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Title: Gladiator
Author: Wylie, Philip
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 "Gladiator" ***

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                             GLADIATOR

                            Philip Wylie

    [Transcriber's Note: Extensive research did not uncover any evidence
    that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]



I


Once upon a time in Colorado lived a man named Abednego Danner and his
wife, Matilda. Abednego Danner was a professor of biology in a small
college in the town of Indian Creek. He was a spindling wisp of a man,
with a nature drawn well into itself by the assaults of the world and
particularly of the grim Mrs. Danner, who understood nothing and
undertook all. Nevertheless these two lived modestly in a frame house on
the hem of Indian Creek and they appeared to be a settled and peaceful
couple.

The chief obstacle to Mrs. Danner's placid dominion of her hearth was
Professor Danner's laboratory, which occupied a room on the first floor
of the house. It was the one impregnable redoubt in her domestic
stronghold. Neither threat nor entreaty would drive him and what she
termed his "stinking, unchristian, unhealthy dinguses" from that room.
After he had lectured vaguely to his classes on the structure of the
_Paramecium caudatum_ and the law discovered by Mendel, he would shut
the door behind himself, and all the fury of the stalwart, black-haired
woman could not drive him out until his own obscure ends were served.

It never occurred to Professor Danner that he was a great man or a
genius. His alarm at such a notion would have been pathetic. He was so
fascinated by the trend of his thoughts and experiments, in fact, that
he scarcely realized by what degrees he had outstripped a world that
wore picture hats, hobble skirts, and straps beneath its trouser legs.
However, as the century turned and the fashions changed, he was carried
further from them, which was just as well.

On a certain Sunday he sat beside his wife in church, singing snatches
of the hymns in a doleful and untrue voice and meditating, during the
long sermon, on the structure of chromosomes. She, bolt upright and
overshadowing him, like a coffin in the pew, rigid lest her black silk
rustle, thrilled in some corner of her mind at the picture of hell and
salvation.

Mr. Danner's thoughts turned to Professor Mudge, whose barren pate
showed above the congregation a few rows ahead of him. There, he said to
himself, sat a stubborn and unenlightened man. And so, when the weekly
tyranny of church was ended, he asked Mudge to dinner. That he
accomplished by an argument with his wife, audible the length of the
aisle.

They walked to the Danner residence. Mrs. Danner changed her clothes
hurriedly, basted the roast, made milk sauce for the string beans, and
set three places. They went into the dining-room. Danner carved, the
home-made mint jelly was passed, the bread, the butter, the gravy; and
Mrs. Danner dropped out of the conversation, after guying her husband on
his lack of skill at his task of carving.

Mudge opened with the usual comment. "Well, Abednego, how are the
blood-stream radicals progressing?"

His host chuckled. "Excellently, thanks. Some day I'll be ready to jolt
you hidebound biologists into your senses."

Mudge's left eyebrow lifted. "So? Still the same thing, I take it? Still
believe that chemistry controls human destiny?"

"Almost ready to demonstrate it," Danner replied.

"Along what lines?"

"Muscular strength and the nervous discharge of energy."

Mudge slapped his thigh. "Ho ho! Nervous discharge of energy. You assume
the human body to be a voltaic pile, eh? That's good. I'll have to tell
Gropper. He'll enjoy it."

Danner, in some embarrassment, gulped a huge mouthful of meat. "Why
not?" he said. "Look at the insects--the ants. Strength a hundred times
our own. An ant can carry a large spider--yet an ant is tissue and
fiber, like a man. If a man could be given the same sinews--he could
walk off with his own house."

"Ha ha! There's a good one. Maybe you'll do it, Abednego."

"Possibly, possibly."

"And you would make a splendid piano-mover."

"Pianos! Pooh! Consider the grasshoppers. Make a man as strong as a
grasshopper--and he'll be able to leap over a church. I tell you, there
is something that determines the quality of every muscle and nerve. Find
it--transplant it--and you have the solution."

Mirth overtook Professor Mudge in a series of paroxysms from which he
emerged rubicund and witty. "Probably your grasshopper man will look
like a grasshopper--more insect than man. At least, Danner, you have
imagination."

"Few people have," Danner said, and considered that he had acquitted
himself.

His wife interrupted at that point. "I think this nonsense has gone far
enough. It is wicked to tamper with God's creatures. It is wicked to
discuss such matters--especially on the Sabbath. Abednego, I wish you
would give up your work in the laboratory."

Danner's cranium was overlarge and his neck small; but he stiffened it
to hold himself in a posture of dignity. "Never."

His wife gazed from the defiant pose to the locked door visible through
the parlour. She stirred angrily in her clothes and speared a morsel of
food. "You'll be punished for it."

Later in the day Mudge and Gropper laughed heartily at the expense of
the former's erstwhile host. Danner read restively. He was forbidden to
work on the Sabbath. It was his only compromise. Matilda Danner turned
the leaves of the Bible and meditated in a partial vacuum of day-dreams.

On Monday Danner hastened home from his classes. During the night he had
had a new idea. And a new idea was a rare thing after fourteen years of
groping investigation. "Alkaline radicals," he murmured as he crossed
his lawn. He considered a group of ultra-microscopic bodies. He had no
name for them. They were the "determinants" of which he had talked. He
locked the laboratory door behind himself and bent over the microscope
he had designed. "Huh!" he said. An hour later, while he stirred a
solution in a beaker, he said: "Huh!" again. He repeated it when his
wife called him to dinner. The room was a maze of test tubes, bottles,
burners, retorts, instruments. During the meal he did not speak.
Afterwards he resumed work. At twelve he prepared six tadpole eggs and
put them to hatch. It would be his three hundred and sixty-first
separate tadpole hatching.

Then, one day in June, Danner crossed the campus with unusual haste.
Birds were singing, a gentle wind eddied over the town from the slopes
of the Rocky Mountains, flowers bloomed. The professor did not heed the
reburgeoning of nature. A strange thing had happened to him that
morning. He had peeped into his workroom before leaving for the college
and had come suddenly upon a phenomenon.

One of the tadpoles had hatched in its aquarium. He observed it eagerly,
first because it embodied his new idea, and second because it swam with
a rare activity. As he looked, the tadpole rushed at the side of its
domicile. There was a tinkle and a splash. It had swum through the plate
glass! For an instant it lay on the floor. Then, with a flick of its
tail, it flew into the air and hit the ceiling of the room.

"Good Lord!" Danner said. Old years of work were at an end. New years of
excitement lay ahead. He snatched the creature and it wriggled from his
grasp. He caught it again. His fist was not sufficiently strong to hold
it. He left it, flopping in eight-foot leaps, and went to class with
considerable suppressed agitation and some reluctance. The determinant
was known. He had made a living creature abnormally strong.

When he reached his house and unlocked the door of the laboratory, he
found that four tadpoles, in all, had hatched. Before they expired in
the unfamiliar element of air, they had demolished a quantity of
apparatus.

Mrs. Danner knocked on the door. "What's been going on in there?"

"Nothing," her husband answered.

"Nothing! It sounded like nothing! What have you got there? A cat?"

"No--yes."

"Well--I won't have such goings on, and that's all there is to it."

Danner collected the débris. He buried the tadpoles. One was dissected
first. Then he wrote for a long time in his notebook. After that he went
out and, with some difficulty, secured a pregnant cat. A week later he
chloroformed the tabby and inoculated her. Then he waited. He had been
patient for a long time. It was difficult to be patient now.

When the kittens were born into this dark and dreary world, Mr. Danner
assisted as sole obstetrician. In their first hours nothing marked them
as unique. The professor selected one and drowned the remainder. He
remembered the tadpoles and made a simple calculation.

When the kitten was two weeks old and its eyes opened, it was dieting on
all its mother's milk and more besides. The professor considered that
fact significant. Then one day it committed matricide.

Probably the playful blow of its front paw was intended in the best
spirit. Certainly the old tabby, receiving it, was not prepared for such
violence from its offspring. Danner gasped. The kitten had unseamed its
mother in a swift and horrid manner. He put the cat out of its misery
and tended the kitten with trepidation. It grew. It ate--beefsteaks and
chops, bone and all.

When it reached three weeks, it began to jump alarmingly. The laboratory
was not large enough. The professor brought it its food with the
expression of a man offering a wax sausage to a hungry panther.

On a peaceful Friday evening Danner built a fire to stave off the
rigours of a cold snap. He and Mrs. Danner sat beside the friendly
blaze. Her sewing was in her lap, and in his was a book to which he paid
scant attention. The kitten, behind its locked door, thumped and mewed.

"It's hungry," Mrs. Danner said. "If you must keep a cat, why don't you
feed it?"

"I do," he answered. He refrained, for politic reasons, from mentioning
what and how much he fed it. The kitten mewed again.

"Well," she repeated, "it sounds hungry."

Danner fidgeted. The laboratory was unheated and consequently chilly.
From its gloomy interior the kitten peered beneath the door and saw the
fire. It sensed warmth. The feline affinity for hearths drew it. One paw
scratched tentatively on the door.

"It's cold," Mrs. Danner said. "Why don't you bring it here? No, I don't
want it here. Take it a cover."

"It--it has a cover." Danner did not wish to go into that dark room.

The kitten scratched again and then it became earnest. There was a
splitting, rending sound. The bottom panel of the door was torn away and
it emerged nonchalantly, crossing the room and curling up by the fire.

For five minutes Mrs. Danner sat motionless. Her eyes at length moved
from the kitten to her husband's quivering face and then to the broken
door. On his part, he made no move. The kitten was a scant six inches
from his foot. Mrs. Danner rose. She went to the door and studied the
orifice, prying at it with her fingers as if to measure the kitten's
strength by her own. Then she turned the key and peered into the gloom.
That required either consummate nerve or great curiosity. After her
inspection she sat down again.

Ten minutes passed. Danner cleared his throat. Then she spoke. "So.
You've done it?"

"Done what?" he asked innocently.

"You've made all this rubbish you've been talking about strength--happen
to that kitten."

"It wasn't rubbish."

"Evidently."

At that crisis Mr. Danner's toe trembled and the kitten, believing it a
new toy, curled its paws over the shoe. There was a sound of tearing
leather, and the shoe came apart. Fortunately the foot inside it was not
hurt severely. Danner did not dare to budge. He heard his wife's
startled inhalation.

Mrs. Danner did not resume her sewing. She breathed heavily and slow
fire crept into her cheeks. The enormity of the crime overcame her. And
she perceived that the hateful laboratory had invaded her portion of
the house. Moreover, her sturdy religion had been desecrated. Danner
read her thoughts.

"Don't be angry," he said. Beads of perspiration gathered on his brow.

"Angry!" The kitten stirred at the sound of her voice. "Angry! And why
not? Here you defied God and man--and made that creature of the devil.
You've overrun my house. You're a wicked, wicked man. And as for that
cat, I won't have it. I won't stand for it."

"What are you going to do?"

Her voice rose to a scream. "Do! Do! Plenty--and right here and now."
She ran to the kitchen and came back with a broom. She flung the front
door wide. Her blazing eyes rested for a moment on the kitten. To her it
had become merely an obnoxious little animal. "Scat! You little demon!"
The broom came down on the cat's back with a jarring thud.

After that, chaos. A ball of fur lashed through the air. What-not, bird
cage, bookcase, morris chair flew asunder. Then the light went out. In
the darkness a comet, a hurricane, ricochetted through the room. Then
there was a crash mightier than the others, followed by silence.

When Danner was able, he picked himself up and lighted the lamp. His
wife lay on the floor in a dead faint. He revived her. She sat up and
wept silently over the wreck of her parlour. Danner paled. A round
hole--a hole that could have been made by nothing but a solid cannon
shot--showed where the kitten had left the room through the wall.

Mrs. Danner's eyes were red-rimmed. Her breath came jerkily. With
incredulous little gestures she picked herself up and gazed at the hole.
A draught blew through it. Mr. Danner stuffed it with a rug.

"What are we going to do?" she said.

"If it comes back--we'll call it Samson."

And--as soon as Samson felt the gnawing of appetite, he returned to his
rightful premises. Mrs. Danner fed him. Her face was pale and her hands
trembled. Horror and fascination fought with each other in her soul as
she offered the food. Her husband was in his classroom, nervously trying
to fix his wits on the subject of the day.

"Kitty, kitty, poor little kitty," she said.

Samson purred and drank a quart of milk. She concealed her astonishment
from herself. Mrs. Danner's universe was undergoing a transformation.

At three in the afternoon the kitten scratched away the screen door on
the back porch and entered the house. Mrs. Danner fed it the supper
meat.

Danner saw it when he returned. It was chasing flies in the yard. He
stood in awe. The cat could spring twenty or thirty feet with ease. Then
the sharp spur of dread entered him. Suppose someone saw and asked
questions. He might be arrested, taken to prison. Something would
happen. He tried to analyze and solve the problem. Night came. The cat
was allowed to go out unmolested. In the morning the town of Indian
Creek rose to find that six large dogs had been slain during the dark
hours. A panther had come down from the mountains, they said. And Danner
lectured with a dry tongue and errant mind.

It was Will Hoag, farmer of the fifth generation, resident of the
environs of Indian Creek, church-goer, and hard-cider addict, who bent
himself most mercilessly on the capture of the alleged panther. His
chicken-house suffered thrice and then his sheep-fold. After four such
depredations he cleaned his rifle and undertook a vigil from a spot
behind the barn. An old moon rose late and illuminated his pastures with
a blue glow. He drank occasionally from a jug to ward off the evil
effects of the night air.

Some time after twelve his attention was distracted from the jug by
stealthy sounds. He moved toward them. A hundred yards away his cows
were huddled together--a heap of dun shadows. He saw a form which he
mistook for a weasel creeping toward the cows. As he watched, he
perceived that the small animal behaved singularly unlike a weasel. It
slid across the earth on taut limbs, as if it was going to attack the
cows. Will Hoag repressed a guffaw.

Then the farmer's short hair bristled. The cat sprang and landed on the
neck of the nearest cow and clung there. Its paw descended. There was a
horrid sound of ripping flesh, a moan, the thrashing of hoofs, a blot
of dribbling blood, and the cat began to gorge on its prey.

Hoag believed that he was intoxicated, that delirium tremens had
overtaken him. He stood rooted to the spot. The marauder ignored him.
Slowly, unbelievingly, he raised his rifle and fired. The bullet knocked
the cat from its perch. Mr. Hoag went forward and picked it up.

"God Almighty," he whispered. The bullet had not penetrated the cat's
skin. And, suddenly, it wriggled in his hand. He dropped it. A flash of
fur in the moonlight, and he was alone with the corpse of his Holstein.

He contemplated profanity, he considered kneeling in prayer. His joints
turned to water. He called faintly for his family. He fell unconscious.

When Danner heard of that exploit--it was relayed by jeering tongues who
said the farmer was drunk and a panther had killed the cow--his lips set
in a line of resolve. Samson was taking too great liberties. It might
attack a person, in which case he, Danner, would be guilty of murder.
That day he did not attend his classes. Instead, he prepared a
relentless poison in his laboratory and fed it to the kitten in a brace
of meaty chops. The dying agonies of Samson, aged seven weeks, were
Homeric.

After that, Danner did nothing for some days. He wondered if his formulæ
and processes should be given to the world. But, being primarily a man
of vast imagination, he foresaw hundreds of rash experiments. Suppose,
he thought, that his discovery was tried on a lion, or an elephant! Such
a creature would be invincible. The tadpoles were dead. The kitten had
been buried. He sighed wearily and turned his life into its usual
courses.



II


Before the summer was ended, however, a new twist of his life and
affairs started the mechanism of the professor's imagination again. It
was announced to him when he returned from summer school on a hot
afternoon. He dropped his portfolio on the parlour desk, one corner of
which still showed the claw-marks of the miscreant Samson, and sat down
with a comfortable sigh.

"Abednego." His wife seldom addressed him by his first name.

"Yes?"

"I--I--I want to tell you something."

"Yes?"

"Haven't you noticed any difference in me lately?"

He had never noticed a difference in his wife. When they reached old
age, he would still be unable to discern it. He shook his head and
looked at her with some apprehension. She was troubled. "What's the
matter?"

"I suppose you wouldn't--yet," she said. "But--well--I'm with child."

The professor folded his upper lip between his thumb and forefinger.
"With child? Pregnant? You mean--"

"I'm going to have a baby."

Soon after their marriage the timid notion of parenthood had escaped
them. They had, in fact, avoided its mechanics except on those rare
evenings when tranquillity and the reproductive urge conspired to imbue
him with courage and her with sinfulness. Nothing came of that
infrequent union. They never expected anything.

And now they were faced with it. He murmured: "A baby."

Faint annoyance moved her. "Yes. That's what one has. What are we going
to do?"

"I don't know, Matilda. But I'm glad."

She softened. "So am I, Abednego."

Then a hissing, spattering sound issued from the kitchen. "The beans!"
Mrs. Danner said. The second idyl of their lives was finished.

Alone in his bed, tossing on the humid muslin sheets, Danner struggled
within himself. The hour that was at hand would be short. The logical
step after the tadpoles and the kitten was to vaccinate the human mammal
with his serum. To produce a super-child, an invulnerable man. As a
scientist he was passionately intrigued by the idea. As a husband he
was dubious. As a member of society he was terrified.

That his wife would submit to the plan or to the step it necessitated
was beyond belief. She would never allow a sticky tube of foreign animal
matter to be poured into her veins. She would not permit the will of God
to be altered or her offspring to be the subject of experiment. Another
man would have laughed at the notion of persuading her. Mr. Danner never
laughed at matters that involved his wife.

There was another danger. If the child was female and became a woman
like his wife, then the effect of such strength would be awful indeed.
He envisioned a militant reformer, an iron-bound Calvinist, remodelling
the world single-handed. A Scotch Lilith, a matronly Gabriel, a
she-Hercules. He shuddered.

A hundred times he denied his science. A hundred and one times it begged
him to be served. Each decision to drop the idea was followed by an
effort to discover means to inoculate her without her knowledge. To his
wakeful ears came the reverberation of her snores. He rose and paced the
floor. A scheme came to him. After that he was lost.

Mrs. Danner was surprised when her husband brought a bottle of
blackberry cordial to her. It was his first gift to her in more than a
year. She was fond of cordial. He was not. She took a glass after supper
and then a second, which she drank "for him." He smiled nervously and
urged her to drink it. His hands clenched and unclenched. When she
finished the second glass, he watched her constantly.

"I feel sleepy," she said.

"You're tired." He tried to dissemble the eagerness in his voice. "Why
don't you lie down?"

"Strange," she said a moment later. "I'm not usually so--so--misty."

He nodded. The opiate in the cordial was working. She lay on the couch.
She slept. The professor hastened to his laboratory. An hour later he
emerged with a hypodermic syringe in his hand. His wife lay limply, one
hand touching the floor. Her stern, dark face was relaxed. He sat beside
her. His conscience raged. He hated the duplicity his task required. His
eyes lingered on the swollen abdomen. It was cryptic, enigmatic, filled
with portent. He jabbed the needle. She did not stir. After that he
substituted a partly empty bottle of cordial for the drugged liquor. It
was, perhaps, the most practical thing he had ever done in his life.

Mrs. Danner could not explain herself on the following morning. She
belaboured him. "Why didn't you wake me and make me go to bed? Sleeping
in my clothes! I never did such a thing in my life."

"I couldn't wake you. I tried."

"Rubbish."

"You were sleeping so hard--you refused to move."

"Sometimes, old as you are, I'd like to thrash you."

Danner went to the college. There was nothing more to do, nothing more
to require his concentration. He could wait--as he had waited before. He
trembled occasionally with the hope that his child would be a boy--a
sane, healthy boy. Then, in the end, his work might bear fruit. "The
_Euglena viridis_," he said in flat tones, "will be the subject of
to-morrow's study. I want you gentlemen to diagram the structure of the
_Euglena viridis_ and write five hundred words on its vital principles
and processes. It is particularly interesting because it shares
properties that are animal with properties that are vegetable."

September, October, November. Chilly winds from the high mountains. The
day-by-day freezing over of ponds and brooks. Smoke at the tops of
chimneys. Snow. Thanksgiving. And always Mrs. Danner growing with the
burden of her offspring. Mr. Danner sitting silent, watching, wondering,
waiting. It would soon be time.

On Christmas morning there entered into Mrs. Danner's vitals a pain that
was indefinable and at the same time certain. It thrust all thought from
her mind. Then it diminished and she summoned her husband. "Get the
doctor. It's coming."

Danner tottered into the street and executed his errand. The doctor
smiled cheerfully. "Just beginning? I'll be over this afternoon."

"But--good Lord--you can't leave her like--"

"Nonsense."

He came home and found his wife dusting. He shook his head. "Get Mrs.
Nolan," she said. Then she threw herself on the bed again.

Mrs. Nolan, the nearest neighbour, wife of Professor Nolan and mother of
four children, was delighted. This particular Christmas was going to be
a day of some excitement. She prepared hot water and bustled with
unessential occupation. Danner sat prostrate in the parlour. He had done
it. He had done more--and that would be known later. Perhaps it would
fail. He hoped it would fail. He wrung his hands. The concept of another
person in his house had not yet occurred to him. Birth was his wife's
sickness--until it was over.

The doctor arrived after Danner had made his third trip. Mrs. Nolan
prepared lunch. "I love to cook in other people's kitchens," she said.
He wanted to strike her. Curious, he thought. At three-thirty the
industry of the doctor and Mrs. Nolan increased and the silence of the
two, paradoxically, increased with it.

Then the early twilight fell. Mrs. Danner lay with her lank black
hair plastered to her brow. She did not moan. Pain twisted and
convulsed her. Downstairs Danner sat and sweated. A cry--his wife's.
Another--unfamiliar. Scurrying feet on the bare parts of the floor. He
looked up. Mrs. Nolan leaned over the stair well.

"It's a boy, Mr. Danner. A beautiful boy. And husky. You never saw such
a husky baby."

"It ought to be," he said. They found him later in the back yard,
prancing on the snow with weird, ungainly steps. A vacant smile lighted
his features. They didn't blame him.



III


Calm and quiet held their negative sway over the Danner ménage for an
hour, and then there was a disturbed fretting that developed into a
lusty bawl. The professor passed a fatigued hand over his brow. He was
unaccustomed to the dissonances of his offspring. Young Hugo--they had
named him after a maternal uncle--had attained the age of one week
without giving any indication of unnaturalness.

That is not quite true. He was as fleshy as most healthy infants, but
the flesh was more than normally firm. He was inordinately active. His
eyes had been gray but, already, they gave promise of the inkiness they
afterwards exhibited. He was born with a quantity of black hair--hair so
dark as to be nearly blue. Abednego Danner, on seeing it, exercised the
liberty which all husbands take, and investigated rumours of his wife's
forbears with his most secret thoughts. The principal rumour was that
one of her lusty Covenanter grandsires had been intrigued by a squaw to
the point of forgetting his Psalms and recalling only the Song of
Solomon.

However that may have been, Hugo was an attractive and virile baby.
Danner spent hours at the side of his crib speculating and watching for
any sign of biological variation. But it was not until a week had passed
that he was given evidence. By that time he was ready to concede the
failure of his greatest experiment.

The baby bawled and presently stopped. And Mrs. Danner, who had put it
to breast, suddenly called her husband. "Abednego! Come here! Hurry!"

The professor's heart skipped its regular timing and he scrambled to the
floor above. "What's the matter?"

Mrs. Danner was sitting in a rocking-chair. Her face was as white as
paper. Only in her eyes was there a spark of life. He thought she was
going to faint. "What's the matter?" he said again.

He looked at Hugo and saw nothing terrifying in the ravishing hunger
which the infant showed.

"Matter! Matter! You know the matter!"

Then he knew and he realized that his wife had discovered. "I don't. You
look frightened. Shall I bring some water?"

Mrs. Danner spoke again. Her voice was icy, distant, terrible. "I came
in to feed him just a minute ago. He was lying in his crib. I tried
to--to hug him and he put his arms out. As God lives, I could not pull
that baby to me! He was too strong, Abednego! Too strong. Too strong. I
couldn't unbend his little arms when he stiffened them. I couldn't
straighten them when he bent them. And he pushed me--harder than you
could push. Harder than I could push myself. I know what it means. You
have done your horrible thing to my baby. He's just a baby, Abednego.
And you've done your thing to him. How could you? Oh, how could you!"

Mrs. Danner rose and laid the baby gently on the chair. She stood before
her husband, towering over him, raised her hand, and struck with all her
force. Mr. Danner fell to one knee, and a red welt lifted on his face.
She struck him again and he fell against the chair. Little Hugo was
dislodged. One hand caught a rung of the chair back and he hung
suspended above the floor.

"Look!" Mrs. Danner screamed.

As they looked, the baby flexed its arm and lifted itself back into the
chair. It was a feat that a gymnast would have accomplished with
difficulty. Danner stared, ignoring the blows, the crimson on his cheek.
For once in his lifetime, he suddenly defied his wife. He pointed to the
child.

"Yes, look!" His voice rang clearly. "I did it. I vaccinated you the
night the cordial put you to sleep. And there's my son. He's strong.
Stronger than a lion's cub. And he'll increase in strength as he grows
until Samson and Hercules would be pygmies beside him. He'll be the
first of a new and glorious race. A race that doesn't have to
fear--because it cannot know harm. No man can hurt him, no man can
vanquish him. He will be mightier than any circumstances. He, son of a
weak man, will be stronger than the beasts, even than the ancient
dinosaurs, stronger than the tides, stronger than fate--strong as God is
strong. And you--you, Matilda--mother of him, will be proud of him. He
will be great and famous. You can knock me down. You can knock me down a
thousand times. I have given you a son whose little finger you cannot
bend with a crow-bar. Oh, all these years I've listened to you and
obeyed you and--yes, I've feared you a little--and God must hate me for
it. Now take your son. And my son. You cannot change him. You cannot
bend him to your will. He is all I might have been. All that mankind
should be." Danner's voice broke and he sobbed. He relented. "I know
it's hard for you. It's against your religion--against your love, even.
But try to like him. He's no different from you and me--only stronger.
And strength is a glorious thing, a great thing. Then--afterwards--if
you can--forgive me." He collapsed.

Blood pounded in her ears. She stared at the huddled body of her
husband. He had stood like a prophet and spoken words of fire. She was
shaken from her pettiness. For one moment she had loved Danner. In that
same instant she had glimpsed the superhuman energy that had driven him
through the long years of discouragement to triumph. She had seen his
soul. She fell at his feet, and when Danner opened his eyes, he found
her there, weeping. He took her in his arms, timidly, clumsily. "Don't
cry, Mattie. It'll be all right. You love him, don't you?"

She stared at the babe. "Of course I love him. Wash your face,
Abednego."

After that there was peace in the house, and with it the child grew.
During the next months they ignored his peculiarities. When they found
him hanging outside his crib, they put him back gently. When he smashed
the crib, they discussed a better place for him to repose. No hysteria,
no conflict. When, in the early spring, young Hugo began to recognize
them and to assert his feelings, they rejoiced as all parents rejoice.

When he managed to vault the sill of the second-story window by some
antic contortion of his limbs, they dismissed the episode. Mrs. Danner
had been baking. She heard the child's voice and it seemed to come from
the yard. Startled, incredulous, she rushed upstairs. Hugo was not in
his room. His wail drifted through the window. She looked out. He was
lying in the yard, fifteen feet below. She rushed to his side. He had
not been hurt.

Danner made a pen of the iron heads and feet of two old beds. He wired
them together. The baby was kept in the inclosure thus formed. The days
warmed and lengthened. No one except the Danners knew of the prodigy
harboured by their unostentatious house. But the secret was certain to
leak out eventually.

Mrs. Nolan, the next-door neighbour, was first to learn it. She had
called on Mrs. Danner to borrow a cup of sugar. The call, naturally,
included a discussion of various domestic matters and a visit to the
baby. She voiced a question that had occupied her mind for some time.

"Why do you keep the child in that iron thing? Aren't you afraid it will
hurt itself?"

"Oh, no."

Mrs. Nolan viewed young Hugo. He was lying on a large pillow. Presently
he rolled off its surface. "Active youngster, isn't he?"

"Very," Mrs. Danner said, nervously.

Hugo, as if he understood and desired to demonstrate, seized a corner of
the pillow and flung it from him. It traversed a long arc and landed on
the floor. Mrs. Nolan was startled. "Goodness! I never saw a child his
age that could do that!"

"No. Let's go downstairs. I want to show you some tidies I'm making."

Mrs. Nolan paid no attention. She put the pillow back in the pen and
watched while Hugo tossed it out. "There's something funny about that.
It isn't normal. Have you seen a doctor?"

Mrs. Danner fidgeted. "Oh, yes. Little Hugo's healthy."

Little Hugo grasped the iron wall of his miniature prison. He pulled
himself toward it. His skirt caught in the floor. He pulled harder. The
pen moved toward him. A high soprano came from Mrs. Nolan. "He's moved
it! I don't think I could move it myself! I tell you, I'm going to ask
the doctor to examine him. You shouldn't let a child be like that."

Mrs. Danner, filled with consternation, sought refuge in prevarication.
"Nonsense," she said as calmly as she could. "All we Douglases are like
that. Strong children. I had a grandfather who could lift a cider keg
when he was five--two hundred pounds and more. Hugo just takes after
him, that's all."

Mrs. Nolan was annoyed. Partly because she was jealous of Hugo's
prowess--her own children had been feeble and dull. Partly because she
was frightened--no matter how strong a person became, a baby had no
right to be so powerful. Partly because she sensed that Mrs. Danner was
not telling the whole truth. She suspected that the Danners had found a
new way to raise children. "Well," she said, "all I have to say is that
it'll damage him. It'll strain his little heart. It'll do him a lot of
harm. If I had a child like that, I'd tie it up most of the time for the
first few years."

"Kate," Mrs. Danner said unpleasantly, "I believe you would."

Mrs. Nolan shrugged. "Well--I'm glad none of my children are freaks,
anyhow."

"I'll get your sugar."

In the afternoon the minister called. He talked of the church and the
town until he felt his preamble adequate. "I was wondering why you
didn't bring your child to be baptized, Mrs. Danner. And why you
couldn't come to church, now that it is old enough?"

"Well," she replied carefully, "the child is rather--irritable. And we
thought we'd prefer to have it baptized at home."

"It's irregular."

"We'd prefer it."

"Very well. I'm afraid--" he smiled--"that you're a
little--ah--unfamiliar with the upbringing of children. Natural--in the
case of the first-born. Quite natural. But--ah--I met Mrs. Nolan to-day.
Quite by accident. And she said that you kept the child--ah--in an iron
pen. It seemed unnecessarily cruel to me--"

"Did it?" Mrs. Danner's jaw set squarely.

But the minister was not to be turned aside lightly. "I'm afraid, if
it's true, that we--the church--will have to do something about it. You
can't let the little fellow grow up surrounded by iron walls. It will
surely point him toward the prison. Little minds are tender
and--ah--impressionable."

"We've had a crib and two pens of wood," Mrs. Danner answered tartly.
"He smashed them all."

"Ah? So?" Lifted eyebrows. "Temper, eh? He should be punished.
Punishment is the only mould for unruly children."

"You'd punish a six-months-old baby?"

"Why--certainly. I've reared seven by the rod."

"Well--" a blazing maternal instinct made her feel vicious. "Well--you
won't raise mine by a rod. Or touch it--by a mile. Here's your hat,
parson." Mrs. Danner spent the next hour in prayer.

The village is known for the speed of its gossip and the sloth of its
intelligence. Those two factors explain the conditions which preluded
and surrounded the dawn of consciousness in young Hugo. Mrs. Danner's
extemporaneous fabrication of a sturdy ancestral line kept the more
supernatural elements of the baby's prowess from the public eye. It
became rapidly and generally understood that the Danner infant was
abnormal and that the treatment to which it was submitted was not usual.
At the same time neither the gossips of Indian Creek nor the slightly
more sage professors of the college exercised the wit necessary to
realize that, however strong young Hugo might become, it was neither
right nor just that his cradle days be augurs of that eventual estate.
On the face of it the argument seemed logical. If Mrs. Danner's forbears
had been men of peculiar might, her child might well be able to chin
itself at three weeks and it might easily be necessary to confine it in
a metal pen, however inhumane the process appeared.

Hugo was sheltered, and his early antics, peculiar and startling as they
were to his parents, escaped public attention. The little current of
talk about him was kept alive only because there was so small an array
of topics for the local burghers. But it was not extraordinarily
malicious. Months piled up. A year passed and then another.

Hugo was a good-natured, usually sober, and very sensitive child.
Abednego Danner's fear that his process might have created muscular
strength at the expense of reason diminished and vanished as Hugo
learned to walk and to talk, and as he grasped the rudiments of human
behaviour. His high little voice was heard in the house and about its
lawns.

They began to condition him. Throughout his later life there lingered in
his mind a memory of the barriers erected by his family. He was told not
to throw his pillow, when words meant nothing to him. Soon after that,
he was told not to throw anything. When he could walk, he was forbidden
to jump. His jumps were shocking to see, even at the age of two and a
half. He was carefully instructed on his behaviour out of doors. No move
of his was to indicate his difference from the ordinary child.

He was taught kindness and respect for people and property. His every
destructive impulse was carefully curbed. That training was possible
only because he was sensitive and naturally susceptible to advice.
Punishment had no physical terror for him, because he could not feel it.
But disfavour, anger, vexation, or disappointment in another person
reflected itself in him at once.

When he was four and a half, his mother sent him to Sunday school. He
was enrolled in a class that sat near her own, so she was able to keep a
careful eye on him. But Hugo did not misbehave. It was his first contact
with a group of children, his first view of the larger cosmos. He sat
quietly with his hands folded, as he had been told to sit. He listened
to the teacher's stories of Jesus with excited interest.

On his third Sunday he heard one of the children whisper: "Here comes
the strong boy."

He turned quickly, his cheeks red. "I'm not. I'm not."

"Yes, you are. Mother said so."

Hugo struggled with the two hymn books on the table. "I can't even lift
these books," he lied.

The other child was impressed and tried to explain the situation later,
taking the cause of Hugo's weakness against the charge of strength. But
the accusation rankled in Hugo's young mind. He hated to be
different--and he was beginning to realize that he was different.

From his earliest day that longing occupied him. He sought to hide his
strength. He hated to think that other people were talking about him.
The distinction he enjoyed was odious to him because it aroused
unpleasant emotions in other people. He could not realize that those
emotions sprang from personal and group jealousy, from the hatred of
superiority.

His mother, ever zealous to direct her son in the path of righteousness,
talked to him often about his strength and how great it would become and
what great and good deeds he could do with it. Those lectures on
virtuous crusades had two uses: they helped check any impulses in her
son which she felt would be harmful to her and they helped her to
become used to the abnormality in little Hugo. In her mind, it was like
telling a hunchback that his hump was a blessing disguised. Hugo was
always aware of the fact that her words connoted some latent evil in his
nature.

The motif grew in Mrs. Danner's thoughts until she sought a definite
outlet for it. One day she led her child to a keg filled with sand. "All
of us," she said to her son, "have to carry a burden through life. One
of your burdens will be your strength. But that might can make right.
See that little keg?"

"Mmmmm."

"That keg is temptation. Can you say it?"

"Temshun."

"Every day in your life you must bear temptation and throw it from you.
Can you bear it?"

"Huh?"

"Can you pick up that keg, Hugo?"

He lifted it in his chubby arms. "Now take it to the barn and back," his
mother directed. Manfully he walked with the keg to the barn and back.
He felt a little silly and resentful. "Now--throw temptation as far away
from you as you can."

Mrs. Danner gasped. The distance he threw the keg was frightening.

"You musn't throw it so far, Hugo," she said, forgetting her allegory
for an instant.

"You said as far as I can. I can throw it farther, too, if I wanna."

"No. Just throw it a little way. When you throw it far, it doesn't look
right. Now--fill it up with sand, and we'll do it over."

Hugo was perplexed. A vague wish to weep occupied him as he filled the
keg. The lesson was repeated. Mrs. Danner had excellent Sunday-school
instincts, even if she had no real comprehension of ethics. Some days
later the burden of temptation was exhibited, in all its dramatic
passages, to Mrs. Nolan and another lady. Again Hugo was resentful and
again he felt absurd. When he threw the keg, it broke.

"My!" Mrs. Nolan said in a startled tone.

"How awful!" the other woman murmured. "And he's just a child."

That made Hugo suddenly angry and he jumped. The woman screamed. Mrs.
Nolan ran to tell whomever she could find. Mrs. Danner whipped her son
and he cried softly.

Abednego Danner left the discipline of his son to his wife. He watched
the child almost furtively. When Hugo was five, Mr. Danner taught him to
read. It was a laborious process and required an entire winter. But Hugo
emerged with a new world open to him--a world which he attacked with
interest. No one bothered him when he read. He could be found often on
sunny days, when other children were playing, prone on the floor,
puzzling out sentences in the books of the family library and trying to
catch their significance. During his fifth year he was not allowed to
play with other children. The neighbourhood insisted on that.

With the busybodyness and contrariness of their kind the same neighbours
insisted that Hugo be sent to school in the following fall. When, on the
opening day, he did not appear, the truant officer called for him. Hugo
heard the conversation between the officer and his mother. He was
frightened. He vowed to himself that his abnormality should be hidden
deeply.

After that he was dropped into that microcosm of human life to which so
little attention is paid by adults. School frightened and excited Hugo.
For one thing, there were girls in school--and Hugo knew nothing about
them except that they were different from himself. There were
teachers--and they made one work, whether one wished to work or not.
They represented power, as a jailer represents power. The children
feared teachers. Hugo feared them.

But the lesson of Hugo's first six years was fairly well planted. He
blushingly ignored the direct questions of those children whom his fame
had reached. He gave no reason to anyone for suspecting him of
abnormality. He became so familiar to his comrades that their curiosity
gradually vanished. He would not play games with them--his mother had
forbidden that. But he talked to them and was as friendly as they
allowed him to be. His sensitiveness and fear of ridicule made him a
voracious student. He liked books. He liked to know things and to learn
them.

Thus, bound by the conditionings of his babyhood, he reached the spring
of his first year in school without accident. Such tranquillity could
not long endure. The day which his mother had dreaded ultimately
arrived. A lanky farmer's son, older than the other children in the
first grade, chose a particularly quiet and balmy recess period to
plague little Hugo. The farmer's boy was, because of his size, the bully
and the leader of all the other boys. He had not troubled himself to
resent Hugo's exclusiveness or Hugo's reputation until that morning when
he found himself without occupation. Hugo was sitting in the sun, his
dark eyes staring a little sadly over the laughing, rioting children.

The boy approached him. "Hello, strong man." He was shrewd enough to
make his voice so loud as to be generally audible. Hugo looked both
harmless and slightly pathetic.

"I'm not a strong man."

"Course you're not. But everybody thinks you are--except me. I'm not
afraid of you."

"I don't want you to be afraid of me. I'm not afraid of you, either."

"Oh, you aren't, huh? Look." He touched Hugo's chest with his finger,
and when Hugo looked down, the boy lifted his finger into Hugo's face.

"Go away and let me alone."

The tormentor laughed. "Ever see a fish this long?"

His hands indicated a small fish. Involuntarily Hugo looked at them.
The hands flew apart and slapped him smartly. Several of the children
had stopped their play to watch. The first insult made them giggle. The
second brought a titter from Anna Blake, and Hugo noticed that. Anna
Blake was a little girl with curly golden hair and blue eyes. Secretly
Hugo admired her and was drawn to her. When she laughed, he felt a
dismal loneliness, a sudden desertion. The farmer's boy pressed the
occasion his meanness had made.

"I'll bet you ain't even strong enough to fight little Charlie Todd.
Commere, Charlie."

"I am," Hugo replied with slow dignity.

"You're a sissy. You're a-scared to play with us."

The ring around Hugo had grown. He felt a tangible ridicule in it. He
knew what it was to hate. Still, his inhibitions, his control, held him
in check. "Go away," he said, "or I'll hurt you."

The farmer's boy picked up a stick and put it on his shoulder. "Knock
that off, then, strong man."

