see his Woman sick
because he can't afford a doctor."

So they talked, boy and girl, wondering together what the world really
is like.

"I want to find out what we can do with life!" she said. "Surely it's
something more than working to get tired, and then resting to go back
to work. But I'm confused about things." She sighed. "My settlement
work--I went into it because I was bored. But it did make me realize
how many people are hungry. And yet we just talk and talk and
talk--Olive and I sit up half the night when she comes to my house,
and when we're not talking about the new negligées we're making and
the gorgeous tea-gowns we're going to have when we're married, we
rescue the poor and think we're dreadfully advanced, but does it do
any good to just talk?--Dear me, I split that poor infinitive right
down his middle."

"I don't know. But I do know I don't want to be just stupidly
satisfied, and talking does keep me from that, anyway. See here, Miss
Winslow, suppose some time I suggested that we become nice and earnest
and take up socialism and single tax and this--what is it?--oh,
syndicalism--and really studied them, would you do it? Make each other
study?"

"Love to."

"Does Dunleavy think much?"

She raised her eyebrows a bit, but hesitated. "Oh yes--no, I don't
suppose he does. Or anyway, mostly about the violin. He played a lot
when he was in Yale."

Thus was Carl encouraged to be fatuous, and he said, in a manner which
quite dismissed Phil Dunleavy: "I don't believe he's very deep.
Ra-ther light, I'd say."

Her eyebrows had ascended farther. "Do you think so? I'm sorry."

"Why sorry?"

"Oh, he's always been rather a friend of mine. Olive and Phil and I
roller-skated together at the age of eight."

"But----"

"And I shall probably--marry--Phil--some day before long." She turned
abruptly to Charley Forbes with a question.

Lost, already lost, was the playmate; a loss that disgusted him with
life. He beat his spirit, cursed himself as a clumsy mechanic. He
listened to Olive only by self-compulsion. It was minutes before he
had the ability and the chance to say to Ruth:

"Forgive me--in the name of the Blue Bowl. Mr. Dunleavy was rather
rude to me, and I've been just as rude--and to you! And without his
excuse. For he naturally would want to protect you from a wild aviator
coming from Lord knows where."

"You are forgiven. And Phil _was_ rude. And you're not a
Lord-knows-where, I'm sure."

Almost brusquely Carl demanded: "Come for a long tramp with me, on the
Palisades. Next Saturday, if you can and if it's a decent day.... You
said you liked to run away.... And we can be back before dinner, if
you like."

"Why--let me think it over. Oh, I _would_ like to. I've always wanted
to do just that--think of it, the Palisades just opposite, and I
never see them except for a walk of half a mile or so when I stay with
a friend of mine, Laura Needham, at Winklehurst, up on the Palisades.
My mother never approved of a wilder wilderness than Central Park and
the habit----I've never been able to get Olive to explore. But it
isn't conventional to go on long tramps with even the nicest new
Johnnies, is it?"

"No, but----"

"I know. You'll say, 'Who makes the convention?' and of course there's
no answer but 'They.' But They are so all-present. They----Oh yes,
yes, yes, I will go! But you will let me get back by dinner-time,
won't you? Will you call for me about two?... And can you----I wonder
if a hawk out of the windy skies can understand how daring a dove out
of Ninety-second Street feels at going walking on the Palisades?"



CHAPTER XXXI


The iron Hudson flowed sullenly, far below the ice-enameled rock on
the Palisades, where stood Ruth and Carl, shivering in the abrupt wind
that cut down the defile. The scowling, slatey river was filled with
ice-floes and chunks of floating, water-drenched snow that broke up
into bobbing sheets of slush. The sky was solid cold gray, with no
arch and no hint of the lost sun. Crows winging above them stood out
against the sky like pencil-marks on clean paper. The estates in upper
New York City, across the river, were snow-cloaked, the trees chilly
and naked, the houses standing out as though they were freezing and
longing for their summer wrap of ivy. And naked were the rattling
trees on their side of the river, on the Palisades. But the cold
breeze enlivened them, the sternness of the swift, cruel river and
miles of brown shore made them gravely happy. As they tramped briskly
off, atop the cliffs, toward the ferry to New York, five miles away,
they talked with a quiet, quick seriousness which discovered them to
each other. It was too cold for conversational fencing. It was too
splendidly open for them not to rejoice in the freedom from New York
streets and feel like heroes conquering the miles.

Carl was telling of Joralemon, of Plato, of his first flights before
country fairs; something of what it meant to be a newspaper hero, and
of his loneliness as a Dethroned Prince. Ruth dropped her defenses of
a chaperoned young woman; confessed that now that she had no mother to
keep her mobilized and in the campaign to get nearer to "Society" and
a "decent marriage," she did not know exactly what she wanted to do
with life. She spoke tentatively of her vague settlement work; in all
she said she revealed an honesty as forthright as though she were a
gaunt-eyed fanatic instead of a lively-voiced girl in a blue corduroy
jacket with collar and cuffs of civet and buttons from Venice.

Then Carl spoke of his religion--the memory of Forrest Haviland. He
had never really talked of him to any one save Colonel Haviland and
Titherington, the English aviator; but now this girl, who had never
seen Forrest, seemed to have known him for life. Carl made vivid by
his earnestness the golden hours of work together in California; the
confidences in New York restaurants; his long passion for their
Brazilian trip. Ruth's eyes looked up at him with swift comprehension,
and there was a tear in them as he told in ten words of the message
that Forrest was dead.

They turned gay, Ruth's sturdy, charming shoulders shrugging like a
Frenchman's with the exhilaration of fast walking and keen air, while
her voice, light and cheerful, with graceful modulations and the
singer's freedom from twang, rejoiced:

"I'm so glad we came! I'm so glad we came! But I'm afraid of the wild
beasts I see in the woods there. They have no right to have twilight
so early. I know a big newspaper man who lives at Pompton, N. J., and
I'm going to ask him to write to the governor about it. The
legislature ought to pass a law that dusk sha'n't come till seven,
Saturday afternoons. Do you know how glad I am that you made me
come?... And how honored I am to have you tell me--Lieutenant
Haviland--and the very bad Carl that lived in Joralemon?"

"It's----I'm glad----Say, gee! we'll have to hurry like the dickens if
we're going to catch a ferry in time to get you home for dinner."

"I have an idea. I wonder if we dare----I have a friend, sort of a
distant cousin, who married her a husband at Winklehurst, on the
Palisades, not very far from the ferry. I wonder if we couldn't make
her invite us both for dinner? Of course, she'll want to know all
about you; but we'll be mysterious, and that will make it all the more
fun, don't you think? I do want to prolong our jaunt, you see."

"I can't think of anything I'd rather do. But do you dare impose a
perfectly strange man on her?"

"Oh yes, I know her so well that she's told me what kind of a tie her
husband had on when he proposed."

"Let's do it!"

"A telephone! There's some shops ahead there, in that settlement.
Ought to be a telephone there.... I'll make her give us a good dinner!
If Laura thinks she'll get away with hash and a custard with a red
cherry in it, she'd better undeceive herself."

They entered a tiny wayside shop for the sale of candy and padlocks
and mittens. While Ruth telephoned to her friend, Mrs. Laura Needham,
Carl bought red-and-blue and lemon-colored all-day suckers, and a
sugar mouse, and a candy kitten with green ears and real whiskers. He
could not but hear Ruth telephoning, and they grinned at each other
like conspirators, her eyelids in little wrinkles as she tried to look
wicked, her voice amazingly innocent as she talked, Carl carefully
arraying his purchases before her, making the candy kitten pursue the
sugar mouse round and round the telephone.

"Hello, hello! Is Mrs. Needham there?... Hello!... Oh, hel-_lo_, Laura
dear. This is Ruth. I.... Fine. I feel fine. But chillery. Listen,
Laura; I've been taking a tramp along the Palisades. Am I invited to
dinner with a swain?... What?... Oh yes, I am; certainly I'm invited
to dinner.... Well, my dear, go in town by all means, with my
blessing; but that sha'n't prevent you from having the opportunity to
enjoy being hospitable.... I don't know. What ferry do you catch?...
The 7.20?... N-no, I don't think we can get there till after that, so
you can go right ahead and have the Biddy get ready for us.... All
right; that _is_ good of you, dear, to force the invitation on me."
She flushed as her eyes met Carl's. She continued: "But seriously,
will it be too much of a tax on the Biddy if we do come? We're drefful
cold, and it's a long crool way to town.... Thank you, dear. It shall
be returned unto you--after not too many days.... What?... Who?... Oh,
a man.... Why, yes, it might be, but I'd be twice as likely to go
tramping with Olive as with Phil.... No, it isn't.... Oh, as usual.
He's getting to be quite a dancing-man.... Well, if you must know--oh,
I can't give you his name. He's----" She glanced at Carl appraisingly,
"----he's about five feet tall, and he has a long French shovel beard
and a lovely red nose, and he's listening to me describe him!"

Carl made the kitten chase the mouse furiously.

"Perhaps I'll tell you about him some time.... Good-by, Laura dear."

She turned to Carl, rubbing her cold ear where the telephone-receiver
had pressed against it, and caroled: "Her husband is held late at the
office, and Laura is going to meet him in town, and they're going to
the theater. So we'll have the house all to ourselves. Exciting!" She
swung round to telephone home that she would not be there for dinner.

As they left the shop, went over a couple of blocks for the
Winklehurst trolley, and boarded it, Carl did some swift thinking. He
was not above flirting or, if the opportunity offered, carrying the
flirtation to the most delicious, exciting, uncertain lengths he
could. Here, with "dinner in their own house," with a girl interesting
yet unknown, there was a feeling of sudden intimacy which might mean
anything. Only--when their joined eyes had pledged mischief while she
telephoned, she had been so quiet, so frank, so evidently free from a
shamefaced erotic curiosity, that now he instantly dismissed the
query, "How far could I go? What does she expect?" which, outside of
pure-minded romances, really does come to men. It was a wonderful
relief to dismiss the query; a simplification to live in the joy each
moment gave of itself. The hour was like a poem. Yet he was no
extraordinary person; he had, in the lonely hours of a dead room, been
tortured with the unmoral longings which, good or bad, men do feel.

As they took their seats in the car, and Ruth beat on her knees with
her fur-lined gloves, he laughed back, altogether happy, not
pretending, as he had pretended with Eve L'Ewysse.

Happy. But hungry!

Mrs. Needham should have been graciously absent by the time they
reached her house--a suburban residence with a large porch. But, as
they approached, Ruth cried:

"'Shhhh! There seems to be somebody moving around in the living room.
I don't believe Laura 's gone yet. That would spoil it. Come on. Let's
peep. Let's be Indian scouts!"

Cautioning each other with warning pats, they tiptoed guiltily to the
side of the house and peered in at the dining-room window, where the
shade was raised a couple of inches above the sill. A noise at the
back of the house made them start and flatten against the wall.

"Big chief," whispered Carl, "the redskins are upon us! But old Brown
Barrel shall make many an one bite the dust!"

"Hush, silly.... Oh, it's just the maid. See, she's looking at the
clock and wondering why we don't get here."

"But maybe Mrs. Needham 's in the other room."

"No. Because the maid's sniffing around--there, she's reading a
post-card some one left on the side-table. Oh yes, and she's chewing
gum. Laura has certainly departed. Probably Laura is chewing gum
herself at the present moment, now that she's out from under the eye
of her maid. Laura always was ree-fined, but I wouldn't trust her to
be proof against the feeling of wild dissipation you can get out of
chewing gum, if you live in Winklehurst."

They had rung the door-bell on the porch by now.

"I'm so glad," said Ruth, "that Laura is gone. She is very
literal-minded. She might not understand that we could be hastily
married and even lease a house, this way, and still be only tea
acquaintances."

The maid had not yet answered. Waiting in the still porch, winter
everywhere beyond it, Carl was all excited anticipation. He hastily
pressed her hand, and she lightly returned the pressure, laughing,
breathing quickly. They started like convicted lovers as the maid
opened the door. The consciousness of their starting made them the
more embarrassed, and they stammered before the maid. Ruth fled
up-stairs, while Carl tried to walk up gravely, though he was tingling
with the game.

When he had washed (discovering, as every one newly discovers after
every long, chilly walk, that water from the cold tap feels amazingly
warm on hands congealed by the tramp), and was loitering in the upper
hall, Ruth called to him from Mrs. Needham's room:

"I think you'll find hair-brushes and things in Jack's room, to the
right. Oh, I am very stupid; I forgot this was our house; I mean in
your room, of course."

He had a glimpse of her, twisting up a strand of naturally wavy brown
hair, a silver-backed hair-brush bright against it, her cheeks flushed
to an even crimson, her blue corduroy jacket off, and, warmly intimate
in its stead, a blouse of blue satin, opening in a shallow triangle at
her throat. With a tender big-brotherliness he sought the room that
was his, not Jack's. No longer was this the house of Other People, but
one in which he belonged.

"No," he heard himself explain, "she isn't beautiful. Istra Nash was
nearer that. But, golly! she is such a good pal, and she is beautiful
if an English lane is. Oh, stop rambling.... If I could kiss that
little honey place at the base of her throat...."

"Yes, Miss Winslow. Coming. _Am_ I ready for dinner? Watch me!"

She confided as he came out into the hall, "Isn't it terribly
confusing to have our home and even three toby-children all ready-made
for us, this way!"

Her glance--eyes that always startled him with blue where dark-brown
was expected; even teeth showing; head cocked sidelong; cheeks burning
with fire of December snow--her glance and all her manner trusted him,
the outlaw. It was not as an outsider, but as her comrade that he
answered:

"Golly! have we a family, too? I always forget. So sorry. But you
know--get so busy at the office----"

"Why, I _think_ we have one. I'll go look in the nursery and make
sure, but I'm almost positive----"

"No, I'll take your word for it. You're around the house more than I
am.... But, oh, say, speaking of that, that reminds me: Woman, if you
think that I'm going to buy you a washing-machine this year, when I've
already bought you a napkin-ring and a portrait of Martha
Washington----"

"_Oh weh!_ I knew I should have a cruel husband who----Joy! I think
the maid is prowling about and trying to listen. 'Shhh! The story
Laura will get out of her!"

While the maid served dinner, there could scarce have been a more
severely correct pair, though Carl did step on her toe when she was
saying to the maid, in her best offhand manner, "Oh, Leah, will you
please tell Mrs. Needham that I stole a handkerchief from my--I mean
from her room?"

But when the maid had been unable to find any more imaginary crumbs to
brush off the table, and had left them alone with their hearts and the
dessert, a most rowdy young "married couple" quarreled violently over
the washing-machine he still refused to buy for her.

Carl insisted that, as suburbanites, they had to play cards, and he
taught her pinochle, which he had learned from the bartender of the
Bowery saloon. But the cards dropped from their fingers, and they sat
before the gas-log in the living-room, in a lazy, perfect happiness,
when she said:

"All the while we've been playing cards--and playing the still more
dangerous game of being married--I've been thinking how glad I am to
know about your life. Somehow----I wonder if you have told so very
many?"

"Practically no one."

"I do----I'm really not fishing for compliments, but I do want to be
found understanding----"

"There's never been any one so understanding."

Silent then. Carl glanced about the modern room. Ruth's eyes followed.
She nodded as he said:

"But it's really an old farm-house out in the hills where the snow is
deep; and there's logs in the fireplace."

"Yes, and rag carpets."

"And, oh, Ruth, listen, a bob-sled with----Golly! I suppose it is a
little premature to call you 'Ruth,' but after our being married all
evening I don't see how I can call you 'Miss Winslow.'"

"No, I'm afraid it would scarcely be proper, under the circumstances.
Then I must be 'Mrs. Ericson.' Ooh! It makes me think of Norse galleys
and northern seas. Of course--your galley was the aeroplane.... 'Mrs.
Eric----'" Her voice ran down; she flushed and said, defensively:
"What time is it? I think we must be starting. I telephoned I would be
home by ten." Her tone was conventional as her words.

But as they stood waiting for a trolley-car to the New York ferry, on
a street corner transformed by an arc-light that swung in the wind and
cast wavering films of radiance among the vague wintry trees of a
wood-lot, Ruth tucked her arm under his, small beside his great
ulster, and sighed like a child:

"I am ver-ee cold!"

He rubbed her hand protectingly, her mouselike hand in its fur-lined
glove. His canny, self-defensive, Scotchlike Norse soul opened its
gates. He knew a longing to give, a passion to protect her, a whelming
desire to have shy secrets with this slim girl. All the poetry in the
world sounded its silver harps within him because his eyes were opened
and it was given to him to see her face. Gently he said:

"Yes, it's cold, and there's big gray ghosts hiding there in the
trees, with their leathery wings, that were made out of sea-fog by the
witches, folded in front of them, and they're glumming at us over the
bony, knobly joints on top their wings, with big, round platter eyes.
And the wind is calling us--it's trying to snatch us out on the arctic
snow-fields, to freeze us. But I'll fight them all off. I won't let
them take you, Ruth."

"I'm sure you won't, Carl."

"And--oh--you won't let Phil Dunleavy keep you from running away, not
for a while yet?"

"M-maybe not."

The sky had cleared. She tilted up her chin and adored the
stars--stars like the hard, cold, fighting sparks that fly from a
trolley-wire. Carl looked down fondly, noting how fair-skinned was her
forehead in contrast to her thick, dark brows, as the arc-light's
brilliance rested on her worshiping face--her lips a-tremble and
slightly parted. She raised her arms, her fingers wide-spread,
praising the star-gods. She cried only, "Oh, all this----" but it was
a prayer to a greater god Pan, shaking his snow-incrusted beard to the
roar of northern music. To Carl her cry seemed to pledge faith in the
starred sky and the long trail and a glorious restlessness that by a
dead fireplace of white, smooth marble would never find content.

"Like sword-points, those stars are," he said, then----

Then they heard the trolley-car's flat wheels grinding on a curve. Its
search-light changed the shadow-haunted woodland to a sad group of
scanty trees, huddling in front of an old bill-board, with its top
broken and the tattered posters flapping. The wanderers stepped from
the mystical romance of the open night into the exceeding realism of
the car--highly realistic wooden floor with small, muddy pools from
lumps of dirty melting snow, hot air, a smell of Italian workmen, a
German conductor with the sniffles, a row of shoes mostly wet and all
wrinkled. They had to stand. Most realistic of all, they read the
glossy car-signs advertising soap and little cigars, and the
enterprising local advertisement of "Wm. P. Smith & Sons, All Northern
New Jersey Real Estate, Cheaper Than Rent." So, instantly, the
children of the night turned into two sophisticated young New-Yorkers
who, apologizing for fresh-air yawns, talked of the theatrical season.

But for a moment a strange look of distance dwelt in Ruth's eyes, and
she said: "I wonder what I can do with the winter stars we've found?
Will Ninety-second Street be big enough for them?"



CHAPTER XXXII


For a week--the week before Christmas--Carl had seen neither Ruth nor
Gertie; but of the office he had seen too much. They were "rushing
work" on the Touricar to have it on the market early in 1913. Every
afternoon or evening he left the office with his tongue scaly from too
much nervous smoking; poked dully about the streets, not much desiring
to go any place, nor to watch the crowds, after all the curiosity had
been drawn out of him by hours of work. Several times he went to a
super-movie, a cinema palace on Broadway above Seventy-second Street,
with an entrance in New York Colonial architecture, and crowds of
well-to-do Jewish girls in opera-cloaks.

On the two bright mornings of the week he wanted to play truant from
the office, to be off with Ruth over the hills and far away. Both
mornings there came to him a picture of Gertie, wanting to slip out
and play like Ruth, but having no chance. He felt guilty because he
had never bidden Gertie come tramping, and guiltily he recalled that
it was with her that the boy Carl had gone to seek-our-fortunes. He
told himself that he had been depending upon Gertie for the
bread-and-butter of friendship, and begging for the opportunity to
give the stranger, Ruth Winslow, dainties of which she already had too
much.

When he called, Sunday evening, he found Gertie alone, reading a
love-story in a woman's magazine.

"I'm so glad you came," she said. "I was getting quite lonely." She
was as gratefully casual as ever.

"Say, Gertie, I've got a plan. Wouldn't you like to go for some good
long hikes in the country?"

"Oh yes; that would be fine when spring comes."

"No; I mean now, in the winter."

She looked at him heavily. "Why, isn't it pretty cold, don't you
think?"

He prepared to argue, but he did not think of her as looking heavily.
He did not draw swift comparisons between Gertie's immobility and
Ruth's lightness. He was used to Gertie; was in her presence
comfortably understanding and understood; could find whatever he
expected in her as easily as one finds the editorial page--or the
sporting page--in a familiar newspaper. He merely became mildly
contentious and made questioning noises in his throat as she went on:

"You know it is pretty cold here. They can say all they want to about
the cold and all that out in Minnesota, but, really, the humidity----"

"Rats; it isn't so very cold, not if you walk fast."

"Well, maybe; anyway, I guess it would be nice to explore some."

"All right; let's."

"I do think people are so conventional. Don't you?" said Gertie, while
Carl discerningly stole one of Ray's best cigars out of the humidor.
"Awfully conventional. Not going out for good long walks. Dorothy
Gibbons and I did find the nicest place to walk, up in Bronx Park, and
there's such a dear little restaurant, right on the water; of course
the water was frozen, but it seemed quite wild, you know, for New
York. We might take that walk, whenever you'd like to."

"Oh--Bronx Park--gee! Gertie, I can't get up much excitement over
that. I want to get away from this tame city, and forget all about
offices and parks and people and everything like that."

"N-n-n-now!" she clucked in a patronizing way. "We mustn't ask New
York to give us wilderness, you know! I'm afraid that would be a
little too much to ask of it! Don't you think so yourself!"

Carl groaned to himself, "I won't be mothered!"

He was silent. His silence was positively noisy. He wanted her to hear
it. But it is difficult to be sulky with a bland, plump woman of
thirty who remembers your childhood trick of biting your nails, and
glances up at you from her embroidery, occasionally patting her brown
silk hair or smoothing her brown silk waist in a way which implies a
good digestion, a perfect memory of the morning's lesson of her
Sunday-school class, and a mild disbelief in men as anything except
relatives, providers, card-players, and nurslings. Carl gave up the
silence-cure.

He hummed about the room, running over the advertising pages of
magazines, discussing Plato fraternities, and waiting till it should
be time to go home. Their conversation kept returning to the
fraternities. There wasn't much else to talk about. Before to-night
they had done complete justice to all other topics--Joralemon, Bennie
Rusk, Joe Jordan's engagement, Adelaide Benner, and symphony concerts.
Gertie embroidered, patted her hair, smoothed her waist, looked
cheerful, rocked, and spoke; embroidered, patted her hair, smoothed
her sleeve, looked amiable, rocked, and spoke--embroidered, pat----

At a quarter to ten Carl gave himself permission to go. Said he: "I'll
have to get on the job pretty early to-morrow. Not much taking it easy
here in New York, the way you can in Joralemon, eh? So I guess I'd
better----"

"I'm sorry you have to go so early." Gertie carefully stuck her
embroidery needle into her doily, rolled up the doily meticulously,
laid it down on the center-table, straightened the pile of magazines
which Carl had deranged, and rose. "But I'm glad you could drop up
this evening. Come up any time you haven't anything better to do.
Oh--what about our tramp? If you know some place that is better than
Bronx Park, we might try it."

