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Title: A Man's Woman
Author: Norris, Frank, 1870-1902
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 "A Man's Woman" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



A MAN'S WOMAN

by

FRANK NORRIS

1904



The following novel was completed March 22, 1899, and sent to the
printer in October of the same year. After the plates had been made
notice was received that a play called "A Man's Woman" had been written
by Anne Crawford Flexner, and that this title had been copyrighted.

As it was impossible to change the name of the novel at the time this
notice was received, it has been published under its original title.

F.N.

New York.



A MAN'S WOMAN



I.


At four o'clock in the morning everybody in the tent was still asleep,
exhausted by the terrible march of the previous day. The hummocky ice
and pressure-ridges that Bennett had foreseen had at last been met with,
and, though camp had been broken at six o'clock and though men and dogs
had hauled and tugged and wrestled with the heavy sledges until five
o'clock in the afternoon, only a mile and a half had been covered. But
though the progress was slow, it was yet progress. It was not the
harrowing, heart-breaking immobility of those long months aboard the
Freja. Every yard to the southward, though won at the expense of a
battle with the ice, brought them nearer to Wrangel Island and ultimate
safety.

Then, too, at supper-time the unexpected had happened. Bennett, moved no
doubt by their weakened condition, had dealt out extra rations to each
man: one and two-thirds ounces of butter and six and two-thirds ounces
of aleuronate bread--a veritable luxury after the unvarying diet of
pemmican, lime juice, and dried potatoes of the past fortnight. The men
had got into their sleeping-bags early, and until four o'clock in the
morning had slept profoundly, inert, stupefied, almost without movement.
But a few minutes after four o'clock Bennett awoke. He was usually up
about half an hour before the others. On the day before he had been able
to get a meridian altitude of the sun, and was anxious to complete his
calculations as to the expedition's position on the chart that he had
begun in the evening.

He pushed back the flap of the sleeping-bag and rose to his full height,
passing his hands over his face, rubbing the sleep from his eyes. He was
an enormous man, standing six feet two inches in his reindeer footnips
and having the look more of a prize-fighter than of a scientist. Even
making allowances for its coating of dirt and its harsh, black stubble
of half a week's growth, the face was not pleasant. Bennett was an ugly
man. His lower jaw was huge almost to deformity, like that of the
bulldog, the chin salient, the mouth close-gripped, with great lips,
indomitable, brutal. The forehead was contracted and small, the forehead
of men of single ideas, and the eyes, too, were small and twinkling, one
of them marred by a sharply defined cast.

But as Bennett was fumbling in the tin box that was lashed upon the
number four sledge, looking for his notebook wherein he had begun his
calculations for latitude, he was surprised to find a copy of the record
he had left in the instrument box under the cairn at Cape Kammeni at the
beginning of this southerly march. He had supposed that this copy had
been mislaid, and was not a little relieved to come across it now. He
read it through hastily, his mind reviewing again the incidents of the
last few months. Certain extracts of this record ran as follows:

"Arctic steamer Freja, on ice off Cape Kammeni, New Siberian
Islands, 76 deg. 10 min. north latitude, 150 deg. 40 min. east
longitude, July 12, 1891.... We accordingly froze the ship in on
the last day of September, 1890, and during the following winter
drifted with the pack in a northwesterly direction.... On Friday,
July 10, 1891, being in latitude 76 deg. 10 min. north; longitude
150 deg. 10 min. east, the Freja was caught in a severe nip between
two floes and was crushed, sinking in about two hours. We abandoned
her, saving 200 days' provisions and all necessary clothing,
instruments, etc....

"I shall now attempt a southerly march over the ice to Kolyuchin Bay
by way of Wrangel Island, where provisions have been cached, hoping
to fall in with the relief ships or steam whalers on the way. Our
party consists of the following twelve persons: ... All well with
the exception of Mr. Ferriss, the chief engineer, whose left hand
has been badly frostbitten. No scurvy in the party as yet. We have
eighteen Ostiak dogs with us in prime condition, and expect to drag
our ship's boat upon sledges.

"WARD BENNETT, Commanding Freja Arctic Exploring Expedition."

Bennett returned this copy of the record to its place in the box, and
stood for a moment in the centre of the tent, his head bent to avoid the
ridge-pole, looking thoughtfully upon the ground.

Well, so far all had gone right--no scurvy, provisions in plenty. The
dogs were in good condition, his men cheerful, trusting in him as in a
god, and surely no leader could wish for a better lieutenant and comrade
than Richard Ferriss--but this hummocky ice--these pressure-ridges which
the expedition had met the day before. Instead of turning at once to his
ciphering Bennett drew the hood of the wolfskin coat over his head,
buttoned a red flannel mask across his face, and, raising the flap of
the tent, stepped outside.

Under the lee of the tent the dogs were sleeping, moveless bundles of
fur, black and white, perceptibly steaming. The three great McClintock
sledges, weighted down with the Freja's boats and with the expedition's
impedimenta, lay where they had been halted the evening before.

In the sky directly in front of Bennett as he issued from the tent three
moons, hooped in a vast circle of nebulous light, shone roseate through
a fine mist, while in the western heavens streamers of green, orange,
and vermilion light, immeasurably vast, were shooting noiselessly from
horizon to zenith.

But Bennett had more on his mind that morning than mock-moons and
auroras. To the south and east, about a quarter of a mile from the tent,
the pressure of the floes had thrown up an enormous ridge of shattered
ice-cakes, a mound, a long hill of blue-green slabs and blocks huddling
together at every conceivable angle. It was nearly twenty feet in
height, quite the highest point that Bennett could discover. Scrambling
and climbing over countless other ridges that intervened, he made his
way to it, ascended it almost on hands and knees, and, standing upon its
highest point, looked long and carefully to the southward.

A wilderness beyond all thought, words, or imagination desolate
stretched out before him there forever and forever--ice, ice, ice,
fields and floes of ice, laying themselves out under that gloomy sky,
league after league, endless, sombre, infinitely vast, infinitely
formidable. But now it was no longer the smooth ice over which the
expedition had for so long been travelling. In every direction,
intersecting one another at ten thousand points, crossing and
recrossing, weaving a gigantic, bewildering network of gashed, jagged,
splintered ice-blocks, ran the pressure-ridges and hummocks. In places a
score or more of these ridges had been wedged together to form one huge
field of broken slabs of ice miles in width, miles in length. From
horizon to horizon there was no level place, no open water, no pathway.
The view to the southward resembled a tempest-tossed ocean suddenly
frozen.

One of these ridges Bennett had just climbed, and upon it he now stood.
Even for him, unencumbered, carrying no weight, the climb had been
difficult; more than once he had slipped and fallen. At times he had
been obliged to go forward almost on his hands and knees. And yet it was
across that jungle of ice, that unspeakable tangle of blue-green slabs
and cakes and blocks, that the expedition must now advance, dragging its
boats, its sledges, its provisions, instruments, and baggage.

Bennett stood looking. Before him lay his task. There under his eyes was
the Enemy. Face to face with him was the titanic primal strength of a
chaotic world, the stupendous still force of a merciless nature, waiting
calmly, waiting silently to close upon and crush him. For a long time he
stood watching. Then the great brutal jaw grew more salient than ever,
the teeth set and clenched behind the close-gripped lips, the cast in
the small twinkling eyes grew suddenly more pronounced. One huge fist
raised, and the arm slowly extended forward like the resistless moving
of a piston. Then when his arm was at its full reach Bennett spoke as
though in answer to the voiceless, terrible challenge of the Ice.
Through his clenched teeth his words came slow and measured.

"But I'll break you, by God! believe me, I will."

After a while he returned to the tent, awoke the cook, and while
breakfast was being prepared completed his calculations for latitude,
wrote up his ice-journal, and noted down the temperature and the
direction and velocity of the wind. As he was finishing, Richard
Ferriss, who was the chief engineer and second in command, awoke and
immediately asked the latitude.

"Seventy-four-fifteen," answered Bennett without looking up.

"Seventy-four-fifteen," repeated Ferriss, nodding his head; "we didn't
make much distance yesterday."

"I hope we can make as much to-day," returned Bennett grimly as he put
away his observation-journal and note-books.

"How's the ice to the south'ard?"

"Bad; wake the men."

After breakfast and while the McClintocks were being loaded Bennett sent
Ferriss on ahead to choose a road through and over the ridges. It was
dreadful work. For two hours Ferriss wandered about amid the broken ice
all but hopelessly bewildered. But at length, to his great satisfaction,
he beheld a fairly open stretch about a quarter of a mile in length
lying out to the southwest and not too far out of the expedition's line
of march. Some dozen ridges would have to be crossed before this level
was reached; but there was no help for it, so Ferriss planted his flags
where the heaps of ice-blocks seemed least impracticable and returned
toward the camp. It had already been broken, and on his way he met the
entire expedition involved in the intricacies of the first rough ice.

All of the eighteen dogs had been harnessed to the number two sledge,
that carried the whaleboat and the major part of the provisions, and
every man of the party, Bennett included, was straining at the
haul-ropes with the dogs. Foot by foot the sledge came over the ridge,
grinding and lurching among the ice-blocks; then, partly by guiding,
partly by lifting, it was piloted down the slope, only in the end to
escape from all control and come crashing downward among the dogs,
jolting one of the medicine chests from its lashings and butting its
nose heavily against the foot of the next hummock immediately beyond.
But the men scrambled to their places again, the medicine chest was
replaced, and Muck Tu, the Esquimau dog-master, whipped forward his
dogs. Ferriss, too, laid hold. The next hummock was surmounted, the dogs
panting, and the men, even in that icy air, reeking with perspiration.
Then suddenly and without the least warning Bennett and McPherson, who
were in the lead, broke through some young ice into water up to their
breasts, Muck Tu and one of the dogs breaking through immediately
afterward. The men were pulled out, or, of their own efforts, climbed
upon the ice again. But in an instant their clothes were frozen to
rattling armor.

"Bear off to the east'ard, here!" commanded Bennett, shaking the icy,
stinging water from his sleeves. "Everybody on the ropes now!"

Another pressure-ridge was surmounted, then a third, and by an hour
after the start they had arrived at the first one of Ferriss's flags.
Here the number two sledge was left, and the entire expedition, dogs and
men, returned to camp to bring up the number one McClintock loaded with
the Freja's cutter and with the sleeping-bags, instruments, and tent.
This sledge was successfully dragged over the first two hummocks, but as
it was being hauled up the third its left-hand runner suddenly buckled
and turned under it with a loud snap. There was nothing for it now but
to remove the entire load and to set Hawes, the carpenter, to work upon
its repair.

"Up your other sledge!" ordered Bennett.

Once more the expedition returned to the morning's camping-place, and,
harnessing itself to the third McClintock, struggled forward with it for
an hour and a half until it was up with the first sledge and Ferriss's
flag. Fortunately the two dog-sleds, four and five, were light, and
Bennett, dividing his forces, brought them up in a single haul. But
Hawes called out that the broken sledge was now repaired. The men turned
to at once, reloaded it, and hauled it onward, so that by noon every
sledge had been moved forward quite a quarter of a mile.

But now, for the moment, the men, after going over the same ground seven
times, were used up, and Muck Tu could no longer whip the dogs to their
work. Bennett called a halt. Hot tea was made, and pemmican and hardtack
served out.

"We'll have easier hauling this afternoon, men," said Bennett; "this
next ridge is the worst of the lot; beyond that Mr. Ferriss says we've
got nearly a quarter of a mile of level floes."

On again at one o'clock; but the hummock of which Bennett had spoken
proved absolutely impassable for the loaded sledges. It was all one that
the men lay to the ropes like draught-horses, and that Muck Tu flogged
the dogs till the goad broke in his hands. The men lost their footing
upon the slippery ice and fell to their knees; the dogs laid down in the
traces groaning and whining. The sledge would not move.

"Unload!" commanded Bennett.

The lashings were taken off, and the loads, including the great,
cumbersome whaleboat itself, carried over the hummock by hand. Then the
sledge itself was hauled over and reloaded upon the other side. Thus the
whole five sledges.

The work was bitter hard; the knots of the lashings were frozen tight
and coated with ice; the cases of provisions, the medicine chests, the
canvas bundle of sails, boat-covers, and tents unwieldy and of enormous
weight; the footing on the slippery, uneven ice precarious, and more
than once a man, staggering under his load, broke through the crust into
water so cold that the sensation was like that of burning.

But at last everything was over, the sledges reloaded, and the forward
movement resumed. Only one low hummock now intervened between them and
the longed-for level floe.

However, as they were about to start forward again a lamentable gigantic
sound began vibrating in their ears, a rumbling, groaning note rising by
quick degrees to a strident shriek. Other sounds, hollow and
shrill--treble mingling with diapason--joined in the first. The noise
came from just beyond the pressure-mound at the foot of which the party
had halted.

"Forward!" shouted Bennett; "hurry there, men!"

Desperately eager, the men bent panting to their work. The sledge
bearing the whaleboat topped the hummock.

"Now, then, over with her!" cried Ferriss.

But it was too late. As they stood looking down upon it for an instant,
the level floe, their one sustaining hope during all the day, suddenly
cracked from side to side with the noise of ordnance. Then the groaning
and shrieking recommenced. The crack immediately closed up, the pressure
on the sides of the floe began again, and on the smooth surface of the
ice, domes and mounds abruptly reared themselves. As the pressure
increased these domes and mounds cracked and burst into countless blocks
and slabs. Ridge after ridge was formed in the twinkling of an eye.
Thundering like a cannonade of siege guns, the whole floe burst up,
jagged, splintered, hummocky. In less than three minutes, and while the
Freja's men stood watching, the level stretch toward which since morning
they had struggled with incalculable toil was ground up into a vast mass
of confused and pathless rubble.

"Oh, this will never do," muttered Ferriss, disheartened.

"Come on, men!" exclaimed Bennett. "Mr. Ferriss, go forward, and choose
a road for us."

The labour of the morning was recommenced. With infinite patience,
infinite hardship, the sledges one by one were advanced. So heavy were
the three larger McClintocks that only one could be handled at a time,
and that one taxed the combined efforts of men and dogs to the
uttermost. The same ground had to be covered seven times. For every yard
gained seven had to be travelled. It was not a march, it was a battle; a
battle without rest and without end and without mercy; a battle with an
Enemy whose power was beyond all estimate and whose movements were not
reducible to any known law. A certain course would be mapped, certain
plans formed, a certain objective determined, and before the course
could be finished, the plans executed, or the objective point attained
the perverse, inexplicable movement of the ice baffled their
determination and set at naught their best ingenuity.

At four o'clock it began to snow. Since the middle of the forenoon the
horizon had been obscured by clouds and mist so that no observation for
position could be taken. Steadily the clouds had advanced, and by four
o'clock the expedition found itself enveloped by wind and driving snow.
The flags could no longer be distinguished; thin and treacherous ice was
concealed under drifts; the dogs floundered helplessly; the men could
scarcely open their eyes against the wind and fine, powder-like snow,
and at times when they came to drag forward the last sledge they found
it so nearly buried in the snow that it must be dug out before it could
be moved.

Toward half past five the odometer on one of the dog-sleds registered a
distance of three-quarters of a mile made since morning. Bennett called
a halt, and camp was pitched in the lee of one of the larger hummocks.
The alcohol cooker was set going, and supper was had under the tent, the
men eating as they lay in their sleeping-bags. But even while eating
they fell asleep, drooping lower and lower, finally collapsing upon the
canvas floor of the tent, the food still in their mouths.

Yet, for all that, the night was miserable. Even after that day of
superhuman struggle they were not to be allowed a few hours of unbroken
rest. By midnight the wind had veered to the east and was blowing a
gale. An hour later the tent came down. Exhausted as they were, they
must turn out and wrestle with that slatting, ice-sheathed canvas, and
it was not until half an hour later that everything was fast again.

Once more they crawled into the sleeping-bags, but soon the heat from
their bodies melted the ice upon their clothes, and pools of water
formed under each man, wetting him to the skin. Sleep was impossible. It
grew colder and colder as the night advanced, and the gale increased. At
three o'clock in the morning the centigrade thermometer was at eighteen
degrees below. The cooker was lighted again, and until six o'clock the
party huddled wretchedly about it, dozing and waking, shivering
continually.

Breakfast at half past six o'clock; under way again an hour later. There
was no change in the nature of the ice. Ridge succeeded ridge, hummock
followed upon hummock. The wind was going down, but the snow still fell
as fine and bewildering as ever. The cold was intense. Dennison, the
doctor and naturalist of the expedition, having slipped his mitten, had
his hand frostbitten before he could recover it. Two of the dogs, Big
Joe and Stryelka, were noticeably giving out.

But Bennett, his huge jaws clenched, his small, distorted eyes twinkling
viciously through the apertures of the wind-mask, his harsh, black
eyebrows lowering under the narrow, contracted forehead, drove the
expedition to its work relentlessly. Not Muck Tu, the dog-master, had
his Ostiaks more completely under his control than he his men. He
himself did the work of three. On that vast frame of bone and muscle,
fatigue seemed to leave no trace. Upon that inexorable bestial
determination difficulties beyond belief left no mark. Not one of the
twelve men under his command fighting the stubborn ice with tooth and
nail who was not galvanised with his tremendous energy. It was as though
a spur was in their flanks, a lash upon their backs. Their minds, their
wills, their efforts, their physical strength to the last ounce and
pennyweight belonged indissolubly to him. For the time being they were
his slaves, his serfs, his beasts of burden, his draught animals, no
better than the dogs straining in the traces beside them. Forward they
must and would go until they dropped in the harness or he gave the word
to pause.

At four o'clock in the afternoon Bennett halted. Two miles had been made
since the last camp, and now human endurance could go no farther.
Sometimes when the men fell they were unable to get up. It was evident
there was no more in them that day.

In his ice-journal for that date Bennett wrote:

"... Two miles covered by 4 p.m. Our course continues to be south,
20 degrees west (magnetic). The ice still hummocky. At this rate we
shall be on half rations long before we reach Wrangel Island. No
observation possible since day before yesterday on account of snow
and clouds. Stryelka, one of our best dogs, gave out to-day. Shot
him and fed him to the others. Our advance to the southwest is slow
but sure, and every day brings nearer our objective. Temperature at
6 p.m., 6.8 degrees Fahr. (minus 14 degrees C). Wind, east; force, 2."

The next morning was clear for two hours after breakfast, and when
Ferriss returned from his task of path-finding he reported to Bennett
that he had seen a great many water-blinks off to the southwest.

"The wind of yesterday has broken the ice up," observed Bennett; "we
shall have hard work to-day."

A little after midday, at a time when they had wrested some thousand
yards to the southward from the grip of the ice, the expedition came to
the first lane of open water, about three hundred feet in width. Bennett
halted the sledges and at once set about constructing a bridge of
floating cakes of ice. But the work of keeping these ice-blocks in place
long enough for the transfer of even a single sledge seemed at times to
be beyond their most strenuous endeavour. The first sledge with the
cutter crossed in safety. Then came the turn of number two, loaded with
the provisions and whaleboat. It was two-thirds of the way across when
the opposite side of the floe abruptly shifted its position, and thirty
feet of open water suddenly widened out directly in front of the line of
progress.

"Cut loose!" commanded Bennett upon the instant. The ice-block upon
which they were gathered was set free in the current. The situation was
one of the greatest peril. The entire expedition, men and dogs together,
with their most important sledge, was adrift. But the oars and mast and
the pole of the tent were had from the whaleboat, and little by little
they ferried themselves across. The gap was bridged again and the
dog-sleds transferred.

But now occurred the first real disaster since the destruction of the
ship. Half-way across the crazy pontoon bridge of ice, the dogs,
harnessed to one of the small sleds, became suddenly terrified. Before
any one could interfere they had bolted from Muck Tu's control in a wild
break for the farther side of the ice. The sled was overturned;
pell-mell the dogs threw themselves into the water; the sled sank, the
load-lashing parted, and two medicine chests, the bag of sewing
materials--of priceless worth--a coil of wire ropes, and three hundred
and fifty pounds of pemmican were lost in the twinkling of an eye.

Without comment Bennett at once addressed himself to making the best of
the business. The dogs were hauled upon the ice; the few loads that yet
remained upon the sled were transferred to another; that sled was
abandoned, and once more the expedition began its never-ending battle to
the southward.

The lanes of open water, as foreshadowed by the water-blinks that
Ferriss had noted in the morning, were frequent; alternating steadily
with hummocks and pressure-ridges. But the perversity of the ice was all
but heart-breaking. At every hour the lanes opened and closed. At one
time in the afternoon they had arrived upon the edge of a lane wide
enough to justify them in taking to their boats. The sledges were
unloaded, and stowed upon the boats themselves, and oars and sails made
ready. Then as Bennett was about to launch the lane suddenly closed up.
What had been water became a level floe, and again the process of
unloading and reloading had to be undertaken.

That evening Big Joe and two other dogs, Gavriga and Patsy, were shot
because of their uselessness in the traces. Their bodies were cut up to
feed their mates.

"I can spare the dogs," wrote Bennett in his journal for that
day--a Sunday--"but McPherson, one of the best men of the command,
gives me some uneasiness. His frozen footnips have chafed sores in
his ankle. One of these has ulcerated, and the doctor tells me is
in a serious condition. His pain is so great that he can no longer
haul with the others. Shall relieve him from work during the
morrow's march. Less than a mile covered to-day. Meridian
observation for latitude impossible on account of fog. Divine
services at 5:30 p.m."

A week passed, then another. There was no change, neither in the
character of the ice nor in the expedition's daily routine. Their toil
was incredible; at times an hour's unremitting struggle would gain but a
few yards. The dogs, instead of aiding them, were rapidly becoming mere
encumbrances. Four more had been killed, a fifth had been drowned, and
two, wandering from camp, had never returned. The second dog-sled had
been abandoned. The condition of McPherson's foot was such that no work
could be demanded from him. Hawes, the carpenter, was down with fever
and kept everybody awake all night by talking in his sleep. Worse than
all, however, Ferriss's right hand was again frostbitten, and this time
Dennison, the doctor, was obliged to amputate it above the wrist.

"... But I am no whit disheartened," wrote Bennett. "Succeed I must
and shall."

A few days after the operation on Ferriss's hand Bennett decided it
would be advisable to allow the party a full twenty-four hours' rest.
The march of the day before had been harder than any they had yet
experienced, and, in addition to McPherson and the carpenter, the doctor
himself was upon the sick list.

In the evening Bennett and Ferriss took a long walk or rather climb over
the ice to the southwest, picking out a course for the next day's march.

A great friendship, not to say affection, had sprung up between these
two men, a result of their long and close intimacy on board the Freja
and of the hardships and perils they had shared during the past few
weeks while leading the expedition in the retreat to the southward. When
they had decided upon the track of the morrow's advance they sat down
for a moment upon the crest of a hummock to breathe themselves, their
elbows on their knees, looking off to the south over the desolation of
broken ice.

With his one good hand Ferriss drew a pipe and a handful of tea leaves
wrapped in oiled paper from the breast of his deer-skin parkie.

"Do you mind filling this pipe for me, Ward?" he asked of Bennett.

Bennett glanced at the tea leaves and handed them back to Ferriss, and
in answer to his remonstrance produced a pouch of his own.

"Tobacco!" cried Ferriss, astonished; "why, I thought we smoked our last
aboard ship."

"No, I saved a little of mine."

"Oh, well," answered Ferriss, trying to interfere with Bennett, who was
filling his pipe, "I don't want your tobacco; this tea does very well."

"I tell you I have eight-tenths of a kilo left," lied Bennett, lighting
the pipe and handing it back to him. "Whenever you want a smoke you can
set to me."

Bennett lit a pipe of his own, and the two began to smoke.

"'M, ah!" murmured Ferriss, drawing upon the pipe ecstatically, "I
thought I never was going to taste good weed again till we should get
home."

Bennett said nothing. There was a long silence. Home! what did not that
word mean for them? To leave all this hideous, grisly waste of ice
behind, to have done with fighting, to rest, to forget responsibility,
to have no more anxiety, to be warm once more--warm and well fed and
dry--to see a tree again, to rub elbows with one's fellows, to know the
meaning of warm handclasps and the faces of one's friends.

"Dick," began Bennett abruptly after a long while, "if we get stuck here
in this damned ice I'm going to send you and probably Metz on ahead for
help. We'll make a two-man kyack for you to use when you reach the limit
of the pack, but besides the kyack you'll carry nothing but your
provisions, sleeping-bags, and rifle, and travel as fast as you can."
Bennett paused for a moment, then in a different voice continued: "I
wrote a letter last night that I was going to give you in case I should
have to send you on such a journey, but I think I might as well give it
to you now."

He drew from his pocket an envelope carefully wrapped in oilskin.

"If anything should happen to the expedition--to me--I want you to see
that this letter is delivered."

He paused again.

"You see, Dick, it's like this; there's a girl--" his face flamed
suddenly, "no--no, a woman, a grand, noble, man's woman, back in God's
country who is a great deal to me--everything in fact. She don't know,
hasn't a guess, that I care. I never spoke to her about it. But if
anything should turn up I should want her to know how it had been
with me, how much she was to me. So I've written her. You'll see that
she gets it, will you?"

He handed the little package to Ferriss, and continued indifferently,
and resuming his accustomed manner:

"If we get as far as Wrangel Island you can give it back to me. We are
bound to meet the relief ships or the steam whalers in that latitude.
Oh, you can look at the address," added Bennett as Ferriss, turning the
envelope bottom side up, was thrusting it into his breast pocket; "you
know her even better than I do. It's Lloyd Searight."

Ferriss's teeth shut suddenly upon his pipestem.

Bennett rose. "Tell Muck Tu," he said, "in case I don't think of it
again, that the dogs must be fed from now on from those that die. I
shall want the dog biscuit and dried fish for our own use."

"I suppose it will come to that," answered Ferriss.

"Come to that!" returned Bennett grimly; "I hope the dogs themselves
will live long enough for us to eat them. And don't misunderstand," he
added; "I talk about our getting stuck in the ice, about my not pulling
through; it's only because one must foresee everything, be prepared for
everything. Remember--I--shall--pull--through."

But that night, long after the rest were sleeping, Ferriss, who had not
closed his eyes, bestirred himself, and, as quietly as possible, crawled
from his sleeping-bag. He fancied there was some slight change in the
atmosphere, and wanted to read the barometer affixed to a stake just
outside the tent. Yet when he had noted that it was, after all,
stationary, he stood for a moment looking out across the ice with
unseeing eyes. Then from a pocket in his furs he drew a little folder of
morocco. It was pitiably worn, stained with sea-water, patched and
repatched, its frayed edges sewed together again with ravellings of
cloth and sea-grasses. Loosening with his teeth the thong of walrus-hide
with which it was tied, Ferriss opened it and held it to the faint light
of an aurora just paling in the northern sky.

"So," he muttered after a while, "so--Bennett, too--"

For a long time Ferriss stood looking at Lloyd's picture till the purple
streamers in the north faded into the cold gray of the heavens. Then he
shot a glance above him.

"God Almighty, bless her and keep her!" he prayed.

Far off, miles away, an ice-floe split with the prolonged reverberation
of thunder. The aurora was gone. Ferriss returned to the tent.

The following week the expedition suffered miserably. Snowstorm followed
snowstorm, the temperature dropped to twenty-two degrees below the
freezing-point, and gales of wind from the east whipped and scourged the
struggling men incessantly with myriad steel-tipped lashes. At night the
agony in their feet was all but unbearable. It was impossible to be
warm, impossible to be dry. Dennison, in a measure, recovered his
health, but the ulcer on McPherson's foot had so eaten the flesh that
the muscles were visible. Hawes's monotonous chatter and crazy
whimperings filled the tent every night.

The only pleasures left them, the only breaks in the monotony of that
life, were to eat, and, when possible, to sleep. Thought, reason, and
reflection dwindled in their brains. Instincts--the primitive, elemental
impulses of the animal--possessed them instead. To eat, to sleep, to be
warm--they asked nothing better. The night's supper was a vision that
dwelt in their imaginations hour after hour throughout the entire day.
Oh, to sit about the blue flame of alcohol sputtering underneath the old
and battered cooker of sheet-iron! To smell the delicious savour of the
thick, boiling soup! And then the meal itself--to taste the hot, coarse,
meaty food; to feel that unspeakably grateful warmth and glow, that
almost divine sensation of satiety spreading through their poor,
shivering bodies, and then sleep; sleep, though quivering with cold;
sleep, though the wet searched the flesh to the very marrow; sleep,
though the feet burned and crisped with torture; sleep, sleep, the
dreamless stupefaction of exhaustion, the few hours' oblivion, the day's
short armistice from pain!

But stronger, more insistent than even these instincts of the animal was
the blind, unreasoned impulse that set their faces to the southward: "To
get forward, to get forward." Answering the resistless influence of
their leader, that indomitable man of iron whom no fortune could break
nor bend, and who imposed his will upon them as it were a yoke of
steel--this idea became for them a sort of obsession. Forward, if it
were only a yard; if it were only a foot. Forward over the
heart-breaking, rubble ice; forward against the biting, shrieking wind;
forward in the face of the blinding snow; forward through the brittle
crusts and icy water; forward, although every step was an agony, though
the haul-rope cut like a dull knife, though their clothes were sheets of
ice. Blinded, panting, bruised, bleeding, and exhausted, dogs and men,
animals all, the expedition struggled forward.

One day, a little before noon, while lunch was being cooked, the sun
broke through the clouds, and for upward of half an hour the ice-pack
was one blinding, diamond glitter. Bennett ran for his sextant and got
an observation, the first that had been possible for nearly a month. He
worked out their latitude that same evening.

The next morning Ferriss was awakened by a touch on his shoulder.
Bennett was standing over him.

"Come outside here a moment," said Bennett in a low voice. "Don't wake
the men."

"Did you get our latitude?" asked Ferriss as the two came out of the
tent.

"Yes, that's what I want to tell you."

"What is it?"

"Seventy-four-nineteen."

"Why, what do you mean?" asked Ferriss quickly.

"Just this: That the ice-pack we're on is drifting faster to the north
than we are marching to the south. We are farther north now than we were
a month ago for all our marching."



II.


By eleven o'clock at night the gale had increased to such an extent and
the sea had begun to build so high that it was a question whether or not
the whaleboat would ride the storm. Bennett finally decided that it
would be impossible to reach the land--stretching out in a long, dark
blur to the southwest--that night, and that the boat must run before
the wind if he was to keep her afloat. The number two cutter, with
Ferriss in command, was a bad sailer, and had fallen astern. She was
already out of hailing distance; but Bennett, who was at the whaleboat's
tiller, in the instant's glance that he dared to shoot behind him saw
with satisfaction that Ferriss had followed his example.

The whaleboat and the number two cutter were the only boats now left to
the expedition. The third boat had been abandoned long before they had
reached open water.

An hour later Adler, the sailing-master, who had been bailing, and who
sat facing Bennett, looked back through the storm; then, turning to
Bennett, said:

"Beg pardon, sir, I think they are signalling us."

Bennett did not answer, but, with his hand gripping the tiller, kept his
face to the front, his glance alternating between the heaving prow of
the boat and the huge gray billows hissing with froth careering rapidly
alongside. To pause for a moment, to vary by ever so little from the
course of the storm, might mean the drowning of them all. After a few
moments Adler spoke again, touching his cap.

"I'm sure I see a signal, sir."

"No, you don't," answered Bennett.

"Beg pardon, I'm quite sure I do."

Bennett leaned toward him, the cast in his eyes twinkling with a wicked
light, the furrow between the eyebrows deepening. "I tell you, you don't
see any signal; do you understand? You don't see any signal until I
choose to have you."

The night was bitter hard for the occupants of the whaleboat. In their
weakened condition they were in no shape to fight a polar hurricane in
an open boat.

For three weeks they had not known the meaning of full rations. During
the first days after the line of march over the ice had been abruptly
changed to the west in the hope of reaching open water, only
three-quarter rations had been issued, and now for the last two days
half rations had been their portion. The gnawing of hunger had begun.
Every man was perceptibly weaker. Matters were getting desperate.

But by seven o'clock the next morning the storm had blown itself out. To
Bennett's inexpressible relief the cutter hove in view. Shaping their
course to landward once more, the boats kept company, and by the middle
of the afternoon Bennett and the crew of the whaleboat successfully
landed upon a bleak, desolate, and wind-scourged coast. But in some way,
never afterward sufficiently explained, the cutter under Ferriss's
command was crushed in the floating ice within one hundred yards of the
shore. The men and stores were landed--the water being shallow enough
for wading--but the boat was a hopeless wreck.

"I believe it's Cape Shelaski," said Bennett to Ferriss when camp had
been made and their maps consulted. "But if it is, it's charted
thirty-five minutes too far to the west."

Before breaking camp the next morning Bennett left this record under a
cairn of rocks upon the highest point of the cape, further marking the
spot by one of the boat's flags:

"The Freja Arctic Exploring Expedition landed at this point October
28, 1891. Our ship was nipped and sunk in 76 deg. 10 min. north
latitude on the l2th of July last. I then attempted a southerly
march to Wrangel Island, but found such a course impracticable on
account of northerly drift of ice. On the lst of October I
accordingly struck off to the westward to find open water at the
limit of the ice, being compelled to abandon one boat and two
sledges on the way. A second boat was crushed beyond repair in
drifting ice while attempting a landing at this place. Our one
remaining boat being too small to accommodate the members of the
expedition, circumstances oblige me to begin an overland march
toward Kolyuchin Bay, following the line of the coast. We expect
either to winter among the Chuckch settlements mentioned by
Nordenskjold as existing upon the eastern shores of Kolyuchin Bay
or to fall in with the relief ships or the steam whalers en route.
By issuing half rations I have enough provisions for eighteen days,
and have saved all records, observations, papers, instruments, etc.
Enclosed is the muster roll of the expedition. No scurvy as yet and
no deaths. Our sick are William Hawes, carpenter, arctic fever,
serious; David McPherson, seaman, ulceration of left foot, serious.
The general condition of the rest of the men is fair, though much
weakened by exposure and lack of food.

(Signed) "WARD BENNETT, Commanding."

But during the night, their first night on land, Bennett resolved upon a
desperate expedient. Not only the boat was to be abandoned, but also the
sledges, and not only the sledges, but every article of weight not
absolutely necessary to the existence of the party. Two weeks before,
the sun had set not to rise again for six months. Winter was upon them
and darkness. The Enemy was drawing near. The great remorseless grip of
the Ice was closing. It was no time for half-measures and hesitation;
now it was life or death.

The sense of their peril, the nearness of the Enemy, strung Bennett's
nerves taut as harp-strings. His will hardened to the flinty hardness of
the ice itself. His strength of mind and of body seemed suddenly to
quadruple itself. His determination was that of the battering-ram,
blind, deaf, resistless. The ugly set of his face became all the more
ugly, the contorted eyes flashing, the great jaw all but simian. He
appeared physically larger. It was no longer a man; it was a giant, an
ogre, a colossal jotun hurling ice-blocks, fighting out a battle
unspeakable, in the dawn of the world, in chaos and in darkness.

The impedimenta of the expedition were broken up into packs that each
man carried upon his shoulders. From now on everything that hindered the
rapidity of their movements must be left behind. Six dogs (all that
remained of the pack of eighteen) still accompanied them.

Bennett had hoped and had counted upon his men for an average daily
march of sixteen miles, but the winter gales driving down from the
northeast beat them back; the ice and snow that covered the land were no
less uneven than the hummocks of the pack. All game had migrated far to
the southward.

Every day the men grew weaker and weaker; their provisions dwindled.
Again and again one or another of them, worn out beyond human endurance,
would go to sleep while marching and would fall to the ground.

Upon the third day of this overland march one of the dogs suddenly
collapsed upon the ground, exhausted and dying. Bennett had ordered such
of the dogs that gave out cut up and their meat added to the store of
the party's provisions. Ferriss and Muck Tu had started to pick up the
dead dog when the other dogs, famished and savage, sprang upon their
fallen mate. The two men struck and kicked, all to no purpose; the dogs
turned upon them snarling and snapping. They, too, demanded to live;
they, too, wanted to be fed. It was a hideous business. There in that
half-night of the polar circle, lost and forgotten on a primordial
shore, back into the stone age once more, men and animals fought one
another for the privilege of eating a dead dog.

But their life was not all inhuman; Bennett at least could rise even
above humanity, though his men must perforce be dragged so far below it.
At the end of the first week Hawes, the carpenter, died. When they awoke
in the morning he was found motionless and stiff in his sleeping-bag.
Some sort of grave was dug, the poor racked body lowered into it, and
before it was filled with snow and broken ice Bennett, standing quietly
in the midst of the bare-headed group, opened his prayer-book and began
with the tremendous words, "I am the Resurrection and the Life--"

It was the beginning of the end. A week later the actual starvation
began. Slower and slower moved the expedition on its daily march,
faltering, staggering, blinded and buffeted by the incessant northeast
winds, cruel, merciless, keen as knife-blades. Hope long since was dead;
resolve wore thin under friction of disaster; like a rat, hunger gnawed
at them hour after hour; the cold was one unending agony. Still Bennett
was unbroken, still he urged them forward. For so long as they could
move he would drive them on.

Toward four o'clock on the afternoon of one particularly hard day, word
was passed forward to Bennett at the head of the line that something was
wrong in the rear.

"It's Adler; he's down again and can't get up; asks you to leave him."

Bennett halted the line and went back some little distance to find Adler
lying prone upon his back, his eyes half closed, breathing short and
fast. He shook him roughly by the shoulder.

"Up with you!"

Adler opened his eyes and shook his head.

"I--I'm done for this time, sir; just leave me here--please."

"H'up!" shouted Bennett; "you're not done for; I know better."

"Really, sir, I--I _can't_."

"H'up!"

"If you would only please--for God's sake, sir. It's more than I'm made
for."

Bennett kicked him in the side.

"H'up with you!"

Adler struggled to his feet again, Bennett aiding him.

"Now, then, can you go five yards?"

"I think--I don't know--perhaps--"

"Go them, then."

The other moved forward.

"Can you go five more; answer, speak up, can you?"

Adler nodded his head.

"Go them--and another five--and another--there--that's something like a
man, and let's have no more woman's drivel about dying."

"But--"

Bennett came close to him, shaking a forefinger in his face, thrusting
forward his chin wickedly.

"My friend, I'll drive you like a dog, but," his fist clenched in the
man's face, "I'll _make_ you pull through."

Two hours later Adler finished the day's march at the head of the line.

The expedition began to eat its dogs. Every evening Bennett sent Muck Tu
and Adler down to the shore to gather shrimps, though fifteen hundred of
these shrimps hardly filled a gill measure. The party chewed
reindeer-moss growing in scant patches in the snow-buried rocks, and at
times made a thin, sickly infusion from the arctic willow. Again and
again Bennett despatched the Esquimau and Clarke, the best shots in the
party, on hunting expeditions to the southward. Invariably they returned
empty-handed. Occasionally they reported old tracks of reindeer and
foxes, but the winter colds had driven everything far inland. Once only
Clarke shot a snow-bunting, a little bird hardly bigger than a sparrow.
Still Bennett pushed forward.

One morning in the beginning of the third week, after a breakfast of two
ounces of dog meat and a half cup of willow tea, Ferriss and Bennett
found themselves a little apart from the others. The men were engaged in
lowering the tent. Ferriss glanced behind to be assured he was out of
hearing, then:

"How about McPherson?" he said in a low voice.

McPherson's foot was all but eaten to the bone by now. It was a miracle
how the man had kept up thus far. But at length he had begun to fall
behind; every day he straggled more and more, and the previous evening
had reached camp nearly an hour after the tent had been pitched. But he
was a plucky fellow, of sterner stuff than the sailing-master, Adler,
and had no thought of giving up.

Bennett made no reply to Ferriss, and the chief engineer did not repeat
the question. The day's march began; almost at once breast-high
snowdrifts were encountered, and when these had been left behind the
expedition involved itself upon the precipitate slopes of a huge talus
of ice and bare, black slabs of basalt. Fully two hours were spent in
clambering over this obstacle, and on its top Bennett halted to breathe
the men. But when they started forward again it was found that McPherson
could not keep his feet. When he had fallen, Adler and Dennison had
endeavoured to lift him, but they themselves were so weak that they,
too, fell. Dennison could not rise of his own efforts, and instead of
helping McPherson had to be aided himself. Bennett came forward, put an
arm about McPherson, and hauled him to an upright position. The man took
a step forward, but his left foot immediately doubled under him, and he
came to the ground again. Three times this manoeuvre was repeated; so
far from marching, McPherson could not even stand.

"If I could have a day's rest--" began McPherson, unsteadily. Bennett
cast a glance at Dennison, the doctor. Dennison shook his head. The
foot, the entire leg below the knee, should have been amputated days
ago. A month's rest even in a hospital at home would have benefited
McPherson nothing.

For the fraction of a minute Bennett debated the question, then he
turned to the command.

"Forward, men!"

"What--wh--" began McPherson, sitting upon the ground, looking from one
face to another, bewildered, terrified. Some of the men began to move
off.

"Wait--wait," exclaimed the cripple, "I--I can get along--I--" He rose
to his knees, made, a great effort to regain his footing, and once more
came crashing down upon the ice.

"Forward!"

"But--but--but--_Oh, you're not going to leave me, sir_?"

"Forward!"

"He's been my chum, sir, all through the voyage," said one of the men,
touching his cap to Bennett; "I had just as soon be left with him. I'm
about done myself."

Another joined in:

"I'll stay, too--I can't leave--it's--it's too terrible."

There was a moment's hesitation. Those who had begun to move on halted.
The whole expedition wavered.

Bennett caught the dog-whip from Muck Tu's hand. His voice rang like the
alarm of a trumpet.

"Forward!"

Once more Bennett's discipline prevailed. His iron hand shut down upon
his men, more than ever resistless. Obediently they turned their faces
to the southward. The march was resumed.

Another day passed, then two. Still the expedition struggled on. With
every hour their sufferings increased. It did not seem that anything
human could endure such stress and yet survive. Toward three o'clock in
the morning of the third night Adler woke Bennett.

"It's Clarke, sir; he and I sleep in the same bag. I think he's going,
sir."

One by one the men in the tent were awakened, and the train-oil lamp was
lit.

Clarke lay in his sleeping-bag unconscious, and at long intervals
drawing a faint, quick breath. The doctor bent over him, feeling his
pulse, but shook his head hopelessly.

"He's dying--quietly--exhaustion from starvation."

A few moments later Clarke began to tremble slightly, the mouth opened
wide; a faint rattle came from the throat.

Four miles was as much as could be made good the next day, and this
though the ground was comparatively smooth. Ferriss was continually
falling. Dennison and Metz were a little light-headed, and Bennett at
one time wondered if Ferriss himself had absolute control of his wits.
Since morning the wind had been blowing strongly in their faces. By noon
it had increased. At four o'clock a violent gale was howling over the
reaches of ice and rock-ribbed land. It was impossible to go forward
while it lasted. The stronger gusts fairly carried their feet from under
them. At half-past four the party halted. The gale was now a hurricane.
The expedition paused, collected itself, went forward; halted again,
again attempted to move, and came at last to a definite standstill in
whirling snow-clouds and blinding, stupefying blasts.

"Pitch the tent!" said Bennett quietly. "We must wait now till it blows
over."

In the lee of a mound of ice-covered rock some hundred yards from the
coast the tent was pitched, and supper, such as it was, eaten in
silence. All knew what this enforced halt must mean for them. That
supper--each man could hold his portion in the hollow of one hand--was
the last of their regular provisions. March they could not. What now?
Before crawling into their sleeping-bags, and at Bennett's request, all
joined in repeating the Creed and the Lord's Prayer.

The next day passed, and the next, and the next. The gale continued
steadily. The southerly march was discontinued. All day and all night
the men kept in the tent, huddled in the sleeping-bags, sometimes
sleeping eighteen and twenty hours out of the twenty-four. They lost all
consciousness of the lapse of time; sensation even of suffering left
them; the very hunger itself had ceased to gnaw. Only Bennett and
Ferriss seemed to keep their heads. Then slowly the end began.

For that last week Bennett's entries in his ice-journal were as follows:

"November 29th--Monday--Camped at 4:30 p.m. about 100 yards from the
coast. Open water to the eastward as far as I can see. If I had not
been compelled to abandon my boats--but it is useless to repine. I
must look our situation squarely in the face. At noon served out
last beef-extract, which we drank with some willow tea. Our
remaining provisions consist of four-fifteenths of a pound of
pemmican per man, and the rest of the dog meat. Where are the
relief ships? We should at least have met the steam whalers long
before this.