Hugo knew the dare and its significance. With a gentle gesture he
brushed the stick away. Then the other struck. At the same time he
kicked Hugo's shins. There was no sense of pain with the kick. Hugo saw
it as if it had happened to another person. The school-yard tensed with
expectation. But the accounts of what followed were garbled. The
farmer's boy fell on his face as if by an invisible agency. Then his
body was lifted in the air. The children had an awful picture of Hugo
standing for a second with the writhing form of his attacker above his
head. Then he flung it aside, over the circle that surrounded him, and
the body fell with a thud. It lay without moving. Hugo began to whimper
pitifully.

That was Hugo's first fight. He had defended himself, and it made him
ashamed. He thought he had killed the other boy. Sickening dread filled
him. He hurried to his side and shook him, calling his name. The other
boy came to. His arm was broken and his sides were purpling where Hugo
had seized him. There was terror in his eyes when he saw Hugo's face
above him, and he screamed shrilly for help. The teacher came. She sent
Hugo to the blacksmith to be whipped.

That, in itself, was a stroke of genius. The blacksmith whipped grown
boys in the high school for their misdeeds. To send a six-year-old child
was crushing. But Hugo had risen above the standards set by his society.
He had been superior to it for a moment, and society hated him for it.
His teacher hated him because she feared him. Mothers of children,
learning about the episode, collected to discuss it in high-pitched,
hateful voices. Hugo was enveloped in hate. And, as the lash of the
smith fell on his small frame, he felt the depths of misery. He was a
strong man. There was damnation in his veins.

The minister came and prayed over him. The doctor was sent for and
examined him. Frantic busybodies suggested that things be done to weaken
him--what things, they did not say. And Hugo, suffering bitterly, saw
that if he had beaten the farmer's boy in fair combat, he would have
been a hero. It was the scale of his triumph that made it dreadful. He
did not realize then that if he had been so minded, he could have turned
on the blacksmith and whipped him, he could have broken the neck of the
doctor, he could have run raging through the town and escaped unscathed.
His might was a secret from himself. He knew it only as a curse, like a
disease or a blemish.

During the ensuing four or five years Hugo's peculiar trait asserted
itself but once. It was a year after his fight with the bully. He had
been isolated socially. Even Anna Blake did not dare to tease him any
longer. Shunned and wretched, he built a world of young dreams and
confections and lived in it with whatever comfort it afforded.

One warm afternoon in a smoky Indian summer he walked home from school,
spinning a top as he walked, stopping every few yards to pick it up and
to let its eccentric momentum die on the palm of his hand. His pace
thereby was made very slow and he calculated it to bring him to his home
in time for supper and no sooner, because, despite his vigour, chores
were as odious to him as to any other boy. A wagon drawn by two horses
rolled toward him. It was a heavy wagon, piled high with grain-sacks,
and a man sat on its rear end, his legs dangling.

As the wagon reached Hugo, it jolted over a rut. There was a grinding
rip and a crash. Hugo pocketed his top and looked. The man sitting on
the back had been pinned beneath the rear axle, and the load held him
there. As Hugo saw his predicament, the man screamed in agony. Hugo's
blood chilled. He stood transfixed. A man jumped out of a buggy. A Negro
ran from a yard. Two women hurried from the spot. In an instant there
were six or seven men around the broken wagon. A sound of pain issued
from the mouth of the impaled man. The knot of figures bent at the sides
of the cart and tried to lift. "Have to get a jack," Hugo heard them
say.

Hugo wound up his string and put it beside his top. He walked
mechanically into the road. He looked at the legs of the man on the
ground. They were oozing blood where the backboard rested on them. The
men gathered there were lifting again, without result. Hugo caught the
side and bent his small shoulders. With all his might he pulled up. The
wagon was jerked into the air. They pulled out the injured man. Hugo
lowered the wagon slowly.

For a moment no attention was paid to him. He waited pridefully for the
recognition he had earned. He dug in the dirt with the side of his shoe.
A man with a mole on his nose observed him. "Funny how that kid's
strength was just enough to turn the balance."

Hugo smiled. "I'm pretty strong," he admitted.

Another man saw him. "Get out of here," he said sharply. "This is no
place for a kid."

"But I was the one--"

"I said beat it. And I meant beat it. Go home to your ma."

Slowly the light went from Hugo's eyes. They did not know--they could
not know. He had lifted more than two tons. And the men stood now,
waiting for the doctor, telling each other how strong they were when the
instant of need came.

"Go on, kid. Run along. I'll smack you."

Hugo went. He forgot to spin his top. He stumbled a little as he
walked.



IV


Days, months, years. They had forgotten that Hugo was different. Almost,
for a while, he had forgotten it himself. He was popular in school. He
fostered the unexpressed theory that his strength had been a phenomenon
of his childhood--one that diminished as he grew older. Then, at ten, it
called to him for exercise.

Each day he rose with a feeling of insufficiency. Each night he retired
unrequited. He read. Poe, the Bible, Scott, Thackeray, Swift, Defoe--all
the books he could find. He thrilled with every syllable of adventure.
His imagination swelled. But that was not sufficient. He yearned as a
New England boy yearns before he runs away to sea.

At ten he was a stalwart and handsome lad. His brow was high and
surmounted by his peculiarly black hair. His eyes were wide apart, inky,
unfathomable. He carried himself with the grace of an athlete. He
studied hard and he worked hard for his parents, taking care of a cow
and chickens, of a stable and a large lawn, of flowers and a vegetable
garden.

Then one day he went by himself to walk in the mountains. He had not
been allowed to go into the mountains alone. A _Wanderlust_ that came
half from himself and half from his books led his feet along a narrow,
leafy trail into the forest depths. Hugo lay down and listened to the
birds in the bushes, to the music of a brook, and to the sound of the
wind. He wanted to be free and brave and great. By and by he stood up
and walked again.

An easy exhilaration filled his veins. His pace increased. "I wonder,"
he thought, "how fast I can run, how far I can jump." He quickened his
stride. In a moment he found that the turns in the trail were too
frequent for him to see his course. He ran ahead, realizing that he was
moving at an abnormal pace. Then he turned, gathered himself, and jumped
carefully. He was astonished when he vaulted above the green covering of
the trail. He came down heavily. He stood in his tracks, tingling.

"Nobody can do that, not even an acrobat," he whispered. Again he tried,
jumping straight up. He rose fully forty feet in the air.

"Good Jesus!" he exulted. In those lonely, incredible moments Hugo found
himself. There in the forest, beyond the eye of man, he learned that he
was superhuman. It was a rapturous discovery. He knew at that hour that
his strength was not a curse. He had inklings of his invulnerability.

He ran. He shot up the steep trail like an express train, at a rate that
would have been measured in miles to the hour rather than yards to the
minute. Tireless blood poured through his veins. Green streaked at his
sides. In a short time he came to the end of the trail. He plunged on,
careless of obstacles that would have stopped an ordinary mortal. From
trunk to trunk he leaped a burned stretch. He flung himself from a high
rock. He sped like a shadow across a pine-carpeted knoll. He gained the
bare rocks of the first mountain, and in the open, where the horror of
no eye would tether his strength, he moved in flying bounds to its
summit.

Hugo stood there, panting. Below him was the world. A little world. He
laughed. His dreams had been broken open. His depression was relieved.
But he would never let them know--he, Hugo, the giant. Except, perhaps,
his father. He lifted his arms--to thank God, to jeer at the world. Hugo
was happy.

He went home wondering. He was very hungry--hungrier than he had ever
been--and his parents watched him eat with hidden glances. Samson had
eaten thus, as if his stomach were bottomless and his food digested
instantly to make room for more. And, as he ate, Hugo tried to open a
conversation that would lead to a confession to his father. But it
seemed impossible.

Hugo liked his father. He saw how his mother dominated the little
professor, how she seemed to have crushed and bewildered him until his
mind was unfocused from its present. He could not love his mother
because of that. He did not reason that her religion had made her blind
and selfish, but he felt her blindness and the many cloaks that
protected her and her interests. He held her in respect and he obeyed
her. But often and wistfully he had tried to talk to his father, to make
friends with him, to make himself felt as a person.

Abednego Danner's mind was buried in the work he had done. His son was a
foreign person for whom he felt a perplexed sympathy. It is significant
that he had never talked to Hugo about Hugo's prowess. The ten-year-old
boy had not wished to discuss it. Now, however, realizing its extent, he
felt he must go to his father. After dinner he said: "Dad, let's you and
me take a walk."

Mrs. Danner's protective impulses functioned automatically. "Not
to-night. I won't have it."

"But, mother--"

Danner guessed the reason for that walk. He said to his wife with rare
firmness: "If the boy wants to walk with me, we're going."

After supper they went out. Mrs. Danner felt that she had been shut out
of her own son's world. And she realized that he was growing up.

Danner and his son strolled along the leafy street. They talked about
his work in school. His father seemed to Hugo more human than he had
ever been. He even ventured the first step toward other conversation.
"Well, son, what is it?"

Hugo caught his breath. "Well--I kind of thought I ought to tell you.
You see--this afternoon--well--you know I've always been a sort of
strong kid--"

Danner trembled. "I know--"

"And you haven't said much about it to me. Except to be gentle--"

"That's so. You must remember it."

"Well--I don't have to be gentle with myself, do I? When I'm alone--like
in the woods, that is?"

The older one pondered. "You mean--you like to--ah--let yourself
out--when you're alone?"

"That's what I mean." The usual constraint between them had receded.
Hugo was grateful for his father's help. "You see, dad, I--well--I went
walkin' to-day--and I--I kind of tried myself out."

Danner answered in breathless eagerness: "And?"

"Well--I'm not just a strong kid, dad. I don't know what's the matter
with me. It seems I'm not like other kids at all. I guess it's been
gettin' worse all these years since I was a baby."

"Worse?"

"I mean--I been gettin' stronger. An' now it seems like I'm
about--well--I don't like to boast--but it seems like I'm about the
strongest man in the world. When I try it, it seems like there isn't any
stopping me. I can go on--far as I like. Runnin'. Jumpin'." His
confession had commenced in detail. Hugo warmed to it. "I can do things,
dad. It kind of scares me. I can jump higher'n a house. I can run
faster'n a train. I can pull up big trees an' push 'em over."

"I see." Danner's spine tingled. He worshipped his son then. "Suppose
you show me."

Hugo looked up and down the street. There was no one in sight. The
evening was still duskily lighted by afterglow. "Look out then. I'm
gonna jump."

Mr. Danner saw his son crouch. But he jumped so quickly that he
vanished. Four seconds elapsed. He landed where he had stood. "See,
dad?"

"Do it again."

On the second trial the professor's eyes followed the soaring form. And
he realized the magnitude of the thing he had wrought.

"Did you see me?"

Danner nodded. "I saw you, son."

"Kind of funny, isn't it?"

"Let's talk some more." There was a pause. "Do you realize, son, that no
one else on earth can do what you just did?"

"Yeah. I guess not."

Danner hesitated. "It's a glorious thing. And dangerous."

"Yeah."

The professor tried to simplify the biology of his discovery. He
perceived that it was going to involve him in the mysteries of sex. He
knew that to unfold them to a child was considered immoral. But Danner
was far, far beyond his epoch. He put his hand on Hugo's shoulder. And
Hugo set off the process.

"Dad, how come I'm--like this?"

"I'll tell you. It's a long story and a lot for a boy your age to know.
First, what do you know about--well--about how you were born?"

Hugo reddened. "I--I guess I know quite a bit. The kids in school are
always talkin' about it. And I've read some. We're born like--well--like
the kittens were born last year."

"That's right." Banner knitted his brow. He began to explain the details
of conception as it occurs in man--the biology of ova and spermatazoa,
the differences between the anatomy of the sexes, and the reasons for
those differences. He drew, first, a botanical analogy. Hugo listened
intently. "I knew most of that. I've seen--girls."

"What?"

"Some of them--after school--let you."

Danner was surprised, and at the same time he was amused. He had
forgotten the details of his young investigation. They are blotted out
of the minds of most adults--to the great advantage of dignity. He did
not show his amusement or his surprise.

"Girls like that," he answered, "aren't very nice. They haven't much
modesty. It's rather indecent, because sex is a personal thing and
something you ought to keep for the one you're very fond of. You'll
understand that better when you're older. But what I was going to tell
you is this. When you were little more than a mass of plasm inside your
mother, I put a medicine in her blood that I had discovered. I did it
with a hypodermic needle. That medicine changed you. It altered the
structure of your bones and muscles and nerves and your blood. It made
you into a different tissue from the weak fibre of ordinary people.
Then--when you were born--you were strong. Did you ever watch an ant
carry many times its weight? Or see a grasshopper jump fifty times its
length? The insects have better muscles and nerves than we have. And I
improved your body till it was relatively that strong. Can you
understand that?"

"Sure. I'm like a man made out of iron instead of meat."

"That's it, Hugo. And, as you grow up, you've got to remember that.
You're not an ordinary human being. When people find that out,
they'll--they'll--"

"They'll hate me?"

"Because they fear you. So you see, you've got to be good and kind and
considerate--to justify all that strength. Some day you'll find a use
for it--a big, noble use--and then you can make it work and be proud of
it. Until that day, you have to be humble like all the rest of us. You
mustn't show off or do cheap tricks. Then you'd just be a clown. Wait
your time, son, and you'll be glad of it. And--another thing--train your
temper. You must never lose it. You can see what would happen if you
did? Understand?"

"I guess I do. It's hard work--doin' all that."

"The stronger, the greater, you are, the harder life is for you. And
you're the strongest of them all, Hugo."

The heart of the ten-year-old boy burned and vibrated. "And what about
God?" he asked.

Danner looked into the darkened sky. "I don't know much about Him," he
sighed.

Such was the soundest counsel that Hugo was given during his youth.
Because it came to him accompanied by unadulterated truths that he was
able to recognize, it exerted a profound effect on him. It is surprising
that his father was the one to give it. Nevertheless, Professor Danner
was the only person in all of Indian Creek who had sufficient
imagination to perceive his son's problems and to reckon with them in
any practical sense.

Hugo was eighteen before he gave any other indication of his strength
save in that fantastic and Gargantuan play which he permitted himself.
Even his play was intruded upon by the small-minded and curious world
before he had found the completeness of its pleasure. Then Hugo fell
into his coma.

Hugo went back to the deep forest to think things over and to become
acquainted with his powers. At first, under full pressure of his sinews,
he was clumsy and inaccurate. He learned deftness by trial and error.
One day he found a huge pit in the tangled wilderness. It had been an
open mine long years before. Sitting on its brink, staring into its pool
of verdure, dreaming, he conceived a manner of entertainment suitable
for his powers.

He jumped over its craggy edge and walked to its centre. There he
selected a high place, and with his hands he cleared away the growth
that covered it. Next he laid the foundations of a fort, over which he
was to watch the fastnesses for imaginary enemies. The foundations were
made of boulders. Some he carried and some he rolled from the floor of
the man-made canyon. By the end of the afternoon he had laid out a
square wall of rock some three feet in height. On the next day he added
to it until the four walls reached as high as he could stretch. He left
space for one door and he made a single window. He roofed the walls with
the trunks of trees and he erected a turret over the door.

For days the creation was his delight. After school he sped to it. Until
dark he strained and struggled with bare rocks. When it was finished, it
was an edifice that would have withstood artillery fire creditably. Then
Hugo experimented with catapults, but he found no engine that could hurl
the rocks he used for ammunition as far as his arms. He cached his
treasures in his fortress--an old axe, the scabbard of a sword, tops and
marbles, two cans of beans for emergency rations--and he made a flag of
blue and white cloth for himself.

Then he played in it. He pretended that Indians were stalking him. An
imaginary head would appear at the rim of the pit. Hugo would see it
through a chink. Swish! Crash! A puff of dust would show where rock met
rock--with the attacker's head between. At times he would be stormed on
all sides. To get the effect he would leap the canyon and hurl boulders
on his own fort. Then he would return and defend it.

It was after such a strenuous sally and while he was waiting in high
excitement for the enemy to reappear that Professors Whitaker and Smith
from the college stumbled on his stronghold. They were walking together
through the forest, bent on scaling the mountain to make certain
observations of an ancient cirque that was formed by the seventh great
glacier. As they walked, they debated matters of strata curvature.
Suddenly Whitaker gripped Smith's arm. "Look!"

They stared through the trees and over the lip of Hugo's mine. Their
eyes bulged as they observed the size and weight of the fortress.

"Moonshiners," Smith whispered.

"Rubbish. Moonshiners don't build like that. It's a second Stonehenge.
An Indian relic."

"But there's a sign of fresh work around it."

Whitaker observed the newly turned earth and the freshly bared rock.
"Perhaps--perhaps, professor, we've fallen upon something big. A lost
race of Indian engineers. A branch of the Incas--or--"

"Maybe they'll be hostile."

The men edged forward. And at the moment they reached the edge of the
pit, Hugo emerged from his fort. He saw the men with sudden fear. He
tried to hide.

"Hey!" they said. He did not move, but he heard them scrambling slowly
toward the spot where he lay.

"Dressed in civilized clothes," the first professor said in a loud voice
as his eye located Hugo in the underbrush. "Hey!"

Hugo showed himself. "What?"

"Who are you?"

"Hugo Danner."

"Oh--old Danner's boy, eh?"

Hugo did not like the tone in which they referred to his father. He made
no reply.

"Can you tell us anything about these ruins?"

"What ruins?"

They pointed to his fort. Hugo was hurt. "Those aren't ruins. I built
that fort. It's to fight Indians in."

The pair ignored his answer and started toward the fort. Hugo did not
protest. They surveyed its weighty walls and its relatively new roof.

"Looks recent," Smith said.

"This child has evidently renovated it. But it must have stood here for
thousands of years."

"It didn't. I made it--mostly last week."

They noticed him again. Whitaker simpered. "Don't lie, young man."

Hugo was sad. "I'm not lying. I made it. You see--I'm strong." It was as
if he had pronounced his own damnation.

"Tut, tut." Smith interrupted his survey. "Did you find it?"

"I built it."

"I said"--the professor spoke with increasing annoyance--"I said not to
tell me stories any longer. It's important, young man, that we know just
how you found this dolmen and in what condition."

"It isn't a dolly--whatever you said--it's a fort and I built it and I'm
not lying."

The professor, in the interests of science, made a grave mistake. He
seized Hugo by the arms and shook him. "Now, see here, young man, I'll
have no more of your impertinent lip. Tell me just what you've done to
harm this noble monument to another race, or, I swear, I'll slap you
properly." The professor had no children. He tried, at the same time,
another tack, which insulted Hugo further. "If you do, I'll give you a
penny--to keep."

Hugo wrenched himself free with an ease that startled Smith. His face
was dark, almost black. He spoke slowly, as if he was trying to piece
words into sense. "You--both of you--you go away from here and leave me
or I'll break your two rotten old necks."

Whitaker moved toward him, and Smith interceded. "We better leave
him--and come back later." He was still frightened by the strength in
Hugo's arms. "The child is mad. He may have hydrophobia. He might bite."
The men moved away hastily. Hugo watched them climb the wall. When they
reached the top, he called gently. They wheeled.

And Hugo, sobbing, tears streaming from his face, leaped into his fort.
Rocks vomited themselves from it--huge rocks that no man could budge.
Walls toppled and crashed. The men began to move. Hugo looked up. He
chose a stone that weighed more than a hundred pounds.

"Hey!" he said. "I'm not a liar!" The rock arched through the air and
Professors Whitaker and Smith escaped death by a scant margin. Hugo lay
in the wreck of the first thing his hands had built, and wept.

After a little while he sprang to his feet and chased the retreating
professors. When he suddenly appeared in front of them, they were
stricken dumb. "Don't tell any one about that or about me," he said. "If
you do--I'll break down your house just like I broke mine. Don't even
tell my family. They know it, anyhow."

He leaped. Toward them--over them. The forest hid him. Whitaker wiped
clammy perspiration from his brow. "What was it, Smith?"

"A demon. We can't mention it," he repeated, thinking of the warning.
"We can't speak of it anyway. They'll never believe us."



V


Extremely dark of hair, of eyes and skin, moderately tall, and shaped
with that compact, breath-taking symmetry that the male figure sometimes
assumes, a brilliantly devised, aggressive head topping his broad
shoulders, graceful, a man vehemently alive, a man with the promise of a
young God. Hugo at eighteen. His emotions ran through his eyes like hot
steel in a dark mould. People avoided those eyes; they contained a
statement from which ordinary souls shrank.

His skin glowed and sweated into a shiny red-brown. His voice was deep
and alluring. During twelve long and fierce years he had fought to know
and control himself. Indian Creek had forgotten the terrible child.

Hugo's life at that time revolved less about himself than it had during
his first years. That was both natural and fortunate. If his classmates
in school and the older people of the town had not discounted his early
physical precocity, even his splendid vitality might not have been
sufficient to prevent him from becoming moody and melancholy.

But when with the passage of time he tossed no more bullies, carried no
more barrels of temptation, built no more fortresses, and grew so
handsome that the matrons of Indian Creek as well as the adolescent
girls in high school followed him with wayward glances, when the men
found him a gay and comprehending companion for any sport or adventure,
when his teachers observed that his intelligence was often
embarrassingly acute, when he played on three teams and was elected an
officer in his classes each year, then that half of Hugo which was
purely mundane and human dominated him and made him happy.

His adolescence, his emotions, were no different from those of any young
man of his age and character. If his ultimate ambitions followed another
trajectory, he postponed the evidence of it. Hugo was in love with Anna
Blake, the girl who had attracted him when he was six. The residents of
Indian Creek knew it. Her family received his calls with the winking
tolerance which the middle class grants to young passion. And she was
warm and tender and flirtatious and shy according to the policies that
she had learned from custom.

The active part of Hugo did not doubt that he would marry her after he
had graduated from the college in Indian Creek, that they would settle
somewhere near by, and that they would raise a number of children. His
subconscious thoughts made reservations that he, in moments when he was
intimate with himself, would admit frankly. It made him a little ashamed
of himself to see that on one night he would sit with Anna and kiss her
ardently until his body ached, and on another he would deliberately plan
to desert her. His idealism at that time was very great and untried and
it did not occur to him that all men are so deliberately calculating in
the love they disguise as absolute.

Anna had grown into a very attractive woman. Her figure was rounded and
tall. Her hair was darker than the waxy curls of her childhood, and a
vital gleam had come into it. Her eyes were still as blue and her voice,
shorn of its faltering youngness, was sweet and clear. She was
undoubtedly the prettiest girl in high school and the logical
sweet-heart for Hugo Danner. A flower ready to be plucked, at eighteen.

When Hugo reached his senior year, that readiness became almost an
impatience. Girls married at an early age in Indian Creek. She looked
down the corridor of time during which he would be in college, she felt
the pressure of his still slumbering passion, and she sensed his
superiority over most of the town boys. Only a very narrow critic would
call her resultant tactics dishonourable. They were too intensely human
and too clearly born of social and biological necessity.

She had let him kiss her when they were sixteen. And afterwards, before
she went to sleep, she sighed rapturously at the memory of his warm,
firm lips, his strong, rough arms. Hugo had gone home through the
dizzily spinning dusk, through the wind-strummed trees and the fragrant
fields, his breath deep in his chest, his eyes hot and somewhat
understanding.

Gradually Anna increased that license. She knew and she did not know
what she was doing. She played a long game in which she said: "If our
love is consummated too soon, the social loss will be balanced by a
speedier marriage, because Hugo is honourable; but that will never
happen." Two years after that first kiss, when they were floating on the
narrow river in a canoe, Hugo unfastened her blouse and exposed the
creamy beauty of her bosom to the soft moonlight and she did not
protest. That night he nearly possessed her, and after that night he
learned through her unspoken, voluptuous suggestion all the technique of
love-making this side of consummation.

When, finally, he called one night at her house and found that she was
alone and that her parents and her brother would not return until the
next day, they looked at each other with a shining agreement. He turned
the lights out and they sat on the couch in the darkness, listening to
the passing of people on the sidewalk outside. He undressed her. He
whispered halting, passionate phrases. He asked her if she was afraid
and let himself be laughed away from his own conscience. Then he took
her and loved her.

Afterwards, going home again in the gloom of late night, he looked up at
the stars and they stood still. He realized that a certain path of life
had been followed to its conclusion. He felt initiated into the adult
world. And it had been so simple, so natural, so sweet.... He threw a
great stone into the river and laughed and walked on, after a while.

Through the summer that followed, Hugo and Anna ran the course of their
affair. They loved each other violently and incessantly and with no
other evil consequence than to invite the open "humphs" of village
gossips and to involve him in several serious talks with her father.
Their courtship was given the benefit of conventional doubt, however,
and their innocence was hotly if covertly protested by the Blakes. Mrs.
Danner coldly ignored every fragment of insinuation. She hoped that Hugo
and Anna would announce their engagement and she hinted that hope. Hugo
himself was excited and absorbed. Occasionally he thought he was
sterile, with an inclination to be pleased rather than concerned if it
was true.

He added tenderness to his characteristics. And he loved Anna too much.
Toward the end of that summer she lost weight and became irritable. They
quarrelled once and then again. The criteria for his physical conduct
being vague in his mind, Hugo could not gauge it correctly. And he did
not realize that the very ardour of his relation with her was abnormal.
Her family decided to send her away, believing the opposite of the truth
responsible for her nervousness and weakness. A week before she left,
Hugo himself tired of his excesses.

One evening, dressing for a last passionate rendezvous, he looked in his
mirror as he tied his scarf and saw that he was frowning. Studying the
frown, he perceived with a shock what made it. He did not want to see
Anna, to take her out, to kiss and rumple and clasp her, to return
thinking of her, feeling her, sweet and smelling like her. It annoyed
him. It bored him. He went through it uneasily and quarrelled again. Two
days later she departed.

He acted his loss well and she did not show her relief until she sat on
the train, tired, shattered, and uninterested in Hugo and in life. Then
she cried. But Hugo was through. They exchanged insincere letters. He
looked forward to college in the fall. Then he received a letter from
Anna saying that she was going to marry a man she had met and known for
three weeks. It was a broken, gasping, apologetic letter. Every one was
outraged at Anna and astounded that Hugo bore the shock so courageously.

The upshot of that summer was to fill his mind with fetid memories,
which abated slowly, to make him disgusted with himself and tired of
Indian Creek. He decided to go to a different college, one far away from
the scene of his painful youth and his disillusioned maturity. He chose
Webster University because of the greatness of its name. If Abednego
Danner was hurt at his son's defection from his own college, he said
nothing. And Mrs. Danner, grown more silent and reserved, yielded to her
son's unexpected decision.

Hugo packed his bags one September afternoon, with a feeling of
dreaminess. He bade farewell to his family. He boarded the train. His
mind was opaque. The spark burning in it was one of dawning adventure
buried in a mass of detail. He had never been far from his native soil.
Now he was going to see cities and people who were almost foreign, in
the sophisticated East. But all he could dwell on was a swift cinema of
a defeated little boy, a strong man who could never be strong, a
surfeited love, a truant and dimly comprehensible blonde girl, a muddy
street and a red station, a clapboard house, a sonorous church with
hushed puppets in the pews, fudge parties, boats on the little river,
cold winter, and ice over the mountains, and a fortress where once upon
a time he had felt mightier than the universe.



VI


The short branch line to which Hugo changed brought him to the fringe of
the campus. The cars were full of boys, so many of them that he was
embarrassed. They all appeared to know each other, and no one spoke to
him. His dreams on the train were culminated. He had decided to become a
great athlete. With his mind's eye, he played the football he would
play--and the baseball. Ninety-yard runs, homers hit over the fence into
oblivion. Seeing the boys and feeling their lack of notice of him
redoubled the force of that decision. Then he stepped on to the station
platform and stood facing the campus. He could not escape a rush of
reverence and of awe; it was so wide, so green and beautiful. Far away
towered the giant arches of the stadium. Near by were the sharp Gothic
points of the chapel and the graduate college. Between them a score or
more of buildings rambled in and out through the trees.

"Hey!"

Hugo turned a little self-consciously. A youth in a white shirt and
white trousers was beckoning to him. "Freshman, aren't you?"

"Yes. My name's Danner. Hugo Danner."

"I'm Lefty Foresman. Chuck!" A second student separated himself from the
bustle of baggage and young men. "Here's a freshman."

Hugo waited with some embarrassment. He wondered why they wanted a
freshman. Lefty introduced Chuck and then said: "Are you strong,
freshman?"

For an instant he was stunned. Had they heard, guessed? Then he realized
it was impossible. They wanted him to work. They were going to haze him.
"Sure," he said.

"Then get this trunk and I'll show you where to take it."

Hugo was handed a baggage check. He found the official and located the
trunk. Tentatively he tested its weight, as if he were a normally husky
youth about to undertake its transportation. He felt pleased that his
strength was going to be tried so accidentally and in such short order.
Lefty and Chuck heaved the trunk on his back. "Can you carry it?" they
asked.

"Sure."

"Don't be too sure. It's a long way."

Peering from beneath the trunk under which he bent with a fair
assumption of human weakness, Hugo had his first close glimpse of
Webster. They passed under a huge arch and down a street lined with
elms. Students were everywhere, carrying books and furniture, moving in
wheelbarrows and moving by means of the backs of other freshmen. The two
who led him were talking and he listened as he plodded.

"Saw Marcia just before I left the lake--took her out one night--and got
all over the place with her--and then came down--she's coming to the
first prom with me--and Marj to the second--got to get some beer
in--we'll buzz out and see if old Snorenson has made any wine this
summer. Hello, Eddie--glad to see you back--I've elected the dean's
physics, though, God knows, I'll never get a first in them and I need it
for a key. That damn Frosh we picked up sure must have been a
porter--hey, freshmen! Want a rest?"

"No, thanks."

"Went down to the field this afternoon--looks all right to me. The team,
that is. Billings is going to quarter it now--and me after that--hope to
Christ I make it--they're going to have Scapper and Dwan back at Yale
and we've got a lot of work to do. Frosh! You don't need to drag that
all the way in one yank. Put it down, will you?"

"I'm not tired. I don't need a rest."

"Well, you know best--but you ought to be tired. I would. Where do you
come from?"

"Colorado."

"Huh! People go to Colorado. Never heard of any one coming from there
before. Whereabouts?"

"Indian Creek."

"Oh." There was a pause. "You aren't an Indian, are you?" It was asked
bluntly.

"Scotch Presbyterian for twenty generations."

"Well, when you get through here, you'll be full of Scotch and emptied
of the Presbyterianism. Put the trunk down."

Their talk of women, of classes, of football, excited Hugo. He was not
quite as amazed to find that Lefty Foresman was one of the candidates
for the football team as he might have been later when he knew how many
students attended the university and how few, relatively, were athletes.
He decided at once that he liked Lefty. The sophistication of his talk
was unfamiliar to Hugo; much of it he could not understand and only
guessed. He wanted Lefty to notice him. When he was told to put the
trunk down, he did not obey. Instead, with precision and ease, he swung
it up on his shoulder, held it with one hand and said in an unflustered
tone: "I'm not tired, honestly. Where do we go from here?"

"Great howling Jesus!" Lefty said, "what have we here? Hey! Put that
trunk down." There was excitement in his voice. "Say, guy, do that
again."

Hugo did it. Lefty squeezed his biceps and grew pale. Those muscles in
action lost their feel of flesh and became like stone. Lefty said: "Say,
boy, can you play football?"

"Sure," Hugo said.

"Well, you leave that trunk with Chuck, here, and come with me."

Hugo did as he had been ordered and they walked side by side to the
gymnasium. Hugo had once seen a small gymnasium, ill equipped and badly
lighted, and it had appealed mightily to him. Now he stood in a
prodigious vaulted room with a shimmering floor, a circular balcony, a
varied array of apparatus. His hands clenched. Lefty quit him for a
moment and came back with a man who wore knickers. "Mr. Woodman, this
is--what the hell's your name?"

"Danner. Hugo Danner."

"Mr. Woodman is football coach."

Hugo took the man's hand. Lefty excused himself. Mr. Woodman said:
"Young Foresman said you played football."

"Just on a high-school team in Colorado."

"Said you were husky. Go in my office and ask Fitzsimmons to give you a
gym suit. Come out when you're ready."

Hugo undressed and put on the suit. Fitzsimmons, the trainer, looked at
him with warm admiration. "You're sure built, son."

"Yeah. That's luck, isn't it?"

Then Hugo was taken to another office. Woodman asked him a number of
questions about his weight, his health, his past medical history. He
listened to Hugo's heart and then led him to a scale. Hugo had lied
about his weight.

"I thought you said one hundred and sixty, Mr. Danner?"

The scales showed two hundred and eleven, but it was impossible for a
man of his size and build to weigh that much. Hugo had lied
deliberately, hoping that he could avoid the embarrassment of being
weighed. "I did, Mr. Woodman. You see--my weight is a sort of freak. I
don't show it--no one would believe it--and yet there it is." He did not
go into the details of his construction from a plasm new to biology.

"Huh!" Mr. Woodman said. Together they walked out on the floor of the
gymnasium. Woodman called to one of the figures on the track who was
making slow, plodding circuits. "Hey, Nellie! Take this bird up and pace
him for a lap. Make it fast."

A little smile came at the corners of Hugo's mouth. Several of the men
in the gymnasium stopped work to watch the trial of what was evidently a
new candidate. "Ready?" Woodman said, and the runners crouched side by
side. "Set? Go!"

Nelson, one of the best sprinters Webster had had for years, dashed
forward. He had covered thirty feet when he heard a voice almost in his
ear. "Faster, old man."

Nelson increased. "Faster, boy, I'm passing you." The words were spoken
quietly, calmly. A rage filled Nelson. He let every ounce of his
strength into his limbs and skimmed the canvas. Half a lap. Hugo ran at
his side and Nelson could not lead him. The remaining half was not a
race. Hugo finished thirty feet in the lead.

Woodman, standing on the floor, wiped his forehead and bawled: "That the
best you can do, Nellie?"

"Yes, sir."

"What in hell have you been doing to yourself?"

Nelson drew a sobbing breath. "I--haven't--done--a thing. Time--that
man. He's--faster than the intercollegiate mark."

Woodman, still dubious, made Hugo run against time. And Hugo, eager to
make an impression and unguided by a human runner, broke the world's
record for the distance around the track by a second and three-fifths.
The watch in Woodman's hands trembled.

"Hey!" he said, uncertain of his voice, "come down here, will you?"

Hugo descended the spiral iron staircase. He was breathing with ease.
Woodman stared at him. "Lessee you jump."

Hugo was familiar with the distances for jumping made in track meets. He
was careful not to overdo his effort. His running jump was twenty-eight
feet, and his standing jump was eleven feet and some inches. Woodman's
face ran water. His eyes gleamed. "Danner," he said, "where did you get
that way?"

"What way?"

"I mean--what have you done all your life?"

"Nothing. Gone to school."

"Two hundred and eleven pounds," Woodman muttered, "run like an Olympic
champ--jump like a kangaroo--how's your kicking?"

"All right, I guess."

"Passing?"

"All right, I guess."

"Come on outside. Hey, Fitz! Bring a ball."

An hour later Fitzsimmons found Woodman sitting in his office. Beside
him was a bottle of whisky which he kept to revive wounded gladiators.
"Fitz," said Woodman, looking at the trainer with dazed eyes, "did you
see what I saw?"

"Yes, I did, Woodie."

"Tell me about it."

Fitzsimmons scratched his greying head. "Well, Woodie, I seen a young
man--"

"Saw, Fitz."

"I saw a young man come into the gym an' undress. He looked like an
oiled steam engine. I saw him go and knock hell out of three track
records without even losing his breath. Then I seen him go out on the
field an' kick a football from one end to the other an' pass it back.
That's what _I_ seen."

Woodman nodded his head. "So did I. But I don't believe it, do you?"

"I do. That's the man you--an' all the other coaches--have been wantin'
to see. The perfect athlete. Better in everything than the best man at
any one thing. Just a freak, Woodie--but, God Almighty, how New Haven
an' Colgate are goin' to feel it these next years!"

"Mebbe he's dumb, Fitz."

"Mebbe. Mebbe not."

"Find out."

Fitz wasted no time. He telephoned to the registrar's office. "Mr. H.
Danner," said the voice of a secretary, "passed his examinations with
the highest honours and was admitted among the first ten."

"He passed his entrance exams among the first ten," Fitzsimmons
repeated.

"God!" said Woodman, "it's the millennium!" And he took a drink.

       *       *       *       *       *

Late in the afternoon of that day Hugo found his room in Thompson
Dormitory. He unpacked his carpet-bag and his straw suitcase. He checked
in his mind the things that he had done. It seemed a great deal for one
day--a complete alteration of his life. He had seen the dean and
arranged his classes: trigonometry, English, French, Latin, biology,
physics, economics, hygiene. With a pencil and a ruler he made a
schedule, which he pinned on the second-hand desk he had bought.

Then he checked his furniture: a desk, two chairs, a bed, bed-clothes, a
rug, sheets and blankets, towels. He hung his clothes in the closet. For
a while he looked at them attentively. They were not like the clothes of
the other students. He could not quite perceive the difference, but he
felt it, and it made him uncomfortable. The room to which he had been
assigned was pleasant. It looked over the rolling campus on two sides,
and both windows were framed in the leaves of nodding ivy.

It was growing dark. From a dormitory near by came the music of a banjo.
Presently the player sang and other voices joined with him. A warm and
golden sun touched the high clouds with lingering fire. Voices cried
out, young and vigorous. Hugo sighed. He was going to be happy at
Webster. His greatness was going to be born here.

At that time Woodman called informally on Chuck and Lefty. They were in
a heated argument over the decorative arrangement of various liquor
bottles when he knocked. "Come in!" they shouted in unison.

"Hello!"

"Oh, Woodie. Come in. Sit down. Want a drink--you're not in training?"

"No, thanks. Had one. And it would be a damn sight better if you birds
didn't keep the stuff around."

"It's Chuck's." Lefty grinned.

"All right. I came to see about that bird you brought to me--Danner."

"Was he any good?"

Woodman hesitated. "Fellows, if I told you how good he was, you wouldn't
believe me. He's so good--I'm scared of him."

"Whaddaya mean?"

"Just that. He gave Nellie thirty feet in a lap on the track."

"Great God!"

"He jumped twenty-eight and eleven feet--running and standing. He kicked
half a dozen punts for eighty and ninety yards and he passed the same
distance."

Lefty sat down on the window seat. His voice was hoarse. "That--can't be
done, Woodie."

"I know it. But he did it. But that isn't what makes me frightened. How
much do you think he weighs?"

"One fifty-five--or thereabouts."

Woodie shook his head. "No, Lefty, he weighs two hundred and eleven."

"Two eleven! He can't, Woodie. There's something wrong with your
scales."

"Not a thing."

The two students stared at each other and then at the coach. They were
able to grasp the facts intellectually, but they could not penetrate the
reactions of their emotions. At last Lefty said: "But that
isn't--well--it isn't human, Woodie."

"That's why I'm scared. Something has happened to this bird. He has a
disease of some kind--that has toughened him. Like Pott's disease, that
turns you to stone. But you wouldn't think it. There's not a trace of
anything on the surface. I'm having a blood test made soon. Wait till
to-morrow when you see him in action. It'll terrify you. Because you'll
have the same damned weird feeling I have--that he isn't doing one tenth
of what he can do--that he's really just playing with us all. By God, if
I was a bit superstitious, I'd throw up my job and get as much distance
between me and that bird as I could. I'm telling you simply to prepare
you. There's something mighty funny about him, and the sooner we find
out, the better."

Mr. Woodman left the dormitory. Lefty and Chuck stared at each other for
the space of a minute, and then, with one accord, they went together to
the registrar's office. There they found Hugo's address on the campus,
and in a few minutes they were at his door.

"Come in," Hugo said. He smiled when he saw Lefty and Chuck. "Want some
more trunks moved?"

"Maybe--later." They sat down, eying Hugo speculatively. Lefty acted as
spokesman. "Listen here, guy, we've just seen Woodie and he says you're
phenomenal--so much so that it isn't right."

Hugo reddened. He had feared that his exhibition was exaggerated by his
eagerness to impress the coach. He said nothing and Lefty continued:
"You're going to be here for four years and you're going to love this
place. You're going to be willing to die for it. All the rest of your
life the fact that you went to old Webster is going to make a
difference. But there's one thing that Webster insists on--and that's
fair play. And honesty--and courage. You've come from a little town in
the West and you're a stranger here. Understand, this is all in a spirit
of friendship. So far--we like you. We want you to be one of us. To
belong. You have a lot to learn and a long way to go. I'm being frank
because I want to like you. For instance, Chuck here is a millionaire.
My old man is no dead stick in the Blue Book. Things like that will be
different from what you've known before. But the important thing is to
be a square shooter. Don't be angry. Do you understand?"