"Why--uh--yes--why, sure; we'll have to, some time."

"And, Carl, you're coming up to have your Christmas turkey with us,
aren't you?"

"I'd like to, a lot, but darn it, I've accepted 'nother invitation."

That was absolutely untrue, and Carl was wondering why he had lied,
when the storm broke.

Gertie's right arm, affectedly held out from the elbow, the hand
drooping, in the attitude of a refined hostess saying good-by, dropped
stiffly to her side. Slowly she thrust out both arms, shoulder-high on
either side, with her fists clenched; her head back and slightly on
one side; her lips open in agony--the position of crucifixion. Her
eyes looked up, unseeing; then closed tight. She drew a long breath,
like a sigh that was too weary for sound, and her plump, placid left
hand clutched her panting breast, while her right arm dropped again.
All the passion of tragedy seemed to shriek in her hopeless gesture,
and her silence was a wail muffled and despairing.

Carl stared, twisting his watch-chain with nervous fingers, wanting to
flee.

It was raw woman, with all the proprieties of Joralemon and St.
Orgul's cut away, who spoke, her voice constantly rising:

"Oh, Carl--Carl! Oh, why, why, why! Oh, why don't you want me to go
walking with you, now? Why don't you want to go anywhere with me any
more? Have I displeased you? Oh, I didn't mean to! Why do I bore you
so?"

"Oh--Gertie--oh--gee!--thunder!" whimpered a dismayed youth. A more
mature Hawk Ericson struggled to life and soothed her: "Gertie, honey,
I didn't mean----Listen----"

But she moaned on, standing rigid, her left hand on her breast, her
eyes red, moist, frightened, fixed: "We always played together, and I
thought here in the city we could be such good friends, with all the
different new things to do together--why, I wanted us to go to
Chinatown and theaters, and I would have been so glad to pay my share.
I've just been waiting and hoping you would ask me, and I wanted us to
play and see--oh! so many different new things together--it would have
been so sweet, so sweet----We were good friends at first, and then
you--you didn't want to come here any more and----Oh, I couldn't help
seeing it; more and more and more and _more_ I've been seeing it; but
I didn't want to see it; but now I can't fool myself any more. I was
so lonely till you came to-night, and when you spoke about
tramping----And then it seemed like you just went away from me again."

"Why, Gertie, you didn't seem----"

"----and long ago I really saw it, the day we walked in the Park and I
was wicked about trying to make you call me 'Eltruda'--oh, Carl dear,
indeed you needn't call me that or anything you don't like--and I
tried to make you say I had a temperament. And about Adelaide and all.
And you went away and I thought you would come back to me that
evening--oh, I wanted you to come, so much, and you didn't even
'phone--and I waited up till after midnight, hoping you would 'phone,
I kept thinking surely you would, and you never did, you never did;
and I listened and listened for the 'phone to ring, and every time
there was a noise----But it never was you. It never rang at all...."

She dropped back in the Morris chair, her eyes against the cushion,
her hair disordered, both her hands gripping the left arm of the
chair, her sobs throat-catching and long--throb-throb-throb in the
death-still air.

Carl stared at her, praying for a chance to escape. Then he felt an
instinct prompting him to sob with her. Pity, embarrassment, disgust,
mingled with his alarm. He became amazed that Gertie, easy-going
Gertie Cowles, had any passion at all; and indignant that it was
visited upon himself.

But he had to help. He moved to her chair and, squatting boyishly on
its arm, stroked her hair, begging: "Gertie, Gertie, I did mean to
come up, that night. Indeed I did, honey. I would have come up, but I
met some friends--couldn't break away from them all evening." A chill
ran between his shoulder-blades. It was a shock to the pride he took
in Ruth's existence. The evening in question had found Ruth for him!
It seemed as though Gertie had dared with shrewish shrillness to
intrude upon his beautiful hour. But pity came to him again. Stroking
her hair, he went urgently on: "Don't you see? Why, blessed, I
wouldn't hurt you for anything! Just to-night--why, you remember,
first thing, I wanted us to plan for some walks; reason I didn't say
more about it was, I didn't know as you'd want to, much. Why, Gertie,
_anybody_ would be proud to play with you. You know so much about
concerts and all sorts of stuff. Anybody'd be proud to!" He wound up
with a fictitious cheerfulness. "We'll have some good long hikes
together, heh?... It's better now, isn't it, kiddy? You're just tired
to-night. Has something been worrying you? Tell old Carl all about---"

She wiped her tears away with the adorable gesture of a child trying
to be good, and like a child's was her glance, bewildered, hurt, yet
trusting, as she said in a small, shy voice: "Would folks really be
proud to play with me?... We did use to have some dear times, didn't
we! Do you remember how we found some fool's gold, and we thought it
was gold and hid it on the shore of the lake, and we were going to buy
a ship? Do you remember? You haven't forgotten all our good times,
while you've been so famous, have you?"

"Oh no, no!"

"But why don't--Carl, why don't you--why can't you care more now?"

"Why, I do care! You're one of the bulliest pals I have, you and
Ray."

"And Ray!"

She flung his hand away and sat bolt up, angry.

Carl retired to a chair beside the Morris chair, fidgeting. "Can you
beat it! Is this Gertie and me?" he inquired in a parenthesis in his
heart. For a second, as she stared haughtily at him, he spitefully
recalled the fact that Gertie had once discarded him for a glee-club
dentist. But he submerged the thought and listened with a rather
forced big-brother air as she repented of her anger and went on:

"Carl, don't you understand how hard it is for a woman to forget her
pride this way?" The hauteur of being one of the élite of Joralemon
again flashed out. "Maybe if you'll think real hard you'll remember I
used to could get you to be so kind and talk to me without having to
beg you so hard. Why, I'd been to New York and known the _nicest_
people before you'd ever stirred a foot out of Joralemon! You
were----Oh, please forgive me, Carl; I didn't mean to be snippy; I
just don't know what to think of myself--and I did used to think I was
a lady, and here I am practically up and telling you and----"

She leaned from her chair toward his, and took his hand, touching it,
finding its hard, bony places and the delicate white hollows of flesh
between his coarsened yet shapely fingers; tracing a scarce-seen vein
on the back; exploring a well-beloved yet ill-known country. Carl was
unspeakably disconcerted. He was thinking that, to him, Gertie was set
aside from the number of women who could appeal physically, quite as
positively as though she were some old aunt who had for twenty years
seemed to be the same adult, plump, uninteresting age. Gertie's solid
flesh, the monotony of her voice, the unimaginative fixity of her
round cheeks, a certain increasing slackness about her waist, even the
faint, stuffy domestic scent of her--they all expressed to him her
lack of humor and fancy and venturesomeness. She was crystallized in
his mind as a good friend with a plain soul and sisterly tendencies.
Awkwardly he said:

"You mustn't talk like that.... Gee! Gertie, we'll be in a regular
'scene,' if you don't watch out!... We're just good friends, and you
can always bank on me, same as I would on you."

"But why must we be just friends?"

He wanted to be rude, but he was patient. Mechanically stroking her
hair again, leaning forward most uncomfortably from his chair, he
stammered: "Oh, I've been----Oh, you know; I've wandered around so
much that it's kind of put me out of touch with even my best friends,
and I don't know where I'm at. I couldn't make any alliances----Gee!
that sounds affected. I mean: I've got to sort of start in now all
over, finding where I'm at."

"But why must we be just friends, then?"

"Listen, child. It's hard to tell; I guess I didn't know till now what
it does mean, but there's a girl----Wait; listen. There's a girl--at
first I simply thought it was good fun to know her, but now, Lord!
Gertie, you'd think I was pretty sentimental if I told you what I
think of her. God! I want to see her so much! Right now! I haven't let
myself know how much I wanted her. She's everything. She's sister and
chum and wife and everything."

"It's----But I am glad for you. Will you believe that? And perhaps you
understand how I felt, now. I'm very sorry I let myself go. I hope you
will----Oh, please go now."

He sprang up, only too ready to go. But first he kissed her hand with
a courtly reverence, and said, with a sweetness new to him: "Dear,
will you forgive me if I've ever hurt you? And will you believe how
very, very much I honor you? And when I see you again there won't
be--we'll both forget all about to-night, won't we? We'll just be the
old Carl and Gertie again. Tell me to come when----"

"Yes. I will. Goodnight."

"Good night, Gertie. God bless you."

       *       *       *       *       *

He never remembered where he walked that night when he had left
Gertie. The exercise, the chill of the night, gradually set his numbed
mind working again. But it dwelt with Ruth, not with Gertie. Now that
he had given words to his longing for Ruth, to his pride in her, he
understood that he had passed the hidden border of that misty land
called "being in love," which cartographers have variously described
as a fruitful tract of comfortable harvests, as a labyrinth with walls
of rose and silver, and as a tenebrous realm of unhappy ghosts.

He stopped at a street corner where, above a saloon with a large
beer-sign, stretched dim tenement windows toward a dirty sky; and on
that drab corner glowed for a moment the mystic light of the Rose of
All the World--before a Tammany saloon! Chin high, yearning toward a
girl somewhere off to the south, Carl poignantly recalled how Ruth had
worshiped the stars. His soul soared, lark and hawk in one, triumphant
over the matter-of-factness of daily life. Carl Ericson the mechanic,
standing in front of a saloon, with a laundry to one side and a
cigars-and-stationery shop round the corner, was one with the young
priest saying mass, one with the suffragist woman defying a jeering
mob, one with Ruth Winslow listening to the ringing stars.

"God--help--me--to--be--worthy--of--her!"

Nothing more did he say, in words, yet he was changed for ever.

Changed. True that when he got home, half an hour later, and in the
dark ran his nose against an opened door, he said, "Damn it!" very
naturally. True that on Monday, back in the office that awaits its
victims equally after Sundays golden or dreary, he forgot Ruth's
existence for hours at a time. True that at lunch with two VanZile
automobile salesmen he ate _Wiener Schnitzel_ and shot dice for
cigars, with no signs of a mystic change. It is even true that, dining
at the Brevoort with Charley Forbes, he though of Istra Nash, and for
a minute was lonely for Istra's artistic dissipation. Yet the change
was there.



CHAPTER XXXIII


From Titherington, the aviator, in his Devonshire home, from a
millionaire amateur flier among the orange-groves at Pasadena, from
his carpenter father in Joralemon, and from Gertie in New York, Carl
had invitations for Christmas, but none that he could accept. VanZile
had said, pleasantly, "Going out to the country for Christmas?"

"Yes," Cal had lied.

Again he saw himself as the Dethroned Prince, and remembered that one
year ago, sailing for South America to fly with Tony Bean, he had been
the lion at a Christmas party on shipboard, while Martin Dockerill,
his mechanic, had been a friendly slave.

He spent most of Christmas Eve alone in his room, turning over old
letters, and aviation magazines with pictures of Hawk Ericson,
wondering whether he might not go back to that lost world. Josiah
Bagby, Jr., son of the eccentric doctor at whose school Carl had
learned to fly, was experimenting with hydroaeroplanes and with
bomb-dropping devices at Palm Beach, and imploring Carl, as the
steadiest pilot in America, to join him. The dully noiseless room
echoed the music of a steady motor carrying him out over a blue bay.
Carl's own answer to the tempter vision was: "Rats! I can't very well
leave the Touricar now, and I don't know as I've got my flying nerve
back yet. Besides, Ruth----"

Always he thought of Ruth, uneasy with the desire to be out dancing,
laughing, playing with her. He was tormented by a question he had been
threshing out for days: Might he permissibly have sent her a
Christmas present?

He went to bed at ten o'clock--on Christmas Eve, when the streets were
surging with voices and gay steps, when rollicking piano-tunes from
across the street penetrated even closed windows, and a German voice
as rich as milk chocolate was caressing, "_Oh Tannenbaum, oh
Tannenbaum, wie grün sind deine Blätter._"... Then slept for nine
hours, woke with rapturous remembrance that he didn't have to go to
the office, and sang "The Banks of the Saskatchewan" in his bath. When
he returned to the house, after breakfast, he found a letter from
Ruth:

    The Day before Xmas & all thru the Mansion
    The Maids with Turkey are Stirring--Please Pardon the Scansion.

     DEAR PLAYMATE,--You said on our tramp that I would make a
     good playmate, but I'm sure that I should be a very poor one
     if I did not wish you a gloriously merry Xmas & a New Year
     that will bring you all the dear things you want. I shall be
     glad if you do not get this letter on Xmas day itself if
     that means that you are off at some charming country house
     having a most katische (is that the way it is spelled,
     probably not) time. But if by any chance you _are_ in town,
     won't you make your playmate's shout to you from her back
     yard a part of your Xmas? She feels shy about sending this
     effusive greeting with all its characteristic sloppiness of
     writing, but she does want you to have a welcome to Xmas
     fun, & won't you please give the Touricar a pair of warm
     little slippers from

RUTH GAYLORD WINSLOW.

     P.S. Mrs. Tirrell has sent me an angel miniature Jap garden,
     with a tiny pergola & real dwarf trees & a bridge that you
     expect an Alfred Noyes lantern on, & Oh Carl, an issa
     goldfish in a pool!

MISS R. WINSLOW.

"'----all the dear things I want'!" Carl repeated, standing tranced in
the hall, oblivious of the doctor-landlord snooping at the back. "Ruth
blessed, do you know the thing I want most?... Say! Great! I'll
hustle out and send her all the flowers in the world. Or, no. I've got
it." He was already out of the house, hastening toward the subway.
"I'll send her one of these lingerie tea-baskets with all kinds of
baby pots of preserves and tea-balls and stuff.... Wonder what
Dunleavy sent her?... Rats! I don't care. Jiminy! I'm happy! Me to
Palm Beach to fly? Not a chance!"

He had Christmas dinner in state, with the California Exiles Club. He
was craftily careless about the manner in which he touched a letter in
his pocket for gloves, which tailors have been inspired to put on the
left side of dress-clothes.

       *       *       *       *       *

Twice Carl called at Ruth's in the two weeks after Christmas. Once she
declared that she was tired of modern life, that socialism and
agnosticism shocked her, that the world needed the courtly stiffness
of mid-Victorian days, as so ably depicted in the works of Mrs.
Florence Barclay--needed hair-cloth as a scourge for white
tango-dancing backs. As for her, Ruth announced, she was going to be
mid-Victorian just as soon as she could find a hair-locket, silk
mitts, and an elderly female tortoise-shell cat with an instinctive
sense of delicacy. She sat bolt-upright on the front of the most
impersonal French-gilt chair in the drawing-room and asserted that
Phil Dunleavy, with his safe ancestry of two generations of
wholesalers and strong probabilities about the respectability of still
another generation, was her ideal of a Christian gentleman. She wore a
full white muslin gown with a blue sash, her hair primly parted in the
middle, her right hand laid flat over her left in her lap. Her
vocabulary was choice. For a second, when she referred to winter
sports at Lake Placid, she forgot herself and tucked one smooth,
silk-clad, un-mid-Victorian leg under her, but instantly she recovered
her poise of a vicarage, remarking, "I have been subject to very
careless influences lately." She called him neither "Carl" nor "Mr.
Ericson" nor anything else, and he dared not venture on Ruth.

He went home in bewilderment. As he crossed Broadway he loitered
insolently, as though challenging the flying squadron of taxicabs to
run him down. "What do I care if they hit me?" he inquired, savagely,
of his sympathetic and applauding self. Every word she had said he
examined, finding double and triple meanings, warning himself not to
regard her mood seriously, but unable to make the warning take.

On his next call there was a lively Ruth who invited him up to the
library, read extracts from Stephen Leacock's _Nonsense Novels_;
turned companionably serious, and told him how divided were her
sympathies between her father--the conscientiously worried
employer--and a group of strikers in his factory. She made coffee in a
fantastic percolator, and played Débussy and ragtime. At ten-thirty,
the hour at which he had vehemently resolved to go, they were curled
in two big chairs eating chocolate peppermints and talking of
themselves apropos of astronomy and the Touricar and Lincoln Beachey's
daring and Mason Winslow and patriotism and Joralemon. Ruth's father
drifted in from his club at a quarter to eleven. Carl now met him for
the first time. He was a large-stomached, bald, sober, friendly man,
with a Gladstone collar, a huge watch-chain, kindly trousers and
painfully smart tan boots, a father of the kind who gives cigars and
non-committal encouragement to daughter's suitors.

       *       *       *       *       *

It takes a voice with personality and modulations to make a
fifteen-minute telephone conversation tolerable, and youth to make it
possible. Ruth had both. For fifteen minutes she discussed with Carl
the question of whether she should go to Marion Browne's dinner-dance
at Delmonico's, as Phil wished, or go skeeing in the Westchester
Hills, as Carl wished, the coming Saturday--the first Saturday in
February, 1913. Carl won.

       *       *       *       *       *

They arrived at a station in the Bedford Hills, bearing long,
carved-prowed Norwegian skees, which seemed to hypnotize the other
passengers. To Carl's joy (for he associated that suit with the
Palisades and their discovery of each other), Ruth was in her blue
corduroy, with high-lace boots and a gray sweater jacket of silky
wool. Carl displayed a tweed Norfolk jacket, a great sweater, and
mittens unabashed. He had a mysterious pack which, he informed the
excited Ruth, contained Roland's sword and the magic rug of Bagdad.
Together they were apple-cheeked, chattering children of outdoors.

For all the horizon's weight of dark clouds, clear sunshine lay on
clear snow as they left the train and trotted along the road, carrying
their skees beyond the outskirts of the town. Country sleigh-bells
chinkled down a hill; children shouted and made snow houses; elders
stamped their feet and clucked, "Fine day!" New York was far off and
ridiculously unimportant. Carl and Ruth reached an open sloping field,
where the snow that partly covered a large rock was melting at its
lacy, crystaled edges, staining the black rock to a shiny wetness that
was infinitely cheerful in its tiny reflection of the blue sky at the
zenith. On a tree whose bleak bark the sun had warmed, vagrant
sparrows in hand-me-down feathers discussed rumors of the
establishment of a bread-crumb line and the better day that was coming
for all proletarian sparrows. A rounded drift of snow stood out
against a red barn. The litter of corn-stalks and straw in a barn-yard
was transformed from disordered muck to a tessellation of warm silver
and old gold. Not the delicate red and browns and grays alone, but
everywhere the light, as well, caressed the senses. A distant dog
barked good-natured greeting to all the world. The thawing land
stirred with a promise that spring might in time return to lovers.

"Oh, to-day is beautiful as--as--it's beautiful as frosting on a
birthday-cake!" cried Ruth, as she slipped her feet into the straps of
her skees, preparing for her first lesson. "These skees seem so
dreadfully long and unmanageable, now I get them on. Like seven-foot
table-knives, and my silly feet like orange seeds in the middle of the
knives!"

The skees _were_ unmanageable.

One climbed up on the other, and Ruth tried to lift her own weight.
When she was sliding down a hillock they spread apart, eager to chase
things lying in entirely different directions. Ruth came down between
them, her pretty nose plowing the wet snow-crust. Carl, speeding
beside her, his obedient skees exactly parallel, lifted her and
brushed the snow from her furs and her nose. She was laughing.

Falling, getting up, learning at last the zest of coasting and of
handling those gigantic skates on level stretches, she accompanied him
from hill to hill, through fences, skirting thickets, till they
reached a hollow at the heart of a farm where a brooklet led into
deeper woods. The afternoon was passing; the swarthy clouds marched
grimly from the east; but the low sun red-lettered the day. The
country-bred Carl showed her how thin sheets of ice formed on the bank
of the stream and jutted out like shelves in an elfin cupboard,
delicate and curious-edged as Venetian glass; and how, through an
opening in the ice, she could spy upon a secret world of clear water,
not dead from winter, but alive with piratical black bugs over sand of
exquisitely pale gray, like Lilliputian submarines in a fairy sea.

A rabbit hopped away among the trees beyond them, and Carl, following
its trail, read to her the forest hieroglyphics--tracks of rabbit and
chipmunk and crow, of field-mouse and house-cat, in the snow-paved
city of night animals with its edifices of twiggy underbrush.

The setting sun was overclouded, now; the air sharp; the grove
uneasily quiet. Branches, contracting in the returning cold, ticked
like a solemn clock of the woodland; and about them slunk the homeless
mysteries that, at twilight, revisit even the tiniest forest, to wail
of the perished wilderness.

"I know there's Indians sneaking along in there," she whispered, "and
wolves and outlaws; and maybe a Hudson Bay factor coming, in a red
Mackinaw coat."

"And maybe a mounted policeman and a lost girl."

"Saying which," remarked Ruth, "the brave young man undid his pack and
disclosed to the admiring eyes of the hungry lass--meaning me,
especially the 'hungry'--the wonders of his pack, which she had been
covertly eying amid all the perils of the afternoon."

Carl did not know it, but all his life he had been seeking a girl who
would, without apologetic explanation, begin a story with herself and
him for its characters. He instantly continued her tale:

"And from the pack the brave young hero, whose new Norfolk jacket she
admired such a lot--as I said, from the pack he pulled two clammy,
blue, hard-boiled eggs and a thermos bottle filled with tea into which
I've probably forgotten to put any sugar."

"And then she stabbed him and went swiftly home!" Ruth concluded the
narration.... "Don't be frivolous about food. Just one hard-boiled egg
and you perish! None of these gentle 'convenient' shoe-box picnics for
me. Of course I ought to pretend that I have a bird-like appetite, but
as a matter of fact I could devour an English mutton-chop, four
kidneys, and two hot sausages, and then some plum-pudding and a box of
chocolates, assorted."

"If this were a story," said Carl, knocking the crusted snow from dead
branches and dragging them toward the center of a small clearing, "the
young hero from Joralemon would now remind the city gal that 'tis only
among God's free hills that you can get an appetite, and then the
author would say, 'Nothing had ever tasted so good as those trout,
yanked from the brook and cooked to a turn on the sizzling coals. She
looked at the stalwart young man, so skilfully frying the flapjacks,
and contrasted him with the effeminate fops she had met on Fifth
Avenue.'... But meanwhile, squaw, you'd better tear some good dry
twigs off this bush for kindling."

Gathering twigs while Carl scrabbled among the roots for dry leaves,
Ruth went on again with their story: "'Yes,' said the fair maid o' the
wilds, obediently, bending her poor, patient back at the cruel behest
of the stern man of granite.... May I put something into the story
which will politely indicate how much the unfortunate lady appreciates
this heavenly snow-place in contrast to the beastly city, even though
she is so abominably treated?"

"Yes, but as I warned you, nothing about the effect of out-o'-doors on
the appetite. All you've got to do is to watch a city broker eat
fourteen pounds of steak, three pots of coffee, and four black cigars
at a Broadway restaurant to realize that the effeminate city man
occasionally gets up quite some appetite, too!"