"November 30th--Tuesday--The doctor amputated Mr. Ferriss's other
hand to-day. Living gale of wind from northeast. Impossible to
march against it in our weakened condition; must camp here till it
abates. Made soup of the last of the dog meat this afternoon. Our
last pemmican gone.

"December lst--Wednesday--Everybody getting weaker. Metz breaking
down. Sent Adler down to the shore to gather shrimps. We had about
a mouthful apiece for lunch. Supper, a spoonful of glycerine and
hot water.

"December 2d--Thursday--Metz died during the night. Hansen dying.
Still blowing a gale from the northeast. A hard night.

"December 3d--Friday--Hansen died during early morning. Muck Tu shot
a ptarmigan. Made soup. Dennison breaking down.

"December 4th--Saturday--Buried Hansen under slabs of ice. Spoonful
of glycerine and hot water at noon.

"December 5th--Sunday--Dennison found dead this morning between
Adler and myself. Too weak to bury him, or even carry him out of
the tent. He must lie where he is. Divine services at 5:30
P.M. Last spoonful of glycerine and hot water."

       *       *       *       *       *

The next day was Monday, and at some indeterminate hour of the
twenty-four, though whether it was night or noon he could not say,
Ferriss woke in his sleeping-bag and raised himself on an elbow, and for
a moment sat stupidly watching Bennett writing in his journal. Noticing
that he was awake, Bennett looked up from the page and spoke in a voice
thick and muffled because of the swelling of his tongue.

"How long has this wind been blowing, Ferriss?"

"Since a week ago to-day," answered the other.

Bennett continued his writing.

"...Incessant gales of wind for over a week. Impossible to move
against them in our weakened condition. But to stay here is to
perish. God help us. It is the end of everything."

Bennett drew a line across the page under the last entry, and, still
holding the book in his hand, gazed slowly about the tent.

There were six of them left--five huddled together in that miserable
tent--the sixth, Adler, being down on the shore gathering shrimps. In
the strange and gloomy half-light that filled the tent these survivors
of the Freja looked less like men than beasts. Their hair and beards
were long, and seemed one with the fur covering of their bodies. Their
faces were absolutely black with dirt, and their limbs were monstrously
distended and fat--fat as things bloated and swollen are fat. It was the
abnormal fatness of starvation, the irony of misery, the huge joke that
arctic famine plays upon those whom it afterward destroys. The men moved
about at times on their hands and knees; their tongues were distended,
round, and slate-coloured, like the tongues of parrots, and when they
spoke they bit them helplessly.

Near the flap of the tent lay the swollen dead body of Dennison. Two of
the party dozed inert and stupefied in their sleeping-bags. Muck Tu was
in the corner of the tent boiling his sealskin footnips over the
sheet-iron cooker. Ferriss and Bennett sat on opposite sides of the
tent, Bennett using his knee as a desk, Ferriss trying to free himself
from the sleeping-bag with the stumps of his arms. Upon one of these
stumps, the right one, a tin spoon had been lashed.

The tent was full of foul smells. The smell of drugs and of mouldy
gunpowder, the smell of dirty rags, of unwashed bodies, the smell of
stale smoke, of scorching sealskin, of soaked and rotting canvas that
exhaled from the tent cover--every smell but that of food.

Outside the unleashed wind yelled incessantly, like a sabbath of
witches, and spun about the pitiful shelter and went rioting past,
leaping and somersaulting from rock to rock, tossing handfuls of dry,
dust-like snow into the air; folly-stricken, insensate, an enormous, mad
monster gambolling there in some hideous dance of death, capricious,
headstrong, pitiless as a famished wolf.

In front of the tent and over a ridge of barren rocks was an arm of the
sea dotted with blocks of ice moving silently and swiftly onward; while
back from the coast, and back from the tent and to the south and to the
west and to the east, stretched the illimitable waste of land, rugged,
gray, harsh; snow and ice and rock, rock and ice and snow, stretching
away there under the sombre sky forever and forever; gloomy, untamed,
terrible, an empty region--the scarred battlefield of chaotic forces,
the savage desolation of a prehistoric world.

"Where's Adler?" asked Ferriss.

"He's away after shrimps," responded Bennett.

Bennett's eyes returned to his journal and rested on the open page
thoughtfully.

"Do you know what I've just written here, Ferriss?" he asked, adding
without waiting for an answer: "I've written 'It's the end of
everything.'"

"I suppose it is," admitted Ferriss, looking about the tent.

"Yes, the end of everything. It's come--at last.... Well." There was a
long silence. One of the men in the sleeping-bags groaned and turned
upon his face. Outside the wind lapsed suddenly to a prolonged sigh of
infinite sadness, clamouring again upon the instant.

"Dick," said Bennett, returning his journal to the box of records, "it
_is_ the end of everything, and just because it is I want to talk to
you--to ask you something."

Ferriss came nearer. The horrid shouting of the wind deadened the sound
of their voices; the others could not hear, and by now it would have
mattered very little to any of them if they had.

"Dick," began Bennett, "nothing makes much difference now. In a few
hours we shall all be like Dennison here;" he tapped the body of the
doctor, who had died during the night. It was already frozen so hard
that his touch upon it resounded as if it had been a log of wood. "We
shall be like this pretty soon. But before--well, while I can, I want to
ask you something about Lloyd Searight. You've known her all your life,
and you saw her later than I did before we left. You remember I had to
come to the ship two days before you, about the bilge pumps."

While Bennett had been speaking Ferriss had been sitting very erect upon
his sleeping-bag, drawing figures and vague patterns in the fur of his
deer-skin coat with the tip of the tin spoon. Yes, Bennett was right; he,
Ferriss, had known her all his life, and it was no doubt because of this
very fact that she had come to be so dear to him. But he had not always
known it, had never discovered his love for her until the time was at
hand to say good-bye, to leave her for this mad dash for the Pole. It
had been too late to speak then, and Ferriss had never told her. She was
never to know that he too--like Bennett--cared.

"It seems rather foolish," continued Bennett clumsily, "but if I thought
she had ever cared for me--in that way--why, it would make this that is
coming to us seem--I don't know--easier to be borne perhaps. I say it
very badly, but it would not be so hard to die if I thought she had ever
loved me--a bit."

Ferriss was thinking very fast. Why was it he had never guessed
something like this? But in Ferriss's mind the idea of the love of a
woman had never associated itself with Bennett, that great, harsh man of
colossal frame, so absorbed in his huge projects, so welded to his
single aim, furthering his purposes to the exclusion of every other
thought, desire, or emotion. Bennett was a man's man. But here Ferriss
checked himself. Bennett himself had called her a man's woman, a grand,
splendid man's woman. He was right; he was right. She was no less than
that; small wonder, after all, that Bennett had been attracted to her.
What a pair they were, strong, masterful both, insolent in the
consciousness of their power!

"You have known her so well and for so long," continued Bennett, "that I
am sure she must have said something to you about me. Tell me, did she
ever say anything--or not that--but imply in her manner, give you to
understand that she would have married me if I had asked her?"

Ferriss found time, even in such an hour, to wonder at the sudden and
unexpected break in the uniform hardness of Bennett's character. Ferriss
knew him well by now. Bennett was not a man to ask concessions, to catch
at small favours. What he wanted he took with an iron hand, without ruth
and without scruple. But in the unspeakable dissolution in which they
were now involved did anything make a difference? The dreadful mill in
which they had been ground had crushed from them all petty distinctions
of personality, individuality. Humanity--the elements of character
common to all men--only remained.

But Ferriss was puzzled as to how he should answer Bennett. On the one
hand was the woman he loved, and on the other Bennett, his best friend,
his chief, his hero. They, too, had lived together for so long, had
fought out the fight with the Enemy shoulder to shoulder, had battled
with the same dangers, had dared the same sufferings, had undergone the
same defeats and disappointments.

Ferriss felt himself in grievous straits. Must he tell Bennett the
truth? Must this final disillusion be added to that long train of
others, the disasters, the failures, the disappointments, and deferred
hopes of all those past months? Must Bennett die hugging to his heart
this bitterness as well?

"I sometimes thought," observed Bennett with a weak smile, "that she did
care a little. I've surely seen something like that in her eyes at
certain moments. I wish I had spoken. Did she ever say anything to you?
Do you think she would have married me if I had asked her?" He paused,
waiting for an answer.

"Oh--yes," hazarded Ferriss, driven to make some sort of response,
hoping to end the conversation; "yes, I think she would."

"You do?" said Bennett quickly. "You think she would? What did she say?
Did she ever say anything to you?"

The thing was too cruel; Ferriss shrank from it. But suddenly an idea
occurred to him. Did anything make any difference now? Why not tell his
friend that which he wanted to hear, even if it were not the truth?
After all that Bennett had suffered why could he not die content at
least in this? What did it matter if he spoke? Did anything matter at
such a time when they were all to die within the next twenty-four hours?
Bennett was looking straight into his eyes; there was no time to think
of consequences. Consequences? But there were to be _no_ consequences.
This was the end. Yet could Ferriss make Bennett receive such an
untruth? Ferriss did not believe that Lloyd cared for Bennett; knew that
she did not, in fact, and if she had cared, did Bennett think for an
instant that she--of all women--would have confessed the fact, confessed
it to him, Bennett's most intimate friend? Ferriss had known Lloyd well
for a long time, had at last come to love her. But could he himself tell
whether or no Lloyd cared for him? No, he could not, certainly he could
not.

Meanwhile Bennett was waiting for his answer. Ferriss's mind was all
confused. He could no longer distinguish right from wrong. If the lie
would make Bennett happier in this last hour of his life, why not tell
the lie?

"Yes," answered Ferriss, "she did say something once."

"She did?"

"Yes," continued Ferriss slowly, trying to invent the most plausible
lie. "We had been speaking of the expedition and of you. I don't know
how the subject was brought up, but it came in very naturally at length.
She said--yes, I recall it. She said: 'You must bring him back to me.
Remember he is everything to me--everything in the world.'"

"She--" Bennett cleared his throat, then tugged at his mustache; "she
said that?"

Ferriss nodded.

"Ah!" said Bennett with a quick breath, then he added: "I'm glad of
that; you haven't any idea how glad I am, Dick--in spite of everything."

"Oh, yes, I guess I have," murmured Ferriss.

"No, no, indeed, you haven't," returned the other. "One has to love a
woman like that, Dick, and have her--and find out--and have things come
right, to appreciate it. She would have been my wife after all. I don't
know how to thank you, Dick. Congratulate me."

He rose, holding out his hand; Ferriss feebly rose, too, and
instinctively extended his arm, but withdrew it suddenly. Bennett paused
abruptly, letting his hand fall to his side, and the two men remained
there an instant, looking at the stumps of Ferriss's arms, the tin spoon
still lashed to the right wrist.

A few hours later Bennett noted that the gale had begun perceptibly to
abate. By afternoon he was sure that the storm would be over. As he
turned to re-enter the tent after reading the wind-gauge he noted that
Kamiska, their one remaining dog, had come back, and was sitting on a
projection of ice a little distance away, uncertain as to her reception
after her absence. Bennett was persuaded that Kamiska had not run away.
Of all the Ostiaks she had been the most faithful. Bennett chose to
believe that she had wandered from the tent and had lost herself in the
blinding snow. But here was food. Kamiska could be killed; life could be
prolonged a day or two, perhaps three, while the strongest man of the
party, carrying the greater portion of the dog meat on his shoulders,
could push forward and, perhaps, after all, reach Kolyuchin Bay and the
Chuckch settlements and return with aid. But who could go? Assuredly not
Ferriss, so weak he could scarcely keep on his feet; not Adler, who at
times was delirious, and who needed the discipline of a powerful leader
to keep him to his work; Muck Tu, the Esquimau, could not be trusted
with the lives of all of them, and the two remaining men were in all but
a dying condition. Only one man of them all was equal to the task, only
one of them who still retained his strength of body and mind; he
himself, Bennett. Yes, but to abandon his men?

He crawled into the tent again to get the rifle with which to shoot the
dog, but, suddenly possessed of an idea, paused for a moment, seated on
the sleeping-bag, his head in his hands.

Beaten? Was he beaten at last? Had the Enemy conquered? Had the Ice
enclosed him in its vast, remorseless grip? Then once more his
determination grew big within him, for a last time that iron will rose
up in mighty protest of defeat. No, no, no; he was not beaten; he would
live; he, the strongest, the fittest, would survive. Was it not right
that the mightiest should live? Was it not the great law of nature? He
knew himself to be strong enough to move; to march, perhaps, for two
whole days; and now food had come to them, to him. Yes, but to abandon
his men?

He had left McPherson, it is true; but then the lives of all of them had
been involved--one life against eleven. Now he was thinking only of
himself. But Ferriss--no, he could not leave Ferriss. Ferriss would come
with him. They would share the dog meat between them--the whole of it.
He, with Ferriss, would push on. He would reach Kolyuchin Bay and the
settlements. He would be saved; he would reach home; would come
back--come back to Lloyd, who loved him. Yes, but to abandon his men?

Then Bennett's great fist closed, closed and smote heavily upon his
knee.

"No," he said decisively.

He had spoken his thoughts aloud, and Ferriss, who had crawled into his
sleeping-bag again, looked at him curiously. Even Muck Tu turned his
head from the sickening mess reeking upon the cooker. There was a noise
of feet at the flap of the tent.

"It's Adler," muttered Ferriss.

Adler tore open the flap.

Then he shouted to Bennett: "Three steam whalers off the foot of the
floe, sir; boat putting off! What orders, sir?"

Bennett looked at him stupidly, as yet without definite thought.

"What did you say?"

The men in the sleeping-bags, roused by Adler's shout, sat up and
listened stolidly.

"Steam whalers?" said Bennett slowly. "Where? I guess not," he added,
shaking his head.

Adler was swaying in his place with excitement.

"Three whalers," he repeated, "close in. They've put off--oh, my God!
Listen to that."

The unmistakable sound of a steamer's whistle, raucous and prolonged,
came to their ears from the direction of the coast. One of the men broke
into a feeble cheer. The whole tent was rousing up. Again and again came
the hoarse, insistent cry of the whistle.

"What orders, sir?" repeated Adler.

A clamour of voices filled the tent.

Ferriss came quickly up to Bennett, trying to make himself heard.

"Listen!" he cried with eager intentness, "what I told you--a while
ago--about Lloyd--I thought--it's all a mistake, you don't understand--"

Bennett was not listening.

"What orders, sir?" exclaimed Adler for the third time.

Bennett drew himself up.

"My compliments to the officer in command. Tell him there are six of us
left--tell him--oh, tell him anything you damn please. Men," he cried,
his harsh face suddenly radiant, "make ready to get out of this! We're
going home, going home to those who love us, men."



III.


As Lloyd Searight turned into Calumet Square on her way from the
bookseller's, with her purchases under her arm, she was surprised to
notice a drop of rain upon the back of one of her white gloves. She
looked up quickly; the sun was gone. On the east side of the square,
under the trees, the houses that at this hour of the afternoon should
have been overlaid with golden light were in shadow. The heat that had
been palpitating through all the City's streets since early morning was
swiftly giving place to a certain cool and odorous dampness. There was
even a breeze beginning to stir in the tops of the higher elms. As the
drops began to thicken upon the warm, sun-baked asphalt under foot Lloyd
sharply quickened her pace. But the summer storm was coming up rapidly.
By the time she reached the great granite-built agency on the opposite
side of the square she was all but running, and as she put her key in
the door the rain swept down with a prolonged and muffled roar.

She let herself into the spacious, airy hallway of the agency, shutting
the door by leaning against it, and stood there for an instant to get
her breath. Rownie, the young mulatto girl, one of the servants of the
house, who was going upstairs with an armful of clean towels, turned
about at the closing of the door and called:

"Jus' in time, Miss Lloyd; jus' in time. I reckon Miss Wakeley and Miss
Esther Thielman going to get for sure wet. They ain't neither one of 'em
took ary umberel."

"Did Miss Wakeley and Miss Thielman both go out?" demanded Lloyd
quickly. "Did they both go on a call?"

"Yes, Miss Lloyd," answered Rownie. "I don't know because why Miss
Wakeley went, but Miss Esther Thielman got a typhoid call--another one.
That's three f'om this house come next Sunday week. I reckon Miss
Wakeley going out meks you next on call, Miss Lloyd."

While Rownie had been speaking Lloyd had crossed the hall to where the
roster of the nurses' names, in little movable slides, hung against the
wall. As often as a nurse was called out she removed her name from the
top of this list and slid it into place at the bottom, so that whoever
found her name at the top of the roster knew that she was "next on call"
and prepared herself accordingly.

Lloyd's name was now at the top of the list. She had not been gone five
minutes from the agency, and it was rare for two nurses to be called out
in so short a time.

"Is it your tu'n?" asked Rownie as Lloyd faced quickly about.

"Yes, yes," answered Lloyd, running up the stairs, adding, as she passed
the mulatto: "There's been no call sent in since Miss Thielman left, has
there, Rownie?" Rownie shook her head.

Lloyd went directly to her room, tossed her books aside without removing
the wrappers, and set about packing her satchel. When this was done she
changed her tailor-made street dress and crisp skirt for clothes that
would not rustle when she moved, and put herself neatly to rights,
stripping off her rings and removing the dog-violets from her waist.
Then she went to the round, old-fashioned mirror that hung between the
windows of her room, and combed back her hair in a great roll from her
forehead and temples, and stood there a moment or so when she had done,
looking at her reflection.

She was tall and of a very vigorous build, full-throated, deep-chested,
with large, strong hands and solid, round wrists. Her face was rather
serious; one did not expect her to smile easily; the eyes dull blue,
with no trace of sparkle and set deep under heavy, level eyebrows. Her
mouth was the mouth of the obstinate, of the strong-willed, and her chin
was not small. But her hair was a veritable glory, a dull-red flame,
that bore back from her face in one great solid roll, dull red, like
copper or old bronze, thick, heavy, almost gorgeous in its sombre
radiance. Dull-red hair, dull-blue eyes, and a faint, dull glow forever
on her cheeks, Lloyd was a beautiful woman; much about her that was
regal, for she was very straight as well as very tall, and could look
down upon most women and upon not a few men.

Lloyd turned from the mirror, laying down the comb. She had yet to pack
her nurse's bag, or, since this was always ready, to make sure that none
of its equipment was lacking. She was very proud of this bag, as she had
caused it to be made after her own ideas and design. It was of black
russia leather and in the form of an ordinary valise, but set off with a
fine silver clasp bearing her name and the agency's address. She brought
it from the closet and ran over its contents, murmuring the while to
herself:

"Clinical thermometer--brandy--hypodermic syringe--vial of oxalic-acid
crystals--minim-glass--temperature charts; yes, yes, everything right."

While she was still speaking Miss Douglass, the fever nurse, knocked at
her door, and, finding it ajar, entered without further ceremony.

"Are you in, Miss Searight?" called Miss Douglass, looking about the
room, for Lloyd had returned to the closet and was busy washing the
minim-glass.

"Yes, yes," cried Lloyd, "I am. Sit down."

"Rownie told me you are next on call," said the other, dropping on
Lloyd's couch.

"So I am; I was very nearly caught, too. I ran over across the square
for five minutes, and while I was gone Miss Wakeley and Esther Thielman
were called. My name is at the top now."

"Esther got a typhoid case from Dr. Pitts. Do you know, Lloyd,
that's--let me see, that's four--seven--nine--that's ten typhoid cases
in the City that I can think of right now."

"It's everywhere; yes, I know," answered Lloyd, coming out of the room,
carefully drying the minim-glass.

"We are going to have trouble with it," continued the fever nurse;
"plenty of it before cool weather comes. It's almost epidemic."

Lloyd held the minim-glass against the light, scrutinising it with
narrowed lids.

"What did Esther say when she knew it was an infectious case?" she
asked. "Did she hesitate at all?"

"Not she!" declared Miss Douglass. "She's no Harriet Freeze."

Lloyd did not answer. This case of Harriet Freeze was one that the
nurses of the house had never forgotten and would never forgive. Miss
Freeze, a young English woman, newly graduated, suddenly called upon to
nurse a patient stricken with smallpox, had flinched and had been found
wanting at the crucial moment, had discovered an excuse for leaving her
post, having once accepted it. It was cowardice in the presence of the
Enemy. Anything could have been forgiven but that. On the girl's return
to the agency nothing was said, no action taken, but for all that she
was none the less expelled dishonourably from the midst of her
companions. Nothing could have been stronger than the _esprit de corps_
of this group of young women, whose lives were devoted to an unending
battle with disease.

Lloyd continued the overhauling of her equipment, and began ruling forms
for nourishment charts, while Miss Douglass importuned her to subscribe
to a purse the nurses were making up for an old cripple dying of cancer.
Lloyd refused.

"You know very well, Miss Douglass, that I only give to charity through
the association."

"I know," persisted the other, "and I know you give twice as much as all
of us put together, but with this poor old fellow it's different. We
know all about him, and every one of us in the house has given
something. You are the only one that won't, Lloyd, and I had so hoped I
could make it tip to fifty dollars."

"No."

"We need only three dollars now. We can buy that little cigar stand for
him for fifty dollars."

"No."

"And you won't give us just three dollars?"

"No."

"Well, you give half and I'll give half," said Miss Douglass.

"Do you think it's a question of money with me?" Lloyd smiled.

Indeed this was a poor argument with which to move Lloyd--Lloyd whose
railroad stock alone brought her some fifteen thousand dollars a year.

"Well, no; I don't mean that, of course, but, Lloyd, do let us have
three dollars, and I can send word to the old chap this very afternoon.
It will make him happy for the rest of his life."

"No--no--no, not three dollars, nor three cents."

Miss Douglass made a gesture of despair. She might have expected that
she could not move Lloyd. Once her mind was made up, one might argue
with her till one's breath failed. She shook her head at Lloyd and
exclaimed, but not ill-naturedly:

"Obstinate! Obstinate! Obstinate!"

Lloyd put away the hypodermic syringe and the minim-glass in their
places in the bag, added a little ice-pick to its contents, and shut the
bag with a snap.

"Now," she announced, "I'm ready."

When Miss Douglass had taken herself away Lloyd settled herself in the
place she had vacated, and, stripping the wrappings from the books and
magazines she had bought, began to turn the pages, looking at the
pictures. But her interest flagged. She tried to read, but soon cast the
book from her and leaned back upon the great couch, her hands clasped
behind the great bronze-red coils at the back of her head, her dull-blue
eyes fixed and vacant.

For hours the preceding night she had lain broad awake in her bed,
staring at the shifting shadow pictures that the electric lights,
shining through the trees down in the square, threw upon the walls and
ceiling of her room. She had eaten but little since morning; a growing
spirit of unrest had possessed her for the last two days. Now it had
reached a head. She could no longer put her thoughts from her.

It had all come back again for the fiftieth time, for the hundredth
time, the old, intolerable burden of anxiety growing heavier month by
month, year by year. It seemed to her that a shape of terror, formless,
intangible, and invisible, was always by her, now withdrawing, now
advancing, but always there; there close at hand in some dark corner
where she could not see, ready at every instant to assume a terrible and
all too well-known form, and to jump at her from behind, from out the
dark, and to clutch her throat with cold fingers. The thing played with
her, tormented her; at times it all but disappeared; at times she
believed she had fought it from her for good, and then she would wake of
a night, in the stillness and in the dark, and know it to be there once
more--at her bedside--at her back--at her throat--till her heart went
wild with fear, and the suspense of waiting for an Enemy that would not
strike, but that lurked and leered in dark corners, wrung from her a
suppressed cry of anguish and exasperation, and drove her from her sleep
with streaming eyes and tight-shut hands and wordless prayers.

For a few moments Lloyd lay back upon the couch, then regained her feet
with a brusque, harassed movement of head and shoulders.

"Ah, no," she exclaimed under her breath, "it is too dreadful."

She tried to find diversion in her room, rearranging the few ornaments,
winding the clock that struck ships' bells instead of hours, and turning
the wicks of the old empire lamps that hung in brass brackets on either
side the fireplace. Lloyd, after building the agency, had felt no
scruple in choosing the best room in the house and furnishing it
according to her taste. Her room was beautiful, but very simple in its
appointments. There were great flat wall-space unspoiled by bric-à-brac,
the floor marquetry, with but few rugs. The fireplace and its
appurtenances were of brass. Her writing-desk, a huge affair, of ancient
and almost black San Domingo mahogany.

But soon she wearied of the small business of pottering about her clock
and lamps, and, turning to the window, opened it, and, leaning upon her
elbows, looked down into the square.

By now the thunderstorm was gone, like the withdrawal of a dark curtain;
the sun was out again over the City. The square, deserted but half an
hour ago, was reinvaded with its little people of nurse-maids,
gray-coated policemen, and loungers reading their papers on the benches
near the fountain. The elms still dripped, their wet leaves glistening
again to the sun. There was a delicious smell in the air--a smell of
warm, wet grass, of leaves and drenched bark from the trees. On the far
side of the square, seen at intervals in the spaces between the foliage,
a passing truck painted vermilion set a brisk note of colour in the
scene. A newsboy appeared chanting the evening editions. On a sudden and
from somewhere close at hand an unseen hand-piano broke out into a gay,
jangling quickstep, marking the time with delightful precision.

A carriage, its fine lacquered flanks gleaming in the sunlight, rolled
through the square, on its way, no doubt, to the very fashionable
quarter of the City just beyond. Lloyd had a glimpse of the girl leaning
back in its cushions, a girl of her own age, with whom she had some
slight acquaintance. For a moment Lloyd, ridden with her terrors, asked
herself if this girl, with no capabilities for either great happiness or
great sorrow, were not perhaps, after all, happier than she. But she
recoiled instantly, murmuring to herself with a certain fierce energy:

"No, no; after all, I have lived."

And how had she lived? For the moment Lloyd was willing to compare
herself with the girl in the landau. Swiftly she ran over her own life
from the time when left an orphan; in the year of her majority she had
become her own mistress and the mistress of the Searight estate. But
even at that time she had long since broken away from the conventional
world she had known. Lloyd was a nurse in the great St Luke's Hospital
even then, had been a probationer there at the time of her mother's
death, six months before. She had always been ambitious, but vaguely so,
having no determined object in view. She recalled how at that time she
knew only that she was in love with her work, her chosen profession, and
was accounted the best operating nurse in the ward.

She remembered, too, the various steps of her advancement, the positions
she had occupied; probationer first, then full member of the active
corps, next operating nurse, then ward manager, and, after her
graduation, head nurse of ward four, where the maternity cases were
treated. Then had come the time when she had left the hospital and
practised private nursing by herself, and at last, not so long ago, the
day when her Idea had so abruptly occurred to her; when her ambition, no
longer vague, no longer personal, had crystallised and taken shape; when
she had discovered a use for her money and had built and founded the
house on Calumet Square. For a time she had been the superintendent of
nurses here, until her own theories and ideas had obtained and prevailed
in its management. Then, her work fairly started, she had resigned her
position to an older woman, and had taken her place in the rank and file
of the nurses themselves. She wished to be one of them, living the same
life, subject to the same rigorous discipline, and to that end she had
never allowed it to be known that she was the founder of the house. The
other nurses knew that she was very rich, very independent and
self-reliant, but that was all. Lloyd did not know and cared very little
how they explained the origin and support of the agency.

Lloyd was animated by no great philanthropy, no vast love of humanity in
her work; only she wanted, with all her soul she wanted, to count in the
general economy of things; to choose a work and do it; to help on,
_donner un coup d'epaule_; and this, supported by her own stubborn
energy and her immense wealth, she felt that she was doing. To do things
had become her creed; to do things, not to think them; to do things, not
to talk them; to do things, not to read them. No matter how lofty the
thoughts, how brilliant the talk, how beautiful the literature--for her,
first, last, and always, were acts, acts, acts--concrete, substantial,
material acts. The greatest and happiest day of her life had been when
at last she laid her bare hand upon the rough, hard stone of the house
in the square and looked up at the facade, her dull-blue eyes flashing
with the light that so rarely came to them, while she murmured between
her teeth:

"I--did--this."

As she recalled this moment now, leaning upon her elbows, looking down
upon the trees and grass and asphalt of the square, and upon a receding
landau, a wave of a certain natural pride in her strength, the
satisfaction of attainment, came to her. Ah! she was better than other
women; ah! she was stronger than other women; she was carrying out a
splendid work. She straightened herself to her full height abruptly,
stretching her outspread hands vaguely to the sunlight, to the City, to
the world, to the great engine of life whose lever she could grasp and
could control, smiling proudly, almost insolently, in the consciousness
of her strength, the fine steadfastness of her purpose. Then all at once
the smile was struck from her lips, the stiffness of her poise suddenly
relaxed. There, there it was again, the terror, the dreadful fear she
dared not name, back in its place once more--at her side, at her
shoulder, at her throat, ready to clutch at her from out the dark.

She wheeled from the window, from the sunlight, her hands clasped before
her trembling lips, the tears brimming her dull-blue eyes. For
forty-eight hours she had fought this from her. But now it was no longer
to be resisted.

"No, no," she cried half aloud. "I am no better, no stronger than the
others. What does it all amount to when I know that, after all, I am
just a woman--just a woman whose heart is slowly breaking?"

But there was an interruption. Rownie had knocked twice at her door
before Lloyd had heard her. When Lloyd had opened the door the girl
handed her a card with an address written on it in the superintendent's
hand.

"This here jus' now come in f'om Dr. Street, Miss Lloyd," said Rownie;
"Miss Bergyn" (this was the superintendent nurse) "ast me to give it to
you."

It was a call to an address that seemed familiar to Lloyd at first; but
she did not stop at that moment to reflect. Her stable telephone hung
against the wall of the closet. She rang for Lewis, and while waiting
for him to get around dressed for the street.

For the moment, at the prospect of action, even her haunting fear drew
off and stood away from her. She was absorbed in her work upon the
instant--alert, watchful, self-reliant. What the case was she could only
surmise. How long she would be away she had no means of knowing--a week,
a month, a year, she could not tell. But she was ready for any
contingency. Usually the doctors informed the nurses as to the nature of
the case at the time of sending for them, but Dr. Street had not done so
now.

However, Rownie called up to her that her coupé was at the door. Lloyd
caught up her satchels and ran down the stairs, crying good-bye to Miss
Douglass, whom she saw at the farther end of the hall. In the hallway by
the vestibule she changed the slide bearing her name from the top to the
bottom of the roster.

"How about your mail?" cried Miss Douglass after her.

"Keep it here for me until I see how long I'm to be away," answered
Lloyd, her hand upon the knob. "I'll let you know."

Lewis had put Rox in the shafts, and while the coupé spun over the
asphalt at a smart clip Lloyd tried to remember where she had heard of
the address before. Suddenly she snapped her fingers; she knew the case,
had even been assigned to it some eight months before.

"Yes, yes, that's it--Campbell--wife dead--Lafayette Avenue--little
daughter, Hattie--hip disease--hopeless--poor little baby."

Arriving at the house, Lloyd found the surgeon, Dr. Street, and Mr.
Campbell, who was a widower, waiting for her in a small drawing-room off
the library. The surgeon was genuinely surprised and delighted to see
her. Most of the doctors of the City knew Lloyd for the best trained
nurse in the hospitals.

"Oh, it's you, Miss Searight; good enough!" The surgeon introduced her
to the little patient's father, adding: "If any one can pull us through,
Campbell, it will be Miss Searight."

The surgeon and nurse began to discuss the case.

"I think you know it already, don't you, Miss Searight?" said the
surgeon. "You took care of it a while last winter. Well, there was a
little improvement in the spring, not so much pain, but that in itself
is a bad sign. We have done what we could, Farnham and I. But it don't
yield to treatment; you know how these things are--stubborn. We made a
preliminary examination yesterday. Sinuses have occurred, and the probe
leads down to nothing but dead bone. Farnham and I had a consultation
this morning. We must play our last card. I shall exsect the joint
to-morrow."

Mr. Campbell drew in his breath and held it for a moment, looking out of
the window.

Very attentive, Lloyd merely nodded her head, murmuring:

"I understand."

When Dr. Street had gone Lloyd immediately set to work. The operation
was to take place at noon the following day, and she foresaw there would
be no sleep for her that night. Street had left everything to her, even
to the sterilising of his instruments. Until daylight the following
morning Lloyd came and went about the house with an untiring energy, yet
with the silence of a swiftly moving shadow, getting together the things
needed for the operation--strychnia tablets, absorbent cotton, the
rubber tubing for the tourniquet, bandages, salt, and the like--and
preparing the little chamber adjoining the sick-room as an
operating-room.

The little patient herself, Hattie, hardly into her teens, remembered
Lloyd at once. Before she went to sleep Lloyd contrived to spend an hour
in the sick-room with her, told her as much as was necessary of what
was contemplated, and, by her cheery talk, her gentleness and sympathy,
inspired the little girl with a certain sense of confidence and trust in
her.

"But--but--but just how bad will it hurt, Miss Searight?" inquired
Hattie, looking at her, wide-eyed and serious.

"Dear, it won't hurt you at all; just two or three breaths of the ether
and you will be sound asleep. When you wake up it will be all over and
you will be well."

Lloyd made the ether cone from a stiff towel, and set it on Hattie's
dressing-table. Last of all and just before the operation the gauze
sponges occupied her attention. The daytime brought her no rest. Hattie
was not to have any breakfast, but toward the middle of the forenoon
Lloyd gave her a stimulating enema of whiskey and water, following it
about an hour later by a hundredth grain of atropia. She braided the
little girl's hair in two long plaits so that her head would rest
squarely and flatly upon the pillow. Hattie herself was now ready for
the surgeon.

Now there was nothing more to be done. Lloyd could but wait. She took
her place at the bedside and tried to talk as lightly as was possible to
her patient. But now there was a pause in the round of action. Her mind
no longer keenly intent upon the immediate necessities of the moment,
began to hark back again to the one great haunting fear that for so long
had overshadowed it. Even while she exerted herself to be cheerful and
watched for the smiles on Hattie's face her hands twisted tight and
tighter under the folds of her blouse, and some second self within her
seemed to say:

"Suppose, suppose it should come, this thing I dread but dare not name,
what then, what then? Should I not expect it? Is it not almost a
certainty? Have I not been merely deceiving myself with the forlornest
hopes? Is it not the most reasonable course to expect the worst? Do not
all indications point that way? Has not my whole life been shaped to
this end? Was not this calamity, this mighty sorrow, prepared for me
even before I was born? And one can do nothing, absolutely nothing,
nothing, but wait and hope and fear, and eat out one's heart with
longing."

There was a knock at the door. Instead of calling to enter Lloyd went to
it softly and opened it a few inches. Mr. Campbell was there.

"They've come--Street and the assistant."

Lloyd heard a murmur of voices in the hall below and the closing of the
front door.

Farnham and Street went at once to the operating-room to make their
hands and wrists aseptic. Campbell had gone downstairs to his
smoking-room. It had been decided--though contrary to custom--that Lloyd
should administer the chloroform.

At length Street tapped with the handle of a scalpel on the door to say
that he was ready.

"Now, dear," said Lloyd, turning to Hattie, and picking up the ether
cone.

But the little girl's courage suddenly failed her. She began to plead in
a low voice choked with tears. Her supplications were pitiful; but
Lloyd, once more intent upon her work, every faculty and thought
concentrated upon what must be done, did not temporise an instant.
Quietly she gathered Hattie's frail wrists in the grip of one strong
palm, and held the cone to her face until she had passed off with a long
sigh. She picked her up lightly, carried her into the next room, and
laid her upon the operating-table. At the last moment Lloyd had busied
herself with the preparation of her own person. Over her dress she
passed her hospital blouse, which had been under a dry heat for hours.
She rolled her sleeves up from her strong white forearms with their
thick wrists and fine blue veining, and for upward of ten minutes
scrubbed them with a new nail-brush in water as hot as she could bear
it. After this she let her hands and forearms lie in the permanganate of
potash solution till they were brown to the elbow, then washed away the
stain in the oxalic-acid solution and in sterilised hot water. Street
and Farnham, wearing their sterilised gowns and gloves, took their
places. There was no conversation. The only sounds were an occasional
sigh from the patient, a direction given in a low tone, and, at
intervals, the click of the knives and scalpel. From outside the window
came the persistent chirping of a band of sparrows.

Promptly the operation was begun; there was no delay, no hesitation;
what there was to be done had been carefully planned beforehand, even to
the minutest details. Street, a master of his profession, thoroughly
familiar with every difficulty that might present itself during the
course of the work in hand, foreseeing every contingency, prepared for
every emergency, calm, watchful, self-contained, set about the exsecting
of the joint with no trace of compunction, no embarrassment, no
misgiving. His assistants, as well as he himself, knew that life or
death hung upon the issue of the next ten minutes. Upon Street alone
devolved the life of the little girl. A second's hesitation at the wrong
stage of the operation, a slip of bistoury or scalpel, a tremor of the
wrist, a single instant's clumsiness of the fingers, and the
Enemy--watching for every chance, intent for every momentarily opened
chink or cranny wherein he could thrust his lean fingers--entered the
frail tenement with a leap, a rushing, headlong spring that jarred the
house of life to its foundations. Lowering close over her head Lloyd
felt the shadow of his approach. He had arrived there in that
commonplace little room, with its commonplace accessories, its
ornaments, that suddenly seemed so trivial, so impertinent--the stopped
French clock, with its simpering, gilded cupids, on the mantelpiece; the
photograph of a number of picnickers "grouped" on a hotel piazza gazing
with monolithic cheerfulness at this grim business, this struggle of the
two world forces, this crisis in a life.

Then abruptly the operation was over.

The nurse and surgeons eased their positions immediately, drawing long
breaths. They began to talk, commenting upon the operation, and Lloyd,
intensely interested, asked Street why he had, contrary to her
expectations, removed the bone above the lesser trochanter. He smiled,
delighted at her intelligence.

"It's better than cutting through the neck, Miss Searight," he told her.
"If I had gone through the neck, don't you see, the trochanter major
would come over the hole and prevent the discharges."

"Yes, yes, I see, of course," assented Lloyd.

The incision was sewn up, and when all was over Lloyd carried Hattie
back to the bed in the next room. Slowly the little girl regained
consciousness, and Lloyd began to regard her once more as a human being.
During the operation she had forgotten the very existence of Hattie
Campbell, a little girl she knew. She had only seen a bit of mechanism
out of order and in the hands of a repairer. It was always so with
Lloyd. Her charges were not infrequently persons whom she knew, often
intimately, but during the time of their sickness their personalities
vanished for the trained nurse; she saw only the "case," only the
mechanism, only the deranged clockwork in imminent danger of running
down.

But the danger was by no means over. The operation had been near the
trunk. There had been considerable loss of blood, and the child's power
of resistance had been weakened by long periods of suffering. Lloyd
feared that the shock might prove too great. Farnham departed, but for a
little while the surgeon remained with Lloyd to watch the symptoms. At
length, however, he too, pressed for time, and expected at one of the
larger hospitals of the City, went away, leaving directions for Lloyd to
telephone him in case of the slightest change. At this hour, late in the
afternoon, there were no indications that the little girl would not
recover from the shock. Street believed she would rally and ultimately
regain her health.

"But," he told Lloyd as he bade her good-bye, "I don't need to impress
upon you the need of care and the greatest vigilance; absolute rest is
the only thing; she must see nobody, not even her father. The whole
system is numbed and deadened just yet, but there will be a change
either for better or worse some time to-night."

For thirty-six hours Lloyd had not closed an eye, but of that she had no
thought. Her supper was sent up to her, and she prepared herself for her
night's watch. She gave the child such nourishment as she believed she
could stand, and from time to time took her pulse, making records of it
upon her chart for the surgeon's inspection later on. At intervals she
took Hattie's temperature, placing the clinical thermometer in the
armpit. Toward nine in the evening, while she was doing this for the
third time within the hour, one of the house servants came to the room
to inform her that she was wanted on the telephone. Lloyd hesitated,
unwilling to leave Hattie for an instant. However, the telephone was
close at hand, and it was quite possible that Dr. Street had rung her up
to ask for news.

But it was the agency that had called, and Miss Douglass informed her
that a telegram had arrived there for her a few moments before. Should
she hold it or send it to her by Rownie? Lloyd reflected a moment.

"Oh--open it and read it to me," she said. "It's a call, isn't
it?--or--no; send it here by Rownie, and send my hospital slippers with
her, the ones without heels. But don't ring up again to-night; we're
expecting a crisis almost any moment."

Lloyd returned to the sick-room, sent away the servant, and once more
settled herself for the night. Hattie had roused for a moment.

"Am I going to get well, am I going to get well, Miss Searight?"

Lloyd put her finger to her lips, nodding her head, and Hattie closed
her eyes again with a long breath. A certain great tenderness and
compassion for the little girl grew big in Lloyd's heart. To herself she
said:

"God helping me, you shall get well. They believe in me, these
people--'If any one could pull us through it would be Miss Searight.' We
will 'pull through,' yes, for I'll do it."

The night closed down, dark and still and very hot. Lloyd, regulating
the sick-room's ventilation, opened one of the windows from the top. The
noises of the City steadily decreasing as the hours passed, reached her
ears in a subdued, droning murmur. On her bed, that had for so long been
her bed of pain, Hattie lay with closed eyes, inert, motionless, hardly
seeming to breathe, her life in the balance; unhappy little invalid,
wasted with suffering, with drawn, pinched face and bloodless lips, and
at her side Lloyd, her dull-blue eyes never leaving her patient's face,
alert and vigilant, despite her long wakefulness, her great bronze-red
flame of hair rolling from her forehead and temples, the sombre glow in
her cheeks no whit diminished by her day of fatigue, of responsibility
and untiring activity.

For the time being she could thrust her fear, the relentless Enemy that
for so long had hung upon her heels, back and away from her. There was
another Enemy now to fight--or was it another--was it not the same
Enemy, the very same, whose shadow loomed across that sick-bed, across
the frail, small body and pale, drawn face?

With her pity and compassion for the sick child there arose in Lloyd a
certain unreasoned, intuitive obstinacy, a banding together of all her
powers and faculties in one great effort at resistance, a steadfastness
under great stress, a stubbornness, that shut its ears and eyes. It was
her one dominant characteristic rising up, strong and insistent the
instant she knew herself to be thwarted in her desires or checked in a
course she believed to be right and good. And now as she felt the
advance of the Enemy and saw the shadow growing darker across the bed
her obstinacy hardened like tempered steel.

"No," she murmured, her brows levelled, her lips compressed, "she shall
not die. I will not let her go."

A little later, perhaps an hour after midnight, at a time when she
believed Hattie to be asleep, Lloyd, watchful as ever, noted that her
cheeks began alternately to puff out and contract with her breathing. In
an instant the nurse was on her feet. She knew the meaning of this sign.
Hattie had fainted while asleep. Lloyd took the temperature. It was
falling rapidly. The pulse was weak, rapid, and irregular. It seemed
impossible for Hattie to take a deep breath.

Then swiftly the expected crisis began to develop itself. Lloyd ordered
Street to be sent for, but only as a matter of form. Long before he
could arrive the issue would be decided. She knew that now Hattie's life
depended on herself alone.

"Now," she murmured, as though the Enemy she fought could hear her, "now
let us see who is the stronger. You or I."

Swiftly and gently she drew the bed from the wall and raised its foot,
propping it in position with half a dozen books. Then, while waiting for
the servants, whom she had despatched for hot blankets, administered a
hypodermic injection of brandy.

"We will pull you through," she kept saying to herself, "we will pull
you through. I shall not let you go."

The Enemy was close now, and the fight was hand to hand. Lloyd could
almost feel, physically, actually, feel the slow, sullen, resistless
pull that little by little was dragging Hattie's life from her grip. She
set her teeth, holding back with all her might, bracing herself against
the strain, refusing with all inborn stubbornness to yield her position.

"No--no," she repeated to herself, "you shall not have her. I will not
give her up; you shall not triumph over me."

Campbell was in the room, warned by the ominous coming and going of
hushed footsteps.

"What is the use, nurse? It's all over. Let her die in peace. It's too
cruel; let her die in peace."

The half-hour passed, then the hour. Once more Lloyd administered
hypodermically the second dose of brandy. Campbell, unable to bear the
sight, had withdrawn to the adjoining room, where he could be heard
pacing the floor. From time to time he came back for a moment,
whispering:

"Will she live, nurse? Will she live? Shall we pull her through?"