Hugo walked to the window and looked out into the thickened gloom. He
had caught the worry, the repression, in Lefty's voice. The youth, his
merry blue eyes suddenly grave, his poised self abnormally disturbed,
had suggested a criticism of some sort. What was it? Hugo was hurt and a
little frightened. Would his college life be a repetition of Indian
Creek? Would the athletes and the others in college of his own age fear
and detest him--because he was superior? Was that what they meant? He
did not know. He was loath to offend Lefty and Chuck. But there seemed
no alternative to the risk. No one had talked to him in that way for a
long time. He sat on his bed. "Fellows," he said tersely, "I don't think
I know what you're driving at. Will you tell me?"

The roommates fidgeted. They did not know exactly, either. They had come
to fathom the abnormality in Hugo. Chuck lit a cigarette. Lefty smiled
with an assumed ease. "Why--nothing, Danner. You see--well--I'm
quarterback of the football team. And you'll probably be on it this
year--we haven't adopted the new idea of keeping freshmen off the
varsity. Just wanted to tell you those--well--those principles."

Hugo knew he had not been answered. He felt, too, that he would never in
his life give away his secret. The defences surrounding it had been too
immutably fixed. His joy at knowing that he had been accepted so soon as
a logical candidate for the football team was tempered by this
questioning. "I have principles, fellows."

"Good." Lefty rose. "Guess we'll be going. By the way, Woodie said you
smashed a couple of track records to-day. Where'd you learn?"

"Nowhere."

"How come, then?"

"Just--natural."

Lefty summoned his will. "Sure it isn't--well--unhealthy. Woodie says
there are a couple of diseases that make you--well--get tough--like
stone."

Hugo realized the purpose of the visit. "Then--be sure I haven't any
diseases. My father had an M.D." He smiled awkwardly. "Ever since I was
a kid, I've been stronger than most people. And I probably have a little
edge still. Just an accident, that's all. Is that what you were
wondering about?"

Lefty smiled with instant relief. "Yes, it is. And I'm glad you take it
that way. Listen--why don't you come over to the Inn and take dinner
with Chuck and me? Let commons go for to-night. What say?"

       *       *       *       *       *

At eleven Hugo wound his alarm clock and set it for seven. He yawned
and smiled. All during supper he had listened to the glories of Webster
and the advantages of belonging to the Psi Delta fraternity, to
descriptions of parties and to episodes with girls. Lefty and Chuck had
embraced him in their circle. They had made suggestions about what he
should wear and whom he should know; they had posted him on the
behaviour best suited for each of his professors. They liked him and he
liked them, immensely. They were the finest fellows in the world.
Webster was a magnificent university. And he was going to be one of its
most glorious sons.

He undressed and went to bed. In a moment he slept, drawing in deep,
swift breaths. His face was smiling and his arm was extended, whether to
ward off shadows or to embrace a new treasure could not be told. In the
bright sunshine of morning his alarm jangled and he woke to begin his
career as an undergraduate.



VII


From the day of his arrival Webster University felt the presence of Hugo
Danner. Classes, football practice, hazing, fraternity scouting began on
that morning with a feverish and good-natured hurly-burly that, for a
time, completely bewildered him. Hugo participated in everything. He
went to the classroom with pleasure. It was never difficult for him to
learn and never easier than in those first few weeks. The professors he
had known (and he reluctantly included his own father) were dry-as-dust
individuals who had none of the humanities. And at least some of the
professors at Webster were brilliant, urbane, capable of all
understanding. Their lectures were like tonic to Hugo.

The number of his friends grew with amazing rapidity. It seemed that he
could not cross the campus without being hailed by a member of the
football team and presented to another student. The Psi Deltas saw to it
that he met the entire personnel of their chapter at Webster. Other
fraternities looked at him with covetous eyes, but Lefty Foresman, who
was chairman of the membership committee, let it be known that the Psi
Deltas had marked Hugo for their own. And no one refused their bid.

On the second Monday after college opened, Hugo went to the class
elections and found to his astonishment that he received twenty-eight
votes for president. A boy from a large preparatory school was elected,
but twenty-eight votes spoke well for the reputation he had gained in
that short time. On that day, too, he learned the class customs.
Freshmen had to wear black caps, black shoes and socks and ties. They
were not allowed to walk on the grass or to ride bicycles. The ancient
cannon in the center of the class square was defended annually by the
sophomores, and its theft was always attempted by the freshmen. No
entering class had stolen it in eight years. Those things amused Hugo.
They gave him an intimate feeling of belonging to his school. He wrote
to his parents about them.

Dean Aiken, the newly elected president of the freshman class,
approached Hugo on the matter of the cannon. "We want a gang of good
husky boys to pull it up some night and take it away. Are you with us?"

"Sure."

Left to his own considerations, Hugo recalled his promise and walked
across the campus with the object of studying the cannon. It was a
medium-sized piece of Revolutionary War vintage. It stood directly in
the rear of Webster Hall, and while Hugo regarded it, he noticed that
two sophomores remained in the vicinity. He knew that guard, changed
every two hours, would be on duty day and night until Christmas was
safely passed. Well, the cannon was secure. It couldn't be rolled away.
The theft of it would require first a free-for-all with the sophomores
and after a definite victory a mob assault of the gun. Hugo walked
closer to it.

"Off the grass, freshman!"

He wheeled obediently. One of the guards approached him. "Get off the
grass and stay off and don't look at that cannon with longing. It isn't
healthy for young freshmen."

Hugo grinned. "All right, fella. But you better keep a double guard on
that thing while I want it."

Two nights later, during a heavy rain that had begun after the fall of
dark, Hugo clad himself in a slicker and moved vaguely into the night.
Presently he reached the cannon yard, and in the shelter of an arch he
saw the sophomore guards. They smoked cigarettes, and one of them sang
softly. Day and night a pair of conscripted sentries kept watchful eyes
on the gun. A shout from either of them would bring the whole class
tumbling from its slumber in a very few moments. Hugo moved out of their
vision. The campus was empty.

He rounded Webster Hall, the mud sucking softly under his feet and the
rain dampening his face. From beneath his coat he took a flare and
lighted the fuse. He heard the two sophomores running toward it in the
thick murk. When they were very close, he stepped on to the stone
flagging, looked up into the cloudy sky, gathered himself, and leaped
over the three stories of Webster Hall. He landed with a loud thud ten
feet from the cannon. When the sophomores returned, after extinguishing
the flare, their cherished symbol of authority had vanished.

There was din on the campus. First the loud cries of two voices. Then
the screech of raised windows, the babble of more voices, and the rush
of feet that came with new gusts of rain. Flash-lights pierced the
gloom. Where the cannon had been, a hundred and then two hundred figures
gathered, swirled, organized search-parties, built a fire. Dawn came,
and the cannon was still missing. The clouds lifted. In the wan light
some one pointed up. There, on the roof of Webster Hall, with the
numerals of the freshman class painted on its muzzle, was the old
weapon. Arms stretched. An angry, incredulous hum waxed to a steady
pitch and waned as the sophomores dispersed.

In the morning, theory ran rife. The freshmen were tight-lipped,
pretending knowledge where they had none, exulting secretly. Dean Aiken
was kidnapped at noon and given a third degree, which extorted no
information. The theft of the cannon and its elevation to the roof of
the hall entered the annals of Webster legend. And Hugo, watching the
laborious task of its removal from the roof, seemed merely as pleased
and as mystified as the other freshmen.

So the autumn commenced. The first football game was played and Hugo
made a touchdown. He made another in the second game. They took him to
New York in November for the dinner that was to celebrate the entrance
of a new chapter to Psi Delta.

His fraternity had hired a private car. As soon as the college towers
vanished, the entertainment committee took over the party. Glasses were
filled with whisky and passed by a Negro porter. Hugo took his with a
feeling of nervousness and of excited anticipation. The coach had given
him permission to break training--advised it, in fact. And Hugo had
never tasted liquor. He watched the others, holding his glass gingerly.
They swallowed their drinks, took more. The effect did not seem to be
great. He smelled the whisky, and the smell revolted him.

"Drink up, Danner!"

"Never use the stuff. I'm afraid it'll throw me."

"Not you. Come on! Bottoms up!"

It ran into his throat, hot and steaming. He swallowed a thousand
needles and knew the warmth of it in his stomach. They gave another
glass to him and then a third. Some of the brothers were playing cards.
Hugo watched them. He perceived that his feet were loose on their ankles
and that his shoulders lurched. It would not do to lose control of
himself, he thought. For another man, it might be safe. Not for him. He
repeated the thought inanely. Some one took his arm.

"Nice work in the game last week. Pretty."

"Thanks."

"Woodie says you're the best man on the team. Glad you went Psi Delt.
Best house on the campus. Great school, Webster. You'll love it."

"Sure," Hugo said.

The railroad coach was twisting and writhing peculiarly. Hugo suddenly
wanted to be in the air. He hastened to the platform of the car and
stood on it, squinting his eyes at the countryside. When they reached
the Grand Central Terminal he was cured of his faintness. They rode to
the theatre in an omnibus and saw the matinée of a musical show. Hugo
had never realized that so many pretty girls could be gathered together
in one place. Their scant, glittering costumes flashed in his face. He
wanted them. Between the acts the fraternity repaired in a body to the
lavatory and drank whisky from bottles.

Hugo began to feel that he was living at last. He was among men,
sophisticated men, and learning to be like them. Nothing like the
_camaraderie_, the show, the liquor, in Indian Creek. He was wearing the
suit that Lefty Foresman had chosen for him. He felt well dressed, cool,
capable. He was intensely well disposed toward his companions. When the
show was over, he stood in the bright lights, momentarily depressed by
the disappearance of the long file of girls. Then he shouldered among
his companions and went out of the theatre riotously.

Two long tables were drawn up at the Raven, a restaurant famous for its
roast meats, its beer, and its lack of scruples about the behaviour of
its guests. The Psi Deltas took their places at the tables. The
dining-room they occupied was private. Hugo saw as if in a dream the
long rows of silverware, the dishes of celery and olives, and the ranks
of shining glasses. They sat. Waiters wound their way among them. There
was a song. The toastmaster, a New York executive who had graduated from
Webster twenty years before, understood the temper of his charge. He was
witty, ribald, genial.

He made a speech, but not too long a speech. He called on the president
of a bank, who rose totteringly and undid the toastmaster's good offices
by making too long a speech. Its reiterated "dear old Websters" were
finally lost in the ring and tinkle of glassware and cutlery.

At the end of the long meal Hugo realized that his being had undergone
change. Objects approached and receded before his vision. The voice of
the man sitting beside him came to his ears as if through water. His
mind continually turned upon itself in a sort of infatuated examination.
His attention could not be held even on his own words. He decided that
he was feverish. Then some one said: "Well, Danner, how do you like
being drunk?"

"Drunk?"

"Sure. You aren't going to tell me you're sober, are you?"

When the speaker had gone, Hugo realized that it was Chuck. There had
been no feeling of recognition. "I'm drunk!" he said.

"Some one give Danner a drink. He has illusions."

"Drunk! Why, this man isn't drunk. It's monstrous. He has a weakened
spine, that's all."

"I'm drunk," Hugo repeated. He knew then what it was to be drunk. The
toastmaster was rising again. Hugo saw it dimly.

"Fellows!" A fork banged on a glass. "Fellows!" There was a slow
increase in silence. "Fellows! It's eleven o'clock now. And I have a
surprise for you."

"Surprise! Hey, guys, shut up for the surprise!"

"Fellows! What I was going to say is this: the girls from the show we
saw this afternoon are coming over here--all thirty of 'em. We're going
up to my house for a real party. And the lid'll be off. Anything
goes--only anybody that fights gets thrown out straight off without an
argument. Are you on?"

The announcement was greeted by a stunned quiet which grew into a bellow
of approval. Plates and glasses were thrown on the floor. Lefty leaped
on to the table and performed a dance. The proprietor came in, looked,
and left hastily, and then the girls arrived.

They came through the door, after a moment of reluctant hesitation, like
a flood of brightly colored water. They sat down in the laps of the
boys, on chairs, on the edge of the disarrayed tables. They were served
with innumerable drinks as rapidly as the liquor could be brought. They
were working, that night, for the ten dollars promised to each one. But
they were working with college boys, which was a rest from the stream of
affluent and paunchy males who made their usual escort. Their gaiety was
better than assumed.

Hugo had never seen such a party or dreamed of one. His vision was
cleared instantly of its cobwebs. He saw three boys seize one girl and
turn her heels over head. A piano was moved in. She jumped up and
started dancing on the table. Then there was a voice at his side.

"Hello, good-looking. I could use that drink if you can spare it."

Hugo looked at the girl. She had brown hair that had been curled. Her
lips and cheeks were heavily rouged and the corners of her mouth turned
down in a sort of petulance or fatigue. But she was pretty. And her
body, showing whitely above her evening dress, was creamy and warm. He
gave the drink to her. She sat in his lap.

"Gosh," he whispered. She laughed.

"I saw her first," some one said, pulling at the girl's arm.

"Go 'way," Hugo shouted. He pushed the other from them. "What's your
name?"

"Bessie. What's yours?"

"Hugo."

The girl accepted two glasses from a waiter. They drained them, looking
at each other over the rims. "Got any money, Hugo?"

Hugo had. He carried on his person the total of his cash assets. Some
fifty dollars. "Sure. I have fifty dollars," he answered.

He felt her red lips against his ear. "Let's you and me duck this party
and have a little one of our own. I've got an apartment not far from
here."

He could hear the pounding of his heart. "Let's."

They moved unostentatiously from the room. Outside, in the hall, she
took his hand. They ran to the front door.

There was the echo of bedlam in his whirling mind when they walked
through the almost deserted street. She called to a taxi and they were
driven for several blocks. At a cheap dance hall they took a table and
drank more liquor. When his head was turned, she narrowed her eyes and
calculated the effect of the alcohol against the dwindling of his purse.
They danced.

"Gee, you're a swell dancer."

"So are you, Bessie."

"Still wanna go home with Bessie?"

"Mmmm."

"Let's go."

Another taxi ride. The lights seethed past him. A dark house and three
flights of rickety stairs. The gritty sound of a key in a lock. A little
room with a table, a bed, two chairs, a gas-light turned low, a
disheveled profusion of female garments.

"Here we are. Sit down."

Hugo looked at her tensely. He laughed then, with a harsh sound. She
flew into his arms, returning his searching caresses with startling
frankness. Presently they moved across the room. He could hear the
noises on the street at long, hot intervals.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hugo opened his eyes and the light smote them with pain. He raised his
head wonderingly. His stomach crawled with a foul nausea. He saw the
dirty room. Bessie was not in it. He staggered to the wash-bowl and was
sick. He noticed then that her clothes were missing. The fact impressed
him as one that should have significance. He rubbed his head and eyes.
Then he thought accurately. He crossed the room and felt in his trousers
pockets. The money was gone.

At first it did not seem like a catastrophe. He could telegraph to his
father for more money. Then he realized that he was in New York, without
a ticket back to the campus, separated from his friends, and not knowing
the address of the toastmaster. He could not find his fraternity
brothers and he could not get back to school without more money.
Moreover, he was sick.

He dressed with miserable slowness and went down to the street. Served
him right. He had been a fool. He shrugged. A sharp wind blew out of a
bright sky.

Maybe, he thought, he should walk back to Webster. It was only eighty
miles and that distance could be negotiated in less than two hours by
him. But that was unwise. People would see his progress. He sat down in
Madison Square Park and looked at the Flatiron Building with a leisurely
eye. A fire engine surged up the street. A man came to collect the trash
in a green can. A tramp lay down and was ousted by a policeman.

By and by he realized that he was hungry. A little man with darting eyes
took a seat beside him. He regarded Hugo at short intervals. At length
he said. "You got a dime for a cup of coffee?" His words were blurred by
accent.

"No. I came here from school last night and my money was stolen."

"Ah," there was a tinge of discouragement in the other's voice. "And
hungry, perhaps?"

"A little."

"Me--I am also hungry. I have not eaten since two days."

That impressed Hugo as a shameful and intolerable circumstance. "Let's
go over there"--he indicated a small restaurant--"and eat. Then I'll
promise to send the money by mail. At least, we'll be fed that way."

"We will be thrown to the street on our faces."

"Not I. Nobody throws me on my face. And I'll look out for you."

They crossed the thoroughfare and entered the restaurant. The little man
ordered a quantity of food, and Hugo, looking guiltily at the waiter,
duplicated the order. They became distantly acquainted during the
filched repast. The little man's name was Izzie. He sold second-hand
rugs. But he was out of work. Eventually they finished. The waiter
brought the check. He was a large man, whose jowls and hips and
shoulders were heavily weighted with muscle.

Hugo stood up. "Listen, fellow," he began placidly, "my friend and I
haven't a cent between us. I'm Hugo Danner, from Webster University, and
I'll mail you the price of this feed to-morrow. I'll write down my name
and--"

He got no further. The waiter spoke in a thick voice. "So! One of them
guys, eh? Tryin' to get away with it when I'm here, huh? Well, I tell
you how you're gonna pay. You're gonna pay this check with a bloody
mush, see?" His fist doubled and drew back. Hugo did not shift his
position. The fist came forward, but an arm like stone blocked it.
Hugo's free hand barely flicked to the waiter's jaw. He rolled under the
table. "Come on," he said, but Izzie had already vanished through the
door.

Hugo walked hurriedly up the street and turned a corner. A hand tugged
at his coat. He turned and was confronted by Izzie. "I seen you through
the window. Jeest, guy, you kin box. Say, I know where you kin clean
up--if you got the nerve."

"Clean up? Where?"

"Come on. We better get out of here anyhow."

They made their way toward the river. The city changed character on the
other side of the elevated railroad, and presently they were walking
through a dirty, evil-smelling, congested neighborhood.

"Where are we going, Izzie?"

"Wait a minute, Mr. Danner."

"What's the idea?"

"You wait."

Another series of dirty blocks. Then they came to a bulky building that
spread a canopy over the sidewalk. "Here," Izzie said, and pointed.

His finger indicated a sign, which Hugo read twice. It said: "Battling
Ole Swenson will meet all comers in this gymnasium at three this
afternoon and eight to-night. Fifty dollars will be given to any man,
black or white, who can stay three rounds with him, and one hundred
dollars cash money to the man who knocks out Battling Ole Swenson, the
Terror of the Docks."

"See," Izzie said, rubbing his hands excitedly, "mebbe you could do it."

A light dawned on Hugo. He smiled. "I can," he replied. "What time is
it?"

"Two o'clock."

"Well, let's go."

They entered the lobby of the "gymnasium." "Mr. Epstein," Izzie called,
"I gotta fighter for the Swede."

Mr. Epstein was a pale fat man who ignored the handicap of the dank
cigar in his mouth and roared when he spoke. He glanced at Hugo and then
addressed Izzie. "Where is he?"

"There."

Epstein looked at Hugo and then was shaken by laughter. "There, you
says, and there I looks and what do I see but a pink young angel face
that Ole would swallow without chewing."

Hugo said: "I don't think so. I'm willing to try."

Epstein scowled. "Run away from here, kid, before you get hurt. Ole
would laugh at you. This isn't easy money. It takes a man to get a look
at it."

Izzie stamped impatiently. "I tell you, Mr. Epstein, I seen this boy
fight. He's the goods. He can beat your Ole. I bet he can." His voice
caught and he glanced nervously at Hugo. "I bet ten dollars he can."

"How much?" Epstein bellowed.

"Well--say twenty dollars."

"How much?"

"Fifty dollars. It's all I got, Epstein."

"All right--go in and sign up and leave your wad. Kid," he turned to
Hugo, "you may think you're husky, but Ole is a killer. He's six nine in
his socks and he weighs two hundred and eighty. He'll mash you."

"I don't think so," Hugo repeated.

"Well, you'll be meat. We'll put you second on the list. And the
lights'll go out fast enough for yuh."

Hugo followed Izzie and reached him in time to see a fifty-dollar bill
peeled from a roll which was extracted with great intricacy from Izzie's
clothes. "I thought you hadn't eaten for two days!"

"It's God's truth," Izzie answered uneasily. "I was savin' this
dough--an' it's lucky, too, isn't it?"

Hugo did not know whether to laugh or to be angry. He said: "And you'd
have let me take a poke in the jaw from that waiter. You're a hell of a
guy, Izzie."

Izzie moved his eyes rapidly. "I ain't so bad. I'm bettin' on you, ain't
I? An' I got you a chancet at the Swede, didn't I?"

"How'd you know that waiter couldn't kill me?"

"Well--he didn't. Anyhow, what's a poke in the jaw to a square meal,
eh?"

"When the other fellow gets the poke and you get the meal. All right,
Izzie. I wish I thought Ole was going to lick me."

Hugo wrote his name under a printed statement to the effect that the
fight managers were not responsible for the results of the combat. The
man who led him to a dressing-room was filled with sympathy and advice.
He told Hugo that one glance at Ole would discourage his reckless
avarice. But Hugo paid no attention. The room was dirty. It smelled of
sweat and rubber sneakers. He sat there for half an hour, reading a
newspaper. Outside, somewhere, he could hear the mumble of a gathering
crowd, punctuated by the voices of candy and peanut-hawkers.

At last they brought some clothes to him. A pair of trunks that flapped
over his loins, ill-fitting canvas shoes, a musty bath robe. When the
door of his room opened, the noise of the crowd was louder. Finally it
was hushed. He heard the announcer. It was like the voice of a minister
coming through the stained windows of a church. It rose and fell. Then
the distant note of the gong. After that the crowd called steadily,
sometimes in loud rage and sometimes almost in a whisper.

Finally they brought Ole's first victim into Hugo's cell. He was a man
with the physique of a bull. His face was cut and his eyes were
darkening. One of the men heaving his stretcher looked at Hugo.

"Better beat it, kid, while you can still do it on your own feet. You
ain't even got the reach for Ole. He's a grizzly, bo. He'll just about
kill you."

Hugo tightened his belt and swung the electric light back and forth with
a slow-moving fist. Another man expertly strapped his fists with
adhesive tape.

"When do I go out?" Hugo asked.

"You mean, when do you get knocked out?" the second laughed.

"Fight?"

"Well, if you're determined to get croaked, you do it now."

In the arena it was dazzling. A bank of noisy people rose on all sides
of him. Hugo walked down the aisle and clambered into the ring. Ole was
one of the largest men he had ever seen in his life. There was no doubt
of his six feet nine inches and his two hundred and eighty pounds. Hugo
imagined that the man was not a scientific fighter. A bruiser. Well, he
knew nothing of fighting, either.

A man in his shirt sleeves stood up in the ring and bellowed, "The next
contestant for the reward of fifty dollars to stay three rounds with
battling Ole and one hundred dollars to knock him out is Mr. H. Smith."
They cheered. It was a nasty sound, filled with the lust for blood. Hugo
realized that he was excited. His knees wabbled when he rose and his
hand trembled as he took the monstrous paw of the Swede and saw his
unpleasant smile. Hugo's heart was pounding. For one instant he felt
weak and human before Battling Ole. He whispered to himself: "Quit it,
you fool; you know better; you can't even be hurt." It did not make him
any more quiet.

Then they were sitting face to face. A bell rang. The hall became silent
as the mountainous Swede lumbered from his corner. He towered over Hugo,
who stood up and went out to meet him like David approaching Goliath. To
the crowd the spectacle was laughable. There was jeering before they
met. "Where's your mamma?" "Got your bottle, baby?" "Put the poor little
bastard back in his carriage." "What's this--a fight or a freak show?"
Laughter.

It was like cold water to Hugo. His face set. He looked at Ole. The
Swede's fist moved back like the piston of a great engine into which
steam has been let slowly. Then it came forward. Hugo, trained to see
and act in keeping with his gigantic strength, dodged easily. "Atta
boy!" "One for Johnny-dear!" The fist went back and came again and
again, as if that piston, gathering speed, had broken loose and was
flailing through the screaming air. Hugo dodged like a beam of light,
and the murderous weapon never touched him. The spectators began to
applaud his speed. He could beat the Swede's fist every time. "Run him,
kiddo!" "It's only three rounds."

The bell. Ole was panting. As he sat in his corner, his coal-scuttle
gloves dangling, he cursed in his native tongue. Too little to hit.
Bell. The second round was the same. Hugo never attempted to touch the
Swede. Only to avoid him. And the man worked like a Trojan. Sweat
seethed over his big, blank face. His small eyes sharpened to points. He
brought his whole carcass flinging through the air after his fist. But
every blow ended in a sickening wrench that missed the target. The crowd
grew more excited. During the interval between the second and third
rounds there was betting on the outcome. Three to one that Ole would
connect and murder the boy. Four to one. One to five that Hugo would win
fifty dollars before he died beneath the trip-hammer.

The third round opened. The crowd suddenly tired of the sport. A shrill
female voice reached Hugo's cold, concentrated mind: "Keep on running,
yellow baby!"

So. They wanted a killing. They called him yellow. The Swede was on him,
elephantine, sweating, sucking great, rumbling breaths of air, swinging
his fists. Hugo studied the motion. That fist to that side, up, down,
now!

Like hail they began to land upon the Swede. Bewilderingly, everywhere.
No hope of guarding. Every blow smashed, stung, ached. No chance to
swing back. Cover up. His arms went over his face. He felt rivets drive
into his kidneys. He reached out and clinched. They rocked in each
other's arms. Dazed by that bitter onslaught of lightning blows, Ole
thought only to lock Hugo in his arms and crush him. When they clinched,
the crowd, grown instantly hysterical, sank back in despair. It was
over. Ole could break the little man's back. They saw his arms spring
into knots. Jesus! Hugo's fist shot between their chests and Ole was
thrown violently backward. Impossible. He lunged back, crimson to kill,
one hand guarding his jaw. "Easy, now, for the love of God, easy," Hugo
said to himself. There. On the hand at the chin. Hugo's gloves went out.
Lift him! It connected. The Swede left the floor and crumpled slowly,
with a series of bumping sounds. And how the hyenas yelled!

They crowded into his dressing-room afterwards. Epstein came to his side
before he had dressed. "Come out and have a mug of suds, kid. That was
the sweetest fight I ever hope to live to see. I can sign you up for a
fortune right now. I can make you champ in two years."

"No, thanks," Hugo said.

The man persisted. He talked earnestly. He handed Hugo a hundred-dollar
bill. Hugo finished his dressing. Izzie wormed his way in. "Fifty
dollars I won yet! Didn't I tole you, Mr. Epstein!"

"Come here, Izzie!"

The little man ran to shake Hugo's hand, but it was extended for another
reason. "I want that fifty you won," he said unsmilingly. "When a bird
tracks along for a free feed and lets another guy fight for him and has
a roll big enough to stop up a rainspout, he owes money. That lunch will
set you back just exactly what you won on me."

There was laughter in the room. Izzie whimpered. "Ain't you got a
hundred all ready that I got for you? Ain't it enough that you got it?
Ain't I got a wife wit' kids yet?"

"No, it ain't, yet." Hugo snapped the fingers of his extended hand. The
other hand doubled significantly. Izzie gave him the money. He was
almost in tears. The others guffawed.

"Wait up, bo. Give us your address if you ever change your mind. You can
pick up a nice livin' in this game."

"No, thanks. All I needed was railroad fare. Thank you,
gentlemen--and--good-by."

No one undertook to hinder Hugo's departure.



VIII


Greatness seemed to elude Hugo, success such as he had earned was
inadequate, and his friendships as well as his popularity were tinged
with a sort of question that he never understood. By the end of winter
he was well established in Webster as a great athlete. Psi Delta sang
his praises and was envied his deeds. Lefty and Chuck treated him as a
brother. And, Hugo perceived, none of that treatment and none of that
society was quite real. He wondered if his personality was so meagre
that it was not equal to his strength. He wondered if his strength was
really the asset he had dreamed it would be, and if, perhaps, other
people were not different from him in every way, so that any close human
contact was impossible to him.

It was a rather tragic question to absorb a man so filled with life and
ambition as he. Yet every month had raised it more insistently. He saw
other men sharing their inmost souls and he could never do that. He saw
those around him breaking their hearts and their lungs for the
university, and, although it was never necessary for him to do that, he
doubted that he could if he would. Webster was only a school. A
sentiment rather than an ideal, a place rather than a goal of dreams. He
thought that he was cynical. He thought that he was inhuman. It worried
him.

His love was a similar experience. He fell in love twice during that
first year in college. Once at a prom with a girl who was related to
Lefty--a rich, socially secure girl who had studied abroad and who
almost patronized her cousin.

Hugo had seen her dancing, and her long, slender legs and arms had
issued an almost tangible challenge to him. She had looked over Lefty's
shoulder and smiled vaguely. They had met. Hugo danced with her. "I love
to come to a prom," she said; "it makes me feel young again."

"How old are you?"

She ignored the obvious temptation to be coy and he appreciated that.
"Twenty-one."

It seemed reasonably old to Hugo. The three years' difference in their
ages had given her a pinnacle of maturity.

"And that makes you old," he reflected.

She nodded. Her name was Iris. Afterwards Hugo thought that it should
have been Isis. Half goddess, half animal. He had never met with the
vanguard of emancipated American womanhood before then. "You're the
great Hugo Danner, aren't you? I've seen your picture in the sporting
sections." She read sporting sections. He had never thought of a woman
in that light. "But you're really much handsomer. You have more sex and
masculinity and you seem more intelligent."

Then, between the dances, Lefty had come. "She? Oh, she's a sort of
cousin. Flies in all the high altitudes in town. Blue Book and all that.
Better look out, Hugo. She plays rough."

"She doesn't look rough."

Both youths watched her. Long, dark hair, willowy body, high, pale
forehead, thin nose, red mouth, smiling like a lewd agnostic and dancing
close to her partner, enjoying even that. "Well, look out, Hugo. If she
wants to play, don't let her play with your heart. Anything else is
quite in the books."

"Oh."

She came to the stag line, ignoring a sequence of invitations, and asked
him to dance. They went out on the velvet campus. "I could love you--for
a little while," she said. "It's too bad you have to play football
to-morrow."

"Is that an excuse?"

She smiled remotely. "You're being disloyal." Her fan moved delicately.
"But I shan't chide you. In fact, I'll stay over for the game--and I'll
enjoy the anticipation--more, perhaps. But you'll have to win it--to win
me. I'm not a soothing type."

"It will be easy--to win," Hugo said and she peered through the darkness
with admiration, because he had made his ellipsis of the object very
plain.

"It is always easy for you to win, isn't it?" she countered with an easy
mockery, and Hugo shivered.

The game was won. Hugo had made his touchdown. He unfolded a note she
had written on the back of a score card. "At my hotel at ten, then."

"Then." Someone lifted his eyes to praise him. His senses swam in
careful anticipation. They were cheering outside the dressing-room. A
different sound from the cheers at the fight-arena. Young, hilarious,
happy.

At ten he bent over the desk and was told to go to her room. The clerk
shrugged. She opened the door. One light was burning. There was perfume
in the air. She wore only a translucent kimono of pale-coloured silk.
She taught him a great many things that night. And Iris learned
something, too, so that she never came back to Hugo, and kept the
longing for him as a sort of memory which she made hallowed in a shorn
soul. It was, for her, a single asceticism in a rather selfish life.

Hugo loved her for two weeks after that, and then his emotions wearied
and he was able to see what she had done and why she did not answer his
letters. His subdued fierceness was a vehement fire to women. His
fiercer appetite was the cause of his early growth in a knowledge of
them. When most of his companions were finding their way into the
mysteries of sex both unhandily and with much turmoil, he learned well
and abnormally. It became a part of his secret self. Another barrier to
the level of the society that surrounded him. When he changed the name
of Iris to Isis in his thoughts, he moved away from the Psi Deltas, who
would have been incapable of the notion. In person he stayed among them,
but in spirit he felt another difference, which he struggled to
reconcile.

In March the thaws came, and under the warming sun Hugo made a
deliberate attempt to fall in love with Janice, who was the daughter of
his French professor. She was a happy, innocent little girl, with gold
hair, and brown eyes that lived oddly beneath it. She worshipped Hugo.
He petted her, talked through long evenings to her, tried to be faithful
to her in his most unfettered dreams, and once considered proposing to
her. When he found himself unable to do that, he was compelled to resist
an impulse to seduce her. Ashamed, believing himself unfit for a nice
girl, he untangled that romance as painlessly as he could, separating
himself from Janice little by little and denying every accusation of
waning interest.

Then for a month he believed that he could never be satisfied by any
woman, that he was superior to women. He read the lives of great lovers
and adulterers and he wished that he could see Bessie, who had taken his
money long before in New York City. She appealed to him then more than
all the others--probably, he thought, because he was drunk and had not
viewed her in sharp perspective. For hours he meditated on women, while
he longed constantly to possess a woman.

But the habitual routine of his life did not suffer. He attended his
classes and lectures, played on the basketball team, tried tentatively
to write for the campus newspaper, learned to perform indifferently on
the mandolin, and made himself into the semblance of an ideal college
man. His criticism of college then was at its lowest ebb. He spent
Christmas in New York at Lefty Foresman's parents' elaborate home,
slightly intoxicated through the two weeks, hastening to the opera, to
balls and parties, ill at ease when presented to people whose names
struck his ears familiarly, seeing for the first time the exaggeration
of scale on which the very rich live and wondering constantly why he
never met Iris, wishing for and fearing that meeting while he wondered.

When his first year at college was near to its end, and that still and
respectful silence that marks the passing of a senior class had fallen
over the campus, Hugo realized with a shock that he would soon be on his
way back to Indian Creek. Then, suddenly, he saw what an amazing and
splendid thing that year at college had been. He realized how it had
filled his life to the brim with activities of which he had not dreamed,
how it had shaped him so that he would be almost a stranger in his own
home, how it had aged and educated him in the business of living. When
the time of parting with his new friends drew near, he understood that
they were valuable to him, in spite of his questioning. And they made it
clear that he would be missed by them. At last he shared a feeling with
his classmates, a fond sadness, an illimitable poignancy that was young
and unadulterated by motive. He was perversely happy when he became
aware of it. He felt somewhat justified for being himself and living his
life.

A day or two before college closed, he received a letter from his
father. It was the third he had received during the year. It said:

     Dear Son--

     Your mother and I have decided to break the news to you before you
     leave for home, because there may be better opportunities for you
     in the East than here at Indian Creek. When you went away to
     Webster University, I agreed to take care of all your expenses. It
     was the least I could do, I felt, for my only son. The two thousand
     dollars your mother and I had saved seemed ample for your four
     years. But the bills we have received, as well as your own demands,
     have been staggering. In March, when a scant six hundred dollars of
     the original fund remained, I invested the money in a mine stock
     which, the salesman said, would easily net the six thousand dollars
     you appeared to need. I now find to my chagrin that the stock is
     worthless. I am unable to get back my purchase money.

     It will be impossible during the coming year for me to let you have
     more than five hundred dollars. Perhaps, with what you earn this
     summer and with the exercise of economy, you can get along. I trust
     so. But, anxious as we are to see you again, we felt that, in the
     light of such information, you might prefer to remain in the East
     to earn what you can.

     We are both despondent over the situation and we wish that we could
     do more than tender our regrets. But we hope that you will be able
     to find some solution to this situation. Thus, with our very
     warmest affection and our fondest hope, we wish you good fortune.

     Your loving father,

     ABEDNEGO DANNER.

Hugo read the letter down to the last period after the rather tremulous
signature. His emotions were confused. Touched by the earnest and
pathetically futile efforts of his father and by the attempt of that
lonely little man to express what was, perhaps, a great affection, Hugo
was nevertheless aghast at a prospect that he had not considered. He was
going to be thrown into the world on his own resources. And, resting his
frame in his worn chair--a frame capable of smashing into banks and
taking the needed money without fear of punishment--Hugo began to wonder
dismally if he was able even to support himself. No trade, no
occupation, suggested itself. He had already experienced some of the
merciless coldness of the world. The boys would all leave soon. And then
he would be alone, unprovided for, helpless.

Hugo was frightened. He read the letter again, his wistful thoughts of
his parents diminishing before the reality of his predicament. He
counted his money. Eighty dollars in the bank and twelve in his pockets.
He was glad he had started an account after his experience with Bessie.
He was glad that he had husbanded more than enough to pay his fare to
Indian Creek. Ninety-two dollars. He could live on that for a long time.
Perhaps for the summer. And he would be able to get some sort of job. He
was strong, anyway. That comforted him. He looked out of his window and
tried to enumerate the things that he could do. All sorts of farm work.
He could drive a team in the city. He could work on the docks. He
considered nothing but manual labor. It would offer more. Gradually his
fear that he would starve if left to his own devices ebbed from him, and
it was replaced by grief that he could not return to Webster. Fourteen
hundred dollars--that was the cost of his freshman year. He made a list
of the things he could do without, of the work he could do to help
himself through college. Perhaps he could return. The fear slowly
diminished. He would be a working student in the year to come. He hated
the idea. His fraternity had taken no members from that class of humble
young men who rose at dawn and scrubbed floors and waited on tables to
win the priceless gem of education. Lefty and Chuck would be chilly
toward such a step. They would even offer him money to avoid it. It was
a sad circumstance, at best.

When that period of tribulation passed, Hugo became a man. But he
suffered keenly from his unwonted fears for some time. The calm and
suave youth who had made love to Iris was buried beneath his frightened
and imaginative adolescence. It wore out the last of his childishness.
Immediately afterwards he learned about money and how it is earned. He
sat there in the dormitory, almost trembling with uncertainty and used
mighty efforts to do the things he felt he must do. He wrote a letter to
his father which began: "Dear Dad--Why in Sam Hill didn't you tell me
you were being reamed so badly by your nit-witted son and I'd have
shovelled out and dug up some money for myself long ago?" On rereading
that letter he realized that its tone was false. He wrote another in
which he apologized with simple sincerity for the condition he had
unknowingly created, and in which he expressed every confidence that he
could take care of himself in the future.

He bore that braver front through the last days of school. He shook
Lefty's hand warmly and looked fairly into his eyes. "Well, so long, old
sock. Be good."

"Be good, Hugo. And don't weaken. We'll need all your beef next year.
Decided what you're going to do yet?"

"No. Have you?"

Lefty shrugged. "I suppose I've got to go abroad with the family as
usual. They wrote a dirty letter about the allowance I'd not have next
year if I didn't. Why don't you come with us? Iris'll be there."

Hugo grinned. "No, sir! Iris once is very nice, but no man's equal to
Iris twice." His grin became a chuckle. "And that's a poem which you can
say to Iris if you see her--and tell her I hope it makes her mad."

Lefty's blue eyes sparkled with appreciation. Danner was a wonderful
boy. Full of wit and not dumb like most of his kind. Getting smooth,
too. Be a great man. Too bad to leave him--even for the summer.
"Well--so long, old man."

Hugo watched Lefty lift his bags into a cab and roll away in the warm
June dust. Then Chuck:

"Well--by-by, Hugo. See you next September."

"Yeah. Take care of yourself."

"No chance of your going abroad, is there? Because we sure could paint
the old Avenue de l'Opéra red if you did."

"Not this year, Chuck."

"Well--don't take any wooden money."

"Don't do anything you wouldn't eat."

Hugo felt a lump in his throat. He could not say any more farewells. The
campus was almost deserted. No meals would be served after the next day.
He stared at the vacant dormitories and listened to the waning sound of
departures. A train puffed and fumed at the station. It was filled with
boys. Going away. He went to his room and packed. He'd leave, too. When
his suit-cases were filled, he looked round the room with damp eyes. He
thought that he was going to cry, mastered himself, and then did cry.
Some time later he remembered Iris and stopped crying. He walked to the
station, recalling his first journey in the other direction, his
pinch-backed green suit, the trunk he had carried. Grand old place,
Webster. Suddenly gone dead all over. There would be a train for New
York in half an hour. He took it. Some of the students talked to him on
the trip to the city. Then they left him, alone, in the great vacuum of
the terminal. The glittering corridors were filled with people. He
wondered if he could find Bessie's house.