"My dear," she wailed, "aside from the vulgarity of the thing--you
know that no one ever admits to a real interest in food--I am so
hungry that if there is any more mention of eating I shall go off in a
corner and howl. You know how those adorable German Christmas stories
always begin: '_Es war Weinachtsabend. Tiefer Schnee lag am Boden.
Durch das Wald kam ein armes Mädchen das weinte bitterlich._' The
reason why she weinted bitterlich was because her soul was hurt at
being kept out of the secret of the beautiful, beautiful food that was
hidden in the hero's pack. Now let's have no more imaginary menus.
Let's discuss Nijinsky and the musical asses till you are ready----"

"All ready now!" he proclaimed, kneeling by the pyramid of leaves,
twigs, and sticks he had been erecting. He lit a match and kindled a
leaf. Fire ran through the mass and rosy light brightened the
darkened snow. "By the way," he said, as with cold fingers he pulled
at the straps of his pack, "I'm beginning to be afraid that we'll be a
lot later getting home than we expected."

"Well, I suppose I'll go to sleep on the train, and wake up at every
station and wail and make you uncomfortable, and Mason will be grieved
and disapproving when I get home late, but just now I don't care. I
don't! It's _la belle aventure_! Carl, do you realize that never in my
twenty-four (almost twenty-five now!) never in all these years have I
been out like this in the wilds, in the dark, not even with Phil? And
yet I don't feel afraid--just terribly happy."

"You do trust me, don't you?"

"You know I do.... Yet when I realize that I really don't know you at
all----!"

He had brought out, from the pack, granite-ware plates and cups, a
stew-pan and a coffee-pot, a ruddied paper of meat and a can of peas,
rolls, Johnny-cake, maple syrup, a screw-top bottle of cream,
pasteboard boxes of salt and pepper and sugar. Lamb chops, coiled in
the covered stew-pan, loudly broiled in their own fat, and to them the
peas, heated in their can, were added when the coffee began to foam.
He dragged a large log to the side of the fire, and Ruth, there
sitting, gorged shamelessly. Carl himself did not eat reticently.

Light snow was falling now, driven by them on the rising wind. The
fire, where hot coals had piled higher and higher, was a refuge in the
midst of the darkness. Carl rolled up another log, for protection from
the weather, and placed it at right angles to the first.

"You were saying, at Mrs. Needham's, that we ought to have an old
farm-house," he remarked, while she snuggled before the fire, her back
against a log, her round knees up under her chin, her arms clasping
her legs. "Let's build one right here."

Instantly she was living it. In the angle between the logs she laid
out an outline of twigs, exclaiming: "Here is my room, with low
ceiling and exposed rafters and a big open fireplace. Not a single
touch of pale pink or rosebuds!"

"Then here's my room, with a work-bench and a bed nine feet long that
I can lose myself in."

"Then here outside my room," said Ruth, "I'm going to have a brick
terrace, and all around it heliotrope growing in pots on the brick
wall."

"I'm sorry, blessed, but you can't have a terrace. Don't you realize
that every brick would have to be carted two hundred miles through
this wilderness?"

"I don't care. If you appreciated me you'd carry them on your back, if
necessary."

"Well, I'll think it over, but----Oh, look here, I'm going to have a
porch made out of fresh saplings, outside of my room, and it 'll
overlook the hills, and it 'll have outdoor cots with olive-gray army
blankets over them, and when you wake up in the morning you'll see the
hills in the first sunlight."

"Glorious! I'll give up my terrace. Though I do think I was w'eedled
into it."

"Seriously, Ruth, wouldn't you like to have such a place, back in the
wilderness?"

"Love it! I'd be perfectly happy there. At least for a while. I
wouldn't care if I never saw another aigrette or a fat Rhine maiden
singing in thirty sharps."

"Listen, how would this be for a site? (Let me stick some more wood
there on your side of the fire.) Once when I was up in the high
Sierras, in California, I found a wooded bluff--you looked a thousand
feet straight down to a clear lake, green as mint-sauce pretty nearly,
not a wrinkle on it. There wasn't a sound anywhere except when the
leaves rustled. Then on the other side you looked way up to a peak
covered with snow, and a big eagle sailing overhead--sailing and
sailing, hour after hour. And you could smell the pine needles and
sit there and look way off----Would you like it?"

"Oh, I can't tell you how much!"

"Have to go there some day."

"When you're president of the VanZile Company you must give me a
Touricar to go in, and perhaps I shall let you go, too."

"Right! I'll be chauffeur and cook and everything." Quietly exultant
at her sweet, unworded promise of liking, he hastily said, to cover
that thrill, "Even a poor old low-brow mechanic like me does get a
kind of poetic fervor out of a view like that."

"But you aren't a low-brow mechanic. You make me so dreadfully weary
when you're mock-humble. As a matter of fact, you're a famous man and
I'm a poor little street waif. For instance, the way you talk about
socialism when you get interested and let yourself go. Really excited.
I'd always thought that aviators and other sorts of heroes were such
stolid dubs."

"Gee! it'd be natural enough if I did like to talk. Imagine the
training in being with the English superintendent at the mine, that I
was telling you about, and hearing Frazer lecture, and knowing Tony
Bean with his South-American interests, and most of all, of course,
knowing Forrest Haviland. If I had any pep in me----Course I'm
terribly slangy, I suppose, but I couldn't help wading right in and
wanting to talk to everybody about everything."

"Yes. Yes. Of course I'm abominably slangy, too. I wonder if every one
isn't, except in books.... We've left our house a little unfinished,
Carl."

"I'm afraid we'll have to, blessed. We'll have to be going. It's past
seven, now; and we must be sure to catch the 8.09 and get back to town
about nine."

"I can't tell you how sorry I am we must leave our house in the
wilds."

"You really have enjoyed it?" He was cleaning the last of the dishes
with snow, and packing them away. "Do you know," he said, cautiously,
"I always used to feel that a girl--you say you aren't in society, but
I mean a girl like you--I used to think it was impossible to play with
such a girl unless a man was rich, which I excessively am not, with my
little money tied up in the Touricar. Yet here we have an all-day
party, and it costs less than three really good seats at the theater."

"I know. Phil is always saying that he is too poor to have a good
time, and yet his grandmother left him fifteen thousand dollars
capital in his own right, besides his allowance from his father and
his salary from the law firm; and he infuriates me sometimes--aside
from the tactlessness of the thing--by quite plainly suggesting that
I'm so empty-headed that I won't enjoy going out with him unless he
spends a lot of money and makes waiters and ushers obsequious. There
are lots of my friends who think that way, both the girls and the men.
They never seem to realize that if they were just human beings, as you
and I have been to-day, and not hide-bound members of the
dance-and-tea league, they could beat that beastly artificial old
city.... Phil once told me that _no_ man--mind you, no one at
all--could possibly marry on less than fifteen thousand dollars a
year. Simply proved it beyond a question."

"That lets me out."

"Phil said that no one could possibly live on the West Side--of course
the fact that he and I are both living on the West Side doesn't
count--and the cheapest good apartments near Fifth Avenue cost four
thousand dollars a year. And then one can't possibly get along with
less than two cars and four maids and a chauffeur. Can't be done!"

"He's right. Fawncy! Only three maids. Might as well be dead."

The pack was ready, now; he was swinging it to his back and preparing
to stamp out the fire. But he dropped his burden and faced her in the
low firelight. "Ruth, you won't make up your mind to marry Phil till
you're _sure_, will you? You'll play with me awhile, won't you? Can't
we explore a few more----"

She laughed nervously, trying to look at him. "As I said, Phil won't
condescend to consider poor me till he has his fifteen thousand
dollars a year, and that won't be for some time, I think, considering
he is too well-bred to work hard."

"But seriously, you will----Oh, I don't know how to put it. You will
let me be your playmate, even as much as Phil is, while we're
still----"

"Carl, I've never played as much with any one as with you. You make
most of the men I know seem very unenterprising. It frightens me.
Perhaps I oughtn't to let you jump the fence so easily."

"You _won't_ let Phil lock you up for a while?"

"No.... Mustn't we be going?"

"Thank you for letting the outlaw come to your party. The fire's out.
Come."

With the quenching of the fire they were left in smothering darkness.
"Where do we go?" she worried. "I feel completely lost. I can't make
out a thing. I feel so lost and so blind, after looking at the fire."

Her voice betrayed that he was suddenly a stranger to her.

With hasty assurance he said: "Sit tight! See. We head for that tall
oak, up the slope, then through the clearing, keeping to the right.
You'll be able to see the oak as soon as you get the firelight out of
your eyes. Remember I used to hunt every fall, as a kid, and come back
through the dark. Don't worry."

"I can just make out the tree now."

"Right. Now for it."

"Let me carry my skees."

"No, you just watch your feet." His voice was pleasant, quiet, not too
intimate. "Don't try to guide yourself by your eyes. Let your feet
find the safe ground. Your eyes will fool you in the dark."

It was a hard pull, the way back. Encumbered with pack and two pairs
of skees, which they dared not use in the darkness, he could not give
her a helping hand. The snow was still falling, not very thick nor
savagely wind-borne, yet stinging their eyes as they crossed open
moors and the wind leaped at them. Once Ruth slipped, on a rock or a
chunk of ice, and came down with an infuriating jolt. Before he could
drop the skees she struggled up and said, dryly:

"Yes, it did hurt, and I know you're sorry, and there's nothing you
can do."

Carl grinned and kept silence, though with one hand, as soon as he
could get it free from the elusive skees, he lightly patted her
shoulder.

She was almost staggering, so cold was she and so tired, and so heavy
was the snow caked on her boots, when they came to a sharp rise, down
which shone the radiance of an incandescent light.

"Road's right up there, blessed," he cried, cheerily.

"Oh, I can't----Yes, I will----"

He dropped the skees, put one arm about her shoulders and one about
her knees, and almost before she had finished crying, "Oh no, _please_
don't carry me!" he was half-way up the slope. He set her down safe by
the road.

They caught the 8.09 train with two minutes to spare. Its warmth and
the dingy softness of the plush seats seemed palatial.

Ruth rubbed her cold hands with a smile deprecating, intimate; and her
shoulder drooped toward him. Her whole being seemed turned toward him.
He cuddled her right hand within his, murmuring: "See, my hand's a
house where yours can keep warm." Her fingers curled tight and rested
there contentedly. Like a drowsy kitten she looked down at their two
hands. "A little brown house!" she said.



CHAPTER XXXIV


While scientists seek germs that shall change the world, while war
comes or winter takes earth captive, even while love visibly flowers,
a power, mighty as any of these, lashes its human pack-train on the
dusty road to futility. The Day's Work is the name of that power.

All these days of first love Carl had the office for lowering
background. The warm trust of Ruth's hand on a Saturday did not make
plans for the Touricar any the less pressing on a Monday. The tyranny
of nine to five is stronger, more insistent, in every department of
life, than the most officious oligarchy. Inspectors can be bribed,
judges softened, and recruiting sergeants evaded, but only the grace
of God will turn 3.30 into 5.30. And Mr. Ericson of the Touricar
Company, a not vastly important employee of the mothering VanZile
Corporation, was not entitled to go home at 3.30, as a really rational
man would have done when the sun gold-misted the windows and suggested
skating.

No longer was business essentially an adventure to Carl. Doubtless he
would have given it up and have gone to Palm Beach to fly a hydro for
Bagby, Jr., had there been no Ruth. Bagby wrote that he was coming
North, to prepare for the spring's experiments; wouldn't Carl consider
joining him?

Carl was now, between his salary and his investment in the Touricar
Company, making about four thousand dollars a year, and saving nearly
half of it, against the inevitable next change in his life, whatever
that should be. He would probably climb to ten thousand dollars in
five years. The Touricar was promising success. Several had been
ordered at the Automobile Show; the Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia
agents of the company reported interest. For no particular reason,
apparently, Milwaukee had taken them up first; three Milwaukee people
had ordered cars.... An artist was making posters with beautiful
gipsies and a Touricar and tourists whose countenances showed lively
appreciation of the efforts of the kind Touricar manufacturers to
please and benefit them. But the head salesman of the company laughed
at Carl when he suggested that the Touricar might not only bring them
money, but really take people off to a larger freedom:

"I don't care a hang where they go with the thing as long as they pay
for it. You can't be an idealist and make money. You make the money
and then you can have all the ideals you want to, and give away some
hospitals and libraries."

       *       *       *       *       *

They walked and talked, Ruth and Carl. They threaded the
Sunday-afternoon throng on upper Broadway, where on every clear Sunday
all the apartment-dwellers (if they have remembered to have their
trousers pressed or their gloves cleaned in preparation) promenade
like stupid black-and-white peacocks past uninteresting
apartment-houses and uninspiring upper Broadway shops, while two
blocks away glorious Riverside Drive, with its panorama of Hudson and
hills and billowing clouds, its trees and secret walks and the
Soldiers and Sailors Monument, is nearly deserted. Together they
scorned the glossy well-to-do merchant in his newly ironed top-hat,
and were thus drawn together. It is written that loving the same cause
makes honest friendship; but hating the same people makes alliances so
delightful that one can sit up late nights, talking.

At the opening of the flying season Carl took her to the Hempstead
Plains Aviation Field, and, hearing his explanations, she at last
comprehended emotionally that he really was an aviator.

They tramped through Staten Island; they had tea at the Manhattan.
Carl dined with Ruth and her father; once he took her brother, Mason,
to lunch at the Aero Club.

Ruth was ill in March; not with a mysterious and romantic malady, but
with grippe, which, she wrote Carl, made her hate the human race, New
York, charity, and Shakespeare. She could not decide whether to go to
Europe, or to die in a swoon and be buried under a mossy headstone.

He answered that he would go abroad for her; and every day she
received tokens bearing New York post-marks, yet obviously coming from
foreign parts: a souvenir card from the Piræus, stating that Carl was
"visiting cousin T. Demetrieff Philopopudopulos, and we are enjoying
our drives so much. Dem. sends his love; wish you could be with us";
an absurd string of beads from Port Saïd and a box of Syrian sweets; a
Hindu puzzle guaranteed to amuse victims of the grippe, and
gold-fabric slippers of China; with long letters nonchalantly relating
encounters with outlaws and wrecks and new varieties of disease.

He called on her before her nose had quite lost the grippe or her
temper the badness.

Phil Dunleavy was there, lofty and cultured in evening clothes,
apparently not eager to go. He stayed till ten minutes to ten, and, by
his manner of cold surprise when Carl tried to influence the
conversation, was able to keep it to the Kreisler violin recitals, the
architecture of St. John the Divine's, and Whitney's polo, while Carl
tried not to look sulky, and manoeuvered to get out the excellent
things he was prepared to say on other topics; not unlike the small
boy who wants to interrupt whist-players and tell them about his new
skates. When Phil was gone Ruth sighed and said, belligerently:

"Poor Phil, he has to work so hard, and all the people at his office,
even the firm, are just as common as they can be; common as the
children at my beastly old settlement-house."

"What do you mean by 'common'?" bristled Carl.

"Not of our class."

"What do you mean by 'our class'?"

And the battle was set.

Ruth refused to withdraw "common." Carl recalled Abraham Lincoln and
Golden-Rule Jones and Walt Whitman on the subject of the Common
People, though as to what these sages had said he was vague. Ruth
burst out:

"Oh, you can talk all you like about theories, but just the same, in
real life most people are common as dirt. And just about as admissible
to Society. It's all very fine to be good to servants, but you would
be the first to complain if I invited the cook up here."

"Give her and her children education for three generations----"

She was perfectly unreasonable, and right in most of the things she
said. He was perfectly unreasonable, and right in all of the things he
said. Their argument was absurdly hot, and hurt them pathetically. It
was difficult, at first, for Carl to admit that he was at odds with
his playmate. Surely this was a sham dissension, of which they would
soon tire, which they would smilingly give up. Then, he was trying not
to be too contentious, but was irritated into retorting. After fifteen
minutes they were staring at each other as at intruding strangers, he
remembering the fact that she was a result of city life; she the fact
that he wasn't a product of city life.

And a fact which neither of them realized, save subconsciously, was in
the background: Carl himself had come in a few years from Oscar
Ericson's back yard to Ruth Winslow's library--he had made the step
naturally, as only an American could, but it was a step.

She was loftily polite. "I'm afraid you can't quite understand what
the niceties of life mean to people like Phil. I'm sorry he won't give
them up to the first truck-driver he meets, but I'm afraid he won't,
and occasionally it's necessary to face facts! Niceties of the kind he
has gr----"

"_Nice!_"

"Really----" Her heavy eyebrows arched in a frown.

"If you're going to get 'nice' on me, of course you'll have to be
condescending, and that's one thing I won't permit."

"I'm afraid you'll find that one has to permit a great many things.
Sometimes, apparently, I must permit great rudeness."

"Have I been rude? Have----"

"Yes. Very."

He could endure no more. "Good night!" he growled, and was gone.

He was frightened to find himself out of the house; the door closed
between them; no going back without ringing the bell. He couldn't go
back. He walked a block, slow, incredulous. He stood hesitant before
the nearest corner drug-store, shivering in the March wind, wondering
if he dared go into the store and telephone her. He was willing to
concede anything. He planned apt phrases to use. Surely everything
would be made right if he could only speak to her. He pictured himself
crossing the drug-store floor, entering the telephone-booth, putting
five cents in the slot. He stared at the red-and-green globes in the
druggist's window; inspected a display of soaps, and recollected the
fact that for a week now he had failed to take home any shaving-soap
and had had to use ordinary hand-soap. "Golly! I must go in and get a
shaving-stick. No, darn it! I haven't got enough money with me. I
_must_ try to remember to get some to-morrow." He rebuked himself for
thinking of soap when love lay dying. "But I must remember to get that
soap, just the same!" So grotesque is man, the slave and angel, for
while he was sick with the desire to go back to the one comrade, he
sharply wondered if he was not merely acting all this agony. He went
into the store. But he did not telephone to Ruth. There was no
sufficiently convincing reason for calling her up. He bought a silly
ice-cream soda, and talked to the man behind the counter as he drank
it. All the while a tragic Ruth stood before him, blaming him for he
knew not what.

He reluctantly went on, regretting every step that took him from her.
But as he reached the next corner his shoulders snapped back into
defiant straightness, he thrust his hands into the side pockets of his
top-coat, and strode away, feeling that he had shaken off a burden of
"niceness." He had, willy-nilly, recovered his freedom. He could go
anywhere, now; mingle with any sort of people; be common and
comfortable. He didn't have to take dancing lessons or fear the
results of losing his job, or of being robbed of his interests in the
Touricar. He glanced interestedly at a pretty girl; recklessly went
into a cigar-store and bought a fifteen-cent cigar. He was free again.

As he marched on, however, his defiance began to ooze away. He went
over every word Ruth or he had said, and when he reached his room he
sat deep in an arm-chair, like a hurt animal crouching, his coat still
on, his felt hat over his eyes, his tie a trifle disarranged, his legs
straight out before him, his hands in his trousers pockets, while he
disconsolately contemplated a photograph of Forrest Haviland in
full-dress uniform that stood on the low bureau among tangled ties,
stray cigarettes, a bronze aviation medal, cuff-buttons, and a
haberdasher's round package of new collars. His gaze was steady and
gloomy. He was dramatizing himself as hero in a melodrama. He did not
know how the play would end.

But his dramatization of himself did not indicate that he was not in
earnest.

Forrest's portrait suggested to him, as it had before, that he had no
picture of Ruth, that he wanted one. Next time he saw her he would
ask her.... Then he remembered.

He took out his new cigar, turned it over and over gloweringly, and
chewed it without lighting it, the right corner of his mouth vicious
in appearance. But his tone was plaintive as he mourned, "How did it
all start, anyway?"

He drew off his top-coat and shoes, and put on his shabby though once
expensive slippers. Slowly. He lay on his bed. He certainly did not
intend to go to sleep--but he awoke at 2 A.M., dressed, the light
burning, his windows closed, feeling sweaty and hot and dirty and
dry-mouthed--a victim of all the woes since tall Troy burned. He
shucked off his clothes as you shuck an ear of corn.

When he awoke in the morning he lay as usual, greeting a shining new
day, till he realized that it was not a shining day; it was an ominous
day; everything was wrong. That something had happened--really
had--was a fact that sternly patrolled his room. His chief reaction
was not repentance nor dramatic interest, but a vexed longing to
unwish the whole affair. "Hang it!" he groaned.

Already he was eager to make peace. He sympathized with Ruth. "Poor
kid! it was rotten to row with her, her completely all in with the
grippe."

At three in the afternoon he telephoned to her house. "Miss Ruth," he
was informed, "was asleep; she was not very well."

Would the maid please ask Miss Ruth to call Mr. Ericson when she woke?

Certainly the maid would.

But by bedtime Ruth had not telephoned. Self-respect would not let him
call again, for days, and Ruth never called him.

He went about alternately resentful at her stubbornness and seeing
himself as a lout cast out of heaven. Then he saw her at a distance,
on the platform of the subway station at Seventy-second Street. She
was with Phil Dunleavy. She looked well, she was talking gaily,
oblivious of old sorrows, certainly not in need of Carl Ericson.

That was the end, he knew. He watched them take a train; stood there
alone, due at a meeting of the Aeronautical Society, but suddenly not
wishing to go, not wishing to go anywhere nor do anything, friendless,
bored, driftwood in the city.

So easily had the Hawk swooped down into her life, coming by chance,
but glad to remain. So easily had he been driven away.

       *       *       *       *       *

For three days he planned in a headachy way to make an end of his job
and join Bagby, Jr., in his hydroaeroplane experiments. He pictured
the crowd that would worship him. He told himself stories unhappy and
long about the renewed companionship of Ruth and Phil. He was sure
that he, the stranger, had been a fool to imagine that he could ever
displace Phil. On the third afternoon, suddenly, apparently without
cause, he bolted from the office, and at a public telephone-booth he
called Ruth. It was she who answered the telephone.

"May I come up to-night?" he said, urgently.

"Yes," she said. That was all.

When he saw her, she hesitated, smiled shamefacedly, and confessed
that she had wanted to telephone to him.

Together, like a stage chorus, they contested:

"I was grouchy----"

"I was beastly----"

"I'm honestly sorry----"

"'ll you forgive----"

"What was it all about?"

"Really, I do--not--know!"

"I agree with lots of the things you----"

"No, I agree with you, but just at the time--you know."

Her lively, defensive eyes were tender. He put his arm lightly about
her shoulders--lightly, but his finger-tips were sensitive to every
thread of her thin bodice that seemed tissue as warmly living as the
smooth shoulder beneath. She pressed her eyes against his coat, her
coiled dark hair beneath his chin. A longing to cry like a boy, and to
care for her like a man, made him reverent. The fear of Phil vanished.
Intensely conscious though he was of her hair and its individual
scent, he did not kiss it. She was sacred.

She sprang from him, and at the piano hammered out a rattling waltz.
It changed to gentler music, and under the shaded piano-lamp they were
silent, happy. He merely touched her hand, when he went, but he sang
his way home, wanting to nod to every policeman.

"I've found her again; it isn't merely play, now!" he kept repeating.
"And I've learned something. I don't really know what it is, but it's
as though I'd learned a new language. Gee! I'm happy!"