"I don't know," Lloyd told him. "I don't know. Wait. Go back. I will let
you know."

Another fifteen minutes passed. Lloyd fancied that the heart's action
was growing a little stronger. A great stillness had settled over the
house. The two servants waiting Lloyd's orders in the hall outside the
door refrained even from whispering. From the next room came the muffled
sound of pacing footsteps, hurried, irregular, while with that strange
perversity which seizes upon the senses at moments when they are more
than usually acute Lloyd began to be aware of a vague, unwonted movement
in the City itself, outside there behind the drawn curtains and
half-opened window--a faint, uncertain agitation, a trouble, a passing
ripple on the still black pool of the night, coming and going, and
coming again, each time a little more insistent, each time claiming a
little more attention and notice. It was about half past three o'clock.
But the little patient's temperature was rising--there could be no doubt
about that. The lungs expanded wider and deeper. Hattie's breathing was
unmistakably easier; and as Lloyd put her fingers to the wrist she could
hardly keep back a little exultant cry as she felt the pulse throbbing
fuller, a little slower, a little more regularly. Now she redoubled her
attention. Her hold upon the little life shut tighter; her power of
resistance, her strength of purpose, seemed to be suddenly quadrupled.
She could imagine the Enemy drawing off; she could think that the grip
of cold fingers was loosening.

Slowly the crisis passed off, slowly the reaction began. Hattie was
still unconscious, but there was a new look upon her face--a look that
Lloyd had learned to know from long experience, an intangible and most
illusive expression, nothing, something, the sign that only those who
are trained to search for it may see and appreciate--the earliest faint
flicker after the passing of the shadow.

"Will she live, will she live, nurse?" came Mr. Campbell's whisper at
her shoulder.

"I think--I am almost sure--but we must not be too certain yet. Still
there's a chance; yes, there's a chance."

Campbell, suddenly gone white, put out his hand and leaned a moment
against the mantelpiece. He did not now leave the room. The door-bell
rang.

"Dr. Street," murmured Lloyd.

But what had happened in the City? There in the still dark hours of that
hot summer night an event of national, perhaps even international,
importance had surely transpired. It was in the air--a sense of a Great
Thing come suddenly to a head somewhere in the world. Footsteps sounded
rapidly on the echoing sidewalks. Here and there a street door opened.
From corner to corner, growing swiftly nearer, came the cry of newsboys
chanting extras. A subdued excitement was abroad, finding expression in
a vague murmur, the mingling of many sounds into one huge note--a note
that gradually swelled and grew louder and seemed to be rising from all
corners of the City at once.

There was a step at the sick-room door. Dr. Street? No, Rownie--Rownie
with two telegrams for Lloyd.

Lloyd took them from her, then with a sharp, brusque movement of her
head and suddenly smitten with an idea, turned from them to listen to
the low, swelling murmur of the City. These despatches--no, they were no
"call" for her. She guessed what they might be. Why had they come to her
now? Why was there this sense of some great tidings in the wind? The
same tidings that had come to the world might come to her--in these
despatches. Might it not be so? She caught her breath quickly. The
terror, the fearful anxiety that had haunted and oppressed her for so
long, was it to be lifted now at last? The Enemy that lurked in the dark
corners, ever ready to clutch her, was it to be driven back and away
from her forever? She dared not hope for it. But something was coming to
her; she knew it, she felt it; something was preparing for her, coming
to her swifter with every second--coming, coming, coming from out the
north. She saw Dr. Street in the room, though how and when he had
arrived she could not afterward recall. Her mind was all alert, intent
upon other things, listening, waiting. The surgeon had been leaning over
the bed. Suddenly he straightened up, saying aloud to Campbell:

"Good, good, we're safe. We have pulled through."

Lloyd tore open her telegrams. One was signed "Bennett," the other
"Ferriss."

"Thank God!" exclaimed Mr. Campbell.

"Oh," cried Lloyd, a great sob shaking her from head to heel, a smile of
infinite happiness flashing from her face. "Oh--yes, thank God, we--we
_have_ pulled through."

"Am I going to get well, am I going to get well, Miss Searight?" Hattie,
once more conscious, raised her voice weak and faint.

Lloyd was on her knees beside her, her head bent over her.

"Hush; yes, dear, you are safe." Then the royal bronze-red hair bent
lower still. The dull-blue eyes were streaming now, the voice one low
quiver of sobs. Tenderly, gently Lloyd put an arm about the child, her
head bending lower and lower. Her cheek touched Hattie's. For a moment
the little girl, frail, worn, pitifully wasted, and the strong, vigorous
woman, with her imperious will and indomitable purpose, rested their
heads upon the same pillow, both broken with suffering, the one of the
body, the other of the mind.

"Safe; yes, dear, safe," whispered Lloyd, her face all but hidden.
"Safe, safe, and saved to me. Oh, dearest of all the world!"

And then to her ears the murmur of the City seemed to leap suddenly to
articulate words, the clanging thunder of the entire nation--the whole
round world thrilling with this great news that had come to it from out
the north in the small hours of this hot summer's night. And the
chanting cries of the street rolled to her like the tremendous diapason
of a gigantic organ:

"Rescued, rescued, rescued!"



IV.


On the day that Lloyd returned to the house on Calumet Square (Hattie's
recovery being long since assured), and while she was unpacking her
valise and settling herself again in her room, a messenger boy brought
her a note.

"Have just arrived in the City. When may I see you? BENNETT."

News of Ward Bennett and of Richard Ferriss had not been wanting during
the past fortnight or so. Their names and that of the ship herself, even
the names of Adler, Hansen, Clarke, and Dennison, even Muck Tu, even
that of Kamiska, the one surviving dog, filled the mouths and minds of
men to the exclusion of everything else.

The return of the expedition after its long imprisonment in the ice and
at a time when all hope of its safety had been abandoned was one of the
great events of that year. The fact that the expedition had failed to
reach the Pole, or to attain any unusual high latitude, was forgotten or
ignored. Nothing was remembered but the masterly retreat toward
Kolyuchin Bay, the wonderful march over the ice, the indomitable
courage, unshaken by hardship, perils, obstacles, and privations almost
beyond imagination. All this, together with a multitude of details, some
of them palpably fictitious, the press of the City where Bennett and
Ferriss both had their homes published and republished and published
again and again. News of the men, their whereabouts and intentions,
invaded the sick-room--where Lloyd watched over the convalescence of her
little patient--by the very chinks of the windows.

Lloyd learned how the ship had been "nipped;" how, after inconceivable
toil, the members of the expedition had gained the land; how they had
marched southward toward the Chuckch settlements; how, at the eleventh
hour, the survivors, exhausted and starving, had been rescued by the
steam whalers; how these whalers themselves had been caught in the ice,
and how the survivors of the Freja had been obliged to spend another
winter in the Arctic. She learned the details of their final return. In
the quiet, darkened room where Hattie lay she heard from without the
echo of the thunder of the nations; she saw how the figure of Bennett
towered suddenly magnificent in the world; how that the people were
brusquely made aware of a new hero. She learned that honours came
thronging about him unsought; that the King of the Belgians had
conferred a decoration upon him; that the geographical societies of
continental Europe had elected him to honourary membership; that the
President and the Secretary of War had sent telegrams of
congratulations.

"And what does he do," she murmured, "the first of all upon his return?
Asks to see me--me!"

She sent an answer to his note by the same boy who brought it, naming
the following afternoon, explaining that two days later she expected to
go into the country to a little town called Bannister to take her annual
fortnight's vacation.

"But what of--of the other?" she murmured as she stood at the window of
her room watching the messenger boy bicycling across the square. "Why
does not he--he, too--?"

She put her chin in the air and turned about, looking abstractedly at
the rugs on the parquetry.

Lloyd's vacation had really begun two days before. Her name was off the
roster of the house, and till the end of the month her time was her own.
The afternoon was hot and very still. Even in the cool, stone-built
agency, with its windows wide and heavily shaded with awnings, the heat
was oppressive. For a long time Lloyd had been shut away from fresh air
and the sun, and now she suddenly decided to drive out in the City's
park. She rang up her stable and ordered Lewis to put her ponies to her
phaeton.

She spent a delightful two hours in the great park, losing herself in
its farthest, shadiest, and most unfrequented corners. She drove
herself, and intelligently. Horses were her passion, and not Lewis
himself understood their care and management better. Toward the cool of
the day and just as she had pulled the ponies down to a walk in a long,
deserted avenue overspanned with elms and great cottonwoods she was all
at once aware of an open carriage that had turned into the far end of
the same avenue approaching at an easy trot. It drew near, and she saw
that its only occupant was a man leaning back rather limply in the
cushions. As the eye of the trained nurse fell upon him she at once
placed him in the category of convalescents or chronic invalids, and she
was vaguely speculating as to the nature of his complaint when the
carriage drew opposite her phaeton, and she recognised Richard Ferriss.

Ferriss, but not the same Ferriss to whom she had said good-bye on that
never-to-be-forgotten March afternoon, with its gusts and rain, four
long years ago. The Ferriss she had known then had been an alert, keen
man, with quick, bright eyes, alive to every impression, responsive to
every sensation, living his full allowance of life. She was looking now
at a man unnaturally old, of deadened nerves, listless. As he caught
sight of her and recognised her he suddenly roused himself with a quick,
glad smile and with a look in his eyes that to Lloyd was unmistakable.
But there was not that joyful, exuberant start she had anticipated, and,
for that matter, wished. Neither did Lloyd set any too great store by
the small amenities of life, but that Ferriss should remain covered hurt
her a little. She wondered how she could note so trivial a detail at
such a moment. But this was Ferriss.

Her heart was beating fast and thick as she halted her ponies. The
driver of the carriage jumped down and held the door for Ferriss, and
the chief engineer stepped quickly toward her.

So it was they met after four years--and such years--unexpectedly,
without warning or preparation, and not at all as she had expected. What
they said to each other in those first few moments Lloyd could never
afterward clearly remember. One incident alone detached itself vividly
from the blur.

"I have just come from the square," Ferriss had explained, "and they
told me that you had left for a drive out here only the moment before,
so there was nothing for it but to come after you."

"Shan't we walk a little?" she remembered she had asked after a while.
"We can have the carriages wait; or do you feel strong enough? I
forgot--"

But he interrupted her, protesting his fitness.

"The doctor merely sent me out to get the air, and it's humiliating to
be wheeled about like an old woman."

Lloyd passed the reins back of her to Lewis, and, gathering her skirts
about her, started to descend from the phaeton. The step was rather high
from the ground. Ferriss stood close by. Why did he not help her? Why
did he stand there, his hands in his pockets, so listless and
unconscious of her difficulty. A little glow of irritation deepened the
dull crimson of her cheeks. Even returned Arctic explorers could not
afford to ignore entirely life's little courtesies--and he of all men.

"Well," she said, expectantly hesitating before attempting to descend.

Then she caught Ferriss's eyes fixed upon her. He was smiling a little,
but the dull, stupefied expression of his face seemed for a brief
instant to give place to one of great sadness. He raised a shoulder
resignedly, and Lloyd, with the suddenness of a blow, remembered that
Ferriss had no hands.

She dropped back in the seat of the phaeton, covering her eyes, shaken
and unnerved for the moment with a great thrill of infinite pity--of
shame at her own awkwardness, and of horror as for one brief instant the
smiling summer park, the afternoon's warmth, the avenue of green,
over-arching trees, the trim, lacquered vehicles and glossy-brown horses
were struck from her mind, and she had a swift vision of the Ice, the
darkness of the winter night, the lacerating, merciless cold, the
blinding, whirling, dust-like snow.

For half an hour they walked slowly about in the park, the carriages
following at a distance. They did not talk very much. It seemed to Lloyd
that she would never tire of scrutinising his face, that her interest in
his point of view, his opinions, would never flag. He had had an
experience that came but to few men. For four years he had been out of
the world, had undergone privation beyond conception. What now was to be
his attitude? How had he changed? That he had not changed to her Lloyd
knew in an instant. He still loved her; that was beyond all doubt. But
this terrible apathy that seemed now to be a part of him! She had heard
of the numbing stupor that invades those who stay beyond their time in
the Ice, but never before had she seen it in its reality. It was not a
lack of intelligence; it seemed rather to be the machinery of
intelligence rusted and clogged from long disuse. He deliberated long
before he spoke. It took him some time to understand things. Speech did
not come to him readily, and he became easily confused in the matter of
words. Once, suddenly, he had interrupted her, breaking out with:

"Oh, the smell of the trees, of the grass! Isn't it wonderful; isn't it
wonderful?" And a few seconds later, quite irrelevantly: "And, after
all, we failed."

At once Lloyd was all aroused, defending him against himself.

"Failed! And you say that? If you did not reach the Pole, what then? The
world will judge you by results perhaps, and the world's judgment will
be wrong. Is it nothing that you have given the world an example of
heroism--"

"Oh, don't call it that."

"Of heroism, of courage, of endurance? Is it nothing that you have
overcome obstacles before which other men would have died? Is it nothing
that you have shown us all how to be patient, how to be strong? There
are some things better even than reaching the Pole. To suffer and be
calm is one of them; not to give up--never to be beaten--is another. Oh,
if I were a man! Ten thousand, a hundred thousand people are reading
to-night of what you have done--of what you have done, you understand,
not of what you have failed to do. They have seen--you have shown them
what the man can do who says _I will_, and you have done a little more,
have gone a little further, have been a little braver, a little hardier,
a little nobler, a little more determined than any one has ever been
before. Whoever fails now cannot excuse himself by saying that he has
done as much as a man can do. He will have to remember the men of the
Freja. He will have to remember you. Don't you suppose I am proud of
you; don't you suppose that I am stronger and better because of what you
have done? Do you think it is nothing for me to be sitting here beside
you, here in this park--to be--yes, to be with you? Can't you
understand? Isn't it something to me that you are the man you are; not
the man whose name the people are shouting just now, not the man to whom
a king gave a bit of ribbon and enamel, but the man who lived like a
man, who would not die just because it was easier to die than to live,
who fought like a man, not only for himself but for the lives of those
he led, who showed us all how to be strong, and how strong one could be
if one would only try? What does the Pole amount to? The world wants
men, great, strong, harsh, brutal men--men with purposes, who let
nothing, nothing, nothing stand in their way."

"You mean Bennett," said Ferriss, looking up quickly. "You commenced by
speaking of me, but it's Bennett you are talking of now."

But he caught her glance and saw that she was looking steadfastly at
him--at him. A look was in her face, a light in her dull-blue eyes, that
he had never seen there before.

"Lloyd," he said quietly, "which one of us, Bennett or I, were you
speaking of just then? You know what I mean; which one of us?"

"I was speaking of the man who was strong enough to do great things,"
she said.

Ferriss drew the stumps of his arms from his pockets and smiled at them
grimly.

"H'm, can one do much--this way?" he muttered.

With a movement she did not try to restrain Lloyd put both her hands
over his poor, shapeless wrists. Never in her life had she been so
strongly moved. Pity, such as she had never known, a tenderness and
compassion such as she had never experienced, went knocking at her
breast. She had no words at hand for so great emotions. She longed to
tell him what was in her heart, but all speech failed.

"Don't!" she exclaimed. "Don't! I will not have you."

A little later, as they were returning toward the carriages, Lloyd,
after a moment's deliberation upon the matter, said:

"Can't I set you down somewhere near your rooms? Let your carriage go."

He shook his head: "I've just given up my downtown rooms. Bennett and I
have taken other rooms much farther uptown. In fact, I believe I am
supposed to be going there now. It would be quite out of your way to
take me there. We are much quieter out there, and people can't get at us
so readily. The doctor says we both need rest after our shaking up.
Bennett himself--iron as he is--is none too strong, and what with the
mail, the telegrams, reporters, deputations, editors, and visitors, and
the like, we are kept on something of a strain. Besides we have still a
good deal of work to do getting our notes into shape."

Lewis brought the ponies to the edge of the walk, and Lloyd and Ferriss
separated, she turning the ponies' heads homeward, starting away at a
brisk trot, and leaving him in his carriage, which he had directed to
carry him to his new quarters.

But at the turn of the avenue Lloyd leaned from the phaeton and looked
back. The carriage was just disappearing down the vista of elms and
cottonwoods. She waved her hand gayly, and Ferriss responded with the
stump of one forearm.

On the next day but one, a Friday, Lloyd was to go to the country. Every
year in the heat of the summer Lloyd spent her short vacation in the
sleepy and old-fashioned little village of Bannister. The country around
the village was part of the Searight estate. It was quiet, off the
railroad, just the place to forget duties, responsibilities, and the
wearing anxieties of sick-rooms. But Thursday afternoon she expected
Bennett.

Thursday morning she was in her room. Her trunk was already packed.
There was nothing more to be done. She was off duty. There was neither
care nor responsibility upon her mind. But she was too joyful, too
happily exalted, too exuberant in gayety to pass her time in reading.
She wanted action, movement, life, and instinctively threw open a window
of her room, and, according to her habit, leaned upon her elbows and
looked out and down upon the square. The morning was charming. Later in
the day it probably would be very hot, but as yet the breeze of the
earliest hours was stirring nimbly. The cool of it put a brisker note in
the sombre glow of her cheeks, and just stirred a lock that, escaping
from her gorgeous coils of dark-red hair, hung curling over her ear and
neck. Into her eyes of dull blue--like the blue of old china--the
morning's sun sent an occasional unwonted sparkle. Over the asphalt and
over the green grass-plots of the square the shadows of the venerable
elms wove a shifting maze of tracery. Traffic avoided the place. It was
invariably quiet in the square, and one--as now--could always hear the
subdued ripple and murmur of the fountain in the centre.

But the crowning delight of that morning was the sudden appearance of a
robin in a tree close to Lloyd's window. He was searching his breakfast.
At every moment he came and went between the tree-tops and the
grass-plots, very important, very preoccupied, chittering and calling
the while, as though he would never tire. Lloyd whistled to him, and
instantly he answered, cocking his head sideways. She whistled again,
and he piped back an impudent response, and for quite five minutes the
two held an elaborate altercation between tree-top and window-ledge.
Lloyd caught herself laughing outright and aloud for no assignable
reason. "Ah, the world was a pretty good place after all!"

A little later, and while she was still at the window, Rownie brought
her a note from Bennett, sent by special messenger.

"Ferriss woke up sick this morning. Nobody here but the two of us;
can't leave him alone. BENNETT."

"Oh!" exclaimed Lloyd Searight a little blankly.

The robin and his effrontery at once ceased to be amusing. She closed
the window abruptly, shutting out the summer morning's gayety and charm,
turning her back upon the sunlight.

Now she was more in the humour of reading. On the great divan against
the wall lay the month's magazines and two illustrated weeklies. Lloyd
had bought them to read on the train. But now she settled herself upon
the divan and, picking up one of the weeklies, turned its leaves
listlessly. All at once she came upon two pictures admirably reproduced
from photographs, and serving as illustrations to the weekly's main
article--"The Two Leaders of the Freja Expedition." One was a picture of
Bennett, the other of Ferriss.

The suddenness with which she had come upon his likeness almost took
Lloyd's breath from her. It was the last thing she had expected. If he
himself had abruptly entered the room in person she could hardly have
been more surprised. Her heart gave a great leap, the dull crimson of
her cheeks shot to her forehead. Then, with a charming movement, at once
impulsive and shamefaced, smiling the while, her eyes half-closing, she
laid her cheek upon the picture, murmuring to herself words that only
herself should hear. The next day she left for the country.

On that same day when Dr. Pitts arrived at the rooms Ferriss and Bennett
had taken he found the anteroom already crowded with visitors--a knot of
interviewers, the manager of a lecture bureau, as well as the agent of a
patented cereal (who sought the man of the hour for an endorsement of
his article), and two female reporters.

Decidedly Richard Ferriss was ill; there could be no doubt about that.
Bennett had not slept the night before, but had gone to and fro about
the rooms tending to his wants with a solicitude and a gentleness that
in a man so harsh and so toughly fibred seemed strangely out of place.
Bennett was far from well himself. The terrible milling which he had
undergone had told even upon that enormous frame, but his own ailments
were promptly ignored now that Ferriss, the man of all men to him, was
"down."

"I didn't pull through with you, old man," he responded to all of
Ferriss's protests, "to have you get sick on my hands at this time of
day. No more of your damned foolishness now. Here's the quinine. Down
with it!"

Bennett met Pitts at the door of Ferriss's room, and before going in
drew him into a corner.

"He's a sick boy, Pitts, and is going to be worse, though he's just
enough of a fool boy not to admit it. I've seen them start off this gait
before. Remember, too, when you look him over that it's not as though he
had been in a healthy condition before. Our work in the ice ground him
down about as fine as he could go and yet live, and the hardtack and
salt pork on the steam whalers were not a good diet for a convalescent.
And see here, Pitts," said Bennett, clearing his throat, "I--well, I'm
rather fond of that fool boy in there. We are not taking any chances,
you understand."

After the doctor had seen the chief engineer and had prescribed calomel
and a milk diet, Bennett followed him out into the hall and accompanied
him to the door.

"Verdict?" he demanded, fixing the physician intently with his small,
distorted eyes. But Pitts was non-committal.

"Yes, he's a sick boy, but the thing, whatever it is going to be, has
been gathering slowly. He complains of headache, great weakness and
nausea, and you speak of frequent nose-bleeds during the night. The
abdomen is tender upon pressure, which is a symptom I would rather not
have found. But I can't make any positive diagnosis as yet. Some big
sickness is coming on--that, I am afraid, is certain. I shall come out
here to-morrow. But, Mr. Bennett, be careful of yourself. Even steel can
weaken, you know. You see this rabble" (he motioned with his head toward
the anteroom, where the other visitors were waiting) "that is hounding
you? Everybody knows where you are. Man, you must have rest. I don't
need to look at you more than once to know that. Get away! Get away even
from your mails! Hide from everybody for a while! Don't think you can
nurse your friend through these next few weeks, because you can't."

"Well," answered Bennett, "wait a few days. We'll see by the end of the
week."

The week passed. Ferriss went gradually from bad to worse, though as yet
the disease persistently refused to declare itself. He was quite
helpless, and Bennett watched over him night and day, pottering around
him by the hour, giving him his medicines, cooking his food, and even
when Ferriss complained of the hotness of the bedclothes, changing the
very linen that he might lie upon cool sheets. But at the end of the
week Dr. Pitts declared that Bennett himself was in great danger of
breaking down, and was of no great service to the sick man.

"To-morrow," said the doctor, "I shall have a young fellow here who
happens to be a cousin of mine. He is an excellent trained nurse, a
fellow we can rely upon. He'll take your place. I'll have him here
to-morrow, and you must get away. Hide somewhere. Don't even allow your
mail to be forwarded. The nurse and I will take care of Mr. Ferriss. You
can leave me your address, and I will wire you if it is necessary. Now
be persuaded like a reasonable man. I will stake my professional
reputation that you will knock under if you stay here with a sick man on
your hands and newspaper men taking the house by storm at all hours of
the day. Come now, will you go? Mr. Ferriss is in no danger, and you
will do him more harm by staying than by going. So long as you remain
here you will have this raft of people in the rooms at all hours. Deny
yourself! Keep them out! Keep out the American reporter when he goes
gunning for a returned explorer! Do you think this," and he pointed
again to the crowd in the anteroom, "is the right condition for a sick
man's quarters? You are imperilling his safety, to say nothing of your
own, by staying beside him--you draw the fire, Mr. Bennett."

"Well, there's something in that," muttered Bennett, pulling at his
mustache. "But--" Bennett hesitated, then: "Pitts, I want you to take my
place here if I go away. Have a nurse if you like, but I shouldn't feel
justified in leaving the boy in his condition unless I knew you were
with him continually. I don't know what your practice is worth to you,
say for a month, or until the boy is out of danger, but make me a
proposition. I think we can come to an understanding."

"But it won't be necessary to have a doctor with Mr. Ferriss constantly.
I should see him every day and the nurse--"

Bennett promptly overrode his objections. Harshly and abruptly he
exclaimed: "I'm not taking any chances. It shall be as I say. I want the
boy well, and I want you and the nurse to see to it that he _gets_ well.
I'll meet the expenses."

Bennett did not hear the doctor's response and his suggestion as to the
advisability of taking Ferriss to his own house in the country while he
could be moved. For the moment he was not listening. An idea had
abruptly presented itself to him. He was to go to the country. But
where? A grim smile began to relax the close-gripped lips and the hard
set of the protruding jaw. He tugged again at his mustache, scowling at
the doctor, trying to hide his humour.

"Well, that's settled then," he said; "I'll get away
to-morrow--somewhere."

"Whereabouts?" demanded the doctor. "I shall want to let you know how we
progress."

Bennett chose to feel a certain irritation. What business of Pitts was
it whom he went to see, or, rather, where he meant to go?

"You told me to hide away from everybody, not even to allow my mail to
be forwarded. But I'll let you know where to reach me, of course, as
soon as I get there. It won't be far from town."

"And I will take your place here with Mr. Ferriss; somebody will be with
him at every moment, and I shall only wire you," continued the doctor,
"in case of urgent necessity. I want you to have all the rest you can,
and stay away as long as possible. I shan't annoy you with telegrams
unless I must. You'll understand that no news is good news."

       *       *       *       *       *

On that particular morning Lloyd sat in her room in the old farmhouse
that she always elected to call her home as often as she visited
Bannister. It was some quarter of a mile outside the little village, and
on the road that connected it with the railway at Fourth Lake, some six
miles over the hills to the east. It was yet early in the morning, and
Lloyd was writing letters that she would post at Fourth Lake later in
the forenoon. She intended driving over to the lake. Two days before,
Lewis had arrived with Rox, the ponies and the phaeton. Lloyd's
dog-cart, a very gorgeous, high-wheeled affair, was always kept at
Bannister.

The room in which she now sat was delightful. Everything was white, from
the curtains of the bed to the chintz hangings on the walls. A rug of
white fur was on the floor. The panellings and wooden shutters of the
windows were painted white. The fireplace was set in glossy-white tiles,
and its opening covered with a screen of white feathers. The windows
were flung wide, and a great flood of white sunlight came pouring into
the room. Lloyd herself was dressed in white, from the clean, crisp
scarf tied about her neck to the tip of her canvas tennis shoes. And in
all this array of white only the dull-red flame of her high-piled
hair--in the sunshine glowing like burnished copper--set a vivid note of
colour, the little strands and locks about her neck and ears coruscating
as the breeze from the open windows stirred them.

The morning was veritably royal--still, cool, and odorous of woods and
cattle and growing grass. A great sense of gayety, of exhilaration, was
in the air. Lloyd was all in tune with it. While she wrote her left
elbow rested on the table, and in her left hand she held a huge, green
apple, unripe, sour, delicious beyond words, and into which she bit from
time to time with the silent enjoyment of a school-girl.

Her letter was to Hattie's father, Mr. Campbell, and she wrote to ask if
the little girl might not spend a week with her at Bannister. When the
letter was finished and addressed she thrust it into her belt, and,
putting on her hat, ran downstairs. Lewis had brought the dog-cart to
the gate, and stood waiting in the road by Rox's head. But as Lloyd went
down the brick-paved walk of the front yard Mrs. Applegate, who owned
the farmhouse, and who was at once Lloyd's tenant, landlady,
housekeeper, and cook, appeared on the porch of the house, the head of a
fish in her hand, and Charley-Joe, the yellow tomcat, at her heels,
eyeing her with painful intentness.

"Say, Miss Searight," she called, her forearm across her forehead to
shade her eyes, the hand still holding the fish's head, "say, while
you're out this morning will you keep an eye out for that dog of
our'n--you know, Dan--the one with liver'n white spots? He's run off
again--ain't seen him since yesterday noon. He gets away an' goes off
fighting other dogs over the whole blessed county. There ain't a dog big
'r little within ten mile that Dan ain't licked. He'd sooner fight than
he would eat, that dog."

"I will, I will," answered Lloyd, climbing to the high seat, "and if I
find him I shall drag him back by the scruff of his neck. Good-morning,
Lewis. Why have you put the overhead check on Rox?"

Lewis touched his cap.

"He feels his oats some this morning, and if he gets his lower jaw agin'
his chest there's no holding of him, Miss--no holding of him in the
world."

Lloyd gathered up the reins and spoke to the horse, and Lewis stood
aside.

Rox promptly went up into the air on his hind legs, shaking his head
with a great snort.

"Steady, you old pig," said Lloyd, calmly. "Soh, soh, who's trying to
kill you?"

"Hadn't I better come with you, Miss?" inquired Lewis anxiously.

Lloyd shook her head. "No, indeed," she said decisively.

Rox, after vindicating his own independence by the proper amount of
showing off, started away down the road with as high an action as he
could command, playing to the gallery, looking back and out of the tail
of his eye to see if Lewis observed what a terrible fellow he was that
morning.

"Well, of all the critters!" commented Mrs. Applegate from the porch.
But Charley-Joe, with an almost hypnotic fixity in his yellow eyes, and
who during the last few minutes had several times opened his mouth wide
in an ineffectual attempt to mew, suddenly found his voice with a
prolonged and complaining note.

"Well, heavens an' airth, take your fish, then!" exclaimed Mrs.
Applegate suddenly, remembering the cat. "An' get off'n my porch with
it." She pushed him away with the side of her foot, and Charley-Joe,
with the fish's head in his teeth, retired around the corner of the
house by the rain barrel, where at intervals he could be heard growling
to himself in a high-pitched key, pretending the approach of some
terrible enemy.

Meanwhile Lloyd, already well on her way, was having an exciting tussle
with Rox. The horse had begun by making an exhibition of himself for all
who could see, but in the end he had so worked upon his own nerves that
instead of frightening others he only succeeded in terrifying himself.
He was city-bred, and the sudden change from brick houses to open fields
had demoralised him. He began to have a dim consciousness of just how
strong he was. There was nothing vicious about him. He would not have
lowered himself to kick, but he did want, with all the big, strong heart
of him, to run.

But back of him there--he felt it thrilling along the tense-drawn
reins--was a calm, powerful grip, even, steady, masterful. Turn his head
he could not, but he knew very well that Lloyd had taken a double twist
upon the reins, and that her hands, even if they were gloved in white,
were strong--strong enough to hold him to his work. And besides this--he
could tell it by the very feel of the bit--he knew that she did not take
him very seriously, that he could not make her afraid of him. He knew
that she could tell at once whether he shied because he was really
frightened or because he wanted to break the shaft, and that in the
latter case he would get the whip--and mercilessly, too--across his
haunch, a degradation, above all things, to be avoided. And she had
called him an old pig once already that morning.

Lloyd drove on. She keenly enjoyed this struggle between the horse's
strength and her own determination, her own obstinacy. No, she would not
let Rox have his way; she would not allow him to triumph over her for a
single moment. She would neither be forced nor tricked into yielding a
single point however small. She would be mistress of the situation.

By the end of half an hour she had him well in hand, and was bowling
smoothly along a level stretch of road at the foot of an abrupt rise of
land covered with scrub oak and broken with outcroppings of granite of a
curious formation. Just beyond here the road crossed the canal by a
narrow--in fact, a much too narrow--plank bridge without guard-rails.
The wide-axled dog-cart had just sufficient room on either hand, and
Lloyd, too good a whip to take chances with so nervous a horse as Rox,
drew him down to a walk as she approached it. But of a sudden her eyes
were arrested by a curious sight. She halted the cart.

At the roadside, some fifty yards from the plank bridge, were two dogs.
Evidently there had just been a dreadful fight. Here and there a stone
was streaked with blood. The grass and smaller bushes were flattened
out, and tufts of hair were scattered about upon the ground. Of the two
dogs, Lloyd recognised one upon the instant. It was Dan, the "liver'n
white" fox-hound of the farmhouse--the fighter and terror of the
country. But he was lying upon his side now, the foreleg broken, or
rather crushed, as if in a vise; the throat torn open, the life-blood in
a great pool about his head. He was dead, or in the very throes of
death. Poor Dan, he had fought his last fight, had found more than his
match at last.

Lloyd looked at the other dog--the victor; then looked at him a second
time and a third.

"Well," she murmured, "that's a strange-looking dog."

In fact, he was a curious animal. His broad, strong body was covered
with a brown fur as dense, as thick, and as soft as a wolf's; the ears
were pricked and pointed, the muzzle sharp, the eyes slant and beady.
The breast was disproportionately broad, the forelegs short and
apparently very powerful. Around his neck was a broad nickelled collar.

But as Lloyd sat in the cart watching him he promptly demonstrated the
fact that his nature was as extraordinary as his looks. He turned again
from a momentary inspection of the intruders, sniffed once or twice at
his dead enemy, then suddenly began to eat him.

Lloyd's gorge rose with anger and disgust. Even if Dan had been killed,
it had been in fair fight, and there could be no doubt that Dan himself
had been the aggressor. She could even feel a little respect for the
conqueror of the champion, but to turn upon the dead foe, now that the
heat of battle was past, and (in no spirit of hate or rage) deliberately
to eat him. What a horror! She took out her whip.

"Shame on you!" she exclaimed. "Ugh! what a savage; I shan't allow you!"

A farm-hand was coming across the plank bridge, and as he drew near the
cart Lloyd asked him to hold Rox for a moment. Rox was one of those
horses who, when standing still, are docile as a kitten, and she had no
hesitancy in leaving him with a man at his head. She jumped out, the
whip in her hand. Dan was beyond all help, but she wanted at least to
take his collar back to Mrs. Applegate. The strange dog permitted
himself to be driven off a little distance. Part of his strangeness
seemed to be that through it all he retained a certain placidity of
temper. There was no ferocity in his desire to eat Dan.

"That's just what makes it so disgusting," said Lloyd, shaking her whip
at him. He sat down upon his haunches, eyeing her calmly, his tongue
lolling. When she had unbuckled Dan's collar and tossed it into the cart
under the seat she inquired of the farm-hand as to where the new dog
came from.

"It beats me, Miss Searight," he answered; "never saw such a bird in
these parts before; t'other belongs down to Applegate's."

"Come, let's have a look at you," said Lloyd, putting back the whip;
"let me see your collar."

Disregarding the man's warning, she went up to the stranger, whistling
and holding out her hand, and he came up to her--a little suspiciously
at first, but in the end wagging his tail, willing to be friendly. Lloyd
parted the thick fur around his neck and turned the plate of the collar
to the light. On the plate was engraved: "Kamiska, Arctic S.S. 'Freja.'
Return to Ward Bennett."

"Anything on the collar?" asked the man.

Lloyd settled a hairpin in a coil of hair at the back of her neck.

"Nothing--nothing that I can make out."

She climbed into the cart again and dismissed the farm-hand with a
quarter. He disappeared around the turn of the road. But as she was
about to drive on, Lloyd heard a great clattering of stones upon the
hill above her, a crashing in the bushes, and a shrill whistle thrice
repeated. Kamiska started up at once, cocking alternate ears, then
turned about and ran up the hill to meet Ward Bennett, who came
scrambling down, jumping from one granite outcrop to another, holding on
the whiles by the lower branches of the scrub oak-trees.

He was dressed as if for an outing, in knickerbockers and huge,
hob-nailed shoes. He wore an old shooting-coat and a woollen cap; a
little leather sack was slung from his shoulder, and in his hand he
carried a short-handled geologist's hammer.

And then, after so long a time, Lloyd saw his face again--the rugged,
unhandsome face; the massive jaw, huge almost to deformity; the great,
brutal, indomitable lips; the square-cut chin with its forward,
aggressive thrust; the narrow forehead, seamed and contracted, and the
twinkling, keen eyes so marred by the cast, so heavily shadowed by the
shaggy eyebrows. When he spoke the voice came heavy and vibrant from the
great chest, a harsh, deep bass, a voice in which to command men, not a
voice in which to talk to women.

Lloyd, long schooled to self-repression and the control of her emotions
when such repression and control were necessary, sat absolutely moveless
on her high seat, her hands only shutting tighter and tighter upon the
reins. She had often wondered how she would feel, what was to be her
dominant impulse, at such moments as these, and now she realised that it
was not so much joy, not so much excitement, as a resolute determination
not for one instant to lose her poise.

She was thinking rapidly. For four years they had not met. At one time
she believed him to be dead. But in the end he had been saved, had come
back, and, ignoring the plaudits of an entire Christendom, had addressed
himself straight to her. For one of them, at least, this meeting was a
crisis. What would they first say to each other? how be equal to the
situation? how rise to its dramatic possibilities? But the moment had
come to them suddenly, had found them all unprepared. There was no time
to think of adequate words. Afterward, when she reviewed this encounter,
she told herself that they both had failed, and that if the meeting had
been faithfully reproduced upon the stage or in the pages of a novel it
would have seemed tame and commonplace. These two, living the actual
scene, with all the deep, strong, real emotions of them surging to the
surface, the vitality of them, all aroused and vibrating, suddenly
confronting actuality itself, were not even natural; were not even "true
to life." It was as though they had parted but a fortnight ago.

Bennett caught his cap from his head and came toward her, exclaiming:

"Miss Searight, I believe."

And she, reaching her right hand over the left, that still held the
reins, leaned from her high seat, shaking hands with him and replying:

"Well--Mr. Bennett, I'm so very glad to see you again. Where did you
come from?"

"From the City--and from seventy-six degrees north latitude."

"I congratulate you. We had almost given up hope of you."

"Thank you," he answered. "We were not so roseate with hope
ourselves--all the time. But I have not felt as though I had really come
back until this--well, until I had reached--the road between Bannister
and Fourth Lake, for instance," and his face relaxed to its
characteristic grim smile.

"You reached it too late, then," she responded. "Your dog has killed our
Dan, and, what is much worse, started to eat him. He's a perfect
savage."

"Kamiska? Well," he added, reflectively, "it's my fault for setting her
a bad example. I ate her trace-mate, and was rather close to eating
Kamiska herself at one time. But I didn't come down here to talk about
that."

"You are looking rather worn, Mr. Bennett."

"I suppose. The doctor sent me into the country to call back the roses
to my pallid cheek. So I came down here--to geologise. I presume that
excuse will do as well as another." Then suddenly he cried: "Hello,
steady there; _quick_, Miss Searight!"

It all came so abruptly that neither of them could afterward reconstruct
the scene with any degree of accuracy. Probably in scrambling down the
steep slope of the bank Bennett had loosened the earth or smaller stones
that hitherto had been barely sufficient support to the mass of earth,
gravel, rocks, and bushes that all at once, and with a sharp, crackling
noise, slid downward toward the road from the overhanging bank. The slip
was small, hardly more than three square yards of earth moving from its
place, but it came with a smart, quick rush, throwing up a cloud of dust
and scattering pebbles and hard clods of dirt far before its advance.

As Rox leaped Lloyd threw her weight too suddenly on the reins, the
horse arched his neck, and the overhead check snapped like a
harp-string. Again he reared from the object of his terror, shaking his
head from side to side, trying to get a purchase on the bit. Then his
lower jaw settled against his chest, and all at once he realised that no
pair of human hands could hold him now. He did not rear again; his
haunches suddenly lowered, and with the hoofs of his hind feet he began
feeling the ground for his spring. But now Bennett was at his head,
gripping at the bit, striving to thrust him back. Lloyd, half risen from
her seat, each rein wrapped twice around her hands, her long, strong
arms at their fullest reach, held back against the horse with all her
might, her body swaying and jerking with his plunges. But the overhead
check once broken Lloyd might as well have pulled against a locomotive.
Bennett was a powerful man by nature, but his great strength had been
not a little sapped by his recent experiences. Between the instant his
hand caught at the bit and that in which Rox had made his first
ineffectual attempt to spring forward he recognised the inequality of
the contest. He could hold Rox back for a second or two, perhaps three,
then the horse would get away from him. He shot a glance about him. Not
twenty yards away was the canal and the perilously narrow bridge--the
bridge without the guard-rail.

"Quick, Miss Searight!" he shouted. "Jump! We can't hold him. Quick, do
as I tell you, jump!"

But even as he spoke Rox dragged him from his feet, his hoofs trampling
the hollow road till it reverberated like the roll of drums. Bracing
himself against every unevenness of the ground, his teeth set, his face
scarlet, the veins in his neck swelling, suddenly blue-black, Bennett
wrenched at the bit till the horse's mouth went bloody. But all to no
purpose; faster and faster Rox was escaping from his control.

"Jump, I tell you!" he shouted again, looking over his shoulder;
"another second and he's away."

Lloyd dropped the reins and turned to jump. But the lap-robe had slipped
down to the bottom of the cart when she had risen, and was in a tangle
about her feet. The cart was rocking like a ship in a storm. Twice she
tried to free herself, holding to the dashboard with one hand. Then the
cart suddenly lurched forward and she fell to her knees. Rox was off; it
was all over.

Not quite. In one brief second of time--a hideous vision come and gone
between two breaths--Lloyd saw the fearful thing done there in the road,
almost within reach of her hand. She saw the man and horse at grapples,
the yellow reach of road that lay between her and the canal, the canal
itself, and the narrow bridge. Then she saw the short-handled
geologist's hammer gripped in Bennett's fist heave high in the air. Down
it came, swift, resistless, terrible--one blow. The cart tipped forward
as Rox, his knees bowing from under him, slowly collapsed. Then he
rolled upon the shaft that snapped under him, and the cart vibrated from
end to end as a long, shuddering tremble ran through him with his last
deep breath.



V.


When Lloyd at length managed to free herself and jump to the ground
Bennett came quickly toward her and drew her away to the side of the
road.

"Are you hurt?" he demanded. "Tell me, are you hurt?"

"No, no; not in the least."

"Why in the world did you want to drive such a horse? Don't ever take
such chances again. I won't have it."

For a few moments Lloyd was too excited to trust herself to talk, and
could only stand helplessly to one side, watching Bennett as he stripped
off the harness from the dead horse, stowed it away under the seat of
the cart, and rolled the cart itself to the edge of the road. Then at
length she said, trying to smile and to steady her voice:

"It--it seems to me, Mr. Bennett, you do about--about as you like with
my sta-bub-ble."

"Sit down!" he commanded, "you are trembling all over. Sit down on that
rock there."

"--and with me," she added, sinking down upon the boulder he had
indicated with a movement of his head, his hands busy with the harness.

"I'm sorry I had to do that," he explained; "but there was no help for
it--nothing else to do. He would have had you in the canal in another
second, if he did not kill you on the way there."

"Poor old Rox," murmured Lloyd; "I was very fond of Rox."

Bennett put himself in her way as she stepped forward. He had the
lap-robe over his arm and the whip in his hand.

"No, don't look at him. He's not a pretty sight. Come, shall I take you
home? Don't worry about the cart; I will see that it is sent back."

"And that Rox is buried--somewhere? I don't want him left out there for
the crows." In spite of Bennett's injunction she looked over her
shoulder for a moment as they started off down the road. "I only hope
you were sure there was nothing else to do, Mr. Bennett," she said.

"There was no time to think," he answered, "and I wasn't taking any
chances."

But the savagery of the whole affair stuck in Lloyd's imagination. There
was a primitiveness, a certain hideous simplicity in the way Bennett had
met the situation that filled her with wonder and with even a little
terror and mistrust of him. The vast, brutal directness of the deed was
out of place and incongruous at this end-of-the-century time. It ignored
two thousand years of civilisation. It was a harsh, clanging, brazen
note, powerful, uncomplicated, which came jangling in, discordant and
inharmonious with the tune of the age. It savoured of the days when men
fought the brutes with their hands or with their clubs. But also it was
an indication of a force and a power of mind that stopped at nothing to
attain its ends, that chose the shortest cut, the most direct means,
disdainful of hesitation, holding delicacy and finessing in measureless
contempt, rushing straight to its object, driving in, breaking down
resistance, smashing through obstacles with a boundless, crude, blind
Brobdignag power, to oppose which was to be trampled under foot upon the
instant.

It was long before their talk turned from the incident of the morning,
but when it did its subject was Richard Ferriss. Bennett was sounding
his praises and commending upon his pluck and endurance during the
retreat from the ship, when Lloyd, after hesitating once or twice,
asked:

"How is Mr. Ferriss? In your note you said he was ill."

"So he is," he told her, "and I could not have left him if I was not
sure I was doing him harm by staying. But the doctor is to wire me if he
gets any worse, and only if he does. I am to believe that no news is
good news."