At a restaurant he ate supper. When he emerged, it was dark. He asked
his way, found a hotel, registered in a one-dollar room, went out on the
street again. He walked to the Raven. Then he took a cab. He remembered
Bessie's house. An old woman answered the door. "Bessie? Bessie? No girl
by that name I remember."

Hugo described her. "Oh, that tart! She ran out on me--owin' a week's
rent."

"When was that?"

"Some time last fall."

"Oh." Hugo meditated. The woman spoke again. "I did hear from one of my
other girls that she'd gone to work at Coney, but I ain't had time to
look her up. Owes me four dollars, she does. But Bessie, as you calls
her--her name's Sue--wasn't never much good. Still--" the woman
scrutinized Hugo and giggled--"Bessie ain't the only girl in the world.
I got a cute little piece up here named Palmerlee says only the other
night she's lonely. Glad to interdooce you."

Hugo thought of his small capital. "No, thanks."

He walked away. A warm moon was dimly sensible above the lights of the
street. He decided to go to Coney Island and look for the lost Bessie.
It would cost him only a dime, and she owed him money. He smiled a
little savagely and thought that he would collect its equivalent. Then
he boarded the subway, cursing himself for a fool and cursing his
appetite for the fool's master. Why did he chase that particular little
harlot on an evening when his mind should be bent toward more serious
purposes? Certainly not because he had any intention of getting back his
money. Because he wished to surprise her? Because he was angry that she
had cheated him? Or because she was the only woman in New York whom he
knew? He decided it was the last reason. Finally the train reached Coney
Island, and Hugo descended into the fantastic hurly-burly on the street
below. He realized the ridiculousness of his quest as he saw the miles
of thronging people in the loud streets.

"See the fat woman, see Esmerelda, the beautiful fat woman, she weighs
six hundred pounds, she's had a dozen lovers, she's the fattest woman in
the world, a sensation, dressed in the robes of Cleopatra, robes that
took a bolt of cloth; but she's so fat they conceal nothing, ladies and
gentlemen, see the beautiful fat woman...." A roller coaster circled
through the skies with a noise that was audible above the crowd's
staccato voice and dashed itself at the earth below. A merry-go-round
whirled goldenly and a band struck up a strident march. Hugo smelled
stale beer and frying food. He heard the clang of a bell as a weight was
driven up to it by the shoulders of a young gentleman in a pink shirt.

"The strongest man in the world, ladies and gentlemen, come in and see
Thorndyke, the great professor of physical culture from Munich, Germany.
He can bend a spike in his bare hands, an elephant can pass over his
body without harming him, he can lift a weight of one ton...." Hugo
laughed. Two girls saw him and brushed close. "Buy us a drink, sport."

The strongest man in the world. Hugo wondered what sort of strong man he
would make. Perhaps he could go into competition with Dr. Thorndyke. He
saw himself pictured in gaudy reds and yellows, holding up an enormous
weight. He remembered that he was looking for Bessie. Then he saw
another girl. She was sitting at a table, alone. That fact was
significant. He sat beside her.

"Hello, tough," she said.

"Hello."

"Wanna buy me a beer?"

Hugo bought a beer and looked at the girl. Her hair was black and
straight. Her mouth was straight. It was painted scarlet. Her eyes were
hard and dark. But her body, as if to atone for her face, was made in a
series of soft curves that fitted exquisitely into her black silk dress.
He tortured himself looking at her. She permitted it sullenly. "You can
buy me a sandwich, if you want. I ain't eaten to-day."

He bought a sandwich, wondering if she was telling the truth. She ate
ravenously. He bought another and then a second glass of beer. After
that she rose. "You can come with me if you wanna."

Odd. No conversation, no vivacity, only a dull submission that was not
in keeping with her appearance.

"Have you had enough to eat?" he asked.

"It'll do," she responded.

They turned into a side street and moved away from the shimmering lights
and the morass of people. Presently they entered a dingy frame house and
went upstairs. There was no one in the hall, no furniture, only a
flickering gas-light. She unlocked a door. "Come in."

He looked at her again. She took off her hat and arranged her dark hair
so that it looped almost over one eye. Hugo wondered at her silence. "I
didn't mean to rush," he said.

"Well, I did. Gotta make some more. It'll be"--she hesitated--"two
bucks."

The girl sat down and wept. "Aw, hell," she said finally, looking at him
with a shameless defiance, "I guess I'm gonna make a rotten tart. I was
in a show, an' I got busted out for not bein' nice to the manager. I
says to myself: 'Well, what am I gonna do?' An' I starts to get hungry
this morning. So I says to myself: 'Well, there ain't but one thing to
do, Charlotte, but to get you a room,' I says, an' here I am, so help me
God."

She removed her dress with a sweeping motion. Hugo looked at her, filled
with pity, filled with remorse at his sudden surrender to her passionate
good looks, intensely discomfited.

"Listen. I have a roll in my pocket. I'm damn glad I came here first. I
haven't got a job, but I'll get one in the morning. And I'll get you a
decent room and stake you till you get work. God knows, I picked you up
for what I thought you were, Charlotte, and God knows too that I haven't
any noble nature. But I'm not going to let you go on the street simply
because you're broke. Not when you hate it so much."

Charlotte shut her eyes tight and pressed out the last tears, which ran
into her rouge and streaked it with mascara. "That's sure white of you."

"I don't know. Maybe it's selfish. I had an awful yen for you when I sat
down at that table. But let's not worry about it now. Let's go out and
get a decent dinner."

"You mean--you mean you want me to go out and eat--now?"

"Sure. Why not?"

"But you ain't--?"

"Forget it. Come on."

Charlotte sniffled and buried her black tresses in her black dress. She
pulled it over the curves of her hips. She inspected herself in a
spotted mirror and sniffled again. Then she laughed. A throaty, gurgling
laugh. Her hands moved swiftly, and soon she turned. "How am I?"

"Wonderful."

"Let's go!"

She tucked her hand under his arm when they reached the street. Hugo
walked silently. He wondered why he was doing it and to what it would
lead. It seemed good, wholly good, to have a girl at his side again,
especially a girl over whom he had so strong a claim. They stopped
before a glass-fronted restaurant that advertised its sea food and its
steaks. She sat down with an apologetic smile. "I'm afraid I'm goin' to
eat you out of house and home."

"Go ahead. I had a big supper, but I'll string along with some pie and
cheese and beer."

Charlotte studied the menu. "Mind if I have a little steak?"

Hugo shook his head slowly. "Waiter! A big T-bone, and some lyonnaise
potatoes, and some string beans and corn and a salad and ice cream.
Bring some pie and cheese for me--and a beer."

"Gosh!" Charlotte said.

Hugo watched her eat the food. He knew such pity as he had seldom felt.
Poor little kid! All alone, scared, going on the street because she
would starve otherwise. It made him feel strong and capable. Before the
meal was finished, she was talking furiously. Her pathetic life was
unravelled. "I come from Brooklyn ... old man took to drink, an' ma beat
it with a gent from Astoria ... never knew what happened to her.... I
kept house for the old man till he tried to get funny with me....
Burlesque ... on the road ... the leading man.... He flew the coop when
I told him, and then when it came, it was dead...." Another job ... the
manager ... Coney and her dismissal. "I just couldn't let 'em have it
when I didn't like 'em, mister. Guess I'm not tough like the other
girls. My mother was French and she brought me up kind of decent.
Well...." The little outward turning of her hands, the shrug of her
shoulders.

"Don't worry, Charlotte. I won't let them eat you. To-morrow I'll set
you up to a decent room and we'll go out and find some jobs here."

"You don't have to do that, mister. I'll make out. All I needed was a
square and another day."

Charlotte sighed and smoked a cigarette with her coffee. Then they went
out on the street and mixed with the throng. The voices of a score of
barkers wheedled them. Hugo began to feel gay. He took Charlotte to see
the strong man and watched his feats with a critical eye. He took her on
the roller coaster and became taut and laughing when she screamed and
held him. Then, laughing louder than before, they went through
Steeplechase. She fell in the rolling barrel and he carried her out.
They crossed over moving staircases and lost themselves in a maze, and
slid down polished chutes into fountains of light and excited screaming.
Always, afterwards, her hand found his arm, her great dark eyes looked
into his and laughed. Always they turned toward the other men and girls
with a proud and haughty expression that pointed to Hugo as her man, her
conquest. Later they danced. They drank more beer.

"Golly," she whispered, as she snuggled against him, "you sure strut a
mean fox trot."

"So do you, Charlotte."

"I been doin' it a lot, I guess."

The brazen crash of a finale. The table. A babble of voices, voices of
people snatching pleasure from Coney Island's gaudy barrel of cheap
amusements. Hugo liked it then. He liked the smell and touch of the
multitude and the incessant hysteria of its presence. After midnight the
music became more aggravating--muted, insinuating. Several of the
dancers were drunk. One of them tried to cut in. Hugo shook his head.

"Gee!" Charlotte said, "I was sure hopin' you wouldn't let him."

"Why--I never thought of it."

"Most fellows would. He's a tough."

It was an introduction to an unfamiliar world. The "tough" came to their
table and asked for a dance in thick accents. Charlotte paled and
accepted. Hugo refused. "Say, bo, I'm askin' for a dance. I got
concessions here. You can't refuse me, see? I guess you got me wrong."

"Beat it," Hugo said, "before I take a poke at you."

The intruder's answer was a swinging fist, which missed Hugo by a wide
margin. Hugo stood and dropped him with a single clean blow. The manager
came up, expostulated, ordered the tough's inert form from the floor,
started the music.

"You shouldn't ought to have done it, mister. He'll get his gang."

"The hell with his gang."

Charlotte sighed. "That's the first time anybody ever stuck up for me.
Jeest, mister, I've been wishin' an' wishin' for the day when somebody
would bruise his knuckles for me."

Hugo laughed. "Hey, waiter! Two beers."

When she yawned, he took her out to the boulevard and walked at her side
toward the shabby house. They reached the steps, and Charlotte began to
cry.

"What's the matter?"

"I was goin' to thank you, but I don't know how. It was too nice of you.
An' now I suppose I'll never see you again."

"Don't be silly. I'll show up at eight in the morning and we'll have
breakfast together."

Charlotte looked into his face wistfully. "Say, kid, be a good guy and
take me to your hotel, will you? I'm scared I'll lose you."

He held her hands. "You won't lose me. And I haven't got a hotel--yet."

"Then--come up an' stay with me. Honest, I'm all right. I can prove it
to you. It'll be doin' me a favor."

"I ought not to, Charlotte."

She threw her arms around him and kissed him. He felt her breath on his
lips and the warmth of her body. "You gotta, kid. You're all I ever had.
Please, please."

Hugo walked up the stairs thoughtfully. In her small room he watched her
disrobe. So willingly now--so eagerly. She turned back the covers of the
bed. "It ain't much of a dump, baby, but I'll make you like it."

Much later, in the abyss of darkness, he heard her voice, sleepy and
still husky. "Say, mister, what's your name?"

In the morning they went down to the boulevard together. The gay débris
of the night before lay in the street, and men were sweeping it away.
But their spirits were high. They had breakfast together in a quiet
enchantment. Once she kissed him.

"Would you like to keep house--for me?" he asked.

"Do you mean it?" She seemed to doubt every instant that good fortune
had descended permanently upon her. She was like a dreamer who
anticipated a sombre awakening even while he clung to the bliss of his
dream.

"Sure, I mean it. I'll get a job and we'll find an apartment and you can
spend your spare time swimming and lying on the beach." He knew a twinge
of unexpected jealousy. "That is, if you'll promise not to look at all
the men who are going to look at you." He was ashamed of that statement.

Charlotte, however, was not sufficiently civilized to be displeased. "Do
you think I'd two-time the first gent that ever worried about what I did
in my spare moments? Why, if you brought home a few bucks to most of the
birds I know, they wouldn't even ask how you earned it--they'd be so
busy lookin' for another girl an' a shot of gin."

"Well--let's go."

Hugo went to one of the largest side shows. After some questioning he
found the manager. "I'm H. Smith," he said, "and I want to apply for a
job."

"Doin' what?"

"This is my wife." The manager stared and nodded. Charlotte took his arm
and rubbed it against herself, thinking, perhaps, that it was a wifely
gesture. Hugo smiled inwardly and then looked at the sprawled form of
the manager. There, to that seamy-faced and dour man who was almost
unlike a human being, he was going to offer the first sale of his
majestic strength. A side-show manager, sitting behind a dirty desk in a
dirty building.

"A strong-man act," Hugo said.

Charlotte tittered. She thought that the bravado of her new friend was
over-stepping the limits of good sense. The manager sat up. "I'd like to
have a good strong man, yes. The show needs one. But you're not the
bird. You haven't got the beef. Go over and watch that damned German
work."

Hugo bent over and fastened one hand on the back of the chair on which
the manager sat. Without evidence of effort he lifted the chair and its
occupant high over his head.

"For Christ's sake, let me down," the manager said.

Hugo swung him through the air in a wide arc. "I say, mister, that I'm
three times stronger than that German. And I want your job. If I don't
look strong enough, I'll wear some padded tights. And I'll give you a
show that'll be worth the admission. But I want a slice of the entrance
price--and maybe a separate tent, see? My name is Hogarth"--he winked at
Charlotte--"and you'll never be sorry you took me on."

The manager, panting and astonished, was returned to the floor. His
anger struggled with his pleasure at Hugo's showmanship. "Well, what
else can you do? Weight-lifting is pretty stale."

Hugo thought quickly. "I can bend a railroad rail--not a spike. I can
lift a full-grown horse with one--one shoulder. I can chin myself on my
little finger. I can set a bear trap with my teeth--"

"That's a good number."

"I can push up just twice as much weight as any one else in the game and
you can print a challenge on my tent. I can pull a boa constrictor
straight--"

"We'll give you a chance. Come around here at three this afternoon with
your stuff and we'll try your act. Does this lady work in it? That'll
help."

"Yes," Charlotte said.

Hugo nodded. "She's my assistant."

They left the building, and when she was sure they were out of earshot,
Charlotte said: "What do you do, strong boy, fake 'em?"

"No. I do them."

"Aw--you don't need to kid me."

"I'm not. You saw me lift him, didn't you? Well--that was nothing."

"Jeest! That I should live to see the day I got a bird like you."

Until three o'clock Hugo and Charlotte occupied their time with feverish
activity. They found a small apartment not far from the sea-shore. It
was clean and bright and it had windows on two sides. Its furniture was
nearly new, and Charlotte, with tears in her eyes, sat in all the
chairs, lay on the bed, took the egg-beater from the drawer in the
kitchen table and spun it in an empty bowl. They went out together and
bought a quantity and a variety of food. They ate an early luncheon and
Hugo set out to gather the properties for his demonstration. At three
o'clock, before a dozen men, he gave an exhibition of strength the like
of which had never been seen in any museum of human abnormalities.

When he went back to his apartment, Charlotte, in a gingham dress which
she had bought with part of the money he had given her, was preparing
dinner. He took her on his lap. "Did you get the job?"

"Sure I did. Fifty a week and ten per cent of the gate receipts."

"Gee! That's a lot of money!"

Hugo nodded and kissed her. He was very happy. Happier, in a certain
way, than he had ever been or ever would be again. His livelihood was
assured. He was going to live with a woman, to have one always near to
love and to share his life. It was that concept of companionship, above
all other things, which made him glad.

Two days later, as Hugo worked to prepare the vehicles of his
exhibition, he heard an altercation outside the tent that had been
erected for him. A voice said: "Whatcha tryin' to do there, anyhow?"

"Why, I was making this strong man as I saw him. A man with the
expression of strength in his face."

"But you gotta bat' robe on him. What we want is muscles. Muscles, bo.
Bigger an' better than any picture of any strong man ever made. Put one
here--an' one there--"

"But that isn't correct anatomy."

"To hell wit' that stuff. Put one there, I says."

"But he'll be out of drawing, awkward, absurd."

"Say, listen, do you want ten bucks for painting this sign or shall I
give it to some one else?"

"Very well. I'll do as you say. Only--it isn't right."

Hugo walked out of the tent. A young man was bending over a huge sheet
made of many lengths of oilcloth sewn together. He was a small person,
with pale eyes and a white skin. Beside him stood the manager, eyeing
critically the strokes applied to the cloth. In a semi-finished state
was the young man's picture of the imaginary Hogarth.

"That's pretty good," Hugo said.

The young man smiled apologetically. "It isn't quite right. You can see
for yourself you have no muscles there--and there. I suppose you're
Hogarth?"

"Yes."

"Well--I tried to explain the anatomy of it, but Mr. Smoots says anatomy
doesn't matter. So here we go." He made a broad orange streak.

Hugo smiled. "Smoots is not an anatomical critic of any renown. I say,
Smoots, let him paint it as he sees best. God knows the other posters
are atrocious enough."

The youth looked up from his work. "Good God, don't tell me you're
really Hogarth!"

"Sure. Why not?"

"Well--well--I--I guess it was your English."

"That's funny. And I don't blame you." Hugo realized that the young
sign-painter was a person of some culture. He was about Hugo's age,
although he seemed younger on first glance. "As a matter of fact, I'm a
college man." Smoots had moved away. "But, for the love of God, don't
tell any one around here."

The painter stopped. "Is that so! And you're doing this--to make money?"

"Yes."

"Well, I'll be doggoned. Me, too. I study at the School of Design in the
winter, and in the summer I come out here to do signs and lightning
portraits and whatever else I can to make the money for it. Sometimes,"
he added, "I pick up more than a thousand bucks in a season. This is my
fourth year at it."

There was in the young artist's eye a hint of amusement, a suggestion
that they were in league. Hugo liked him. He sat down on a box. "Live
here?"

"Yes. Three blocks away."

"Me, too. Why not come up and have supper with--my wife and me?"

"Are you married?" The artist commenced work again.

Hugo hesitated. "Yeah."

"Sure I'll come up. My name's Valentine Mitchel. I can't shake hands
just now. It's been a long time since I've talked to any one who doesn't
say 'deez' and 'doze.'"

When, later in the day, they walked toward Hugo's home, he was at a loss
to explain Charlotte. The young painter would not understand why he, a
college man, chose so ignorant a mate. On the other hand, he owed it to
Charlotte to keep their secret and he was not obliged to make any
explanation.

Valentine Mitchel was, however, a young man of some sensitivity. If he
winced at Charlotte's "Pleased to meetcher," he did not show it. Later,
after an excellent and hilarious meal, he must have guessed the
situation. He went home reluctantly and Hugo was delighted with him. He
had been urbane and filled with anecdotes of Greenwich Village and
art-school life, of Paris, whither his struggling footsteps had taken
him for a hallowed year. And with his acceptance of Hugo came an equally
warm pleasure in Charlotte's company.

"He's a good little kid," Charlotte said.

"Yes. I'm glad I picked him up."

The gala opening of Hogarth's Studio of Strength took place a few nights
afterwards. It proved even more successful than Smoots had hoped. The
flamboyant advertising posters attracted crowds to see the man who could
set a bear trap with his teeth, who could pull an angry boa constrictor
into a straight line. Before ranks of gaping faces that were supplanted
by new ranks every hour, Hugo performed. Charlotte, resplendent in a
black dress that left her knees bare, and a red sash that all but
obliterated the dress, helped Hugo with his ponderous props, setting off
his strength by contrast, and sold the pamphlets Hugo had written at
Smoots's suggestion--pamphlets that purported to give away the secret
of Hogarth's phenomenal muscle power. Valentine Mitchel watched the
entire performance.

When it was over, he said to Hugo: "Now you better beat it back and get
a hot bath. You're probably all in."

"Yes," Charlotte said. "Come. I myself will bathe you."

Hugo grinned. "Hell, no. Now we're all going on a bender to celebrate.
We'll eat at Villapigue's and we'll take a moonlight sail."

They went together, marvelling at his vitality, gay, young, and living
in a world that they managed to forget did not exist. The night was
warm. The days that followed were warmer. The crowds came and the brassy
music hooted and coughed over them night and day.

There are, in the lives of almost every man and woman, certain brief
episodes that, enduring for a long or a short time, leave in the memory
a sense of completeness. To those moments humanity returns for refuge,
for courage, and for solace. It was of such material that Hugo's next
two months were composed. The items of it were nearly all sensuous: the
sound of the sea when he sat in the sand late at night with Charlotte;
the whoop and bellow of the merry-go-round that spun and glittered
across the street from his tent; the inarticulate breathing and the
white-knuckled clenchings of the crowd as it lifted its face to his
efforts, for each of which he assumed a slow, painful motion that
exaggerated its difficulty; the smell of the sea, intermingled with a
thousand man-made odors; the faint, pervasive scent of Charlotte that
clung to him, his clothes, his house; the pageant of the people, always
in a huge parade, going nowhere, celebrating nothing but the functions
of living, loud, garish, cheap, splendid; breakfasts at his table with
his woman's voluptuousness abated in the bright sunlight to little more
than a reminiscence and a promise; the taste of beer and pop-corn and
frankfurters and lobster and steak; the affable, talkative company of
Valentine Mitchel.

Only once that he could recall afterwards did he allow his intellect to
act in any critical direction, and that was in a conversation with the
young artist. They were sitting together in the sand, and Charlotte,
browned by weeks of bathing, lay near by. "Here I am," Mitchel said with
an unusual thoughtfulness, "with a talent that should be recognized,
wanting to be an illustrator, able to be one, and yet forced to dawdle
with this horrible business to make my living."

Hugo nodded. "You'll come through--some winter--and you won't ever
return to Coney Island."

"I know it. Unless I do it for sentimental reasons some day--in a
limousine."

"It's myself," Hugo said then, "and not you who is doomed to--well, to
this sort of thing. You have a talent that is at least understandable
and--" he was going to say mediocre. He checked himself--"applicable in
the world of human affairs. My talent--if it is a talent--has no place,
no application, no audience."

Mitchel stared at Hugo, wondering first what that talent might be and
then recognizing that Hugo meant his strength. "Nonsense. Any male in
his right senses would give all his wits to be as strong as you are."

It was a polite, friendly thing to say. Hugo could not refrain from
comparing himself to Valentine Mitchel. An artist--a clever artist and
one who would some day be important to the world. Because people could
understand what he drew, because it represented a level of thought and
expression. He was, like Hugo, in the doldrums of progress. But Mitchel
would emerge, succeed, be happy--or at least satisfied with
himself--while Hugo was bound to silence, was compelled never to allow
himself full expression. Humanity would never accept and understand him.
They were not similar people, but their case was, at that instant,
ironically parallel. "It isn't only being strong," he answered
meditatively, "but it's knowing what to do with your strength."

"Why--there are a thousand things to do."

"Such as?"

Mitchel raised himself on his elbows and turned his water-coloured eyes
on the populous beach. "Well--well--let's see. You could, of course, be
a strong man and amuse people--which you're doing. You could--oh, there
are lots of things you could do."

Hugo smiled. "I've been thinking about them--for years. And I can't
discover any that are worth the effort."

"Bosh!"

Charlotte moved close to him. "There's one thing you can do, honey, and
that's enough for me."

"I wonder," Hugo said with a seriousness the other two did not perceive.

The increased heat of August suggested by its very intensity a shortness
of duration, an end of summer. Hugo began to wonder what he would do
with Charlotte when he went back to Webster. He worried about her a good
deal and she, guessing the subject of his frequent fits of silence, made
a resolve in her tough and worldly mind. She had learned more about
certain facets of Hugo than he knew himself. She realized that he was
superior to her and that, in almost any other place than Coney Island,
she would be a liability to him. The thought that he would have to
desert her made Hugo very miserable. He knew that he would miss
Charlotte and he knew that the blow to her might spell disaster. After
all, he thought, he had not improved her morals or raised her vision. He
did not realize that he had made both almost sublime by the mere act of
being considerate. "White," Charlotte called it.

Nevertheless she was not without an intense sense of self-protection,
despite her condition on the night he had found her. She knew that
womankind lived at the expense of mankind. She saw the emotional
respect in which Valentine Mitchel unwittingly held Hugo. He had
scarcely spoken ten serious words to her. She realized that the artist
saw her as a property of his friend. That, in a way, made her valuable.
It was a subtle advantage, which she pressed with all the skill it
required. One night when Hugo was at work and the chill of autumn had
breathed on the hot shore, she told Valentine that he was a very nice
boy and that she liked him very much. He went away distraught, which was
what she had intended, and he carried with him a new and as yet
inarticulate idea, which was what she had foreseen.

He believed that he loved her. He told himself that Hugo was going to
desert her, that she would be forsaken and alone. At that point, she
recited to him the story of her life and the tale of her rescue by Hugo
and said at the end that she would be very lonely when Hugo was gone.
Because Hugo had loved her, Mitchel thought she contained depths and
values which did not appear. That she contained such depths neither man
really knew then. Both of them learned it much later. Mitchel found
himself in that very artistic dilemma of being in love with his friend's
mistress. It terrified his romantic soul and it involved him
inextricably.

When she felt that the situation had ripened to the point of action, she
waited for the precise moment. It came swiftly and in a better guise
than she had hoped. On a night in early September, when the crowds had
thinned a little, Hugo was just buckling himself into the harness that
lifted the horse. The spectators were waiting for the dénouement with
bickering patience. Charlotte was standing on the platform, watching him
with expressionless eyes. She knew that soon she would not see Hugo any
more. She knew that he was tired of his small show, that he was chafing
to be gone; and she knew that his loyalty to her would never let him go
unless it was made inevitable by her. The horse was ready. She watched
the muscles start out beneath Hugo's tawny skin. She saw his lips set,
his head thrust back. She worshipped him like that. Unemotionally, she
saw the horse lifted up from the floor. She heard the applause. There
was a bustle at the gate.

Half a dozen people entered in single file. Three young men. Three
girls. They were intoxicated. They laughed and spoke in loud voices. She
saw by their clothes and their manner that they were rich. Slumming in
Coney Island. She smiled at the young men as she had always smiled at
such young men, friendlily, impersonally. Hugo did not see their
entrance. They came very near.

"My God, it's Hugo Danner!"

Hugo heard Lefty's voice and recognized it. The horse was dropped to the
floor. He turned. An expression of startled amazement crossed his
features. Chuck, Lefty, Iris, and three people whom he did not know were
staring at him. He saw the stupefied recognition on the faces of his
friends. One despairing glance he cast at Charlotte and then he went on
with his act.

They waited for him until it was over. They clasped him to their bosoms.
They acknowledged Charlotte with critical glances. "Come on and join the
party," they said.

After that, their silence was worse than any questions. They talked
freely and merrily enough, but behind their words was a deep reserve.
Lefty broke it when he had an opportunity to take Hugo aside. "What in
hell is eating you? Aren't you coming back to Webster?"

"Sure. That is--I think so. I had to do this to make some money. Just
about the time school closed, my family went broke."

"But, good God, man, why didn't you tell us? My father is an alumnus and
he'd put up five thousand a year, if necessary, to see you kept on the
football team."

Hugo laughed. "You don't think I'd take it, Lefty?"

"Why not?" A pause. "No, I suppose you'd be just the God-damned kind of
a fool that wouldn't. Who's the girl?"

Hugo did not falter. "She's a tart I've been living with. I never knew a
better one--girl, that is."

"Have you gone crazy?"

"On the contrary, I've got wise."

"Well, for Christ's sake, don't say anything about it on the campus."

Hugo bit his lip. "Don't worry. My business is--my own."

They joined the others, drinking at the table. Charlotte was telling a
joke. It was not a nice joke. He had not thought of her jokes
before--because Iris and Chuck and Lefty had not been listening to them.
Now, he was embarrassed. Iris asked him to dance with her. They went out
on the floor.

"Lovely little thing, that Charlotte," she said acidly.

"Isn't she!" Hugo answered with such enthusiasm that she did not speak
during the rest of the dance.

Finally the ordeal ended. Lefty and his guests embarked in an automobile
for the city.

"You know such people," Charlotte half-whispered. Hugo's cheeks still
flamed, but his heart bled for her.

"I guess they aren't much," he replied.

She answered hotly: "Don't you be like that! They're nice people.
They're fine people. That Iris even asked me to her house. Gave me a
card to see her." Charlotte could guess what Iris wanted. So could Hugo.
But Charlotte pretended to be innocent.

He kissed Charlotte good-night and walked in the streets until morning.
Hugo could see no solution. Charlotte was so trusting, so good to him.
He could not imagine how she would receive any suggestion that she go to
New York and get a job, while he returned to college, that he see her
during vacations, that he send money to her. But he knew that a hot
fire dwelt within her and that her fury would rise, her grief, and that
he would be made very miserable and ashamed. She chided him at breakfast
for his walk in the dark. She laughed and kissed him and pushed him
bodily to his work. He looked back as he walked down to the curb. She
was leaning out of the window. She waved her hand. He rounded the corner
with wretched, leaden steps. The morning, concerned with the petty
business of receipts, refurbishings, cleaning, went slowly. When he
returned for lunch it was with the decision to tell her the truth about
his life and its requirements and to let her decide.

She did not come to the door to kiss him. (She had imagined that lonely
return.) She did not answer his brave and cheerful hail. (She had let
the sound of it ring upon her ear a thousand times.) She was gone. (She
knew he would sit down and cry.) Then, stumbling, he found the two
notes. But he already understood.

The message from Valentine Mitchel was reckless, impetuous. "Dear
Hugo--Charlotte and I have fallen in love with each other and I've run
away with her. I almost wish you'd come after us and kill me. I hate
myself for betraying you. But I love her, so I cannot help it. I've
learned to see in her what you first saw in her. Good-bye, good luck."

Hugo put it down. Charlotte would be good to him. In a way, he didn't
deserve her. And when he was famous, some day, perhaps she would leave
him, too. He hesitated to read her note. "Good-bye, darling, I do not
love you any more. C."

It was ludicrous, transparent, pitiful, and heroic. Hugo saw all those
qualities. "Good-bye, darling, I do not love you any more." She had
written it under Valentine's eyes. But she was shrewd enough to placate
her new lover while she told her sad little story to her old. She would
want him to feel bad. Well, God knew, he did. Hugo looked at the room.
He sobbed. He bolted into the street, tears streaming down his cheeks;
he drew his savings from the bank--seven hundred and eighty-four dollars
and sixty-four cents; he rushed to the haunted house, flung his clothes
into a bag; he sat drearily on a subway for an hour. He paced the smooth
floor of a station. He swung aboard a train. He came to Webster, his
head high, feeling a great pride in Charlotte and in his love for her,
walking in glad strides over the familiar soil.



IX


Hugo sat alone and marvelled at the exquisite torment of his
_Weltschmertz_. Far away, across the campus, he heard singing. Against
the square segment of sky visible from the bay window of his room he
could see the light of the great fire they had built to celebrate
victory--his victory. The light leaped into the darkness above like a
great golden ghost in some fantastic ascension, and beneath it, he knew,
a thousand students were dancing. They were druid priests at a rite to
the god of football. His fingers struggled through his black hair. The
day was fresh in his mind--the bellowing stands, the taut, almost
frightened faces of the eleven men who faced him, the smack and flight
of the brown oval, the lumbering sound of men running, the sucking of
the breath of men and their sharp, painful fall to earth.

In his mind was a sharp picture of himself and the eyes that watched him
as he broke away time and again, with infantile ease, to carry that
precious ball. He let them make a touchdown that he could have averted.
He made one himself. Then another. The bell on Webster Hall was booming
its pæan of victory. He stiffened under the steady monody. He remembered
again. Lefty barking signals with a strange agony in his voice. Lefty
pounding on his shoulder. "Go in there, Hugo, and give it to them. I
can't." Lefty pleading. And the captain, Jerry Painter, cursing in open
jealousy of Hugo, vying hopelessly with Hugo Danner, the man who was a
god.

It was not fair. Not right. The old and early glory was ebbing from it.
When he put down the ball, safely across the goal for the winning
touchdown, he saw three of the men on the opposing team lie down and
weep. There he stood, pretending to pant, feigning physical distress,
making himself a hero at the expense of innocent victims. Jackstraws for
a giant. There was no triumph in that. He could not go on.

Afterwards they had made him speak, and the breathless words that had
once come so easily moved heavily through his mind. Yet he had carried
his advantage beyond the point of turning back. He could not say that
the opponents of Webster might as well attempt to hold back a
Juggernaut, to throw down a siege-gun, to outrace light, as to lay their
hands on him to check his intent. Webster had been good to him. He loved
Webster and it deserved his best. His best! He peered again into the
celebrating night and wondered what that awful best would be.

He desired passionately to be able to give that--to cover the earth,
making men glad and bringing a revolution into their lives, to work
himself into a fury and to fatigue his incredible sinews, to end with
the feeling of a race well run, a task nobly executed. And, for a year,
that ambition had seemed in some small way to be approaching fruition.
Now it was turned to ashes. It was not with the muscles of men that his
goal was to be attained. They could not oppose him.

As he sat gloomy and distressed, he wondered for what reason there
burned in him that wish to do great deeds. Humanity itself was too
selfish and too ignorant to care. It could boil in its tiny prejudices
for centuries to come and never know that there could be a difference.
Moreover, who was he to grind his soul and beat his thoughts for the
benefit of people who would never know and never care? What honour, when
he was dead, to lie beneath a slab on which was punily graven some note
of mighty accomplishment? Why could he not content himself with the food
he ate, the sunshine, with wind in trees, and cold water, and a woman?
It was that sad and silly command within to transcend his vegetable self
that made him human. He tried to think about it bitterly: fool man,
grown suddenly more conscious than the other beasts--how quickly he had
become vain because of it and how that vanity led him forever onward! Or
was it vanity--when his aching soul proclaimed that he would gladly
achieve and die without other recognition or acclaim than that which
rose within himself? Martyrs were made of such stuff. And was not that,
perhaps, an even more exaggerated vanity? It was so pitiful to be a man
and nothing more. Hugo bowed his head and let his body tremble with
strange agony. Perhaps, he thought, even the agony was a selfish
pleasure to him. Then he should be ashamed. He felt shame and then
thought that the feeling rose from a wish for it and foundered angrily
in the confusion of his introspection. He knew only and knew but dimly
that he would lift himself up again and go on, searching for some
universal foe to match against his strength. So pitiful to be a man! So
Christ must have felt in Gethsemane.

"Hey, Hugo!"

"Yeah?"

"What the hell did you come over here for?"

"To be alone."

"Is that a hint?" Lefty entered the room. "They want you over at the
bonfire. We've been looking all over for you."

"All right. I'll go. But, honest to God, I've had enough of this
business for to-day."

Lefty slapped Hugo's shoulders. "The great must pay for their celebrity.
Come on, you sap."

"All right."

"What's the matter? Anything the matter?"

"No. Nothing's the matter. Only--it's sort of sad to be--" Hugo checked
himself.

"Sad? Good God, man, you're going stale."

"Maybe that's it." Hugo had a sudden fancy. "Do you suppose I could be
let out of next week's game?"

"What for? My God--"

Hugo pursued the idea. "It's the last game. I can sit on the lines. You
fellows all play good ball. You can probably win. If you can't--then
I'll play. If you only knew, Lefty, how tired I get sometimes--"

"Tired! Why don't you say something about it? You can lay off practice
for three or four days."

"Not that. Tired in the head, not the body. Tired of crashing through
and always getting away with it. Oh, I'm not conceited. But I know they
can't stop me. You know it. It's a gift of mine--and a curse. How about
it? Let's start next week without me."

The night ended at last. A new day came. The bell on Webster Hall
stopped booming. Woodie, the coach, came to see Hugo between classes.
"Lefty says you want us to start without you next week. What's the big
idea?"

"I don't know. I thought the other birds would like a shot at Yale
without me. They can do it."

Mr. Woodman eyed his player. "That's pretty generous of you, Hugo. Is
there any other reason?"

"Not--that I can explain."

"I see." The coach offered Hugo a cigarette after he had helped himself.
"Take it. It'll do you good."

"Thanks."

"Listen, Hugo. I want to ask you a question. But, first, I want you to
promise you'll give me a plain answer."

"I'll try."

"That won't do."

"Well--I can't promise."

Woodman sighed. "I'll ask it anyway. You can answer or not--just as you
wish." He was silent. He inhaled his cigarette and blew the smoke
through his nostrils. His eyes rested on Hugo with an expression of
intense interest, beneath which was a softer light of something not
unlike sympathy. "I'll have to tell you something, first, Hugo. When you
went away last summer, I took a trip to Colorado."

Hugo started, and Woodman continued: "To Indian Creek. I met your father
and your mother. I told them that I knew you. I did my best to gain
their confidence. You see, Hugo, I've watched you with a more skilful
eye than most people. I've seen you do things, a few little things, that
weren't--well--that weren't--"

Hugo's throat was dry. "Natural?"

"That's the best word, I guess. You were never like my other boys, in
any case. So I thought I'd find out what I could. I must admit that my
efforts with your father were a failure. Aside from the fact that he is
an able biology teacher and that he had a number of queer theories years
ago, I learned nothing. But I did find out what those theories were. Do
you want me to stop?"

A peculiar, almost hopeful expression was on Hugo's face. "No," he
answered.

"Well, they had to do with the biochemistry of cellular structure,
didn't they? And with the production of energy in cells? And then--I
talked to lots of people. I heard about Samson."

"Samson!" Hugo echoed, as if the dead had spoken.

"Samson--the cat."

Hugo was as pale as chalk. His eyes burned darkly. He felt that his
universe was slipping from beneath him. "You know, then," he said.

"I don't know, Hugo. I merely guessed. I was going to ask. Now I shall
not. Perhaps I do know. But I had another question, son--"

"Yes?" Hugo looked at Woodman and felt then the reason for his success
as a coach, as a leader and master of youth. He understood it.

"Well, I wondered if you thought it was worth while to talk to your
father and discover--"

"What he did?" Hugo suggested hoarsely.

Woodman put his hand on Hugo's knee. "What he did, son. You ought to
know by this time what it means. I've been watching you. I don't want
your head to swell, but you're a great boy, Hugo. Not only in beef. You
have a brain and an imagination and a sense of moral responsibility.
You'll come out better than the rest--you would even without your--your
particular talent. And I thought you might think that the rest of
humanity would profit--"

Hugo jumped to his feet. "No. A thousand times no. For the love of
Christ--no! You don't know or understand, you can't conceive, Woodie,
what it means to have it. You don't have the faintest idea of its
amount--what it tempts you with--what they did to me and I did to myself
to beat it--if I have beaten it." He laughed. "Listen, Woodie. Anything
I want is mine. Anything I desire I can take. No one can hinder. And
sometimes I sweat all night for fear some day I shall lose my temper.
There's a desire in me to break and destroy and wreck that--oh, hell--"

Woodman waited. Then he spoke quietly. "You're sure, Hugo, that the
desire to be the only one--like that--has nothing to do with it?"

Hugo's sole response was to look into Woodman's eyes, a look so pregnant
with meaning, so tortured, so humble, that the coach swore softly. Then
he held out his hand. "Well, Hugo, that's all. You've been damn swell
about it. The way I hoped you would be. And I think my answer is plain.
One thing. As long as I live, I promise on my oath I'll never give you
away or support any rumour that hurts your secret."

Even Hugo was stirred to a consciousness of the strength of the other
man's grip.

Saturday. A shrill whistle. The thump of leather against leather. The
roar of the stadium.

Hugo leaned forward. He watched his fellows from the bench. They rushed
across the field. Lefty caught the ball. Eddie Carter interfered with
the first man, Bimbo Gaines with the second. The third slammed Lefty
against the earth. Three downs. Eight yards. A kick. New Haven brought
the ball to its twenty-one-yard line. The men in helmets formed again. A
coughing voice. Pandemonium. Again in line. The voice. The riot of
figures suddenly still. Again. A kick. Lefty with the ball, and Bimbo
Gaines leading him, his big body a shield. Down. A break and a run for
twenty-eight yards. Must have been Chuck. Good old Chuck. He'd be
playing the game of his life. Graduation next spring. Four, seven,
eleven, thirty-two, fifty-five. Hugo anticipated the spreading of the
players. He looked where the ball would be thrown. He watched Minton,
the end, spring forward, saw him falter, saw the opposing quarterback
run in, saw Lefty thrown, saw the ball received by the enemy and moved
up, saw the opposing back spilled nastily. His heart beat faster.