CHAPTER XXXV


On an April Saturday morning Carl rose with a feeling of spring. He
wanted to be off in the Connecticut hills, among the silvery-gray
worm-fences, with larks rising on the breeze and pools a-ripple and
yellow crocus-blossoms afire by the road, where towns white and sleepy
woke to find the elms misted with young green. Would there be any
crocuses out as yet? That was the only question worth solving in the
world, save the riddle of Ruth's heart. The staid brownstone houses of
the New York streets displayed few crocuses and fewer larks, yet over
them to-day was the bloom of romance. Carl walked down to the
automobile district past Central Park, sniffing wistfully at the damp
grass, pale green amid old gray; marveling how a bare patch of brown
earth, without a single blade of grass, could smell so stirringly of
coming spring. A girl on Broadway was selling wild violets, white and
purple, and in front of wretched old houses down a side-street, in the
negro district, a darky in a tan derby and a scarlet tie was caroling:

    "Mandy, in de spring
    De mocking-birds do sing,
    An' de flowers am so sweet along de ol' bayou----"

Above the darky's head, elevated trains roared on the Fifty-third
Street trestle, and up Broadway streaked a stripped motor-car, all
steel chassis and grease-mottled board seat and lurid odor of
gasoline. But sparrows splashed in the pools of sunshine; in a lull
the darky's voice came again, chanting passionately, "In de spring,
spring, _spring_!" and Carl clamored: "I've _got_ to get out to-day.
Terrible glad it's a half-holiday. Wonder if I dare telephone to
Ruth?"

At a quarter to three they were rollicking down the "smart side" of
Fifth Avenue. One could see that they were playmates, by her dancing
steps and his absorption in her. He bent a little toward her, quick to
laugh with her.

Ruth was in a frock of flowered taffeta. "I won't wait till Easter to
show off my spring clothes. It isn't done any more," she said. "It's
as stupid as Bobby's not daring to wear a straw hat one single day
after September fifteenth. Is an aviator brave enough to wear his
after the fifteenth?... Think! I didn't know you then--last September.
I can't understand it."

"But I knew you, blessed, because I was sure spring was coming again,
and that distinctly implied Ruth."

"Of course it did. You've guessed my secret. I'm the Spirit of Spring.
Last Wednesday, when I lost my marquise ring, I was the spirit of
vitriol, but now----I'm a poet. I've thought it all out and decided
that I shall be the American Sappho. At any moment I am quite likely
to rush madly across the pavement and sit down on the curb and indite
several stanzas on the back of a calling-card, while the crowd galumps
around me in an awed ring.... I feel like kidnapping you and making
you take me aeroplaning, but I'll compromise. You're to buy me a book
and take me down to the Maison Épinay for tea, and read me poetry
while I yearn over the window-boxes and try to look like Nicollette.
Buy me a book with spring in it, and a princess, and a sky like
this--cornflower blue with bunny-rabbit clouds."

At least a few in the Avenue's flower-garden of pretty débutantes in
pairs and young university men with expensive leather-laced tan boots
were echoing Ruth in gay, new clothes.

"I wonder who they all are; they look like an aristocracy, useless
but made of the very best materials," said Carl.

"They're like maids of honor and young knights, disguised in modern
costumes! They're charming!"

"Charmingly useless," insisted our revolutionary, but he did not sound
earnest. It was too great a day for earnestness about anything less
great than joy and life; a day for shameless luxuriating in the sun,
and for wearing bright things. In shop windows with curtains of fluted
silk were silver things and jade; satin gowns and shoe-buckles of
rhinestones. The sleek motor-cars whisked by in an incessant line; the
traffic policemen nodded familiarly to hansom-drivers; pools on the
asphalt mirrored the delicate sky, and at every corner the breeze
tasted of spring.

Carl bought for her Yeats's poems, tucked it under his arm, and they
trotted off. In Madison Square they saw a gallant and courtly old man
with military shoulders and pink cheeks, a debonair gray mustache, and
a smile of unquenchable youth, greeting April with a narcissus in his
buttonhole. He was feeding the sparrows with crumbs and smiled to see
one of them fly off, carrying a long wisp of hay, bustling away to
build for himself and his sparrow bride a bungalow in the foot-hills
of the Metropolitan Tower.

"I love that old man!" exclaimed Ruth. "I do wish we could pick him up
and take him with us. I dare you to go over and say, 'I prithee, sir,
of thy good will come thou forthfaring with two vagabonds who do quest
high and low the land of Nowhere.' Something like that. Go on, Carl,
be brave. Pretend you're brave as an aviator. Perhaps he has a map of
Arcadia. Go ask him."

"Afraid to. Besides, he might monopolize you."

"He'll go with us, without his knowing it, anyway. Isn't it strange
how you know people, perfect strangers, from seeing them once, without
even speaking to them? You know them the rest of your life and play
games with them."

The Maison Épinay you must quest long, but great is your reward if you
find it. Here is no weak remembrance of a lost Paris, but a
French-Canadian's desire to express what he believes Paris must be;
therefore a super-Paris, all in brown velvet and wicker tables, and at
the back a long window edged with boxes red with geraniums, looking to
a back-yard garden where rose-beds lead to a dancing-faun terminal in
a shrine of ivy.

They sipped grenadine, heavy essence of a thousand berries. They had
the place to themselves, save for Tony the waiter, with his smile of
benison; and Carl read from Yeats.

He had heard of Yeats at Plato, but never had he known crying curlew
and misty mere and the fluttering wings of Love till now.

His hand rested on her gloved hand.... Tony the waiter
re-re-rearranged the serving-table.... When Ruth broke the spell with,
"You aren't very reverent with perfectly clean gloves," they chattered
like blackbirds at sunset.

Carl discovered that, being a New-Yorker, she knew part of it as
intimately as though it were a village, and nothing about the rest.
She had taught him Fifth Avenue; told him the history of the invasion
by shops, the social differences between East and West; pointed out
the pictures of friends in photographers' wall-cases. Now he taught
her the various New Yorks he had discovered in lonely rambles.
Together they explored Chelsea Village section, and the Oxford
quadrangles of General Theological Seminary, where quiet meditation
dwells in Tudor corridors; upper Greenwich Village, the home of
Italian _tables d'hôte_, clerks, social-workers, and radical
magazines, of alley rookeries and the ancient Jewish burying-ground;
lower Greenwich Village, where run-down American families with Italian
lodgers live on streets named for kings, in wooden houses with
gambrel roofs and colonial fanlights. From the same small-paned
windows where frowsy Italian women stared down upon Ruth, Ruth's
ancestors had leaned out to greet General George Washington.

On an open wharf near Tenth Street they were bespelled by April. The
Woolworth Tower, to the south, was an immortal shaft of ivory and gold
against an unwinking blue sky, challenging the castles and cathedrals
of the Old World, and with its supreme art dignifying the commerce
which built and uses it. The Hudson was lustrous with sun, and a sweet
wind sang from unknown Jersey hills across the river. Moored to the
wharf was a coal-barge, with a tiny dwelling-cabin at whose windows
white curtains fluttered. Beside the cabin was a garden tended by the
bargeman's comely white-browed wife; a dozen daisies and geraniums in
two starch-boxes.

Forging down the river a scarred tramp steamer, whose rusty sides the
sun turned to damask rose, bobbed in the slight swell, heading for
open sea, with the British flag a-flicker and men chanting as they
cleared deck.

"I wish we were going off with her--maybe to Singapore or Nagasaki,"
Carl said, slipping his arm through hers, as they balanced on the
stringpiece of the wharf, sniffing like deer at the breeze, which for
a moment seemed to bear, from distant burgeoning woods, a shadowy hint
of burning leaves--the perfume of spring and autumn, the eternal
wander-call.

"Yes!" Ruth mused; "and moonlight in Java, and the Himalayas on the
horizon, and the Vale of Cashmir."

"But I'm glad we have this. Blessed, it's a day planned for lovers
like us."

"Carl!"

"Yes. Lovers. Courting. In spring. Like all lovers."

"Really, Carl, even spring doesn't quite let me forget the
_convenances_ are home waiting."

"We're not lovers?"

"No, we----"

"Yet you enjoy to-day, don't you?"

"Yes, but----"

"And you'd rather be loafing on a dirty wharf, looking at a tramp
steamer, than taking tea at the Plaza?"

"Yes, just now, perhaps----"

"And you're protesting because you feel it's proper to----"

"It----"

"And you really trust me so much that you're having difficulty in
seeming alarmed?"

"Really----"

"And you'd rather play around with me than any of the Skull and Bones
or Hasty Pudding men you know? Or foreign diplomats with spade
beards?"

"At least they wouldn't----"

"Oh yes they would, if you'd let them, which you wouldn't.... So, to
sum up, then, we _are_ lovers and it's spring and you're glad of it,
and as soon as you get used to it you'll be glad I'm so frank. Won't
you?"

"I will not be bullied, Carl! You'll be having me married to you
before I can scream for help, if I don't start at once."

"Probably."

"Indeed you will not! I haven't the slightest intention of letting you
get away with being masterful."

"Yes, I know, blessed; these masterful people bore me, too. But aren't
we modern enough so we can discuss frankly the question of whether I'd
better propose to you, some day?"

"But, boy, what makes you suppose that I have any information on the
subject? That I've ever thought of it?"

"I credit you with having a reasonable knowledge that there are such
things as marriage."

"Yes, but----Oh, I'm very confused. You've bullied me into such a
defensive position that my instinct is to deny everything. If you
turned on me suddenly and accused me of wearing gloves I'd indignantly
deny it."

"Meantime, not to change the subject, I'd better be planning and
watching for a suitable day for proposing, don't you think? Consider
it. Here's this young Ericson--some sort of a clerk, I believe--no,
don't _think_ he's a university man----You know; discuss it clearly.
Think it might be better to propose to-day? I ask your advice as a
woman."

"Oh, Carl dear, I think not to-day. I'm sorry, but I really don't
think so."

"But some time, perhaps?"

"Some time, perhaps!" Then she fled from him and from the subject.

They talked, after that, only of the sailors that loafed on West
Street, but in their voices was content.

They crossed the city, and on Brooklyn Bridge watched the suburbanites
going home, crowding surface-car and elevated. From their perch on the
giant spider's web of steel, they saw the Long Island Sound steamers
below them, passing through a maelstrom of light on waves that
trembled like quicksilver.

They found a small Italian restaurant, free of local-color hounds and
what Carl called "hobohemians," and discovered _fritto misto_ and
Chianti and _zabaglione_--a pale-brown custard flavored like honey and
served in tall, thin, curving glasses--while the fat proprietress, in
a red shawl and a large brooch, came to ask them, "Everyt'ing
all-aright, eh?" Carl insisted that Walter MacMonnies, the aviator,
had once tried out a motor that was exactly like her, including the
Italian accent. There was simple and complete bliss for them in the
dingy pine-and-plaster room, adorned with fly-specked calendars and
pictures of Victor Emmanuel and President McKinley, copies of the
_Bolletino Della Sera_ and large vinegar bottles.

The theater was their destination, but they first loitered up
Broadway, shamelessly stopping to stare at shop windows, pretending
to be Joe the shoe-clerk and Becky the cashier furnishing a Bronx
flat. Whether it was anything but a game to Ruth will never be known;
but to Carl there was a hidden high excitement in planning a
flower-box for the fire-escape.

Apropos of nothing, she said, as they touched elbows with the
sweethearting crowd: "You were right. I'm sorry I ever felt superior
to what I called 'common people.' People! I love them all.
It's----Come, we must hurry. I hate to miss that one perfect second
when the orchestra is quiet and the lights wink at you and the
curtain's going up."

During the second act of the play, when the heroine awoke to love,
Carl's hand found hers.

And it must have been that night when, standing between the inner and
outer doors of her house, Carl put his arms about her, kissed her
hair, timidly kissed her sweet, cold cheek, and cried, "Bless you,
dear." But, for some reason, he does not remember when he did first
kiss her, though he had looked forward to that miracle for weeks. He
does not understand the reason; but there is the fact. Her kisses were
big things to him, yet possibly there were larger psychological
changes which occulted everything else, at first. But it must have
been on that night that he first kissed her. For certainly it was when
he called on her a week later that he kissed her for the second time.

They had been animated but decorous, that evening a week later. He had
tried to play an improvisation called "The Battle of San Juan Hill,"
with a knowledge of the piano limited to the fact that if you struck
alternate keys at the same time, there appeared not to be a discord.

"I must go now," he said, slowly, as though the bald words had a
higher significance. She tried to look at him, and could not. His arms
circled her, with frightened happiness. She tilted back her head, and
there was the ever-new surprise of blue irises under dark brows.
Uplifted wonder her eyes spoke. His head drooped till he kissed her
lips. The two bodies clamored for each other. But she unwound his
arms, crying, "No, no, no!"

He was enfolded by a sensation that they had instantly changed from
friendly strangers to intimate lovers, as she said: "I don't
understand it, Carl. I've never let a man kiss me like that. Oh, I
suppose I've flirted, like most girls, and been kissed sketchily at
silly dances. But this----Oh, Carl, Carl dear, don't ever kiss me
again till--oh, not till I _know_. Why, I'm scarcely acquainted with
you! I do know how dear you are, but it appals me when I think of how
little background you have for me. Dear, I don't want to be sordid and
spoil this moment, but I do know that when you're gone I'll be a
coward and remember that there are families and things, and want to
wait till I know how they like you, at the very least. Good night, and
I----"

"Good night, dear blessed. I know."



CHAPTER XXXVI


There were, as Ruth had remarked, families.

When Carl was formally invited to dine at the Winslows', on a night
late in April, his only anxiety was as to the condition of his
dinner-coat. He arrived in a state of easy briskness, planning apt and
sensible remarks about the business situation for Mason and Mr.
Winslow. As the maid opened the door Carl was wondering if he would be
able to touch Ruth's hand under the table. He had an anticipatory
fondness for all of the small friendly family group which was about to
receive him.

And he was cast into a den of strangers, most of them comprised in the
one electric person of Aunt Emma Truegate Winslow.

Aunt Emma Truegate Winslow was the general-commanding in whatsoever
group she was placed by Providence (with which she had strong
influence). At a White House reception she would pleasantly but firmly
have sent the President about his business, and have taken his place
in the receiving line. Just now she sat in a pre-historic S chair,
near the center of the drawing-room, pumping out of Phil Dunleavy most
of the facts about his chiefs' private lives.

Aunt Emma had the soul of a six-foot dowager duchess, and should have
had an eagle nose and a white pompadour. Actually, she was of medium
height, with a not unduly maternal bosom, a broad, commonplace face,
hair the color of faded grass, a blunt nose with slightly enlarged
pores, and thin lips that seemed to be a straight line when seen from
in front, but, seen in profile, puffed out like a fish's. She had a
habit of nodding intelligently even when she was not listening, and
another habit of rubbing her left knuckles with the fingers of her
right hand. Not imposing in appearance was Aunt Emma Truegate Winslow,
but she was born to discipline a court.

An impeccable widow was she, speaking with a broad A, and dressed
exquisitely in a black satin evening gown.

By such simple-hearted traits as being always right about unimportant
matters and idealistically wrong about important matters, politely
intruding into everything, being earnest about the morality of the
poor and auction bridge and the chaperonage of nice girls, possessing
a working knowledge of Wagner and Rodin, wearing fifteen-dollar
corsets, and believing on her bended knees that the Truegates and
Winslows were the noblest families in the Social Register, Aunt Emma
Truegate Winslow had persuaded the whole world, including even her
near-English butler, that she was a superior woman. Family tradition
said that she had only to raise a finger to get into really smart
society. Upon the death of Ruth's mother, Aunt Emma had taken it as
one of her duties, along with symphony concerts and committees, to
rear Ruth properly. She had been neglecting this duty so far as to
permit the invasion of a barbarian named Ericson only because she had
been in California with her young son, Arthur. Just now, while her
house was being opened, she was staying at the Winslows', with Arthur
and a peculiarly beastly Japanese spaniel named Taka-San.

She was introduced at Carl, she glanced him over, and passed him on to
Olive Dunleavy, all in forty-five seconds. When Carl had recovered
from a sensation of being a kitten drowned in a sack, he said
agreeable things to Olive, and observed the situation in the
drawing-room.

Phil was marked out for Aunt Emma's favors; Mr. Winslow sat in a
corner, apparently crushed, with restorative conversation administered
by Ruth; Mason Winslow was haltingly attentive to a plain,
well-dressed, amiable girl named Florence Crewden, who had
prematurely gray hair, the week-end habit, and a weakness for baby
talk. Ruth's medical-student brother, Bobby Winslow, was not there.
The more he saw of Bobby's kind Aunt Emma, the more Carl could find it
in his heart to excuse Bobby for having escaped the family dinner.

Carl had an uncomfortable moment when Aunt Emma and Mr. Winslow asked
him questions about the development of the Touricar. But before he
could determine whether he was being deliberately inspected by the
family the ordeal was over.

As they went in to dinner, Mr. Winslow taking in Aunt Emma like a
small boy accompanying the school principal, Ruth had the chance to
whisper: "My Hawk, be good. Please believe I'm not responsible. It's
all Aunt Emma's doing, this dreadfully stately family dinner. Don't
let her bully you. I'm frightened to death and----Yes, Phil, I'm
coming."

The warning did not seem justified in view of the attractive
table--candles, cut glass, a mound of flowers on a beveled mirror,
silvery linen, and grape-fruit with champagne. Carl was at one side of
Aunt Emma, but she seemed more interested in Mr. Winslow, at the end
of the table; and on his other side Carl had a safe companion in Olive
Dunleavy. Across from him were Florence Crewden, Phil, and Ruth--Ruth
shimmering in a gown of yellow satin, which broke the curves of her
fine, flushed shoulders only by a narrow band.

The conversation played with people. Florence Crewden told, to
applause and laughter, of an exploratory visit to the College of the
City of New York, and her discovery of a strange race, young Jews
mostly, who went to college to study, and had no sense of the nobility
of "making" fraternities.

"Such outsiders!" she said. "Can't you imagine the sort of a party
they'd have--they'd all stand around and discuss psychology and
dissecting puppies and Greek roots! Phil, I think it would be a
lovely punishment for you to have to join them--to work in a
laboratory all day and wear a celluloid collar."

"Oh, I know their sort; 'greasy grinds' we used to call them; there
were plenty of them in Yale," condescended Phil.

"Maybe they wear celluloid collars--if they do--because they're poor,"
protested Ruth.

"My dear child," sniffed Aunt Emma, "with collars only twenty-five
cents apiece? Don't be silly!"

Mr. Winslow declared, with portly timidity, "Why, Em, my collars don't
cost me but fifteen----"

"Mason dear, let's not discuss it at dinner.... Tell me, all of you,
the scandal I've missed by going to California. Which reminds me; did
I tell you I saw that miserable Amy Baslin, you remember, that married
the porter or the superintendent or something in her father's factory?
I saw her and her husband at Pasadena, and they seemed to be happy. Of
course Amy would put the best face she could on it, but they must have
been miserably unhappy--such a sad affair, and she could have married
quite decently."

"What do you mean by 'decently'?" Ruth demanded.

Carl was startled. He had once asked Ruth the same question about the
same phrase.

Aunt Emma revolved like a gun-turret getting Ruth's range, and
remarked, calmly: "My dear child, you know quite well what I mean.
Don't, I beg of you, bring any socialistic problems to dinner till you
have really learned something about them.... Now I want to hear all
the nice scandals I have missed."

There were not many she had missed; but she kept the conversation
sternly to discussions of people whose names Carl had never heard.
Again he was obviously an Outsider. Still ignoring Carl, Aunt Emma
demanded of Ruth and Phil, sitting together opposite her:

"Tell me about the good times you children have been having, Ruthie.
I am so glad that Phil and you finally went to the William Truegates'.
And your letter about the Beaux Arts festival was charming, Ruthie. I
quite envied you and Phil."

The dragon continued talking to Ruth, while Carl listened, in the
interstices of his chatter to Olive:

"I hope you haven't been giving all your time and beauty-sleep doing
too much of that settlement work, Ruthie--and Heaven only knows what
germs you will get there--of course I should be the first to praise
any work for the poor, ungrateful and shiftless though they are--what
with my committees and the Truegate Temperance Home for Young Working
Girls--it's all very well to be sympathetic with them, but when it
comes to a settlement-house, and Heaven knows I have given them all
the counsel and suggestions I could, though some of the professional
settlement workers are as pert as they can be, and I really do believe
some of them think they are trying to end poverty entirely, just as
though the Lord would have sent poverty into the world if He didn't
have a very good reason for it--you will remember the Bible says, 'The
poor you always have with you,' and as Florence Barclay says in her
novels, which may seem a little sentimental, but they are of such a
good moral effect, you can't supersede the Scriptures even in the most
charming social circles. To say nothing of the blessings of poverty,
I'm sure they're much happier than we are, with our onerous duties,
I'm sure that if any of these ragamuffin anarchists and socialists and
anti-militarists want to take over my committees they are welcome, if
they'll take over the miserable headaches and worried hours they give
me, trying to do something for the poor, they won't even be clean but
even in model tenements they will put coal in the bath-tubs. And so I
do hope you haven't just been wearing yourself to a bone working for
ungrateful dirty little children, Ruthie."

"No, auntie dear, I've been quite as discreet as any Winslow should
be. You see, I'm selfish, too. Aren't I, Carl?"

"Oh, very."

Aunt Emma seemed to remember, then, that some sort of a man, whose
species she didn't quite know, sat next to her. She glanced at Carl,
again gave him up as an error in social judgment, and went on:

"No, Ruthie, not selfish so much as thoughtless about the duties of a
family like ours--and I was always the first to say that the Winslows
are as fine a stock as the Truegates. And I am going to see that you
go out more the rest of this year, Ruthie. I want you and Phil to plan
right now to attend the Charity League dances next season. You must
learn to concentrate your attention----"

"Auntie dear, please leave my wickedness till the next time we----"

"My dear child, now that I have the chance to get all of us
together--I'm sure Mr. Ericson will pardon the rest of us our little
family discussions--I want to take you and Master Phil to task
together. You are both of you negligent of social duties--duties they
are, Ruthie, for man was not born to serve alone--though Phil is far
better than you, with your queer habits, and Heaven only knows where
you got them, neither your father nor your dear sainted mother was
slack or selfish----"

"Dear auntie, let's admit that I'm a black sheep with a little black
muzzle and a habit of butting all sorts of ash-cans; and let Phil go
on his social way rejoicing."

Ruth was jaunty, but her voice was strained, and she bit her lip with
staccato nervousness when she was not speaking. Carl ventured to face
the dragon.

"Mrs. Winslow, I'm sure Ruth has been better than you think; she has
been learning all these fiendishly complicated new dances. You know a
poor business man like myself finds them----"

"Yes," said Aunt Emma, "I am sure she will always remember that she
is a Winslow, and must carry on the family traditions, but sometimes I
am afraid she gets under bad influences, because of her good nature."
She said it loudly. She looked Carl in the eye.

The whole table stopped talking. Carl felt like a tramp who has kicked
a chained bulldog and discovers that the chain is broken.

He wanted to be good; not make a scene. He noticed with intense
indignation that Phil was grinning. He planned to get Phil off in a
corner, not necessarily a dark corner, and beat him. He wanted to
telegraph Ruth; dared not. He realized, in a quarter-second, that he
must have been discussed by the Family, and did not like it.

Every one seemed to be waiting for him to speak. Awkwardly he said,
wondering all the while if she meant what her tone said she meant, by
"bad influences":

"Yes, but----Just going to say----I believe settlement work is a good
influence----"

"Please don't discuss----" Ruth was groaning, when Aunt Emma sternly
interrupted:

"It is good of you to take up the cudgels, Mr. Ericson, and please
don't misjudge me--of course I realize that I am only a silly old
woman and that my passion to see the Winslows keep to their fine
standards is old-fashioned, but you see it is a hobby of mine that
I've devoted years to, and you who haven't known the Winslows so very
long----" Her manner was almost courteous.