But this meeting with Lloyd and the intense excitement of those few
moments by the canal had quite driven from Bennett's mind the fact that
he had _not_ forwarded his present address either to Ferriss or to his
doctor. He had so intended that morning, but all the faculties of his
mind were suddenly concentrated upon another issue. For the moment he
believed that he had actually written to Dr. Pitts, as he had planned,
and when he thought of his intended message at all, thought of it as an
accomplished fact. The matter did not occur to him again.

As he walked by Lloyd's side, listening to her and talking to her,
snapping the whip the while, or flicking the heads from the mullein
stalks by the roadside with its lash, he was thinking how best he might
say to her what he had come from the City to say. To lead up to his
subject, to guide the conversation, to prepare the right psychological
moment skilfully and without apparent effort, were maneuvers in the game
that Bennett ignored and despised. He knew only that he loved her, that
she was there at his side, that the object of all his desires and hopes
was within his reach. Straight as a homing pigeon he went to his goal.

"Miss Searight," he began, his harsh, bass voice pitched even lower than
usual, "what do you think I am down here for? This is not the only part
of the world where I could recuperate, I suppose, and as for spending
God's day in chipping at stones, like a professor of a young ladies'
seminary"--he hurled the hammer from him into the bushes--"that for
geology! Now we can talk. You know very well that I love you, and I
believe that you love me. I have come down here to ask you to marry me."

Lloyd might have done any one of a dozen things--might have answered in
any one of a dozen ways. But what she did do, what she did say, took
Bennett completely by surprise. A little coldly and very calmly she
answered:

"You believe--you say you believe that I--" she broke off, then began
again: "It is not right for you to say that to me. I have never led you
to believe that I cared for you. Whatever our relations are to be, let
us have that understood at once."

Bennett uttered an impatient exclamation "I am not good at fencing and
quibbling," he declared. "I tell you that I love you with all my heart.
I tell you that I want you to be my wife, and I tell you that I know you
do love me. You are not like other women; why should you coquette with
me? Good God! Are you not big enough to be above such things? I know you
are. Of all the people in the world we two ought to be above pretence,
ought to understand each other. If I did not know you cared for me I
would not have spoken."

"I don't understand you," she answered. "I think we had better talk of
other things this morning."

"I came down here to talk of just this and nothing else," he declared.

"Very well, then," she said, squaring her shoulders with a quick, brisk
movement, "we will talk of it. You say we two should understand each
other. Let us come to the bottom of things at once. I despise quibbling
and fencing as much, perhaps, as you. Tell me how have I ever led you to
believe that I cared for you?"

"At a time when our last hope was gone," answered Bennett, meeting her
eyes, "when I was very near to death and thought that I should go to my
God within the day, I was made happier than I think I ever was in my
life before by finding out that I was dear to you--that you loved me."

Lloyd searched his face with a look of surprise and bewilderment.

"I do not understand you," she repeated.

"Oh!" exclaimed Bennett with sudden vehemence, "you could say it to
Ferriss; why can't you say it to me?"

"To Mr. Ferriss?"

"You could tell _him_ that you cared."

"I--tell Mr. Ferriss--that I cared for you?" She began to smile. "You
are a little absurd, Mr. Bennett."

"And I cannot see why you should deny it now. Or if anything has caused
you to change your mind--to be sorry for what you said, why should I not
know it? Even a petty thief may be heard in his own defence. I loved you
because I believed you to be a woman, a great, strong, noble, man's
woman, above little things, above the little, niggling, contemptible
devices of the drawing-room. I loved you because the great things of the
world interested you, because you had no place in your life for petty
graces, petty affectations, petty deceits and shams and insincerities.
If you did not love me, why did you say so? If you do love me now, why
should you not admit it? Do you think you can play with me? Do you think
you can coquette with me? If you were small enough to stoop to such
means, do you think I am small enough to submit to them? I have known
Ferriss too well. I know him to be incapable of such falsity as you
would charge him with. To have told such a lie, such an uncalled-for,
useless, gratuitous lie, is a thing he could not have done. You must
have told him that you cared. Why aren't you--you of all women--brave
enough, strong enough, big enough to stand by your words?"

"Because I never said them. What do you think of me? Even if I did care,
do you suppose I would say as much--and to another man? Oh!" she
exclaimed with sudden indignation, "let's talk of something else. This
is too--preposterous."

"You never told Ferriss that you cared for me?"

"No."

Bennett took off his cap. "Very well, then. That is enough. Good-bye,
Miss Searight."

"Do you believe I told Mr. Ferriss I loved you?"

"I do not believe that the man who has been more to me than a brother is
a liar and a rascal."

"Good-morning, Mr. Bennett."

They had come rather near to the farmhouse by this time. Without another
word Bennett gave the whip and the lap-robe into her hands, and, turning
upon his heel, walked away down the road.

Lloyd told Lewis as much of the morning's accident by the canal as was
necessary, and gave orders about the dog-cart and the burying of Rox.
Then slowly, her eyes fixed and wide, she went up to her own room and,
without removing either her hat or her gloves, sat down upon the edge of
the bed, letting her hands fall limply into her lap, gazing abstractedly
at the white curtain just stirring at the open window.

She could not say which hurt her most--that Ferriss had told the lie or
that Bennett believed it. But why, in heaven's name why, had Ferriss so
spoken to Bennett; what object had he in view; what had he to gain by
it? Why had Ferriss, the man who loved her, chosen so to humiliate her,
to put her in a position so galling to her pride, her dignity? Bennett,
too, loved her. How could he believe that she had so demeaned herself?

She had been hurt and to the heart, at a point where she believed
herself most unassailable, and he who held the weapon was the man that
with all the heart of her and soul of her she loved.

Much of the situation was all beyond her. Try as she would she could not
understand. One thing, however, she saw clearly, unmistakably: Bennett
believed that she loved him, believed that she had told as much to
Ferriss, and that when she had denied all knowledge of Ferriss's lie she
was only coquetting with him. She knew Bennett and his character well
enough to realise that an idea once rooted in his mind was all but
ineradicable. Bennett was not a man of easy changes; nothing mobile
about him.

The thought of this belief of Bennett's was intolerable. As she sat
there alone in her white room the dull crimson of her cheeks flamed
suddenly scarlet, and with a quick, involuntary gesture she threw her
hand, palm outward, across her face to hide it from the sunlight. She
went quickly from one mood to another. Now her anger grew suddenly hot
against Ferriss. How had he dared? How had he dared to put this
indignity, this outrageous insult, upon her? Now her wrath turned upon
Bennett. What audacity had been his to believe that she would so forget
herself? She set her teeth in her impotent anger, rising to her feet,
her hands clenching, tears of sheer passion starting to her eyes.

For the greater part of the afternoon she kept to her room, pacing the
floor from wall to wall, trying to think clearly, to resolve upon
something that would readjust the situation, that would give her back
her peace of mind, her dignity, and her happiness of the early morning.
For now the great joy that had come to her in his safe return was all
but gone. For one moment she even told herself she could not love him,
but the next was willing to admit that it was only because of her love
of him, as strong and deep as ever, that the humiliation cut so deeply
and cruelly now. Ferriss had lied about her, and Bennett had believed
the lie. To meet Bennett again under such circumstances was not to be
thought of for one moment. Her vacation was spoiled; the charm of the
country had vanished. Lloyd returned to the City the next day.

She found that she was glad to get back to her work. The subdued murmur
of the City that hourly assaulted her windows was a relief to her ears
after the profound and numbing silence of the country. The square was
never so beautiful as at this time of summer, and even the restless
shadow pictures, that after dark were thrown upon the ceiling of her
room by the electrics shining through the great elms in the square
below, were a pleasure.

On the morning after her arrival and as she was unpacking her trunk Miss
Douglass came into her room and seated herself, according to her custom,
on the couch. After some half-hour's give-and-take talk, the fever nurse
said:

"Do you remember, Lloyd, what I told you about typhoid in the
spring--that it was almost epidemic?"

Lloyd nodded, turning about from her trunk, her arms full of dresses.

"It's worse than ever now," continued Miss Douglass; "three of our
people have been on cases only in the short time you have been away. And
there's a case out in Medford that has killed one nurse."

"Well!" exclaimed Lloyd in some astonishment, "it seems to me that one
should confine typhoid easily enough."

"Not always, not always," answered the other; "a virulent case would be
quite as bad as yellow fever or smallpox. You remember when we were at
the hospital Miss Helmuth, that little Polish nurse, contracted it from
her case and died even before her patient did. Then there was Eva
Blayne. She very nearly died. I did like the way Miss Wakeley took this
case out at Medford even when the other nurse had died. She never
hesitated for--"

"Has one of our people got this case?" inquired Lloyd.

"Of course. Didn't I tell you?"

"I hope we cure it," said Lloyd, her trunk-tray in her hands. "I don't
think we have ever lost a case yet when good nursing could pull it
through, and in typhoid the whole treatment really is the nursing."

"Lloyd," said Miss Douglass decisively, "I would give anything I can
think of now to have been on that hip disease case of yours and have
brought my patient through as you did. You should hear what Dr. Street
says of you--and the little girl's father. By the way, I had nearly
forgotten. Hattie Campbell--that's her name, isn't it?--telephoned to
know if you had come back from the country yet. That was yesterday. I
said we expected you to-day, and she told me to say she was coming to
see you."

The next afternoon toward three o'clock Hattie and her father drove to
the square in an open carriage, Hattie carrying a great bunch of violets
for Lloyd. The little invalid was well on the way to complete recovery
by now. Sometimes she was allowed to walk a little, but as often as not
her maid wheeled her about in an invalid's chair. She drove out in the
carriage frequently by way of exercise. She would, no doubt, always limp
a little, but in the end it was certain she would be sound and strong.
For Hattie and her father Lloyd had become a sort of tutelary
semi-deity. In what was left of the family she had her place, hardly
less revered than even the dead wife. Campbell himself, who had made a
fortune in Bessemer steel, a well-looking, well-groomed gentleman,
smooth-shaven and with hair that was none too gray, more than once
caught himself standing before Lloyd's picture that stood on the
mantelpiece in Hattie's room, looking at it vaguely as he clipped the
nib from his cigar.

But on this occasion as the carriage stopped in front of the ample pile
of the house Hattie called out, "Oh, there she is now," and Lloyd came
down the steps, carrying her nurse's bag in her hand.

"Are we too late?" began Hattie; "are you going out; are you on a case?
Is that why you've got your bag? We thought you were on a vacation."

Campbell, yielding to a certain feeling of uneasiness that Lloyd should
stand on the curb while he remained seated, got out of the carriage and
stood at her side, gravely listening to the talk between the nurse and
her one-time patient. Lloyd was obliged to explain, turning now to
Hattie, now to her father. She told them that she was in something of a
hurry. She had just been specially called to take a very bad case of
typhoid fever in a little suburb of the City, called Medford. It was not
her turn to go, but the physicians in charge of the case, as sometimes
happened, had asked especially for her.

"One of our people, a young woman named Miss Wakeley, has been on this
case," she continued, "but it seems she has allowed herself to contract
the disease herself. She went to the hospital this noon."

Campbell, his gravity suddenly broken up, exclaimed:

"Surely, Miss Searight, this is not the same case I read of in
yesterday's paper--it must be, too--Medford was the name of the place.
That case has killed one nurse already, and now the second one is down.
Don't tell me you are going to take the same case."

"It is the same case," answered Lloyd, "and, of course, I am going to
take it. Did you ever hear of a nurse doing otherwise? Why, it would
seem--seem so--funny--"

There was no dissuading her, and Campbell and Hattie soon ceased even to
try. She was impatient to be gone. The station was close at hand, and
she would not hear of taking the carriage thither. However, before she
left them she recurred again to the subject of her letter to Mr.
Campbell, and then and there it was decided that Hattie and her maid
should spend the following ten days at Lloyd's place in Bannister. The
still country air, now that Hattie was able to take the short journey,
would be more to her than many medicines, and the ponies and Lloyd's
phaeton would be left there with Lewis for her use.

"And write often, won't you, Miss Searight?" exclaimed Hattie as Lloyd
was saying good-bye. Lloyd shook her head.

"Not that of all things," she answered. "If I did that we might have
you, too, down with typhoid. But you may write to me, and I hope you
will," and she gave Hattie her new address.

"Harriet," said Campbell as the carriage drove back across the square,
the father and daughter waving their hands to Lloyd, briskly on her way
to the railroad station, "Harriet."

"Yes, papa."

"There goes a noble woman. Pluck, intelligence, strong will--she has
them all--and a great big heart that--heart that--" He clipped the end
of a cigar thoughtfully and fell silent.

A day or two later, as Hattie was sitting in her little wheel-chair on
the veranda of Mrs. Applegate's house watching Charley-Joe hunting
grasshoppers underneath the currant bushes, she was surprised by the
sharp closing of the front gate. A huge man with one squint eye and a
heavy, square-cut jaw was coming up the walk, followed by a
strange-looking dog. Charley-Joe withdrew, swiftly to his particular
hole under the veranda, moving rapidly, his body low to the ground, and
taking an unnecessary number of very short steps.

The little city-bred girl distinguished the visitor from a country man
at once. Hattie had ideas of her own as to propriety, and so rose to her
feet as Bennett came up, and after a moment's hesitation made him a
little bow. Bennett at once gravely took off his cap.

"Excuse me," he said as though Hattie were twenty-five instead of
twelve. "Is Miss Searight at home?"

"Oh," exclaimed Hattie, delighted, "do you know Miss Searight? She was
my nurse when I was so sick--because you know I had hip disease and
there was an operation. No, she's not here any more. She's gone away,
gone back to the City."

"Gone back to the City?"

"Yes, three or four days ago. But I'm going to write to her this
afternoon. Shall I say who called?" Then, without waiting for a reply,
she added, "I guess I had better introduce myself. My name is Harriet
Campbell, and my papa is Craig V. Campbell, of the Hercules Wrought
Steel Company in the City. Won't you have a chair?"

The little convalescent and the arctic explorer shook hands with great
solemnity.

"I'm so pleased to meet you," said Bennett. "I haven't a card, but my
name is Ward Bennett--of the Freja expedition," he added. But, to his
relief, the little girl had not heard of him.

"Very well," she said, "I'll tell Miss Searight Mr. Bennett called."

"No," he replied, hesitatingly, "no, you needn't do that."

"Why, she won't answer my letter, you know," explained Hattie,
"because she is afraid her letters would give me typhoid fever,
that they might"--she continued carefully, hazarding a remembered
phrase--"carry the contagion. You see she has gone to nurse a dreadful
case of typhoid fever out at Medford, near the City, and we're so worried
and anxious about her--papa and I. One nurse that had this case has died
already and another one has caught the disease and is very sick, and Miss
Searight, though she knew just how dangerous it was, would go, just
like--like--" Hattie hesitated, then confused memories of her school
reader coming to her, finished with "like Casabianca."

"Oh," said Bennett, turning his head so as to fix her with his own good
eye. "She has gone to nurse a typhoid fever patient, has she?"

"Yes, and papa told me--" and Hattie became suddenly very grave, "that
we might--might--oh, dear--never see her again."

"Hum! Whereabouts is this place in Medford? She gave you her address;
what is it?" Hattie told him, and he took himself abruptly away.

Bennett had gone some little distance down the road before the real
shock came upon him. Lloyd was in a position of imminent peril; her life
was in the issue. With blind, unreasoned directness he leaped at once to
this conclusion, and as he strode along with teeth and fists tight shut
he kept muttering to himself: "She may die, she may die--we--we may
never see her again." Then suddenly came the fear, the sickening sink of
heart, the choke at the throat, first the tightening and then the sudden
relaxing of all the nerves. Lashed and harried by the sense of a fearful
calamity, an unspeakable grief that was pursuing after him, Bennett did
not stop to think, to reflect. He chose instantly to believe that Lloyd
was near her death, and once the idea was fixed in his brain it was not
thereafter to be reasoned away. Suddenly, at a turn in the road, he
stopped, his hands deep in his pockets, his bootheel digging into the
ground. "Now, then," he exclaimed, "what's to be done?"

Just one thing: Lloyd must leave the case at once, that very day if it
were possible. He must save her; must turn her back from this
destruction toward which she was rushing, impelled by such a foolish,
mistaken notion of duty.

"Yes," he said, "there's just that to be done, and, by God! it shall be
done."

But would Lloyd be turned back from a course she had chosen for herself?
Could he persuade her? Then with this thought of possible opposition
Bennett's resolve all at once tightened to the sticking point. Never in
the darkest hours of his struggle with the arctic ice had his
determination grown so fierce; never had his resolution so girded
itself, so nerved itself to crush down resistance. The force of his will
seemed brusquely to be quadrupled and decupled. He would do as he
desired; come what might he would gain his end. He would stop at
nothing, hesitate at nothing. It would probably be difficult to get her
from her post, but with all his giant's strength Bennett set himself to
gain her safety.

A great point that he believed was in his favour, a consideration that
influenced him to adopt so irrevocable a resolution, was his belief that
Lloyd loved him. Bennett was not a woman's man. Men he could understand
and handle like so many manikins, but the nature of his life and work
did not conduce to a knowledge of women. Bennett did not understand
them. In his interview with Lloyd when she had so strenuously denied
Ferriss' story Bennett could not catch the ring of truth. It had gotten
into his mind that Lloyd loved him. He believed easily what he wanted to
believe, and his faith in Lloyd's love for him had become a part and
parcel of his fundamental idea of things, not readily to be driven out
even by Lloyd herself.

Bennett's resolution was taken. Never had he failed in accomplishing
that upon which he set his mind. He would not fail now. Beyond a certain
limit--a limit which now he swiftly reached and passed--Bennett's
determination to carry his point became, as it were, a sort of
obsession; the sweep of the tremendous power he unchained carried his
own self along with it in its resistless onrush. At such, times there
was no light of reason in his actions. He saw only his point, beheld
only his goal; deaf to all voices that would call him back, blind to all
consideration that would lead him to swerve, reckless of everything that
he trampled under foot, he stuck to his aim until that aim was an
accomplished fact. When the grip of the Ice had threatened to close upon
him and crush him, he had hurled himself against its barriers with an
energy and resolve to conquer that was little short of directed frenzy.
So it was with him now.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Lloyd had parted from the Campbells in the square before the house,
she had gone directly to the railway station of a suburban line, and,
within the hour, was on her way to Medford. As always happened when an
interesting case was to be treated, her mind became gradually filled
with it to the exclusion of everything else. The Campbells, and
Bennett's ready acceptance of a story that put her in so humiliating a
light, were forgotten as the train swept her from the heat and dust of
the City out into the green reaches of country to the southward. What
had been done upon the case she had no means of telling. She only knew
that the case was of unusual virulence and well advanced. It had killed
one nurse already and seriously endangered the life of another, but so
far from reflecting on the danger to herself, Lloyd felt a certain
exhilaration in the thought that she was expected to succeed where
others had succumbed. Another battle with the Enemy was at hand, the
Enemy who, though conquered on a hundred fields, must inevitably triumph
in the end. Once again this Enemy had stooped and caught a human being
in his cold grip. Once again Life and Death were at grapples, and Death
was strong, and from out the struggle a cry had come--had come to her--a
cry for help.

All the exuberance of battle grew big within her breast. She was
impatient to be there--there at hand--to face the Enemy again across the
sick-bed, where she had so often faced and outfought him before; and,
matching her force against his force, her obstinacy against his
strength--the strength that would pull the life from her grasp--her
sleepless vigilance against his stealth, her intelligence against his
cunning, her courage against his terrors, her resistance against his
attack, her skill against his strategy, her science against his
world-old, worldwide experience, win the fight, save the life, hold firm
against his slow, resistless pull and triumph again, if it was only for
the day.

Succeed she would and must. Her inborn obstinacy, her sturdy refusal to
yield her ground, whatever it should be, her stubborn power of
resistance, her tenacity of her chosen course, came to her aid as she
drew swiftly near to the spot whereon the battle would be fought.
Mentally she braced herself, holding back with all her fine,
hard-tempered, native strength. No, she would not yield the life to the
Enemy; no, she would not give up; no, she would not recede. Let the
Enemy do his worst--she was strong against his efforts.

At Medford, which she reached toward four in the afternoon, after an
hour's ride from the City, she found a conveyance waiting for her, and
was driven rapidly through streets bordered with villas and closely
shaven lawns to a fair-sized country seat on the outskirts of the town.
The housekeeper met her at the door with the information that the doctor
was, at the moment, in the sick-room, and had left orders that the nurse
should be brought to him the moment she arrived. The housekeeper showed
Lloyd the way to the second landing, knocking upon the half-open door at
the end of the hall, and ushering her in without waiting for an answer.

Lloyd took in the room at a glance--the closely drawn curtains, the
screen between the bed and the windows, the doctor standing on the
hearth-rug, and the fever-inflamed face of the patient on the pillow.
Then all her power of self-repression could not keep her from uttering a
smothered exclamation.

For she, the woman who, with all the savage energy of him, Bennett
loved, had, at peril of her life, come to nurse Bennett's nearest
friend, the man of all others dear to him--Richard Ferriss.



VI.


Two days after Dr. Pitts had brought Ferriss to his country house in the
outskirts of Medford he had been able to diagnose his sickness as
typhoid fever, and at once had set about telegraphing the fact to
Bennett. Then it had occurred to him that he did not know where Bennett
had gone. Bennett had omitted notifying him of his present whereabouts,
and, acting upon Dr. Pitts' advice, had hidden himself away from
everybody. Neither at his club nor at his hotel, where his mail
accumulated in extraordinary quantities, had any forwarding address been
left. Bennett would not even know that Ferriss had been moved to
Medford. So much the worse. It could not be helped. There was nothing
for the doctor to do but to leave Bennett in ignorance and go ahead and
fight for the life of Ferriss as best he could. Pitts arranged for a
brother physician to take over his practice, and devoted himself
entirely to Ferriss. And Ferriss sickened and sickened, and went
steadily from bad to worse. The fever advanced regularly to a certain
stage, a stage of imminent danger, and there paused. Rarely had Pitts
been called upon to fight a more virulent form of the disease.

What made matters worse was that Ferriss hung on for so long a time
without change one way or another. Pitts had long since been convinced
of ulceration in the membrane of the intestines, but it astonished him
that this symptom persisted so long without signs either of progressing
or diminishing. The course of the disease was unusually slow. The first
nurse had already had time to sicken and die; a second had been
infected, and yet Ferriss "hung on," neither sinking nor improving, yet
at every hour lying perilously near death. It was not often that death
and life locked horns for so long, not often that the chance was so
even. Many was the hour, many was the moment, when a hair would have
turned the balance, and yet the balance was preserved.

At her abrupt recognition of Ferriss, in this patient whom she had been
summoned to nurse, and whose hold upon life was so pitifully weak,
Lloyd's heart gave a great leap and then sank ominously in her breast.
Her first emotion was one of boundless self-reproach. Why had she not
known of this? Why had she not questioned Bennett more closely as to his
friend's sickness? Might she not have expected something like this? Was
not typhoid the one evil to be feared and foreseen after experiences
such as Ferriss had undergone--the fatigue and privations of the march
over the ice, and the subsequent months aboard the steam whaler, with
its bad food, its dirt, and its inevitable overcrowding?

And while she had been idling in the country, this man, whom she had
known since her girlhood better and longer than any of her few
acquaintances, had been struck down, and day by day had weakened and
sickened and wasted, until now, at any hour, at any moment, the life
might be snuffed out like the fight of a spent candle. What a miserable
incompetent had she been! That day in the park when she had come upon
him, so weak and broken and far spent, why had she not, with all her
training and experience, known that even then the flame was flickering
down to the socket, that a link in the silver chain was weakening? Now,
perhaps, it was too late. But quick her original obstinacy rose up in
protest. No! she would not yield the life. No, no, no; again and a
thousand times no! He belonged to her. Others she had saved, others far
less dear to her than Ferriss. Her last patient--the little girl--she
had caught back from death at the eleventh hour, and of all men would
she not save Ferriss? In such sickness as this it was the nurse and not
the doctor who must be depended upon. And, once again, never so strong,
never so fine, never so glorious, her splendid independence, her pride
in her own strength, her indomitable self-reliance leaped in her breast,
leaped and stood firm, hard as tempered steel, head to the Enemy, daring
the assault, defiant, immovable, unshaken in its resolve, unconquerable
in the steadfast tenacity of its purpose.

The story that Ferriss had told to Bennett, that uncalled-for and
inexplicable falsehood, was a thing forgotten. Death stood at the
bed-head, and in that room the little things of life had no place. The
king was holding court, and the swarm of small, everyday issues, like a
crowd of petty courtiers, were not admitted to his presence. Ferriss'
life was in danger. Lloyd saw no more than that. At once she set about
the work.

In a few rapid sentences exchanged in low voices between her and the
doctor Lloyd made herself acquainted with the case.

"We've been using the ice-pack and wet-pack to bring down the
temperature in place of the cold bath," the doctor explained. "I'm
afraid of pericarditis."

"Quinine?" inquired Lloyd.

"From twenty to forty grains in the morning and evening. Here's the
temperature chart for the last week. If we reach this point in axilla
again--" he indicated one hundred and two degrees with a
thumb-nail--"we'll have to risk the cold bath, but only in that case."

"And the tympanites?"

Dr. Pitts put his chin in the air.

"Grave--there's an intestinal ulcer, no doubt of it, and if it
perforates--well, we can send for the undertaker then."

"Has he had hemorrhages?"

"Two in the first week, but not profuse--he seemed to rally fairly well
afterward. We have been injecting ether in case of anemia. Really, Miss
Searight, the case is interesting, but wicked, wicked as original sin.
Killed off my first nurse out of hand--good little boy, conscientious
enough; took no care of himself; ate his meals in the sick-room against
my wishes; off he went--dicrotic pulse, diarrhea, vomiting, hospital,
thrombosis of pulmonary artery, _pouf_, requiescat."

"And Miss Wakeley?"

"Knocked under yesterday, and she was fairly saturated with creolin
night and morning. I don't know how it happened.... Well, God for us
all. Here he is--that's the point for us." He glanced toward the bed,
and for the third time Lloyd looked at the patient.

Ferriss was in a quiet delirium, and, at intervals, from behind his
lips, dry and brown and fissured, there came the sounds of low and
indistinct muttering. Barring a certain prominence of the cheek-bones,
his face was not very wasted, but its skin was a strange, dusky pallor.
The cold pack was about his head like a sort of caricatured crown.

"Well," repeated Pitts in a moment, "I've been waiting for you to come
to get a little rest. Was up all last night. Suppose you take over
charge."

Lloyd nodded her head, removing her hat and gloves, making herself
ready. Pitts gave her some final directions, and left her alone in the
sick-room. For the moment there was nothing to do for the patient. Lloyd
put on her hospital slippers and moved silently about the room,
preparing for the night, and making some few changes in the matter of
light and ventilation. Then for a while the medicine occupied her
attention, and she was at some pains to carefully sort out the
antiseptic and disinfectants from the drugs themselves. These latter she
arranged on a table by themselves--studying the labels--assuring herself
of their uses. Quinine for the regular morning and evening doses,
sulphonal and trional for insomnia, ether for injections in case of
anemia after hemorrhage, morphine for delirium, citrite of caffeine for
weakness of the heart, tincture of valerian for the tympanites, bismuth
to relieve nausea and vomiting, and the crushed ice wrapped in flannel
cloths for the cold pack in the event of hyperpyrexia.

Later in the evening she took the temperature in the armpit, noted the
condition of the pulse, and managed to get Ferriss--still in his quiet,
muttering delirium--to drink a glass of peptonised milk. She
administered the quinine, reading the label, as was her custom, three
times, once as she took it up, again as she measured the dose, and a
last time as she returned the bottle to its place. Everything she did,
every minute change in Ferriss's condition, she entered upon a chart, so
that in the morning when Dr. Pitts should relieve her he could grasp the
situation at a glance.

The night passed without any but the expected variations of the pulse
and temperature, though toward daylight Lloyd could fancy that Ferriss,
for a few moments, came out of his delirium and was conscious of his
surroundings. For a few seconds his eyes seemed to regain something of
their intelligence, and his glance moved curiously about the room. But
Lloyd, sitting near the foot-board of the bed, turned her head from
him. It was not expedient that Ferriss should recognise her now.

Lloyd could not but commend the wisdom of bringing Ferriss to Dr.
Pitts's own house in so quiet a place as Medford. The doctor risked
nothing. He was without a family, the only other occupants of the house
being the housekeeper and cook. On more than one occasion, when an
interesting case needed constant watching, Pitts had used his house as a
sanatorium. Quiet as the little village itself was, the house was
removed some little distance from its outskirts. The air was fine and
pure. The stillness, the calm, the unbroken repose, was almost
Sabbath-like. In the early watches of the night, just at the turn of the
dawn, Lloyd heard the faint rumble of a passing train at the station
nearly five miles away. For hours that and the prolonged stridulating of
the crickets were the only sounds. Then at last, while it was yet dark,
a faint chittering of waking birds began from under the eaves and from
the apple-trees in the yard about the house. Lloyd went to the window,
and, drawing aside the curtains, stood there for a moment looking out.
She could see part of the road leading to the town, and, in the
distance, the edge of the town itself, a few well-kept country
residences of suburban dwellers of the City, and, farther on, a large,
rectangular, brick building with cupola and flagstaff, perhaps the
public school or the bank or the Odd Fellows' Hall. Nearer by were
fields and corners of pasture land, with here and there the formless
shapes of drowsing cows. One of these, as Lloyd watched, changed
position, and she could almost hear the long, deep breath that
accompanied the motion. Far off, miles upon miles, so it seemed, a
rooster was crowing at exact intervals. All at once, and close at hand,
another answered--a gay, brisk carillon that woke the echoes in an
instant. For the first time Lloyd noticed a pale, dim belt of light low
in the east.

Toward eight o'clock in the morning the doctor came to relieve her, and
while he was examining the charts and she was making her report for the
night the housekeeper announced breakfast.

"Go down to your breakfast, Miss Searight," said the doctor. "I'll stay
here the while. The housekeeper will show you to your room."

But before breakfasting Lloyd went to the room the housekeeper had set
apart for her--a different one than had been occupied by either of the
previous nurses--changed her dress, and bathed her face and hands in a
disinfecting solution. When she came out of her room the doctor met her
in the hall; his hat and stick were in his hand. "He has gone to sleep,"
he informed her, "and is resting quietly. I am going to get a mouthful
of fresh air along the road. The housekeeper is with him. If he wakes
she'll call you. I will not be gone fifteen minutes. I've not been out
of the house for five days, and there's no danger."

Breakfast had been laid in what the doctor spoke of as the glass-room.
This was an enclosed veranda, one side being of glass and opening by
French windows directly upon a little lawn that sloped away under the
apple-trees to the road. It was a charming apartment, an idea of a
sister of Dr. Pitts, who at one time had spent two years at Medford.
Lloyd breakfasted here alone, and it was here that Bennett found her.

The one public carriage of Medford, a sort of four-seated carryall, that
met all the trains at the depot, had driven to the gate at the foot of
the yard, and had pulled up, the horses reeking and blowing. Even before
it had stopped, a tall, square-shouldered man had alighted, but it was
not until he was half-way up the gravel walk that Lloyd had recognised
him. Bennett caught sight of her at the same moment, and strode swiftly
across the lawn and came into the breakfast-room by one of the open
French windows. At once the room seemed to shrink in size; his first
step upon the floor--a step that was almost a stamp, so eager it was, so
masterful and resolute--set the panes of glass jarring in their frames.
Never had Bennett seemed more out of place than in this almost dainty
breakfast-room, with its small, feminine appurtenances, its fragile
glassware, its pots of flowers and growing plants. The incongruous
surroundings emphasized his every roughness, his every angularity.
Against its background of delicate, mild tints his figure loomed
suddenly colossal; the great span of his chest and shoulders seemed
never so huge. His face; the great, brutal jaw, with its aggressive,
bullying, forward thrust; the close-gripped lips, the contracted
forehead, the small eyes, marred with the sharply defined cast, appeared
never so harsh, never so massive, never so significant of the
resistless, crude force of the man, his energy, his overpowering
determination. As he towered there before her, one hand gripped upon a
chair-back, it seemed to her that the hand had but to close to crush the
little varnished woodwork to a splinter, and when he spoke Lloyd could
imagine that the fine, frail china of the table vibrated to the
deep-pitched bass of his voice.

Lloyd had only to look at him once to know that Bennett was at the
moment aroused and agitated to an extraordinary degree. His face was
congested and flaming. Under his frown his eyes seemed flashing
veritable sparks; his teeth were set; in his temple a vein stood
prominent and throbbing. But Lloyd was not surprised. Bennett had, no
doubt, heard of Ferriss's desperate illness. Small wonder he was excited
when the life of his dearest friend was threatened. Lloyd could ignore
her own quarrel with Bennett at such a moment.

"I am so sorry," she began, "that you could not have known sooner. But
you remember you left no address. There was--"

"What are you doing here?" he broke in abruptly. "What is the
use--why--" he paused for a moment to steady his voice--"you can't stay
here," he went on. "Don't you know the risk you are running? You can't
stay here another moment."

"That," answered Lloyd, smiling, "is a matter that is interesting
chiefly to me. I suppose you know that, Mr. Bennett."

"I know that you are risking your life and--"

"And that, too, is my affair."

"I have made it mine," he responded quickly. "Oh," he exclaimed sharply,
striking the back of the chair with his open palm, "why must we always
be at cross-purposes with each other? I'm not good at talking. What is
the use of tangling ourselves with phrases? I love you, and I've come
out here to ask you, to beg you, you understand, to leave this house,
where you are foolishly risking your life. You must do it," he went on
rapidly. "I love you too well. Your life is too much to me to allow you
to hazard it senselessly, foolishly. There are other women, other
nurses, who can take your place. But you are not going to stay here."

Lloyd felt her indignation rising.

"This is my profession," she answered, trying to keep back her anger. "I
am here because it is my duty to be here." Then suddenly, as his
extraordinary effrontery dawned upon her, she exclaimed, rising to her
feet: "Do I need to explain to you what I do? I am here because I choose
to be here. That is enough. I don't care to go any further with such a
discussion as this."

"You will not leave here, then?"

"No."

Bennett hesitated an instant, searching for his words, then:

"I do not know how to ask favours. I've had little experience in that
sort of thing. You must know how hard it is for me, and you must
understand to what lengths I am driven then, when I entreat you, when I
beg of you, as humbly as it is possible for me to do so, to leave this
house, now--at once. There is a train to the City within the hour; some
one else can take your place before noon. We can telegraph; will you
go?"

"You are absurd."

"Lloyd, can't you see; don't you understand? It's as though I saw you
rushing toward a precipice with your eyes shut."

"My place is here. I shall not leave."

But Bennett's next move surprised her. His eagerness, his agitation left
him upon the instant He took out his watch.

"I was wrong," he said quietly. "The next train will not go for an hour
and a quarter. There is more time than I supposed." Then, with as much
gentleness as he could command, he added: "Lloyd, you are going to take
that train?"

"Now, you are becoming a little more than absurd," she answered. "I
don't know, Mr. Bennett, whether or not you intend to be offensive, but
I think you are succeeding rather well. You came to this house
uninvited; you invade a gentleman's private residence, and you attempt
to meddle and to interfere with me in the practice of my profession. If
you think you can impress me with heroics and declamation, please
correct yourself at once. You have only succeeded in making yourself a
little vulgar."

"That may be true or not," he answered with an indifferent movement of
his shoulders. "It is all one to me. I have made up my mind that you
shall leave this house this morning, and believe me, Miss Searight, I
shall carry my point."

For the moment Lloyd caught her breath. For the moment she saw clearly
with just what sort of man she had to deal. There was a conviction in
his manner--now that he had quieted himself--that suddenly appeared
unanswerable. It was like the slow, still moving of a piston.

But the next moment her own character reasserted itself. She remembered
what she was herself. If he was determined, she was obstinate; if he was
resolved, she was stubborn; if he was powerful, she was unyielding.
Never had she conceded her point before; never had she allowed herself
to be thwarted in the pursuance of a course she believed to be right.
Was she, of all women, to yield now? The consciousness of her own power
of resistance came suddenly to her aid. Bennett was strong, but was she
not strong herself? Where under the blue sky was the power that could
break down her will? When death itself could not prevail against her,
what in life could shake her resolution?

Suddenly the tremendous import of the moment, the magnitude of the
situation, flashed upon Lloyd. Both of them had staked everything upon
this issue. Two characters of extraordinary power clashed violently
together. There was to be no compromise, no half-measures. Either she or
Bennett must in the end be beaten. One of them was to be broken and
humbled beyond all retrieving. There in that commonplace little room,
with its trivial accessories, its inadequate background, a battle royal
swiftly prepared itself. With the abruptness of an explosion the crisis
developed.

"Do I need to tell you," remarked Bennett, "that your life is rather
more to me than any other consideration in the world? Do you suppose
when the lives of every member of my command depended upon me I was any
less resolved to succeed than I am now? I succeeded then, and I shall
succeed now, now when there is much more at stake. I am not accustomed
to failure, and I shall not fail now. I assure you that I shall stop at
nothing."

It was beyond Lloyd to retain her calmness under such aggression. It
seemed as though her self-respect demanded that she should lose her
temper.

"And you think you can drive me as you drove your deck-hands?" she
exclaimed. "What have you to do with me? Am I your subordinate? Do you
think you can bully me? We are not in Kolyuchin Bay, Mr. Bennett."

"You're the woman I love," he answered with an abrupt return of
vehemence, "and, by God! I shall stop at nothing to save your life."

"And my love for you, that you pretend is so much to you, I suppose that
this is the means you take to awaken it. Admitting, for the moment, that
you could induce me to shirk my duty, how should I love you for it? Ask
yourself that."

But Bennett had but one answer to all her words. He struck his fist into
the palm of his hand as he answered:

"Your life is more to me than any other consideration."

"But my life--how do you know it is a question of my life? Come, if we
are to quarrel, let us quarrel upon reasonable grounds. It does not
follow that I risk my life by staying--"

"Leave the house first; we can talk of that afterward."

"I have allowed you to talk too much already," she exclaimed angrily.
"Let us come to the bottom of things at once. I will not be influenced
nor cajoled nor bullied into leaving my post. Now, do you understand?
That is my final answer. You who were a commander, who were a leader of
men, what would you have done if one of your party had left his post at
a time of danger? I can tell you what you would have done--you would
have shot him, after first disgracing him, and now you would disgrace
me. Is it reasonable? Is it consistent?"

Bennett snapped his fingers.

"That for consistency!"

"And you would be willing to disgrace me--to have me disgrace myself?"

"Your life--" began Bennett again.

But suddenly Lloyd flashed out upon him with: "My life! My life! Are
there not some things better than life? You, above all men, should
understand that much. Oh, be yourself, be the man I thought you were.
You have your code; let me have mine. You could not be what you are, you
could not have done what you did, if you had not set so many things
above merely your life. Admit that you could not have loved me unless
you believed that I could do the same. How could you still love me if
you knew I had failed in my duty? How could you still love me if you
knew that you had broken down my will? I know you better than you know
yourself. You loved me because you knew me to be strong and brave and to
be above petty deceptions and shams and subterfuges. And now you ask me
to fail, to give up, to shirk, and you tell me you do so because you
love me."

"That is all so many words to me. I cannot argue with you, and there is
no time for it. I did not come here to--converse."

Never in her life before had Lloyd been so angry as at that moment. The
sombre crimson of her cheeks had suddenly given place to an unwonted
paleness; even her dull-blue eyes, that so rarely sparkled, were all
alight. She straightened herself.

"Very well, then," she answered quietly, "our conversation can stop
where it is. You will excuse me, Mr. Bennett, if I leave you. I have my
work to do."

Bennett was standing between her and the door. He did not move. Very
gravely he said:

"Don't. Please don't bring it--to that."

Lloyd flashed a look at him, her eyes wide, exclaiming:

"You don't mean--you don't dare--"

"I tell you again that I mean to carry my point."

"And I tell you that I shall _not_ leave my patient."

Bennett met her glance for an instant, and, holding her gaze with his,
answered but two words. Speaking in a low voice and with measured
slowness, he said:

"You--shall."

There was a silence. The two stood there, looking straight into one
another's eyes, their mutual opposition at its climax. The seconds began
to pass. The conflict between the man's aggression and the woman's
resistance reached its turning point. Before another word should be
spoken, before the minute should pass, one of the two must give ground.

And then it was that Lloyd felt something breakdown within her,
something to which she could not put a name. A mysterious element of her
character, hitherto rigid and intact, was beginning at last to crumble.
Somewhere a breach had been opened; somewhere the barrier had been
undermined. The fine steadfastness that was hers, and that she had so
dearly prized, her strength in which she had gloried, her independence,
her splendid arrogant self-confidence and conscious power seemed all at
once to weaken before this iron resolve that shut its ears and eyes,
this colossal, untutored, savage intensity of purpose.

And abruptly her eyes were opened, and the inherent weakness of her sex
became apparent to her. Was it a mistake, then? Could not a woman be
strong? Was her strength grafted upon elemental weakness--not her
individual weakness, but the weakness of her sex, the intended natural
weakness of the woman? Had she built her fancied impregnable fortress
upon sand?

But habit was too strong. For an instant, brief as the opening and
shutting of an eye, a vision was vouchsafed to her, one of those swift
glimpses into unplumbed depths that come sometimes to the human mind in
the moments of its exaltation, but that are gone with such rapidity that
they may not be trusted. For an instant Lloyd saw deep down into the
black, mysterious gulf of sex--down, down, down where, immeasurably
below the world of little things, the changeless, dreadful machinery of
Life itself worked, clashing and resistless in its grooves. It was a
glimpse fortunately brief, a vision that does not come too often, lest
reason, brought to the edge of the abyss, grow giddy at the sight and,
reeling, topple headlong. But quick the vision passed, the gulf closed,
and she felt the firm ground again beneath her feet.

"I shall not," she cried.

Was it the same woman who had spoken but one moment before? Did her
voice ring with the same undaunted defiance? Was there not a note of
despair in her tones, a barely perceptible quaver, the symbol of her
wavering resolve? Was not the very fact that she must question her
strength proof positive that her strength was waning?

But her courage was unshaken, even if her strength was breaking. To the
last she would strive, to the end she would hold her forehead high. Not
till the last hope had been tried would she acknowledge her defeat.

"But in any case," she said, "risk is better than certainty. If I risk
my life by staying, it is certain that he will die if I leave him at
this critical moment."

"So much the worse, then--you cannot stay."

Lloyd stared at him in amazement.

"It isn't possible; I don't believe you can understand. Do you know how
sick he is? Do you know that he is lying at the point of death at this
very moment, and that the longer I stay away from him the more his life
is in peril? Has he not rights as well as I; has he not a right to live?
It is not only my own humiliation that is at stake, it is the life of
your dearest friend, the man who stood by you, and helped you, and who
suffered the same hardships and privations as yourself."

"What's that?" demanded Bennett with a sudden frown.

"If I leave Mr. Ferriss now, if he is left alone here for so much as
half an hour, I will not answer--"

"Ferriss! What are you talking about? What is your patient's name?"

"Didn't you know?"

"Ferriss! Dick Ferriss! Don't tell me it's Dick Ferriss."

"I thought all the time you knew--that you had heard. Yes, it is Mr.
Ferriss."

"Is he very sick? What is he doing out here? No, I had not heard; nobody
told me. Pitts was to write--to--to wire. Will he pull through? What's
the matter with him? Is it he who had typhoid?"

"He is very dangerously ill. Dr. Pitts brought him here. This is his
house. We do not know if he will get well. It is only by watching him
every instant that we can hope for anything. At this moment there is no
one with him but a servant. _Now_, Mr. Bennett, am I to go to my
patient?"

"But--but--we can get some one else."

"Not before three hours, and it's only the truth when I tell you he may
die at any minute. Am I to go?"

In a second of time the hideous situation leaped up before Bennett's
eyes. Right or wrong, the conviction that Lloyd was terribly imperilling
her life by remaining at her patient's bedside had sunk into his mind
and was not to be eradicated. It was a terror that had gripped him close
and that could not be reasoned away. But Ferriss? What of him? Now it
had brusquely transpired that his life, too, hung in the balance. How to
decide? How to meet this abominable complication wherein he must
sacrifice the woman he so dearly loved or the man who was the Damon to
his Pythias, the Jonathan to his David?

"Am I to go?" repeated Lloyd for the third time.

Bennett closed his eyes, clasping his head with both hands.