No score at the end of the first half. The third quarter witnessed the
crossing of Webster's goal. Struggling grimly, gamely, against a team
that was their superior without Hugo, against a team heartened by the
knowledge that Hugo was not facing it, Webster's players were being
beaten. The goal was not kicked. It made the score six to nothing
against Webster. Hugo saw the captain rip off his headgear and throw it
angrily on the ground. He understood all that was going on in the minds
of his team in a clear, although remote, way. They went out to show
that they could play the game without Hugo Danner. And they were not
showing what they had hoped to show. A few minutes later their opponents
made a second touchdown.

Thirteen to nothing. Mr. Woodman moved beside Hugo. "They can't do
it--and I don't altogether blame them. They've depended on you too much.
It's too bad. We all have."

Hugo nodded. "Shall I go in?"

The coach watched the next play. "I guess you better."

When Hugo entered the line, Jerry Painter and Lefty spoke to him in
strained tones. "You've got to take it over, Hugo--all the way."

"All right."

The men lined up. A tense silence had fallen on the Yale line. They knew
what was going to happen. The signals were called, the ball shot back to
Lefty, Hugo began to run, the men in front rushed together, and Lefty
stuffed the ball into Hugo's arms. "Go on," he shouted. The touchdown
was made in one play. Hugo saw a narrow hole and scooted into it. A man
met his outstretched arm on the other side. Another. Hugo dodged twice.
The crescendo roar of the Webster section came to him dimly. He avoided
the safety man and ran to the goal. In the pandemonium afterwards, Jerry
kicked the goal.

A new kick-off. Hugo felt a hand on his shoulder. "You've gotta break
this up." Hugo broke it up. He held Yale almost single-handed. They
kicked back. Hugo returned the kick to the middle of the field. He did
not dare to do more.

Then he stood in his leather helmet, bent, alert, waiting to run again.
They called the captain's signal. He made four yards. Then Lefty's. He
made a first down. Then Jerry's. Two yards. Six yards. Five yards.
Another first down. The stands were insane. Hugo was glad they were not
using him--glad until he saw Jerry Painter's face. It was pale with
rage. Blood trickled across it from a small cut. Three tries failed.
Hugo spoke to him. "I'll take it over, Jerry, if you say so."

Jerry doubled his fist and would have struck him if Hugo had not stepped
back. "God damn you, Danner, you come out here in the last few minutes
all fresh and make us look like a lot of fools. I tell you, my team and
I will take that ball across and not you with your bastard tricks."

"But, good God, man--"

"You heard me."

"This is your last down."

There was time for nothing more. Lefty called Jerry's signal, and Jerry
failed. The other team took the ball, rushed it twice, and kicked back
into the Webster territory. Again the tired, dogged players began a
march forward. The ball was not given to Hugo. He did his best, using
his body as a ram to open holes in the line, tripping tacklers with his
body, fighting within the limits of an appearance of human strength to
get his teammates through to victory. And Jerry, still pale and profane,
drove the men like slaves. It was useless. If Hugo had dared more, they
might have succeeded. But they lost the ball again. It was only in the
last few seconds that an exhausted and victorious team relinquished the
ball to Webster.

Jerry ordered his own number again. Hugo, cold and somewhat furious at
the vanity and injustice of the performance, gritted his teeth. "How
about letting me try, Jerry? I can make it. It's for Webster--not for
you."

"You go to hell."

Lefty said: "You're out of your head, Jerry."

"I said I'd take it."

For one instant Hugo looked into his eyes. And in that instant the
captain saw a dark and flickering fury that filled him with fear. The
whistle blew. And then Hugo, to his astonishment, heard his signal.
Lefty was disobeying the captain. He felt the ball in his arms. He ran
smoothly. Suddenly he saw a dark shadow in the air. The captain hit him
on the jaw with all his strength. After that, Hugo did not think
lucidly. He was momentarily berserk. He ran into the line raging and
upset it like a row of tenpins. He raced into the open. A single man,
thirty yards away, stood between him and the goal. The man drew near in
an instant. Hugo doubled his arm to slug him. He felt the arm
straighten, relented too late, and heard, above the chaos that was
loose, a sudden, dreadful snap. The man's head flew back and he
dropped. Hugo ran across the goal. The gun stopped the game. But, before
the avalanche fell upon him, Hugo saw his victim lying motionless on the
field. What followed was nightmare. The singing and the cheering. The
parade. The smashing of the goal posts. The gradual descent of silence.
A pause. A shudder. He realized that he had been let down from the
shoulders of the students. He saw Woodman, waving his hands, his face a
graven mask. The men met in the midst of that turbulence.

"You killed him, Hugo."

The earth spun and rocked slowly. He was paying his first price for
losing his temper. "Killed him?"

"His neck was broken-in three places."

Some of the others heard. They walked away. Presently Hugo was standing
alone on the cinders outside the stadium. Lefty came up. "I just heard
about it. Tough luck. But don't let it break you."

Hugo did not answer. He knew that he was guilty of a sort of murder. In
his own eyes it was murder. He had given away for one red moment to the
leaping, lusting urge to smash the world. And killed a man. They would
never accuse him. They would never talk about it. Only Woodman, perhaps,
would guess the thing behind the murder--the demon inside Hugo that was
tame, except then, when his captain in jealous and inferior rage had
struck him.

It was night. Out of deference to the body of the boy lying in the
Webster chapel there was no celebration. Every ounce of glory and joy
had been drained from the victory. The students left Hugo to a solitude
that was more awful than a thousand scornful tongues. They thought he
would feel as they would feel about such an accident. They gave him
respect when he needed counsel. As he sat by himself, he thought that he
should tell them the truth, all of them, confess a crime and accept the
punishment. Hours passed. At midnight Woodman called.

"There isn't much to say, Hugo. I'm sorry, you're sorry, we're all
sorry. But it occurred to me that you might do something foolish--tell
these people all about it, for example."

"I was going to."

"Don't. They'd never understand. You'd be involved in a legal war that
would undoubtedly end in your acquittal. But it would drag in all your
friends--and your mother and father--particularly him. The papers would
go wild. You might, on the other hand, be executed as a menace. You
can't tell."

"It might be a good thing," Hugo answered bitterly.

"Don't let me hear you say that, you fool! I tell you, Hugo, if you go
into that business, I'll get up on the stand and say I knew it all the
time and I let a man play on my team when I was pretty sure that sooner
or later he'd kill someone. Then I'll go to jail surely."

"You're a pretty fine man, Mr. Woodman."

"Hell!"

"What shall I do?" Hugo's voice trembled. He suffered as he had not
dreamed it was possible to suffer.

"That's up to you. I'd say, live it down."

"Live it down! Do you know what that means--in a college?"

"Yes, I think I do, Hugo."

"You can live down almost anything, except that one thing--murder. It's
too ugly, Woodie."

"Maybe. Maybe. You've got to decide, son. If you decide against
trying--and, mind you, you might be justified--I've got a brother-in-law
who has a ranch in Alberta. A couple of hundred miles from any place.
You'd be welcome there."

Hugo did not reply. He took the coach's hand and wrung it. Then for an
hour the two men sat side by side in the darkness. At last Woodman rose
and left. He said only: "Remember that offer. It's cold and bleak and
the work is hard. Good-night, Hugo."

"Good-night, Woodie. Thanks for coming up."

When the campus was still with the quiet of sleep, Hugo crossed it as
swiftly as a spectre. All night he strode remorselessly over country
roads. His face was set. His eyes burned. He ignored the trembling of
his joints. When the sky faded, he went back. He packed his clothes in
two suit-cases. With them swinging at his side, he stole out of the Psi
Delta house, crossed the campus, stopped. For a long instant he stared
at Webster Hall. The first light of morning was just touching it. The
débris collected for a fire that was never lighted was strewn around the
cannon. He saw the initials he had painted there a year and more ago
still faintly legible. A lump rose in his throat.

"Good-by, Webster," he said. He lifted the suitcase and vanished. In a
few minutes the campus was five miles behind him--six--ten--twenty. When
he saw the first early caravan of produce headed toward the market, he
slowed to a walk. The sun came over a hill and sparkled on a billion
drops of dew. A bird flew singing from his path. Hugo Danner had fled
beyond the gates of Webster.



X


A year passed. In the harbour of Cristobal, at the northern end of the
locks, waiting for the day to open the great steel jaws that dammed the
Pacific from the Atlantic, the _Katrina_ pulled at her anchor chain in
the gentle swell. A few stars, liquid bright, hung in the tropical sky.
A little puff of wind coming occasionally from the south carried the
smell of the jungle to the ship. The crew was awakening.

A man with a bucket on a rope went to the rail and hauled up a brimming
pail from the warm sea. He splashed his face and hands into it. Then he
poured it back and repeated the act of dipping up water.

"Hey!" he said.

Another man joined him. "Here. Swab off your sweat. Look yonder."

The dorsal fin of a shark rippled momentarily on the surface and dipped
beneath it. A third man appeared. He accepted the proffered water and
washed himself. His roving eye saw the shark as it rose for the second
time. He dried on a towel. The off-shore breeze stirred his dark hair.
There was a growth of equally dark beard on his tanned jaw and cheek.
Steely muscles bulged under his shirt. His forearm, when he picked up
the pail, was corded like cable. A smell of coffee issued from the
galley, and the smoke of the cook's fire was wafted on deck for a
pungent moment. Two bells sounded. The music went out over the water in
clear, humming waves.

The man who had come first from the forecastle leaned his buttocks
against the rail. One end of it had been unhooked to permit the
discharge of mail. The rail ran, the man fell back, clawing, and then,
thinking suddenly of the sharks, he screamed. The third man looked. He
saw his fellow-seaman go overboard. He jumped from where he stood,
clearing the scuppers and falling through the air before the victim of
the slack rail had landed in the water. The two splashes were almost
simultaneous. A boatswain, hearing the cry, hastened to the scene. He
saw one man lifted clear of the water by the other, who was treading
water furiously. He shouted for a rope. He saw the curve and dip of a
fin. The first man seized the rope and climbed and was pulled up. The
second, his rescuer, dived under water as if aware of something there
that required his attention. The men above him could not know that he
had felt the rake of teeth across his leg--powerful teeth, which
nevertheless did not penetrate his skin. As he dived into the green
depths, he saw a body lunge toward him, turn, yawn a white-fringed
mouth. He snatched the lower jaw in one hand, and the upper in the
other. He exerted his strength. The mouth gaped wider, a tail twelve
feet behind it lashed, the thing died with fingers like steel claws
tearing at its brain. It floated belly up. The man rose, took the rope,
climbed aboard. Other sharks assaulted the dead one.

The dripping sailor clasped his saviour's hand. "God Almighty, man, you
saved my life. Jesus!"

"That's four," Hugo Danner said abstractedly, and then he smiled. "It's
all right. Forget it. I've had a lot of experience with sharks." He had
never seen one before in his life. He walked aft, where the men grouped
around him.

"How'd you do it?"

"It's a trick I can't explain very well," Hugo said. "You use their rush
to break their jaws. It takes a good deal of muscle."

"Anyway--guy--thanks."

"Sure."

A whistle blew. The ships were lining up in the order of their arrival
for admission to the Panama Canal. Gatun loomed in the feeble sun of
dawn. The anchor chain rumbled. The _Katrina_ edged forward at half
speed.

The sea. Blue, green, restless, ghost-ridden, driven in empty quarters
by devils riding the wind, secretive, mysterious, making a last
gigantic, primeval stand against the conquest of man, hemming and
isolating the world, beautiful, horrible, dead god of ten thousand
voices, universal incubator, universal grave.

The _Katrina_ came to the islands in the South Pacific. Islands that
issued from the water like green wreaths and seemed to float on it. The
small boats were put out and sections of the cargo were sent to rickety
wharves where white men and brown islanders took charge of it and
carried it away into the fringe of the lush vegetation. Hugo, looking at
those islands, was moved to smile. The place where broken men hid from
civilization, where the derelicts of the world gathered to drown their
shame in a verdant paradise that had no particular position in the white
man's scheme of the earth.

At one of the smaller islands an accident to the engine forced the
_Katrina_ to linger for two weeks. It was during those two weeks, in a
rather extraordinary manner, that Hugo Danner laid the first foundation
of the fortune that he accumulated in his later life. One day, idling
away a leave on shore in the shade of a mighty tree, he saw the
outriggers of the natives file away for the oyster beds, and, out of
pure curiosity, he followed them. For a whole day he watched the men
plunge under the surface in search of pearls. The next day he came back
and dove with one of them.

On the bizarre floor of the ocean, among the colossal fronds of its
flora, the two men swam. They were invaders from the brilliance above
the surface, shooting like fish, horizontally, through the murk and
shadow, and the denizens of that world resented their coming. Great fish
shot past them with malevolent eyes, and the vises of giant clams shut
swiftly in attempts to trap their moving limbs. Hugo was entranced. He
watched the other man as he found the oyster bed and commenced to fill
his basket with frantic haste. When his lungs stung and he could bear
the agony no longer, he turned and forged toward the upper air. Then
they went down again.

Hugo's blood, designed to take more oxygen from the air, and his greater
density fitted him naturally for the work. The pressure did not make him
suffer and the few moments granted to the divers beneath the forbidding
element stretched to a longer time for him.

On the second day of diving he went alone. His amateur attempt had been
surprisingly fruitful. Standing erect in the immense solitude, he
searched the hills and valleys. At length, finding a promising cluster
of shellfish, he began to examine them one by one, pulling them loose,
feeling in their pulpy interior for the precious jewels. He occupied
himself determinedly while the _Katrina_ was waiting in Apia, and at the
end of the stay he had collected more than sixty pearls of great value
and two hundred of moderate worth.

It was, he thought, typical of himself. He had decided to make a fortune
of some sort after the first bitter rage over his debacle at Webster had
abated in his heart. He realized that without wealth his position in
the world would be more difficult and more futile than his fates had
decreed. Poverty, at least, he was not forced to bear. He could wrest
fortune from nature by his might. That he had begun that task by diving
for pearls fitted into his scheme. It was such a method as no other man
would have considered and its achievement robbed no one while it
enriched him.

When the _Katrina_ turned her prow westward again, Hugo worked with his
shipmates in a mood that had undergone considerable change. There was no
more despair in him, little of the taciturnity that had marked his
earliest days at sea, none of the hatred of mankind. He had buried that
slowly and carefully in a dull year of work ashore and a month of toil
on the heaving deck of the ship. For six months he had kept himself
alive in a manner that he could scarcely remember. Driving a truck.
Working on a farm. Digging in a road. His mind a bitter blank, his
valiant dreams all dead.

One day he had saved a man's life. The reaction to that was small, but
it was definite. The strength that could slay was also a strength that
could succour. He had repeated the act some time later. He felt it was a
kind of atonement. After that, he sought deliberately to go where he
might be of assistance. In the city, again, in September, when a fire
engine clanged and whooped through the streets, he followed and carried
a woman from a blazing roof as if by a miracle. Then the seaman. He had
counted four rescues by that time. Perhaps his self-condemnation for the
boy who had fallen on the field at Webster could be stifled eventually.
Human life seemed very precious to Hugo then.

He sold his pearls when the ship touched at large cities--a handful here
and a dozen there, bargaining carefully and forwarding the profit to a
bank in New York. He might have continued that voyage, which was a
voyage commenced half in new recognition of his old wish to see and know
the world and half in the quest of forgetfulness; but a slip and shifts
in the history of the world put an abrupt end to it. When the _Katrina_
rounded the Bec d'Aiglon and steamed into the blue and cocoa harbour of
Marseilles, Hugo heard that war had been declared by Germany, Austria,
France, Russia, England....



XI


In a day the last veil of mist that had shrouded his feelings and
thoughts, making them numb and sterile, vanished; in a day Hugo found
himself--or believed that he had; in a day his life changed and flung
itself on the course which, in a measure, destined its fixation. He
never forgot that day.

It began in the early morning when the anchor of the freighter thundered
into the harbour water. The crew was not given shore leave until noon.
Then the mysterious silence of the captain and the change in the ship's
course was explained. Through the third officer he sent a message to the
seamen. War had been declared. The seaways were unsafe. The _Katrina_
would remain indefinitely at Marseilles. The men could go ashore. They
would report on the following day.

The first announcement of the word sent Hugo's blood racing. War! What
war? With whom? Why? Was America in it, or interested in it? He stepped
ashore and hurried into the city. The populace was in feverish
excitement. Soldiers were everywhere, as if they had sprung up magically
like the seed of the dragon. Hugo walked through street after street in
the furious heat. He bought a paper and read the French accounts of
mobilizations, of a battle impending. He looked everywhere for some one
who could tell him. Twice he approached the American Consulate, but it
was jammed with frantic and frightened people who were trying only to
get away. Hugo's ambition, growing in him like a fire, was in the
opposite direction. War! And he was Hugo Danner!

He sat at a café toward the middle of the afternoon. He was so excited
by the contagion in his veins that he scarcely thrilled at the first use
of his new and half-mastered tongue. The _garçon_ hurried to his table.

"_De la bière_," Hugo said.

The waiter asked a question which Hugo could not understand, so he
repeated his order in the universal language of measurement of a large
glass by his hands. The waiter nodded. Hugo took his beer and stared out
at the people. They hurried along the sidewalk, brushing the table at
which he sat. They called to each other, laughed, cried sometimes, and
shook hands over and over. "_La guerre_" was on every tongue. Old men
gestured the directions of battles. Young men, a little more serious
perhaps, and often very drunk, were rushing into uniform as order
followed order for mobilization. And there were girls, thousands of
them, walking with the young men.

Hugo wanted to be in it. He was startled by the impact of that desire.
All the ferocity of him, all the unleashed wish to rend and kill, was
blazing in his soul. But it was a subtle conflagration, which urged him
in terms of duty, in words that spoke of the war as his one perfect
opportunity to put himself to a use worthy of his gift. A war. In a war
what would hold him, what would be superior to him, who could resist
him? He swallowed glass after glass of the brackish beer, quenching a
mighty thirst and firing a mightier ambition. He saw himself charging
into battle, fighting till his ammunition was gone, till his bayonet
broke; and then turning like a Titan and doing monster deeds with bare
hands. And teeth.

Bands played and feet marched. His blood rose to a boiling-point. A
Frenchman flung himself at Hugo's table. "And you--why aren't you a
soldier?"

"I will be," Hugo replied.

"Bravo! We shall revenge ourselves." The man gulped a glass of wine,
slapped Hugo's shoulder, and was gone. Then a girl talked to Hugo. Then
another man.

Hugo dwelt on the politics of the war and its sociology only in the most
perfunctory manner. It was time the imperialistic ambitions of the
Central Powers were ended. A war was inevitable for that purpose.
France and England had been attacked. They were defending themselves. He
would assist them. Even the problem of citizenship and the tangle of red
tape his enlistment might involve did not impress him. He could see the
field of battle and hear the roar of guns, a picture conjured up by his
knowledge of the old wars. What a soldier he would be!

While his mind was still leaping and throbbing and his head was
whirling, darkness descended. He would give away his life, do his duty
and a hundred times more than his duty. Here was the thing that was
intended for him, the weapon forged for his hand, the task designed for
his undertaking. War. In war he could bring to a full fruition the
majesty of his strength. No need to fear it there, no need to be ashamed
of it. He felt himself almost the Messiah of war, the man created at the
precise instant he was required. His call to serve was sounding in his
ears. And the bands played.

The chaos did not diminish at night, but, rather, it increased. He went
with milling crowds to a bulletin board. The Germans had commenced to
move. They had entered Belgium in violation of treaties long held
sacred. Belgium was resisting and Liége was shaking at the devastation
of the great howitzers. A terrible crime. Hugo shook with the rage of
the crowd. The first outrages and violations, highly magnified, were
reported. The blond beast would have to be broken.

"God damn," a voice drawled at Hugo's side. He turned. A tall, lean man
stood there, a man who was unquestionably American. Hugo spoke in
instant excitement.

"There sure is hell to pay."

The man turned his head and saw Hugo. He stared at him rather
superciliously, at his slightly seedy clothes and his strong, unusual
face. "American?"

"Yeah."

"Let's have a drink."

They separated themselves from the mob and went to a crowded café. The
man sat down and Hugo took a chair at his side. "As you put it," the man
said, "there is hell to pay. Let's drink on the payment."

Hugo felt in him a certain aloofness, a detachment that checked his
desire to throw himself into flamboyant conversation. "My name's
Danner," he said.

"Mine's Shayne, Thomas Mathew Shayne. I'm from New York."

"So am I, in a way. I was on a ship that was stranded here by the war.
At loose ends now."

Shayne nodded. He was not particularly friendly for a person who had met
a countryman in a strange city. Hugo did not realize that Shayne had
been besieged all day by distant acquaintances and total strangers for
assistance in leaving France, or that he expected a request for money
from Hugo momentarily. And Shayne did not seem particularly wrought up
by the condition of war. They lifted their glasses and drank. Hugo lost
a little of his ardour.

"Nice mess."

"Time, though. Time the Germans got their answer."

Shayne's haughty eyebrows lifted. His wide, thin mouth smiled. "Perhaps.
I just came from Germany. Seemed like a nice, peaceful country three
weeks ago."

"Oh." Hugo wondered if there were many pro-German Americans. His
companion answered the thought.

"Not that I don't believe the Germans are wrong. But war is such--such a
damn fool thing."

"Well, it can't be helped."

"No, it can't. We're all going to go out and get killed, though."

"We?"

"Sure. America will get in it. That's part of the game. America is more
dangerous to Germany than France--or England, for that matter."

"That's a rather cold-blooded viewpoint."

Shayne nodded. "I've been raised on it. _Garçon, l'addition, s'il vous
plaît._" He reached for his pocketbook simultaneously with Hugo. "I'm
sorry you're stranded," he said, "and if a hundred francs will help,
I'll be glad to let you have it. I can't do more."

Hugo's jaw dropped. He laughed a little. "Good lord, man, I said my ship
was stuck. Not me. And these drinks are mine." He reached into his
pocket and withdrew a huge roll of American bills and a packet of
French notes.

Shayne hesitated. His calmness was not severely shaken, however. "I'm
sorry, old man. You see, all day I've been fighting off starving and
startled Americans and I thought you were one. I apologize for my
mistake." He looked at Hugo with more interest. "As a matter of fact,
I'm a little skittish about patriotism. And about war. Of course, I'm
going to be in it. The first entertaining thing that has happened in a
dog's age. But I'm a conscientious objector on principles. I rather
thought I'd enlist in the Foreign Legion to-morrow."

He was an unfamiliar type to Hugo. He represented the American who had
been educated at home and abroad, who had acquired a wide horizon for
his views, who was bored with the routine of his existence. His clothes
were elegant and impeccable. His face was very nearly inscrutable.
Although he was only a few years older than Hugo, he made the latter
feel youthful.

They had a brace of drinks, two more and two more. All about them was
bedlam, as if the emotions of man had suddenly been let loose to sweep
him off his feet. Grief, joy, rage, lust, fear were all obviously there
in almost equal proportions.

Shayne extended his hand. "They have something to fight for, at least.
Something besides money and glory. A grudge. I wonder what it is that
makes me want to get in? I do."

"So do I."

Shayne shook his head. "I wouldn't if I were you. Still, you will
probably be compelled to in a while." He looked at his watch. "Do you
care to take dinner with me? I had an engagement with an aunt who is on
the verge of apoplexy because two of the Boston Shaynes are in Munich.
It scarcely seems appropriate at the moment. I detest her, anyway. What
do you say?"

"I'd like to have dinner with you."

They walked down the Cannebière. At a restaurant on the east side near
the foot of the thoroughfare they found a table in the corner. A pair of
waiters hastened to take their order. The place was riotous with voices
and the musical sounds of dining. On a special table was a great
demijohn of 1870 cognac, which was fast being drained by the guests.
Shayne consulted with his companion and then ordered in fluent French.
The meal that was brought approached a perfection of service and a
superiority of cooking that Hugo had never experienced. And always the
babble, the blare of bands, the swelling and fading persistence of the
stringed orchestra, the stream of purple Châteauneuf du Pape and its
flinty taste, the glitter of the lights and the bright colours on the
mosaics that represented the principal cities of Europe. It was a
splendid meal.

"I'm afraid I'll have to ask your name again," Shayne said.

"Danner. Hugo Danner."

"Good God! Not the football player?"

"I did play football--some time ago."

"I saw you against Cornell--when was it?--two years ago. You were
magnificent. How does it happen that--"

"That I'm here?" Hugo looked directly into Shayne's eyes.

"Well--I have no intention of prying into your affairs."

"Then I'll tell you. Why not?" Hugo drank his wine. "I killed a man--in
the game--and quit. Beat it."

Shayne accepted the statement calmly. "That's tough. I can understand
your desire to get out from under. Things like that are bad when you're
young."

"What else could I have done?"

"Nothing. What are you going to do? Rather, what were you going to do?"

"I don't know," Hugo answered slowly. "What do you do? What do people
generally do?" He felt the question was drunken, but Shayne accepted it
at its face value.

"I'm one of those people who have too much money to be able to do
anything I really care about, most of the time. The family keeps me in
sight and control. But I'm going to cut away to-morrow."

"In the Foreign Legion? I'll go with you."

"Splendid!" They shook hands across the table.

Three hours later found them at another café. They had been walking part
of the time in the throngs on the street. For a while they had stood
outside a newspaper office watching the bulletins. They were quite
drunk.

"Old man," Shayne said, "I'm mighty glad I found you."

"Me, too, old egg. Where do we go next?"

"I don't know. What's your favourite vice? We can locate it in
Marseilles."

Hugo frowned. "Well, vice is so limited in its scope."

His companion chuckled. "Isn't it? I've always said vice was narrow. The
next time I see Aunt Emma I'm going to say: 'Emma, vice is becoming too
narrow in its scope.' She'll be furious and it will bring her to an
early demise and I'll inherit a lot more money, and that will be the
real tragedy. She's a useless old fool, Aunt Emma. Never did a valuable
thing in her life. Goes in for charity--just like we go in for golf and
what-not. Oh, well, to hell with Aunt Emma."

Hugo banged his glass on the table. "_Garçon! Encore deux whiskey à
l'eau_ and to hell with Aunt Emma."

"Like to play roulette?"

"Like to try."

They climbed into a taxi. Shayne gave an address and they were driven to
another quarter of the town. In a room packed with people in evening
clothes they played for an hour. Several people spoke to Shayne and he
introduced Hugo to them. Shayne won and Hugo lost. They went out into
the night. The streets were quieter in that part of town. Two girls
accosted them.

"That gives me an idea," Shayne said. "Let's find a phone. Maybe we can
get Marcelle and Claudine."

Marcelle and Claudine met them at the door of the old house. Their arms
were laden with champagne bottles. The interior of the dwelling belied
its cold, grey, ancient stones. Hugo did not remember much of what
followed that evening. Short, unrelated fragments stuck in his
mind--Shayne chasing the white form of Marcelle up and down the stairs;
himself in a huge bath-tub washing a back in front of him, his surprise
when he saw daylight through the wooden shutters of the house.

Someone was shaking him. "Come on, soldier. The leave's up."

He opened his eyes and collected his thoughts. He grinned at Shayne.
"All right. But if I had to defend myself right now--I'd fail against a
good strong mouse."

"We'll fix that. Hey! Marcelle! Got any Fernet-Branca?"

The girl came with two large glasses of the pick-me-up. Hugo swallowed
the bitter brown fluid and shuddered. Claudine awoke. "_Chéri!_" she
sighed, and kissed him.

They sat on the edge of the bed. "Boy!" Hugo said. "What a binge!"

"You like eet?" Claudine murmured.

He took her hand. "Loved it, darling. And now we're going to war."

"Ah!" she said, and, at the door: "_Bonne chance!_"

Shayne left Hugo, after agreeing on a time and place for their meeting
in the afternoon. The hours passed slowly. Hugo took another drink, and
then, exerting his judgment and will, he refrained from taking more. At
noon he partook of a light meal. He thought, or imagined, that the
ecstasy of the day before was showing some signs of decline. It occurred
to him that the people might be very sober and quiet before the war was
a thing to be written into the history of France.

The sun was shining. He found a place in the shade where he could avoid
it. He ordered a glass of beer, tasted it, and forgot to finish it. The
elation of his first hours had passed. But the thing within him that had
caused it was by no means dead. As he sat there, his muscles tensed with
the picturization of what was soon to be. He saw the grim shadows of the
enemy. He felt the hot splash of blood. For one suspended second he was
ashamed of himself, and then he stamped out that shame as being
something very much akin to cowardice.

He wondered why Shayne was joining the Legion and what sort of person he
was underneath his rather haughty exterior. A man of character,
evidently, and one who was weary of the world to which he had been
privileged. Hugo's reverie veered to his mother and father. He tried to
imagine what they would think of his enlistment, of him in the war; and
even what they thought of him from the scant and scattered information
he had supplied. He was sure that he would justify himself. He felt
purged and free and noble. His strength was a thing of wreck and ruin,
given to the world at a time when wreck and ruin were needed to set it
right. It was odd that such a product should emerge from the dusty brain
of a college professor in a Bible-ridden town.

Hugo had not possessed a religion for a long time. Now, wondering on
another tangent if the war might not bring about his end, he thought
about it. He realized that he would hate himself for murmuring a prayer
or asking protection. He was gamer than the Cross-obsessed weaklings who
were not wise enough to look life in the face and not brave enough to
draw the true conclusions from what they saw. True conclusions? He
meditated. What did it matter--agnosticism, atheism, pantheism--anything
but the savage and anthropomorphic twaddle that had been doled out since
the Israelites singled out Jehovah from among their many gods. He would
not commit himself. He would go back with his death to the place where
he had been before he was born and feel no more regret than he had in
that oblivious past. Meanwhile he would fight! He moved restively and
waited for Shayne with growing impatience.

Until that chaotic and gorgeous hour he had lived for nothing, proved
nothing, accomplished nothing. Society was no better in any way because
he had lived. He excepted the lives he had saved, the few favours he had
done. That was nothing in proportion to his powers. He was his own
measure, and by his own efforts would he satisfy himself. War! He flexed
his arms. War. His black eyes burned with a formidable light.

Then Shayne came. Walking with long strides. A ghostly smile on his
lips. A darkness in his usually pale-blue eyes. Hugo liked him. They
said a few words and walked toward the recruiting-tent. A _poilu_ in
steely blue looked at them and saw that they were good. He proffered
papers. They signed. That night they marched for the first time. A week
later they were sweating and swearing over the French manual of arms.
Hugo had offered his services to the commanding officer at the camp and
been summarily denied an audience or a chance to exhibit his abilities.
When they reached the lines--that would be time enough. Well, he could
wait until those lines were reached.



XII


Just as the eastern horizon became light with something more steady than
the flare of the guns, the command came. Hugo bit his lip till it bled
darkly. He would show them--now. They might command him to wait--he
could restrain himself no longer. The men had been standing there tense
and calm, their needle-like bayonets pointing straight up. "_En avant!_"

His heart gave a tremendous surge. It made his hands falter as he
reached for the ladder rung. "Here we go, Hugo."

"Luck, Tom."

He saw Shayne go over. He followed slowly. He looked at no man's land.
They had come up in the night and he had never seen it. The scene of
holocaust resembled nothing more than the municipal ash dump at Indian
Creek. It startled him. The grey earth in irregular heaps, the litter of
metal and equipment. He realized that he was walking forward with the
other men. The ground under his feet was mushy, like ashes. Then he saw
part of a human body. It changed his thoughts.

The man on Hugo's right emitted a noise like a squeak and jumped up in
the air. He had been hit. Out of the corner of his eye Hugo saw him
fall, get up quickly, and fall again very slowly. His foot kicked after
he lay down. The rumbling in the sky grew louder and blotted out all
other sound.

They walked on and on. It was like some eternal journey through the dun,
vacant realms of Hades. Not much light, one single sound, and ghostly
companions who faced always forward. The air in front of him was
suddenly dyed orange and he felt the concussion of a shell. His ears
rang. He was still walking. He walked what he thought was a number of
miles.

His great strength seemed to have left him, and in its place was a
complete enervation. With a deliberate effort he tested himself, kicking
his foot into the earth. It sank out of sight. He squared his shoulders.
A man came near him, yelling something. It was Shayne. Hugo shook his
head. Then he heard the voice, a feeble shrill note. "Soon be there."

"Yeah?"

"Over that hill."

Shayne turned away and became part of the ghost escort of Hugo and his
peculiarly lucid thoughts. He believed that he was more conscious of
himself and things then than ever before in his life. But he did not
notice one-tenth of the expression and action about himself. The top of
the rise was near. He saw an officer silhouetted against it for an
instant. The officer moved down the other side. He could see over the
rise, then.

Across the grey ashes was a long hole. In front of it a maze of wire. In
it--mushrooms. German helmets. Hugo gaped at them. All that training,
all that restraint, had been expended for this. They were small and
without meaning. He felt a sharp sting above his collar bone. He looked
there. A row of little holes had appeared in his shirt.

"Good God," he whispered, "a machine gun."

But there was no blood. He sat down. He presumed, as a casualty, he was
justified in sitting down. He opened his shirt by ripping it down. On
his dark-tanned skin there were four red marks. The bullets had not
penetrated him. Too tough! He stared numbly at the walking men. They had
passed him. The magnitude of his realization held him fixed for a full
minute. He was invulnerable! He should have known it--otherwise he would
have torn himself apart by his own strength. Suddenly he roared and
leaped to his feet. He snatched his rifle, cracking the stock in his
fervour. He vaulted toward the helmets in the trench.

He dropped from the parapet and was confronted by a long knife on a gun.
His lips parted, his eyes shut to slits, he drew back his own weapon.
There was an instant's pause as they faced each other--two men, both
knowing that in a few seconds one would be dead. Then Hugo, out of his
scarlet fury, had one glimpse of his antagonist's face and person. The
glimpse was but a flash. It was finished in quick motions. He was a
little man--a foot shorter than Hugo. His eyes looked out from under his
helmet with a sort of pathetic earnestness. And he was worried, horribly
worried, standing there with his rifle lifted and trying to remember the
precise technique of what would follow even while he fought back the
realization that it was hopeless. In that split second Hugo felt a
human, amazing urge to tell him that it was all right, and that he ought
to hold his bayonet a little higher and come forward a bit faster. The
image faded back to an enemy. Hugo acted mechanically from the rituals
of drill. His own knife flashed. He saw the man's clothes part smoothly
from his bowels, where the point had been inserted, up to the gray-green
collar. The seam reddened, gushed blood, and a length of intestine
slipped out of it. The man's eyes looked at Hugo. He shook his head
twice. The look became far-away. He fell forward.

Hugo stepped over him. He was trembling and nauseated. A more formidable
man approached warily. The bellow of battle returned to Hugo's ears. He
pushed back the threatening rifle easily and caught the neck in one
hand, crushing it to a wet, sticky handful. So he walked through the
trench, a machine that killed quickly and remorselessly--a black warrior
from a distant realm of the universe where the gods had bred another
kind of man.

He came upon Shayne and found him engaged. Hugo stuck his opponent in
the back. No thought of fair play, no object but to kill--it did not
matter how. Dead Legionnaires and dead Germans mingled blood underfoot.
The trench was like the floor of an _abattoir_. Someone gave him a
drink. The men who remained went on across the ash dump to a second
trench.

It was night. The men, almost too tired to see or move, were trying to
barricade themselves against the ceaseless shell fire of the enemy. They
filled bags with gory mud and lifted them on the crumbling walls. At
dawn the Germans would return to do what they had done. The darkness
reverberated and quivered. Hugo worked like a Trojan. His efforts had
made a wide and deep hole in which machine guns were being placed.
Shayne fell at his feet. Hugo lifted him up. The captain nodded. "Give
him a drink."

Someone brought liquor, and Hugo poured it between Shayne's teeth.
"Huh!" Shayne said.

"Come on, boy."

"How did you like it, Danner?"

Hugo did not answer. Shayne went on, "I didn't either--much. This is no
gentleman's war. Jesus! I saw a thing or two this morning. A guy walking
with all his--"

"Never mind. Take another drink."

"Got anything to eat?"

"No."

"Oh, well, we can fight on empty bellies. The Germans will empty them
for us anyhow."

"The hell they will."

"I'm pretty nearly all in."

"So's everyone."

They put Hugo on watch because he still seemed fresh. Those men who were
not compelled to stay awake fell into the dirt and slept immediately.
Toward dawn Hugo heard sounds in no man's land. He leaped over the
parapet. In three jumps he found himself among the enemy. They were
creeping forward. Hugo leaped back. "_Ils viennent!_"

Men who slept like death were kicked conscious. They rose and fired into
the night. The surprise of the attack was destroyed. The enemy came on,
engaging in the darkness with the exhausted Legionnaires. Twice Hugo
went among them when inundation threatened and, using his rifle barrel
as a club, laid waste on every hand. He walked through them striking and
shattering. And twice he saved his salient from extermination. Day came
sullenly. It began to rain. The men stood silently among their dead.

Hugo lit a cigarette. His eyes moved up and down the shambles. At
intervals of two yards a man, his helmet trickling rain, his clothes
filthy, his face inscrutable. Shayne was there on sagging knees. Hugo
could not understand why he had not been killed.

Hugo was learning about war. He thought then that the task which he had
set for himself was not altogether to his liking. There should be other
and more important things for him to do. He did not like to slaughter
individuals. The day passed like a cycle in hell. No change in the
personnel except that made by an occasional death. No food. No water.
They seemed to be exiled by their countrymen in a pool of fire and
famine and destruction. At dusk Hugo spoke to the captain.

"We cannot last another night without water, food," he said.

"We shall die here, then."

"I should like, sir, to volunteer to go back and bring food."

"We need ammunition more."

"Ammunition, then."

"One man could not bring enough to assist--much."

"I can."

"You are valuable here. With your club and your charmed life, you have
already saved this remnant of good soldiers."

"I will return in less than an hour."

"Good luck, then."

Where there had been a man, there was nothing. The captain blinked his
eyes and stared at the place. He swore softly in French and plunged into
his dug-out at the sound of ripping in the sky.

A half hour passed. The steady, nerve-racking bombardment continued at
an unvaried pace. Then there was a heavy thud like that of a shell
landing and not exploding. The captain looked. A great bundle, tied
together by ropes, had descended into the trench. A man emerged from
beneath it. The captain passed his hand over his eyes. Here was
ammunition for the rifles and the machine guns in plenty. Here was food.
Here were four huge tins of water, one of them leaking where a shell
fragment had pierced it. Here was a crate of canned meat and a sack of
onions and a stack of bread loaves. Hugo broke the ropes. His chest rose
and fell rapidly. He was sweating. The bundle he had carried weighed
more than a ton--and he had been running very swiftly.

The captain looked again. A case of cognac. Hugo was carrying things
into the dug-out. "Where?" the captain asked.

Hugo smiled and named a town thirty kilometres behind the lines. A town
where citizens and soldiers together were even then in frenzied
discussion over the giant who had fallen upon their stores and supplies
and taken them, running off like a locomotive, in a hail of bullets that
did no harm to him.

"And how?" the captain asked.

"I am strong."

The captain shrugged and turned his head away. His men were eating the
food, and drinking water mixed with brandy, and stuffing their pouches
with ammunition. The machine gunners were laughing. They would not be
forced to spare the precious belts when the Germans came in the
morning. Hugo sat among them, dining his tremendous appetite.

Three days went by. Every day, twice, five times, they were attacked.
But no offence seemed capable of driving that demoniac cluster of men
from their position. A demon, so the enemy whispered, came out and
fought for them. On the third day the enemy retreated along four
kilometres of front, and the French moved up to reclaim many, many acres
of their beloved soil. The Legionnaires were relieved and another
episode was added to their valiant history.

Hugo slept for twenty hours in the wooden barracks. After that he was
wakened by the captain's orderly and summoned to his quarters. The
captain smiled when he saluted. "My friend," he said, "I wish to thank
you in behalf of my country for your labour. I have recommended you for
the Croix de Guerre."

Hugo took his outstretched hand. "I am pleased that I have helped."

"And now," the captain continued, "you will tell me how you executed
that so unusual coup."

Hugo hesitated. It was the opportunity he had sought, the chance that
might lead to a special commission whereby he could wreak the vengeance
of his muscles on the enemy. But he was careful, because he did not feel
secure in trusting the captain with too much of his secret. Even in a
war it was too terrible. They would mistrust him, or they would attempt
to send him to their biologists. And he wanted to accomplish his mission
under their permission and with their co-operation. It would be more
valuable then and of greater magnitude. So he smiled and said: "Have you
ever heard of Colorado?"