"Yes, that's so," Carl mumbled, agreeably, just as she dropped the
courtesy and went on:

"----you can't judge--in fact (this is nothing personal, you know) I
don't suppose it's possible for Westerners to have any idea how
precious family ideals are to Easterners. Of course we're probably
silly about them, and it's splendid, your wheat-lands, and not caring
who your grandfather was; but to make up for those things we do have
to protect what we have gained through the generations."

Carl longed to stand up, to defy them all, to cry: "If you mean that
you think Ruth has to be protected against me, have the decency to say
so." Yet he kept his voice gentle:

"But why be narrowed to just a few families in one's interests? Now
this settlement----"

"One isn't narrowed. There are plenty of _good_ families for Ruth to
consider when it comes time for my little girl to consider alliances
at all!" Aunt Emma coldly stated.

"I _will_ shut up!" he told himself. "I will shut up. I'll see this
dinner through, and then never come near this house again." He tried
to look casual, as though the conversation was safely finished. But
Aunt Emma was waiting for him to go on. In the general stillness her
corsets creaked with belligerent attention. He played with his fork in
a "Well, if that's how you feel about it, perhaps it would be better
not to discuss it any further, my dear madam," manner, growing every
second more flushed, embarrassed, sick, angry; trying harder every
second to look unconcerned.

Aunt Emma hawked a delicate and ladylike hawk in her patrician throat,
prefatory to a new attack. Carl knew he would be tempted to retort
brutally.

Then from the door of the dining-room whimpered the high voice of an
excited child:

"Oh, mamma, oh, Cousin Ruthie, nurse says Hawk Ericson is here! I want
to see him!"

Every one turned toward a boy of five or six, round as a baby chicken,
in his fuzzy miniature pajamas, protectingly holding a cotton monkey
under his arm, sturdy and shy and defiant.

"Why, Arthur!" "Why, my son!" "Oh, the darling baby!" from the table.

"Come here, Arthur, and let's hear your troubles before nurse nabs
you, old son," said Phil, not at all condescendingly, rising from the
table, holding out his arms.

"No, no! You just let me go! I want to see Hawk Ericson. Is that Hawk
Ericson?" demanded the son of Aunt Emma, pointing at Carl.

"Yes, sweetheart," said Ruth, softly, proudly.

Running madly about the end of the table, Arthur jumped at Carl's lap.

Carl swung him up and inquired, "What is it, old man?"

"Are you Hawk Ericson?"

"At your commands, cap'n."

Aunt Emma rose and said, masterfully, "Come, little son, now you've
seen Mr. Ericson it's up to beddie again, up--to--beddie."

"No, no; please no, mamma! I've never seen a' aviator before, not in
all my life, and you promised me 'cross your heart, at Pasadena you
did, I could see one."

Arthur's face showed signs of imminent badness.

"Well, you may stay for a while, then," said Aunt Emma, weakly,
unconscious that her sway had departed from her, while the rest of the
table grinned, except Carl, who was absorbed in Arthur's ecstasy.

"I'm going to be a' aviator, too; I think a' aviator is braver than
anybody. I'd rather be a' aviator than a general or a policeman or
anybody. I got a picture of you in my scrap-book--you got a funny hat
like Cousin Bobby wears when he plays football in it. Shall I get you
the picture in my scrap-book?... Honest, will you give me another?"

Aunt Emma made one more attempt to coax Arthur up to bed, but his
Majesty refused, and she compromised by scolding his nurse and sending
up for his dressing-gown, a small, blue dressing-gown on which yellow
ducks and white bunny-rabbits paraded proudly.

"Like our blue bowl!" Carl remarked to Ruth.

Not till after coffee in the drawing-room would Arthur consent to go
to bed. This real head of the Emma Winslow family was far too much
absorbed in making Carl tell of his long races, and "Why does a
flying-machine fly? What's a wind pressure? Why does the wind shove
up? Why is the wings curved? Why does it want to catch the wind?" The
others listened, including even Aunt Emma.

Carl went home early. Ruth had the opportunity to confide:

"Hawk dear, I can't tell you how ashamed I am of my family for
enduring anybody so rude and opinionated as Aunt Emma. But--it's all
right, now, isn't it?... No, no, don't kiss me, but--dear dreams,
Hawk."

Phil's voice, from behind, shouted: "Oh, Ericson! Just a second."

Carl was not at all pleased. He remembered that Phil had listened with
obvious amusement to his agonized attempt to turn Aunt Emma's attacks.

Said Phil, while Ruth disappeared: "Which way you going? Walk to the
subway with you. You win, old man. I admire your nerve for facing Aunt
Emma. What I wanted to say----I hope to thunder you don't think I was
in any way responsible for Mrs. Winslow's linking me and Ruth that way
and----Oh, you understand. I admire you like the devil for knowing
what you want and going after it. I suppose you'll have to convince
Ruth yet, but, by Jove! you've convinced me! Glad you had Arthur for
ally. They don't make kiddies any better. God! if I could have a son
like that----I turn off here. G-good luck, Ericson."

"Thanks a lot, Phil."

"Thanks. Good night, Carl."



CHAPTER XXXVII


Long Beach, on the first hot Sunday of May, when motorists come out
from New York, half-ready to open asphalt hearts to sea and sky.
Carl's first sight of it, save from an aeroplane, and he was mad-happy
to find real shore so near the city.

Ruth and he were picnicking, vulgar and unashamed, among the dunes at
the end of the long board-walk, like the beer-drinking, pickle-eating
parties of fishermen and the family groups with red table-cloths,
grape-basket lunches, and colored Sunday supplements. Ruth declared
that she preferred them to the elegant loungers who were showing off
new motor-coats on the board-walk. But Carl and she had withdrawn a
bit from the crowds, and in the dunes had made a nest, with a book and
a magazine and a box of chocolates and Carl's collapsible lunch-kit.

Not New York only, but all of Ruth's relatives were forgot. Aunt Emma
Truegate Winslow was a myth of the dragon-haunted past. Here all was
fresh color and free spaces looking to open sea. Behind the dunes,
with their traceries of pale grass, reveled the sharp, unshadowed
green of marshes, and an inland bay that was blue as bluing, a
startling blue, bordered by the emerald marshes. To one side--afar,
not troubling their peace--were the crimson roofs of fantastic houses,
like chalets and California missions and villas of the Riviera, with
gables and turrets of red tiles.

Before their feet was the cream-colored beach, marked by ridges of
driftwood mixed with small glistening shells, long ranks of
pale-yellow seaweed, and the delicate wrinkles in the sand that were
the tracks of receding waves. The breakers left the beach wet and
shining for a moment, like plates of raw-colored copper, making one
cry out with its flashing beauty. Then, at last, the eyes lifted to
unbroken bluewater--nothing between them and Europe save rolling waves
and wave-crests like white plumes. The sea was of a diaphanous blue
that shaded through a bold steel blue and a lucent blue enamel to a
rich ultramarine which absorbed and healed the office-worn mind. The
sails of tacking sloops were a-blossom; sea-gulls swooped; a tall
surf-fisherman in red flannel shirt and shiny black hip-boots strode
out into the water and cast with a long curve of his line; cumulus
clouds, whose pure white was shaded with a delicious golden tone, were
baronial above; and out on the sky-line the steamers raced by.

Round them was the warm intimacy of the dune sands; beyond was
infinite space calling to them to be big and unafraid.

Talking, falling into silences touched with the mystery of sun and
sea, they confessed youth's excited wonder about the world; Carl
sitting cross-legged, rubbing his ankles, a springy figure in blue
flannel and a daring tie; while Ruth, in deep-rose linen, her throat
bright and bare, lay with her chin in her hands, a flush beneath the
gentle brown of her cheeks, her white-clad ankles crossed under her
skirt, slender against the gray sand, thoughtful of eye, lost in
happiness.

"Some day," Carl was musing, "your children and mine will say, 'You
certainly lived in the most marvelous age in the world.' Think of it.
They talk about the romance of the Crusades and the Romans and all
that, but think of the miracles we've seen already, and we're only
kids. Aviation and the automobile and wireless and moving pictures
and electric locomotives and electric cooking and the use of radium
and the X-ray and the linotype and the submarine and the labor
movement--the I. W. W. and syndicalism and all that--not that I know
anything about the labor movement, but I suppose it's the most
important of all. And Metchnikoff and Ehrlich. Oh yes, and a good
share of the development of the electric light and telephone and the
phonograph.... Golly! In just a few years!"

"Yes," Ruth added, "and Montessori's system of education--that's what
I think is the most important.... See that sail-boat, Hawk! Like a
lily. And the late-afternoon gold on those marshes. I think this salt
breeze blows away all the bad Ruth.... Oh! Don't forget the attempts
to cure cancer and consumption. So many big things starting right now,
while we're sitting here."

"Lord! what an age! Romance--why, there's more romance in a wireless
spark--think of it, little lonely wallowing steamer, at night, out in
the dark, slamming out a radio like forty thousand tigers
spitting--and a man getting it here on Long Island. More romance than
in all the galleons that ever sailed the purple tropics, which they
mostly ain't purple, but dirty green. Anything 's possible now. World
cools off--a'right, we'll move on to some other planet. It gets me
going. Don't have to believe in fairies to give the imagination a job,
to-day. Glad I've been an aviator; gives me some place in it all,
anyway."

"I'm glad, too, Hawk, terribly glad."

The sun was crimsoning; the wind grew chilly. The beach was scattered
with camp-fires. Their own fire settled into compact live coals which,
in the dusk of the dune-hollow, spread over the million bits of quartz
a glow through which pirouetted the antic sand-fleas. Carl's cigarette
had the fragrance that comes only from being impregnated with the
smoke of an outdoor fire. The waves were lyric, and a group at the
next fire crooned "Old Black Joe." The two lovers curled in their
nest. Hand moved toward hand.

Ruth whispered: "It's sweet to be with all these people and their
fires.... Will I really learn not to be supercilious?"

"Honey! You--supercilious? Democracy---- Oh, the dickens! let's not
talk about theories any more, but just about Us!"

Her hand, tight-coiled as a snail-shell, was closed in his.

"Your hand is asleep in my hand's arms," he whispered. The ball of his
thumb pressed her thumb, and he whispered once more: "See. Now our
hands are kissing each other--we--we must watch them better.... Your
thumb is like a fairy." Again his thumb, hardened with file and wrench
and steering-wheel, touched hers. It was startlingly like a kiss of
real lips.

Lightly she returned the finger-kiss, answering diffidently, "Our
hands are mad--silly hands to think that Long Beach is a tropical
jungle."

"You aren't angry at them?"

"N-no."

He cradled her head on his shoulder, his hand gripping her arm till
she cried, "You hurt me." He kissed her cheek. She drew back as far as
she could. Her hand, against his chest, held him away for a minute.
Her defense suddenly collapsed, and she was relaxed and throbbing in
his arms. He slipped his fingers under her chin, and turned up her
face till he could kiss her lips. He had not known the kiss of man and
woman could be so long, so stirring. Yet at first he was disappointed.
This was, after all, but a touch--just such a touch as finger against
finger. But her lips grew more intense against his, returning and
taking the kiss; both of them giving and receiving at once.

Wondering at himself for it, Carl thought of other things. He was
amazed that, while their lips were hot together, he worried as to what
train Ruth ought to take, after dinner. Yet, with such thoughts
conferring, he was in an ecstasy beyond sorrow; praying that to her,
as to him, there was no pain but instead a rapture in the sting of her
lips, as her teeth cut a little into them.... A kiss--thing that the
polite novels sketch as a second's unbodied bliss--how human it was,
with teeth and lips to consider; common as eating--and divine as
martyrdom. His lips were saying to her things too vast and extravagant
for a plain young man to venture upon in words:

"Lady, to you I chant my reverence and faith everlasting, in such
unearthly music as the angels use when with lambent wings they salute
the marching dawn." Such lyric tributes, and an emotion too subtle to
fit into any words whatever, his lips were saying....

Then she was drawing back, rending the kiss, crying, "You're almost
smothering me!"

With his arms easily about her, but with her weight against his
shoulder, they and their love veiled from the basket-parties by the
darkness, he said, quiveringly: "See, my arms are a little house for
you, just as my hand was a little house for your hand, once. My arms
are the walls, and your head and mine together are the roof."

"I love the little house."

"No. Say, 'I love _you_."'

"No."

"Say it."

"No."

"Please----"

"Oh, Hawk dear, I couldn't even if--just now, I do want to say it, but
I want to be fair. I am terribly happy to be in the house of Hawk's
arms. I'm not afraid in it, even out here on the dark dunes--which
Aunt Emma wouldn't--somehow--approve! But I do want to be fair to you,
and I'm afraid I'm not, when I let you love me this way. I don't want
to hurt you. Ever. Perhaps it's egotistical of me, but I'm afraid you
would be hurt if I let you kiss me and then afterward I decided I
didn't love you at all."

"But can't you, some day----"

"Oh, I don't know, I don't _know_! I'm not sure I know what love is.
I'm not sure it's love that makes me happy (as I really am) when you
kiss me. Perhaps I'm just curious, and experimenting. I was quite
conscious, when you kissed me then; quite conscious and curious; and
once I caught myself wondering for half a second what train we'd take.
I was ashamed of that, but I wasn't ashamed of taking mental notes and
learning what these 'kisses,' that we mention so glibly, really are.
Just experimenting, you see. And if you were _too_ serious about our
kiss, it wouldn't be at all fair to you."

"I'm glad you're frank, blessed, and I guess I understand pretty well
how you feel, but, after all, I'm fairly simple about such things.
Blessed, blessed, I don't really know a thing but 'I love you.'"

His arms were savage again; he kissed her, kissed her lips, kissed the
hollow of her throat. Then he lifted her from the ground and would not
set her down till she had kissed him back.

"You frightened me a lot, then," she said. "Did the child want to
impress Ruth with his mighty strength? Well, she shall be impressed.
Hawk, I do hope--I do hate myself for not knowing my mind. I will try
not to experiment. I want you to be happy. I do want to be honest with
you. If I'm honest, will you try not to be too impatient till I do
know just what I want?... Oh, I'm sick of the modern lover! I talk and
talk about love; it seems as though we'd lost the power to be simple,
like the old ballads. Or weren't the ballad people really simple,
either? You say you are; so I think you will have to run away with
me.... But not till after dinner! Come."

The moon was rising. Swinging hands, they tramped toward the
board-walk. The crunch of their feet in the sand was the rhythmic
spell of a magician, which she broke when she sighed:

"Should I have let you kiss me, out here in the wilds? Will you
respect me after it?"

"Princess, you're all the respect there is in the world."

"It seems so strange. We were absorbed in war and electricity and
then----"

"Love is war and electricity, or else it's dull, and I don't think we
two 'll ever get dull--if you do decide you can love me. We'll wander:
cabin in the Rockies, with forty mountains for our garden fence, and
an eagle for our suburban train."

"And South Sea islands silhouetted at sunset!... Look! That moon!... I
always imagine it so clearly when I hear Hawaiian singers on the
Victrola--and a Hawaiian beach, with fireflies in the jungle behind
and a phosphorescent sea in front and native girls dancing in
garlands."

"Yes! And Paris boulevards and a mysterious castle in the Austrian
mountains, with a hidden treasure in dark, secret dungeons, and heavy
iron armor; and then, bing! a brand-new prairie town in Saskatchewan
or Dakota, with brand-new sunlight on the fresh pine shacks, and
beyond the town the plains with brand-new grass rolling."

"But seriously, Hawk, would you want to go to all those places, if you
were married? Would you, practically? You know, even rich
globe-trotters go to the same sorts of places, mostly. And we wouldn't
even be rich, would we?"

"No, just comfortable; maybe five thousand a year."

"Well, would you really want to keep on going, and take your wife? Or
would you settle down like the rest, and spend money so you could keep
in shape to make money to spend to keep in shape?"

"Seriously I would keep going--if I had the right girl to go with me.
It would be mighty important which one, though, I guess--and by that I
mean you. Once, when I quit flying, I thought that maybe I'd stop
wandering and settle down, maybe even marry a Joralemon kind of a
girl. But I was meant to hike for the hiking's sake.... Only, not
alone any more. I _need_ you.... We'd go and go. No limit.... And we
wouldn't just go places, either; we'd be different things. We'd be
Connecticut farmers one year, and run a mine in Mexico the next, and
loaf in Paris the next, if we had the money."

"Sometimes you almost tempt me to like you."

"Like me now!"

"No, not now, but---- Here's the board-walk."

"Where's those steps? Oh yes. Gee! I hate to leave the water without
having had a swim. Wish we'd had one. Dare you to go wading!"

"Oh, ought I to, do you think? Wading would be silly. And nice."

"Course you oughtn't. Come on. Don't you remember how the sand feels
between your toes?"

The moon brooded upon the lulled waves, and quested among the ridges
of driftwood for pearly shells. The pools left by the waves were
enticing. Ruth retreated into the shelter of the board-walk and came
shyly out, clutching her skirts, her feet and ankles silver in the
light.

"The sand does feel good, but uh! it's getting colder and colder!" she
wailed, as she cautiously advanced into the water. "I'll think up
punishments for you. You've not only caused me to be cold, but you've
made me abominably self-conscious."

"Don't be self-conscious, blessed. We are just children exploring." He
splashed out, coat off, trousers rolled to the knee above his thin,
muscular legs, galloping along the edge of the water like a large
puppy, while she danced after him.

They were stilled to the persuasive beauty of the night. Music from
the topaz jeweled hotels far down the beach wove itself into the peace
on land and sea. A fish lying on shore was turned by the moon into
ivory with carven scales. Before them, reaching to the ancient towers
of England and France and the islands of the sea, was the whispering
water. A tenderness that understood everything, made allowance for
everything in her and in himself, folded its wings round him as he
scanned her that stood like a slender statue of silver--dark hair
moon-brightened, white arms holding her skirts, white legs round which
the spent waves sparkled with unworldly fire. He waded over to her and
timidly kissed the edge of her hair.

She rubbed her cheek against his. "Now we must run," she said. She
quickly turned back to the shadow of the board-walk, to draw on her
stockings and shoes, kneeling on the sand like the simple maid of the
ballads which she had been envying.

They tramped along the board-walk, with heels clicking like castanets,
conscious that the world was hushed in night's old enchantment.

As they had answered to companionship with the humble picnic-parties
among the dunes, so now they found it amusing to dine among the
semi-great and the semi-motorists at the Nassau. Ruth had a distinct
pleasure when T. Wentler, horse-fancier, aviation enthusiast,
president of the First State Bank of Sacramento, came up, reminded
Carl of their acquaintanceship at the Oakland-Berkeley Aero Meet, and
begged Ruth and Carl to join him, his wife, and Senator Leeford, for
coffee.

As they waited for their train, quiet after laughter, Ruth remarked:
"It was jolly to play with the Personages. You haven't seen much of
the frivolous side of me. It's pretty important. You don't know how
much soul satisfaction I get out of dancing all night and playing
tennis with flanneled oafs and eating _marrons glacés_ and chatting in
a box at the opera till I spoil the entire evening for all the German
music-lovers, and talking to all the nice doggies from the Tennis and
Racquet Club whenever I get invited to Piping Rock or Meadow Brook or
any other country club that has ancestors. I want you to take
warning."

"Did you really miss Piping Rock much to-day?".

"No--but I might to-morrow, and I might get horribly bored in our
cabin in the Rockies and hate the stony old peaks, and long for tea
and scandal in a corner at the Ritz."

"Then we'd hike on to San Francisco; have tea at the St. Francis or
the Fairmont or the Palace; then beat it for your Hawaii and fireflies
in the bush."

"Perhaps, but suppose, just suppose we were married, and suppose the
Touricar didn't go so awfully well, and we had to be poor, and
couldn't go running away, but had to stick in one beastly city flat
and economize! It's all very well to talk of working things out
together, but think of not being able to have decent clothes, and
going to the movies every night--ugh! When I see some of the girls who
used to be so pretty and gay, and they went and married poor men--now
they are so worn and tired and bedraggled and perambulatorious, and
they worry about Biddies and furnaces and cabbages, and their hair is
just scratched together, with the dubbest hats--I'd rather be an idle
rich."

"If we got stuck like that, I'd sell out and we'd hike to the mountain
cabin, anyway, say go up in the Santa Lucias, and keep wild bees."

"And probably get stung--in the many subtle senses of that word. And
I'd have to cook and wash. That would be fun _as_ fun, but to have to
do it----"

"Ruth, honey, let's not worry about it now, anyhow. I don't believe
there's much danger. And don't let's spoil this bully day."

"It has been sweet. I won't croak any more."

"There's the train coming."



CHAPTER XXXVIII


While the New York June grew hotter and hotter and stickier and
stickier, while the crowds, crammed together in the subway in a jam as
unlovely as a pile of tomato-cans on a public dump-heap, grew pale in
the damp heat, Carl labored in his office, and almost every evening
called on Ruth, who was waiting for the first of July, when she was to
go to Cousin Patton Kerr's, in the Berkshires. Carl tried to bring her
coolness. He ate only poached eggs on toast or soup and salad for
dinner, that he might not be torpid. He gave her moss-roses with drops
of water like dew on the stems. They sat out on the box-stoop--the
unfriendly New York street adopting for a time the frank
neighborliness of a village--and exclaimed over every breeze. They
talked about the charm of forty degrees below zero. That is,
sometimes. Their favorite topic was themselves.

She still insisted that she was not in love with him; hooted at the
idea of being engaged. She might some day go off and get married to
some one, but engaged? Never! She finally agreed that they were
engaged to be engaged to be engaged. One night when they sought the
windy housetop, she twined his arms about her and almost went to
sleep, with her hair smooth beneath his chin. He sat motionless till
his arms ached with the strain, till her shoulder seemed to stick into
his like a bar of iron; glad that she trusted him enough to doze into
warm slumber in the familiarity of his arms. Yet he dared not kiss her
throat, as he had done at Long Beach.

As lovers do, Carl had thought intently of her warning that she did
care for clothes, dancing, country clubs. Ruth would have been
caressingly surprised had she known the thought and worried
conscientiousness he gave to the problem of planning "parties" for
her. Ideas were always popping up in the midst of his work, and never
giving him rest till he had noted them down on memo.-papers. He
carried about, on the backs of envelopes, such notes as these:

Join country clb take R dances there?
Basket of fruit for R
Invite Mason W lunch
Orgnze Tcar tour NY to SF
Newspaper men on tour probly Forbes
Rem Walter's new altitude 16,954
R to Astor Roof
Rem country c

He did get a card to the Peace Waters Country Club and take Ruth to a
dance there. She seemed to know every other member, and danced
eloquently. He took her to the Josiah Bagbys' for dinner; to the
first-night of a summer musical comedy. But he was still the stranger
in New York, and "parties" are not to be had by tipping waiters and
buying tickets. Half of the half-dozen affairs which they attended
were of her inspiration; he was invited to go yachting at Larchmont,
motoring, swimming on Long Island, with friends of herself and her
brothers.