"Great God, wait--wait--I can't think--I--I, oh, this is terrible!"

Lloyd drove home her advantage mercilessly.

"Wait? I tell you we can't wait."

Then Bennett realised with a great spasm of horror that for him there
was no going back. All his life, accustomed to quick decisions in
moments of supreme peril, he took his decision now, facing, with such
courage as he could muster, its unspeakable consequences, consequences
that he knew must harry and hound him all the rest of his life.
Whichever way he decided, he opened his heart to the beak and talons of
a pitiless remorse. He could no longer see, in the dreadful confusion of
his mind, the right of things or the wrong of things, could not
accurately weigh chances or possibilities. For him only two alternatives
presented themselves, the death of Ferriss or the death of Lloyd. He
could see no compromise, could imagine no escape. It was as though a
headsman with ready axe stood at his elbow, awaiting his commands. And,
besides all this, he had long since passed the limit--though perhaps he
did not know it himself--where he could see anything but the point he
had determined to gain, the goal he had determined to reach. His mind
was made up. His furious energy, his resolve to conquer at all costs,
had become at last a sort of directed frenzy. The engine he had set in
motion was now beyond his control. He could not now--whether he would or
no--reverse its action, swerve it from its iron path, call it back from
the monstrous catastrophe toward which it was speeding him.

"God help us all!" he muttered.

"Well," said Lloyd expectantly.

Bennett drew a deep breath, his hands falling helplessly at his sides.
In a way he appeared suddenly bowed; the great frame of bone and sinew
seemed in some strange, indefinable manner to shrink, to stagger under
the sudden assumption of an intolerable burden--a burden that was never
to be lifted.

Even then, however, Bennett still believed in the wisdom of his course,
still believed himself to be right. But, right or wrong, he now must go
forward. Was it fate, was it doom, was it destiny?

Bennett's entire life had been spent in the working out of great ideas
in the face of great obstacles; continually he had been called upon to
overcome enormous difficulties with enormous strength. For long periods
of time he had been isolated from civilisation, had been face to face
with the simple, crude forces of an elemental world--forces that were to
be combated and overthrown by means no less simple and crude than
themselves. He had lost the faculty, possessed, no doubt, by smaller
minds, of dealing with complicated situations. To resort to expedients,
to make concessions, was all beyond him. For him a thing was absolutely
right or absolutely wrong, and between the two there was no gradation.
For so long a time had he looked at the larger, broader situations of
life that his mental vision had become all deformed and confused. He saw
things invariably magnified beyond all proportion, or else dwarfed to a
littleness that was beneath consideration. Normal vision was denied him.
It was as though he studied the world through one or the other ends of a
telescope, and when, as at present, his emotions were aroused, matters
were only made the worse. The idea that Ferriss might recover, though
Lloyd should leave him at this moment, hardly presented itself to his
mind. He was convinced that if Lloyd went away Ferriss would die; Lloyd
had said as much herself. The hope that Lloyd might, after all, nurse
him through his sickness without danger to herself was so remote that he
did not consider it for one instant. If Lloyd remained she, like the
other nurse, would contract the disease and die.

These were the half-way measures Bennett did not understand, the
expedients he could no longer see. It was either Lloyd or Ferriss. He
must choose between them.

Bennett went to the door of the room, closed it and leaned against it.

"No," he said.

Lloyd was stricken speechless. For the instant she shrank before him as
if from a murderer. Bennett now knew precisely the terrible danger in
which he left the man who was his dearest friend. Would he actually
consent to his death? It was almost beyond belief, and for the moment
Lloyd herself quailed before him. Her first thoughts were not of
herself, but of Ferriss. If he was Bennett's friend he was her friend
too. At that very moment he might be dying for want of her care. She was
fast becoming desperate. For the moment she could put all thought of
herself and of her own dignity in the background.

"What is it you want?" she cried. "Is it my humiliation you ask? Well,
then, you have it. It is as hard for me to ask favours as it is for you.
I am as proud as you, but I entreat you, you hear me, as humbly as I
can, to let me go. What do you want more than that? Oh, can't you
understand? While we talk here, while you keep me here, he may be dying.
Is it a time for arguments, is it a time for misunderstandings, is it a
time to think of ourselves, of our own lives, our own little affairs?"
She clasped her hands. "Will you please--can I, can I say more than
that; will you please let me go?"

"No."

With a great effort Lloyd tried to regain her self-control. She paused a
moment, then:

"Listen!" she said. "You say that you love me; that I am more to you
than even Mr. Ferriss, your truest friend. I do not wish to think of
myself at such a time as this, but supposing that you should make
me--that I should consent to leave my patient. Think of me then,
afterward. Can I go back there to the house, the house that I built? Can
I face the women of my profession? What would they think of me? What
would my friends think of me--I who have held my head so high? You will
ruin my life. I should have to give up my profession. Oh, can't you see
in what position you would place me?" Suddenly the tears sprang to her
eyes. "No!" she cried vehemently. "No, no, no, I will not, I will not be
disgraced!"

"I have no wish to disgrace you," answered Bennett. "It is strange for
you to say that to me, if I love you so well that I can give up Ferriss
for--"

"Then, if you love me so much as that, there must be one thing that you
would set even above my life. Do you wish to make me hate you?"

"There is nothing in the world more to me than your life; you know that.
How can you think it of me?"

"Because you don't understand--because you don't know that--oh, that I
love you! I--no--I didn't mean--I didn't mean--"

What had she said? What had happened? How was it that the words that
yesterday she would have been ashamed to so much as whisper to herself
had now rushed to her lips almost of their own accord? After all those
years of repression, suddenly the sweet, dim thought she had hidden in
her secretest heart's heart had leaped to light and to articulate words.
Unasked, unbidden, she had told him that she loved him. She, she had
done this thing when, but a few moments before, her anger against him
had shaken her to her very finger-tips. The hot, intolerable shame of it
smote like fire into her face. Her world was cracking about her ears;
everything she had prized the dearest was being torn from her,
everything she had fancied the strongest was being overthrown. Had she,
she who had held herself so proud and high, come at last to this?

Swiftly she turned from him and clasped her hands before her eyes and
sank down into the chair she had quitted, bowing her head upon her arms,
hiding her face, shutting herself from the light of day, quivering and
thrilling with an agony of shame and with an utter, an abject
self-contempt that was beyond all power of expression. But the instant
she felt Bennett's touch upon her shoulder she sprang up as if a knife
had pierced her, and shrank from him, turning her head away, her hand,
palm outward, before her eyes.

"Oh, please!" she begged piteously, almost inarticulately in the stress
of her emotion, "don't--if you are a man--don't take advantage--please,
please don't touch me. Let me go away."

She was talking to deaf ears. In two steps Bennett had reached her side
and had taken her in his arms. Lloyd could not resist. Her vigour of
body as well as of mind was crushed and broken and beaten down; and why
was it that in spite of her shame, that in spite of her unutterable
self-reproach, the very touch of her cheek upon his shoulder was a
comfort? Why was it that to feel herself carried away in the rush of
this harsh, impetuous, masculine power was a happiness? Why was it that
to know that her prided fortitude and hitherto unshaken power were being
overwhelmed and broken with a brutal, ruthless strength was an
exultation and a glory? Why was it that she who but a moment before
quailed from his lightest touch now put her arms about his neck and
clung to him with a sense of protection and of refuge, the need of which
she had always and until that very moment disdained?

"Why should you be sorry because you spoke?" said Bennett. "I knew that
you loved me and you knew that I loved you. What does it matter if you
said it or did not say it? We know each other, you and I. We understand.
You knew that I loved you. You think that I have been strong and
determined, and have done the things I set out to do; what I am is what
you made me. What I have done I have done because I thought you would
approve. Do you think I would have come back if I had not known that I
was coming back to you?" Suddenly an impatient exclamation escaped him,
and his clasp about her tightened. "Oh! words--the mere things that one
can _say_, seem so pitiful, so miserably inadequate. Don't you know,
can't you feel what you are to me? Tell me, do you think I love you?"

But she could not bear to meet his glance just yet. Her eyes were
closed, and she could only nod her head.

But Bennett took her head in both his hands and turned her face to his.
Even yet she kept her eyes closed.

"Lloyd," he said, and his voice was almost a command; "Lloyd, look at
me. Do you love me?"

She drew a deep breath. Then her sweet dull-blue eyes opened, and
through the tears that brimmed them and wet her lashes she looked at him
and met his glance fearlessly and almost proudly, and her voice trembled
and vibrated with an infinite tenderness as she answered:

"I do love you, Ward; love you with all my heart."

Then, after a pause, she said, drawing a little from him and resting a
hand upon either shoulder:

"But listen, dear; we must not think of ourselves now. We must think of
him, so sick and weak and helpless. This is a terrible moment in our
lives. I don't know why it has come to us. I don't know why it should
all have happened as it has this morning. Just a few moments ago I was
angry as I never was in my life before--and at you--and now it seems to
me that I never was so happy; I don't know myself any more. Everything
is confused; all we can do is to hold to what we know is right and trust
that everything will be well in the end. It is a crisis, isn't it? And
all our lives and all our happiness depend upon how we meet it. I am all
different now. I am not the woman I was a half-hour ago. You must be
brave for me now, and you must be strong for me and help me to do my
duty. We must live up to the best that is in us and do what we think is
right, no matter what risks we run, no matter what the consequences are.
I would not have asked you to help me before--before what has
happened--but now I need your help. You have said I helped you to be
brave; help me to be brave now, and to do what I know is right."

But Bennett was still blind. If she had been dear to him before, how
doubly so had she become since she had confessed her love for him!
Ferriss was forgotten, ignored. He could not let her go, he could not
let her run the slightest risk. Was he to take any chance of losing her
now? He shook his head.

"Ward!" she exclaimed with deep and serious earnestness. "If you do not
wish me to risk my life by going to my post, be careful, oh, be very
careful, that you do not risk something that is more to us both than
life itself, by keeping me from it. Do you think I could love you so
deeply and so truly as I do if I had not kept my standards high; if I
had not believed in the things that were better than life, and stronger
than death, and dearer to me than even love itself? There are some
things I cannot do: I cannot be false, I cannot be cowardly, I cannot
shirk my duty. Now I am helpless in your hands. You have conquered, and
you can do with me as you choose. But if you make me do what is false,
and what is cowardly, and what is dishonourable; if you stand between me
and what I know is my duty, how can I love you, how can I love you?"

Persistently, perversely, Bennett stopped his ears to every
consideration, to every argument. She wished to hazard her life. That
was all he understood.

"No, Lloyd," he answered, "you must not do it."

"--and I want to love you," she went on, as though she had not heard. "I
want you to be everything to me. I have trusted you so long--had faith
in you so long, I don't want to think of you as the man who failed me
when I most needed his help, who made me do the thing that was
contemptible and unworthy. Believe me," she went on with sudden energy,
"you will kill my love for you if you persist."

But before Bennett could answer there was a cry.

"It is the servant," exclaimed Lloyd quickly. "She has been
watching--there in the room with him."

"Nurse--Miss Searight," came the cry, "quick--there is something
wrong--I don't know--oh, hurry!"

"Do you hear?" cried Lloyd. "It is the crisis--he may be dying. Oh,
Ward, it is the man you love! We can save him." She stamped her foot in
the frenzy of her emotion, her hands twisting together. "I _will_ go. I
forbid you to keep--to hinder--to--to, oh, what is to become of us? If
you love me, if you love him--_Ward, will you let me go?_"

Bennett put his hands over his ears, his eyes closed. In the horror of
that moment, when he realised that no matter how he might desire it he
could not waver in his resolution, it seemed to him that his reason must
give way. But he set his back to the door, his hand gripped tight upon
the knob, and through his set teeth his answer came as before:

"No."

"Nurse--Miss Searight, where are you? Hurry, oh, hurry!"

"Will you let me go?"

"No."

Lloyd caught at his hand, shut so desperately upon the knob, striving to
loosen his clasp. She hardly knew what she was doing; she threw her arms
about his neck, imploring, commanding, now submissive, now imperious,
her voice now vibrating with anger, now trembling with passionate
entreaty.

"You are not only killing him, you are killing my love for you; will you
let me go--the love that is so dear to me? Let me love you, Ward; listen
to me; don't make me hate you; let me love you, dear--"

"Hurry, oh, hurry!"

"Let me love you; let him live. I want to love you. It's the best
happiness in my life. Let me be happy. Can't you see what this moment is
to mean for us? It is our happiness or wretchedness forever. Will you
let me go?"

"No."

"For the last time, Ward, listen! It is my love for you and his life.
Don't crush us both--yes, and yourself. You who can, who are so
powerful, don't trample all our happiness under foot."

"Hurry, hurry; oh, will nobody come to help?"

"Will you let me go?"

"No."

Her strength seemed all at once to leave her. All the fabric of her
character, so mercilessly assaulted, appeared in that moment to reel,
topple, and go crashing to its wreck. She was shattered, broken,
humbled, and beaten down to the dust. Her pride was gone, her faith in
herself was gone, her fine, strong energy was gone. The pity of it, the
grief of it; all that she held dearest; her fine and confident
steadfastness; the great love that had brought such happiness into her
life--that had been her inspiration, all torn from her and tossed aside
like chaff. And her patient--Ferriss, the man who loved her, who had
undergone such suffering, such hardship, who trusted her and whom it was
her duty to nurse back to life and health--if he should perish for want
of her care, then what infinite sorrow, then what endless remorse, then
what long agony of unavailing regret! Her world, her universe grew dark
to her; she was driven from her firm stand. She was lost, she was
whirled away--away with the storm, landmarks obliterated, lights gone;
away with the storm; out into the darkness, out into the void, out into
the waste places and wilderness and trackless desolation.

"Hurry, oh, hurry!"

It was too late. She had failed; the mistake had been made, the question
had been decided. That insensate, bestial determination, iron-hearted,
iron-strong, had beaten down opposition, had carried its point. Life and
love had been crushed beneath its trampling without pity, without
hesitation. The tragedy of the hour was done; the tragedy of the long
years to come was just beginning.

Lloyd sank down in the chair before the table, and the head that she had
held so high bowed down upon her folded arms. The violence of her grief
shook her from head to foot like a dry, light reed. Her heart seemed
literally to be breaking. She must set her teeth with all her strength
to keep from groaning aloud, from crying out in her hopeless sorrow her
impotent shame and despair.

Once more came the cry for help. Then the house fell silent. The minutes
passed. But for Lloyd's stifled grief there was no sound.
Bennett--leaning heavily against the door, his great shoulders stooping
and bent, his face ashen, his eyes fixed--did not move. He did not speak
to Lloyd. There was no word of comfort he could address to her--that
would have seemed the last mockery. He had prevailed, as he knew he
should, as he knew he must, when once his resolve was taken. The force
that, once it was unleashed, was beyond him to control, had accomplished
its purpose. His will remained unbroken; but at what cost? However, that
was for future consideration. The costs? Had he not his whole life
before him in which to count them? The present moment still called upon
him to act. He looked at his watch.

The next quarter of an hour was all a confusion to him. Its incidents
refused to define themselves upon his memory when afterward he tried to
recall them. He could remember, however, that when he helped Lloyd into
the carryall that was to take her to the depot in the village she had
shrunk from his touch and had drawn away from him as if from a
criminal--a murderer. He placed her satchel on the front seat with the
driver, and got up beside the driver himself. She had drawn her veil
over her face, and during the drive sat silent and motionless.

"Can you make it?" asked Bennett of the driver, watch in hand. The time
was of the shortest, but the driver put the whip to his horses and, at a
run, they reached the railway station a few moments ahead of time.
Bennett told the driver to wait, and while Lloyd remained in her place
he bought her ticket for the City. Then he went to the telegraph office
and sent a peremptory despatch to the house on Calumet Square.

A few moments later the train had come and gone, an abrupt eruption of
roaring iron and shrieking steam. Bennett was left on the platform
alone, watching it lessen to a smoky blur where the rails converged
toward the horizon. For an instant he stood watching, watching a
resistless, iron-hearted force whirling her away, out of his reach, out
of his life. Then he shook himself, turning sharply about.

"Back to the doctor's house, now," he commanded the driver; "on the run,
you understand."

But the other protested. His horses were all but exhausted. Twice they
had covered that distance at top speed and under the whip. He refused to
return. Bennett took the young man by the arm and lifted him from his
seat to the ground. Then he sprang to his place and lashed the horses to
a gallop.

When he arrived at Dr. Pitts's house he did not stop to tie the horses,
but threw the reins over their backs and entered the front hall, out of
breath and panting. But the doctor, during Bennett's absence, had
returned, and it was he who met him half-way up the stairs.

"How is he?" demanded Bennett. "I have sent for another nurse; she will
be out here on the next train. I wired from the station."

"The only objection to that," answered the doctor, looking fixedly at
him, "is that it is not necessary. Mr. Ferriss has just died."



VII.


Throughout her ride from Medford to the City it was impossible for
Lloyd, so great was the confusion in her mind, to think connectedly. She
had been so fiercely shocked, so violently shattered and weakened, that
for a time she lacked the power and even the desire to collect and to
concentrate her scattering thoughts. For the time being she felt, but
only dimly, that a great blow had fallen, that a great calamity had
overwhelmed her, but so extraordinary was the condition of her mind that
more than once she found herself calmly awaiting the inevitable moment
when the full extent of the catastrophe would burst upon her. For the
moment she was merely tired. She was willing even to put off this
reaction for a while, willing to remain passive and dizzied and
stupefied, resigning herself helplessly and supinely to the swift
current of events.

Yet while that part of her mind which registered the greater, deeper,
and more lasting impressions remained inactive, the smaller faculty,
that took cognisance of the little, minute-to-minute matters, was as
busy and bright as ever. It appeared that the blow had been struck over
this latter faculty, and not, as one so often supposes, through it. She
seemed in that hour to understand the reasonableness of this phenomenon,
that before had always appeared so inexplicable, and saw how great
sorrow as well as great joy strikes only at the greater machinery of the
brain, overpassing and ignoring the little wheels and cogs, that work on
as briskly as ever in storm or calm, being moved only by temporary and
trivial emotions and impressions.

So it was that for upward of an hour while the train carried her swiftly
back to the City, Lloyd sat quietly in her place, watching the landscape
rushing past her and cut into regular divisions by the telegraph poles
like the whirling pictures of a kinetoscope. She noted, and even with
some particularity, the other passengers--a young girl in a smart
tailor-made gown reading a book, cutting the leaves raggedly with a
hairpin; a well-groomed gentleman with a large stomach, who breathed
loudly through his nose; the book agent with his oval boxes of dried
figs and endless thread of talk; a woman with a little boy who wore
spectacles and who was continually making unsteady raids upon the
water-cooler, and the brakeman and train conductor laughing and chatting
in the forward seat.

She took an interest in every unusual feature of the country through
which the train was speeding, and noted each stop or increase of speed.
She found a certain diversion, as she had often done before, in watching
for the mile-posts and in keeping count of the miles. She even asked the
conductor at what time the train would reach the City, and uttered a
little murmur of vexation when she was told that it was a half-hour
late. The next instant she was asking herself why this delay should seem
annoying to her. Then, toward the close of the afternoon, came the City
itself. First a dull-gray smudge on the horizon, then a world of grimy
streets, rows of miserable tenements festooned with rags, then a tunnel
or two, and at length the echoing glass-arched terminal of the station.
Lloyd alighted, and, remembering that the distance was short, walked
steadily toward her destination till the streets and neighbourhood
became familiar. Suddenly she came into the square. Directly opposite
was the massive granite front of the agency. She paused abruptly. She
was returning to the house after abandoning her post. What was she to
say to them, the other women of her profession?

Then all at once came the reaction. Instantly the larger machinery of
the mind resumed its functions, the hurt of the blow came back. With a
fierce wrench of pain, the wound reopened, full consciousness returned.
Lloyd remembered then that she had proved false to her trust at a moment
of danger, that Ferriss would probably die because of what she had done,
that her strength of will and of mind wherein she had gloried was broken
beyond redemption; that Bennett had failed her, that her love for him,
the one great happiness of her life, was dead and cold and could never
be revived, and that in the eyes of the world she stood dishonoured and
disgraced.

Now she must enter that house, now she must face its inmates, her
companions. What to say to them? How explain her defection? How tell
them that she had not left her post of her own will? Lloyd fancied
herself saying in substance that the man who loved her and whom she
loved had made her abandon her patient. She set her teeth. No, not that
confession of miserable weakness; not that of all things. And yet the
other alternative, what was that? It could be only that she had been
afraid--she, Lloyd Searight! Must she, who had been the bravest of them
all, stand before that little band of devoted women in the light of a
self-confessed coward?

She remembered the case of the young English woman, Harriet Freeze, who,
when called upon to nurse a smallpox patient, had been found wanting in
courage at the crucial moment, and had discovered an excuse for leaving
her post. Miss Freeze had been expelled dishonourably from the midst of
her companions. And now she, Lloyd, standing apparently convicted of the
same dishonour, must face the same tribunal. There was no escape. She
must enter that house, she must endure that ordeal, and this at
precisely the time when her resolution had been shattered, her will
broken, her courage daunted. For a moment the idea of flight suggested
itself to her--she would avoid the issue. She would hide from reproach
and contumely, and without further explanation go back to her place in
the country at Bannister. But the little exigencies of her position made
this impossible. Besides her nurse's bag, her satchel was the only
baggage she had at that moment, and she knew that there was but little
money in her purse.

All at once she realised that while debating the question she had been
sitting on one of the benches under the trees in the square. The sun was
setting; evening was coming on. Maybe if she waited until six o'clock
she could enter the house while the other nurses were at supper, gain
her room unobserved, then lock herself in and deny herself to all
callers. But Lloyd made a weary, resigned movement of her shoulders.
Sooner or later she must meet them all eye to eye. It would be only
putting off the humiliation.

She rose, and, turning to the house, began to walk slowly toward it. Why
put it off? It would be as hard at one time as another. But so great was
her sense of shame that even as she walked she fancied that the very
passers-by, the loungers on the benches around the fountain, must know
that here was a disgraced woman. Was it not apparent in her very face,
in the very uncertainty of her gait? She told herself she had not done
wisely to sit even for a moment upon the bench she had just quitted. She
wondered if she had been observed, and furtively glanced about her.
There! Was not that nursemaid studying her too narrowly? And the
policeman close at hand, was he not watching her quizzically? She
quickened her gait, moved with a sudden impulse to get out of sight, to
hide within doors--where? In the house? There where, so soon as she set
foot in it, her companions, the other nurses, must know her dishonour?
Where was she to go? Where to turn? What was to become of her?

But she _must_ go to the house. It was inevitable. She went forward, as
it were, step by step. That little journey across the square under the
elms and cottonwoods was for her a veritable _chemin de la croix_. Every
step was an agony; every yard covered only brought her nearer the time
and place of exposure. It was all the more humiliating because she knew
that her impelling motive was not one of duty. There was nothing lofty
in the matter--nothing self-sacrificing. She went back because she had
to go back. Little material necessities, almost ludicrous in their
pettiness, forced her on.

As she came nearer she looked cautiously at the windows of the agency.
Who would be the first to note her home-coming? Would it be Miss
Douglass, or Esther Thielman, or Miss Bergyn, the superintendent nurse?
What would first be said to her? With what words would she respond? Then
how the news of the betrayal of her trust would flash from room to room!
How it would be discussed, how condemned, how deplored! Not one of the
nurses of that little band but would not feel herself hurt by what she
had done--by what she had been forced to do. And the news of her failure
would spread to all her acquaintances and friends throughout the City.
Dr. Street would know it; every physician to whom she had hitherto been
so welcome an aid would know it. In all the hospitals it would be a nine
days' gossip. Campbell would hear of it, and Hattie.

All at once, within thirty feet of the house, Lloyd turned about and
walked rapidly away from it. The movement was all but involuntary; every
instinct in her, every sense of shame, brusquely revolted. It was
stronger than she. A power, for the moment irresistible, dragged her
back from that doorway. Once entering here, she left all hope behind.
Yet the threshold must be crossed, yet the hope must be abandoned.

She felt that if she faced about now a second time she would indeed
attract attention. So, while her cheeks flamed hot at the meanness, the
miserable ridiculousness of the imposture, she assumed a brisk,
determined gait, as though she knew just where she were going, and,
turning out of the square down a by-street, walked around the block,
even stopping once or twice before a store, pretending an interest in
the display. It seemed to her that by now everybody in the streets must
have noted that there was something wrong with her. Twice as a passer-by
brushed past her she looked back to see if he was watching her. How to
live through the next ten minutes? If she were only in her room, bolted
in, locked and double-locked in. Why was there not some back way through
which she could creep to that seclusion?

And so it was that Lloyd came back to the house she had built, to the
little community she had so proudly organised, to the agency she had
founded, and with her own money endowed and supported.

At last she found herself at the bottom of the steps, her foot upon the
lowest one, her hand clasping the heavy bronze rail. There was no going
back now. She went up and pushed the button of the electric bell, and
then, the step once taken, the irrevocable once dared, something like
the calmness of resignation came to her. There was no help for it. Now
for the ordeal. Rownie opened the door for her with a cheery welcome.
Lloyd was dimly conscious that the girl said something about her mail,
and that she was just in time for supper. But the hall and stairway were
deserted and empty, while from the dining-room came a subdued murmur of
conversation and the clink of dishes. The nurses were at supper, as
Lloyd had hoped. The moment favoured her, and she brushed by Rownie, and
almost ran, panic-stricken and trembling, up the stairs.

She gained the hall of the second floor. There was the door of her room
standing ajar. With a little gasp of infinite relief, she hurried to it,
entered, shut and locked and bolted it behind her, and, casting her
satchel and handbag from her, flung herself down upon the great couch,
and buried her head deep among the cushions.

At Lloyd's abrupt entrance Miss Douglass turned about from the
book-shelves in an angle of the room and stared a moment in no little
surprise. Then she exclaimed:

"Why, Lloyd, why, what is it--what is the matter?"

Lloyd sprang up sharply at the sound of her voice, and then sank down to
a sitting posture upon the edge of the couch. Quietly enough she said:

"Oh, is it you? I didn't know--expect to find any one--"

"You don't mind, do you? I just ran in to get a book--something to read.
I've had a headache all day, and didn't go down to supper."

Lloyd nodded. "Of course--I don't mind," she said, a little wearily.

"But tell me," continued the fever nurse, "whatever is the matter? When
you came in just now--I never saw you so--oh, I understand, your case at
Medford--"

Lloyd's hands closed tight upon the edge of the couch.

"No one could have got a patient through when the fever had got as far
as that," continued the other. "This must have been the fifth or sixth
week. The second telegram came just in time to prevent my going. I was
just going out of the door when the boy came with it."

"You? What telegram?" inquired Lloyd.

"Yes, I was on call. The first despatch asking for another extra nurse
came about two o'clock. The four-twenty was the first train I could have
taken--the two-forty-five express is a through train and don't stop at
Medford--and, as I say, I was just going out of the door when Dr.
Pitts's second despatch came, countermanding the first, and telling us
that the patient had died. It seems that it was one of the officers of
the Freja expedition. We didn't know--"

"Died?" interrupted Lloyd, looking fixedly at her.

"But Lloyd, you mustn't take it so to heart. You couldn't have got him
through. No one could at that time. He was probably dying when you were
sent for. We must all lose a case now and then."

"Died?" repeated Lloyd; "Dr. Pitts wired that Mr. Ferriss died?"

"Yes; it was to prevent my coming out there uselessly. He must have sent
the wire quite an hour before you left. It was very thoughtful of him."

"He's dead," said Lloyd in a low, expressionless voice, looking vacantly
about the room. "Mr. Ferriss is dead." Then suddenly she put a fist to
either temple, horror-struck and for the moment shaken with hysteria
from head to foot, her eyes widening with an expression almost of
terror. "Dead!" she cried. "Oh, it's horrible! Why didn't I--why
couldn't I--"

"I know just how you feel," answered Miss Douglass soothingly. "I am
that way myself sometimes. It's not professional, I know, but when you
have been successful in two or three bad cases you think you can always
win; and then when you lose the next case you believe that somehow it
must have been your fault--that if you had been a little more careful at
just that moment, or done a little different in that particular point,
you might have saved your patient. But you, of all people, ought not to
feel like that. If you could not have saved your case nobody could."

"It was just because I had the case that it was lost."

"Nonsense, Lloyd; don't talk like that. You've not had enough sleep;
your nerves have been over-strained. You're worn out and a little
hysterical and morbid. Now lie down and keep quiet, and I'll bring you
your supper. You need a good night's sleep and bromide of potassium."

When she had gone Lloyd rose to her feet and drew her hand wearily
across her eyes. The situation adjusted itself in her mind. After the
first recoil of horror at Ferriss's death she was able to see the false
position in which she stood. She had been so certain already that
Ferriss would die, leaving him as she did at so critical a moment, that
now the sharpness of Miss Douglass's news was blunted a little. She had
only been unprepared for the suddenness of the shock. But now she
understood clearly how Miss Douglass had been deceived by circumstances.
The fever nurse had heard of Ferriss's death early in the afternoon, and
supposed, of course, that Lloyd had left the case _after_, and not
before, it had occurred. This was the story the other nurses would
believe. Instantly, in the flood of grief and remorse and humiliation
that had overwhelmed her, Lloyd caught at this straw of hope. Only Dr.
Pitts and Bennett knew the real facts. Bennett, of course, would not
speak, and Lloyd knew that the physician would understand the cruelty
and injustice of her situation, and because of that would also keep
silence. To make sure of this she could write him a letter, or, better
still, see him personally. It would be hard to tell him the truth. But
that was nothing when compared with the world's denunciation of her.

If she had really been false to her charge, if she had actually flinched
and faltered at the crucial moment, had truly been the coward, this
deception which had been thrust upon her at the moment of her return to
the house, this part which it was so easy to play, would have been a
hideous and unspeakable hypocrisy. But Lloyd had not faltered, had not
been false. In her heart of hearts she had been true to herself and to
her trust. How would she deceive her companions then by allowing them to
continue in the belief of her constancy, fidelity, and courage? What she
hid from them, or rather what they could not see, was a state of things
that it was impossible for any one but herself to understand. She could
not--no woman could--bring herself to confess to another woman what had
happened that day at Medford. It would be believed that she could have
stayed at her patient's bedside if she had so desired. No one who did
not know Bennett could understand the terrible, vast force of the man.

Try as she would, Lloyd could not but think first of herself at this
moment. Bennett was ignored, forgotten. Once she had loved him, but that
was all over now. The thought of Ferriss's death, for which in a manner
she had been forced to be responsible, came rushing to her mind from
time to time, and filled her with a horror and, at times, even a
perverse sense of remorse, almost beyond words. But Lloyd's pride, her
self-confidence, her strength of character and independence had been
dearer to her than almost anything in life. So she told herself, and, at
that moment, honestly believed. And though she knew that her pride had
been humbled, it was not gone, and enough of it remained to make her
desire and strive to keep the fact a secret from the world. It seemed
very easy. She would only have to remain passive. Circumstances acted
for her.

Miss Douglass returned, followed by Rownie carrying a tray. When the
mulatto had gone, after arranging Lloyd's supper on a little table near
the couch, the fever nurse drew up a chair.

"Now we can talk," she said, "unless you are too tired. I've been so
interested in this case at Medford. Tell me what was the immediate cause
of death; was it perforation or just gradual collapse?"

"It was neither," said Lloyd quickly. "It was a hemorrhage."

She had uttered the words with as little consciousness as a phonograph,
and the lie had escaped her before she was aware. How did she know what
had been the immediate cause of death? What right had she to speak? Why
was it that all at once a falsehood had come so easy to her, to her
whose whole life until then had been so sincere, so genuine?

"A hemorrhage?" repeated the other. "Had there been many before then?
Was there coma vigil when the end came? I--"

"Oh," cried Lloyd with a quick gesture of impatience, "don't, don't ask
me any more. I am tired--nervous; I am worn out."

"Yes, of course you must be," answered the fever nurse. "We won't talk
any more about it."

That night and the following day were terrible. Lloyd neither ate nor
slept. Not once did she set foot out of her room, giving out that she
was ill, which was not far from the truth, and keeping to herself and to
the companionship of the thoughts and terrors that crowded her mind.
Until that day at Medford her life had run easily and happily and in
well-ordered channels. She was successful in her chosen profession and
work. She imagined herself to be stronger and of finer fibre than most
other women, and her love for Bennett had lent a happiness and a
sweetness to her life dear to her beyond all words. Suddenly, and within
an hour's time, she had lost everything. Her will had been broken, her
spirit crushed; she had been forced to become fearfully instrumental in
causing the death of her patient--a man who loved and trusted her--while
her love for Bennett, which for years had been her deep and abiding joy,
the one great influence of her life, was cold and dead, and could never
be revived.

This in the end came to be Lloyd's greatest grief. She could forget that
she herself had been humbled and broken. Horrible, unspeakably horrible,
as Ferriss's death seemed to her, it was upon Bennett, and not upon her,
that its responsibility must be laid. She had done what she could. Of
that she was assured. But, first and above all things, Lloyd was a
woman, and her love for Bennett was a very different matter.

When, during that never-to-be-forgotten scene in the breakfast-room of
the doctor's house, she had warned Bennett that if he persisted in his
insane resolution he would stamp out her affection for him, Lloyd had
only half believed what she said. But when at last it dawned upon her
that she had spoken wiser than she knew, that this was actually true,
and that now, no matter how she might desire it, she could not love him
any longer, it seemed as though her heart must break. It was precisely
as though Bennett himself, the Bennett she had known, had been blotted
out of existence. It was much worse than if Bennett had merely died.
Even then he would have still existed for her, somewhere. As it was, the
man she had known simply ceased to be, irrevocably, finally, and the
warmth of her love dwindled and grew cold, because now there was nothing
left for it to feed upon.

Never until then had Lloyd realised how much he had been to her; how he
had not only played so large a part in her life, but how he had become a
very part of her life itself. Her love for him had been like the air,
like the sunlight; was delicately knitted and intertwined into all the
innumerable intricacies of her life and character. Literally, not an
hour had ever passed that, directly or indirectly, he had not occupied
her thoughts. He had been her inspiration; he had made her want to be
brave and strong and determined, and it was because of him that the
greater things of the world interested her. She had chosen a work to be
done because he had set her an example. So only that she preserved her
womanliness, she, too, wanted to count, to help on, to have her place in
the world's progress. In reality all her ambitions and hopes had been
looking toward one end only, that she might be his equal; that he might
find in her a companion and a confidante; one who could share his
enthusiasms and understand his vast projects and great aims.

And how had he treated her when at last opportunity had been given her
to play her part, to be courageous and strong, to prevail against great
odds, while he stood by to see? He had ignored and misunderstood, and
tossed aside as childish and absurd that which she had been building up
for years. Instead of appreciating her heroism he had forced her to
become a coward in the eyes of the world. She had hoped to be his equal,
and he had treated her as a school-girl. It had all been a mistake. She
was not and could not be the woman she had hoped. He was not and never
had been the man she had imagined. They had nothing in common.

But it was not easy to give Bennett up, to let him pass out of her life.
She wanted to love him yet. With all her heart and strength, in spite of
everything--woman that she was, she had come to that--in spite of
everything she wanted to love him. Though he had broken her will,
thwarted her ambitions, ignored her cherished hopes, misunderstood and
mistaken her, yet, if she could, Lloyd would yet have loved him, loved
him even for the very fact that he had been stronger than she.

Again and again she tried to awaken this dead affection, to call back
this vanished love. She tried to remember the Bennett she had known; she
told herself that he loved her; that he had said that the great things
he had done had been done only with an eye to her approval; that she had
been his inspiration no less than he had been hers; that he had fought
his way back, not only to life, but to her. She thought of all he had
suffered, of the hardships and privations beyond her imagination to
conceive, that he had undergone. She tried to recall the infinite joy of
that night when the news of his safe return had come to her; she thought
of him at his very best--how he had always seemed to her the type of the
perfect man, masterful, aggressive, accomplishing great projects with an
energy and determination almost superhuman, one of the world's great
men, whose name the world still shouted. She called to mind how the very
ruggedness of his face; with its massive lines and harsh angles, had
attracted her; how she had been proud of his giant's strength, the vast
span of his shoulders, the bull-like depth of his chest, the sense of
enormous physical power suggested by his every movement.

But it was all of no effect. That Bennett was worse than dead to her.
The Bennett that now came to her mind and imagination was the brutal,
perverse man of the breakfast-room at Medford, coarse, insolent,
intractable, stamping out all that was finest in her, breaking and
flinging away the very gifts he had inspired her to offer him. It was
nothing to him that she should stand degraded in the eyes of the world.
He did not want her to be brave and strong. She had been wrong; it was
not that kind of woman he desired. He had not acknowledged that she,
too, as well as he--a woman as well as a man might have her principles,
her standards of honour, her ideas of duty. It was not her character,
then, that he prized; the nobility of her nature was nothing to him; he
took no thought of the fine-wrought texture of her mind. How, then, did
she appeal to him? It was not her mind; it was not her soul. What, then,
was left? Nothing but the physical. The shame of it; the degradation of
it! To be so cruelly mistaken in the man she loved, to be able to appeal
to him only on his lower side! Lloyd clasped her hands over her eyes,
shutting her teeth hard against a cry of grief and pain and impotent
anger. No, no, now it was irrevocable; now her eyes were opened. The
Bennett she had known and loved had been merely a creature of her own
imagining; the real man had suddenly discovered himself; and this man,
in spite of herself, she hated as a victim hates its tyrant.

But her grief for her vanished happiness--the happiness that this love,
however mistaken, had brought into her life--was pitiful. Lloyd could
not think of it without the choke coming to her throat and the tears
brimming her dull-blue eyes, while at times a veritable paroxysm of
sorrow seized upon her and flung her at full length upon her couch, her
face buried and her whole body shaken with stifled sobs. It was gone, it
was gone, and could never be called back. What was there now left to her
to live for? Why continue her profession? Why go on with the work? What
pleasure now in striving and overcoming? Where now was the exhilaration
of battle with the Enemy, even supposing she yet had the strength to
continue the fight? Who was there now to please, to approve, to
encourage? To what end the days of grave responsibilities, the long,
still nights of vigil?

She began to doubt herself. Bennett, the man, had loved his work for its
own sake. But how about herself, the woman? In what spirit had she gone
about her work? Had she been genuine, after all? Had she not undertaken
it rather as a means than as an end--not because she cared for it, but
because she thought he would approve, because she had hoped by means of
the work she would come into closer companionship with him? She wondered
if this must always be so--the man loving the work for the work's sake;
the woman, more complex, weaker, and more dependent, doing the work only
in reference to the man.

But often she distrusted her own conclusions, and, no doubt, rightly so.
Her mind was yet too confused to reason calmly, soberly, and accurately.
Her distress was yet too keen, too poignant to permit her to be logical.
At one time she was almost ready to admit that she had misjudged
Bennett; that, though he had acted cruelly and unjustly, he had done
what he thought was best. His sacrifice of Ferriss was sufficient
guarantee of his sincerity. But this mistrust of herself did not affect
her feeling toward him. There were moments when she condoned his
offence; there was never an instant she did not hate him.

And this sentiment of hatred itself, independent of and apart from its
object, was distasteful and foreign to her. Never in her life had Lloyd
hated any one before. To be kind, to be gentle, to be womanly was her
second nature, and kindness, gentleness, and womanliness were qualities
that her profession only intensified and deepened. This newcomer in her
heart, this fierce, evil visitor, that goaded her and pricked and
harried her from day to day and throughout so many waking nights, that
roused the unwonted flash in her eye and drove the hot, angry blood to
her smooth, white forehead and knotted her levelled brows to a dark and
lowering frown, had entered her life and being, unsought for and
undesired. It did not belong to her world. Yet there it sat on its
usurped throne deformed and hideous, driving out all tenderness and
compunction, ruling her with a rod of iron, hardening her, embittering
her, and belittling her, making a mockery of all sweetness, fleering at
nobility and magnanimity, lowering the queen to the level of the
fishwife.

When the first shock of the catastrophe had spent its strength and Lloyd
perforce must turn again to the life she had to live, groping for its
scattered, tangled ends, piecing together again as best she might its
broken fragments, she set herself honestly to drive this hatred from her
heart. If she could not love Bennett, at least she need not hate him.
She was moved to this by no feeling of concern for Bennett. It was not a
consideration that she owed to him, but something rather that was due to
herself. Yet, try as she would, the hatred still remained. She could not
put it from her. Hurt her and contaminate her as it did, in spite of all
her best efforts, in spite of her very prayers, the evil thing abode
with her, deep-rooted, strong, malignant. She saw that in the end she
would continue in her profession, but she believed that she could not go
on with it consistently, based as it was upon sympathy and love and
kindness, while a firm-seated, active hatred dwelt with her, harassing
her at every moment, and perverting each good impulse and each unselfish
desire. It was an ally of the very Enemy she would be called upon to
fight, a traitor that at any moment might open the gates to his
triumphant entry.

But was this his only ally; was this the only false and ugly invader
that had taken advantage of her shattered defence? Had the unwelcome
visitor entered her heart alone? Was there not a companion still more
wicked, more perverted, more insidious, more dangerous? For the first
time Lloyd knew what it meant to deceive.

It was supposed by her companions, and accepted by them as a matter of
course, that she had not left the bedside of her patient until after his
death. At first she had joyfully welcomed this mistake as her salvation,
the one happy coincidence that was to make her life possible, and for a
time had ceased to think about it. That phase of the incident was
closed. Matters would readjust themselves. In a few days' time the
incident would be forgotten. But she found that she herself could not
forget it, and that as days went on the idea of this passive, silent
deception she was obliged to maintain occurred to her oftener and
oftener. She remembered again how glibly and easily she had lied to her
friend upon the evening of her return. How was it that the lie had
flowed so smoothly from her lips? To her knowledge she had never
deliberately lied before. She would have supposed that, because of this
fact, falsehood would come difficult to her, that she would have
bungled, hesitated, stammered. But it was the reverse that had been the
case. The facility with which she had uttered the lie was what now began
to disturb and to alarm her. It argued some sudden collapse of her whole
system of morals, some fundamental disarrangement of the entire machine.

Abruptly she recoiled. Whither was she tending? If she supinely resigned
herself to the current of circumstance, where would she be carried? Yet
how was she to free herself from the current, how to face this new
situation that suddenly presented itself at a time when she had fancied
the real shock of battle and contention was spent and past?

How was she to go back now? How could she retrace her steps? There was
but one way--correct the false impression. It would not be necessary to
acknowledge that she had been forced to leave her post; the essential
was that her companions should know that she had deceived them--that she
had left the bedside before her patient's death. But at the thought of
making such confession, public as it must be, everything that was left
of her wounded pride revolted. She who had been so firm, she who had
held so tenaciously to her principles, she who had posed before them as
an example of devotion and courage--she could not bring herself to that.

"No, no," she exclaimed as this alternative presented itself to her
mind. "No, I cannot. It is beyond me. I simply cannot do it."

But she could. Yes, she could do it if she would. Deep down in her mind
that little thought arose. She could if she wanted to. Hide it though
she might, cover it and bury it with what false reasoning she could
invent, the little thought would not be smothered, would not be crushed
out. Well, then, she would not. Was it not her chance; was not this
deception which others and not herself had created, her opportunity to
recover herself, to live down what had been done--what she had been
forced to do, rather? Absolute right was never to be attained; was not
life to be considered rather in the light of a compromise between good
and evil? To do what one could under the circumstances, was not that the
golden mean?

But she ought. And, quick, another little thought sprang up in the
deeper recesses of her mind and took its place beside the other. It was
right that she should be true. She ought to do the right. Argument, the
pleas of weakness, the demands of expediency, the plausibility of
compromise were all of no avail. The idea "I ought" persisted and
persisted and persisted. She could and she ought. There was no excuse
for her, and no sooner had she thrust aside the shifty mass of
sophistries under which she had striven to conceal them, no sooner had
she let in the light, than these two conceptions of Duty and Will began
suddenly to grow.

But what was she to gain? What would be the result of such a course as
her conscience demanded she should adopt? It was inevitable that she
would be misunderstood, cruelly misjudged. What action would her
confession entail? She could not say. But results did not matter; what
she was to gain or lose did not matter. Around her and before her all
was dark and vague and terrible. If she was to escape there was but one
thing to do. Suddenly her own words came back to her:

"All we can do is to hold to what we know is right, and trust that
everything will come well in the end."