"No, I have not heard. It is a place?"

"A place in America. A place that has scarcely been explored. I was born
there. And all the men of Colorado are born as I was born and are like
me. We are very strong. We are great fighters. We cannot be wounded
except by the largest shells. I took that package by force and I carried
it to you on my back, running swiftly."

The captain appeared politely interested. He thumbed a dispatch. He
stared at Hugo. "If that is the truth, you shall show me."

"It is the truth--and I shall show you."

Hugo looked around. Finally he walked over to the sentry at the flap of
the tent and took his rifle. The man squealed in protest. Hugo lifted
him off the floor by the collar, shook him, and set him down.

The man shouted in dismay and then was silent at a word from the
captain. Hugo weighed the gun in his hands while they watched and then
slowly bent the barrel double. Next he tore it from its stock. Then he
grasped the parallel steel ends and broke them apart with a swift
wrench. The captain half rose, his eyes bulged, he knocked over his
ink-well. His hand tugged at his moustache and waved spasmodically.

"You see?" Hugo said.

The captain went to staff meeting that afternoon very thoughtful. He
understood the difficulty of exhibiting his soldier's prowess under
circumstances that would assure the proper commission. He even
considered remaining silent about Hugo. With such a man in his company
it would soon be illustrious along the whole broad front. But the chance
came. When the meeting was finished and the officers relaxed over their
wine, a colonel brought up the subject of the merits of various breeds
of men as soldiers.

"I think," he said, "that the Prussians are undoubtedly our most
dangerous foe. On our own side we have--"

"Begging the colonel's pardon," the captain said, "there is a species of
fighter unknown, or almost unknown, in this part of the world, who
excels by far all others."

"And who may they be?" the colonel asked stiffly.

"Have you ever heard of the Colorados?"

"No," the colonel said.

Another officer meditated. "They are redskins, American Indians, are
they not?"

The captain shrugged. "I do not know. I know only that they are superior
to all other soldiers."

"And in what way?"

The captain's eyes flickered. "I have one Colorado in my troops. I will
tell you what he did in five days near the town of Barsine." The
officers listened. When the captain finished, the colonel patted his
shoulder. "That is a very amusing fabrication. Very. With a thousand
such men, the war would be ended in a week. Captain Crouan, I fear you
have been overgenerous in pouring the wine."

The captain rose, saluted. "With your permission, I shall cause my
Colorado to be brought and you shall see."

The other men laughed. "Bring him, by all means."

The captain dispatched an orderly. A few minutes later, Hugo was
announced at headquarters. The captain introduced him. "Here, messieurs,
is a Colorado. What will you have him do?"

The colonel, who had expected the soldier to be both embarrassed and
made ridiculous, was impressed by Hugo's calm demeanour. "You are
strong?" he said with a faint irony.

"Exceedingly."

"He is not humble, at least, gentlemen." Laughter. The colonel fixed
Hugo with his eye. "Then, my good fellow, if you are so strong, if you
can run so swiftly and carry such burdens, bring us one of our beautiful
seventy-fives from the artillery."

"With your written order, if you please."

The colonel started, wrote the order laughingly, and gave it to Hugo. He
left the room.

"It is a good joke," the colonel said. "But I fear it is harsh on the
private."

The captain shrugged. Wine was poured. In a few minutes they heard heavy
footsteps outside the tent. "He is here!" the captain cried. The
officers rushed forward. Hugo stood outside the tent with the cannon
they had requested lifted over his head in one hand. With that same hand
clasped on the breach, he set it down. The colonel paled and gulped.
"Name of the mother of God! He has brought it."

Hugo nodded. "It was as nothing, my colonel. Now I will show you what we
men from Colorado can do. Watch."

They eyed him. There was a grating sound beneath his feet. Those who
were quickest of vision saw his body catapult through the air high over
their heads. It landed, bounced prodigiously, vanished.

Captain Crouan coughed and swallowed. He faced his superiors, trying to
seem nonchalant. "That, gentlemen, is the sort of thing the Colorados
do--for sport."

The colonel recovered first. "It is not human. Gentlemen, we have been
in the presence of the devil himself."

"Or the Good Lord."

The captain shook his head. "He is a man, I tell you. In Colorado all
the men are like that. He told me so himself. When he first enlisted, he
came to me and asked for a special commission to go to Berlin and smash
the Reich--to bring back the Kaiser himself. I thought he was mad. I
made him peel potatoes. He did not say any more foolish things. He was a
good soldier. Then the battle came and I saw him, not believing I saw
him, standing on the parapet and wielding his rifle like the lightning,
killing I do not know how many men. Hundreds certainly, perhaps
thousands. Ah, it is as I said, the Colorados are the finest soldiers on
earth. They are more than men."

"He comes!"

Hugo burst from the sky, moving like a hawk. He came from the direction
of the lines, many miles away. There was a bundle slung across his
shoulder. There were holes in his uniform. He landed heavily among the
officers and set down his burden. It was a German. He dropped to the
ground.

"Water for him," Hugo panted. "He has fainted. I snatched him from his
outpost in a trench."



XIII


At Blaisencourt it was spring again. The war was nearly a year old.
Blaisencourt was now a street of houses' ghosts, of rubble and dirt,
populated by soldiers. A little new grass sprouted peevishly here and
there; an occasional house retained enough of its original shape to
harbour an industry. Captain Crouan, his arm in a sling, was looking
over a heap of débris with the aid of field glasses.

"I see him," he said, pointing to a place on the boiling field where an
apparent lump of soil had detached itself.

"He rises! He goes on! He takes one of his mighty leaps! Ah, God, if I
only had a company of such men!"

His aide, squatted near by, muttered something under his breath. The
captain spoke again. "He is very near their infernal little gun now. He
has taken his rope. Ahaaaa! He spins it in the air. It falls. They are
astonished. They rise up in the trench. Quick, Phèdre! Give me a rifle."
The rifle barked sharply four, five times. Its bullet found a mark.
Then another. "Ahaaa! Two of them! And M. Danner now has his rope on
that pig's breath. It comes up. See! He has taken it under his arm! They
are shooting their machine guns. He drops into a shell hole. He has been
hit, but he is laughing at them. He leaps. Look out, Phèdre!"

Hugo landed behind the débris with a small German trench mortar in his
arms. He set it on the floor. The captain opened his mouth, and Hugo
waved to him to be silent. Deliberately, Hugo looked over the rickety
parapet of loose stones. He elevated the muzzle of the gun and drew back
the lanyard. The captain, grinning, watched through his glasses. The gun
roared.

Its shell exploded presently on the brow of the enemy trench, tossing up
a column of smoke and earth. "I should have brought some ammunition with
me," Hugo said.

Captain Crouan stared at the little gun. "Pig," he said. "Son of a pig!
Five of my men are in your little belly! Bah!" He kicked it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Summer in Aix-au-Dixvaches. A tall Englishman addressing Captain Crouan.
His voice was irritated by the heat. "Is it true that you French have an
Indian scout here who can bash in those Minenwerfers?"

"_Pardon, mon colonel, mais je ne comprends pas l'anglais._"

He began again in bad French. Captain Crouan smiled. "Ah? You are
troubled there on your sector? You wish to borrow our astonishing
soldier? It will be a pleasure, I assure you."

Hot calm night. The sky pin-pricked with stars, the air redolent with
the mushy flavour of dead meat. So strong it left a taste in the mouth.
So strong that food and water tasted like faintly chlorinated
putrescence. Hugo, his blue uniform darker with perspiration, tramped
through the blackness to a dug-out. Fifteen minutes in candlelight with
a man who spoke English in an odd manner.

"They've been raisin' bloody hell with us from a point about there." The
tap of a pencil. "We've got little enough confidence in you, God
knows--"

"Thank you."

"Don't be huffy. We're obliged to your captain for the loan of you. But
we've lost too many trying to take the place ourselves not to be fed up
with it. I suppose you'll want a raiding party?"

"No, thanks."

"But, cripes, you can't make it there alone."

"I can do it." Hugo smiled. "And you've lost so many of your own men--"

"Very well."

       *       *       *       *       *

Otto Meyer pushed his helmet back on his sandy-haired head and gasped in
the feverish air. A non-commissioned officer passing behind him shoved
the helmet over his eyes with a muttered word of caution. Otto
shrugged. Half a dozen men lounged near by. Beside and above them were
the muzzles of four squat guns and the irregular silhouette of a heap of
ammunition. Two of the men rolled onto their backs and panted. "I wish,"
one said in a soft voice, "that I was back in the Hofbrau at Munich with
a tall stein of beer, with that fat _Fräulein_ that kissed me in the
Potsdam station last September sitting at my side and the orchestra
playing--"

Otto flung a clod of dank earth at the speaker. There were chuckles from
the shadows that sucked in and exhaled the rancid air. Outside the pit
in which they lay, there was a gentle thud.

Otto scrambled into a sitting posture. "What is that?"

"Nothing. Even these damned English aren't low enough to fight us in
this weather."

"You can never tell. At night, in the first battle of--listen!"

The thud was repeated, much closer. It was an ominous sound, like the
drop of a sack of earth from a great height. Otto picked up a gun. He
was a man who perspired freely, and now, in that single minute, his face
trickled. He pointed the gun into the air and pulled the trigger. It
kicked back and jarred his arm. In the glaring light that followed, six
men peered through the spider-web of the wire. They saw nothing.

"You see?"

Their eyes smarted with the light and dark, so swiftly exchanged. Came
a thud in their midst. A great thud that spattered the dirt in all
directions. "Something has fallen." "A shell!" "It's a dud!"

The men rose and tried to run. Otto had regained his vision and saw the
object that had descended. A package of yellow sticks tied to a great
mass of iron--wired to it. Instead of running, he grasped it. His
strength was not enough to lift it. Then, for one short eternity, he saw
a sizzling spark move toward the sticks. He clutched at it. "Help! The
guns must be saved. A bomb!" He knew his arms surrounded death. "I
cannot--"

His feeble voice was blown to the four winds at that instant. A terrible
explosion burst from him, shattering the escaping men, blasting the
howitzers into fragments, enlarging the pit to enormous dimensions. Both
fronts clattered with machine-gun fire. Flares lit the terrain. Hugo,
running as if with seven-league boots, was thrown on his face by the
concussion.

       *       *       *       *       *

Winter. Mud. A light fall of snow that was split into festers by the
guns before it could anneal the ancient sores. Hugo shivered and stared
into no man's land, whence a groan had issued for twenty hours, audible
occasionally over the tumult of the artillery. He saw German eyes turned
mutely on the same heap of rags that moved pitifully over the snow,
leaving a red wake, dragging a bloody thing behind. It rose and fell,
moving parallel to the two trenches. Many machine-gun bullets had
either missed it or increased its crimson torment. Hugo went out and
killed the heap of rags, with a revolver that cracked until the groans
stopped in a low moan. Breaths on both sides were bated. The rags had
been gray-green. A shout of low, rumbling praise came from the silent
enemy trenches. Hugo looked over there for a moment and smiled. He
looked down at the thing and vomited. The guns began again.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another winter. Time had become stagnant. All about it was a pool of mud
and suppuration, and shot through it was the sound of guns and the scent
of women, the taste of wine and the touch of cold flesh. Somewhere, he
could not remember distinctly where, Hugo had a clean uniform, a
portfolio of papers, a jewel-case of medals. He was a great man--a man
feared. The Colorado in the Foreign Legion. Men would talk about what
they had seen him accomplish all through the next fifty years--at
watering places in the Sahara, at the crackling fires of country-house
parties in Shropshire, on the shores of the South Seas, on the moon,
maybe. Old men, at the last, would clear the phlegm from their skinny
throats and begin: "When I was a-fightin' with the Legion in my youngest
days, there was a fellow in our company that came from some place in
wild America that I disrecollect." And younger, more sanguine men would
listen and shake their heads and wish that there was a war for them to
fight.

Hugo was not satisfied with that. Still, he could see no decent exit and
contrive no better use for himself. He clung frantically to the ideals
he had taken with him and to the splendid purpose with which he had
emblazoned his mad lust to enlist. Marseilles and the sentiment it had
inspired seemed very far away. He thought about it as he walked toward
the front, his head bent into the gale and his helmet pitched to protect
his eyes from the sting of the rain.

That night he slept with Shayne, a lieutenant now, twice wounded, thrice
decorated, and, like Hugo, thinner than he had been, older, with eyes
grown bleak, and seldom vehement. He resembled his lean Yankee ancestors
after their exhausting campaigns of the wilderness, alive and sentient
only through a sheer stubbornness that brooked neither element nor
disaster. Only at rare moments did the slight strain of his French blood
lift him from that grim posture. Such a moment was afforded by the
arrival of Hugo.

"Great God, Hugo! We haven't seen you in a dog's age." Other soldiers
smiled and brought rusty cigarettes into the dug-out where they sat and
smoked.

Hugo held out his hand. "Been busy. Glad to see you."

"Yes. I know how busy you've been. Up and down the lines we hear about
you. _Le Colorado._ Damn funny war. You'd think you weren't human, or
anywhere near human, to hear these birds. Wish you'd tell me how you get
away with it. Hasn't one nicked you yet?"

"Not yet."

"God damn. Got me here"--he tapped his shoulder--"and here"--his thigh.

"That's tough. I guess the sort of work I do isn't calculated to be as
risky as yours," Hugo said.

"Huh! That you can tell to Sweeny." The Frenchmen were still sitting
politely, listening to a dialogue they could not understand. Hugo and
Shayne eyed each other in silence. A long, penetrating silence. At
length the latter said soberly: "Still as enthusiastic as you were that
night in Marseilles?"

"Are you?"

"I didn't have much conception of what war would be then."

"Neither did I," Hugo responded. "And I'm not very enthusiastic any
more."

"Oh, well--"

"Exactly."

"Heard from your family?"

"Sure."

"Well--"

They relapsed into silence again. By and by they ate a meal of cold
food, supplemented by rank, steaming coffee. Then they slept. Before
dawn Hugo woke feeling like a man in the mouth of a volcano that had
commenced to erupt. The universe was shaking. The walls of the dug-out
were molting chunks of earth. The scream and burst of shells were
constant. He heard Shayne's voice above the din, issuing orders in
French. Their batteries were to be phoned. A protective counter-fire. A
_barrage_ in readiness in case of attack, which seemed imminent. Larger
shells drowned the voice. Hugo rose and stood beside Shayne.

"Coming over?"

"Coming over."

A shapeless face spoke in the gloom. The voice panted. "We must get out
of here, my lieutenant. They are smashing in the dug-out." A methodical
scramble to the orifice. Hell was rampaging in the trench. The shells
fell everywhere. Shayne shook his head. It was neither light nor dark.
The incessant blinding fire did not make things visible except for
fragments of time and in fantastic perspectives. Things belched and
boomed and smashed the earth and whistled and howled. It was impossible
to see how life could exist in that caldron, and yet men stood calmly
all along the line. A few of them, here and there, were obliterated.

The red sky in the southeast became redder with the rising sun. Hugo
remained close to the wall. It was no novelty for him to be under shell
fire. But at such times he felt the need of a caution with which he
could ordinarily dispense. If one of the steel cylinders found him, even
his mighty frame might not contain itself. Even he might be rent
asunder. Shayne saw him and smiled. Twenty yards away a geyser of fire
sprayed the heavens. Ten feet away a fragment of shell lashed down a
pile of sand-bags. Shayne's smile widened. Hugo returned it.

Then red fury enveloped the two men. Hugo was crushed ferociously
against the wall and liberated in the same second. He fell forward, his
ears singing and his head dizzy. He lay there, aching. Dark red stains
flowed over his face from his nose and ears. Painfully he stood up. A
soldier was watching him from a distance with alarmed eyes. Hugo
stepped. He found that locomotion was possible. The bedlam increased. It
brought a sort of madness. He remembered Shayne. He searched in the
smoking, stinking muck. He found the shoulders and part of Shayne's
head. He picked them up in his hands, disregarding the butchered ends of
the raw gobbet. White electricity crackled in his head.

He leaped to the parapet, shaking his fists. "God damn you dirty sons of
bitches. I'll make you pay for this. You got him, got him, you bastards!
I'll shove your filthy hides down the devil's throat and through his
guts. Oh, Jesus!" He did not feel the frantic tugging of his fellows. He
ran into that bubbling, doom-ridden chaos, waving his arms and shouting
maniacal profanities. A dozen times he was knocked down. He bled slowly
where fragments had battered him. He crossed over and paused on the
German parapet. He was like a being of steel. Bullets sprayed him. His
arms dangled and lifted. Barbed wire trailed behind him.

Down before him, shoulder to shoulder, the attacking regiments waited
for the last crescendo of the bombardment. They saw him come out of the
fury and smiled grimly. They knew such madness. They shot. He came on.
At last they could hear his voice dimly through the tumult. Someone
shouted that he was mad--to beware when he fell. Hugo jumped among them.
Bayonets rose. Hugo wrenched three knives from their wielders in one
wild clutch. His hands went out, snatching and squeezing. That was all.
No weapons, no defence. Just--hands. Whatever they caught they crushed
flat, and heads fell into those dreadful fingers, sides, legs, arms,
bellies. Bayonets slid from his tawny skin, taking his clothes. By and
by, except for his shoes, he was naked. His fingers had made a hundred
bunches of clotted pulp and then a thousand as he walked swiftly forward
in that trench. Ahead of him was a file of green; behind, a clogged row
of writhing men. Scarcely did the occupants of each new traverse see him
before they were smitten. The wounds he inflicted were monstrous. On he
walked, his voice now stilled, his breath sucking and whistling through
his teeth, his hands flailing and pinching and spurting red with every
contact. No more formidable engine of desolation had been seen by man,
no more titanic fury, no swifter and surer death. For thirty minutes he
raged through that line. The men thinned. He had crossed the attacking
front.

Then the barrage lifted. But no whistles blew. No soldiers rose. A few
raised their heads and then lay down again. Hugo stopped and went back
into the _abattoir_. He leaped to the parapet. The French saw him,
silhouetted against the sky. The second German wave, coming slowly over
a far hill, saw him and hesitated. No ragged line of advancing men. No
cacophony of rifle fire. Only that strange, savage figure. A man dipped
in scarlet, nude, dripping, panting. Slowly in that hiatus he wheeled.
His lungs thundered to the French. "Come on, you black bastards. I've
killed them all. Come on. We'll send them down to hell."

The officers looked and understood that something phenomenal had
happened. No Germans were coming. A man stood above their trench. "Come,
quick!" Hugo shouted. He saw that they did not understand. He stood an
instant, fell into the trench; and presently a shower of German corpses
flung through the air in wide arcs and landed on the very edge of the
French position. Then they came, and Hugo, seeing them, went on alone to
meet the second line. He might have forged on through that bloody swathe
to the heart of the Empire if his vitality had been endless. But, some
time in the battle, he fell unconscious on the field, and his
forward-leaning comrades, pushing back the startled enemy, found him
lying there.

They made a little knot around him, silent, quivering. "It is the
Colorado," someone said. "His friend, Shayne--it is he who was the
lieutenant just killed."

They shook their heads and felt a strange fear of the unconscious man.
"He is breathing." They called for stretcher-bearers. They faced the
enemy again, bent over on the stocks of their rifles, surged forward.

       *       *       *       *       *

Hugo was washed and dressed in pyjamas. His wounds had healed without
the necessity of a single stitch. He was grateful for that. Otherwise
the surgeons might have had a surprise which would have been difficult
to allay. He sat in a wheel chair, staring across a lawn. An angular
woman in an angular hat and tailored clothes was trying to engage him in
conversation.

"Is it very painful, my man?"

Hugo was seeing that trench again--the pulp and blood and hate of it.
"Not very."

Her tongue and saliva made a noise. "Don't tell me. I know it was. I
know how you all bleed and suffer."

"Madam, it happens that my wounds were quite superficial."

"Nonsense, my boy. They wouldn't have brought you to a base hospital in
that case. You can't fool me."

"I was suffering only from exhaustion."

She paused. He saw a gleam in her eye. "I suppose you don't like to
talk--about things. Poor boy! But I imagine your life has been so full
of horror that it would be good for you to unburden yourself. Now tell
me, just what does it feel like to bayonet a man?"

Hugo trembled. He controlled his voice. "Madam," he replied, "it feels
exactly like sticking your finger into a warm, steaming pile of
cow-dung."

"Oh!" she gasped. And he heard her repeat it again in the corridor.



XIV


     "Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Jordan Shayne," Hugo wrote. Then he paused in
     thought. He began again. "I met your son in Marseilles and was with
     him most of the time until his death." He hesitated. "In fact, he
     died in my arms from the effect of the same shell which sent me to
     this hospital. He is buried in Carcy cemetery, on the south side.
     It is for that reason I take the liberty to address you.

     "I thought that you would like to know some of the things that he
     did not write to you. Your son enlisted because he felt the war
     involved certain ideals that were worthy of preservation. That he
     gave his life for those ideals must be a source of pride to you. In
     training he was always controlled, kindly, unquarrelsome,
     comprehending. In battle he was aggressive, brilliant, and more
     courageous than any other man I have ever known.

     "In October, a year ago, he was decorated for bringing in Captain
     Crouan, who was severely wounded during an attack that was
     repulsed. Under heavy shell fire Tom went boldly into no man's
     land and carried the officer from a shell pit on his back. At the
     time Tom himself sustained three wounds. He was mentioned a number
     of times in the dispatches for his leadership of attacks and
     patrols. He was decorated a second time for the capture of a German
     field officer and three of his staff, a coup which your son
     executed almost single-handed.

     "Following his death his company made an attack to avenge him,
     which wiped out the entire enemy position along a sector nearly a
     kilometre in width and which brought a permanent advantage to the
     Allied lines. That is mute testimony of his popularity among the
     officers and men. I know of no man more worthy of the name
     'American,' no American more worthy of the words 'gentleman' and
     'hero.'

     "I realize the slight comfort of these things, and yet I feel bound
     to tell you of them, because Tom was my friend, and his death is
     grievous to me as well as to you.

     "Yours sincerely,

     "(LIEUTENANT) HUGO DANNER"

Hugo posted the letter. When the answer came, he was once again in
action, the guns chugging and rumbling, the earth shaking. The reply
read:

     "DEAR LIEUTENANT DANNER:

     "Thank you for your letter in reference to our son. We knew that he
     had enlisted in some foreign service. We did not know of his
     death. I am having your statements checked, because, if they are
     true, I shall be one of the happiest persons alive, and his mother
     will be both happy and sad. The side of young Tom which you claim
     to have seen is one quite unfamiliar to us. At home he was always a
     waster, much of a snob, and impossible to control. It may be harsh
     to say such things of him now that he is dead, but I cannot recall
     one noble deed, one unselfish act, in his life here with us.

     "That I have a dead son would not sadden me. Tom had been
     disinherited by us, his mother and father. But that my dead son was
     a hero makes me feel that at last, coming into the Shayne blood and
     heritage, he has atoned. And so I honour him. If the records show
     that all you said of him is true, I shall not only honour him in
     this country, but I shall come to France to pay my tribute with a
     full heart and a knowledge that neither he nor I lived in vain.

     "Gratefully yours,

     "R. J. SHAYNE"

Hugo reread the letter and stood awhile with wistful eyes. He remembered
Shayne's Aunt Emma, Shayne's bitter calumniation of his family. Well,
they had not understood him and he had not wanted them to understand
him. Perhaps Shayne had been more content than he admitted in the mud of
the trenches. The war had been a real thing to him. Hugo thought of its
insufficiencies for himself. The world was not enough for Shayne, but
the war had been. Both were insufficient for Hugo Danner. He listened to
the thunder in the sky tiredly.

Two months later Hugo was ordered from rest billets to the major's
quarters. A middle-aged man and woman accompanied by a sleek Frenchman
awaited him. The man stepped forward with dignified courtesy. "I am Tom
Shayne's father. This is Mrs. Shayne."

Hugo felt a great lack of interest in them. They had come too late. It
was their son who had been his friend. He almost regretted the letter.
He shook hands with them. Mrs. Shayne went to an automobile. Her husband
invited Hugo to a café. Over the wine he became suddenly less dignified,
more human, and almost pathetic. "Tell me about him, Danner. I loved
that kid once, you know."

Hugo found himself unexpectedly moved. The man was so eager, so
strangely happy. He stroked his white moustache and turned away moist
eyes. So Hugo told him. He talked endlessly of the trenches and the dark
wet nights and the fire that stabbed through them. He invented brave
sorties for his friend, tripled his accomplishments, and put gaiety and
wit in his mouth. The father drank every syllable as if he was
committing the whole story to memory as the text of a life's solace. At
last he was crying.

"That was the Tom I knew," Hugo said softly.

"And that was the Tom I dreamed and hoped and thought he would become
when he was a little shaver. Well, he did, Danner."

"A thousand times he did."

Ralph Jordan Shayne blew his nose unashamedly. He thought of his
patiently waiting wife. "I've got to go, I suppose. This has been more
than kind of you, Mr. Danner--Lieutenant Danner. I'm glad--more glad
than I can say--that you were there. I understand from the major that
you're no small shakes in this army yourself." He smiled deferentially.
"I wish there was something we could do for you."

"Nothing. Thank you, Mr. Shayne."

"I'm going to give you my card. In New York--my name is not without
meaning."

"It is very familiar to me. Was before I met your son."

"If you ever come to the city--I mean, when you come--you must look us
up. Anything we can do--in the way of jobs, positions--" He was
confused.

Hugo shook his head. "That's very kind of you, sir. But I have some
means of my own and, right now, I'm not even thinking of going back to
New York."

Mr. Shayne stepped into the car. "I would like to do something." Hugo
realized the sincerity of that desire. He reflected.

"Nothing I can think of--"

"I'm a banker. Perhaps--if I might take the liberty--I could handle your
affairs?"

Hugo smiled. "My affairs consist of one bank account in the City Loan
that would seem very small to you, Mr. Shayne."

"Why, that's one of my banks. I'll arrange it. You know and I know how
small the matter of money is. But I'd appreciate your turning over some
of your capital to me. I would consider it a blessed opportunity to
return a service, a great service with a small one, I'm afraid."

"Thanks," Hugo said.

The banker scribbled a statement, asked a question, and raised his
eyebrows over the amount Hugo gave him. Then he was the father again.
"We've been to the cemetery, Danner. We owe that privilege to you. It
says there, in French: 'The remains of a great hero who gave his life
for France.' Not America, my boy; but I think that France was a worthy
cause."

When they had gone, Hugo spent a disturbed afternoon. He had not been so
moved in many, many months.



XV


Now the streets of Paris were assailed by the colour of olive drab, the
twang of Yankee accents, the music of Broadway songs. Hugo watched the
first parade with eyes somewhat proud and not a little sombre. Each
shuffling step seemed to ask a rhythmic question. Who would not return
to Paris? Who would return once and not again? Who would be blind? Who
would be hideous? Who would be armless, legless, who would wear silver
plates and leather props for his declining years? Hugo wondered, and,
looking into those sometimes stern and sometimes ribald faces, he saw
that they had not yet commenced to wonder.

They did not know the hammer and shock of falling shells and the jelly
and putty which men became. They chafed and bantered and stormed every
café and cocotte impartially, recklessly. Even the Legion had been more
grim and better prepared for the iron feet of war. They fell upon Hugo
with their atrocious French--two young men who wanted a drink and could
not make the bar-tender understand.

"Hey, _fransay_," they called to him, "_comment dire que nous voulez des
choses boire?_"

Hugo smiled. "What do you birds want to drink?"

"God Almighty! Here's a Frog that speaks United States. Get the gang.
What's your name, bo?"

"Danner."

"Come on an' have a flock of drinks on us. You're probably dying on
French pay. You order for the gang and we'll treat." Eager, grinning
American faces. "Can you get whisky in this God-forsaken dump?"

"Straight or highball?"

"That's the talk. Straight, Dan. We're in the army now."

Hugo drank with them. Only for one moment did they remember they were in
the army to fight: "Say, Dan, the war really isn't as tough as they
claim, is it?"

"I don't know how tough they claim it is."

"Well, you seen much fightin'?"

"Three years."

"Is it true that the Heinies--?" His hands indicated his question.

"Sometimes. Accidentally, more or less. You can't help it."

"And do them machine guns really mow 'em down?"

Hugo shrugged. "There are only four men in service now who started with
my company."

"Ouch! _Garçon! Encore!_ An' tell him to make it double--no,
triple--Dan, old man. It may be my last." To Hugo: "Well, it's about
time we got here an' took the war off your shoulders. You guys sure have
had a bellyful. An' I'm goin' to get me one right here and now. Bottoms
up, you guys."

Hugo was transferred to an American unit. The officers belittled the
recommendations that came with him. They put him in the ranks. He served
behind the lines for a week. Then his regiment moved up. As soon as the
guns began to rumble, a nervous second lieutenant edged toward the
demoted private. "Say, Danner, you've been in this before. Do you think
it's all right to keep on along this road the way we are?"

"I'm sure I couldn't say. You're taking a chance. Plane strafing and
shells."

"Well, what else are we to do? These are our orders."

"Nothing," Hugo said.

When the first shells fell among them, however, Danner forgot that his
transference had cost his commission and sadly bereft Captain Crouan and
his command. He forgot his repressed anger at the stupidity of American
headquarters and their bland assumption of knowledge superior to that
gained by three years of actual fighting. He virtually took charge of
his company, ignoring the bickering of a lieutenant who swore and
shouted and accomplished nothing and who was presently beheaded for his
lack of caution. A month later, with troops that had some feeling of
respect for the enemy--a feeling gained through close and gory
association--Hugo was returned his commission.

Slowly at first, and with increasing momentum, the war was pushed up out
of the trenches and the Germans retreated. The summer that filled the
windows of American homes with gold stars passed. Hugo worked like a
slave out beyond the front trenches, scouting, spying, destroying,
salvaging, bending his heart and shoulders to a task that had long since
become an acid routine. September. October. November. The end of that
holocaust was very near.

Then there came a day warmer than the rest and less rainy. Hugo was
riding toward the lines on a _camion_. He rode as much as possible now.
He had not slept for two days. His eyes were red and twitching. He felt
tired--tired as if his fatigue were the beginning of death--tired so
that nothing counted or mattered--tired of killing, of hating, of
suffering--tired even of an ideal that had tarnished through long
weathering. The _camion_ was steel and it rattled and bumped as it moved
over the road. Hugo lay flat in it, trying to close his eyes.

After a time, moving between the stumps of a row of poplars, they came
abreast of a regiment returning from the battle. They walked slowly and
dazedly. Each individual was still amazed at being alive after the
things he had witnessed. Hugo raised himself and looked at them. The
same expression had often been on the faces of the French. The long line
of the regiment ended. Then there was an empty place on the road, and
the speed of the truck increased.

Finally it stopped with a sharp jar, and the driver shouted that he
could go no farther. Hugo clambered to the ground. He estimated that the
battery toward which he was travelling was a mile farther. He began to
walk. There was none of the former lunge and stride in his steps. He
trudged, rather, his head bent forward. A little file of men approached
him, and, even at a distance, he did not need a second glance to
identify them. Walking wounded.

By ones and twos they began to pass him. He paid scant attention. Their
field dressings were stained with the blood that their progress cost.
They cursed and muttered. Someone had given them cigarettes, and a dozen
wisps of smoke rose from each group. It was not until he reached the end
of the straggling line that he looked up. Then he saw one man whose arms
were both under bandage walking with another whose eyes were covered and
whose hand, resting on his companion's shoulder, guided his stumbling
feet.

Hugo viewed them as they came on and presently heard their conversation.
"Christ, it hurts," one of them said.

"The devil with hurting, boy," the blinded man answered. "So do I, for
that matter. I feel like there was a hot poker in my brains."

"Want another butt?"

"No, thanks. Makes me kind of sick to drag on them. Wish I had a drink,
though."

"Who doesn't?"

Hugo heard his voice. "Hey, you guys," it said. "Here's some water. And
a shot of cognac, too."

The first man stopped and the blind man ran into him, bumping his head.
He gasped with pain, but his lips smiled. "Damn nice of you, whoever you
are."

They took the canteen and swallowed. "Go on," Hugo said, and permitted
himself a small lie. "I can get more in a couple of hours." He produced
his flask. "And finish off on a shot of this."

He held the containers for the armless man and handed them to the other.
Their clothes were ragged and stained. Their shoes were in pieces. Sweat
had soaked under the blind man's armpits and stained his tunic. As Hugo
watched him swallow thirstily, he started. The chin and the hair were
familiar. His mind spun. He knew the voice, although its tenor was sadly
changed.

"Good God," he said involuntarily, "it's Lefty!"

Lefty stiffened. "Who are you?"

"Hugo Danner."

"Hugo Danner?" The tortured brain reflected.

"Hugo! Good old Hugo! What, in the name of Jesus, are you doing here?"

"Same thing you are."

An odd silence fell. The man with the shattered arms broke it. "Know
this fellow?"

"Do I know him! Gee! He was at college with me. One of my buddies.
Gosh!" His hand reached out. "Put it there, Hugo."

They shook hands. "Got it bad, Lefty?"

The bound head shook. "Not so bad. I guess--I kind of feel that I won't
be able to see much any more. Eyes all washed out. Got mustard gas in
'em. But I'll be all right, you know. A little thing like that's
nothing. Glad to be alive. Still have my sex appeal, anyhow. Still got
the old appetite. But--listen--what happened to you? Why in hell did you
quit? Woodman nearly went crazy looking for you."

"Oh--" Hugo's thoughts went back a distance that seemed infinite, into
another epoch and another world--"oh, I just couldn't stick it. Say, you
guys, wait a minute." He turned. His _camion_-driver was lingering in
the distance. "Wait here." He rushed back. The armless man whistled.

"God in heaven! Your friend there can sure cover the ground."

"Yeah," Lefty said absently. "He always could."

In a moment Hugo returned. "I got it all fixed up for you two to ride
in. No limousine, but it'll carry you."

Lefty's lip trembled. "Gee--Jesus Christ--" he amended stubbornly;
"that's decent. I don't feel so dusty to-day. Damn it, if I had any
eyes, I guess I'd cry. Must be the cognac."

"Nothing at all, Lefty old kid. Here, I'll give you a hand." He took
Lefty's arm over his shoulder, encircled him with his own, and carried
him rapidly over the broken road.

"Still got the old fight," Lefty murmured as he felt himself rushed
forward.

"Still."

"Been in this mess long?"

"Since the beginning."

"I should have thought of that. I often wondered what became of you.
Iris used to wonder, too."

"How is she?"

"All right."

They reached the truck. Lefty sat down on the metal bottom with a sigh.
"Thanks, old bean. I was just about _kaputt_. Tough going, this war. I
saw my first shell fall yesterday. Never saw a single German at all. One
of those squdgy things came across, and before I knew it, there was
onion in my eye for a goal." The truck motor roared. The armless man
came alongside and was lifted beside Lefty. "Well, Hugo, so long. You
sure were a friend in need. Never forget it. And look me up when the
Krauts are all dead, will you?" The gears clashed. "Thanks again--and
for the cognac, too." He waved airily. "See you later."

Hugo stalked back on the road. Once he looked over his shoulder. The
truck was a blur of dust. "See you later. See you later. See you later."
Lefty would never see him later--never see anyone ever.

That night he sat in a quiet stupor, all thought of great ideal, of fine
abandon, of the fury of justice, and all flagrant phrases brought to an
abrupt end by the immediate claims of his own sorrow. Tom Shayne was
blasted to death. The stinging horror of mustard had fallen into Lefty's
eyes. All the young men were dying. The friendships he had made, the
human things that gave in memory root to the earth were ripped up and
shrivelled. That seemed grossly wrong and patently ignoble. He discarded
his personal travail. It was nothing. His life had been comprised of
attempt and failure, of disappointment and misunderstanding; he was
accustomed to witness the blunting of the edge of his hopes and the
dulling of his desires when they were enacted.

Even his great sacrifice had been vain. It was always thus. His deeds
frightened men or made them jealous. When he conceived a fine thing, the
masses, individually or collectively, transformed it into something
cheap. His fort in the forest had been branded a hoax. His effort to
send himself through college and to rescue Charlotte from an unpleasant
life had ended in vulgar comedy. Even that had been her triumph, her
hour, and an incongruous strain of greatness had filtered through her
personality rather than his. Now his years in the war were reduced to
no grandeur, to a mere outlet for his savage instinct to destroy. After
such a life, he reflected, he could no longer visualize himself engaged
in any search for a comprehension of real values.

His mind was thorny with doubts. Seeing himself as a man made
hypocritical by his gifts and the narrowness of the world, discarding
his own problem as tragically solved, Hugo then looked upon the war as
the same sort of colossal error. A waste. Useless, hopeless, gaining
nothing but the temporal power which it so blatantly disavowed, it had
exacted the price of its tawdry excitement in lives, and, now that it
was almost finished, mankind was ready to emerge blank-faced and
panting, no better off than before.

His heart ached as he thought of the toil, the effort, the energy and
hope and courage that had been spilled over those mucky fields to
satisfy the lusts and foolish hates of the demagogues. He was no longer
angry. The memory of Lefty sitting smilingly on the van and calling that
he would see him later was too sharp an emotion to permit brain storms
and pyrotechnics.

If he could but have ended the war single-handed, it might have been
different. But he was not great enough for that. He had been a thousand
men, perhaps ten thousand, but he could not be millions. He could not
wrap his arms around a continent and squeeze it into submission. There
were too many people and they were too stupid to do more than fear him
and hate him. Sitting there, he realized that his naïve faith in
himself and the universe had foundered. The war was only another war
that future generations would find romantic to contemplate and dull to
study. He was only a species of genius who had missed his mark by a
cosmic margin.

When he considered his failure, he believed that he was not thinking
about himself. There he was, entrusted with special missions which he
accomplished no one knew how, and no one questioned in those hectic
days. Those who had seen him escape machine-gun fire, carry tons, leap a
hundred yards, kill scores, still clung to their original concepts of
mankind and discredited the miracle their own eyes had witnessed. Too
many strange things happened in that blasting carnival of destruction
for one strange sight or one strange man to leave a great mark. Personal
security was at too great a premium to leave much room for interest and
speculation. Even Captain Crouan believed he was only a man of freak
strength and Major Ingalls in his present situation was too busy to do
more than note that Hugo was capable and nod his head when Hugo reported
another signal victory, ascribing it to his long experience in the war
rather than to his peculiar abilities.

As he sat empty-eyed in the darkness, smoking cigarettes and breathing
in his own and the world's tragic futility, his own and the world's
abysmal sorrow, that stubborn ancestral courage and determination that
was in him still continued to lash his reason. "Even if the war is not
worth while," it whispered, "you have committed yourself to it. You are
bound and pledged to see it to the bitter end. You cannot finish it on a
declining note. To-night, to-morrow, you must begin again." At the same
time his lust for carnage stirred within him like a long-subdued demon.
Now he recognized it and knew that it must be mastered. But it combined
with his conscience to quicken his sinews anew.

It was a cold night, but Hugo perspired. Was he to go again into the
holocaust to avenge a friend? Was he to live over those crimson seconds
that followed the death of Shayne, all because he had helped a blind
friend into a _camion_? He knew that he was not. Never again could his
instinct so triumph over his reason. That was the greatest danger in
being Hugo Danner. That, he commenced to see, was the explanation of all
his suffering in the past. The idea warmed and encouraged him.
Henceforth his emotions and sentiments would be buried even deeper than
his first inbred caution had buried them. He would be a creature of
intelligence, master of his caprice as well as of the power he possessed
to carry out that caprice.

He lit a fresh cigarette and planned what he would do. On the next night
he would prepare himself very carefully. He would eat enormously,
provide himself with food and water, rest as much as he could, and then
start south and east in a plane. He would drive it far into Germany.
When its petrol failed, he would crash it. Stepping from the ruins, he
would hasten on in the darkness, on, on, like Pheidippides, till he
reached the centre of the enemy government. There, crashing through the
petty human barriers, he would perform his last feat, strangling the
Emperor, slaying the generals, pulling the buildings apart with his
Samsonian arms, and disrupting the control of the war.