One evening that strikes into Carl's memories of those days of the
_pays du tendre_ is the evening on which Phil Dunleavy insisted on
celebrating a Yale baseball victory by taking them to dinner in the
oak-room of the Ritz-Carlton, under whose alabaster lights, among the
cosmopolites, they dined elaborately and smoked slim, imported
cigarettes. The thin music of violins took them into the lonely gray
groves of the Land of Wandering Tunes, till Phil began to talk,
disclosing to them a devotion to beauty, a satirical sense of humor,
and a final acceptance of Carl as his friend.

A hundred other "parties" Carl planned, while dining alone at inferior
restaurants. A hundred times he took a ten-cent dessert instead of an
exciting fifteen-cent strawberry shortcake, to save money for those
parties. (Out of such sordid thoughts of nickel coins is built a love
enduring, and even tolerable before breakfast coffee.)

Yet always to him their real life was in simple jaunts out of doors,
arranged without considering other people. Her father seemed glad of
that. He once said to Carl (giving him a cigar), "You children had
better not let Aunt Emma know that you are enjoying yourselves as you
want to! How is the automobile business going?"

       *       *       *       *       *

It would be pleasant to relate that Carl was inspired by love to put
so much of that celebrated American quality "punch" into his work that
the Touricar was sweeping the market. Or to picture with quietly
falling tears the pathos of his business failure at the time when he
most needed money. As a matter of fact, the Touricar affairs were
going as, in real life, most businesses go--just fairly well. A few
cars were sold; there were prospects of other sales; the VanZile
Corporation neither planned to drop the Touricar, nor elected our
young hero vice-president of the corporation.

       *       *       *       *       *

In June Gertrude Cowles and her mother left for Joralemon. Carl had,
since Christmas, seen them about once a month. Gertie had at first
represented an unhappy old friend to whom he had to be kind. Then, as
she seemed never to be able to give up the desire to see him tied
down, whether by her affection or by his work, Carl came to regard her
as an irritating foe to the freedom which he prized the more because
of the increasing bondage of the office. The last stage was pure
indifference to her. Gertie was either a chance for simple sweetness
which he failed to take, or she was a peril which he had escaped,
according to one's view of her; but in any case he had missed--or
escaped--her as a romantic hero escapes fire, flood, and plot. She
meant nothing to him, never could again. Life had flowed past her as,
except in novels with plots, most lives do flow past temporary and
fortuitous points of interest.... Gertie was farther from him now than
those dancing Hawaiian girls whom Ruth and he hoped some day to see.
Yet by her reaching out for his liberty Gertie had first made him
prize Ruth.

       *       *       *       *       *

The 1st of July, 1913, Ruth left for the Patton Kerrs' country house
in the Berkshires, near Pittsfield. Carl wrote to her every day. He
told her, apropos of Touricars and roof-gardens and aviation records
and Sunday motor-cycling with Bobby Winslow, that he loved her; he
even made, at the end of his letters, the old-fashioned lines of
crosses to represent kisses. Whenever he hinted how much he missed
her, how much he wanted to feel her startle in his arms, he wondered
what she would read out of it; wondered if she would put the letter
under her pillow.

She answered every other day with friendly letters droll in their
descriptions of the people she met. His call of love she did not
answer--directly. But she admitted that she missed their playtimes;
and once she wrote to him, late on a cold Berkshire night, with a
black rain and wind like a baying bloodhound:

     It is so still in my room & so wild outside that I am
     frightened. I have tried to make myself smart in a blue silk
     dressing gown & a tosh lace breakfast cap, & I will write
     neatly with a quill pen from the Mayfair, but just the same
     I am a lonely baby & I want you here to comfort me. Would
     you be too shocked to come? I would put a Navajo blanket on
     my bed & a papier maché Turkish dagger & head of Othello
     over my bed & pretend it was a cozy corner, that is of
     course if they still have papier maché ornaments, I suppose
     they still live in Harlem & Brooklyn. We would sit _very_
     quietly in two wicker chairs on either side of my fireplace
     & listen to the swollen brook in the ravine just below my
     window. But with no Hawk here the wind keeps wailing that
     Pan is dead & that there won't ever again be any sunshine on
     the valley. Dear, it really _isn't_ safe to be writing like
     this, after reading it you will suppose that it's just you
     that I am lonely for, but of course I'd be glad for Phil or
     Puggy Crewden or your nice solemn Walter MacMonnies or _any_
     suitor who would make foolish noises & hide me from the
     wind's hunting. Now I will seal this up & _NOT_ send it in
     the morning.

Your playmate Ruth

     Here is one small kiss on the forehead but remember it is
     just because of the wind & rain.

Presumably she did mail the letter. At least, he received it.

He carried her letters in the side-pocket of his coat till the
envelopes were worn at the edges and nearly covered with smudged
pencil-notes about things he wanted to keep in mind and would, of
course, have kept in mind without making notes. He kept finding new
meanings in her letters. He wanted them to indicate that she loved
him; and any ambiguous phrase signified successively that she loved,
laughed at, loathed, and loved him. Once he got up from bed to take
another look at a letter and see whether she had said, "I hope you had
a dear good time at the Explorers' Club dinner," or "I hope you had a
good time, dear."

Carl was entirely sincere in his worried investigation of her state of
mind. He knew that both Ruth and he had the instability as well as the
initiative of the vagabond. As quickly as they had claimed each other,
so quickly could either of them break love's alliance, if bored. Carl
himself, being anything but bored, was as faithfully devoted as the
least enterprising of moral young men, He forgot Gertie, did not write
to Istra Nash the artist, and when the VanZile office got a new
telephone-girl, a tall, languorous brunette with shadowy eyes and fine
cheeks, he did not even smile at her.

But--was Ruth so bound? She still refused to admit even that she could
fall in love. He knew that Ruth and he were not romantic characters,
but every-day people with a tendency to quarrel and demand and be
slack. He knew that even if the rose dream came true, there would be
drab spots in it. And now that she was away, with Lenox and polo to
absorb her, could the gauche, ignorant Carl Ericson, that he privately
knew himself to be, retain her interest?

Late in July he received an invitation to spend a week-end, Friday to
Tuesday, with Ruth at the Patton Kerrs'.



CHAPTER XXXIX


The brief trip to the Berkshires was longer than any he had taken
these nine months. He looked forward animatedly to the journey,
remembering details of travel--such trivial touches as the oval brass
wash-bowls of a Pullman sleeper, and how, when the water is running
out, the inside of the bowl is covered with a whitish film of water,
which swiftly peels off. He recalled the cracked white paint of a
steamer's ventilator; the abruptly stopping zhhhhh of a fog-horn; the
vast smoky roof of a Philadelphia train-shed, clamorous with the
train-bells of a strange town, giving a sense of mystery to the
traveler stepping from the car for a moment to stretch his legs; an
ugly junction station platform, with resin oozing from the heavy
planks in the spring sun; the polished binnacle of the S.S. _Panama_.

He expected keen joy in new fields and hills. Yet all the way north he
was trying to hold the train back. In a few minutes, now, he would see
Ruth. And at this hour he did not even know definitely that he liked
her.

He could not visualize her. He could see the sleeve of her blue
corduroy jacket; her eyes he could not see. She was a stranger. Had he
idealized her? He was apologetic for his unflattering doubt, but of
what sort _was_ she?

The train was stopping at her station with rattling windows and a
despairing grind of the wheels. Carl seized his overnight bag and
suit-case with fictitious enthusiasm. He was in a panic. Emerging
from the safe, impersonal train upon the platform, he saw her.

She was waving to him from a one-seated phaeton, come alone to meet
him--and she was the adorable, the perfect comrade. He thought
jubilantly as he strode along the platform: "She's wonderful. Love
her? Should say I do!"

While they drove under the elms, past white cottages and the village
green, while they were talking so lightly and properly that none of
the New England gossips could be wounded in the sense of propriety,
Carl was learning her anew. She was an outdoor girl now, in
low-collared blouse and white linen skirt. He rejoiced in her
modulating laugh; the contrast of blue eyes and dark brows under her
Panama hat; her full dark hair, with a lock sun-drenched; her bare
throat, boyishly brown, femininely smooth; the sweet, clean,
fine-textured girl flesh of the hollow of one shoulder faintly to be
seen in the shadow of her broad, drooping collar; one hand, with a
curious ring of rose quartz and steel points, excitedly pounding a
tattoo of greeting with the whip-handle; her spirited irreverences
regarding the people they passed; chatter which showed the world
transformed as through ruby glass--a Ruth radiant, understanding, his
comrade. She was all that he had believed during her absence and
doubted while he was coming to her. But he had no time to repent of
his doubt, now, so busily was he exulting to himself, slipping a hand
under her arm: "Love her? I--should--say--I--do!"

The carriage rolled out of town with the rhythmic creak of a country
buggy, climbed a hill range by means of the black, oily state road,
and turned upon a sandy side-road. A brook ran beside them. Sunny
fields alternated with woods leaf-floored, quiet, holy--miraculous
after the weary city. Below was a vista of downward-sloping fields,
divided by creeper-covered stone walls; then a sun-meshed valley set
with ponds like shining glass dishes on a green table-cloth; beyond
all, a long reach of hillsides covered with unbroken fleecy forest,
like green down....

"So much unspoiled country, and yet there's people herded in subways!"
complained Carl.

They drove along a level road, lined with wild raspberry-bushes and
full of a thin jade light from the shading maples. They gossiped of
the Patton Kerrs and the Berkshires; of the difference between the
professional English week-ender and the American, who still has
something of the naïve provincial delight of "going visiting"; of New
York and the Dunleavys. But their talk lulled to a nervous hush. It
seemed to him that a great voice cried from the clouds: "It is beside
_Ruth_ that you are sitting; Ruth whose arm you feel!" In silence he
caught her left hand.

As he slowly drew back her hand and the reins with it, to stop the
ambling horse, the two children stared straight at each other, hungry,
tremulously afraid. Their kiss--not only their lips, but their spirits
met without one reserve. A straining long kiss, as though they were
forcing their lips into one body of living flame. A kiss in which his
eyes were blind to the enchantment of the jade light about them, his
ears deaf to brook and rustling forest. All his senses were
concentrated on the close warmth of her misty lips, the curve of her
young shoulder, her woman sweetness and longing. Then his senses
forgot even her lips, and floated off into a blurred trance of
bodiless happiness--the kiss of Nirvana. No foreign thought of trains
or people or the future came now to drag him to earth. It was the most
devoted, most sacred moment he had known.

As he became again conscious of lips and cheek and brave shoulders and
of her wide-spread fingers gripping his upper arm, she was slowly
breaking the spell of the kiss. But again and again she kissed him,
hastily, savage tokens of rejoicing possession.

She cried: "I do know now! I do love you!"

"Blessed----"

In silence they stared into the woods while her fingers smoothed his
knuckles. Her eyes were faint with tears, in the magic jade light.

"I didn't know a kiss could be like that," she marveled, presently. "I
wouldn't have believed selfish Ruth could give all of herself."

"Yes! It was the whole universe."

"Hawk dear, I wasn't experimenting, that time. I'm glad, glad! To know
I can really love; not just curiosity!... I've wanted you so all day.
I thought four o'clock wouldn't ever come--and oh, darling, my dear,
dear Hawk, I didn't even know for sure I'd like you when you came!
Sometimes I wanted terribly to have your silly, foolish, childish,
pale hair on my breast--such hair! lady's hair!--but sometimes I
didn't want to see you at all, and I was frightened at the thought of
your coming, and I fussed around the house till Mrs. Pat laughed at me
and accused me of being in love, and I denied it--and she was right!"

"Blessed, I was scared to death, all the way up here. I didn't think
you could be as wonderful as I knew you were! That sounds mixed
but---- Oh, blessed, blessed, you really love me? You really love me?
It's hard to believe I've actually heard you say it! And I love you so
completely. Everything."

"I love you!... That is such an adorable spot to kiss, just below your
ear," she said. "Darling, keep me safe in the little house of arms,
where there's only room for you and me--no room for offices or Aunt
Emmas!... But not now. We must hurry on.... If a wagon had been coming
along the road----!"

As they entered the rhododendron-lined drive of the Patton Kerr place,
Carl remembered a detail, not important, but usual. "Oh yes," he said,
"I've forgotten to propose."

"Need you? Proposals sound like contracts and all those other dull
forms; not like--that kiss.... See! There's Pat Kerr, Jr., waving to
us. You can just make him out, there on the upper balcony. He is the
darlingest child, with ash-blond hair cut Dutch style. I wonder if you
didn't look like him when you were a boy, with your light hair?"

"Not a chance. I was a grubby kid. Made noises.... Gee! what a bully
place. And the house!... Will you marry me?"

"Yes, I will!... It _is_ a dear place. Mrs. Pat is----"

"When?"

"----always fussing over it; she plants narcissuses and crocuses in
the woods, so you find them growing wild."

"I like those awnings. Against the white walls.... May I consider that
we are engaged then, Miss Winslow--engaged for the next marriage?"

"Oh no, no, not engaged, dear. Don't you know it's one of my
principles----"

"But look----"

"----not to be engaged, Hawk? Everybody brings the cunnin' old jokes
out of the moth-balls when you're engaged. I'll marry you, but----"

"Marry me next month--August?"

"Nope."

"September?"

"Nope."

"Please, Ruthie. Aw yes, September. Nice month, September is. Autumn.
Harvest moon. And apples to swipe. Come on. September."

"Well, perhaps September. We'll see. Oh, Hawk dear, can you conceive
of us actually sitting here and solemnly discussing being _married_?
Us, the babes in the wood? And I've only known you three days or so,
seems to me.... Well, as I was saying, _perhaps_ I'll marry you in
September (um! frightens me to think of it; frightens me and awes me
and amuses me to death, all at once). That is, I shall marry you
unless you take to wearing pearl-gray derbies or white evening ties
with black edging, or kill Mason in a duel, or do something equally
disgraceful. But engaged I will not be. And we'll put the money for a
diamond ring into a big davenport.... Are we going to be dreadfully
poor?"

"Oh, not pawn-shop poor. I made VanZile boost my salary, last week,
and with my Touricar stock I'm getting a little over four thousand
dollars a year."

"Is that lots or little?"

"Well, it 'll give us a decent apartment and a nearly decent maid, I
guess. And if the Touricar keeps going, we can beat it off for a year,
wandering, after maybe three four years."

"I hope so. Here we are! That's Mrs. Pat waiting for us."

The Patton Kerr house, set near the top of the highest hill in that
range of the Berkshires, stood out white against a slope of crisp
green; an old manor house of long lines and solid beams, with striped
awnings of red and white, and in front a brick terrace, with
basket-chairs, a swinging couch, and a wicker tea-table already
welcomingly spread with a service of Royal Doulton. From the terrace
one saw miles of valley and hills, and villages strung on a rambling
river. The valley was a golden bowl filled with the peace of
afternoon; a world of sun and listening woods.

On the terrace waited a woman of thirty-five, of clever face a bit
worn at the edges, carefully coiffed hair, and careless white blouse
with a tweed walking-skirt. She was gracefully holding out her hand,
greeting Carl, "It's terribly good of you to come clear out into our
wilderness." She was interrupted by the bouncing appearance of a
stocky, handsome, red-faced, full-chinned, curly-black-haired man of
forty, in riding-breeches and boots and a silk shirt; with him an
excited small boy in rompers--Patton Kerr, Sr. and Jr.

"Here you are!" Senior observantly remarked. "Glad to see you,
Ericson. You and Ruthie been a deuce of a time coming up from town.
Holding hands along the road, eh? Lord! these aviators!"

"Pat!"

"Animal!"

----protested Mrs. Kerr and Ruth, simultaneously.

"All right. I'll be good. Saw you fly at Nassau Boulevard, Ericson.
Turned my horn loose and hooted till they thought I was a militant,
like Ruthie here. Lord! what flying, what flying! I'd like to see you
race Weymann and Vedrines.... Ruthie, will you show Mr. Ericson where
his room is, or has poor old Pat got to go and drag a servant away
from reading _Town Topics_, heh?"

"I will, Pat," said Ruth.

"I will, daddy," cried Pat, Jr.

"No, my son, I guess maybe Ruthie had better do it. There's a certain
look in her eyes----"

"Basilisk!"

"Salamander!"

Ruth and Carl passed through the wide colonial hall, with mahogany
tables and portraits of the Kerrs and the sword of Colonel Patton. At
the far end was an open door, and a glimpse of an old-fashioned garden
radiant with hollyhocks and Canterbury bells. It was a world of utter
content. As they climbed the curving stairs Ruth tucked her arm in
his, saying:

"Now do you see why I won't be engaged? Pat Kerr is the best chum in
the world, yet he finds even a possible engagement wildly
humorous--like mothers-in-law or poets or falling on your ear."

"But gee! Ruth, you _are_ going to marry me?"

"You little child! My little boy Hawk! Of course I'm going to marry
you. Do you think I would miss my chance of a cabin in the Rockies?...
My famous Hawk what everybody cheered at Nassau Boulevard!" She opened
the door of his room with a deferential, "Thy chamber, milord!... Come
down quickly," she said. "We mustn't miss a moment of these days....
I am frank with you about how glad I am to have you here. You must be
good to me; you will prize my love a little, won't you?" Before he
could answer she had run away.

After half home-comings and false home-comings the adventurer had
really come home.

He inspected the gracious room, its chintz hangings, four-poster bed,
low wicker chair by the fireplace, fresh Cherokee roses on the mantel;
a room of cheerfulness and open spaces. He stared into woods where a
cool light lay on moss and fern. He did not need to remember Ruth's
kisses. For each breath of hilltop air, each emerald of moss, each
shining mahogany surface in the room, repeated to him that he had
found the Grail, whose other name is love.

Saturday, they loafed over breakfast, the sun licking the tree-tops in
the ravine outside the windows; and they motored with the Kerrs to
Lenox, returning through the darkness. Till midnight they talked on
the terrace. They loafed again, the next morning, and let the fresh
air dissolve the office grime which had been coating his spirit. They
were so startlingly original as to be simple-hearted country lovers,
in the afternoon, declining Kerr's offer of a car, and rambling off on
bicycles.

From a rise they saw water gleaming among the trees. The sullen green
of pines set off the silvery green of barley, and an orchard climbed
the next rise; the smoky shadow of another hill range promised long,
cool forest roads. Crows were flying overhead, going where they would.
The aviator and the girl who read psychology, modern lovers, stood
hand in hand, as though the age of machinery were a myth; as though he
were a piping minstrel and she a shepherdess. Before them was the open
road and all around them the hum of bees.

A close, listless heat held Monday afternoon, even on the hilltop. The
clay tennis-court was baking; the worn bricks of the terrace reflected
a furnace glow. The Kerrs had disappeared for a nap. Carl, lounging
with Ruth on the swinging couch in the shade, thought of the slaves in
New York offices and tenements. Then, because he would himself be back
in an office next day, he let the glare of the valley soothe him with
its wholesome heat.

"Certainly would like a swim," he remarked. "Couldn't we bike down to
Fisher's Pond, or maybe take the Ford?"

"Let's. But there's no bath-house."

"Put a bathing-suit under your dress. Sun 'll dry it in no time, after
the swim."

"As you command, my liege." And she ran in to change.

They motored down to Fisher's Pond, which is a lake, and stopped in a
natural woodland-opening like a dim-lighted greenroom. From it
stretched the enameled lake, the farther side reflecting unbroken
woods. The nearer water-edge was exquisite in its clearness. They saw
perch fantastically floating over the pale sand bottom, among
scattered reeds whose watery green stalks were like the thin columns
of a dancing-hall for small fishes. The surface of the lake, satiny as
the palm of a girl's hand, broke in the tiniest of ripples against
white quartz pebbles on the hot shore. Cool, flashing, golden-sanded,
the lake coaxed them out of their forest room.

"A lot like the Minnesota lakes, only smaller," said Carl. "I'm going
right in. About ready for a swim? Come on."

"I'm af-fraid!" She suddenly plumped on the earth and hugged her
skirts about her ankles.

"Why, blessed, what you scared of? No sharks here, and no undertow.
Nice white sand----"

"Oh, Hawk, I was silly. I felt I was such an independent modern woman
a-a-and I aren't! I've always said it was silly for girls to swim in a
woman's bathing-suit. Skirts are so cumbersome. So I put on a boy's
bathing-suit under my dress--and--I'm terribly embarrassed."

"Why, blessed----Well, I guess you'll have to decide." His voice was
somewhat shaky. "Awful scared of Carl?"

"Yes! I thought I wouldn't be, with you, but I'm self-conscious as can
be."

"Well, gee! I don't know. Of course----Well, I'll jump in, and you can
decide."

He peeled off his white flannels and stood in his blue bathing-suit,
not statue-like, not very brown now, but trim-waisted, shapely armed,
wonderfully clean of neck and jaw. With a "Wheee!" he dashed into the
water and swam out, overhand.

As he turned over and glanced back, his heart caught to see her
standing on the creamy sand, a shy, elfin figure in a boy's
bathing-suit of black wool, woman and slim boy in one, silken-throated
and graceful-limbed, curiously smaller than when dressed. Her white
skirt and blouse lay tumbled about her ankles. She raised rosy arms to
hide her flushed face and her eyes, as she cried:

"Don't look!"

He obediently swam on, with a tenderness more poignant than longing.
He heard her splashing behind him, and turned again, to see her racing
through the water. Those soft yet not narrow shoulders rose and fell
sturdily under the wet black wool, her eyes shone, and she was all
comradely boy save for her dripping, splendid hair. Singing, "Come on,
lazy!" she headed across the pond. He swam beside her, reveling in the
well-being of cool water and warm air, till they reached the solemn
shade beneath the trees on the other side, and floated in the dark,
still water, splashing idle hands, gazing into forest hollows, spying
upon the brisk business of squirrels among the acorns.

Back at their greenwood room, Ruth wrapped her sailor blouse about
her, and they squatted like un-self-conscious children on the beach,
while from a field a distant locust fiddled his August fandango and in
flame-colored pride an oriole went by. Fresh sky, sunfish like tropic
shells in the translucent water, arching reeds dipping their
olive-green points in the water, wavelets rustling against a gray
neglected rowboat, and beside him Ruth.

Musingly they built a castle of sand. An hour of understanding so
complete that it made the heart melancholy. When he sighed, "Getting
late; come on, blessed; we're dry now," it seemed that they could
never again know such rapt tranquillity.

Yet they did. For that evening when they stood on the terrace, trying
to forget that he must leave her and go back to the lonely city in the
morning, when the mist reached chilly tentacles up from the valley,
they kissed a shy good-by, and Carl knew that life's real adventure is
not adventuring, but finding the playmate with whom to quest life's
meaning.



CHAPTER XL


After six festival months of married life--in April or May, 1914--the
happy Mrs. Carl Ericson did not have many "modern theories of marriage
in general," though it was her theory that she had such theories. Like
a majority of intelligent men and women, Ruth was, in her rebellion
against the canonical marriage of slipper-warming and obedience,
emphatic but vague. She was of precise opinion regarding certain
details of marriage, but in general as inconsistent as her library. It
is a human characteristic to be belligerently sure as to whether one
prefers plush or rattan upholstery on car seats--but not to consider
whether government ownership of railroads will improve upholstering;
to know with certainty of perception that it is a bore to have one's
husband laugh at one's pet economy, of matches or string or ice--but
to be blandly willing to leave all theories of polygamy and polyandry,
monogamy and varietism, to the clever Russian Jews.