She knew what was right, and she had the strength to hold to it. Then
all at once there came to Lloyd a grand, breathless sense of uplifting,
almost a transfiguration. She felt herself carried high above the sphere
of little things, the region of petty considerations What did she care
for consequences, what mattered to her the unjust condemnation of her
world, if only she remained true to herself, if only she did right? What
did she care for what she gained? It was no longer a question of gain or
loss--it was a question of being true and strong and brave. The conflict
of that day at Medford between the man's power and the woman's
resistance had been cruel, the crisis had been intense, and though she
had been conquered then, had it, after all, been beyond recall? No, she
was not conquered. No, she was not subdued. Her will had not been
broken, her courage had not been daunted, her strength had not been
weakened. Here was the greater fight, here was the higher test. Here was
the ultimate, supreme crisis of all, and here, at last, come what might,
she would not, would not, would not fail.

As soon as Lloyd reached this conclusion she sat about carrying her
resolution into effect.

"If I don't do it now while I'm strong," she told herself, "if I wait, I
never will do it."

Perhaps there was yet a touch of the hysterical in her actions even
then. The jangled feminine nerves were yet vibrating far above their
normal pitch; she was overwrought and oversensitive, for just as a
fanatic rushes eagerly upon the fire and the steel, preferring the more
exquisite torture, so Lloyd sought out the more painful situation, the
more trying ordeal, the line of action that called for the greatest
fortitude, the most unflinching courage.

She chose to make known her real position, to correct the false
impression at a time when all the nurses of the house should be
together. This would be at supper-time. Since her return from Medford,
Lloyd had shut herself away from the other inmates of the house, and had
taken her meals in her room. With the exception of Miss Douglass and the
superintendent nurse no one had seen her. She had passed her time lying
at full length upon her couch, her hands clasped behind her head, or
pacing the floor, or gazing listlessly out of her windows, while her
thoughts raced at a gallop through her mind.

Now, however, she bestirred herself. She had arrived at her final
decision early in the afternoon of the third day after her return, and
at once she resolved that she would endure the ordeal that very evening.

She passed the intervening time, singularly enough, in very carefully
setting her room to rights, adjusting and readjusting the few ornaments
on the mantel-shelf and walls, winding the clock that struck ship's
bells instead of the hours, and minutely sorting the letters and papers
in her desk. It was the same as if she were going upon a long journey or
were preparing for a great sickness. Toward four o'clock Miss Douglass,
looking in to ask how she did, found her before her mirror carefully
combing and arranging her great bands and braids of dark-red hair. The
fever nurse declared that she was immensely improved in appearance, and
asked at once if she was not feeling better.

"Yes," answered Lloyd, "very much better," adding: "I shall be down to
supper to-night."

For some reason that she could not explain Lloyd took unusual pains with
her toilet, debating long over each detail of dress and ornament. At
length, toward five o'clock, she was ready, and sat down by her window,
a book in her lap, to await the announcement of supper as the condemned
await the summons to execution.

Her plan was to delay her appearance in the dining-room until she was
sure that everybody was present; then she would go down, and, standing
there before them all, say what she had to say, state the few bald facts
of the case, without excuse or palliation, and leave them to draw the
one inevitable conclusion.

But this final hour of waiting was a long agony for Lloyd. Her moods
changed with every moment; the action she contemplated presented itself
to her mind in a multitude of varying lights. At one time she quivered
with the apprehension of it, as though at the slow approach of hot
irons. At another she could see no reason for being greatly concerned
over the matter. Did the whole affair amount to so much, after all? Her
companions would, of their own accord, make excuses for her. Risking
one's life in the case of a virulent, contagious disease was no small
matter. No one could be blamed for leaving such a case. At one moment
Lloyd's idea of public confession seemed to her little less than
sublime; at another, almost ridiculous. But she remembered the case of
Harriet Freeze, who had been unable to resist the quiet, unexpressed
force of opinion of her fellow-workers. It would be strange if Lloyd
should find herself driven from the very house she had built.

The hour before supper-time seemed interminable; the quarter passed,
then the half, then the three-quarters. Lloyd imagined she began to
detect a faint odour of the kitchen in the air. Suddenly the remaining
minutes of the hour began to be stricken from the dial of her clock with
bewildering rapidity. From the drawing-room immediately below came the
sounds of the piano. That was Esther Thielman, no doubt, playing one of
her interminable Polish compositions. All at once the piano stopped,
and, with a quick sinking of the heart, Lloyd heard the sliding doors
separating the drawing-room from the dining-room roll back. Miss
Douglass and another one of the nurses, Miss Truslow, a young girl, a
newcomer in the house, came out of the former's room and went
downstairs, discussing the merits of burlap as preferable to wall-paper.
Lloyd even heard Miss Truslow remark:

"Yes, that's very true, but if it isn't sized it will wrinkle in damp
weather."

Rownie came to Lloyd's door and knocked, and, without waiting for a
reply, said:

"Dinneh's served, Miss Searight," and Lloyd heard her make the same
announcement at Miss Bergyn's room farther down the hall. One by one
Lloyd heard the others go downstairs. The rooms and hallways on the
second floor fell quiet. A faint, subdued murmur of talk came to her
ears in the direction of the dining-room. Lloyd waited for five, for
ten, for fifteen minutes. Then she rose, drawing in her breath,
straightening herself to her full height. She went to the door, then
paused for a moment, looking back at all the familiar objects--the
plain, rich furniture, the book-shelves, the great, comfortable couch,
the old-fashioned round mirror that hung between the windows, and her
writing-desk of blackened mahogany. It seemed to her that in some way
she was never to see these things again, as if she were saying good-bye
to them and to the life she had led in that room and in their
surroundings. She would be a different woman when she came back to that
room. Slowly she descended the stairs and halted for a moment in the
hall below. It was not too late to turn back even now. She could hear
her companions at their supper very plainly, and could distinguish
Esther Thielman's laugh as she exclaimed:

"Why, of course, that's the very thing I mean."

It was a strange surprise that Lloyd had in store for them all. Her
heart began to beat heavy and thick. Could she even find her voice to
speak when the time came? Would it not be better to put it off, to think
over the whole matter again between now and to-morrow morning? But she
moved her head impatiently. No, she would not turn back. She found that
the sliding doors in the drawing-room had been closed, and so went to
the door that opened into the dining-room from the hall itself. It stood
ajar. Lloyd pushed it open, entered, and, closing the door behind her,
stood there leaning against it.

The table was almost full; only two or three places besides her own were
unoccupied. There was Miss Bergyn at the head; the fever nurse, Miss
Douglass, at her right, and, lower down, Lloyd saw Esther Thielman;
Delia Craig, just back from a surgical case of Dr. Street's; Miss Page,
the oldest and most experienced nurse of them all; Gilbertson, whom
every one called by her last name; Miss Ives and Eleanor Bogart, who had
both taken doctors' degrees, and could have practised if they had
desired; Miss Wentworth, who had served an apprenticeship in a
missionary hospital in Armenia, and had known Clara Barton, and, last of
all, the newcomer, Miss Truslow, very young and very pretty, who had
never yet had a case, and upon whose diploma the ink was hardly dry.

At first, so quietly had she entered, no one took any notice of Lloyd,
and she stood a moment, her back to the door, wondering how she should
begin. Everybody seemed to be in the best of humour; a babel of talk was
in the air; conversations were going forward, carried on across the
table, or over intervening shoulders.

"Why, of course, don't you see, that's the very thing I meant--"

"--I think you can get that already sized, though, and with a stencil
figure if you want it--"

"--Really, it's very interesting; the first part is stupid, but she has
some very good ideas."

"--Yes, at Vanoni's. But we get a reduction, you know--"

"--and, oh, listen; this is too funny; she turned around and said, very
prim and stiff, 'No, indeed; I'm too old a woman.' Funny! If I think of
that on my deathbed I shall laugh--"

"--and so that settled it. How could I go on after that--?"

"--Must you tack it on? The walls are so hard--"

"Let Rownie do it; she knows. Oh, here's the invalid!"

"Oh, why, it's Lloyd! We're so glad you're able to come down!"

But when they had done exclaiming over her reappearance among them Lloyd
still remained as she was, her back against the door, standing very
straight, her hands at her side. She did not immediately reply. Heads
were turned in her direction. The talk fell away by rapid degrees as
they began to notice the paleness of her face and the strange, firm set
of her mouth.

"Sit down, Lloyd," said Miss Bergyn; "don't stand. You are not very well
yet; I'll have Rownie bring you a glass of sherry."

There was a silence. Then at length:

"No," said Lloyd quietly. "I don't want any sherry. I don't want any
supper. I came down to tell you that you are all wrong in thinking I did
what I could with my typhoid case at Medford. You think I left only
after the patient had died. I did not; I left before. There was a crisis
of some kind. I don't know what it was, because I was not in the
sick-room at the time, and I did not go when I was called. The doctor
was not there either; he had gone out and left the case in my charge.
There was nobody with the patient but a servant. The servant called me,
but I did not go. Instead I came away and left the house. The patient
died that same day. It is that that I wanted to tell you. Do you all
understand--perfectly? I left my patient at the moment of a crisis, and
with no one with him but a servant. And he died that same afternoon."

Then she went out, and the closing of the door jarred sharply upon the
great silence that had spread throughout the room.

Lloyd went back to her room, closed and locked the door, and, sinking
down upon the floor by the couch, bowed her head upon her folded arms.
But she was in no mood for weeping, and her eyes were dry. She was
conscious chiefly that she had taken an irrevocable step, that her head
had begun to ache. There was no exhilaration in her mind now; she did
not feel any of the satisfaction of attainment after struggle, of
triumph after victory. More than once she even questioned herself if,
after all, her confession had been necessary. But now she was weary unto
death of the whole wretched business. Now she only knew that her head
was aching fiercely; she did not care either to look into the past or
forward into the future. The present occupied her; for the present her
head was aching.

But before Lloyd went to bed that night Miss Bergyn knew the whole truth
as to what had happened at Dr. Pitts's house. The superintendent nurse
had followed Lloyd to her room almost immediately, and would not be
denied. She knew very well that Lloyd Searight had never left a dying
patient of her own volition. Intuitively she guessed at something
hidden.

"Lloyd," she said decisively, "don't ask me to believe that you went of
your own free will. Tell me just what happened. Why did you go? Ask me
to believe anything but that you--no, I won't say the word. There was
some very good reason, wasn't there?"

"I--I cannot explain," Lloyd answered. "You must think what you choose.
You wouldn't understand."

But, happily, when Lloyd's reticence finally broke Miss Bergyn did
understand. The superintendent nurse knew Bennett only by report. But
Lloyd she had known for years, and realised that if she had yielded, it
had only been after the last hope had been tried. In the end Lloyd told
her everything that had occurred. But, though she even admitted
Bennett's affection for her, she said nothing about herself, and Miss
Bergyn did not ask.

"I know, of course," said the superintendent nurse at length, "you hate
to think that you were made to go; but men are stronger than women,
Lloyd, and such a man as that must be stronger than most men. You were
not to blame because you left the case, and you are certainly not to
blame for Mr. Ferriss's death. Now I shall give it out here in the house
that you had a very good reason for leaving your case, and that while we
can't explain it any more particularly, I have had a talk with you and
know all about it, and am perfectly satisfied. Then I shall go out to
Medford and see Dr. Pitts. It would be best," she added, for Lloyd had
made a gesture of feeble dissent. "He must understand perfectly, and we
need not be afraid of any talk about the matter at all. What has
happened has happened 'in the profession,' and I don't believe it will
go any further."

       *       *       *       *       *

Lloyd returned to Bannister toward the end of the week. How long she
would remain she did not know, but for the present the association of
the other nurses was more than she was able to bear. Later, when the
affair had become something of an old story, she would return, resuming
her work as though nothing had happened.

Hattie met her at the railway station with the phaeton and the ponies.
She was radiant with delight at the prospect of having Lloyd all to
herself for an indefinite period of time.

"And you didn't get sick, after all?" she exclaimed, clasping her hands.
"Was your patient as sick as I was? Weren't his parents glad that you
made him well again?"

Lloyd put her hand over the little girl's mouth.

"Let us not talk any 'shop,' Hattie," she said, trying to smile.

But on the morning after her arrival Lloyd woke in her own white room of
the old farmhouse, abruptly conscious of some subtle change that had
occurred to her overnight. For the first time since the scene in the
breakfast-room at Medford she was aware of a certain calmness that had
come to her. Perhaps she had at last begun to feel the good effects of
the trial by fire which she had voluntarily undergone--to know a certain
happiness that now there was no longer any deceit in her heart. This she
had uprooted and driven out by force of her own will. It was gone. But
now, on this morning, she seemed to feel that this was not all.

Something else had left her--something that of late had harassed her and
goaded her and embittered her life, and mocked at her gentleness and
kindness, was gone. That fierce, truculent hatred that she had so
striven to put from her, now behold! of its own accord, it had seemed to
leave her. How had it happened? Before she had dared the ordeal of
confession this feeling of hatred, this perverse and ugly changeling
that had brooded in her heart, had seemed too strong, too deeply seated
to be moved. Now, suddenly, it had departed, unbidden, without effort on
her part.

Vaguely Lloyd wondered at this thing. In driving deceit from her it
would appear that she had also driven out hatred, that the one could not
stay so soon as the other had departed. Could the one exist apart from
the other? Was there, then, some strange affinity in all evil, as,
perhaps, in all good, so that a victory over one bad impulse meant a
victory over many? Without thought of gain or of reward, she had held to
what was right through the confusion and storm and darkness. Was this to
be, after all, her reward, her gain? Possibly; but she could not tell,
she could not see. The confusion was subsiding, the storm had passed,
but much of the darkness yet remained. Deceit she had fought from out
her heart; silently Hatred had stolen after it. Love had not returned to
his old place, and never, never would, but the changeling was gone, and
the house was swept and garnished.



VIII.


The day after the funeral, Bennett returned alone to Dr. Pitts's house
at Medford, and the same evening his trunks and baggage, containing his
papers--the records, observations, journals, and log-books of the
expedition--followed him.

As Bennett entered the gate of the place that he had chosen to be his
home for the next year, he was aware that the windows of one of the
front rooms upon the second floor were wide open, the curtains tied up
into loose knots; inside a servant came and went, putting the room to
rights again, airing it and changing the furniture. In the road before
the house he had seen the marks of the wheels of the undertaker's wagon
where it had been backed up to the horse-block. As he closed the front
door behind him and stood for a moment in the hallway, his valise in his
hand, he saw, hanging upon one of the pegs of the hat-rack, the hat
Ferriss had last worn. Bennett put down his valise quickly, and,
steadying himself against the wall, leaned heavily against it, drawing a
deep breath, his eyes closing.

The house was empty and, but for the occasional subdued noises that came
from the front room at the end of the hall, silent. Bennett picked up
his valise again and went upstairs to the rooms that had been set apart
for him. He did not hang his hat upon the hat-rack, but carried it with
him.

The housekeeper, who met him at the head of the stairs and showed him
the way to his apartments, inquired of him as to the hours he wished to
have his meals served. Bennett told her, and then added:

"I will have all my meals in the breakfast-room, the one you call the
glass-room, I believe. And as soon as the front room is ready I shall
sleep there. That will be my room after this."

The housekeeper stared. "It won't be quite safe, sir, for some time. The
doctor gave very strict orders about ventilating it and changing the
furniture."

Bennett merely nodded as if to say he understood, and the housekeeper
soon after left him to himself. The afternoon passed, then the evening.
Such supper as Bennett could eat was served according to his orders in
the breakfast-room. Afterward he called Kamiska, and went for a long
walk over the country roads in a direction away from the town,
proceeding slowly, his hands clasped behind his back. Later, toward ten
o'clock, he returned. He went upstairs toward his room with the
half-formed idea of looking over and arranging his papers before going
to bed. Sleep he could not; he foresaw that clearly.

But Bennett was not yet familiar with the arrangement of the house. His
mind was busy with other things; he was thoughtful, abstracted, and upon
reaching the stair landing on the second floor, turned toward the front
of the house when he should have turned toward the rear. He entered what
he supposed to be his room, lit the gas, then stared about him in some
perplexity.

The room he was in was almost bare of furniture. Even part of the carpet
had been taken up. The windows were wide open; a stale odour of drugs
pervaded the air, while upon the bed nothing remained but the mattress
and bolster. For a moment Bennett looked about him bewildered, then he
started sharply. This was--had been--the sick-room. Here, upon that bed,
Ferriss had died; here had been enacted one scene in the terrible drama
wherein he, Bennett, had played so conspicuous a part.

As Bennett stood there looking about him, one hand upon the foot-board of
the bed, a strange, formless oppression of the spirit weighed heavily
upon him. He seemed to see upon that naked bed the wasted,
fever-stricken body of the dearest friend he had ever known. It was as
though Ferriss were lying in state there, with black draperies hung
about the bier and candles burning at the head and foot. Death had been
in that room. Empty though it was, a certain religious solemnity, almost
a certain awe, seemed to bear down upon the senses. Before he knew it
Bennett found himself kneeling at the denuded bed, his face buried, his
arms flung wide across the place where Ferriss had last reposed.

He could not say how long he remained thus--perhaps ten minutes, perhaps
an hour. He seemed to come to himself once more when he stepped out into
the hall again, closing and locking the door of the death-room behind
him. But now all thought of work had left him. In the morning he would
arrange his papers. It was out of the question to think of sleep. He
descended once more to the lower floor of the silent house, and stepped
out again into the open air.

On the veranda, close beside him, was a deep-seated wicker arm-chair.
Bennett sank down into it, drawing his hands wearily across his
forehead. The stillness of a summer night had settled broadly over the
vast, dim landscape. There was no moon; all the stars were out. Very far
off a whippoorwill was calling incessantly. Once or twice from the
little orchard close at hand an apple dropped with a faint rustle of
leaves and a muffled, velvety impact upon the turf. Kamiska, wide awake,
sat motionless upon her haunches on the steps, looking off into the
night, cocking an ear to every faintest sound.

Well, Ferriss was dead, and he, Bennett, was responsible. His friend,
the man whom most he loved, was dead. The splendid fight he had made for
his life during that ferocious struggle with the Ice had been all of no
effect. Without a murmur, without one complaint he had borne starvation,
the bitter arctic cold, privation beyond words, the torture of the frost
that had gnawed away his hands, the blinding fury of the snow and wind,
the unceasing and incredible toil with sledge and pack--all the terrible
hardship of an unsuccessful attempt to reach the Pole, only to die
miserably in his bed, alone, abandoned by the man and woman whom, of all
people of the world, he had most loved and trusted. And he, Bennett, had
been to blame.

Was Ferriss conscious during that last moment? Did he know; would he,
sometime, somewhere, know? It could not be said. Forever that must
remain a mystery. And, after all, had Bennett done right in keeping
Lloyd from the sick-room? Now that all was over, now that the whole
fearful tragedy could be judged somewhat calmly and in the light of
reason, the little stealthy doubt began to insinuate itself.

At first he had turned from it, raging and furious, stamping upon it as
upon an intruding reptile. The rough-hewn, simple-natured man, with his
arrogant and vast self-confidence, his blind, unshaken belief in the
wisdom of his own decisions, had never in his life before been willing
to admit that he could be mistaken, that it was possible for him to
resolve upon a false line of action. He had always been right. But now a
change had come. A woman had entangled herself in the workings of his
world, the world that hitherto had been only a world of men for him--and
now he faltered, now he questioned himself, now he scrutinised his
motives, now the simple became complicated, the straight crooked, right
mingled with wrong, bitter with sweet, falseness with truth.

He who had faith in himself to remove mountains, he who could drive his
fellow-men as a herder drives his sheep, he who had forced the vast grip
of the Ice, had, with a battering ram's force, crushed his way through
those terrible walls, shattered and breached and broken down the
barriers, now in this situation involving a woman--had he failed? Had he
weakened? And bigger, stronger, and more persistently doubt intruded
itself into his mind.

Hitherto Bennett's only salvation from absolute despair had been the
firm consciousness of his own rectitude. In that lay his only comfort,
his only hope, his one, strong-built fabric of defence. If that was
undermined, if that was eaten away, what was there left for him?
Carefully, painfully, and with such minuteness as he could command, he
went over the whole affair from beginning to end, forcing his unwilling
mind--so unaccustomed to such work--to weigh each chance, to gauge each
opportunity. If _this_ were so, if _that_ had been done, then would
_such_ results have followed? Suppose he had not interfered, suppose he
had stood aside, would Lloyd have run such danger, after all, and would
Ferriss at this time have been alive, and perhaps recovering? Had he,
Bennett, been absolutely mad; had he been blind and deaf to reason; had
he acted the part of a brute--a purblind, stupid, and unutterably
selfish brute--thinking chiefly of himself, after all, crushing the
woman who was so dear to him, sacrificing the life of the man he loved,
blundering in there, besotted and ignorant, acting the bully's part,
unnecessarily frightened, cowardly where he imagined himself brave;
weak, contemptibly weak, where he imagined himself strong? Might it not
have been avoided if he had been even merely reasonable, as, in like
case, an ordinary man would have been? He, who prided himself upon the
promptness and soundness of his judgment in great crises, had lost his
head and all power of self-control in this greatest crisis of all.

The doubt came back to him again and again. Trample it, stifle it, dash
it from him as he would, each time it returned a little stronger, a
little larger, a little more insistent. Perhaps, after all, he had made
a mistake; perhaps, after all, Lloyd ran no great danger; perhaps, after
all, Ferriss might now have been alive. All at once Bennett seemed to be
sure of this.

Then it became terrible. Alone there, in the darkness and in the night,
Bennett went down into the pit. Abruptly he seemed to come to
himself--to realise what he had done, as if rousing from a nightmare.
Remorse, horror, self-reproach, the anguish of bereavement, the infinite
regret of things that never were to be again, the bitterness of a
vanished love, self-contempt too abject for expression, the
heart-breaking grief of the dreadful might-have-been, one by one, he
knew them all. One by one, like the slow accumulation of gigantic
burdens, the consequences of his folly descended upon him, heavier, more
intolerably, more inexorably fixed with every succeeding moment, while
the light of truth and reason searched every corner of his mind, and his
doubt grew and hardened into certainty.

If only Bennett could have believed that, in spite of what had happened,
Lloyd yet loved him, he could have found some ray of light in the
darkness wherein he groped, some saving strength to bear the weight of
his remorse and sorrow. But now, just in proportion as he saw clearer
and truer he saw that he must look for no help in that direction. Being
what Lloyd was, it was impossible for her, even though she wished it, to
love him now--love the man who had broken her! The thought was
preposterous. He remembered clearly that she had warned him of just
this. No, that, too, the one sweetness of his rugged life, he must put
from him as well--had already, and of his own accord, put from him.

How go on? Of what use now was ambition, endeavour, and the striving to
attain great ends? The thread of his life was snapped; his friend was
dead, and the love of the one woman of his world. For both he was to
blame. Of what avail was it now to continue his work?

Ferriss was dead. Who now would stand at his side when the darkness
thickened on ahead and obstacles drew across the path and Death overhead
hung poised and menacing?

Lloyd's love for him was dead. Who now to bid him godspeed as his
vessel's prow swung northward and the water whitened in her wake? Who
now to wait behind when the great fight was dared again, to wait behind
and watch for his home-coming; and when the mighty hope had been
achieved, the goal of all the centuries attained, who now to send that
first and dearest welcome out to him when the returning ship showed over
the horizon's rim, flagged from her decks to her crosstrees in all the
royal blazonry of an immortal triumph?

Now, that triumph was never to be for him. Ambition, too, was dead; some
other was to win where now he could but lose, to gain where now he could
but fail; some other stronger than he, more resolute, more determined.
At last Bennett had come to this, he who once had been so imperial in
the consciousness of his power, so arrogant, so uncompromising. Beaten,
beaten at last; defeated, daunted, driven from his highest hopes,
abandoning his dearest ambitions. And how, and why? Not by the Enemy he
had so often faced and dared, not by any power external to himself; but
by his very self's self, crushed by the engine he himself had set in
motion, shattered by the recoil of the very force that for so long had
dwelt within himself. Nothing in all the world could have broken him but
that. Danger, however great, could not have cowed him; circumstances,
however hopeless, could not have made him despair; obstacles, however
vast, could not have turned him back. Himself was the only Enemy that
could have conquered; his own power the only one to which he would have
yielded. And fate had so ordered it that this one Enemy of all others,
this one power of all others, had turned upon and rent him. The mystery
of it! The terror of it! Why had he never known? How was it he had never
guessed? What was this ruthless monster, this other self, that for so
long had slept within his flesh, strong with his better strength,
feeding and growing big with that he fancied was the best in him, that
tricked him with his noblest emotion--the love of a good woman--lured
him to a moment of weakness, then suddenly, and without warning, leaped
at his throat and struck him to the ground?

He had committed one of those offences which the law does not reach, but
whose punishment is greater than any law can inflict. Retribution had
been fearfully swift. His career, Ferriss, and Lloyd--ambition,
friendship, and the love of a woman--had been a trinity of dominant
impulses in his life. Abruptly, almost in a single instant, he had lost
them all, had thrown them away. He could never get them back. Bennett
started sharply. What was this on his cheek; what was this that suddenly
dimmed his eyes? Had it actually come to this? And this was
he--Bennett--the same man who had commanded the Freja expedition. No, it
was not the same man. That man was dead. He ground his teeth, shaken
with the violence of emotions that seemed to be tearing his heart to
pieces. Lost, lost to him forever! Bennett bowed his head upon his
folded arms. Through his clenched teeth his words seemed almost wrenched
from him, each word an agony.

"Dick--Dick, old man, you're gone, gone from me, and it was I who did
it; and Lloyd, she too--she--God help me!"

Then the tension snapped. The great, massive frame shook with grief from
head to heel, and the harsh, angular face, with its salient jaw and
hard, uncouth lines, was wet with the first tears he had ever known.

He was roused at length by a sudden movement on the part of the dog.
Kamiska had risen to her feet with a low growl, then, as the gate-latch
clinked, she threw up her head and gave tongue to the night with all the
force of her lungs. Bennett straightened up, thanking fortune that the
night was dark, and looked about him. A figure was coming up the front
walk, the gravel crunching under foot. It was the figure of a man. At
the foot of the steps of the veranda he paused, and as Bennett made a
movement turned in his direction and said:

"Is this Dr. Pitts's house?"

Bennett's reply was drowned in the clamour of the dog, but the other
seemed to understand, for he answered:

"I'm looking for Mr. Ferriss--Richard Ferriss, of the Freja; they told
me he was brought here."

Kamiska stopped her barking, sniffed once or twice at the man's trouser
legs; then, in brusque frenzy of delight, leaped against him, licking
his hands, dancing about him on two legs, whining and yelping.

Bennett came forward, and the man changed his position so that the light
from the half-open front door shone upon his face.

"Why, Adler!" exclaimed Bennett; "well, where did you come from?"

"Mr. Bennett!" almost shouted the other, snatching off his cap. "It
ain't really you, sir!" His face beamed and radiated a joy little short
of beatitude. The man was actually trembling with happiness. Words
failed him, and as with a certain clumsy tenderness he clasped Bennett's
hand in both his own his old-time chief saw the tears in his eyes.

"Oh! Maybe I ain't glad to see you, sir--I thought you had gone away--I
didn't know where--I--I didn't know as I was ever going to see you
again."

Kamiska herself had been no less tremulously glad to see Adler than was
Adler to see Bennett. He stammered, he confused himself, he shifted his
weight from one foot to the other, his eyes danced, he laughed and
choked, he dropped his cap. His joy was that of a child, unrestrained,
unaffected, as genuine as gold. When they turned back to the veranda he
eagerly drew up Bennett's chair for him, his eyes never leaving his
face. It was the quivering, inarticulate affection of a dog for its
master, faithful, submissive, unquestioning, happy for hours over a
chance look, a kind word, a touch of the hand. To Adler's mind it would
have been a privilege and an honour to have died for Bennett. Why, he
was his chief, his king, his god, his master, who could do no wrong.
Bennett could have slain him where he stood and Adler would still have
trusted him.

Adler would not sit down until Bennett had twice ordered him to do so,
and then he deposited himself in a nearby chair, in as uncomfortable a
position as he could devise, allowing only the smallest fraction of his
body to be supported as a mark of deference. He remained uncovered, and
from time to time nervously saluted. But suddenly he remembered the
object of his visit.

"Oh, but I forgot--seeing you like this, unexpected, sir, clean drove
Mr. Ferriss out of my mind. How is he getting on? I saw in the papers he
was main sick."

"He's dead," said Bennett quietly.

Adler was for the moment stricken speechless. His jaw dropped; he
stared, and caught his breath.

"Mr. Ferriss dead!" he exclaimed at length. "I--I can't believe it." He
crossed himself rapidly. Bennett made no reply, and for upward of five
minutes the two men sat motionless in the chairs, looking off into the
night. After a while Adler broke silence and asked a few questions as to
Ferriss's sickness and the nature and time of his death--questions which
Bennett answered as best he might. But it was evident that Bennett,
alive and present there in the flesh, was more to Adler than Ferriss
dead.

"But _you're_ all right, sir, ain't you?" he asked at length. "There
ain't anything the matter with you?"

"No," said Bennett; looking at him steadily; then suddenly he added:

"Adler, I was to blame for Mr. Ferriss's death. If it hadn't been for me
he would probably have been alive to-night. It was my fault. I did what
I thought was right, when I knew all the time, just as I know now, that
I was wrong. So, when any one asks you about Mr. Ferriss's death you are
to tell him just what you know about it--understand? Through a mistake I
was responsible for his death. I shall not tell you more than that, but
that much you ought to know."

Adler looked at Bennett curiously and with infinite amazement. The order
of his universe was breaking up about his ears. Bennett, the
inscrutable, who performed his wonders in a mystery, impenetrable to
common eyes, who moved with his head in the clouds, behold! he was
rendering account to him, Adler, the meanest of his subjects--the king
was condescending to the vassal, was admitting him to his confidence.
And what was this thing he was saying, that he was responsible for
Ferriss's death? Adler did not understand; his wits could not adjust
themselves to such information. Ferriss was dead, but how was Bennett to
blame? The king could do no wrong. Adler did not understand. No doubt
Bennett was referring to something that had happened during the retreat
over the ice--something that had to be done, and that in the end, and
after all this lapse of time, had brought about Mr. Ferriss's death. In
any case Bennett had done what was right. For that matter he had been
responsible for McPherson's death; but what else had there been to do?

Bennett had spoken as he did after a moment's rapid thinking. To Adler's
questions as to the manner of the chief engineer's death Bennett had at
first given evasive replies. But a sudden sense of shame at being
compelled to dissemble before a subordinate had lashed him across the
face. True, he had made a mistake--a fearful, unspeakable mistake--but
at least let him be man enough to face and to accept its consequences.
It might not be necessary or even expedient to make acknowledgment of
his folly in all quarters, but at that moment it seemed to him that his
men--at least one of them--who had been under the command of himself and
his friend, had a right to be told the truth. It had been only one
degree less distasteful to undeceive Adler than it had been to deceive
him in the first place. Bennett was not the general to explain his
actions to his men. But he had not hesitated a moment.

However, Adler was full of another subject, and soon broke out with:

"You know, sir, there's another expedition forming; I suppose you have
heard--an English one. They call it the Duane-Parsons expedition. They
are going to try the old route by Smith Sound. They are going to winter
at Tasiusak, and try to get through the sound as soon as the ice breaks
up in the spring. But Duane's ideas are all wrong. He'll make no very
high northing, not above eighty-five. I'll bet a hat. When we go up
again, sir, will you--will you let me--will you take me along? Did I
give satisfaction this last--"

"I'm never going up again, Adler," answered Bennett.

"Sho!" said Adler a little blankly. "I thought sure--I never thought
that you--why, there ain't no one else but you _can_ do it, captain."

"Oh, yes, there is," said Bennett listlessly. "Duane can--if he has
luck. I know him. He's a good man. No, I'm out of it, Adler; I had my
chance. It is somebody else's turn now. Do you want to go with Duane? I
can give you letters to him. He'd be glad to have you, I know."

Adler started from his place.

"Why, do you think--" he exclaimed vehemently--"do you think I'd go with
anybody else but you, sir? Oh, you will be going some of these days, I'm
sure of it. We--we'll have another try at it, sir, before we die. We
ain't beaten yet."

"Yes, we are, Adler," returned Bennett, smiling calmly; "we'll stay at
home now and write our book. But we'll let some one else reach the Pole.
That's not for us--never will be, Adler."

At the end of their talk some half-hour later Adler stood up, remarking:

"Guess I'd better be standing by if I'm to get the last train back to
the City to-night. They told me at the station that she'd clear about
midnight." Suddenly he began to show signs of uneasiness, turning his
cap about between his fingers, changing his weight from foot to foot.
Then at length:

"You wouldn't be wanting a man about the place, would you, sir?" And
before Bennett could reply he continued eagerly, "I've been a bit of
most trades in my time, and I know how to take care of a garden like as
you have here; I'm a main good hand with plants and flower things, and I
could help around generally." Then, earnestly, "Let me stay, sir--it
won't cost--I wouldn't think of taking a cent from you, captain. Just
let me act as your orderly for a spell, sir. I'd sure give satisfaction;
will you, sir--will you?"

"Nonsense, Adler," returned Bennett; "stay, if you like. I presume I can
find use for you. But you must be paid, of course."

"Not a soomarkee," protested the other almost indignantly.

The next day Adler brought his chest down from the City and took up his
quarters with Bennett at Medford. Though Dr. Pitts had long since ceased
to keep horses, the stable still adjoined the house, and Adler swung his
hammock in the coachman's old room. Bennett could not induce him to room
in the house itself. Adler prided himself that he knew his place. After
their first evening's conversation he never spoke to Bennett until
spoken to first, and the resumed relationship of commander and
subordinate was inexpressibly dear to him. It was something to see Adler
waiting on the table in the "glass-room" in his blue jersey, standing at
attention at the door, happy in the mere sight of Bennett at his meals.
In the mornings, as soon as breakfast was ready, it was Adler's
privilege to announce the fact to Bennett, whom he usually found already
at work upon his writing. Returning thence to the dining-room, Adler
waited for his lord to appear. As soon as he heard Bennett's step in the
hall a little tremor of excitement possessed him. He ran to Bennett's
chair, drawing it back for him, and as soon as Bennett had seated
himself circled about him with all the pride and solicitude of a
motherly hen. He opened his napkin for him, delivered him his paper, and
pushed his cup of coffee a half-inch nearer his hand. Throughout the
duration of the meal he hardly took his eyes from Bennett's face,
watching his every movement with a glow of pride, his hands gently
stroking one another in an excess of satisfaction and silent enjoyment.

The days passed; soon a fortnight was gone by. Drearily, mechanically,
Bennett had begun work upon his book, the narrative of the expedition.
It was repugnant to him. Long since he had lost all interest in polar
exploration. As he had said to Adler, he was out of it, finally and
irrevocably. His bolt was shot; his role upon the stage of the world was
ended. He only desired now to be forgotten as quickly as possible, to
lapse into mediocrity as easily and quietly as he could. Fame was
nothing to him now. The thundering applause of an entire world that had
once been his was mere noise, empty and meaningless. He did not care to
reawaken it. The appearance of his book he knew was expected and waited
for in every civilised nation of the globe. It would be printed in
languages whereof he was ignorant, but it was all one with him now.

The task of writing was hateful to him beyond expression, but with such
determination as he could yet summon to his aid Bennett stuck to it,
eight, ten, and sometimes fourteen hours each day. In a way his
narrative was an atonement. Ferriss was its hero. Almost instinctively
Bennett kept the figure of himself, his own achievements, his own plans
and ideas, in the background. On more than one page he deliberately
ascribed to Ferriss triumphs which no one but himself had attained. It
was Ferriss who was the leader, the victor to whom all laurels were due.
It was Ferriss whose example had stimulated the expedition to its best
efforts in the darkest hours; it was, practically, Ferriss who had saved
the party after the destruction of the ship; whose determination,
unbroken courage, endurance, and intelligence had pervaded all minds and
hearts during the retreat to Kolyuchin Bay.

"Though nominally in command," wrote Bennett, "I continually gave place
to him. Without his leadership we should all, unquestionably, have
perished before even reaching land. His resolution to conquer, at
whatever cost, was an inspiration to us all. Where he showed the way we
had to follow; his courage was never daunted, his hope was never dimmed,
his foresight, his intelligence, his ingenuity in meeting and dealing
with apparently unsolvable problems were nothing short of marvellous.
His was the genius of leadership. He was the explorer, born to his
work."

One day, just after luncheon, as Bennett, according to his custom, was
walking in the garden by the house, smoking a cigar before returning to
his work, he was surprised to find himself bleeding at the nose. It was
but a trifling matter, and passed off in a few moments, but the fact of
its occurrence directed his attention to the state of his health, and he
told himself that for the last few days he had not been at all his
accustomed self. There had been dull pains in his back and legs; more
than once his head had pained him, and of late the continuance of his
work had been growing steadily more obnoxious to him, the very physical
effort of driving the pen from line to line was a burden.

"Hum!" he said to himself later on in the day, when the bleeding at the
nose returned upon him, "I think we need a little quinine."

But the next day he found he could not eat, and all the afternoon,
though he held doggedly to his work, he was troubled with nausea. At
times a great weakness, a relaxing of all the muscles, came over him. In
the evening he sent a note to Dr. Pitts's address in the City, asking
him to come down to Medford the next day.

       *       *       *       *       *

On the Monday morning of the following week, some two hours after
breakfast, Lloyd met Miss Douglass on the stairs, dressed for the street
and carrying her nurse's bag.

"Are you going out?" she asked of the fever nurse in some astonishment.
"Where are you going?" for Lloyd had returned to duty, and it was her
name that now stood at the top of the list; "I thought it was my turn to
go out," she added.

Miss Douglass was evidently much confused.

Her meeting with Lloyd had apparently been unexpected. She halted upon
the stairs in great embarrassment, stammering:

"No--no, I'm on call. I--I was called out of my turn--specially
called--that was it."

"Were you?" demanded Lloyd sharply, for the other nurse was disturbed to
an extraordinary degree.

"Well, then; no, I wasn't, but the superintendent--Miss Bergyn--she
thought--she advised--you had better see her."

"I will see her," declared Lloyd, "but don't you go till I find out why
I was skipped."

Lloyd hurried at once to Miss Bergyn's room, indignant at this slight.
Surely, after what had happened, she was entitled to more consideration
than this. Of all the staff in the house she should have been the one to
be preferred.

Miss Bergyn rose at Lloyd's sudden entrance into her room, and to her
question responded:

"It was only because I wanted to spare you further trouble and--and
embarrassment, Lloyd, that I told Miss Douglass to take your place. This
call is from Medford. Dr. Pitts was here himself this morning, and he
thought as I did."

"Thought what? I don't understand."

"It seemed to me," answered the superintendent nurse, "that this one
case of all others would be the hardest, the most disagreeable for you
to take. It seems that Mr. Bennett has leased Dr. Pitts's house from
him. He is there now. At the time when Mr. Ferriss was beginning to be
ill Mr. Bennett was with him a great deal and undertook to nurse him
till Dr. Pitts interfered and put a professional nurse on the case.
Since then, too, the doctor has found out that Mr. Bennett has exposed
himself imprudently. At any rate, in some way he has contracted the same
disease and is rather seriously ill with it. Dr. Pitts wants us to send
him a nurse at once. It just happened that it was your turn, and I
thought I had better skip your name and send Louise Douglass."

Lloyd sank into a chair, her hands falling limply in her lap. A frown of
perplexity gathered on her forehead. But suddenly she exclaimed:

"I know--that's all as it may be; but all the staff know that it is my
turn to go; everybody in the house knows who is on call. How will it
be--what will be thought when it is known that I haven't gone--and
after--after my failing once--after this--this other affair? No, I must
go. I, of all people, must go--and just because it is a typhoid case,
like the other."

"But, Lloyd, how _can_ you?"

True, how could she? Her patient would be the same man who had
humiliated her and broken her, had so cruelly misunderstood and wronged
her, for whom all her love was dead. How could she face him again? Yet
how refuse to take the case? How explain a second failure to her
companions? Lloyd made a little movement of distress, clasping her hands
together. How the complications followed fast upon each other! No sooner
was one difficult situation met and disposed of than another presented
itself. Bennett was nothing to her now, yet, for all that, she recoiled
instinctively from meeting him again. Not only must she meet him, but
she must be with him day after day, hour after hour, at his very side,
in all the intimacy that the sick-room involved. On the other hand, how
could she decline this case? The staff might condone one apparent and
inexplicable defection; another would certainly not be overlooked. But
was not this new situation a happy and unlooked-for opportunity to
vindicate her impaired prestige in the eyes of her companions? Lloyd
made up her mind upon the instant. She rose.

"I shall take the case," she said.

She was not a little surprised at herself. Hardly an instant had she
hesitated. On that other occasion when she had believed it right to make
confession to her associates it had been hard--at times almost
impossible--for her to do her duty as she saw and understood it. This
new complication was scarcely less difficult, but once having attained
the fine, moral rigour that had carried her through her former ordeal,
it became easy now to do right under all or any circumstances, however
adverse. If she had failed then, she certainly would have failed now.
That she had succeeded then made it all the easier to succeed now. Dimly
Lloyd commenced to understand that the mastery of self, the steady, firm
control of natural, intuitive impulses, selfish because natural, was a
progression. Each victory not only gained the immediate end in view, but
braced the mind and increased the force of will for the next shock, the
next struggle. She had imagined and had told herself that Bennett had
broken her strength for good. But was it really so? Had not defeat in
that case been only temporary? Was she not slowly getting back her
strength by an unflinching adherence to the simple, fundamental
principles of right, and duty, and truth? Was not the struggle with
one's self the greatest fight of all, greater, far greater, than had
been the conflict between Bennett's will and her own?

Within the hour she found herself once again on her way to Medford. How
much had happened, through what changes had she passed since the
occasion of her first journey; and Bennett, how he, too, changed; how
different he had come to stand in her estimation! Once the thought that
he was in danger had been a constant terror to her, and haunted her days
and lurked at her side through many a waking night. Was it possible that
now his life or death was no more to her than that of any of her former
patients? She could not say; she avoided answering the question.
Certainly her heart beat no faster at this moment to know that he was in
the grip of a perilous disease. She told herself that her Bennett was
dead already; that she was coming back to Medford not to care for and
watch over the individual, but to combat the disease.

When she arrived at the doctor's house in Medford, a strange-looking man
opened the door for her, and asked immediately if she was the nurse.

"Yes," said Lloyd, "I am. Is Dr. Pitts here?"

"Upstairs in his room," answered the other in a whisper, closing the
front door with infinite softness. "He won't let me go in, the doctor
won't; I--I ain't seen him in four days. Ask the doctor if I can't just
have a blink at him--just a little blink through the crack of the door.
Just think, Miss, I ain't seen him in four days! Just think of that! And
look here, they ain't giving him enough to eat--nothing but milk and
chicken soup with rice in it. He never did like rice; that's no kind of
rations for a sick man. I fixed him up a bit of duff yesterday, what he
used to like so much aboard ship, and Pitts wouldn't let him have it. He
regularly laughed in my face."

Lloyd sent word to the doctor by the housekeeper that she had arrived,
and on going up found Pitts waiting for her at the door of the
sick-room, not that which had been occupied by Ferriss, but another--the
guest-chamber of the house, situated toward the rear of the building.

"Why, I expected Miss Douglass!" exclaimed the doctor in a low voice as
soon as his eye fell upon Lloyd. "Any one of them but you!"

"I had to come," Lloyd answered quietly, flushing hotly for all that.
"It was my turn, and it was not right for me to stay away."

The doctor hesitated an instant, and then dismissed the subject, putting
his chin in the air as if to say that, after all, it was not his affair.

"Well," he said, "it's queer to see how things will tangle themselves
sometimes. I don't know whether he took this thing from Ferriss or not.
Both of them were exposed to the same conditions when their expedition
went to pieces and they were taken off by the whaling ships--bad water,
weakened constitution, not much power of resistance; in prime condition
for the bacillus, and the same cause might have produced the same
effect; at any rate, he's in a bad way."

"Is he--very bad?" asked Lloyd.

"Well, he's not the hang-on sort that Mr. Ferriss was; nothing undecided
about Captain Ward Bennett; when he's sick, he's sick; rushes right at
it like a blind bull. He's as bad now as Mr. Ferriss was in his third
week."