He had dreamed of such an enterprise even before he had enlisted. But he
had known that he lacked sufficient stamina without a great internal
cause, and no rage, no blood-madness, was great enough to drive him to
that effort. With amazement he realized that a clenched determination
depending on the brain rather than the emotions was a greater catalyst
than any passion. He knew that he could do such a thing. In the warmth
of that knowledge he completed his plan tranquilly and retired. For
twelve hours, by order undisturbed, Hugo slept.

In the bright morning, he girded himself. He requisitioned the plane he
needed through Major Ingalls. He explained that requirement by saying
that he was going to bomb a battery of big guns. The plane offered was
an old one. Hugo had seen enough of flying in his French service to
understand its navigation. He ate the huge meal he had planned. And
then, a cool and grim man, he made his way to the hangar. In fifteen
minutes his last adventure would have commenced. But a dispatch rider,
charging on to the field in a roaring motor cycle, announced the
signing of the Armistice and the end of the war.

Hugo stood near his plane when he heard the news. Two men at his side
began to cry, one repeating over and over: "And I'm still alive, so help
me God. I wish I was dead, like Joey." Hugo was rigid. His first gesture
was to lift his clenched fist and search for an object to smash with it.
The fist lingered in the air. His rage passed--rage that would have
required a giant vent had it occurred two days sooner. He relaxed. His
arm fell. He ruffled his black hair; his blacker eyes stared and then
twinkled. His lips smiled for the first time in many months. His great
shoulders sagged. "I should have guessed it," he said to himself, and
entered the rejoicing with a fervour that was unexpected.



XVI


There must be in heaven a certain god--a paunchy, cynical god whose task
it is to arrange for each of the birthward-marching souls a set of
circumstances so nicely adjusted to its character that the result of its
life, in triumph or defeat, will be hinged on the finest of threads. So
Hugo must have felt coming home from war. He had celebrated the
Armistice hugely, not because it had spared his life--most of the pomp,
parade, bawdiness, and glory had originated in such a deliverance--but
because it had rescued him from the hot blast of destructiveness. An
instantaneous realization of that prevented despair. He had failed in
the hour of becoming death itself; such failure was fortunate because
life to him, even at the end of the war, seemed more the effort of
creation than the business of annihilation.

To know that had cost a struggle--a struggle that took place at the
hangar as the dispatch-bearer rode up and that remained crucial only
between the instant when he lifted his fist and when he lowered it.
Brevity made it no less intense; a second of time had resolved his soul
afresh, had redistilled it and recombined it.

Not long after that he started back to America. The mass of soldiers
surrounding him were undergoing a transition that Hugo felt vividly.
These men would wake up sweating at night and cry out until someone
whispered roughly that there were no more submarines. A door would slam
and one of them would begin to weep. There were whisperings and
bickerings about life at home, about what each person, disintegrated
again to individuality, would do and say and think. Little fears about
lost jobs and lost girls cropped out, were thrust back, came finally to
remain. And no one wanted life to be what it had been; no one considered
that it could be the same.

Hugo wrote to his family that the war was ended, that he was well, that
he expected to see them some time in the near future. The ship that
carried him reached the end of the blue sea; he was disembarked and
demobilized in New York. He realized even before he was accustomed to
the novelty of civilian clothes that a familiar, friendly city had
changed. The retrospective spell of the eighties and nineties had
vanished. New York was brand-new, blatant, rushing, prosperous. The
inheritance from Europe had been assimilated; a social reality, entirely
foreign and American, had been wrought and New York was ready to spread
it across the parent world. Those things were pressed quickly into
Hugo's mind by his hotel, the magazines, a chance novel of the precise
date, the cinema, and the more general, more indefinite human pulses.

After a few days of random inspection, of casual imbibing, he called
upon Tom Shayne's father. He would have preferred to escape all painful
reminiscing, but he went partly as a duty and partly from necessity: he
had no money whatever.

A butler opened the door of a large stone mansion and ushered Hugo to
the library, where Mr. Shayne rose eagerly. "I'm so glad you came. Knew
you'd be here soon. How are you?"

Hugo was slightly surprised. In his host's manner was the hardness and
intensity that he had observed everywhere. "I'm very well, thanks."

"Splendid! Cocktails, Smith."

There was a pause. Mr. Shayne smiled. "Well, it's over, eh?"

"Yes."

"All over. And now we've got to beat the spears into plowshares, eh?"

"We have."

Mr. Shayne chuckled. "Some of my spears were already made into plows,
and it was a great season for the harvest, young man--a great season."

Hugo was still uncertain of Mr. Shayne's deepest viewpoint. His
uncertainty nettled him. "The grim reaper has done some harvesting on
his own account--" He spoke almost rudely.

Mr. Shayne frowned disapprovingly. "I made up my mind to forget, Danner.
To forget and to buckle down. And I've done both. You'll want to know
what happened to the funds I handled for you--"

"I wasn't particularly--"

The older man shook his head with grotesque coyness. "Not so fast, not
so fast. You were particularly eager to hear. We're getting honest about
our emotions in this day and place. You're eaten with impatience.
Well--I won't hold out. Danner, I've made you a million. A clean, cold
million."

Hugo had been struggling in a rising tide of incomprehension; that
statement engulfed him. "Me? A million?"

"In the bank in your name waiting for a blonde girl."

"I'm afraid I don't exactly understand, Mr. Shayne."

The banker readjusted his glasses and swallowed a cocktail by tipping
back his head. Then he rose, paced across the broad carpet, and faced
Hugo. "Of course you don't understand. Well, I'll tell you about it.
Once you did a favour for me which has no place in this conversation."
He hesitated; his face seemed to flinch and then to be jerked back to
its former expression. "In return I've done a little for you. And I want
to add a word to the gift of your bank book. You have, if you're
careful, leisure to enjoy life, freedom, the world at your feet. No
more strife for you, no worry, and no care. Take it. Be a hedonist.
There is nothing else. I've lain in bed nights enjoying the life that
lies ahead of you, my boy. Vicariously voluptuous. Catchy phrase, isn't
it? My own. I want to see you do it up brown."

Hugo rubbed his hand across his forehead. It was not long ago that this
same man had sat at an _estaminet_ and wept over snatches of a childhood
which death had made sacred. Here he stood now, asking that a life be
done up brown, and meaning cheap, obvious things. He wished that he had
never called on Tom's father.

"That wasn't my idea of living--" he said slowly.

"It will be. Forget the war. It was a dream. I realized it suddenly. If
I had not, I would still be--just a banker. Not a great banker. The
great banker. I saw, suddenly, that it was a dream. The world was mad.
So I took my profit from it, beginning on the day I saw."

"How, exactly?"

"Eh?"

"I mean--how did you profit by the war?"

Mr. Shayne smiled expansively. "What was in demand then, my boy? What
were the stupid, traduced, misguided people raising billions to get?
What? Why, shells, guns, foodstuffs. For six months I had a corner on
four chemicals vitally necessary to the government. And the government
got them--at my price. I owned a lot of steel. I mixed food and
diplomacy in equal parts--and when the pie was opened, it was full of
solid gold."

Hugo's voice was strange. "And that is the way--my money was made?"

"It is." Mr. Shayne perceived that Hugo was angry. "Now, don't get
sentimental. Keep your eye on the ball. I--" He did not finish, because
Mrs. Shayne came into the room. Hugo stared at him fixedly, his face
livid, for several seconds before he was conscious of her. Even then it
was only a partial consciousness.

She was stuffed into a tight, bright dress. She was holding out her
hand, holding his hand, holding his hand too long. There was mascara
around her eyes and they dilated and blinked in a foolish and
flirtatious way; her voice was syrup. She was taking a cocktail with the
other hand--maybe if he gave her hand a real squeeze, she would let go.
A tall, sallow young man had come in behind her; he was Mr. Jerome
Leonardo Bateau, a perfect dear. Mrs. Shayne was still holding his hand
and murmuring; Mr. Shayne was patting his shoulder; Mr. Bateau was
staring with haughty and jealous eyes. Hugo excused himself.

In the hall he asked for Mr. Shayne's secretary. He collected himself in
a few frigid sentences. "Please tell Mr. Shayne I am very grateful. I
wish to transfer my entire fortune to my parents in Indian Creek,
Colorado. The name is Abednego Danner. Make all arrangements."

A faint "But--" followed him futilely through the door. In the space of
a block he had cut a pace that set other pedestrians gaping to a fast
walk.



XVII


Hugo sat in Madison Square Park giving his attention in a circuit to the
Flatiron Building, the clock on the Metropolitan Tower, and the creeping
barrage of traffic that sent people scampering, stopped, moved forward
again. He had sat on the identical bench at the identical time of day
during his obscure undergraduate period. To repeat that contemplative
stasis after so much living had intervened ought to have produced an
emotion. He had gone to the park with that idea. But the febrile fires
of feeling were banked under the weight of many things and he could
suffer nothing, enjoy nothing and think but one fragmentary routine.

He had tried much and made no progress. He would be forced presently to
depart on a different course from a new threshold. That idea went round
and round in his head like a single fly in a big room. It lost poignancy
and eventually it lost meaning. Still he sat in feeble sunshine trying
to move beyond stagnancy. He remembered the small man with the huge
roll of bills who had moved beside him and asked for a cup of coffee. He
remembered the woman who had robbed him; silk ankles crossed his line of
vision, and a gusty appetite vaporized even as it steamed into the
coldness of his indecision.

He was without money now, as he had been then, so long ago. He budged on
the bench and challenged himself to think.

What would you do if you were the strongest man in the world, the
strongest thing in the world, mightier than the machine? He made himself
guess answers for that rhetorical query. "I would--I would have won the
war. But I did not. I would run the universe single-handed. Literally
single-handed. I would scorn the universe and turn it to my own ends. I
would be a criminal. I would rip open banks and gut them. I would kill
and destroy. I would be a secret, invisible blight. I would set out to
stamp crime off the earth; I would be a super-detective, following and
summarily punishing every criminal until no one dared to commit a
felony. What would I do? What will I do?"

Then he realized that he was hungry. He had not eaten enough in the last
few days. Enough for him. With some intention of finding work he had
left Mr. Shayne's house. A call on the telephone from Mr. Shayne himself
volunteering a position had crystallized that intention. In three days
he had discovered the vast abundance of young men, the embarrassment of
young men, who were walking along the streets looking for work. He who
had always worked with his arms and shoulders had determined to try to
earn his living with his head. But the white-collar ranks were teeming,
overflowing, supersaturated. He went down in the scale of clerkships and
inexperienced clerkships. There was no work.

Thence he had gone to the park, and presently he rose. He had seen the
clusters of men on Sixth Avenue standing outside the employment
agencies. He could go there. Any employment was better than hunger--and
he had learned that hunger could come swiftly and formidably to him.
Business was slack, hands were being laid off; where an apprentice was
required, three trained men waited avidly for work. It was appalling and
Hugo saw it as appalling. He was not frightened, but, as he walked, he
knew that it was a mistake to sit in the park with the myriad other men.
Walking made him feel better. It was action, it bred the thought that
any work was better than none. Work would not hinder his dreams,
meantime.

When he reached Forty-second Street he could see the sullen, watchful
groups of men. He joined one of them. A loose-jointed, dark-faced person
came down a flight of stairs, wrote on a blackboard in chalk, and went
up again. Several of the group detached themselves and followed him--to
compete for a chance to wash windows.

A man at his side spoke to him. "Tough, ain't it, buddy?"

"Yeah, it's tough," Hugo said.

"I got three bones left. Wanna join me in a feed an' get a job
afterward?"

Hugo looked into his eyes. They were troubled and desirous of
companionship. "No, thanks," he replied.

They waited for the man to scribble again in chalk.

"They was goin' to fix up everybody slick after the war. Oh, hell, yes."

"You in it?" Hugo asked.

"Up to my God-damned neck, buddy."

"Me, too. Guess I'll go up the line."

"I'll go witcha."

"Well--"

They waited a moment longer, for the man with the chalk had reappeared.
Hugo's comrade grunted. "Wash windows an' work in the steel mills. Break
your neck or burn your ear off. Wha' do they care?" Hugo had taken a
step toward the door, but the youth with the troubled eyes caught his
sleeve. "Don't go up for that, son. They burn you in them steel mills. I
seen guys afterward. Two years an' you're all done. This is tough, but
that's tougher. Sweet Jesus, I'll say it is."

Hugo loosened himself. "Gotta eat, buddy. I don't happen to have even
three bones available at the moment."

The man looked after him. "Gosh," he murmured. "Even guys like that."

He was in a dingy room standing before a grilled window. A voice from
behind it asked his name, age, address, war record. Hugo was handed a
piece of paper to sign and then a second piece that bore the scrawled
words: "Amalgamated Crucible Steel Corp., Harrison, N. J."

Hugo's emotional life was reawakened when he walked into the mills. His
last nickel was gone. He had left the train at the wrong station and
walked more than a mile. He was hungry and cold. He came, as if naked,
to the monster and he did it homage.

Its predominant colour scheme was black and red. It had a loud, pagan
voice. It breathed fire. It melted steel and rock and drank human sweat,
with human blood for an occasional stimulant. On every side of him were
enormous buildings and woven between them a plaid of girders, cables,
and tracks across which masses of machinery moved. Inside, Thor was
hammering. Inside, a crane sped overhead like a tarantula, trailing its
viscera to the floor, dangling a gigantic iron rib. A white speck in its
wounded abdomen was a human face.

The bright metal gushed from another hole. It was livid and partially
alive; it was hot and had a smell; it swept away the thought of the dark
descending night. It made a pool in a great ladle; it made a cupful
dipped from a river in hell. A furnace exhaled sulphurously, darting a
snake's tongue into the sky. The mills roared and the earth shook. It
was bestial, reptilian--labour, and the labour of creation, and the
engine that turned the earth could be no more terrible.

Hugo, standing sublimely small in its midst, measured his strength
against it, soaked up its warmth, shook his fist at it, and shouted in a
voice that could not be heard for a foot: "Christ Almighty! This--is
something!"

"Name?"

"Hugo Danner."

"Address?"

"None at present."

"Experience?"

"None."

"Married?"

"No."

"Union?"

"What?"

"Lemme see your union card."

"I don't belong."

"Well, you gotta join."

He went to the headquarters of the union. Men were there of all sorts.
The mills were taking on hands. There was reconstruction to be done
abroad and steel was needed. They came from Europe, for the most part.
Thickset, square-headed, small-eyed men. Men with expressionless faces
and bulging muscles that held more meaning than most countenances. They
gave him room and no more. They answered the same questions that he
answered. He stood in a third queue with them, belly to back, mouths
closed. He was sent to a lodging-house, advanced five dollars, and told
that he would be boarded and given a bed and no more until the
employment agency had taken its commission, and the union its dues. He
signed a paper. He went on the night shift without supper.

He ran a wheelbarrow filled with heavy, warm slag for a hundred feet
over a walk of loose bricks. The job was simple. Load, carry, dump,
return, load. On some later night he would count the number of loads.
But on this first night he walked with excited eyes, watching the
tremendous things that happened all around him. Men ran the machinery
that dumped the ladle. Men guided liquid iron from the furnaces into a
maze of channels and cloughs, clearing the way through the sand, cutting
off the stream, making new openings. Men wheeled the slag and steered
the trains and trams and cranes. Men operated the hammers. And almost
all of the men were nude to the waist, sleek and shining with sweat;
almost all of them drank whisky.

One of the men in the wheelbarrow line even offered a drink to Hugo. He
held out the flask and bellowed in Czech. Hugo took it. The drink was
raw and foul. Pouring into his empty stomach, it had a powerful effect,
making him exalted, making him work like a demon. After a long, noisy
time that did not seem long a steam whistle screamed faintly and the
shift was ended.

The Czech accompanied Hugo through the door. The new shift was already
at work. They went out. A nightmare of brilliant orange and black fled
from Hugo's vision and he looked into the pale, remote chiaroscuro of
dawn.

"Me tired," the Czech said in a small, aimless tone.

They flung themselves on dirty beds in a big room. But Hugo did not
sleep for a time--not until the sun rose and day was evident in the
grimy interior of the bunk house.

That he could think while he worked had been Hugo's thesis when he
walked up Sixth Avenue. Now, working steadily, working at a thing that
was hard for other men and easy for him, he nevertheless fell into the
stolid vacuum of the manual labourer. The mills became familiar, less
fantastic. He remembered that oftentimes the war had given a more
dramatic passage of man's imagination forged into fire and steel.

His task was changed numerous times. For a while he puddled pig iron
with the long-handled, hoe-like tool.

"Don't slip in," they said. It was succinct, graphic.

Then they put him on the hand cars that fed the furnaces. It was
picturesque, daring, and for most men too hard. Few could manage the
weight or keep up with the pace. Those who did were honoured by their
fellows. The trucks were moved forward by human strength and dumped by
hand-windlasses. Occasionally, they said, you became tired and fell
into the furnace. Or jumped. If you got feeling woozy, they said, quit.
The high rails and red mouths were hypnotic, like burning Baal and the
Juggernaut.

Hugo's problems had been abandoned. He worked as hard as he dared. The
presence of grandeur and din made him content. How long it would have
lasted is uncertain; not forever. On the day when he had pushed up two
hundred and three loads during his shift, the boss stopped him in the
yard.

A tall, lean, acid man. He caught Hugo's sleeve and turned him round.
"You're one of the bastards on the furnace line."

"Yes."

"How many cars did you push up to-day?"

"Two hundred and three."

"What the hell do you think this is, anyway?"

"I don't get you."

"Oh, you don't, huh? Well, listen here, you God-damned athlete, what are
you trying to do? You got the men all sore--wearing themselves out. I
had to lay off three--why? Because they couldn't keep up with you,
that's why. Because they got their guts in a snarl trying to bust your
record. What do you think you're in? A race? Somebody's got to show you
your place around here and I think I'll just kick a lung out right now."

The boss had worked himself into a fury. He became conscious of an
audience of workers. Hugo smiled. "I wouldn't advise you to try
that--even if you are a big guy."

"What was that?" The words were roared. He gathered himself, but when
Hugo did not flinch, did not prepare himself, he was suddenly startled.
He remembered, perhaps, the two hundred and three cars. He opened his
fist. "All right. I ain't even goin' to bother myself tryin' to break
you in to this game. Get out."

"What?"

"Get out. Beat it. I'm firing you."

"Firing me? For working too hard?" Hugo laughed. He bent double with
laughter. His laughter sounded above the thunder of the mill. "Oh, God,
that's funny. Fire me!" He moved toward the boss menacingly. "I've a
notion to twist your liver around your neck myself."

The workers realized that an event of some magnitude was taking place.
They drew nearer. Hugo's laughter came again and changed into a
smile--an emotion that cooled visibly. Then swiftly he peeled up the
sleeve of his shirt. His fist clenched; his arm bent; under the nose of
his boss he caused his mighty biceps to swell. His whole body trembled.
With his other hand he took the tall man's fingers and laid them on that
muscle.

"Squeeze," he shouted.

The boss squeezed. His face grew pallid and he let go suddenly. He tried
to speak through his dry mouth, but Hugo had turned his back. At the
brick gate post he paused and drew a breath.

His words resounded like the crack of doom. "So long!"



XVIII


In the next four weeks Hugo knew the pangs of hunger frequently. He
found odd jobs, but none of them lasted. Once he helped to remove a late
snowstorm from the streets. He worked for five days on a subway
excavation. His clothes became shabby, he began to carry his razor in
his overcoat pocket and to sleep in hotels that demanded only
twenty-five cents for a night's lodging. When he considered the tens of
thousands of men in his predicament, he was not surprised at or ashamed
of himself. When, however, he dwelt on his own peculiar capacities, he
was both astonished and ashamed to meander along the dreary pavements.

Hunger did curious things to him. He had moments of fury, of imagined
violence, and other moments of fantasy when he dreamed of a rich and
noble life. Sometimes he meditated the wisdom of devouring one
prodigious meal and fleeing through the dead of night to the warm south.
Occasionally he considered going back to his family in Colorado. His
most bitter hours were spent in thinking of Mr. Shayne and of accepting
a position in one of Mr. Shayne's banks.

In his maculate, threadbare clothes, with his dark, aquiline face
matured by the war he was a sharp contrast of facts and possibilities.
It never occurred to him that he was young, that his dissatisfaction,
his idealism, his _Weltschmertz_ were integral to the life-cycle of
every man.

At the end of four weeks, with hunger gnawing so avidly at his core that
he could not pass a restaurant without twitching muscles and quivering
nerves, he turned abruptly from the street into a cigar store and
telephoned to Mr. Shayne. The banker was full of sound counsel and ready
charity. Hugo regretted the call as soon as he heard Mr. Shayne's voice;
he regretted it when he was ravishing a luxurious dinner at Mr. Shayne's
expense. It was the weakest thing he had done in his life.

Nevertheless he accepted the position offered by Mr. Shayne. That same
evening he rented a small apartment, and, lying on his bed, a clean bed,
he wondered if he really cared about anything or about anyone. In the
morning he took a shower and stood for a long time in front of the
mirror on the bathroom door, staring at his nude body as if it were a
rune he might learn to read, an enigma he might solve by concentration.
Then he went to work. His affiliation with the Down Town Savings Bank
lasted into the spring and was terminated by one of the oddest
incidents of his career.

Until the day of that incident his incumbency was in no way unusual. He
was one of the bank's young men, receiving fifty dollars weekly to learn
the banking business. They moved him from department to department,
giving him mentally menial tasks which afforded him in each case a
glimpse of a new facet of financial technique. It was fairly
interesting. He made no friends and he worked diligently.

One day in April when he had returned from lunch and a stroll in the
environs of the Battery--returned to a list of securities and a strip
from an adding machine, which he checked item by item--he was conscious
of a stirring in his vicinity. A woman employee on the opposite side of
a wire wicket was talking shrilly. A vice-president rose from his desk
and hastened down the corridor, his usually composed face suddenly white
and disconcerted. The tension was cumulative. Work stopped and clusters
of people began to chatter. Hugo joined one of them.

"Yeah," a boy was saying, "it's happened before. A couple o' times."

"How do they know he's there?"

"They got a telephone goin' inside and they're talkin' to him."

"I'll be damned."

The boy nodded rapidly. "Yeah--some talk! Tellin' him what to try
next."

"Poor devil!"

"What's the matter?" Hugo asked.

The boy was glad of a new and uninformed listener. "Aw, some dumb vault
clerk got himself locked in, an' the locks jammed an' they can't get him
out."

"Which vault? The big one?"

"Naw. The big one's got pipes for that kinda trouble. The little one
they moved from the old building."

"It's not so darn little at that," someone said.

Another person, a man, chuckled. "Not so darn. But there isn't air in
there to last three hours. Caughlin said so."

"Honest to God?"

"Honest. An' he's been there more than an hour already."

"Jeest!" There was a pregnant, pictorial silence. Someone looked at
Hugo.

"What's eatin' you, Danner? Scared?"

His face was tense and his hands were opening and closing convulsively.
"No," he answered. "Guess I'll go down and have a look."

He rang for an elevator in the corridor and was carried to the basement.
In the small room on which the vault opened were five or six people,
among them a woman who seemed to command the situation. The men were all
smoking; their attitudes were relaxed, their voices hushed.

One repeated nervously: "Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ, Jesus Christ."

"That won't help, Mr. Quail. I've sent for the expert and he will
probably have the safe open in a short time."

"Blowtorches?" the swearing man asked abruptly.

"Absurd. He would cook before he was out. And three feet of steel and
then two feet more."

"Nitroglycerin?"

"And make jelly out of him?" The woman tapped her finger-nails with her
glasses.

Another arrival, who carried a small satchel, talked with her in an
undertone and then took off his coat. He went first to a telephone on
the wall and said: "Gi' me the inside of the vault. Hello.... Hello? You
there? Are you all right?... Try that combination again." The
safe-expert held the wire and waited. Not even the faintest sounds of
the attempt were audible in the front room. "Hello? You tried it?...
Well, see if those numbers are in this order." He repeated a series of
complicated directions. Finally he hung up. "Says it's getting pretty
stuffy in there. Says he's lying down on the floor."

People came and went. The president himself walked in calmly and
occupied a chair. He lit a cigar, puffed on it, and stared with
ruminative eyes at the shiny mechanism on the front of the safe.

"We are doing everything possible," the woman said to him crisply.

"Of course," he nodded. "I called up the insurance company. We're amply
covered." A pause. "Mrs. Robinson, post one of the guards to keep
people from running in and out of here. There are enough around
already."

No one had given Hugo any attention. He stood quietly in the background.
The expert worked and all eyes were on him. Occasionally he muttered to
himself. The hands of an electric clock moved along in audible jerks.
Nearly an hour passed and the room had become hazy with tobacco smoke.
The man working on the safe was moist with perspiration. His blue shirt
was a darker blue around the armpits. He lit a cigarette, set it down,
whirled the dials again, lit another cigarette while the first one
burned a chair arm, and threw a crumpled, empty package on the floor.

At last he went to the phone again. He waited for some time before it
was answered, and he was compelled to make the man inside repeat
frequently. The new series of stratagems was without result. Before he
went again to his labours, he addressed the group. "Air getting pretty
bad, I guess."

"Is it dark?" one of them asked tremulously.

"No."

Fifteen minutes more. The expert glanced at the bank's president,
hesitated, struggled frenziedly for a while, and then sighed. "I'm
afraid I can't get him out, sir. The combination is jammed and the
time-lock is all off."

The president considered. "Do you know of anyone else who could do
this?"

The man shook his head. "No. I'm supposed to be the best. I've been
called out for this--maybe six times. I never missed before. You see, we
make this safe--or we used to make it. And I'm a specialist. It looks
serious."

The president took his cigar from his mouth. "Well, go ahead
anyway--until it's too late."

Hugo stepped away from the wall. "I think I can get him out."

They turned toward him. The president looked at him coldly. "And who are
you?"

Mrs. Robinson answered. "He's the new man Mr. Shayne recommended so
highly."

"Ah. And how do you propose to get him out, young man?"

Hugo stood pensively for a moment. "By methods known only to me. I am
certain I can do it--but I will undertake it only if you will all leave
the room."

"Ridiculous!" Mrs. Robinson said.

The president's mouth worked. He looked more sharply at Hugo. Then he
rose. "Come on, everybody." He spoke quietly to Hugo. "You have a nerve.
How much time do you want?"

"Five minutes."

"Only five minutes," the president murmured as he walked from the
chamber.

Hugo did not move until they had all gone. Then he locked the door
behind them. He walked to the safe and rapped on it tentatively with his
knuckles. He removed his coat and vest. He planted his feet against the
steel sill under the door. He caught hold of the two handles, fidgeted
with his elbows, drew a deep breath, and pulled. There was a resonant,
metallic sound. Something gave. The edge of the seven-foot door moved
outward and a miasma steamed through the aperture. Hugo changed his
stance and took the door itself in his hands. His back bent. He pulled
again. With a reverberating clang and a falling of broken steel it swung
out. Hugo dragged the man who lay on the floor to a window that gave on
a grated pit. He broke the glass with his fist. The clerk's chest heaved
violently; he panted, opened his eyes, and closed them tremblingly.

Hugo put on his coat and vest and unlocked the door. The people outside
all moved toward him.

"It's all right," Hugo said. "He's out."

Mrs. Robinson glanced at the clerk and walked to the safe. "He's ruined
it!" she said in a shrill voice.

The president was behind her. He looked at the handles of the vault,
which had been bent like hair-pins, and he stooped to examine the
shattered bolts. Then his eyes travelled to Hugo. There was a profoundly
startled expression in them.

The clerk was sobbing. Presently he stopped. "Who got me out?"

They indicated Hugo and he crossed the floor on tottering feet. "Thanks,
mister," he said piteously. "Oh, my God, what a wonderful thing to do!
I--I just passed out when I saw your fingers reaching around--"

"Never mind," Hugo interrupted. "It's all right, buddy."

The president touched his shoulder. "Come up to my office." A doctor
arrived. Several people left. Others stood around the demolished door.

The president was alone when Hugo entered and sat down. He was cold and
he eyed Hugo coldly. "How did you do that?"

Hugo shrugged. "That's my secret, Mr. Mills."

"Pretty clever, I'd say."

"Not when you know how." Hugo was puzzled. His ancient reticence about
himself was acting together with a natural modesty.

"Some new explosive?"

"Not exactly."

"Electricity? Magnetism? Thought-waves?"

Hugo chuckled. "No. All wrong."

"Could you do it on a modern safe?"

"I don't know."

President Mills rubbed his fingers on the mahogany desk. "I presume you
were planning that for other purposes?"

"What!" Hugo said.

"Very well done. Very well acted. I will play up to you, Mr.--"

"Danner."

"Danner. I'll play up to this assumption of innocence. You have saved a
man's life. You are, of course, blushingly modest. But you have shown
your hand rather clearly. Hmmm." He smiled sardonically. "I read a book
about a safe-cracker who opened a safe to get a child out--at the
expense of his liberty and position--or at the hazard of them, anyhow.
Maybe you have read the same book."

"Maybe," Hugo answered icily.

"Safe-crackers--blasters, light fingers educated to the dials, and ears
attuned to the tumblers--we can cope with those things, Mr.--"

"Danner."

"But this new stunt of yours. Well, until we find out what it is, we
can't let you go. This is business, Mr. Danner. It involves money,
millions, the security of American finance, of the very nation. You will
understand. Society cannot afford to permit a man like you to go at
large until it has a thoroughly effective defence against you. Society
must disregard your momentary sacrifice, momentary nobleness. Your
process, unknown by us, constitutes a great social danger. I do not dare
overlook it. I cannot disregard it even after the service you have
done--even if I thought you never intended to put it to malicious use."

Hugo's thoughts were far away--to the fort he had built when he was a
child in Colorado, to the wagon he had lifted up, to the long,
discouraging gauntlet of hard hearts and frightened eyes that his
miracles had met with. His voice was wistful when, at last, he addressed
the banker.

"What do you propose to do?"

"I shan't bandy words, Danner. I propose to hang on to you until I get
that secret. And I shall be absolutely without mercy. That is frank, is
it not?"

"Quite."

"You comprehend the significance of the third degree?"

"Not clearly."

"You will learn about it--unless you are reasonable."

Hugo bowed sadly. The president pressed a button. Two policemen came
into the room. "McClaren has my instructions," he said.

"Come on." Hugo rose and stood between them. He realized that the whole
pantomime of his arrest was in earnest. For one brief instant the
president was given a glimpse of a smile, a smile that worried him for a
long time. He was so worried that he called McClaren on the telephone
and added to his already abundant instructions.

A handful of bystanders collected to watch Hugo cross from the bank to
the steel patrol wagon. It moved forward and its bell sounded. The
policemen had searched Hugo and now they sat dumbly beside him. He was
handcuffed to both of them. Once he looked down at the nickel bonds and
up at the dull faces. His eyebrows lifted a fraction of an inch.

Captain McClaren received Hugo in a bare room shadowed by bars. He was a
thick-shouldered, red-haired man with a flabby mouth from which
protruded a moist and chewed toothpick. His eyes were blue and bland.
He made Hugo strip nude and gave him a suit of soiled clothes. Hugo
remained alone in that room for thirty hours without food or water. The
strain of that ordeal was greater than his jailers could have conceived,
but he bore it with absolute stoicism.

Early in the evening of the second day the lights in the room were put
out, a glaring automobile lamp was set up on a table, he was seated in
front of it, and men behind the table began to question him in voices
that strove to be terrible. They asked several questions and ultimately
boiled them down to one: "How did you get that safe open?" which was
bawled at him and whispered hoarsely at him from the darkness behind the
light until his mind rang with the words, until he was waiting
frantically for each new issue of the words, until sweat glistened on
his brow and he grew weak and nauseated. His head ached splittingly and
his heart pounded. They desisted at dawn, gave him a glass of water,
which he gulped, and a dose of castor oil, which he allowed them to
force into his mouth. A few hours later they began again. It was night
before they gave up.

The remnant of Hugo's clenched sanity was dumbfounded at what followed
after that. They beat his face with fists that shot from the blackness.
They threw him to the floor and kicked him. When his skin did not burst
and he did not bleed, they beat and kicked more viciously. They lashed
him with rubber hoses. They twisted his arms as far as they
could--until the bones of an ordinary man would have become dislocated.

Except for thirst and hunger and the discomfort caused by the castor
oil, Hugo did not suffer. They refined their torture slowly. They tried
to drive a splinter under his nails; they turned on the lights and drank
water copiously in his presence; they finally brought a blowtorch and
prepared to brand him. Hugo perceived that his invulnerability was to
stand him in stead no longer. His tongue was swollen, but he could still
talk. Sitting placidly in his bonds, he watched the soldering iron grow
white in the softly roaring flame. When, in the full light that shone on
the bare and hideous room, they took up the iron and approached him,
Hugo spoke.

"Wait. I'll tell you."

McClaren put the iron back. "You will, eh?"

"No."

"Oh, you won't."

"I shan't tell you, McClaren; I'll show you. And may God have mercy on
your filthy soul."

There were six men in the room. Hugo looked from one to another. He
could tolerate nothing more; he had followed the course of President
Mills's social theory far enough to be surfeited with it. There was
decision in his attitude, and not one of the six men who had worked his
torment in relays could have failed to feel the chill of that decision.
They stood still. McClaren's voice rang out: "Cover him, boys."

Hugo stretched. His bonds burst; the chair on which he sat splintered to
kindling. Six revolvers spat simultaneously. Hugo felt the sting of the
bullets. Six chambers were emptied. The room eddied smoke. There was a
harsh silence.

"Now," Hugo said gently, "I will demonstrate how I opened that safe."

"Christ save us," one of the men whispered, crossing himself.

McClaren was frozen still. Hugo walked to the wall of the jail and
stabbed his fist through it. Brick and mortar burst out on the other
side and fell into the cinder yard. Hugo kicked and lashed with his
fists. A large hole opened. Then he turned to the men. They broke toward
the door, but he caught them one by one--and one by one he knocked them
unconscious. That much was for his own soul. Only McClaren was left. He
carried McClaren to the hole and dropped him into the yard. He wrenched
open the iron gate and walked out on the street, holding the policeman
by the arm. McClaren fainted twice and Hugo had to keep him upright by
clinging to his collar. It was dark. He hailed a cab and lifted the man
in.

"Just drive out of town," Hugo said.

McClaren came to. They bumped along for miles and he did not dare to
speak. The apartment buildings thinned. Street lights disappeared. They
traversed a stretch of woodland and then rumbled through a small town.

"Who are you?" McClaren said.

"I'm just a man, McClaren--a man who is going to teach you a lesson."

The taxi was on a smooth turnpike. It made swift time. Twice Hugo
satisfied the driver that the direction was all right. At last, on a
deserted stretch, Hugo called to the driver to stop. McClaren thought
that he was going to die. He did not plead. Hugo still held him by the
arm and helped him from the cab.

"Got any money on you?" Hugo asked.

"About twenty dollars."

"Give me five."

With trembling fingers McClaren produced the bill. He put the remainder
of his money back in his pocket automatically. The taxi-driver was
watching, but Hugo ignored him.

"McClaren," he said soberly, "here's your lesson. I just happen to be
the strongest man in the world. Never tell anybody that. And don't tell
anyone where I took you to-night--wherever it is. I shan't be here
anyway. If you tell either of those two things, I'll eat you. Actually.
There was a poor devil smothering in that safe and I yanked it open and
dragged him out. As a reward you and your dirty scavengers were put to
work on me. If I weren't as merciful as God Himself, you'd all be dead.
Now, that's your lesson. Keep your mouth shut. Here is the final
parable."

Still holding the policeman's arm, he walked to the taxi and, to the
astonishment of the driver, gripped the axle in one hand, lifted up the
front end like a derrick, and turned the entire car around. He put
McClaren in the back seat.

"Don't forget, McClaren." To the driver: "Back to where you picked us
up. The bird in the back seat will be glad to pay."

The red lamp of the cab vanished. Hugo turned in the other direction and
began to run in great leaps. He slowed when he came to a town. A light
was burning in an all-night restaurant. Hugo produced the five-dollar
bill.

"Give me a bucket of water--and put on about five steaks. Five."



XIX


It was bright morning when Hugo awoke. Through the window-pane in the
room where he had slept, he could see a straggling back yard; damp
clothes moved in the breeze, and beyond was a depression green with
young shoots. He descended to the restaurant and ate his breakfast.
Automobiles were swishing along the road outside and he could hear a
clatter of dishes in the kitchen. Afterwards he went out doors and
walked through the busy centre of the village and on into the country.

Sun streamed upon him; the sky was blue; birds twittered in the budding
bushes. He had almost forgotten the beauty and peacefulness of
springtime; now it came over him with a rush--pastel colours and fecund
warmth, smells of earth and rain, melodious, haphazard wind. He knew
intuitively that McClaren would never send for him; he wondered what Mr.
Mills would say to Mr. Shayne about him. Both thoughts passed like white
clouds over his mind and he forgot them for an indolent vegetative
tranquillity.

The road curved over hills and descended into tinted valleys. Farmers
were ploughing and planting. The men at the restaurant had told him that
he was in Connecticut. That did not matter, for any other place would
have been the same on this May morning. A truck-driver offered him a
ride, which Hugo refused, and then, watching the cubic van surge away in
the distance, he wished fugitively that he had accepted.

Two half dollars and a quarter jingled in his pocket. His suit was seedy
and his beard unshaven. A picture of New York ran through his mind: he
stood far off from it gazing at the splendour of its towers in the
morning light; he came closer and the noise of it smote his ears;
suddenly he plunged into the city, his perspective vanished, and there
rose about him the ugly, unrelated, inchoate masses of tawdriness that
had been glorious from a distance, while people--dour, malicious,
selfish people who scuttled like ants--supplanted the vista of stone and
steel. The trite truth of the ratio between approach and enchantment
amused him. It was so obvious, yet so few mortals had the fine sense to
withdraw themselves. He was very happy walking tirelessly along that
road.

After his luncheon he allowed a truck to carry him farther from the
city, deeper into the magic of spring. The driver bubbled with it--he
wore a purple tulip in his greasy cap and he slowed down on the
hilltops with an unassuming reverence and a naïve slang that fitted well
with Hugo's mood. When he reached his destination, Hugo walked on with
reluctance. Shadows of the higher places moved into the lowlands. He
crossed a brook and leaned over its middle on the bridge rail,
fascinated by an underwater landscape, complete, full of colour, less
than a foot high. From every side came the strident music of frogs.
Spring, spring, spring, they sang, rolling their liquid gutturals and
stopping abruptly when he came too near.

In the evening, far from the city, he turned from the pavement on a
muddy country road, walking on until he reached the skeleton of an old
house. There he lay down, taking his supper from his pocket and eating
it slowly. The floor of the second story had fallen down and he could
see the stars through a hole in the roof. In such houses, he thought,
the first chapters of American history had been lived. When it was
entirely dark, a whippoorwill began to make its sweet and mournful
music. Warmth and chilliness came together from the ground. He slept.

In the morning he followed the road into the hills. Long stretches of
woodland were interrupted by fields. He passed farmhouses and the paved
drive of an estate. More than a mile from the deserted farm, more than
two miles from the main road, half hidden in a skirt of venerable trees,
he saw an old, green house behind which was a row of barns. It was a
big house; tile medallions had been set in its foundations by an
architect whose tombstone must now be aslant and illegible. It was built
on a variety of planes and angles; gables cropped at random from its
mossy roof. Grass grew in the broad yard under the trees, and in the
grass were crocuses, yellow and red and blue, like wind-strewn confetti.

Hugo paused to contemplate this peaceful edifice. A man walked briskly
from one of the barn doors. He perceived Hugo and stopped, holding a
spade in his hand. Then, after starting across to the house, he changed
his mind and, dropping the spade, approached Hugo.

"Looking for work, my man?"

Hugo smiled. "Why--yes."

"Know anything about cattle?"

"I was reared in a farming country."

"Good." He scrutinized Hugo minutely. "I'll try you at eight dollars a
week, room, and board." He opened the gate.

Hugo paused. The notion of finding employment somewhere in the country
had been fixed in his mind and he wondered why he waited, even as he
did, when the charm of the old manor had offered itself to him as if by
a miracle. The man swung open the gate; he was lithe, sober, direct.

"My name is Cane--Ralph Cane. We raise blooded Guernsey stock here. At
the moment we haven't a man."

"I see," Hugo said.

"I could make the eight ten--in a week--if you were satisfactory."

"I wasn't considering the money--"

"How?"