As regards details Ruth definitely did want a bedroom of her own; a
desire which her mother would have regarded as somehow immodest. She
definitely did want shaving and hair-brushing kept in the background.
She did not want Carl the lover to drift into Carl the husband. She
did not want them to lose touch with other people. And she wanted to
keep the spice of madness which from the first had seasoned their
comradeship.

These things she delightfully had, in May, 1914.

They were largely due to her own initiative. Carl's drifting theories
of social structure concerned for the most part the wages of workmen
and the ridiculousness of class distinctions. Reared in the farming
district, the amateur college, the garage, and the hangar, he had not,
despite imagination, devoted two seconds to such details as the
question of whether there was freedom and repose--not to speak of a
variety of taste as regards opening windows and sleeping diagonally
across a bed--in having separate bedrooms. Much though he had been
persuaded to read of modern fiction, his race still believed that
marriage bells and roses were the proper portions of marriage to think
about.

It was due to Ruth, too, that they had so amiable a flat. Carl had
been made careless of surroundings by years of hotels and furnished
rooms. There was less real significance for him in the beauty of his
first home than in the fact that they two had a bath-room of their
own; that he no longer had to go, clad in a drab bath-robe, laden with
shaving materials and a towel and talcum powder and a broken
hand-mirror and a tooth-brush, like a perambulating drug-store
toilet-counter, down a boarding-house hall to that modified hall
bedroom with a tin tub which his doctor-landlord had called a
bath-room. Pictures, it must be admitted, give a room an air; pleasant
it is to sit in large chairs by fireplaces and feel yourself a landed
gentleman. But nothing filled Carl with a more delicate--and truly
spiritual--satisfaction than having a porcelain tub, plenty of hot
water, and the privilege of leaving his shaving-brush in the Ericson
bath-room with a fair certainty of finding it there when he wanted to
shave in a hurry.

But, careless of surroundings or not, Carl was stirred when on their
return from honeymooning in the Adirondacks he carried Ruth over the
threshold and they stood together in the living-room of their home.

It was a room to live in and laugh in. The wood-work was
white-enameled; the walls covered with gray Japanese paper. There were
no portières between living-room and dining-room and small hall, so
that the three rooms, with their light-reflecting walls, gave an
effect of spaciousness to rather a cramped and old-fashioned
apartment. There were not many pictures and no bric-à-brac, yet the
rooms were not bare, but clean and trim and distinguished, with the
large davenport and the wing-chair, chintz-cushioned brown willow
chairs, and Ruth's upright piano, excellent mahogany, and a few good
rugs. There were only two or three vases, and they genuinely intended
for holding flowers, and there was a bare mantelpiece that rested the
eyes, over the fuzzily clean gas-log. The pictures were chosen because
they led the imagination on--etchings and color prints, largely by
unknown artists, like windows looking on delightful country. The
chairs assembled naturally in groups. The whole unit of three rooms
suggested people talking.... It was home, first and last, though it
was one cell in one layer of a seven-story building, on a street
walled in with such buildings, in a city which lined up more than
three hundred of such streets from its southern tip to its northern
limit along the Hudson, and threw in a couple of million people in
Brooklyn and the Bronx.

They lived in the Nineties, between Broadway and Riverside Drive; a
few blocks from the Winslow house in distance, but one generation away
in the matter of decoration. The apartment-house itself was
comparatively old-fashioned, with an intermittent elevator run by an
intermittent negro youth who gave most of his time to the telephone
switchboard and mysterious duties in the basement; also with a
down-stairs hall that was narrow and carpeted and lined with
offensively dark wood. But they could see the Hudson from their
living-room on the sixth floor at the back of the house (the agent
assured them that probably not till the end of time would there be
anything but low, private houses between them and the river); they
were not haunted by Aunt Emma Truegate Winslow; and Ruth, who had long
been oppressed by late-Victorian bric-à-brac and American Louis XVth
furniture, so successfully adopted Elimination as the key-note that
there was not one piece of furniture bought for the purpose of
indicating that Mr. and Mrs. Carl Ericson were well-to-do.

She dared to tell friends who before the wedding inquired what she
wanted, that checks were welcome, and need not be monogrammed. Even
Aunt Emma had been willing to send a check, provided they were
properly married in St. George's Church. Consequently their six rooms
showed a remarkable absence of such usual wedding presents as prints
of the smugly smiling and eupeptic Mona Lisa, three muffin-stands in
three degrees of marquetry, three electroliers, four punch-bowls,
three sets of almond-dishes, a pair of bird-carvers that did not
carve, a bust of Dante in New Art marble, or a de luxe set of De
Maupassant translated by a worthy lady with a French lexicon. Instead,
they bought what they wanted--rather an impertinent thing to do, but,
like most impertinences, thoroughly worth while. Their living-room was
their own. Carl's bedroom was white and simple, though spotty with
aviation medals and silver cups and monoplanes sketchily rendered in
gold, and signed photographs of aviators. Ruth's bedroom was also
plain and white and dull Japanese gray, a simple room with that
simplicity of hand-embroidery, real lace, and fine linen appreciated
by exclamatory women friends.

She taught Carl to say "dahg" instead of "dawg" for "dog"; "wawta"
instead of "wotter" for "water." Whether she was more correct in her
pronunciation or not does not matter; New York said "dahg," and it
amused him just then to be very Eastern. She taught him the theory of
house-lighting. Carl had no fanatical objection to unshaded
incandescent bulbs glaring from the ceiling. But he came to like the
shaded electric lamps which Ruth installed in the living-room. When
she introduced four candles as sole lighting of the dining-room
table, however, he grumbled loudly at his inability to see what he was
eating. She retired to her bedroom, and he huffily went out to get a
cigar. At the cigar-counter he repented of all the unkind things he
had ever done or could possibly do, and returned to eat humble
pie--and eat it by candle-light. Inside of two weeks one of the things
which Carl Ericson had always known was that the harmonious
candle-light brought them close together at dinner.

The teaching, in this Period of Adjustments, was not all on Ruth's
part. It was due to Carl's insistence that she tried to discover what
her theological beliefs really were. She admitted that only at
twilight vespers, with a gale of violins in an arched roof, did she
really worship in church. She did not believe that priests and
ministers, who seemed to be ordinary men as regards earthly things,
had any extraordinary knowledge of the mysteries of heaven. Yet she
took it for granted that she was a good Christian. She rarely
disagreed with the Dunleavys, who were Catholics; or her Aunt Emma,
who regarded anything but High Church Episcopalianism as bad form; or
her brother Mason, who was an uneasy Unitarian; or Carl, who was an
unaggressive agnostic.

Of the four it was Carl who seemed to have the greatest interest in
religions. He blurted out such monologues as, "I wonder if it isn't pure
egotism that makes a person believe that the religion he is born to is the
best? _My_ country, _my_ religion, _my_ wife, _my_ business--we think that
whatever is ours is necessarily sacred, or, in other words, that we are
gods--and then we call it faith and patriotism! The Hindu or the Christian
is equally ready to prove to you--and mind you, he may be a wise old man
with a beard--that his national religion is obviously the only one. Find
out what you yourself really do think, and if you turn out a Sun-worshiper
or a Hard-shell Baptist, why, good luck. If you don't think for yourself,
then you're admitting that your theory of happiness is the old dog asleep
in the sun. And maybe he is happier than the student. But I think you like
to experiment with life."

His arguments were neither original nor especially logical; they were
largely given to him by Bone Stillman, Professor Frazer, and chance
paragraphs in stray radical magazines. But to Ruth, politely reared in
a house with three maids, where it was as tactless to discuss God as
to discuss sex, his defiances seemed terrifyingly new.... She was not
the first who had complacently gone to church after reading Bernard
Shaw.... But she did try to follow Carl's loose reasoning; to find out
what she thought and what the spiritual fashions of her neighborhood
made her think she thought.

The process gave her many anxious hours of alternating impatience with
fixed religious dogmas, and loneliness for the comfortable refuge of a
personal God, whose yearning had spoken to her in the Gregorian chant.
She could never get herself to read more than two chapters of any book
on the subject, nor did she get much light from conversation. One set
of people supposed that Christianity had so entirely disappeared from
intelligent circles that it was not worth discussion; another set
supposed that no one but cranks ever thought of doubting the
essentials of Christianity, and that, therefore, it was not worth
discussion; and to a few superb women whom she knew, their religion
was too sweet a reality to be subjected to the noisy chatter of
discussion. Gradually Ruth forgot to think often of the matter, but it
was always back in her mind.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were happy, Carl and Ruth. To their flat came such of Ruth's friends
as she kept because she liked them for themselves, with a fantastic
assortment of personages and awkward rovers whom the ex-aviator knew. The
Ericsons made an institution of "bruncheon"--breakfast-luncheon--at which
coffee and eggs and deviled kidneys, a table of auction bridge and a
davenport of talk and a wing-chair of Sunday papers, were to be had on
Sunday morning from ten to one. At bruncheon Walter MacMonnies told to
Florence Crewden his experiences in exploring Southern Greenland by
aeroplane with the Schliess-Banning expedition. At bruncheon Bobby Winslow,
now an interne, talked baseball with Carl. At bruncheon Phil Dunleavy
regarded cynically all the people he did not know and played piquet in a
corner with Ruth's father.

Carl and Ruth joined the Peace Waters Country Club, and in the spring
of 1914 went there nearly every Saturday afternoon for tennis and a
dance. Carl refused golf, however; he always repeated a shabby joke
about the shame of taking advantage of such a tiny ball.

He seemed content to stick to office, home, and tennis-court. It was
Ruth who planned their week-end trips, proposed at 8 A.M. Saturday,
and begun at two that afternoon. They explored the tangled rocks and
woods of Lloyd's Neck, on Long Island, sleeping in an abandoned shack,
curled together like kittens. They swooped on a Dutch village in New
Jersey, spent the night with an old farmer, and attended the Dutch
Reformed church. They tramped from New Haven to Hartford, over Easter.
Carl was always ready for their gipsy journeys; he responded to Ruth's
visions of foaming South Sea isles; but he rarely sketched such
pictures himself. He had given all of himself to joy in Ruth. Like
many men called "adventurers," he was ready for anything but content
with anything.

It was Ruth who was finding new voyages. She kept up her settlement
work and progressed to an active interest in the Women's Trade Union
League and took part in picketing during a Panama Hat-Workers' strike.
She may have had more curiosity than principle, but she did badger
policemen pluckily. She was studying Italian, the Montessori method,
cooking. She taught new dishes to her maid. She adopted a careless
suggestion of Carl and voluntarily increased the maid's salary,
thereby shaking the rock-ribbed foundations of Upper West Side
society.

In nothing did she find greater satisfaction than in being neither
"the bride" nor "the little woman" nor any like degrading thing which
recently married girls are by their sentimental spinster friends
expected to be. She did not whisper the intimate details of her
honeymoon to other young married women; she did not run about quaintly
and tinily telling her difficulties with household work.

When a purring, baby-talking acquaintance gurgled: "How did the Ruthie
bride spend her morning? Did she cook some little dainty for her
husband? Nothing bourgeois, I'm _sure_!" in reply Ruth pleasantly
observed: "Not a chance. The Ruthie bride cussed out the janitor for
not shooting up a dainty cabbage on the dumb-waiter, and then counted
up her husband's cigarette coupons and skipped right down to the
premium parlors with 'em and got him a pair of pale-blue Boston
garters and a cunning granite-ware stew-pan, and then sponged lunch
off Olive Dunleavy. But nothing bourgeois!"

Such experiences, told to Carl, he found diverting. He seemed, in the
spring of 1914, to want no others.



CHAPTER XLI


The apparently satisfactory development of the Touricar in the late
spring of 1914 was the result of an uneconomical expenditure of energy
on the part of Carl. Personally he followed by letter the trail of
every amateur aviator, every motoring big-game hunter. He never let up
for an afternoon. VanZile had lost interest in the whole matter.
Whenever Carl thought of how much the development of the Touricar
business depended upon himself, he was uneasy about the future, and
bent more closely over his desk. On his way home, swaying on a subway
strap, his pleasant sensation of returning to Ruth was interrupted by
worry in regard to things he might have done at the office. Nights he
dreamed of lists of "prospects."

Late in May he was disturbed for several days by headaches, lassitude,
nausea. He lied to Ruth: "Guess I've eaten something at lunch that was
a little off. You know what these restaurants are." He admitted,
however, that he felt like a Symptom. He stuck to the office, though
his chief emotion about life and business was that he wished to go off
somewhere and lie down and die gently.

Directly after a Sunday bruncheon, at which he was silent and looked
washed out, he went to bed with typhoid fever.

For six weeks he was ill. He seemed daily to lose more of the
boyishness which all his life had made him want to dance in the sun.
That loss was to Ruth like a snickering hobgoblin attending the
specter of death. Staying by him constantly, forgetting, in the
intensity of her care, even to want credit for virtue, taking one
splash at her tired eyes with boric acid and dashing back to his bed,
she mourned and mourned for her lost boy, while she hid her fear and
kept her blouses fresh and her hair well-coiffed, and mothered the
stern man who lay so dreadfully still in the bed.... He was not shaved
every day; he had a pale beard under his hollow cheeks.... Even when
he was out of delirium, even when he was comparatively strong, he
never said anything gaily foolish for the sake of being young and
noisy with her.

During convalescence Carl was so wearily gentle that she hoped the
little boy she loved was coming back to dwell in him. But the Hawk's
wings seemed broken. For the first time Carl was afraid of life. He
sat and worried, going over the possibilities of the Touricar, and the
positions he might get if the Touricar failed. He was willing to loaf
by the window all day, his eyes on a narrow, blood-red stripe in the
Navajo blanket on his knees, along which he incessantly ran a
finger-nail, back and forth, back and forth, for whole quarter-hours,
while she read aloud from Kipling and London and Conrad, hoping to
rekindle the spirit of daring.

One sweet drop was in their cup of iron. As woodland playmates they
could never have known such intimacy as hovered about them when she
rested her head lightly against his knees and they watched the Hudson,
the storms and flurries of light on its waves, the windy clouds and
the processional of barges, the beetle-like ferries and the great
steamers for Albany. They talked in half sentences, understanding the
rest: "Tough in winter----" "Might be good trip----" Carl's hand was
always demanding her thick hair, but he stroked it gently. The coarse,
wholesome vigor was drained from him; part even of his slang went with
it; his "Gee!" was not explosive.

He took to watching her like a solemn baby, when she moved about the
room; thus she found the little boy Carl again; laughed full-throated
and secretly cried over him, as his sternness passed into a wistful
obedience. He was not quite the same impudent boy whose naughtiness
she had loved. But the good child who came in his place did trust her
so, depend upon her so....

When Carl was strong enough they went for three weeks to Point
Pleasant, on the Jersey coast, where the pines and breakers from the
open sea healed his weakness and his multitudinous worries. They even
swam, once, and Carl played at learning two new dances, strangely
called the "fox trot" and the "lu lu fado." Their hotel was a vast
barn, all porches, white flannels, and handsome young Jews chattering
tremendously with young Jewesses; but its ball-room floor was smooth,
and Ruth had lacked music and excitement for so long that she danced
every night, and conducted an amiable flirtation with a mysterious
young man of Harvard accent, Jewish features, fine brown eyes, and
tortoise-shell-rimmed eye-glasses, while Carl looked on, a contented
wall-flower.

They came back to town with ocean breeze and pine scent in their
throats and sea-sparkle in their eyes--and Carl promptly tied himself
to the office desk as though sickness and recovery had never given him
a vision of play.

Ruth had not taken the Point Pleasant dances seriously, but as day on
day she stifled in a half-darkened flat that summer, she sometimes
sobbed at the thought of the moon-path on the sea, the reflection of
lights on the ball-room floor, the wavelike swish of music-mad feet.

The flat was hot, dead. The summer heat was unrelenting as bedclothes
drawn over the head and lashed down. Flies in sneering circles mocked
the listless hand she flipped at them. Too hot to wear many clothes,
yet hating the disorder of a flimsy negligée, she panted by a window,
while the venomous sun glared on tin roofs, and a few feet away
snarled the ceaseless trrrrrr of a steam-riveter that was erecting new
flats to shut off their view of the Hudson. In the lava-paved back
yard was the insistent filelike voice of the janitor's son, who kept
piping: "Haaay, Bil-lay, hey; Billy's got a girl! Hey, Billy's got a
girl! Haaay, Bil-lay!" She imagined herself going down and
slaughtering him; vividly saw herself waiting for the elevator,
venturing into the hot sepulcher of the back areaway, and there
becoming too languid to complete the task of ridding the world of the
dear child. She was horrified to discover what she had been imagining,
and presently imagined it all over again.

Two blocks across from her, seen through the rising walls of the new
apartment-houses, were the drab windows of a group of run-down
tenements, which broke the sleek respectability of the well-to-do
quarter. In those windows Ruth observed foreign-looking, idle women,
not very clean, who had nothing to do after they had completed half an
hour of slovenly housework in the morning. They watched their
neighbors breathlessly. They peered out with the petty virulent
curiosity of the workless at whatever passed in the streets below
them. Fifty times a day they could be seen to lean far out on their
fire-escapes and follow with slowly craning necks and unblinking eyes
the passing of something--ice-wagons, undertakers' wagons, ole-clo'
men, Ruth surmised. The rest of the time, ragged-haired and greasy of
wrapper, gum-chewing and yawning, they rested their unlovely stomachs
on discolored sofa-cushions on the window-sills and waited for
something to appear. Two blocks away they were--yet to Ruth they
seemed to be in the room with her, claiming her as one of their
sisterhood. For now she was a useless woman, as they were. She raged
with the thought that she might grow to be like them in every
respect--she, Ruth Winslow!... She wondered if any of them were
Norwegians named Ericson.... With the fascination of dread she watched
them as closely as they watched the world with the hypnotization of
unspeakable hopelessness.... She had to find her work, something for
which the world needed her, lest she be left here, useless and
unhappy in a flat. In her kitchen she was merely an intruder on the
efficient maid, and there was no nursery.

She sat apprehensively on the edge of a chair, hating the women at the
windows, hating the dull, persistent flies, hating the wetness of her
forehead and the dampness of her palm; repenting of her hate and
hating again--and taking another cold bath to be fresh for the
home-coming of Carl, the tired man whom she had to mother and whom, of
all the world, she did not hate.

Even on the many cool days when the streets and the flat became
tolerable and the vulture women of the tenements ceased to exist for
her, Ruth was not much interested, whether she went out or some one
came to see her. Every one she knew, except for the Dunleavys and a
few others, was out of town, and she was tired of Olive Dunleavy's
mirth and shallow gossip. After her days with Carl in the valley of
the shadow, Olive was to her a stranger giggling about strange people.
Phil was rather better. He occasionally came in for tea, poked about,
stared at the color prints, and said cryptic things about feminism and
playing squash.

Her settlement-house classes were closed for the summer. She brooded
over the settlement work and accused herself of caring less for people
than for the sensation of being charitable. She wondered if she was a
hypocrite.... Then she would take another cold bath to be fresh for
the home-coming of Carl, the tired man whom she had to mother, and
toward whom, of all the world's energies, she knew that she was not
hypocritical.

This is not the story of Ruth Winslow, but of Carl Ericson. Yet Ruth's
stifling days are a part of it, for her unhappiness meant as much to
him as it did to her. In the swelter of his office, overlooking
motor-hooting, gasoline-reeking Broadway, he was aware that Ruth was
in the flat, buried alive. He made plans for her going away, but she
refused to desert him. He tried to arrange for a week more of holiday
for them both; he could not; he came to understand that he was now
completely a prisoner of business.

He was in a rut, both sides of which were hedged with "back work that
had piled up on him." He had no desire, no ambition, no interest,
except in Ruth and in making the Touricar pay.

The Touricar Company had never paid expenses as yet. How much longer
would old VanZile be satisfied with millions to come in the
future--perhaps?

Carl even took work home with him, though for Ruth's sake he wanted to
go out and play. It really was for her sake; he himself liked to play,
but the disease of perpetual overwork had hold of him. He was glad to
have her desert him for an evening now and then and go out to the
Peace Waters Country Club for a dance with Phil and Olive Dunleavy.
She felt guilty when she came home and found him still making
calculations. But she hummed waltzes while she put on a thin, blue
silk dressing-gown and took down her hair.

"I _can't_ stand this grubby, shut-in prison," she finally snapped at
him, on an evening when he would not go to the first night of a
roof-garden.

He snarled back: "You don't have to! Why don't you go with your
bloomin' Phil and Olive? Of course, I don't ever want to go myself!"

"See here, my friend, you have been taking advantage for a long time
now of the fact that you were ill. I'm not going to be your nurse
indefinitely." She slammed her bedroom door.

Later she came stalking out, very dignified, and left the flat. He
pretended not to see her. But as soon as the elevator door had clanged
and the rumbling old car had begun to carry her down, away from him,
the flat was noisy with her absence. She came home eagerly sorry--to
find an eagerly sorry Carl. Then, while they cried together, and he
kissed her lips, they made a compact that no matter for what reason
or through whose fault they might quarrel, they would always settle it
before either went to bed.... But they were uncomfortably polite for
two days, and obviously were so afraid that they might quarrel that
they were both prepared to quarrel.

Carl had been back at work for less than one month, but he hoped that
the Touricar was giving enough promise now of positive success to
permit him to play during the evening. He rented a VanZile car for
part time; planned week-end trips; hoped they could spend----

Then the whole world exploded.

Just at the time when the investigation of Twilight Sleep indicated
that the world might become civilized, the Powers plunged into a war
whose reason no man has yet discovered. Carl read the head-lines on
the morning of August 5th, 1914, with a delusion of not reading
"news," but history, with himself in the history book.

Ten thousand books record the Great War, and how bitterly Europe
realized it; this is to record that Carl, like most of America, did
not comprehend it, even when recruits of the Kaiser marched down
Broadway with German and American flags intertwined, even when his
business was threatened. It was too big for his imagination.

Every noon he bought half a dozen newspaper extras and hurried down to
the bulletin-boards on the _Times_ and _Herald_ buildings. He
pretended that he was a character in one of the fantastic novels about
a world-war when he saw such items as "Russians invading Prussia,"
"Japs will enter war," "Aeroplane and submarine attack English
cruiser."

"Rats!" he said, "I'm dreaming. There couldn't be a war like that.
We're too civilized. I can prove the whole thing 's impossible."

In the world-puzzle nothing confused Carl more than the question of
socialism. He had known as a final fact that the alliance of French
and German socialist workmen made war between the two nations
absolutely impossible--and his knowledge was proven ignorance, his
faith folly. He tentatively bought a socialist magazine or two, to
find some explanation, and found only greater confusion on the part of
the scholars and leaders of the party. They, too, did not understand
how it had all happened; they stood amid the ruins of international
socialism, sorrowing. If their faith was darkened, how much more so
was Carl's vague untutored optimism about world-brotherhood.