"Do you think he will recognise me?"

The doctor shook his head. "No; delirious most of the time--of
course--regulation thing. If we don't keep the fever down he'll go out
sure. That's the danger in his case. Look at him yourself; here he is.
The devil! The animal is sitting up again."

As Lloyd entered the room she saw Bennett sitting bolt upright in his
bed, staring straight before him, his small eyes, with their deforming
cast, open to their fullest extent, the fingers of his shrunken, bony
hands dancing nervously on the coverlet. A week's growth of stubble
blackened the lower part of his face. Without a moment's pause he
mumbled and muttered with astonishing rapidity, but for the most part
the words were undistinguishable. It was, indeed, not the same Bennett,
Lloyd had last seen. The great body was collapsed upon itself; the skin
of the face was like dry, brown parchment, and behind it the big,
massive bones stood out in great knobs and ridges. It needed but a
glance to know that here was a man dangerously near to his death. While
Lloyd was removing her hat and preparing herself for her work the doctor
got Bennett upon his back again and replenished the ice-pack about his
head.

"Not much strength left in our friend now," he murmured.

"How long has he been like this?" asked Lloyd as she arranged the
contents of her nurse's bag on a table near the window.

"Pretty close to eight hours now. He was conscious yesterday morning,
however, for a little while, and wanted to know what his chances were."

They were neither good nor many; the strength once so formidable was
ebbing away like a refluent tide, and that with ominous swiftness.
Stimulate the life as the doctor would, strive against the enemy's
advance as Lloyd might, Bennett continued to sink.

"The devil of it is," muttered the doctor, "that he don't seem to care.
He had as soon give up as not. It's hard to save a patient that don't
want to save himself. If he'd fight for his life as he did in the
arctic, we could pull him through yet. Otherwise--" he shrugged his
shoulders almost helplessly.

The next night toward nine o'clock Lloyd took the doctor's place at
their patient's bedside, and Pitts, without taking off his clothes,
stretched himself out upon the sofa in one of the rooms on the lower
floor of the house, with the understanding that the nurse was to call
him in case of any change.

But as the doctor was groping his way down the darkened stairway he
stumbled against Adler and Kamiska. Adler was sitting on one of the
steps, and the dog was on her haunches close at his side; the two were
huddled together there in the dark, broad awake, shoulder to shoulder,
waiting, watching, and listening for the faint sounds that came at long
intervals from the direction of the room where Bennett lay.

As the physician passed him Adler stood up and saluted:

"Is he doing any better now, sir?" he whispered.

"Nothing new," returned the other brusquely. "He may get well in three
weeks' time or he may die before midnight; so there you are. You know as
much about it as I do. Damn that dog!"

He trod upon Kamiska, who forbore heroically to yelp, and went on his
way. Adler resumed his place on the stairs, sitting down gingerly, so
that the boards should not creak under his weight. He took Kamiska's
head between his hands and rocked himself gently to and fro.

"What are we going to do, little dog?" he whispered. "What are we going
to do if--if our captain should--if he shouldn't--" he had no words to
finish. Kamiska took her place again by his side, and the two resumed
their vigil.

Meanwhile, not fifty feet away, a low voice, monotonous and rapid, was
keeping up a continuous, murmuring flow of words.

"That's well your number two sledge. All hands on the McClintock
now. You've got to do it, men. Forward, get forward, get forward;
get on to the south, always to the south--south, south, south!...
There, there's the ice again. That's the biggest ridge yet. At it
now! Smash through; I'll break you yet; believe me, I will! There,
we broke it! I knew you could, men. I'll pull you through. Now,
then, h'up your other sledge. Forward! There will be double rations
to-night all round--no--half-rations, quarter-rations.... No,
three-fifths of an ounce of dog-meat and a spoonful of alcohol--that's
all; that's all, men. Pretty cold night, this--minus thirty-eight.
Only a quarter of a mile covered to-day. Everybody suffering in their
feet, and so weak--and starving--and freezing." All at once the voice
became a wail. "My God! is it never going to end?... Sh--h, steady,
what was that? Who whimpered? Was that Ward Bennett? No whimpering,
whatever comes. Stick it out like men, anyway. Fight it out till we
drop, but no whimpering.... Who said there were steam whalers off
the floe? That's a lie! Forward, forward, get forward to the
south--no, not the south; to the _north_, to the north! We'll reach
it, we'll succeed; we're most there, men; come on, come on! I tell
you this time we'll reach it; one more effort, men! We're most
there! What's the latitude? Eighty-five-twenty--eighty-six." The
voice began to grow louder: "Come on, men; we're most there!
Eighty-seven--eighty-eight--eighty-nine-twenty-five!" He rose to a
sitting position. "Eighty-nine-thirty--eighty-nine-forty-five." Suddenly
the voice rose to a shout. "Ninety degrees! _By God, it's the Pole!_"

The voice died away to indistinct mutterings.

Lloyd was at the bedside by now, and quietly pressed Bennett down upon
his back. But as she did so a thrill of infinite pity and compassion
quivered through her. She had forced him down so easily. He was so
pitifully weak. Woman though she was, she could, with one small hand
upon his breast, control this man who at one time had been of such
colossal strength--such vast physical force.

Suddenly Bennett began again. "Where's Ferriss? Where's Richard Ferriss?
Where's the chief engineer of the Freja Arctic Exploring Expedition?"

He fell silent again, and but for the twitching, dancing hands, lay
quiet. Then he cried:

"Attention to the roll-call!"

Rapidly and in a low voice he began calling off the muster of the
Freja's men and officers, giving the answers himself.

"Adler--here; Blair--here; Dahl--here; Fishbaugh--here; Hawes--here;
McPherson--here; Muck Tu--here; Woodward--here; Captain Ward
Bennett--here; Dr. Sheridan Dennison--here; Chief Engineer Richard
Ferriss--" no answer. Bennett waited for a moment, then repeated the
name, "Chief Engineer Richard Ferriss--" Again he was silent; but after
a few seconds he called aloud in agony of anxiety, "Chief Engineer
Richard Ferriss, answer to the roll-call!"

Then once more he began; his disordered wits calling to mind a different
order of things:

"Adler--here; Blair--died from exhaustion at Point Kane; Dahl--here;
Fishbaugh--starved to death on the march to Kolyuchin Bay; Hawes--died
of arctic fever at Cape Kammeni; McPherson--unable to keep up, and
abandoned at ninth camp; Muck Tu--here; Woodward--died from starvation
at twelfth camp; Dr. Sheridan Dennison--frozen to death at Kolyuchin
Bay; Chief Engineer Richard Ferriss--died by the act of his best friend,
Captain Ward Bennett!" Again and again Bennett repeated this phrase,
calling: "Richard Ferriss! Richard Ferriss!" and immediately adding in a
broken voice: "Died by the act of his best friend, Captain Ward
Bennett." Or at times it was only the absence of Ferriss that seemed to
torture him. He would call the roll, answering "here" to each name until
he reached Ferriss; then he would not respond, but instead would cry
aloud over and over again, in accents of the bitterest grief, "Richard
Ferriss, answer to the roll-call; Richard Ferriss, answer to the
roll-call--" Then suddenly, with a feeble, quavering cry, "For God's
sake, Dick, answer to the roll-call!"

The hours passed. Ten o'clock struck, then eleven. At midnight Lloyd
took the temperature (which had decreased considerably) and the pulse,
and refilled the ice-pack about the head. Bennett was still muttering in
the throes of delirium, still calling for Ferriss, imploring him to
answer to the roll-call; or repeating the words: "Dick Ferriss, chief
engineer--died at the hands of his best friend, Ward Bennett," in tones
so pitiful, so heart-broken that more than once Lloyd felt the tears
running down her cheeks.

"Richard Ferriss, Richard Ferriss, answer to the roll-call; Dick, old
man, won't you answer, won't you answer, old chap, when I call you?
Won't you come back and say 'It's all right?' Ferriss, Ferriss, answer
to my roll-call. ... Died at the hands of his best friend. ... At
Kolyuchin Bay. ... Killed, and I did it. ... Forward, men; you've got to
do it; snowing to-day and all the ice in motion. ... H'up y'r other
sledge. Come on with y'r number four; more pressure-ridges, I'll break
you yet! Come on with y'r number four! ... Lloyd Searight, what are you
doing in this room?"

On the instant the voice had changed from confused mutterings to
distinct, clear-cut words. The transition was so sudden that Lloyd, at
the moment busy at her nurse's bag, her back to the bed, wheeled sharply
about to find Bennett sitting bolt upright, looking straight at her with
intelligent, wide-open eyes. Lloyd's heart for an instant stood still,
almost in terror. This sudden leap back from the darkness of delirium
into the daylight of consciousness was almost like a rising from the
dead, ghost-like, appalling. She caught her breath, trembling in spite
of her best efforts, and for an instant leaned a hand upon the table
behind her.

But on Bennett's face, ghastly, ravaged by disease, with its vast,
protruding jaw, its narrow contracted forehead and unkempt growth of
beard, the dawning of intelligence and surprise swiftly gave place to an
expression of terrible anxiety and apprehension.

"What are you doing here, Lloyd?" he cried.

"Hush!" she answered quickly as she came forward; "above all things you
must not sit up; lie down again and don't talk. You are very sick."

"I know, I know," he answered feebly. "I know what it is. But you must
leave here. It's a terrible risk every moment you stay in this room. I
want you to go. You understand--at once! Call the doctor. Don't come
near the bed," he went on excitedly, struggling to keep himself from
sinking back upon the pillows. His breath was coming quick; his eyes
were flashing. All the poor, shattered senses were aroused and quivering
with excitement and dread.

"It will kill you to stay here," he continued, almost breathless. "Out
of this room!" he commanded. "Out of this house! It is mine now; I'm the
master here--do you understand? Don't!" he exclaimed as Lloyd put her
hands upon his shoulders to force him to lie down again.

"Don't, don't touch me! Stand away from me!"

He tried to draw back from her in the bed. Then suddenly he made a great
effort to rise, resisting her efforts.

"I shall put you out, then," he declared, struggling against Lloyd's
clasp upon his shoulders, catching at her wrists. His excitement was so
intense, his fervour so great that it could almost be said he touched
the edge of his delirium again.

"Do you hear, do you hear? Out of this room!"

"No," said Lloyd calmly; "you must be quiet; you must try to go to
sleep. This time you cannot make me leave."

He caught her by one arm, and, bracing himself with the other against
the headboard of the bed, thrust her back from him with all his might.

"Keep away from me, I tell you; keep back! You shall do as I say! I have
always carried my point, and I shall not fail now. Believe me, I shall
not. You--you--" he panted as he struggled with her, ashamed of his
weakness, humiliated beyond words that she should know it. "I--you
shall--you will compel me to use force. Don't let it come to that."

Calmly Lloyd took both his wrists in the strong, quiet clasp of one
palm, and while she supported his shoulders with her other arm, laid him
down among the pillows again as though he had been a child.

"I'm--I'm a bit weak and trembly just now," he admitted, panting with
his exertion; "but, Lloyd, listen. I know how you must dislike me now,
but will you please go--go, go at once!"

"No."

What a strange spinning of the wheel of fate was here! In so short a
time had their mutual positions been reversed. Now it was she who was
strong and he who was weak. It was she who conquered and he who was
subdued. It was she who triumphed and he who was humiliated. It was he
who implored and she who denied. It was her will and no longer his that
must issue victorious from the struggle.

And how complete now was Bennett's defeat! The very contingency he had
fought so desperately to avert and for which he had sacrificed
Ferriss--Lloyd's care of so perilous a disease--behold! the mysterious
turn of the wheel had brought it about, and now he was powerless to
resist.

"Oh!" he cried, "have I not enough upon my mind already--Ferriss and his
death? Are you going to make me imperil your life too, and after I have
tried so hard? You must not stay here."

"I shall stay," she answered.

"I order you to go. This is my house. Send the doctor here. Where's
Adler?" Suddenly he fainted.

An hour or two later, in the gray of the morning, at a time when Bennett
was sleeping quietly under the influence of opiates, Lloyd found herself
sitting at the window in front of the small table there, her head
resting on her hand, thoughtful, absorbed, and watching with but
half-seeing eyes the dawn growing pink over the tops of the apple-trees
in the orchard near by.

The window was open just wide enough for the proper ventilation of the
room. For a long time she sat thus without moving, only from time to
time smoothing back the heavy, bronze-red hair from her temples and
ears. By degrees the thinking faculties of her brain, as it were, a
myriad of delicate interlacing wheels, slowly decreased in the rapidity
and intensity of their functions. She began to feel instead of to think.
As the activity of her mind lapsed to a certain pleasant numbness, a
vague, formless, nameless emotion seemed to be welling to the surface.
It was no longer a question of the brain. What then? Was it the heart?
She gave no name to this new emotion; it was too confused as yet, too
undefinable. A certain great sweetness seemed to be coming upon her, but
she could not say whether she was infinitely sad or supremely happy; a
smile was on her lips, and yet the tears began to brim in her dull-blue
eyes.

She felt as if some long, fierce struggle, or series of struggles, were
at last accomplished; as if for a long period of time she had been
involved in the maze and tortuous passages of some gloomy cavern, but at
length, thence issuing, had again beheld the stars. A great tenderness,
a certain tremulous joy in all things that were true and good and right,
grew big and strong within her; the delight in living returned to her.
The dawn was brightening and flushing over all the world, and colour,
light, and warmth were coming back into her life. The night had been
still and mild, but now the first breath of the morning breeze stirred
in the trees, in the grass, in the flowers, and the thick, dew-drenched
bushes along the roadside, and a delicious aroma of fields and woods and
gardens came to her. The sweetness of life and the sweetness of those
things better than life and more enduring, the things that do not fail,
nor cease, nor vanish away, suddenly entered into that room and
descended upon her almost in the sense of a benediction, a visitation,
something mystic and miraculous. It was a moment to hope all things, to
believe all things, to endure all things.

She caught her breath, listening--for what she did not know. Once again,
just as it had been in that other dawn, in that other room where the
Enemy had been conquered, the sense of some great happiness was in the
air, was coming to her swiftly. But now the greater Enemy had been
outfought, the morning of a greater day was breaking and spreading, and
the greatest happiness in the world was preparing for her. How it had
happened she did not know. Now was not the moment to think, to reason,
to reflect. It seemed as though the rushing of wings was all about her,
as though a light brighter than the day was just about to break upon her
sight, as though a music divinely beautiful was just about to burst upon
her ear. But the light was not for her eye; the music was not for her
ear. The radiance and the harmony came from herself, from within her.
The intellect was numb. Only the heart was alive on this wonderful
midsummer's morning, and it was in her heart that the radiance shone and
the harmony vibrated. Back in his place once more, high on his throne,
the love that she believed had forever departed from her sat exalted and
triumphant, singing to the cadence of that unheard music, shining and
magnificent in the glory of that new-dawned light.

Would Bennett live? Suddenly that question leaped up in her mind and
stood in the eye of her imagination, terrible, menacing--a hideous, grim
spectre, before which Lloyd quailed with failing heart and breath. The
light, the almost divine radiance that had burst upon her, nevertheless
threw a dreadful shadow before it. Beneath the music she heard the growl
of the thunder. Her new-found happiness was not without its accompanying
dismay. Love had not returned to her heart alone. With it had returned
the old Enemy she had once believed had left her forever. Now it had
come back. As before, it lurked and leered at her from dark corners. It
crept to her side, to her back, ready to leap, ready to strike, to
clutch at her throat with cold fingers and bear her to the earth,
rending her heart with a grief she told herself she could not endure and
live. She loved him now with all her mind and might; how could it ever
have been otherwise? He belonged to her--and she? Why, she only lived
with his life; she seemed so bound to him as to be part of his very
self. Literally, she could not understand how it would be possible for
her to live if he should die. It seemed to her that with his death some
mysterious element of her life, something vital and fundamental, for
which there was no name, would disintegrate upon the instant and leave
her without the strength necessary for further existence. But this
would, however, be a relief. The prospect of the years after his death,
the fearful loneliness of life without him, was a horror before which
she veritably believed her reason itself must collapse.

"Lloyd."

Bennett was awake again and watching her with feverish anxiety from
where he lay among the pillows. "Lloyd," he repeated, the voice once so
deep and powerful quavering pitifully. "I was wrong. I don't want you to
go. Don't leave me."

In an instant Lloyd was at his side, kneeling by the bed. She caught one
of the great, gnarled hands, seamed and corded and burning with the
fever. "Never, never, dearest; never so long as I shall live."



IX.


When Adler heard Bennett's uncertain steps upon the stairs and the sound
of Lloyd's voice speaking to him and urging that there was no hurry, and
that he was to take but one step at a time, he wheeled swiftly about
from the windows of the glass-room, where he had been watching the
October breeze stirring the crimson and yellow leaves in the orchard,
and drew back his master's chair from the breakfast table and stood
behind it expectantly, his eyes watching the door.

Lloyd held back the door, and Bennett came in, leaning heavily on Dr.
Pitts's shoulder. Adler stiffened upon the instant as if in answer to
some unheard bugle-call, and when Bennett had taken his seat, pushed his
chair gently to the table and unfolded his napkin with a flourish as
though giving a banner to the wind. Pitts almost immediately left the
room, but Lloyd remained supervising Bennett's breakfast, pouring his
milk, buttering his toast, and opening his eggs.

"Coffee?" suddenly inquired Bennett. Lloyd shook her head.

"Not for another week."

Bennett looked with grim disfavour upon the glass of milk that Lloyd had
placed at his elbow.

"Such slop!" he growled. "Why not a little sugar and warm water, and be
done with it? Lloyd, I can't drink this stuff any more. Why, it's warm
yet!" he exclaimed aggrievedly and with deep disgust, abruptly setting
down the glass.

"Why, of course it is," she answered; "we brought the cow here
especially for you, and the boy has just done milking her--and it's not
slop."

"Slop! slop!" declared Bennett. He picked up the glass again and looked
at her over the rim.

"I'll drink this stuff this one more time to please you," he said. "But
I promise you this will be the last time. You needn't ask me again. I
have drunk enough milk the past three weeks to support a foundling
hospital for a year."

Invariably, since the period of his convalescence began, Bennett made
this scene over his hourly glass of milk, and invariably it ended by his
gulping it down at nearly a single swallow.

Adler brought in the mail and the morning paper. Three letters had come
for Lloyd, and for Bennett a small volume on "Recent Arctic Research and
Exploration," sent by his publisher with a note to the effect that, as
the latest authority on the subject, Bennett was sure to find it of
great interest. In an appendix, inserted after the body of the book had
been made up, the Freja expedition and his own work were briefly
described. Lloyd put her letters aside, and, unfolding the paper, said,
"I'll read it while you eat your breakfast. Have you everything you
want? Did you drink your milk--all of it?" But out of the corner of her
eye she noted that Adler was chuckling behind the tray that he held to
his face, and with growing suspicion she leaned forward and peered about
among the breakfast things. Bennett had hidden his glass behind the
toast-rack.

"And it's only two-thirds empty," she declared. "Ward, why will you be
such a boy?"

"Oh, well," he grumbled, and without more ado drank off the balance.

"Now I'll read to you if you have everything you want. Adler, I think
you can open one of those windows; it's so warm out of doors."

While he ate his breakfast of toast, milk, and eggs Lloyd skimmed
through the paper, reading aloud everything she thought would be of
interest to him. Then, after a moment, her eye was caught and held by a
half-column article expanded from an Associated Press despatch.

"Oh!" she cried, "listen to this!" and continued: "'Word has been
received at this place of the safe arrival of the arctic steamship
Curlew at Tasiusak, on the Greenland coast, bearing eighteen members of
the Duane-Parsons expedition. Captain Duane reports all well and an
uneventful voyage. It is his intention to pass the winter at Tasiusak,
collecting dogs and also Esquimau sledges, which he believes superior to
European manufacture for work in rubble-ice, and to push on with the
Curlew in the spring as soon as Smith Sound shall be navigable. This may
be later than Captain Duane supposes, as the whalers who have been
working in the sound during the past months bring back news of an
unusually early winter and extraordinary quantities of pack-ice both in
the sound itself and in Kane Basin. This means a proportionately late
open season next year, and the Curlew's departure from Tasiusak may be
considerably later than anticipated. It is considered by the best arctic
experts an unfortunate circumstance that Captain Duane elected to winter
south of Cape Sabine, as the condition of the ice in Smith Sound can
never be relied upon nor foretold. Should the entrance to the sound
still be encumbered with ice as late as July, which is by no means
impossible, Captain Duane will be obliged to spend another winter at
Tasiusak or Upernvick, consuming alike his store of provisions and the
patience of his men.'"

There was a silence when Lloyd finished reading. Bennett chipped at the
end of his second egg.

"Well?" she said at length.

"Well," returned Bennett, "what's all that to me?"

"It's your work," she answered almost vehemently.

"No, indeed. It's Duane's work."

"What do you mean?"

"Let him try now."

"And you?" exclaimed Lloyd, looking intently at him.

"My dear girl, I had my chance and failed. Now--" he raised a shoulder
indifferently--"now, I don't care much about it. I've lost interest."

"I don't believe you," she cried energetically; "you of all men." Behind
Bennett's chair she had a momentary glimpse of Adler, who had tucked his
tray under his arm and was silently applauding in elaborate pantomime.
She saw his lips form the words "That's it; that's right. Go right
ahead."

"Besides, I have my book to do, and, besides that, I'm an invalid--an
invalid who drinks slop."

"And you intend to give it all up--your career?"

"Well--if I should, what then?" Suddenly he turned to her abruptly. "I
should not think _you_ would want me to go again. Do _you_ urge me to
go?"

Lloyd made a sudden little gasp, and her hand involuntarily closed upon
his as it rested near her on the table.

"Oh, no!" she cried. "Oh, no, I don't! You are right. It's not your work
now."

"Well, then," muttered Bennett as though the question was forever
settled.

Lloyd turned to her mail, and one after another slit the envelopes,
woman fashion, with a shell hairpin. But while she was glancing over the
contents of her letters Bennett began to stir uneasily in his place.
From time to time he stopped eating and shot a glance at Lloyd from
under his frown, noting the crisp, white texture of her gown and waist,
the white scarf with its high, tight bands about the neck, the tiny,
golden buttons in her cuffs, the sombre, ruddy glow of her cheeks, her
dull-blue eyes, and the piles and coils of her bronze-red hair. Then,
abruptly, he said:

"Adler, you can go."

Adler saluted and withdrew.

"Whom are your letters from?" Bennett demanded by way of a beginning.

Lloyd replaced the hairpin in her hair, answering:

"From Dr. Street, from Louise Douglass, and from--Mr. Campbell."

"Hum! well, what do they say? Dr. Street and--Louise Douglass?"

"Dr. Street asks me to take a very important surgical case as soon as I
get through here, 'one of the most important and delicate, as well as
one of the most interesting, operations in his professional experience.'
Those are his words. Louise writes four pages, but she says nothing;
just chatters."

"And Campbell?" Bennett indicated with his chin the third rather
voluminous letter at Lloyd's elbow. "He seems to have written rather
more than four pages. What does he say? Does he 'chatter' too?"

Lloyd smoothed back her hair from one temple.

"H'm--no. He says--something. But never mind what he says. Ward, I must
be going back to the City. You don't need a nurse any more."

"What's that?" Bennett's frown gathered on the instant, and with a sharp
movement of the head that was habitual to him he brought his one good
eye to bear upon her.

Lloyd repeated her statement, answering his remonstrance and
expostulation with:

"You are almost perfectly well, and it would not be at all--discreet for
me to stay here an hour longer than absolutely necessary. I shall go
back to-morrow or next day."

"But, I tell you, I am still very sick. I'm a poor, miserable, shattered
wreck."

He made a great show of coughing in hollow, lamentable tones.

"Listen to that, and last night I had a high fever, and this morning I
had a queer sort of pain about here--" he vaguely indicated the region
of his chest. "I think I am about to have a relapse."

"Nonsense! You can't frighten me at all."

"Oh, well," he answered easily, "I shall go with you--that is all. I
suppose you want to see me venture out in such raw, bleak weather as
this--with my weak lungs."

"Your weak lungs? How long since?"

"Well, I--I've sometimes thought my lungs were not very strong."

"Why, dear me, you poor thing; I suppose the climate at Kolyuchin Bay
_was_ a trifle too bracing--"

"What does Campbell say?"

"--and the diet too rich for your blood--"

"What does Campbell say?"

"--and perhaps you did overexert--"

"Lloyd Searight, what does Mr. Campbell say in that--"

"He asks me to marry him."

"To mum--mar--marry him? Well, damn his impudence!"

"Mr. Campbell is an eminently respectable and worthy gentleman."

"Oh, well, I don't care. Go! Go, marry Mr. Campbell. Be happy. I forgive
you both. Go, leave me to die alone."

"Sir, I will go. Forget that you ever knew an unhappy wom--female, whose
only fault was that she loved you."

"Go! and sometimes think of me far away on the billow and drop a silent
tear--I say, how are you going to answer Campbell's letter?"

"Just one word--'_Come_.'"

"Lloyd, be serious. This is no joke."

"Joke!" she repeated hollowly. "It is, indeed, a sorry joke. Ah! had I
but loved with a girlish love, it would have been better for me."

Then suddenly she caught him about the neck with both her arms, and
kissed him on the cheek and on the lips, a little quiver running through
her to her finger-tips, her mood changing abruptly to a deep, sweet
earnestness.

"Oh, Ward, Ward!" she cried, "all our unhappiness and all our sorrow and
trials and anxiety and cruel suspense are over now, and now we really
have each other and love each other, dear, and all the years to come are
only going to bring happiness to us, and draw us closer and nearer to
each other."

"But here's a point, Lloyd," said Bennett after a few moments and when
they had returned to coherent speech; "how about your work? You talk
about my career; what about yours? We are to be married, but I know just
how you have loved your work. It will be a hard wrench for you if you
give that up. I am not sure that I should ask it of you. This letter of
Street's, now. I know just how eager you must be to take charge of such
operations--such important cases as he mentions. It would be very
selfish of me to ask you to give up your work. It's your life-work, your
profession, your career."

Lloyd took up Dr. Street's letter, and, holding it delicately at arm's
length, tore it in two and let the pieces flutter to the floor.

"That, for my life-work," said Lloyd Searight.

As she drew back from him an instant later Bennett all at once and very
earnestly demanded:

"Lloyd, do you love me?"

"With all my heart, Ward."

"And you will be my wife?"

"You know that I will."

"Then"--Bennett picked up the little volume of "Arctic Research" which
he had received that morning, and tossed it from him upon the
floor--"that, for my career," he answered.

For a moment they were silent, looking gladly into each other's eyes.
Then Bennett drew her to him again and held her close to him, and once
more she put her arms around his neck and nestled her head down upon his
shoulder with a little comfortable sigh of contentment and relief and
quiet joy, for that the long, fierce trial was over; that there were no
more fights to be fought, no more grim, hard situations to face, no more
relentless duties to be done. She had endured and she had prevailed; now
her reward was come. Now for the long, calm years of happiness.

Later in the day, about an hour after noon, Bennett took his daily nap,
carefully wrapped in shawls and stretched out in a wicker steamer-chair
in the glass-room. Lloyd, in the meantime, was busy in the garden at the
side of the house, gathering flowers which she intended to put in a huge
china bowl in Bennett's room. While she was thus occupied Adler,
followed by Kamiska, came up. Adler pulled off his cap.

"I beg pardon, Miss," he began, turning his cap about between his
fingers. "I don't want to seem to intrude, and if I do I just guess
you'd better tell me so first off. But what did he say--or did he say
anything--the captain, I mean--this morning about going up again? I
heard you talking to him at breakfast. That's it, that's the kind of
talk he needs. I can't talk that talk to him. I'm so main scared of him.
I wouldn't 'a' believed the captain would ever say he'd give up, would
ever say he was beaten. But, Miss, I'm thinking as there's something
wrong, main wrong with the captain these days besides fever. He's
getting soft--that's what he is. If you'd only know the man that he
was--before--while we was up there in the Ice! That's his work, that's
what he's cut out for. There ain't nobody can do it but him, and to see
him quit, to see him chuck up his chance to a third-rate ice-pilot like
Duane--a coastwise college professor that don't know no more about Ice
than--than you do--it regularly makes me sick. Why, what will become of
the captain now if he quits? He'll just settle down to an ordinary
stay-at-home, write-in-a-book professor, and write articles for the
papers and magazines, and bye-and-bye, maybe, he'll get down to
lecturing! Just fancy, Miss, him, the captain, lecturing! And while he
stays at home and writes, and--oh, Lord!--lectures, somebody else,
without a fifth of his ability, will do the _work_. It'll just naturally
break my heart, it will!" exclaimed Adler, "if the captain chucks. I
wouldn't be so main sorry that he won't reach the Pole as that he quit
trying--as that a man like the captain--or like what I thought he
was--gave up and chucked when he could win."

"But, Adler," returned Lloyd, "the captain--Mr. Bennett, it seems to me,
has done his share. Think what he's been through. You can't have
forgotten the march to Kolyuchin Bay?"

But Adler made an impatient gesture with the hand that held the cap.
"The danger don't figure; what he'd have to go through with don't
figure; the chances of life or death don't figure; nothing in the world
don't figure. _It's his work_; God A'mighty cut him out for that, and
he's got to do it. Ain't you got any influence with him, Miss? Won't you
talk good talk to him? Don't let him chuck; don't let him get soft. Make
him be a Man and not a professor."

When Adler had left her Lloyd sank into a little seat at the edge of the
garden walk, and let the flowers drop into her lap, and leaned back in
her place, wide-eyed and thoughtful, reviewing in her imagination the
events of the past few months. What a change that summer had brought to
both of them; how they had been shaped anew in the mould of
circumstance!

Suddenly and without warning, they two, high-spirited, strong,
determined, had clashed together, the man's force against the woman's
strength; and the woman, inherently weaker, had been crushed and
humbled. For a time it seemed to her that she had been broken beyond
hope; so humbled that she could never rise again; as though a great
crisis had developed in her life, and that, having failed once, she must
fail again, and again, and again--as if her whole subsequent life must
be one long failure. But a greater crisis had followed hard upon the
heels of the first--the struggle with self, the greatest struggle of
all. Against the abstract principle of evil the woman who had failed in
the material conflict with a masculine, masterful will, had succeeded,
had conquered self, had been true when it was easy to be false, had
dared the judgment of her peers so only that she might not deceive.

Her momentary, perhaps fancied, hatred of Bennett, who had so cruelly
misunderstood and humiliated her, had apparently, of its own accord,
departed from her heart. Then had come the hour when the strange hazard
of fortune had reversed their former positions, when she could be
masterful while he was weak; when it was the man's turn to be broken, to
be prevailed against. Her own discomfiture had been offset by his. She
no longer need look to him as her conqueror, her master. And when she
had seen him so weak, so pathetically unable to resist the lightest
pressure of her hand; when it was given her not only to witness but to
relieve his suffering, the great love for him that could not die had
returned. With the mastery of self had come the forgetfulness of self;
and her profession, her life-work, of which she had been so proud, had
seemed to her of small concern. Now she was his, and his life was hers.
She should--so she told herself--be henceforward happy in his happiness,
and her only pride would be the pride in his achievements.

But now the unexpected had happened, and Bennett had given up his
career. During the period of Bennett's convalescence Lloyd had often
talked long and earnestly with him, and partly from what he had told her
and partly from much that she inferred she had at last been able to
trace out and follow the mental processes and changes through which
Bennett had passed. He, too, had been proved by fire; he, too, had had
his ordeal, his trial.

By nature, by training, and by virtue of the life he lived Bennett had
been a man, harsh, somewhat brutal, inordinately selfish, and at all
times magnificently arrogant. He had neither patience nor toleration for
natural human weakness. While selfish, he was not self-conscious, and it
never occurred to him, it was impossible for him to see that he was a
giant among men. His heart was callous; his whole nature and character
hard and flinty from the buffetings he gave rather than received.

Then had come misfortune. Ferriss had died, and Bennett's recognition
and acknowledgment of the fact that he, Ward Bennett, who never failed,
who never blundered, had made at last the great and terrible error of
his life, had shaken his character to its very foundations. This was
only the beginning; the breach once made, Humanity entered into the
gloomy, waste places of his soul; remorse crowded hard upon his wonted
arrogance; generosity and the impulse to make amends took the place of
selfishness; kindness thrust out the native brutality; the old-time
harshness and imperiousness gave way to a certain spirit of toleration.

It was the influence of these new emotions that had moved Bennett to
make the statement to Adler that had so astonished and perplexed his
old-time subordinate. He, Bennett, too, like Lloyd, was at that time
endeavouring to free himself from a false position, and through the
medium of confession stand in his true colours in the eyes of his
associates. Unconsciously they were both working out their salvation
along the same lines.

Then had come Bennett's resolve to give Ferriss the conspicuous and
prominent place in his book, the account of the expedition. The more
Bennett dwelt upon Ferriss's heroism, intelligence, and ability the more
his task became a labour of love, and the more the idea of self dropped
away from his thought and imagination. Then--and perhaps this was not
the least important factor in Bennett's transformation--sickness had
befallen; the strong and self-reliant man had been brought to the
weakness of a child, whom the pressure of a finger could control. He
suddenly changed places with the woman he believed he had, at such
fearful cost, broken and subdued. His physical strength, once so
enormous, was as a reed in the woman's hand; his will, so indomitable,
was as powerless as an infant's before the woman's calm resolve, rising
up there before him and overmastering him at a time he believed it to be
forever weakened.

Bennett had come forth from the ordeal chastened, softened, and humbled.
But he was shattered, broken, brought to the earth with sorrow and the
load of unavailing regret. Ambition was numb and lifeless within him.
Reaction from his former attitude of aggression and defiance had carried
him far beyond the normal.

Here widened the difference between the man and the woman. Lloyd's
discontinuance of her life-work had been in the nature of heroic
subjugation of self. Bennett's abandonment of his career was hardly
better than weakness. In the one it had been renunciation; in the other
surrender. In the end, and after all was over, it was the woman who
remained the stronger.

But for her, the woman, was it true that all was over? Had the last
conflict been fought? Was it not rather to be believed that life was one
long conflict? Was it not for her, Lloyd, to rouse that sluggard
ambition? Was not this her career, after all, to be his inspiration, his
incentive, to urge him to the accomplishment of a great work? Now, of
the two, she was the stronger. In these new conditions what was her
duty? Adler's clumsy phrases persisted in her mind. "That's his work,"
Adler had said. "God Almighty cut him out for that, and he's got to do
it. Don't let him chuck, don't let him get soft; make him be a man and
not a professor."

Had she so much influence over Bennett? Could she rouse the restless,
daring spirit again? Perhaps; but what would it mean for her--for her,
who must be left behind to wait, and wait, and wait--for three years,
for five years, for ten years--perhaps forever? And now, at this moment,
when she believed that at last happiness had come to her; when the duty
had been done, the grim problems solved; when sickness had been
overcome; when love had come back, and the calm, untroubled days seemed
lengthening out ahead, there came to her recollection the hideous lapse
of time that had intervened between the departure of the Freja and the
expedition's return; what sleepless nights, what days of unspeakable
suspense, what dreadful alternations between hope and despair, what
silent, repressed suffering, what haunting, ever-present dread of a
thing she dared not name! Was the Fear to come into her life again; the
Enemy that lurked and leered and forebore to strike, that hung upon her
heels at every hour of the day, that sat down with her to her every
occupation, that followed after when she stirred abroad, that came close
to her in the still watches of the night, creeping, creeping to her
bedside, looming over her in the darkness; the cold fingers reaching
closer and closer, the awful face growing ever more distinct, till the
suspense of waiting for the blow to fall, for the fingers to grip,
became more than she could bear, and she sprang from her bed with a
stifled sob of anguish, driven from her rest with quivering lips and
streaming eyes?

Abruptly Lloyd rose to her feet, the flowers falling unheeded from her
lap, her arms rigid at her side, her hands shut tight.

"No," she murmured, "I cannot. This, at last, is more than I can do."

Instantly Adler's halting words went ringing through her brain: "The
danger don't figure; nothing in the world don't figure. It's his work."

Adler's words were the words of the world. She alone of the thousands
whose eyes were turned toward Bennett was blinded. She was wrong. She
belonged to him, but he did not belong to her. The world demanded him;
the world called him from her side to do the terrible work that God had
made him for. Was she, because she loved him, because of her own single
anguish, to stand between him and the clamour of the world, between him
and his work, between him and God?

A work there was for him to do. He must play the man's part. The battle
must be fought again. That horrible, grisly Enemy far up there to the
north, upon the high curve of the globe, the shoulder of the world,
huge, remorseless, terrible in its vast, Titanic strength, guarding its
secret through all the centuries in the innermost of a thousand gleaming
coils, must be defied again. The monster that defended the great prize,
the object of so many fruitless quests must be once more attacked.

His was the work, for him the shock of battle, the rigour of the fight,
the fierce assault, the ceaseless onset, the unfailing and unflinching
courage.

Hers was the woman's part. Already she had assumed it; steadfast
unselfishness, renunciation, patience, the heroism greater than all
others, that sits with folded hands, quiet, unshaken, and under fearful
stress, endures, and endures, and endures. To be the inspiration of
great deeds, high hopes, and firm resolves, and then, while the fight
was dared, to wait in calmness for its issue--that was her duty, that,
the woman's part in the world's great work.

Lloyd was dimly conscious of a certain sweet and subtle element in her
love for Bennett that only of late she had begun to recognise and be
aware of. This was a certain vague protective, almost maternal,
instinct. Perhaps it was because of his present weakness both of body
and character, or perhaps it was an element always to be found in the
deep and earnest love of any noble-hearted woman. She felt that she, not
as herself individually, but as a woman, was not only stronger than
Bennett, but in a manner older, more mature. She was conscious of depths
in her nature far greater than in his, and also that she was capable of
attaining heights of heroism, devotion, and sacrifice which he, for all
his masculine force, could not only never reach, but could not even
conceive of. It was this consciousness of her larger, better nature that
made her feel for Bennett somewhat as a mother feels for a son, a sister
for her younger brother. A great tenderness mingled with her affection,
a vast and almost divine magnanimity, a broad, womanly pity for his
shortcomings, his errors, his faults. It was to her he must look for
encouragement. It was for her to bind up and reshape the great energy
that had been so rudely checked, and not only to call back his strength,
but to guide it and direct into its appointed channels.

Lloyd returned toward the glass-enclosed veranda to find Bennett just
arousing from his nap. She drew the shawls closer about him and
rearranged the pillows under his head, and then sat down on the steps
near at hand.

"Tell me about this Captain Duane," she began. "Where is he now?"

Bennett yawned and passed his hand across his face, rubbing the sleep
from his eyes.

"What time is it? I must have slept over an hour. Duane? Why, you saw
what the paper said. I presume he is at Tasiusak."

"Do you think he will succeed? Do you think he will reach the Pole?
Adler thinks he won't."

"Oh, perhaps, if he has luck and an open season."

"But tell me, why does he take so many men? Isn't that contrary to the
custom? I know a great deal about arctic work. While you were away I
read every book I could get upon the subject. The best work has been
done with small expeditions. If you should go again--when you go again,
will you take so many? I saw you quoted somewhere as being in favour of
only six or eight men."

"Ten should be the limit--but some one else will make the attempt now.
I'm out of it. I tried and failed."

"Failed--you! The idea of you ever failing, of you ever giving up! Of
course it was all very well to joke this morning about giving up your
career; but I know you will be up and away again only too soon. I am
trying to school myself to expect that."

"Lloyd, I tell you that I am out of it. I don't believe the Pole ever
can be reached, and I don't much care whether it is reached or not."

Suddenly Lloyd turned to him, the unwonted light flashing in her eyes.
"_I_ do, though," she cried vehemently. "It can be done, and
we--America--ought to do it."

Bennett stared at her, startled by her outburst.

"This English expedition," Lloyd continued, the colour flushing in her
cheeks, "this Duane-Parsons expedition, they will have the start of
everybody next year. Nearly every attempt that is made now establishes a
new record for a high latitude. One nation after another is creeping
nearer and nearer almost every year, and each expedition is profiting by
the experiences and observations made by the one that preceded it. Some
day, and not very long now, some nation is going to succeed and plant
its flag there at last. Why should it not be us? Why shouldn't _our_
flag be first at the Pole? We who have had so many heroes, such great
sailors, such splendid leaders, such explorers--our Stanleys, our
Farraguts, our Decaturs, our De Longs, our Lockwoods--how we would stand
ashamed before the world if some other nation should succeed where we
have all but succeeded--Norway, or France, or Russia, or
England--profiting by our experiences, following where we have made the
way!"

"That is very fine," admitted Bennett. "It would be a great honour, the
greatest perhaps; and once--I--well, I had my ambitions, too. But it's
all different now. Something in me died when--Dick--when--I--oh, let
Duane try. Let him do his best. I know it can't be done, and if he
should win, I would be the first to wire congratulations. Lloyd, I don't
care. I've lost interest. I suppose it is my punishment. I'm out of the
race. I'm a back number. I'm down."

Lloyd shook her head.

"I don't--I can't believe you."

"Do you want to see me go," demanded Bennett, "after this last
experience? Do you urge me to it?"

Lloyd turned her head away, leaning it against one of the veranda
pillars. A sudden dimness swam in her eyes, the choking ache she knew so
well came to her throat. Ah, life was hard for her. The very greatness
of her nature drove from her the happiness so constantly attained by
little minds, by commonplace souls. When was it to end, this continual
sacrifice of inclination to duty, this eternal abnegation, this yielding
up of herself, her dearest, most cherished wishes to the demands of duty
and the great world?

"I don't know what I want," she said faintly. "It don't seem as if one
_could_ be happy--very long."

All at once she moved close to him and laid her cheek upon the arm of
his chair and clasped his hand in both her own, murmuring: "But I have
you now, I have you now, no matter what is coming to us."

A sense of weakness overcame her. What did she care that Bennett should
fulfil his destiny, should round out his career, should continue to be
the Great Man? It was he, Bennett, that she loved--not his greatness,
not his career. Let it all go, let ambition die, let others less worthy
succeed in the mighty task. What were fame and honour and glory and the
sense of a divinely appointed duty done at last to the clasp of his hand
and the sound of his voice?

In November of that year Lloyd and Bennett were married. Two guests only
assisted at the ceremony. These were Campbell and his little daughter
Hattie.



X.


The months passed; Christmas came and went. Until then the winter had
been unusually mild, but January set in with a succession of vicious
cold snaps and great blustering winds out of the northeast. Lloyd and
Bennett had elected to remain quietly in their new home at Medford. They
had no desire to travel, and Bennett's forthcoming book demanded his
attention. Adler stayed on about the house. He and the dog Kamiska were
companions inseparable. At long intervals visitors presented
themselves--Dr. Street, or Pitts, or certain friends of Bennett's. But
the great rush of interviewers, editors, and projectors of marvellous
schemes that had crowded Bennett's anterooms during the spring and early
summer was conspicuously dwindling. The press ceased to speak of him;
even his mail had fallen away. Now, whenever the journals of the day
devoted space to arctic exploration, it was invariably in reference to
the English expedition wintering on the Greenland coast. That world that
had clamoured so loudly upon Bennett's return, while, perhaps, not yet
forgetting him, was already ignoring him, was looking in other
directions. Another man was in the public eye.

But in every sense these two--Lloyd and Bennett--were out of the world.
They had freed themselves from the current of affairs. They stood aside
while the great tide went careering past swift and turbulent, and one of
them at least lacked even the interest to look on and watch its
progress.

For a time Lloyd was supremely happy. Their life was unbroken,
uneventful. The calm, monotonous days of undisturbed happiness to which
she had looked forward were come at last. Thus it was always to be.
Isolated and apart, she could shut her ears to the thunder of the
world's great tide that somewhere, off beyond the hills in the direction
of the City, went swirling through its channels. Hardly an hour went by
that she and Bennett were not together. Lloyd had transferred her stable
to her new home; Lewis was added to the number of their servants, and
until Bennett's old-time vigour completely returned to him she drove out
almost daily with her husband, covering the country for miles around.

Much of their time, however, they spent in Bennett's study. This was a
great apartment in the rear of the house, scantily, almost meanly,
furnished. Papers littered the floor; bundles of manuscripts, lists,
charts, and observations, the worn and battered tin box of records,
note-books, journals, tables of logarithms were piled upon Bennett's
desk. A bookcase crammed with volumes of reference, statistical
pamphlets, and the like stood between the windows, while one of the
walls was nearly entirely occupied by a vast map of the arctic circle,
upon which the course of the Freja, her drift in the pack, and the route
of the expedition's southerly march were accurately plotted.

The room was bare of ornament; the desk and a couple of chairs were its
only furniture. Pictures there were none. Their places were taken by
photographs and a great blue print of the shipbuilder's plans and
specifications of the Freja.

The photographs were some of those that Dennison had made of the
expedition--the Freja nipped in the ice, a group of the officers and
crew upon the forward deck, the coast of Wrangel Island, Cape Kammeni,
peculiar ice formations, views of the pack under different conditions
and temperatures, pressure-ridges and scenes of the expedition's daily
life in the arctic, bear-hunts, the manufacture of sledges, dog-teams,
Bennett taking soundings and reading the wind-gauge, and one, the last
view of the Freja, taken just as the ship--her ice-sheathed dripping
bows heaved high in the air, the flag still at the peak--sank from
sight.

However, on the wall over the blue-print plans of the Freja, one of the
boat's flags, that had been used by the expedition throughout all the
time of its stay in the ice, hung suspended--a faded, tattered square of
stars and bars.

As the new life settled quietly and evenly to its grooves a routine
began to develop. About an hour after breakfast Lloyd and Bennett shut
themselves in Bennett's "workroom," as he called it, Lloyd taking her
place at the desk. She had become his amanuensis, had insisted upon
writing to his dictation.

"Look at that manuscript," she had exclaimed one day, turning the sheets
that Bennett had written; "literally the very worst handwriting I have
ever seen. What do you suppose a printer would make out of your 'thes'
and 'ands'? It's hieroglyphics, you know," she informed him gravely,
nodding her head at him.

It was quite true. Bennett wrote with amazing rapidity and with ragged,
vigorous strokes of the pen, not unfrequently driving the point through
the paper itself; his script was pothooks, clumsy, slanting in all
directions, all but illegible. In the end Lloyd had almost pushed him
from his place at the desk, taking the pen from between his fingers,
exclaiming:

"Get up! Give me your chair--and that pen. Handwriting like that is
nothing else but a sin."

Bennett allowed her to bully him, protesting merely for the enjoyment of
squabbling with her.

"Come, I like this. What are you doing in my workroom anyhow, Mrs.
Bennett? I think you had better go to your housework."

"Don't talk," she answered. "Here are your notes and journal. Now tell
me what to write."

In the end matters adjusted themselves. Daily Lloyd took her place at
the desk, pen in hand, the sleeve of her right arm rolled back to the
elbow (a habit of hers whenever writing, and which Bennett found to be
charming beyond words), her pen travelling steadily from line to line.
He on his part paced the floor, a cigar between his teeth, his notes and
note-books in his hand, dictating comments of his own, or quoting from
the pages, stained, frayed, and crumpled, written by the light of the
auroras, the midnight suns, or the unsteady, flickering of train-oil
lanterns and blubber-lamps.

What long, delicious hours they spent thus, as the winter drew on, in
the absolute quiet of that country house, ignored and lost in the brown,
bare fields and leafless orchards of the open country! No one troubled
them. No one came near them. They asked nothing better than that the
world wherein they once had lived, whose hurtling activity and febrile
unrest they both had known so well, should leave them alone.

Only one jarring note, and that none too resonant, broke the long
harmony of Lloyd's happiness during these days. Bennett was deaf to it;
but for Lloyd it vibrated continuously and, as time passed, with
increasing insistence and distinctness. But for one person in the world
Lloyd could have told herself that her life was without a single element
of discontent.

This was Adler. It was not that his presence about the house was a
reproach to Bennett's wife, for the man was scrupulously unobtrusive. He
had the instinctive delicacy that one sometimes discovers in simple,
undeveloped natures--seafaring folk especially--and though he could not
bring himself to leave his former chief, he had withdrawn himself more
than ever from notice since the time of Bennett's marriage. He rarely
even waited on the table these days, for Lloyd and Bennett often chose
to breakfast and dine quite to themselves.

But, for all that, Lloyd saw Adler from time to time, Kamiska invariably
at his heels. She came upon him polishing the brasses upon the door of
the house, or binding strips of burlaps and sacking about the
rose-bushes in the garden, or returning from the village post-office
with the mail, invariably wearing the same woollen cap, the old
pea-jacket, and the jersey with the name "Freja" upon the breast. He
rarely spoke to her unless she first addressed him, and then always with
a precise salute, bringing his heels sharply together, standing stiffly
at attention.

But the man, though all unwittingly, radiated gloom. Lloyd readily saw
that Adler was labouring under a certain cloud of disappointment and
deferred hope. Naturally she understood the cause. Lloyd was too
large-hearted to feel any irritation at the sight of Adler. But she
could not regard him with indifference. To her mind he stood for all
that Bennett had given up, for the great career that had stopped
half-way, for the work half done, the task only half completed. In a way
was not Adler now superior to Bennett? His one thought and aim and hope
was to "try again." His ambition was yet alive and alight; the soldier
was willing where the chief lost heart. Never again had Adler addressed
himself to Lloyd on the subject of Bennett's inactivity. Now he seemed
to understand--to realise that once married--and to Lloyd--he must no
longer expect Bennett to continue the work. All this Lloyd interpreted
from Adler's attitude, and again and again told herself that she could
read the man's thoughts aright. She even fancied she caught a mute
appeal in his eyes upon those rare occasions when they met, as though he
looked to her as the only hope, the only means to wake Bennett from his
lethargy. She imagined that she heard him say:

"Ain't you got any influence with him, Miss? Won't you talk good talk to
him? Don't let him chuck. Make him be a man, and not a professor.
Nothing else in the world don't figure. It's his work. God A'mighty cut
him out for that, and he's got to do it."

His work, his work, God made him for that; appointed the task, made the
man, and now she came between. God, Man, and the Work,--the three vast
elements of an entire system, the whole universe epitomised in the
tremendous trinity. Again and again such thoughts assailed her. Duty
once more stirred and awoke. It seemed to her as if some great engine
ordained of Heaven to run its appointed course had come to a standstill,
was rusting to its ruin, and that she alone of all the world had power
to grasp its lever, to send it on its way; whither, she did not know;
why, she could not tell. She knew only that it was right that she should
act. By degrees her resolution hardened. Bennett must try again. But at
first it seemed to her as though her heart would break, and more than
once she wavered.

As Bennett continued to dictate to her the story of the expedition he
arrived at the account of the march toward Kolyuchin Bay, and, finally,
at the description of the last week, with its terrors, its sufferings,
its starvation, its despair, when, one by one, the men died in their
sleeping-bags, to be buried under slabs of ice. When this point in the
narrative was reached Bennett inserted no comment of his own; but while
Lloyd wrote, read simply and with grim directness from the entries in
his journal precisely as they had been written.

Lloyd had known in a vague way that the expedition had suffered
abominably, but hitherto Bennett had never consented to tell her the
story in detail. "It was a hard week," he informed her, "a rather bad
grind."

Now, for the first time, she was to know just what had happened, just
what he had endured.

As usual, Bennett paced the floor from wall to wall, his cigar in his
teeth, his tattered, grimy ice-journal in his hand. At the desk Lloyd's
round, bare arm, the sleeve turned up to the elbow, moved evenly back
and forth as she wrote. In the intervals of Bennett's dictation the
scratching of Lloyd's pen made itself heard. A little fire snapped and
crackled on the hearth. The morning's sun came flooding in at the
windows.

"... Gale of wind from the northeast," prompted Lloyd, raising her head
from her writing. Bennett continued:

"Impossible to march against it in our weakened condition."

He paused for her to complete the sentence.

"... Must camp here till it abates...."

"Have you got that?" Lloyd nodded.

"... Made soup of the last of the dog-meat this afternoon.... Our
last pemmican gone."

There was a pause; then Bennett resumed:

"December 1st, Wednesday--Everybody getting weaker.... Metz breaking
down.... Sent Adler to the shore to gather shrimps ... we had about
a mouthful apiece at noon ... supper, a spoonful of glycerine and
hot water."

Lloyd put her hand to her temple, smoothing back her hair, her face
turned away. As before, in the park, on that warm and glowing summer
afternoon, a swift, clear vision of the Ice was vouchsafed to her. She
saw the coast of Kolyuchin Bay--primordial desolation, whirling
dust-like snow, the unleashed wind yelling like a sabbath of witches,
leaping and somersaulting from rock to rock, folly-stricken and
insensate in its hideous dance of death. Bennett continued. His voice
insensibly lowered itself, a certain gravity of manner came upon him. At
times he looked at the written pages in his hand with vague, unseeing
eyes. No doubt he, too, was remembering.

He resumed:

"December 2d, Thursday--Metz died during the night.... Hansen dying.
Still blowing a gale from the northeast.... A hard night."

Lloyd's pen moved slower and slower as she wrote. The lines of the
manuscript began to blur and swim before her eyes.

And it was to this that she must send him. To this inhuman, horrible
region; to this life of prolonged suffering, where death came slowly
through days of starvation, exhaustion, and agony hourly renewed. He
must dare it all again. She must force him to it. Her decision had been
taken; her duty was plain to her. Now it was irrevocable.

"... Hansen died during early morning.... Dennison breaking down....

"... December 5th--Sunday--Dennison found dead this morning between
Adler and myself...."

The vision became plainer, more distinct. She fancied she saw the
interior of the tent and the dwindling number of the Freja's survivors
moving about on their hands and knees in its gloomy half-light. Their
hair and beards were long, their faces black with dirt, monstrously
distended and fat with the bloated irony of starvation. They were no
longer men. After that unspeakable stress of misery nothing but the
animal remained.

"... Too weak to bury him, or even carry him out of the tent.... He
must lie where he is.... Last spoonful of glycerine and hot
water.... Divine service at 5:30 P.M...."

Once more Lloyd faltered in her writing; her hand moved slower. Shut her
teeth though she might, the sobs would come; swiftly the tears brimmed
her eyes, but she tried to wink them back, lest Bennett should see.
Heroically she wrote to the end of the sentence. A pause followed:

"Yes--' divine services at'--I--I--"

The pen dropped from her fingers and she sank down upon her desk, her
head bowed in the hollow of her bare arm, shaken from head to foot with
the violence of the crudest grief she had ever known. Bennett threw his
journal from him, and came to her, taking her in his arms, putting her
head upon his shoulder.

"Why, Lloyd, what is it--why, old chap, what the devil! I was a beast to
read that to you. It wasn't really as bad as that, you know, and
besides, look here, look at me. It all happened three years ago. It's
all over with now."

Without raising her head, and clinging to him all the closer, Lloyd
answered brokenly:

"No, no; it's not all over. It never, never will be."

"Pshaw, nonsense!" Bennett blustered, "you must not take it to heart
like this. We're going to forget all about it now. Here, damn the book,
anyhow! We've had enough of it to-day. Put your hat on. We'll have the
ponies out and drive somewhere. And to-night we'll go into town and see
a show at a theatre."

"No," protested Lloyd, pushing back from him, drying her eyes. "You
shall not think I'm so weak. We will go on with what we have to do--with
our work. I'm all right now."

Bennett marched her out of the room without more ado, and, following
her, closed and locked the door behind them. "We'll not write another
word of that stuff to-day. Get your hat and things. I'm going out to
tell Lewis to put the ponies in."

But that day marked a beginning. From that time on Lloyd never faltered,
and if there were moments when the iron bit deeper than usual into her
heart, Bennett never knew her pain. By degrees a course of action
planned itself for her. A direct appeal to Bennett she believed would
not only be useless, but beyond even her heroic courage. She must
influence him indirectly. The initiative must appear to come from him.
It must seem to him that he, of his own accord, roused his dormant
resolution. It was a situation that called for all her feminine tact,
all her delicacy, all her instinctive diplomacy.

The round of their daily life was renewed, but now there was a change.
It was subtle, illusive, a vague, indefinite trouble in the air. Lloyd
had addressed herself to her task, and from day to day, from hour to
hour, she held to it, unseen, unnoticed. Now it was a remark dropped as
if by chance in the course of conversation; now an extract cut from a
newspaper or scientific journal, and left where Bennett would find it;
now merely a look in her eyes, an instant's significant glance when her
gaze met her husband's, or a moment's enthusiasm over the news of some
discovery. Insensibly and with infinite caution she directed his
attention to the world he believed he had abjured; she called into being
his interest in his own field of action, reading to him by the hour from
the writings of other men, or advancing and championing theories which
she knew to be false and ridiculous, but which she goaded him to deny
and refute.

One morning she even feigned an exclamation of unbounded astonishment as
she opened the newspaper while the two were at breakfast, pretending to
read from imaginary headlines.

"Ward, listen! 'The Pole at Last. A Norwegian Expedition Solves the
Mystery of the Arctic. The Goal Reached After--'"

"What!" cried Bennett sharply, his frown lowering.

"'--After Centuries of Failure.'" Lloyd put down the paper with a note
of laughter.

"Suppose you should read it some day."

Bennett subsided with a good-humoured growl.

"You did scare me for a moment. I thought--I thought--"

"I did scare you? Why were you scared? What did you think?" She leaned
toward him eagerly.

"I thought--well--oh--that some other chap, Duane, perhaps--"

"He's still at Tasiusak. But he will succeed, I do believe. I've read a
great deal about him. He has energy and determination. If anybody
succeeds it will be Duane."

"He? Never!"

"Somebody, then."

"You said once that if your husband couldn't nobody could."

"Yes, yes, I know," she answered cheerfully. "But you--you are out of
it now."

"Huh!" he grumbled. "It's not because I don't think I could if I wanted
to."

"No, you could not, Ward. Nobody can."

"But you just said you thought somebody would some day."

"Did I? Oh, suppose you really should one of these days!"

"And suppose I never came back?"

"Nonsense! Of course you would come back. They all do nowadays."

"De Long didn't."

"But you are not De Long."

And for the rest of the day Lloyd noted with a sinking heart that
Bennett was unusually thoughtful and preoccupied. She said nothing, and
was studious to avoid breaking in upon his reflections, whatever they
might be. She kept out of his way as much as possible, but left upon his
desk, as if by accident, a copy of a pamphlet issued by a geographical
society, open at an article upon the future of exploration within the
arctic circle. At supper that night Bennett suddenly broke in upon a
rather prolonged silence with:

"It's all in the ship. Build a ship strong enough to withstand lateral
pressure of the ice and the whole thing becomes easy."

Lloyd yawned and stirred her tea indifferently as she answered:

"Yes, but you know that can't be done."

Bennett frowned thoughtfully, drumming upon the table.

"I'll wager _I_ could build one."

"But it's not the ship alone. It's the man. Whom would you get to
command your ship?"

Bennett stared.

"Why, I would take her, of course."

"You? You have had your share--your chance. Now you can afford to stay
home and finish your book--and--well, you might deliver lectures."

"What rot, Lloyd! Can you see me posing on a lecture platform?"

"I would rather see you doing that than trying to beat Duane, than
getting into the ice again. I would rather see you doing that than to
know that you were away up there--in the north, in the ice, at your work
again, fighting your way toward the Pole, leading your men and
overcoming every obstacle that stood in your way, never giving up, never
losing heart, trying to do the great, splendid, impossible thing;
risking your life to reach merely a point on a chart. Yes, I would
rather see you on a lecture platform than on the deck of an arctic
steamship. You know that, Ward."

He shot a glance at her.

"I would like to know what you mean," he muttered.

The winter went by, then the spring, and by June all the country around
Medford was royal with summer. During the last days of May, Bennett
practically had completed the body of his book and now occupied himself
with its appendix. There was little variation in their daily life. Adler
became more and more of a fixture about the place. In the first week of
June, Lloyd and Bennett had a visitor, a guest; this was Hattie
Campbell. Mr. Campbell was away upon a business trip, and Lloyd had
arranged to have the little girl spend the fortnight of his absence
with her at Medford.

The summer was delightful. A vast, pervading warmth lay close over all
the world. The trees, the orchards, the rose-bushes in the garden about
the house, all the teeming life of trees and plants hung motionless and
poised in the still, tideless ocean of the air. It was very quiet; all
distant noises, the crowing of cocks, the persistent calling of robins
and jays, the sound of wheels upon the road, the rumble of the trains
passing the station down in the town, seemed muffled and subdued. The
long, calm summer days succeeded one another in an unbroken, glimmering
procession. From dawn to twilight one heard the faint, innumerable
murmurs of the summer, the dull bourdon of bees in the rose and lilac
bushes, the prolonged, strident buzzing of blue-bottle-flies, the harsh,
dry scrape of grasshoppers, the stridulating of an occasional cricket.
In the twilight and all through the night itself the frogs shrilled from
the hedgerows and in the damp, north corners of the fields, while from
the direction of the hills toward the east the whippoorwills called
incessantly. During the day the air was full of odours, distilled as it
were by the heat of high noon--the sweet smell of ripening apples, the
fragrance of warm sap and leaves and growing grass, the smell of cows
from the nearby pastures, the pungent, ammoniacal suggestion of the
stable back of the house, and the odour of scorching paint blistering on
the southern walls.

July was very hot. No breath of wind stirred the vast, invisible sea of
air, quivering and oily under the vertical sun. The landscape was
deserted of animated life; there was little stirring abroad. In the
house one kept within the cool, darkened rooms with matting on the
floors and comfortable, deep wicker chairs, the windows wide to the
least stirring of the breeze. Adler dozed in his canvas hammock slung
between a hitching-post and a crab-apple tree in the shade behind the
stable. Kamiska sprawled at full length underneath the water-trough, her
tongue lolling, panting incessantly. An immeasurable Sunday stillness
seemed to hang suspended in the atmosphere--a drowsy, numbing hush.
There was no thought of the passing of time. The day of the week was
always a matter of conjecture. It seemed as though this life of heat and
quiet and unbroken silence was to last forever.

Then suddenly there was an _alerte_. One morning, a day or so after
Hattie Campbell had returned to the City, just as Lloyd and Bennett were
finishing their breakfast in the now heavily awninged glass-room, they
were surprised to see Adler running down the road toward the house,
Kamiska racing on ahead, barking excitedly. Adler had gone into the town
for the mail and morning's paper. This latter he held wide open in his
hand, and as soon as he caught sight of Lloyd and Bennett waved it about
him, shouting as he ran.

Lloyd's heart began to beat. There was only one thing that could excite
Adler to this degree--the English expedition; Adler had news of it; it
was in the paper. Duane had succeeded; had been working steadily
northward during all these past months, while Bennett--

"Stuck in the ice! stuck in the ice!" shouted Adler as he swung wide the
front gate and came hastening toward the veranda across the lawn. "What
did we say! Hooray! He's stuck. I knew it; any galoot might 'a' known
it. Duane's stuck tighter'n a wedge off Bache Island, in Kane Basin.
Here it all is; read it for yourself."

Bennett took the paper from him and read aloud to the effect that the
Curlew, accompanied by her collier, which was to follow her to the
southerly limit of Kane Basin, had attempted the passage of Smith Sound
late in June. But the season, as had been feared, was late. The enormous
quantities of ice reported by the whalers the previous year had not
debouched from the narrow channel, and on the last day of June the
Curlew had found her further progress effectually blocked. In essaying
to force her way into a lead the ice had closed in behind her, and,
while not as yet nipped, the vessel was immobilised. There was no hope
that she would advance northward until the following summer. The
collier, which had not been beset, had returned to Tasiusak with the
news of the failure.

"What a galoot! What a--a professor!" exclaimed Adler with a vast
disdain. "Him loafing at Tasiusak waiting for open water, when the Alert
wintered in eighty-two-twenty-four! Well, he's shelved for another year,
anyhow."

Later on, after breakfast, Lloyd and Bennett shut themselves in
Bennett's workroom, and for upward of three hours addressed themselves
to the unfinished work of the previous day, compiling from Bennett's
notes a table of temperatures of the sea-water taken at different
soundings. Alternating with the scratching of Lloyd's pen, Bennett's
voice continued monotonously:

"August 15th--2,000 meters or 1,093 fathoms--minus .66 degrees
centigrade or 30.81 Fahrenheit."

"Fahrenheit," repeated Lloyd as she wrote the last word.

"August 16th--1,600 meters or 874  fathoms--"

"Eight hundred and seventy-four fathoms," repeated Lloyd as Bennett
paused abstractedly.

"Or ... he's in a bad way, you know."

"What do you mean?"

"It's a bad bit of navigation along there. The Proteus was nipped and
crushed to kindling in about that same latitude ... h'm" ... Bennett
tugged at his mustache. Then, suddenly, as if coming to himself:
"Well--these temperatures now. Where were we? 'Eight hundred and
seventy-four fathoms, minus forty-six hundredths degrees centigrade.'"

On the afternoon of the next day, just as they were finishing this
table, there was a knock at the door. It was Adler, and as Bennett
opened the door he saluted and handed him three calling-cards. Bennett
uttered an exclamation of surprise, and Lloyd turned about from the
desk, her pen poised in the air over the half-written sheet.

"They might have let me know they were coming," she heard Bennett
mutter. "What do they want?"

"Guess they came on that noon train, sir," hazarded Adler. "They didn't
say what they wanted, just inquired for you."

"Who is it?" asked Lloyd, coming forward.

Bennett read off the names on the cards.

"Well, it's Tremlidge--that's the Tremlidge of the Times; he's the
editor and proprietor--and Hamilton Garlock--has something to do with
that new geographical society--president, I believe--and this one"--he
handed her the third card--"is a friend of yours, Craig V. Campbell, of
the Hercules Wrought Steel Company."

Lloyd stared. "What can they want?" she murmured, looking up to him from
the card in some perplexity. Bennett shook his head.

"Tell them to come up here," he said to Adler.

Lloyd hastily drew down her sleeve over her bare arm.

"Why up here, Ward?" she inquired abruptly.

"Should we have seen them downstairs?" he demanded with a frown. "I
suppose so; I didn't think. Don't go," he added, putting a hand on her
arm as she started for the door. "You might as well hear what they have
to say."

The visitors entered, Adler holding open the door--Campbell, well
groomed, clean-shaven, and gloved even in that warm weather; Tremlidge,
the editor of one of the greater daily papers of the City (and of the
country for the matter of that), who wore a monocle and carried a straw
hat under his arm; and Garlock, the vice-president of an international
geographical society, an old man, with beautiful white hair curling
about his ears, a great bow of black silk knotted about his
old-fashioned collar. The group presented, all unconsciously, three
great and highly developed phases of nineteenth-century
intelligence--science, manufactures, and journalism--each man of them a
master in his calling.

When the introductions and preliminaries were over, Bennett took up his
position again in front of the fireplace, leaning against the mantle,
his hands in his pockets. Lloyd sat opposite to him at the desk, resting
her elbow on the edge. Hanging against the wall behind her was the vast
chart of the arctic circle. Tremlidge, the editor, sat on the bamboo
sofa near the end of the room, his elbows on his knees, gently tapping
the floor with the ferrule of his slim walking-stick; Garlock, the
scientist, had dropped into the depths of a huge leather chair and
leaned back in it comfortably, his legs crossed, one boot swinging
gently; Campbell stood behind this chair, drumming on the back
occasionally with the fingers of one hand, speaking to Bennett over
Garlock's shoulder, and from time to time turning to Tremlidge for
corroboration and support of what he was saying.

Abruptly the conference began.

"Well, Mr. Bennett, you got our wire?" Campbell said by way of
commencement.

Bennett shook his head.

"No," he returned in some surprise; "no, I got no wire."

"That's strange," said Tremlidge. "I wired three days ago asking for
this interview. The address was right, I think. I wired: 'Care of Dr.
Pitts.' Isn't that right?"

"That probably accounts for it," answered Bennett. "This is Pitts's
house, but he does not live here now. Your despatch, no doubt, went to
his office in the City, and was forwarded to him. He's away just now,
travelling, I believe. But--you're here. That's the essential."

"Yes," murmured Garlock, looking to Campbell. "We're here, and we want
to have a talk with you."

Campbell, who had evidently been chosen spokesman, cleared his throat.

"Well, Mr. Bennett, I don't know just how to begin, so suppose
I begin at the beginning. Tremlidge and I belong to the same club in
the City, and in some way or other we have managed to see a good deal
of each other during the last half-dozen years. We find that we have
a good deal in common. I don't think his editorial columns are for
sale, and he doesn't believe there are blow-holes in my steel plates.
I really do believe we have certain convictions. Tremlidge seems to
have an idea that journalism can be clean and yet enterprising, and
tries to run his sheet accordingly, and I am afraid that I would not
make a bid for bridge girders below what it would cost to manufacture
them honestly. Tremlidge and I differ in politics; we hold conflicting
views as to municipal government; we attend different churches; we are
at variance in the matter of public education, of the tariff, of
emigration, and, heaven save the mark! of capital and labour, but we
tell ourselves that we are public-spirited and are a little proud that
God allowed us to be born in the United States; also it appears that we
have more money than Henry George believes to be right. Now," continued
Mr. Campbell, straightening himself as though he were about to touch
upon the real subject of his talk, "when the news of your return, Mr.
Bennett, was received, it was, as of course you understand, the one
topic of conversation in the streets, the clubs, the newspaper
offices--everywhere. Tremlidge and I met at our club at luncheon the
next week, and I remember perfectly well how long and how very earnestly
we talked of your work and of arctic exploration in general.

"We found out all of a sudden that here at last was a subject we were
agreed upon, a subject in which we took an extraordinary mutual
interest. We discovered that we had read almost every explorer's book
from Sir John Franklin down. We knew all about the different theories
and plans of reaching the Pole. We knew how and why they had all failed;
but, for all that, we were both of the opinion" (Campbell leaned
forward, speaking with considerable energy) "that it can be done, and
that America ought to do it. That would be something better than even a
World's Fair.

"We give out a good deal of money, Tremlidge and I, every year to public
works and one thing or another. We buy pictures by American
artists--pictures that we don't want; we found a scholarship now and
then; we contribute money to build groups of statuary in the park; we
give checks to the finance committees of libraries and museums and all
the rest of it, but, for the lives of us, we can feel only a mild
interest in the pictures and statues, and museums and colleges, though
we go on buying the one and supporting the other, because we think that
somehow it is right for us to do it. I'm afraid we are men more of
action than of art, literature, and the like. Tremlidge is, I know. He
wants facts, accomplished results. When he gives out his money he wants
to see the concrete, substantial return--and I'm not sure that I am not
of the same way of thinking.

"Well, with this and with that, and after talking it all over a dozen
times--twenty times--we came to the conclusion that what we would most
like to aid financially would be a successful attempt by an
American-built ship, manned by American seamen, led by an American
commander, to reach the North Pole. We came to be very enthusiastic
about our idea; but we want it American from start to finish. We will
start the subscription, and want to head the list with our checks; but
we want every bolt in that ship forged in American foundries from metal
dug out of American soil. We want every plank in her hull shaped from
American trees, every sail of her woven by American looms, every man of
her born of American parents, and we want it this way because we believe
in American manufactures, because we believe in American shipbuilding,
because we believe in American sailmakers, and because we believe in the
intelligence and pluck and endurance and courage of the American sailor.

"Well," Campbell continued, changing his position and speaking in a
quieter voice, "we did not say much to anybody, and, in fact, we never
really planned any expedition at all. We merely talked about its
practical nature and the desirability of having it distinctively
American. This was all last summer. What we wanted to do was to make the
scheme a popular one. It would not be hard to raise a hundred thousand
dollars from among a dozen or so men whom we both know, and we found
that we could count upon the financial support of Mr. Garlock's society.
That was all very well, but we wanted the _people_ to back this
enterprise. We would rather get a thousand five-dollar subscriptions
than five of a thousand dollars each. When our ship went out we wanted
her commander to feel, not that there were merely a few millionaires,
who had paid for his equipment and his vessel, behind him, but that he
had seventy millions of people, a whole nation, at his back.

"So Tremlidge went to work and telegraphed instructions to the
Washington correspondents of his paper to sound quietly the temper of as
many Congressmen as possible in the matter of making an appropriation
toward such an expedition. It was not so much the money we wanted as the
sanction of the United States. Anything that has to do with the Navy is
popular just at present. We had got a Congressman to introduce and
father an appropriation bill, and we could count upon the support of
enough members of both houses to put it through. We wanted Congress to
appropriate twenty thousand dollars. We hoped to raise another ten
thousand dollars by popular subscription. Mr. Garlock could assure us
two thousand dollars; Tremlidge would contribute twenty thousand dollars
in the name of the Times, and I pledged myself to ten thousand dollars,
and promised to build the ship's engines and fittings. We kept our
intentions to ourselves, as Tremlidge did not want the other papers to
get hold of the story before the Times printed it. But we continued to
lay our wires at Washington. Everything was going as smooth as oil; we
seemed sure of the success of our appropriation bill, and it was even to
be introduced next week, when the news came of the collapse of the
English expedition--the Duane-Parsons affair.

"You would have expected precisely an opposite effect, but it has
knocked our chances with Congress into a cocked hat. Our member, who was
to father the bill, declared to us that so sure as it was brought up now
it would be killed in committee. I went to Washington at once; it was
this, and not, as you supposed, private business that has taken me away.
I saw our member and Tremlidge's head correspondent. It was absolutely
no use. These men who have their finger upon the Congressional pulse
were all of the same opinion. It would be useless to try to put through
our bill at present. Our member said 'Wait;' all Tremlidge's men said
'Wait--wait for another year, until this English expedition and its
failure are forgotten, and then try again.' But we don't want to wait.
Suppose Duane _is_ blocked for the present. He has a tremendous start.
He's on the ground. By next summer the chances are the ice will have so
broken up as to permit him to push ahead, and by the time our bill gets
through and our ship built and launched he may be--heaven knows where,
right up to the Pole, perhaps. No, we can't afford to give England such
long odds. We want to lay the keel of our ship as soon as we can--next
week, if possible; we've got the balance of the summer and all the
winter to prepare in, and a year from this month we want our American
expedition to be inside the polar circle, to be up with Duane, and at
least to break even with England. If we can do that we're not afraid of
the result, provided," continued Mr. Campbell, "provided _you_, Mr.
Bennett, are in command. If you consent to make the attempt, only one
point remains to be settled. Congress has failed us. We will give up the
idea of an appropriation. Now, then, and this is particularly what we
want to consult you about, how are we going to raise the twenty thousand
dollars?"

Lloyd rose to her feet.

"You may draw on me for the amount," she said quietly.

Garlock uncrossed his legs and sat up abruptly in the deep-seated chair.
Tremlidge screwed his monocle into his eye and stared, while Campbell
turned about sharply at the sound of Lloyd's voice with a murmur of
astonishment. Bennett alone did not move. As before, he leaned heavily
against the mantelpiece, his hands in his pockets, his head and his huge
shoulders a little bent. Only from under his thick, knotted frown he
shot a swift glance toward his wife. Lloyd paid no attention to the
others. After that one quiet movement that had brought her to her feet
she remained motionless and erect, her hands hanging straight at her
sides, the colour slowly mounting to her cheeks. She met Bennett's
glance and held it steadily, calmly, looking straight into his eyes. She
said no word, but all her love for him, all her hopes of him, all the
fine, strong resolve that, come what would, his career should not be
broken, his ambition should not faint through any weakness of hers, all
her eager sympathy for his great work, all her strong, womanly
encouragement for him to accomplish his destiny spoke to him, and called
to him in that long, earnest look of her dull-blue eyes. Now she was no
longer weak; now she could face the dreary consequences that, for her,
must follow the rousing of his dormant energy; now was no longer the
time for indirect appeal; the screen was down between them. More
eloquent than any spoken words was the calm, steady gaze in which she
held his own.

There was a long silence while husband and wife stood looking deep into
each other's eyes. And then, as a certain slow kindling took place in
his look, Lloyd saw that at last Bennett _understood_.

After that the conference broke up rapidly. Campbell, as the head and
spokesman of the committee, noted the long, significant glance that had
passed between Bennett and Lloyd, and, perhaps, vaguely divined that he
had touched upon a matter of a particularly delicate and intimate
nature. Something was in the air, something was passing between husband
and wife in which the outside world had no concern--something not meant
for him to see. He brought the interview to an end as quickly as
possible. He begged of Bennett to consider this talk as a mere
preliminary--a breaking of the ground. He would give Bennett time to
think it over. Speaking for himself and the others, he was deeply
impressed with that generous offer to meet the unexpected deficiency,
but it had been made upon the spur of the moment. No doubt Mr. Bennett
and his wife would wish to talk it over between themselves, to consider
the whole matter. The committee temporarily had its headquarters in his
(Campbell's) offices. He left Bennett the address. He would await his
decision and answer there.

When the conference ended Bennett accompanied the members of the
committee downstairs and to the front door of the house. The three had,
with thanks and excuses, declined all invitations to dine at Medford
with Bennett and his wife. They could conveniently catch the next train
back to the City; Campbell and Tremlidge were in a hurry to return to
their respective businesses.

The front gate closed. Bennett was left alone. He shut the front door of
the house, and for an instant stood leaning against it, his small eyes
twinkling under his frown, his glance straying aimlessly about amid the
familiar objects of the hallway and adjoining rooms. He was thoughtful,
perturbed, tugging slowly at the ends of his mustache. Slowly he
ascended the stairs, gaining the landing on the second floor and going
on toward the half-open door of the "workroom" he had just quitted.
Lloyd was uppermost in his mind. He wanted her, his wife, and that at
once. He was conscious that a great thing had suddenly transpired; that
all the calm and infinitely happy life of the last year was ruthlessly
broken up; but in his mind there was nothing more definite, nothing
stronger than the thought of his wife and the desire for her
companionship and advice.

He came into the "workroom," closing the door behind him with his heel,
his hands deep in his pockets. Lloyd was still there, standing opposite
him as he entered. She hardly seemed to have moved while he had been
gone. They did not immediately speak. Once more their eyes met. Then at
length:

"Well, Lloyd?"

"Well, my husband?"

Bennett was about to answer--what, he hardly knew; but at that moment
there was a diversion.

The old boat's flag, the tattered little square of faded stars and bars
that had been used to mark the line of many a weary march, had been
hanging, as usual, over the blue-print plans of the Freja on the wail
opposite the window. Inadequately fixed in its place, the jar of the
closing door as Bennett shut it behind him dislodged it, and it fell to
the floor close beside him.

He stooped and picked it up, and, holding it in his hand, turned toward
the spot whence it had fallen. He cast a glance at the wall above the
plans of the Freja, about to replace it, willing for the instant to
defer the momentous words he felt must soon be spoken, willing to put
off the inevitable a few seconds longer.

"I don't know," he muttered, looking from the flag to the empty
wall-spaces about the room; "I don't know just where to put this. Do
you--"

"Don't you know?" interrupted Lloyd suddenly, her blue eyes all alight.

"No," said Bennett; "I--"

Lloyd caught the flag from his hands and, with one great sweep of her
arm, drove its steel-shod shaft full into the centre of the great chart
of the polar region, into the innermost concentric circle where the Pole
was marked.

"Put that flag there!" she cried.



XI.


That particular day in the last week in April was sombre and somewhat
chilly, but there was little wind. The water of the harbour lay smooth
as a sheet of tightly stretched gray silk. Overhead the sea-fog drifted
gradually landward, descending, as it drifted, till the outlines of the
City grew blurred and indistinct, resolving to a dim, vast mass, rugged
with high-shouldered office buildings and bulging, balloon-like domes,
confused and mysterious under the cloak of the fog. In the nearer
foreground, along the lines of the wharves and docks, a wilderness of
masts and spars of a tone just darker than the gray of the mist stood
away from the blur of the background with the distinctness and delicacy
of frost-work.

But amid all this grayness of sky and water and fog one distinguished
certain black and shifting masses. They outlined every wharf, they
banked every dock, every quay. Every small and inconsequent jetty had
its fringe of black. Even the roofs of the buildings along the
water-front were crested with the same dull-coloured mass.

It was the People, the crowd, rank upon rank, close-packed, expectant,
thronging there upon the City's edge, swelling in size with the lapse of
every minute, vast, conglomerate, restless, and throwing off into the
stillness of the quiet gray air a prolonged, indefinite murmur, a
monotonous minor note.

The surface of the bay was dotted over with all manner of craft black
with people. Rowboats, perilously overcrowded, were everywhere.
Ferryboats and excursion steamers, chartered for that day, heeled over
almost to the water's edge with the unsteady weight of their passengers.
Tugboats passed up and down similarly crowded and displaying the flags
of various journals and news organisations--the News, the Press, the
Times, and the Associated Press. Private yachts, trim and very graceful
and gleaming with brass and varnish, slipped by with scarcely a ripple
to mark their progress, while full in the centre of the bay, gigantic,
solid, formidable, her grim, silent guns thrusting their snouts from her
turrets, a great, white battleship rode motionless to her anchor.

An hour passed; noon came. At long intervals a faint seaward breeze
compressed the fog, and high, sad-coloured clouds and a fine and
penetrating rain came drizzling down. The crowds along the wharves grew
denser and blacker. The numbers of yachts, boats, and steamers
increased; even the yards and masts of the merchant-ships were dotted
over with watchers.

Then, at length, from far up the bay there came a faint, a barely
perceptible, droning sound, the sound of distant shouting. Instantly the
crowds were alert, and a quick, surging movement rippled from end to end
of the throng along the water-front. Its subdued murmur rose in pitch
upon the second. Like a flock of agitated gulls, the boats in the
harbour stirred nimbly from place to place; a belated newspaper tug tore
by, headed for the upper bay, smoking fiercely, the water boiling from
her bows. From the battleship came the tap of a drum. The excursion
steamers and chartered ferryboats moved to points of vantage and took
position, occasionally feeling the water with their paddles.

The distant, droning sound drew gradually nearer, swelling in volume,
and by degrees splitting into innumerable component parts. One began to
distinguish the various notes that contributed to its volume--a sharp,
quick volley of inarticulate shouts or a cadenced cheer or a hoarse
salvo of steam whistles. Bells began to ring in different quarters of
the City.

Then all at once the advancing wave of sound swept down like the rush of
a great storm. A roar as of the unchained wind leaped upward from those
banked and crowding masses. It swelled louder and louder, deafening,
inarticulate. A vast bellow of exultation split the gray, low-hanging
heavens. Erect plumes of steam shot upward from the ferry and excursion
boats, but the noise of their whistles was lost and drowned in the
reverberation of that mighty and prolonged clamour. But suddenly the
indeterminate thunder was pierced and dominated by a sharp and
deep-toned report, and a jet of white smoke shot out from the flanks of
the battleship. Her guns had spoken. Instantly and from another quarter
of her hull came another jet of white smoke, stabbed through with its
thin, yellow flash, and another abrupt clap of thunder shook the windows
of the City.

The boats that all the morning had been moving toward the upper bay were
returning. They came slowly, a veritable fleet, steaming down the bay,
headed for the open sea, beyond the entrance of the harbour, each
crowded and careening to the very gunwales, each whistling with might
and main.

And in their midst--the storm-centre round which this tempest of
acclamation surged, the object on which so many eyes were focussed, the
hope of an entire nation--one ship.

She was small and seemingly pitifully inadequate for the great adventure
on which she was bound; her lines were short and ungraceful. From her
clumsy iron-shod bow to her high, round stern, from her bulging sides to
the summit of her short, powerful masts there was scant beauty in her.
She was broad, blunt, evidently slow in her movements, and in the smooth
waters of the bay seemed out of her element. But, for all that, she
imparted an impression of compactness, the compactness of things dwarfed
and stunted. Vast, indeed, would be the force that would crush those
bulging flanks, so cunningly built, moreover, that the ship must slip
and rise to any too great lateral pressure. Far above her waist rose her
smokestack. Overhead upon the mainmast was affixed the crow's nest.
Whaleboats and cutters swung from her davits, while all her decks were
cumbered with barrels, with crates, with boxes and strangely shaped
bales and cases.

She drew nearer, continuing that slow, proud progress down the bay,
honoured as no visiting sovereign had ever been. The great white
man-of-war dressed ship as she passed, and the ensign at her
fighting-top dipped and rose again. At once there was a movement aboard
the little outbound ship; one of her crew ran aft and hauled sharply at
the halyards, and then at her peak there was broken out not the
brilliant tri-coloured banner, gay and brave and clean, but a little
length of bunting, tattered and soiled, a faded breadth of stars and
bars, a veritable battle-flag, eloquent of strenuous endeavour, of
fighting without quarter, and of hardship borne without flinching and
without complaining.

The ship with her crowding escorts held onward. By degrees the City was
passed; the bay narrowed oceanwards little by little. The throng of
people, the boom of cannon, and the noise of shouting dropped astern.
One by one the boats of the escorting squadron halted, drew off, and,
turning with a parting blast of their whistles, headed back to the City.
Only the larger, heavier steamers and the sea-going tugs still kept on
their way. On either shore of the bay the houses began to dwindle,
giving place to open fields, brown and sear under the scudding sea-fog,
for now a wind was building up from out the east, and the surface of the
bay had begun to ruffle.

Half a mile farther on the slow, huge, groundswells began to come in; a
lighthouse was passed. Full in view, on ahead, stretched the open, empty
waste of ocean. Another steamer turned back, then another, then another,
then the last of the newspaper tugs. The fleet, reduced now to half a
dozen craft, ploughed on through and over the groundswells, the ship
they were escorting leading the way, her ragged little ensign straining
stiff in the ocean wind. At the entrance of the bay, where the enclosing
shores drew together and trailed off to surf-beaten sand-spits, three
more of the escort halted, and, unwilling to face the tumbling expanse
of the ocean, bleak and gray, turned homeward. Then just beyond the bar
two more of the remaining boats fell off and headed Cityward; a third
immediately did likewise. The outbound ship was left with only one
companion.

But that one, a sturdy little sea-going tug, held close, close to the
flank of the departing vessel, keeping even pace with her and lying
alongside as nearly as she dared, for the fog had begun to thicken, and
distant objects were shut from sight by occasional drifting patches.

On board the tug there was but one passenger--a woman. She stood upon
the forward deck, holding to a stanchion with one strong, white hand,
the strands of her bronze-red hair whipping across her face, the salt
spray damp upon her cheeks. She was dressed in a long, brown ulster, its
cape flying from her shoulders as the wind lifted it. Small as was the
outgoing ship, the tug was still smaller, and its single passenger had
to raise her eyes above her to see the figure of a man upon the bridge
of the ship, a tall, heavily built figure, buttoned from heel to chin in
a greatcoat, who stood there gripping the rail of the bridge with one
hand, and from time to time giving an order to his sailing-master, who
stood in the centre of the bridge before the compass and electric
indicator.

Between the man upon the bridge and the woman on the forward deck of the
tug there was from time to time a little conversation. They called to
one another above the throbbing of the engines and the wash of the sea
alongside, and in the sound of their voices there was a note of
attempted cheerfulness. Practically they were alone, with the exception
of the sailing-master on the bridge. The crew of the ship were nowhere
in sight. On the tug no one but the woman was to be seen. All around
them stretched the fog-ridden sea.

Then at last, in answer to a question from the man on the bridge, the
woman said:

"Yes--I think I had better."

An order was given. The tug's bell rang in her engine-room, and the
engine slowed and stopped. For some time the tug continued her headway,
ranging alongside the ship as before. Then she began to fall behind, at
first slowly, then with increasing swiftness. The outbound ship
continued on her way, and between the two the water widened and widened.
But the fog was thick; in another moment the two would be shut out from
each other's sight. The moment of separation was come.

Then Lloyd, standing alone on that heaving deck, drew herself up to her
full height, her head a little back, her blue eyes all alight, a smile
upon her lips. She spoke no word. She made no gesture, but stood there,
the smile yet upon her lips, erect, firm, motionless; looking steadily,
calmly, proudly into Bennett's eyes as his ship carried him farther and
farther away.

Suddenly the fog shut down. The two vessels were shut from each other's
sight.

As Bennett stood leaning upon the rail of the bridge behind him, his
hands deep in the pockets of his greatcoat, his eyes fixed on the
visible strip of water just ahead of his ship's prow, the
sailing-master, Adler, approached and saluted.

"Beg pardon, sir," he said, "we're just clear of the last buoy; what's
our course now, sir?"

Bennett glanced at the chart that Adler held and then at the compass
affixed to the rail of the bridge close at hand. Quietly he answered:

"Due north."





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this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
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