He had two courses--to discard socialism as a failure, or to stand by
it as a course of action which was logical but had not, as yet, been
able to accomplish its end. He decided to stand by it; he could not
see himself plunging into the unutterable pessimism of believing that
all of mankind were such beast fools that, after this one great sin,
they could not repent and turn from tribal murder. And what other
remedy was there? If socialism had not prevented the war, neither had
monarchy nor bureaucracy, bourgeois peace movements, nor the church.

       *       *       *       *       *

With a whole world at war, Carl thought chiefly of his own business.
He was not abnormal. The press was filled with bewildered queries as
to what would happen to America. For two weeks the automobile business
seemed dead, save for a grim activity in war-trucks. VanZile called in
Carl and shook his head over the future of the Touricar, now that all
luxuries were threatened.

But the Middle West promised a huge crop and prosperity. The East
followed; then, slowly, the South, despite the closed outlet for its
cotton crop. Within a few weeks all sorts of motor-cars were selling
well, especially expensive cars. It was apparent that automobiles were
no longer merely luxuries. There was even a promise of greater trade
than ever, so rapidly were all the cars of the warring nations being
destroyed.

But, once VanZile had considered the possibility of letting go his
Touricar interest in order to be safe, he seemed always to be
considering it. Carl read fate in VanZile's abstracted manner. And if
VanZile withdrew, Carl's own stock would be worthless. But he stuck at
his work, with something of a boy's frightened stubbornness and
something of a man's quiet sternness. Fear was never far from him. In
an aeroplane he had never been greatly frightened; he could himself,
by his own efforts, fight the wind. But how could he steer a world-war
or a world-industry?

He tried to conceal his anxiety from Ruth, but she guessed it. She
said, one evening: "Sometimes I think we two are unusual, because we
really want to be free. And then a thing like this war comes and our
bread and butter and little pink cakes are in danger, and I realize
we're not free at all; that we're just like all the rest, prisoners,
dependent on how much the job brings and how fast the subway runs. Oh,
sweetheart, we mustn't forget to be just a bit mad, no matter how
serious things become." Standing very close to him, she put her head
on his shoulder.

"Sure mustn't. Must stick by each other all the more when the world
takes a run and jumps on us."

"Indeed we will!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Unsparingly the war's cosmic idiocy continued, and Carl crawled along
the edge of a business precipice, looking down. He became so
accustomed to it that he began to enjoy the view. The old Carl, with
the enthusiasm which had served him for that undefined quality called
"courage," began to come to life again, laughing, "Let the darned old
business bust, if she's going to."

Only, it refused to bust.

It kept on trembling, while Carl became nervous again, then gaily
defiant, then nervous again, till the alternation of gloom and bravado
disgusted him and made Ruth wonder whether he was an office-slave or a
freebooter. As he happened to be both at the time, it was hard for
him to be either convincingly. She accused him of vacillating; he
retorted; the suspense kept them both raw....

To add to their difficulties of adjustment to each other, and to the
ego-mad world, Ruth's sense of established amenities was shocked by
the reappearance of Carl's pioneering past as revealed in the lively
but vulgar person of Martin Dockerill, Carl's former aviation
mechanic.

Martin Dockerill was lanky and awkward as ever, he still wrote
post-cards to his aunt in Fall River, and admired burlesque-show
choruses, but he no longer played the mouth-organ (publicly), for he
had become so well-to-do as to be respectable. As foreign agent for
the Des Moines Auto-Truck Company he had toured Europe, selling
war-trucks, or lorries, as the English called them, first to the
Balkan States, then to Italy, Russia, and Turkey. He was for a time
detailed to the New York office.

It did not occur either to him nor to Carl that he was not "welcome to
drop in any time; often as possible," to slap Carl on the back, loudly
recollect the time when he had got drunk and fought with a policeman
in San Antonio, or to spend a whole evening belligerently discussing
the idea of war or types of motor-trucks when Ruth wistfully wanted
Carl to herself. Martin supposed, because she smiled, that she was as
interested as Carl in his theories about aeroplane-scouting in war.

Ruth knew that most of Carl's life had been devoted to things quite
outside her own sphere of action, but she had known it without feeling
it. His talk with Martin showed her how sufficient his life had been
without her. She began to worry lest he go back to aviation.

So began their serious quarrels; there were not many of them, and they
were forgotten out of existence in a day or two; but there were at
least three pitched battles during which both of them believed that
"this ended everything." They quarreled always about the one thing
which had intimidated them before--the need of quarreling; though
apropos of this every detail of life came up: Ruth's conformities; her
fear that he would fly again; her fear that the wavering job was
making him indecisive.

And Martin Dockerill kept coming, as an excellent starting-point for
dissension.

Ruth did not dislike Martin's roughness, but when the ex-mechanic
discovered that he was making more money than was Carl, and asked
Carl, in her presence, if he'd like a loan, then she hated Martin, and
would give no reason. She became unable to see him as anything but a
boor, an upstart servant, whose friendship with Carl indicated that
her husband, too, was an "outsider." Believing that she was superbly
holding herself in, she asked Carl if there was not some way of
tactfully suggesting to Martin that he come to the flat only once in
two weeks, instead of two or three times a week. Carl was angry. She
said furiously what she really thought, and retired to Aunt Emma's for
the evening. When she returned she expected to find Carl as repentant
as herself. Unfortunately that same Carl who had declared that it was
pure egotism to regard one's own religion or country as necessarily
sacred, regarded his own friends as sacred--a noble faith which is an
important cause of political graft. He was ramping about the
living-room, waiting for a fight--and he got it.

Their moment of indiscretion. The inevitable time when, believing
themselves fearlessly frank, they exaggerated every memory of an
injury. Ruth pointed out that Carl had disliked Florence Crewden as
much as she had disliked Martin. She renewed her accusation that he
was vacillating; scoffed at Walter MacMonnies (whom she really liked),
Gertie Cowles (whom she had never met), and even, hesitatingly, Carl's
farmer relatives.

And Carl was equally unpleasant. At her last thrust he called her a
thin-blooded New-Yorker and slammed his bedroom door. They had broken
their pledge not to go to bed on a quarrel.

He was gone before she came out to breakfast in the morning.

In the evening they were perilously polite again. Martin Dockerill
appeared and, while Ruth listened, Carl revealed how savagely his mind
had turned overnight to a longing for such raw adventuring as she
could never share. He feverishly confessed that he had for many weeks
wavered between hating the whole war and wanting to enlist in the
British Aero Corps, to get life's supreme sensation--scouting ten
thousand feet in air, while dozens of batteries fired at him; a
nose-to-earth volplane. The thinking Carl, the playmate Carl that Ruth
knew, was masked as the foolhardy adventurer--and as one who was not
merely talking, but might really do the thing he pictured. And Martin
Dockerill seemed so dreadfully to take it for granted that Carl might
go.

Carl's high note of madness dropped to a matter-of-fact chatter about
a kind of wandering which shut her out as completely as did the
project of war. "I don't know," said he, "but what the biggest fun in
chasing round the country is to get up from a pile of lumber where
you've pounded your ear all night and get that funny railroad smell of
greasy waste, and then throw your feet for a hand-out and sneak on a
blind and go hiking off to some town you've never heard of, with every
brakie and constabule out after you. That's living!"

When Martin was gone Carl glanced at her. She stiffened and pretended
to be absorbed in a magazine. He took from the mess of papers and
letters that lived in his inside coat pocket a war-map he had clipped
from a newspaper, and drew tactical lines on it. From his room he
brought a small book he had bought that day. He studied it intently.
Ruth managed to see that the title of the book was _Aeroplanes and
Air-Scouting in the European Armies_.

She sprang up, cried: "Hawk! Why are you reading that?"

"Why shouldn't I read it?"

"You don't mean to---- You----"

"Oh no, I don't suppose I'd have the nerve to go and enlist now.
You've already pointed out to me that I've been getting cold feet."

"But why do you shut me out? Why do you?"

"Oh, good Lord! have we got to go all over that again? We've gone over
it and over it and over it till I'm sick of telling you it isn't
true."

"I'm very sorry, Hawk. Thank you for making it clear to me that I'm a
typical silly wife."

"And thank you for showing me I'm a clumsy brute. You've done it quite
often now. Of course it doesn't mean anything that I've given up
aviation."

"Oh, don't be melodramatic. Or if you must be, don't fail to tell me
that I've ruined your life."

"Very well. I won't say anything, then, Ruth."

"Don't look at me like that, Hawk. So hard. Studying me.... Can't you
understand---- Haven't you any perception? Can't you understand how
hard it is for me to come to you like this, after last night, and
try----"

"Very nice of you," he said, grimly.

With one cry of "Oh!" she ran into her bedroom.

He could hear her sobbing; he could feel her agony dragging him to
her. But no woman's arms should drug his anger, this time, to let it
ache again. For once he definitely did not want to go to her. So
futile to make up and quarrel, make up and quarrel. He was impatient
that her distant sobs expressed so clearly a wordless demand that he
come to her and make peace. "Hell!" he crawked; jerked his top-coat
from its nail, and left the flat--eleven o'clock of a chilly November
evening.



CHAPTER XLII


Dizzy with all the problems of life, he did not notice where he went.
He walked blocks; took a trolley-car; got off to buy a strong cigar;
took the next trolley that came along; was carried across the
Fifty-ninth Street bridge to Long Island. At the eighth or tenth stop
he hurried out of the car just as it was starting again. He wondered
why he had been such a fool as to leave it in a dark street of
flat-faced wooden houses with dooryards of trampled earth and a
general air of poverty, goats, and lunch-pails. He tramped on, a
sullen and youthless man. Presently he was in shaggy, open country.

He was frightened by his desertion of Ruth, but he did not want to go
back, nor even telephone to her. He had to diagram where and what and
why he was; determine what he was to do.

He disregarded the war as a cause of trouble. Had there been no extra
business-pressure caused by the war, there would have been some other
focus for their misunderstandings. They would have quarreled over
clothes and aviation, Aunt Emma and Martin Dockerill, poverty and
dancing, quite the same.

Walking steadily, with long periods when he did not think, but stared
at the dusty stars or the shaky, ill-lighted old houses, he alined her
every fault, unhappily rehearsed every quarrel in which she had been
to blame, his lips moving as he emphasized the righteous retorts he
was almost certain he had made. It was not hard to find faults in her.
Any two people who have spent more than two days together already have
the material for a life-long feud, in traits which at first were
amusing or admirable. Ruth's pretty manners, of which Carl had been
proud, he now cited as snobbish affectation. He did not spare his
reverence, his passion, his fondness. He mutilated his soul like a
hermit. He recalled her pleasure in giving him jolly surprises, in
writing unexpected notes addressed to him at the office, as fussy
discontent with a quiet, normal life; he regarded her excitement over
dances as evidence that she was so dependent on country-club society
that he would have to spend the rest of his life drudging for her.

He wanted to flee. He saw the whole world as a conspiracy of secret,
sinister powers that are concealed from the child, but to the man are
gradually revealed by a pitiless and never-ending succession of
misfortunes. He would never be foot-loose again. His land of heart's
desire would be the office.

But the ache of disappointment grew dull. He was stunned. He did not
know what had happened; did not even know precisely how he came to be
walking here. Now and then he remembered anew that he had sharply left
Ruth--Ruth, his dear girl!--remembered that she was not at hand, ready
to explain with love's lips the somber puzzles of life. He was
frightened again, and beginning to be angry with himself for having
been angry with Ruth.

He had walked many miles. Brown fields came up at him through the
paling darkness. A sign-board showed that he was a few miles from
Mineola. Letting the coming dawn uplift him, he tramped into Mineola,
with a half-plan of going on to the near-by Hempstead Plains Aviation
Field, to see if there was any early-morning flying. It would be bully
to see a machine again!

At a lunch-wagon he ordered buckwheat-cakes and coffee. Sitting on a
high stool before a seven-inch shelf attached to the wall, facing an
array of salt-castors and catsup-bottles and one of those colored
glass windows with a portrait of Washington which give to all
lunch-wagons their air of sober refinement, Carl ate solemnly,
meditatively.... It did not seem to him an ignoble setting for his
grief; but he was depressed when he came out to a drab first light of
day that made the street seem hopeless and unrested after the night.
The shops were becoming visible, gray and chilly, like a just-awakened
janitor in slippers, suspenders, and tousled hair. The pavement was
wet. Carl crossed the street, stared at the fly-specked cover of a
magazine six months old that lay in a shop window lighted by one
incandescent. He gloomily planned to go back and have another cup of
coffee on the shelf before Washington's glassy but benign face.

But he looked down the street, and all the sky was becoming a delicate
and luminous blue.

He trotted off toward Hempstead Plains.

The Aviation Field was almost abandoned. Most of the ambitious line of
hangars were empty, now, with faded grass thick before the great doors
that no one ever opened. A recent fire had destroyed a group of five
hangars.

He found one door open, and three sleepy youngsters in sweaters and
khaki trousers bringing out a monoplane.

Carl watched them start, bobbed his chin to the music of the motor,
saw the machine canter down the field and ascend from dawn to the
glory of day. The rising sun picked out the lines of the uninclosed
framework and hovered on the silvery wing-surface. The machine circled
the field at two hundred feet elevation, smoothly, peacefully. And
peace beyond understanding came to Carl.

He studied the flight. "Mm. Good and steady. Banks a little sharp, but
very thorough. Firs' rate. I believe I could get more speed out of her
if I were flying. Like to try."

Wonderingly he realized that he did not want to fly; that only his
lips said, "Like to try." He was almost as much an outsider to
aviation as though he had never flown. He discovered that he was
telling Ruth this fact, in an imaginary conversation; was commenting
for her on dawn-sky and the plains before him and his alienation from
exploits in which she could not share.

The monoplane landed with a clean volplane. The aviator and his
mechanicians were wheeling it toward the hangar. They glanced at him
uninterestedly. Carl understood that, to them, he was a Typical
Bystander, here where he had once starred.

The aviator stared again, let go the machine, walked over, exclaiming:
"Say, aren't you Hawk Ericson? This is an honor. I heard you were
somewhere in New York. Just missed you at the Aero Club one night.
Wanted to ask you about the Bagby hydro. Won't you come in and have
some coffee and sinkers with us? Proud to have you. My name 's Berry."

"Thanks. Be glad to."

While the youngsters were admiring him, hearing of the giants of
earlier days, while they were drinking inspiration from this veteran
of twenty-nine, they were in turn inspiring Carl by their faith in
him. He had been humble. They made him trust himself, not
egotistically, but with a feeling that he did matter, that it was
worth while to be in tune with life.

Yet all the while he knew that he wanted to be by himself, because he
could thus be with the spirit of Ruth. And he knew, subconsciously,
that he was going to hurry back to Mineola and telephone to her.

As he dog-trotted down the road, he noted the old Dutch houses for
her; picked out the spot where he had once had a canvas hangar, and
fancied himself telling her of those days. He did not remember that at
this hangar he had known Istra, Istra Nash, the artist, whose name he
scarce recalled. Istra was an incident; Ruth was the meaning of his
life.

And the solution of his problem came, all at once, when suddenly it
was given to him to understand what that problem was.

Ruth and he had to be up and away, immediately; go any place, do
anything, so long as they followed new trails, and followed them
together. He knew positively, after his lonely night, that he could
not be happy without her as comrade in the freedom he craved. And he
also knew that they had not done the one thing for which their
marriage existed. They were not just a man and a woman. They were a
man and a woman who had promised to find new horizons for each other.

However much he believed in the sanctity of love's children, Carl also
believed that merely to be married and breed casual children and die
is a sort of suspended energy which has no conceivable place in this
over-complex and unwieldy world. He had no clear nor ringing message,
but he did have, just then, an overpowering conviction that Ruth and
he--not every one, but Ruth and he, at least--had a vocation in
keeping clear of vocations, and that they must fulfil it.

Over the telephone he said: "Ruth dear, I'll be right there. Walked
all night. Got straightened out now. I'm out at Mineola. It's all
right with me now, blessed. I want so frightfully much to make it all
right with you. I'll be there in about an hour."

She answered "Yes" so non-committally that he was smitten by the fact
that he had yet to win forgiveness for his frenzy in leaving her; that
he must break the shell of resentment which would incase her after a
whole night's brooding between sullen walls.

On the train, unconscious of its uproar, he was bespelled by his new
love. During a few moments of their lives, ordinary real people,
people real as a tooth-brush, do actually transcend the coarsely
physical aspects of sex and feeding, and do approximate to the
unwavering glow of romantic heroes. Carl was no more a romantic
hero-lover than, as a celebrated aviator, he had been a
hero-adventurer. He was a human being. He was not even admirable,
except as all people are admirable, from the ash-man to the king.
There had been nothing exemplary in his struggle to find adjustment
with his wife; he had been bad in his impatience just as he had been
good in his boyish affection; in both he had been human. Even now,
when without reserve he gave himself up to love, he was aware that he
would ascend, not on godlike pinions, but by a jerky old
apartment-house elevator, to make peace with a vexed girl who was also
a human being, with a digestive system and prejudices. Yet with a joy
that encompassed all the beauty of banners and saluting swords,
romantic towers and a fugitive queen, a joy transcending trains and
elevators and prejudices, Carl knew that human girl as the symbol of
man's yearning for union with the divine; he desired happiness for her
with a devotion great as the passion in Galahad's heart when all night
he knelt before the high altar.

He came slowly up to their apartment-house. If it were only possible
for Ruth to trust him, now----

Mingled with his painfully clear remembrance of all the sweet things
Ruth was and had done was a tragic astonishment that he--this same he
who was all hers now--could possibly have turned impatiently from her
sobs. Yet it would have been for good, if only she would trust him.

Not till he left the elevator, on their floor, did he comprehend that
Ruth might not be awaiting him; might have gone. He looked
irresolutely at the grill of the elevator door, shut on the black
shaft.

"She was here when I telephoned----"

He waited. Perhaps she would peep out to see if it was he who had come
up in the elevator.

She did not appear.

He walked the endless distance of ten feet to their door, unlocked it,
labored across the tiny hall into the living-room. She was there. She
stood supporting herself by the back of the davenport, her eyes
red-edged and doubtful, her face tightened, expressing enmity or dread
or shy longing. He held out his hands, like a prisoner beseeching
royal mercy. She in turn threw out her arms. He could not say one
word. The clumsy signs called "words" could not tell his emotion. He
ran to her, and she welcomed his arms. He held her, abandoned himself
utterly to her kiss. His hard-driving mind relaxed; relaxed was her
body in his arms. He knew, not merely with his mind, but with the
vaster powers that drive mind and emotion and body, that Ruth, in her
disheveled dressing-gown, was the glorious lover to whom he had been
hastening this hour past. All the love which civilization had tried to
turn into Normal Married Life had escaped Efficiency's pruning-hook,
and had flowered.

"It's all right with me, now," she said; "so wonderfully all right."

"I want to explain. Had to be by myself; find out. Must have seemed so
unspeakably r----"

"Oh, don't, don't explain! Our kiss explained."

       *       *       *       *       *

While they talked on the davenport together, reaching out again and
again for the hands that now really were there, Ruth agreed with Carl
that they must be up and away, not wait till it should be too late.
She, too, saw how many lovers plan under the June honeymoon to sail
away after a year or two and see the great world, and, when they
wearily die, know that it will still be a year or two before they can
flee to the halcyon isles.

But she did insist that they plan practically; and it was she who
wondered: "But what would happen if everybody went skipping off like
us? Who'd bear the children and keep the fields plowed to feed the
ones that ran away?"

"Golly!" cried Carl, "wish that were the worst problem we had! Maybe a
thousand years from now, when every one is so artistic that they want
to write books, it will be hard to get enough drudges. But now----
Look at any office, with the clerks toiling day after day, even the
unmarried ones. Look at all the young fathers of families, giving up
everything they want to do, to support children who'll do the same
thing right over again with _their_ children. Always handing on the
torch of life, but never getting any light from it. People don't run
away from slavery often enough. And so they don't ever get to do real
work, either!"

"But, sweetheart, what if we should have children some day? You
know---- Of course, we haven't been ready for them yet, but some day
they might come, anyhow, and how could we wander round----"

"Oh, probably they will come some day, and then we'll take our dose of
drudgery like the rest. There's nothing that our dear civilization
punishes as it does begetting children. For poisoning food by
adulterating it you may get fined fifty dollars, but if you have
children they call it a miracle--as it is--and then they get busy and
condemn you to a lifetime of being scared by the boss."

"Well, darling, please don't blame it on me."

"I didn't mean to get so oratorical, blessed. But it does make me mad
the way the state punishes one for being willing to work and have
children. Perhaps if enough of us run away from nice normal grinding,
we'll start people wondering just why they should go on toiling to
produce a lot of booze and clothes and things that nobody needs."

"Perhaps, my Hawk.... Don't you think, though, that we might be bored
in your Rocky Mountain cabin, if we were there for months and months?"

"Yes, I suppose so," Carl mused. "The rebellion against stuffy
marriage has to be a whole lot wider than some little detail like
changing from city to country. Probably for some people the happiest
thing 'd be to live in a hobohemian flat and have parties, and for
some to live in the suburbs and get the missus elected president of
the Village Improvement Society. For us, I believe, it's change and
_keep going_."

"Yes, I do think so. Hawk, my Hawk, I lay awake nearly all night last
night, realizing that we _are_ one, not because of a wedding ceremony,
but because we can understand each other's make-b'lieves and
seriousnesses. I knew that no matter what happened, we had to try
again.... I saw last night, by myself, that it was not a question of
finding out whose fault a quarrel was; that it wasn't anybody's
'fault,' but just conditions.... And we'll change them.... We won't be
afraid to be free."

"We won't! Lord! life's wonderful!"

"Yes! When I think of how sweet life can be--so wonderfully sweet--I
know that all the prophets must love human beings, oh, so terribly, no
matter how sad they are about the petty things that lives are wasted
over.... But I'm not a prophet. I'm a girl that's awfully much in
love, and, darling, I want you to hold me close."

       *       *       *       *       *

Three months later, in February, 1915, Ruth and Carl sailed for Buenos
Ayres, America's new export-market. Carl was the Argentine Republic
manager for the VanZile Motor Corporation, possessed of an unimportant
salary, a possibility of large commissions, and hopes like comets.
Their happiness seemed a thing enchanted. They had not quarreled
again.

       *       *       *       *       *

The S.S. _Sangrael_, for Buenos Ayres and Rio, had sailed from snow
into summer. Ruth and Carl watched isles of palms turn to fantasies
carved of ebony, in the rose and garnet sunset waters, and the vast
sky laugh out in stars. Carl was quoting Kipling:

    "The Lord knows what we may find, dear lass,
    And the deuce knows what we may do--
    But we're back once more on the old trail, our own trail, the
        out trail,
    We're down, hull down on the Old Trail--the trail that is always new."

"Anyway," he commented, "deuce only knows what we'll do after
Argentine, and I don't care. Do you?"

Her clasping hand answered, as he went on:

"Oh, say, bles-sed! I forgot to look in the directory before we left
New York to see if there wasn't a Society for the Spread of Madness
among the Respectable. It might have sent us out as missionaries....
There's a flying-fish; and to-morrow I won't have to watch clerks
punch a time-clock; and you can hear a sailor shifting the
ventilators; and there's a little star perched on the fore-mast;
singing; but the big thing is that you're here beside me, and we're
_going_. How bully it is to be living, if you don't have to give up
living in order to make a living."

THE END





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