"I wasn't considering the money."

"Oh! Come in. Try it." An eagerness was apparent in his tone. While Hugo
still halted on a knoll of indecision, a woman opened the French windows
which lined one façade of the house and stepped down from the porch. She
was very tall and very slender. Her eyes were slaty blue and there was a
delicate suggestion--almost an apparition--of grey in her hair.

"What is it, Ralph?" Her voice was cool and pitched low.

"This is my wife," Cane said.

"My name is Danner."

Cane explained. "I saw this man standing by the gate, and now I'm hiring
him."

"I see," she said. She looked at Hugo. The crystalline substance of her
eyes glinted transiently with some inwardness--surprise, a vanishing
gladness, it might have been. "You are looking for work?"

"Yes," Hugo answered.

Cane spoke hastily. "I offered him eight a week and board, Roseanne."

She glanced at her husband and returned her attention inquisitively to
Hugo. "Are you interested?"

"I'll try it."

Cane frowned nervously, walked to his wife, and nodded with averted
face. Then he addressed Hugo: "You can sleep in the barn. We have
quarters there. I don't think we'll be in for any more cold weather. If
you'll come with me now, I'll start you right in."

Until noon Hugo cleaned stables. There were two dozen cows--animals that
would have seemed beautiful to a rustic connoisseur--and one lordly bull
with malignant horns and bloodshot eyes. He shoveled the pungent and not
offensive débris into a wheelbarrow and transferred it to a dung-heap
that sweated with internal humidity. At noon Cane came into the barn.

"Pretty good," he said, viewing floors fairly shaved by Hugo's
diligence. "Lunch is ready. You'll eat in the kitchen."

Hugo saw the woman again. She was toiling over a stove, her hair in
disarray, a spotted apron covering her long body. He realized that they
had no servants, that the three of them constituted the human
inhabitants of the estate--but there were shades, innumerable shades, of
a long past, and some of those ghosts had crept into Roseanne's slaty
eyes. She carried lunch for herself and her husband into a front room
and left him to eat in the soft silence.

After lunch Cane spoke to him again. "Can you plough?"

"It's been a long time--but I think so."

"Good. I have a team. We'll drive to the north field. I've got to start
getting the corn in pretty soon."

The room in the barn was bare: four board walls, a board ceiling and
floor, an iron cot, blankets, the sound and smell of the cows beneath.
Hugo slept dreamlessly, and when he woke, he was ravenous.

His week passed. Cane drove him like a slave-master, but to drive Hugo
was an unhazardous thing. He did not think much, and when he did, it was
to read the innuendo of living that was written parallel to the
existence of his employer and Roseanne. They were troubled with each
other. Part of that trouble sprang from an evident source: Cane was a
miser. He resented the amount of food that Hugo consumed, despite the
unequal ratio of Hugo's labours. When Hugo asked for a few dollars in
advance, he was curtly refused. That had happened at lunch one day.
After lunch, however, and evidently after Cane had debated with his
wife, he inquired of Hugo what he wanted. A razor and some shaving
things and new trousers, Hugo had said.

Cane drove the station wagon to town and returned with the desired
articles. He gave them to Hugo.

"Thank you," Hugo said.

Cane chuckled, opening his thin lips wide. "All right, Danner. As a
matter of fact, it's money in my bank."

"Money in your bank?"

"Sure. I've lived here for years and I get a ten-per-cent discount at
the general store. But I'm charging you full price--naturally."

"Naturally," Hugo agreed.

That was one thing that would make the tribulation in her eyes. Hugo
wished that he could have met these two people on a different basis, so
that he could have learned the truth about them. It was plain that they
were educated, cultured, refined. Cane had said something once about
raising cattle in England, and Roseanne had cooked peas as she had
learned to cook them in France. "_Petits pois au beurre_," she had
murmured--with an unimpeachable accent.

Then the week had passed and there had been no mention of the advance in
wages. For himself, Hugo did not care. But it was easy to see why no one
had been working on the place when Hugo arrived, why they were eager to
hire a transient stranger.

He learned part of what he had already guessed from a clerk in the
general store. One of the cows was ailing. Mr. Cane could not drive to
town (Mrs. Cane, it seemed, never left the house and its environs) and
they had sent Hugo.

"You working for the Canes?" the clerk had asked.

"Yes."

"Funny people."

Hugo replied indirectly. "Have they lived here long?"

"Long? Roseanne Cane was a Bishop. The Bishops built that house and the
house before it--back in the seventeen hundreds. They had a lot of
money. Have it still, I guess, but Cane's too tight to spend it." There
was nothing furtive in the youth's manner; he was evidently touching on
common village gossip. "Yes, sir, too tight. Won't give her a maid. But
before her folks died, it was Europe every year and a maid for every one
of 'em, and 'Why, deary, don't tell me that's the second time you've put
on that dress! Take it right off and never wear it again.'" The joke was
part of the formula for telling about the Canes, and the clerk snickered
appreciatively. "Yes, sir. You come down here some day when I ain't got
the Friday orders to fill an' I'll tell you some things about old man
Cane that'll turn your stummick."

Hugo accepted his bundle, set it in the seat beside himself, and drove
back to the big, green house.

Later in the day he said to Cane: "If you will want me to drive the
station wagon very often, I ought to have a license."

"Go ahead. Get one."

"I couldn't afford it at the moment, and since it would be entirely for
you, I thought--"

"I see," Cane answered calmly. "Trying to get a license out of me. Well,
you're out of luck. You probably won't be needed as a chauffeur again
for the next year. If you are, you'll drive without a license, and drive
damn carefully, too, because any fines or any accidents would come out
of your wages."

Hugo received the insult unmoved. He wondered what Cane would say if he
smashed the car and made an escape. He knew he would not do it; the
whole universe appeared so constructed that men like Cane inevitably
avoided their desserts.

June came, and July. The sea-shore was not distant and occasionally at
night Hugo slipped away from the woods and lay on the sand, sometimes
drinking in the firmament, sometimes closing his eyes. When it was very
hot he undressed behind a pile of barnacle-covered boulders and swam far
out in the water. He swam naked, unmolested, stirring up tiny whirlpools
of phosphorescence, and afterwards, damp and cool, he would dress and
steal back to the barn through the forest and the hay-sweet fields.

One day a man in Middletown asked Mr. Cane to call on him regarding the
possible purchase of three cows. Cane's cows were raised with the
maximum of human care, the minimum of extraneous expense. His profit on
them was great and he sold them, ordinarily, one at a time. He was so
excited at the prospect of a triple sale that for a day he was almost
gay, very nearly generous. He drove off blithely--not in the sedan, but
in the station wagon, because its gasoline mileage was greater.

It was a day filled with wonder for Hugo. When Cane drove from the
house, Roseanne was standing beside the drive. She walked over to the
barn and said to Hugo in an oddly agitated voice: "Mr. Danner, could you
spare an hour or two this morning to help me get some flowers from the
woods?"

"Certainly."

She glanced in the direction her husband had taken and hurried to the
kitchen, returning presently with two baskets and a trowel. He followed
her up the road. They turned off on an overgrown path, pushed through
underbrush, and arrived in a few minutes at the side of a pond. The
edges were grown thick with bushes and water weeds, dead trees lifted
awkward arms at the upper end, and dragon flies skimmed over the warm
brown water.

"I used to come here to play when I was a little girl," she said. "It's
still just the same." She wore a blue dress; branches had dishevelled
her hair; she seemed more alive than he had ever seen her.

"It's charming," Hugo answered.

"There used to be a path all the way around--with stones crossing the
brook at the inlet. And over there, underneath those pine trees, there
are some orchids. I've always wanted to bring them down to the house. I
think I could make them grow. Of course, this is a bad time to
transplant anything--but I so seldom get a chance. I can't remember
when--when--"

He realized with a shock that she was going to cry. She turned her head
away and peered into the green wall. "I think it's here," she said
tremulously.

They followed a dimly discernible trail; there were deer tracks in it
and signs of other animals whose feet had kept it passable. It was hot
and damp and they were forced to bend low beneath the tangle to make
progress. Almost suddenly they emerged in a grove of white pines. They
stood upright and looked: wind stirred sibilantly in the high tops, and
the ground underfoot was a soft carpet; the lake reflected the blue of
the sky instead of the brown of its soft bottom.

"Let's rest a minute," she said. And then: "I always think a pine grove
is like a cathedral. I read somewhere that pines inspired Gothic
architecture. Do you suppose it's true?"

"There was the lotos and the Corinthian column," Hugo answered.

They sat down. This was a new emotion--a paradoxical emotion for him. He
had come to an inharmonious sanctuary and he could expect both tragedy
and enchantment. There was Roseanne herself, a hidden beautiful thing in
whom were prisoned many beauties. She was growing old in the frosty
seclusion of her husband's company. She was feeding on the toothless
food of dreams when her hunger was still strong. That much anyone might
see; the reason alone remained invisible. He was acutely conscious of an
hour at hand, an imminent moment of vision.

"You're a strange man," she said finally.

That was to be the password. "Yes?"

"I've watched you every day from the kitchen window." Her depression
had gone now and she was talking with a vague excitement.

"Have you?"

"Do you mind if we pretend for a minute?"

"I'd like it."

"Then let's pretend this is a magic carpet and we've flown away from the
world and there's nothing to do but play. Play," she repeated musingly.
"I'll be Roseanne and you'll be Hugo. You see, I found out your name
from the letters. I found out a lot about you. Not facts like born,
occupation, father's first name; just--things."

He dared a little then. "What sort of things, Roseanne?"

She laughed. "I knew you could do it! That's one of them. I found out
you had a soul. Souls show even in barn-yards. You looked at the peonies
one day and you played with the puppies the next. In one
way--Hugo--you're a failure as a farm hand."

"Failure?"

"A flop. You never make a grammatical mistake." She saw his surprise and
laughed again. "And your manners--and, then, you understood French.
See--the carpet is taking us higher and farther away. Isn't it fun!
You're the hired man and I'm the farmer's wife and all of a
sudden--we're--"

"A prince and princess?"

"That's exactly right. I won't pretend I'm not curious--morbidly
curious. But I won't ask questions, either, because that isn't what the
carpet is for."

"What is it for, Roseanne?"

"To get away from the world, silly. And now--there's a look about you.
When I was a little girl, my father was a great man, and many great men
used to come to our house. I know what the frown of power is and the
attitude of greatness. You have them--much more than any pompous old
magnate I ever laid eyes on. The way you touch things and handle them,
the way you square your shoulders. Sometimes I think you're not real at
all and just an imaginary knight come to storm my castle. And sometimes
I think you're a very famous man whose afternoon walk just has been
extended for a few months. The first thought frightens me, and the
second makes me wonder why I haven't seen your picture in the Sunday
rotogravures."

Hugo's shoulders shook. "Poor Princess Roseanne. And what do I think
about you, then--"

She held up her hand. "Don't tell me, Hugo. I should be sad. After all,
my life--"

"May be what it does not appear to be."

She took a brittle pine twig and dug in the mould of the needles until
it broke. "Ralph--was different once. He was a chemist. Then--the war
came. And he was there and a shell--"

"Ah," Hugo said. "And you loved him before?"

"I had promised him before. But it changed him so. And it's hard."

"The carpet," he answered gently. "The carpet--"

"I almost dropped off, and then I'd have been hurt, wouldn't I?"

"A favour for a favour. I'm not a great man, but I hope to be one. I
have something that I think is a talent. Let it go at that. The letters
come from my father and mother--in Colorado."

"I've never seen Colorado."

"It's big--"

"Like the nursery of the Titans, I think," she said softly, and Hugo
shuddered. The instinct had been too true.

Her eyes were suddenly stormy. "I feel old enough to mother you, Hugo.
And yet, since you came, I've been a little bit in love with you. It
doesn't matter, does it?"

"I think--I know--"

"Sit closer to me then, Hugo."

The sun had passed the zenith before they spoke connectedly again. "Time
for the magic carpet to come to earth," she said gaily.

"Is it?"

"Don't be masculine any longer--and don't be rudely possessive. Of
course it is. Aren't you hungry?"

"I was hungry--" he began moodily.

"All off at earth. Come on. Button me. Am I a sight?"

"I disregard the bait."

"You're being funny. Come. No--wait. We've forgotten the orchids. I
wonder if I really came for orchids. Should you be terribly offended if
I said I thought I did?"

"Extravagantly offended."

Cane returned late in the day. The cows had been sold--"I even made five
hundred clear and above the feeding and labour on the one with the off
leg. She'll breed good cattle." The barns were as clean as a park, and
Roseanne was singing as she prepared dinner.

Nothing happened until a hot night in August. The leaves were still and
limp, the moon had set. Hugo lay awake and he heard her coming quietly
up the stairs.

"Ralph had a headache and he took two triple bromides. Of course, I
could always have said that I heard one of the cows in distress and came
to wake you. But he's jealous, poor dear. And then--but who could resist
a couple of simultaneous alibis?"

"Nobody," he whispered. She sat down on his bed. He put his arm around
her and felt that she was in a nightdress. "I wish I could see you now."

"Then take this flashlight--just for an instant. Wait." He heard the
rustle of her clothing. "Now."

She heard him draw in his breath. Then the light went out.

       *       *       *       *       *

With the approach of autumn weather Roseanne caught a cold. She
continued her myriad tasks, but he could see that she was miserable.
Even Cane sympathized with her gruffly. When the week of the cattle show
in New York arrived, the cold was worse and she begged off the long trip
on the trucks with the animals. He departed alone with his two most
precious cows, scarcely thinking of her, muttering about judges and
prizes.

Again she came out to the barn. "You've made me a dreadful hypocrite."

"I know it."

"You were waiting for me! Men are so disgustingly sure of everything!"

"But--"

"I've made myself cough and sniffle until I can't stop."

Hugo smiled broadly. "All aboard the carpet...."

They lay in a field that was surrounded by trees. The high weeds hid
them. Goldenrod hung over them. "Life can't go on--"

"Like this," he finished for her.

"Well--can it?"

"It's up to you, Roseanne. I never knew there were women--"

"Like me? You should have said 'was a woman.'"

"Would you run away with me?"

"Never."

"Aren't we just hunting for an emotion?"

"Perhaps. Because there was a day--one day--in the pines--"

He nodded. "Different from these other two. That's because of the tragic
formation of life. There is only one first, only one commencement, only
one virginity. Then--"

"Character sets in."

"Then it becomes living. It may remain beautiful, but it cannot remain
original."

"You'd be hard to live with."

"Why, Roseanne?"

"Because you're so determined not to have an illusion."

"And you--"

"Go on. Say it. I'm so determined to have one."

"Are we quarreling? I can fix that. Come closer, Roseanne." Her face
changed through delicate shades of feeling to tenderness and to
intensity. Abruptly Hugo leaped to his feet.

The rhythmic thunder rode down upon them like the wind. A few yards
away, head down, tail straight, the big bull charged over the ground
like an avalanche. Roseanne lifted herself in time to see Hugo take two
quick steps, draw back his fist, and hit the bull between the horns. It
was a diabolical thing. The bull was thrown back upon itself. Its neck
snapped loudly. Its feet crumpled; it dropped dead. Twenty feet to one
side was a stone wall. Hugo picked up a hoof and dragged the carcass to
the base of the wall. With his hand he made an indenture in the rocks,
and over the face of the hollow he splashed the bull's blood. Then he
approached Roseanne. The whole episode had occupied less than a minute.

She had hunched her shoulders together, and her face was pale. She
articulated with difficulty. "The bull"--her hands twitched--"broke in
here--and you hit him."

"Just in time, Roseanne."

"You killed him. Then--why did you drag him over there?"

"Because," Hugo answered slowly, "I thought it would be better to make
it seem as if he charged the wall and broke his neck that way."

Her frigidity was worse than any hysteria. "It isn't natural to be able
to do things like that. It isn't human."

He swallowed; those words in that stifled intonation were very familiar.
"I know it. I'm very strong."

Roseanne looked down at the grass. "Wipe your hand, will you?"

He rubbed it in the earth. "You mustn't be frightened."

"No?" She laughed a little. "What must I be, then? I'm alive, I'm
crawling with terror. Don't touch me!" She screamed and drew back.

"I can explain it."

"You can explain everything! But not that."

"It was an idiotic, wild, unfair thing to have happen at this time," he
said. "My life's like that." He looked beyond her. "I began wanting to
do tremendous things. The more I tried, the more discouraged I became.
You see, I was strong. There have been other things figuratively like
the bull. But the things themselves get littler and more preposterous,
because my ambition and my nerve grows smaller." He lowered his head.
"Some day--I shan't want to do anything at all any more. Continuous and
unwonted defeat might infuriate some men to a great effort. It's tiring
me." He raised his eyes sadly to hers. "Roseanne--!"

She gathered her legs under herself and ran. Hugo made no attempt to
follow her. He merely watched. Twice she tripped and once she fell. At
the stone wall she looked back at him. It was not necessary to be able
to see her expression. She went on across the fields--a skinny, flapping
thing--at last a mere spot of moving colour.

Hugo turned and stared at the brown mound of the bull. After a moment he
walked over and stood above it. Its tongue hung out and its mouth
grinned. It lay there dead, and yet to Hugo it still had life: the
indestructibility of a ghost and the immortality of a symbol. He sat
beside it until sundown.

At twilight he entered the barn and tended the cows. The doors of the
house were closed. He went without supper. Cane returned jubilantly
later in the evening. He called Hugo from the back porch.

"Telegram for you."

Hugo read the wire. His father was sick and failing rapidly. "I want my
wages," he said. Then he went back to the barn. His trifling belongings
were already wrapped in a bundle. Cane reluctantly counted out the
money. Hugo felt nauseated and feverish. He put the money in his pocket,
the bundle under his arm; he opened the gate, and his feet found the
soft earth of the road in the darkness.



XX


Hugo had three hours to wait for a Chicago train. His wages purchased
his ticket and left him in possession of twenty dollars. His clothing
was nondescript; he had no baggage. He did not go outside the Grand
Central Terminal, but sat patiently in the smoking-room, waiting for the
time to pass. A guard came up to him and asked to see his ticket. Hugo
did not remonstrate and produced it mechanically; he would undoubtedly
be mistaken for a tramp amid the sleek travellers and commuters.

When the train started, his fit of perplexed lethargy had not abated.
His hands and feet were cold and his heart beat slowly. Life had
accustomed him to frustration and to disappointment, yet it was
agonizing to assimilate this new cudgeling at the hands of fate. The old
green house in the Connecticut hills had been a refuge; Roseanne had
been a refuge. They were, both of them, peaceful and whimsical and they
had seemed innocent of the capacity for great anguish. Every man dreams
of the season-changed countryside as an escape; every man dreams of a
woman on whose broad breast he may rest, beneath whose tumbling hair and
moth-like hands he may discover forgetfulness and freedom. Some men are
successful in a quest for those anodynes. Hugo could understand the
sharp contours of one fact: because he was himself, such a quest would
always end in failure. No woman lived who could assuage him; his fires
would not yield to any temporal powers.

He was barren of desire to investigate deeper into the philosophy of
himself. All people turned aside by fate fall into the same morass.
Except in his strength, Hugo was pitifully like all people: wounds could
easily be opened in his sensitiveness; his moral courage could be taxed
to the fringe of dilemma; he looked upon his fellow men sometimes with
awe at the variety of high places they attained in spite of the heavy
handicap of being human--he looked upon them again with repugnance--and
very rarely, as he grew older, did such inspections of his kind include
a study of the difference between them and him made by his singular
gift. When that thought entered his mind, it gave rise to peculiar
speculations.

He approached thirty, he thought, and still the world had not re-echoed
with his name; the trumps, banners, and cavalcade of his glory had been
only shadows in the sky, dust at sunset that made evanescent and
intangible colours. Again, he thought, the very perfection of his
prowess was responsible for its inapplicability; if he but had an
Achilles' heel so that his might could taste the occasional tonic of
inadequacy, then he could meet the challenge of possible failure with
successful effort. More frequently he condemned his mind and spirit for
not being great enough to conceive a mission for his thews. Then he
would fall into a reverie, trying to invent a creation that would be as
magnificent as the destructions he could so easily envision.

In such a painful and painstaking mood he was carried over the
Alleghenies and out on the Western plains. He changed trains at Chicago
without having slept, and all he could remember of the journey was a
protracted sorrow, a stabbing consciousness of Roseanne, dulled by his
last picture of her, and a hopeless guessing of what she thought about
him now.

Hugo's mother met him at the station. She was unaltered, everything was
unaltered. The last few instants in the vestibule of the train had been
a series of quick remembrances; the whole countryside was like a
long-deserted house to which he had returned. The mountains took on a
familiar aspect, then the houses, then the dingy red station. Lastly his
mother, upright and uncompromisingly grim, dressed in her perpetual
mourning of black silk. Her recognition of Hugo produced only the
slightest flurry and immediately she became mundane.

"Whatever made you come in those clothes?"

"I was working outdoors, mother. I got right on a train. How is father?"

"Sinking slowly."

"I'm glad I'm in time."

"It's God's will." She gazed at him. "You've changed a little, son."

"I'm older." He felt diffident. A vast gulf had risen between this
vigorous, religious woman and himself.

She opened a new topic. "Whatever in the world made you send us all that
money?"

Hugo smiled. "Why--I didn't need it, mother. And I thought it would make
you and father happy."

"Perhaps. Perhaps. It has done some good. I've sent four missionaries
out in the field and I am thinking of sending two more. I had a new
addition put on the church, for the drunkards and the fallen. And we put
a bathroom in the house. Your father wanted two, but I wouldn't hear of
it."

"Have you got a car?"

"Car? I couldn't use one of those inventions of Satan. Your father made
me hire this one to meet you. There's Anna Blake's house. She married
that fellow she was flirting with when you went away. And there's our
house. It was painted last month."

Now all the years had dropped away and Hugo was a child again, an
adolescent again. The car stopped.

"You can go right up. He's in the front room. I'll get lunch."

Hugo's father was lying on the bed watching the door. A little wizened
old man with a big head and thin yellow hands. Illness had made his eyes
rheumy, but they lighted up when his son entered, and he half raised
himself.

"Hello, father."

"Hugo! You've come back."

"Yes, father."

"I've waited for you. Sit down here on the bed. Move me over a little.
Now close the door. Is it cold out? I was afraid you might not get here.
I was afraid you might get sick on the train. Old people are like that,
Hugo." He shaded his eyes. "You aren't a very big man, son. Somehow I
always remembered you as big. But--I suppose"--his voice thinned--"I
suppose you don't want to talk about yourself."

"Anything you want to hear, father."

"I can't believe you came back." He ruminated. "There were a thousand
things I wanted to ask you, son--but they've all gone from my mind. I'm
not so easy in your presence as I was when you were a little shaver."

Hugo knew what those questions would be. Here, on his death-bed, his
father was still a scientist. His soul flinched from giving its account.
He saw suddenly that he could never tell his father the truth; pity,
kindredship, kindness, moved him. "I know what you wanted to ask,
father. Am I still strong?" It took courage to suggest that. But he was
rewarded. The old man sighed ecstatically. "That's it, Hugo, my son."

"Then--father, I am. I grew constantly stronger when I left you. In
college I was strong. At sea I was strong. In the war. First I wanted to
be mighty in games and I was. Then I wanted to do services. And I did,
because I could."

The head nodded on its feeble neck. "You found things to do? I--I hoped
you would. But I always worried about you. Every day, son, every day for
all these years, I picked up the papers and looked at them with
misgivings. 'Suppose,' I said to myself, 'suppose my boy lost his temper
last night. Suppose someone wronged him and he undertook to avenge
himself.' I trusted you, Hugo. I could not quite trust--the other thing.
I've even blamed myself and hated myself." He smiled. "But it's all
right--all right. So I am glad. Then, tell me--what--what--"

"What have I done?"

"Do you mind? It's been so long and you were so far away."

"Well--" Hugo swept his memory back over his career--"so many things,
father. It's hard to recite one's own--"

"I know. But I'm your father, and my ears ache to hear."

"I saved a man pinned under a wagon. I saved a man from a shark. I
pulled open a safe in which a man was smothering. Many things like that.
Then--there was the war."

"I know. I know. When you wrote that you had gone to war, I was
frightened--and happy. Try as I might, I could not think of a great
constructive cause for you to enter. I had to satisfy myself by thinking
that you could find such a cause. Then the war came. And you wrote that
you were in it. I was happy. I am old, Hugo, and perhaps my nationalism
and my patriotism are dead. Sides in a war did not seem to matter. But
peace mattered to me, and I thought--I hoped that you could hasten
peace. Four years, Hugo. Your letters said nothing. Four years. And then
it stopped. And I understood. War is property fighting property, not
David fighting Goliath. The greatest David would be unavailing now. Even
you could do little enough."

"Perhaps not so little, father."

"There were things, then?"

Hugo could not disappoint his father with the whole formidable truth.
"Yes." He lied with a steady gaze. "I stopped the war."

"You!"

"After four years I perceived the truth of what you have just said. War
is a mistake. It is not sides that matter. The object of war is to make
peace. On a dark night, father, I went alone into the enemy lines. For
one hundred miles that night I upset every gun, I wrecked every
ammunition train, I blew up every dump--every arsenal, that is. Alone I
did it. The next day they asked for peace. Remember the false armistice?
Somehow it leaked out that there would be victory and surrender the
next night--because of me. Only the truth about me was never known. And
a day later--it came."

The weak old man was transported. He raised himself up on his elbows.
"You did that! Then all my work was not in vain. My dream and my prayer
were justified! Oh, Hugo, you can never know how glad I am you came and
told me this. How glad."

He repeated his expression of joy until his tongue was weary; then he
fell back. Hugo sat with shining eyes during the silence that followed.
His father at length groped for a glass of water. Strength returned to
him. "I could ask for no more, son. And yet we are petulant, insatiable
creatures. What is doing now? The world is wicked. Yet it tries
half-heartedly to rebuild itself. One great deed is not enough--or are
you tired?"

Hugo smiled. "Am I ever tired, father? Am I vulnerable?"

"I had forgotten. It is so hard for the finite mind to think beyond
itself. Not tired. Not vulnerable. No. There was Samson--the cat." He
was embarrassed. "I hurt you?"

"No, father." He repeated it. Every gentle fall of the word "father"
from his lips and every mention of "son" by his father was rare
privilege, unfamiliar elixir to the old man. His new lie took its cue
from Abednego Danner's expressions. "My work goes on. Now it is with
America. I expect to go to Washington soon to right the wrongs of
politics and government. Vicious and selfish men I shall force from
their high places. I shall secure the idealistic and the courageous." It
was a theory he had never considered, a possible practice born of
necessity. "The pressure I shall bring against them will be physical and
mental. Here a man will be driven from his house mysteriously. There a
man will slip into the limbo. Yonder an inconspicuous person will
suddenly be braced by a new courage; his enemies will be gone and his
work will progress unhampered. I shall be an invisible agent of
right--right as best I can see it. You understand, father?"

Abednego smiled like a happy child. "I do, son. To be you must be
splendid."

"The most splendid thing on earth! And I have you to thank, you and your
genius to tender gratitude to. I am merely the agent. It is you that
created and the whole world that benefits."

Abednego's face was serene--not smug, but transfigured. "I yearned as
you now perform. It is strange that one cloistered mortal can become
inspired with the toil and lament of the universe. Yet there is a danger
of false pride in that, too. I am apt to fall into the pit because my
cup is so full here at the last. And the greatest problem of all is not
settled."

"What problem?" Hugo asked in surprise.

"Why, the problem that up until now has been with me day and night.
Shall there be made more men like you--and women like you?"

The idea staggered Hugo. It paralyzed him and he heard his father's
voice come from a great distance. "Up in the attic in the black trunk
are six notebooks wrapped in oilpaper. They were written in pencil, but
I went over them carefully in ink. That is my life-work, Hugo. It is the
secret--of you. Given those books, a good laboratory worker could go
through all my experiments and repeat each with the same success. I
tried a little myself. I found out things--for example, the effect of
the process is not inherited by the future generations. It must be done
over each time. It has seemed to me that those six little books--you
could slip them all into your coat pocket--are a terrible explosive.
They can rip the world apart and wipe humanity from it. In malicious
hands they would end life. Sometimes, when I became nervous waiting for
the newspapers, waiting for a letter from you, I have been sorely
tempted to destroy them. But now--"

"Now?" Hugo echoed huskily.

"Now I understand. There is no better keeping for them than your own. I
give them to you."

"Me!"

"You, son. You must take them, and the burden must be yours. You have
grown to manhood now and I am proud of you. More than proud. If I were
not, I myself would destroy the books here on this bed. Matilda would
bring them and I would watch them burn so that the danger would go
with--" he cleared his throat--"my dream."

"But--"

"You cannot deny me. It is my wish. You can see what it means. A world
grown suddenly--as you are."

"I, father--"

"You have not avoided responsibility. You will not avoid this, the
greatest of your responsibilities. Since the days when I made those
notes--what days!--biology has made great strides. For a time I was
anxious. For a time I thought that my research might be rediscovered.
But it cannot be. Theory has swung in a different direction." He smiled
with inner amusement. "The opticians have decided that the microscope I
made is impossible. The biochemists, moving through the secretions of
such things as hippuric acid in the epithelial cells, to enzymes, to
hormones, to chromosomes, have put a false construction on everything.
It will take hundreds, thousands of years to see the light. The darkness
is so intense and the error so plausible that they may never see again
exactly as I saw. The fact of you, at best, may remain always no more
than a theory. This is not vanity. My findings were a combination of
accidents almost outside the bounds of mathematical probability. It is
you who must bear the light."

Hugo felt that now, indeed, circumstance had closed around him and left
him without succour or recourse. He bowed his head. "I will do it,
father."

"Now I can die in peace--in joy."

With an almost visible wrench Hugo brought himself back to his
surroundings. "Nonsense, father. You'll probably get well."

"No, son. I've studied the progress of this disease in the lower
orders--when I saw it imminent. I shall die--not in pain, but in sleep.
But I shall not be dead--because of you." He held out his hand for Hugo.

Some time later the old professor fell asleep and Hugo tiptoed from the
room. Food was sizzling downstairs in the kitchen, but he ignored it,
going out into the sharp air by the front door. He hastened along the
streets and soon came to the road that led up the mountain. He climbed
rapidly, and when he dared, he discarded the tedious little steps of all
mankind. He reached the side of the quarry where he had built the stone
fort, and seated himself on a ledge that hung over it. Trees, creepers,
and underbrush had grown over the place, but through the
October-stripped barricade of their branches he could see a heap of
stones that was his dolmen, on which the hieroglyph of him was
inscribed.

Two tears scalded his cheeks; he trembled with the welter of his
emotions. He had failed his father, failed his trust, failed the world;
and in the abyss of that grief he could catch no sight of promise or
hope. Having done his best, he had still done nothing, and it was
necessary for him to lie to put the thoughts of a dying man to rest. The
pity of that lie! The folly of the picture he had painted of
himself--Hugo Danner the scourge of God, Hugo Danner the destroying
angel, Hugo Danner the hero of a quick love-affair that turned brown
and dead like a plucked flower, the sentimental soldier, the involuntary
misanthrope.

"I must do it!" he whispered fiercely. The ruined stones echoed the
sound of his voice with a remote demoniac jeer. Do what? What, strong
man? What?



XXI


Now the winds keened from the mountains, and snow fell. Abednego Danner,
the magnificent Abednego Danner, was carried to his last resting-place,
the laboratory of nature herself. His wife and his son followed the
bier; the dirge was intoned, the meaningless cadence of ritual was
spoken to the cold ground; a ghostly obelisk was lifted up over his
meagre remains. Hugo had a wish to go to the hills and roll down some
gigantic chunk of living rock to mark that place until the coming of a
glacier, but he forbore and followed all the dark conventions of
disintegration.

The will was read and the bulk of Hugo's sorry gains was thrust back
into his keeping. He went into the attic and opened the black trunk
where the six small notebooks lay in oilpaper. He took them out and
unwrapped them. The first two books were a maze of numbered experiments.
In the third a more vigorous calligraphy, a quivering tracery of
excitement, marked the repressed beginning of a new earth.

He bought a bag and some clothes and packed; the false contralto of his
mother's hymns as she went about the house filled him with such despair
that he left after the minimum interval allowed by filial decency. She
was a grim old woman still, one to whom the coming of the kingdom to
Africa was a passion, the polishing of the coal stove a duty, and the
presence of her unfamiliar son a burden.

When he said good-by, he kissed her, which left her standing on the
station platform looking at the train with a flat, uncomprehending
expression. Hugo knew where he was going and why: he was on his way to
Washington. The great crusade was to begin. He had no plans, only
ideals, which are plans of a sort. He had told his father he was making
the world a better place, and the idea had taken hold of him. He would
grapple the world, his world, at its source; he would no longer attempt
to rise from a lowly place; he would exert his power in the highest
places; government, politics, law, were malleable to the force of one
man.

Most of his illusion was gone. As he had said so glibly to his father,
there were good men and corrupt in the important situations in the
world; to the good he would lend his strength, to the corrupt he would
exhibit his embattled antipathy. He would be not one impotent person
seeking to dominate, but the agent of uplift. He would be what he
perceived life had meant him to be: an instrument. He could not be a
leader, but he could create a leader.

Such was his intention; he had seen a new way to reform the world, and
if his inspiration was clouded occasionally with doubt, he disavowed the
doubts as a Christian disavows temptation. This was to be his
magnificent gesture; he closed his eyes to the inferences made by his
past.

He never thought of himself as pathetic or quixotic; his ability to
measure up to external requirements was infinite; his disappointment lay
always (he thought) in his spirit and his intelligence. He went to
Washington: the world was pivoting there.

His first few weeks were dull. He installed himself in a pleasant house
and hired two servants. The use to which he was putting his funds
compensated for their origin. It was men like Shayne who would suffer
from his mission. And such a man came into view before very long.

Hugo interested himself in politics and the appearance of politics. He
read the _Congressional Record_, he talked with everyone he met, he went
daily to the Capitol and listened to the amazing pattern of harangue
from the lips of innumerable statesmen. In looking for a cause his eye
fell naturally on the problem of disarmament. Hugo saw at once that it
was a great cause and that it was bogged in the greed of individuals. It
is not difficult to become politically partisan in the Capitol of any
nation. It was patent to Hugo that disarmament meant a removal of the
chance for war; Hugo hated war. He moved hither and thither, making
friends, learning, entertaining, never exposing his plan--which his new
friends thought to be lobbying for some impending legislation.

He picked out an individual readily enough. Some of the men he had come
to know were in the Senate, others in the House of Representatives,
others were diplomats, newspaper reporters, attachés. Each alliance had
been cemented with care and purpose. His knowledge of an enemy came by
whisperings, by hints, by plain statements.

Congressman Hatten, who argued so eloquently for laying down arms and
picking up the cause of humanity, was a guest of Hugo's.

"Danner," he said, after a third highball, "you're a sensible chap. But
you don't quite get us. I'm fighting for disarmament--"

"And making a grand fight--"

The Congressman waved his hand. "Sure. That's what I mean. You really
want this thing for itself. But, between you and me, I don't give a rap
about ships and guns. My district is a farm district. We aren't
interested in paying millions in taxes to the bosses and owners in a
coal and iron community. So I'm against it. Dead against it--with my
constituency behind me. Nobody really wants to spend the money except
the shipbuilders and steel men. Maybe they don't, theoretically. But
the money in it is too big. That's why I fight."

"And your speeches?"

"Pap, Danner, pure pap. Even the yokels in my home towns realize that."

"It doesn't seem like pap to me."

"That's politics. In a way it isn't. Two boys I was fond of are lying
over there in France. I don't want to make any more shells. But I have
to think of something else first. If I came from some other district,
the case would be reversed. I'd like to change the tariff. But the
industrials oppose me in that. So we compromise. Or we don't. I think I
could put across a decent arms-limitation bill right now, for example,
if I could get Willard Melcher out of town for a month."

"Melcher?"

"You know him, of course--at least, who he is. He spends the steel money
here in Washington--to keep the building program going on. Simple thing
to do. The Navy helps him. Tell the public about the Japanese menace,
the English menace, all the other menaces, and the public coughs up for
bigger guns and better ships. Run 'em till they rust and nobody ever
really knows what good they could do."

"And Melcher does that?"

The Congressman chuckled. "His pay-roll would make your eyes bulge. But
you can't touch him."

Hugo nodded thoughtfully. "Don't you think anyone around here works
purely for an idea?"

"How's that? Oh--I understand. Sure. The cranks!" And his laughter ended
the discussion.

Hugo began. He walked up the brick steps of Melcher's residence and
pulled the glittering brass knob. A servant came to the door.

"Mr. Danner to see Mr. Melcher. Just a moment."

A wait in the hall. The servant returned. "Sorry, but he's not in."

Hugo's mouth was firm. "Please tell him that I saw him come in."

"I'm sorry, sir, but he is going right out."

"Tell him--that he will see me."

The servant raised his voice. "Harry!" A heavy person with a flattened
nose and cauliflower ears stepped into the hall. "This gentleman wishes
to see Mr. Melcher, and Mr. Melcher is not in--to him. Take care of him,
Harry." The servant withdrew.

"Run along, fellow."

Hugo smiled. "Mr. Melcher keeps a bouncer?"

An evil light flickered in the other's eyes. "Yeah, fellow. And I came
up from the Pennsy mines. I'm a tough guy, so beat it."

"Not so tough your ears and nose aren't a sight," Hugo said lightly.

The man advanced. His voice was throaty. "Git!"

"You go to the devil. I came here to see Melcher and I'm going to see
him."

"Yeah?"

The tough one drew back his fist, but he never understood afterwards
what had taken place. He came to in the kitchen an hour later. Mr.
Melcher heard him rumble to the floor and emerged from the library. He
was a huge man, bigger than his bouncer; his face was hard and sinister
and it lighted with an unpleasant smile when he saw the unconscious thug
and measured the size of Hugo. "Pulled a fast one on Harry, eh?"

"I came to see you, Melcher."

"Well, might as well come in now. I worked up from the mines myself, and
I'm a hard egg. If you got funny with me, you'd get killed. Wha' daya
want?"

Hugo sat down in a leather chair and lit a cigarette. He was
comparatively without emotion. This was his appointed task and he would
make short shrift of it. "I came here, Melcher," he began, "to talk
about your part in the arms conferences. It happens that I disagree with
you and your propaganda. It happens that I have a method of enforcing my
opinion. Disarmament is a great thing for the world, and putting the
idea across is the first step toward even bigger things. I know the
relative truths of what you say about America's peril and what you get
from saying it. Am I clear?"

Melcher had reddened. He nodded. "Perfectly."

"I have nothing to add. Get out of town."

Melcher's eyes narrowed. "Do you really believe that sending me out of
town would do any good? Do you have the conceit to think that one nutty
shrimp like you can buck the will and ideas of millions of people?"

Hugo did not permit his convictions to be shaken. "There happen to be
extenuating circumstances, Melcher."

"Really? You surprise me." The broad sarcasm was shaken like a weapon.
"And do you honestly think you could chase me--me--out of here?"

"I am sure of it."

"How?"

Hugo extinguished his cigarette. "I happen to be more than a man. I
am--" he hesitated, seeking words--"let us say, a devil, or an angel, or
a scourge. I detest you and what you stand for. If you do not leave--I
can ruin your house and destroy you. And I will." He finished his words
almost gently.

Melcher appeared to hesitate. "All right. I'll go. Immediately. This
afternoon."

Hugo was astonished. "You will go?"

"I promise. Good afternoon, Mr. Danner."

Hugo rose and walked toward the door. He was seething with surprise and
suspicion. Had he actually intimidated Melcher so easily? His hand
touched the knob. At that instant Melcher hit him on the head with a
chair. It broke in pieces. Hugo turned around slowly.

"I understand. You mistook me for a dangerous lunatic. I was puzzled for
a moment. Now--"

Melcher's jaw sagged in amazement when Hugo did not fall. An instant
later he threw himself forward, arms out, head drawn between his
shoulders. With one hand Hugo imprisoned his wrists. He lifted Melcher
from the floor and shook him. "I meant it, Melcher. And I will give you
a sign. Rotten politics, graft, bad government, are doomed." Melcher
watched with staring eyes while Hugo, with his free hand, rapidly
demolished the room. He picked up the great desk and smashed it, he tore
the stone mantelpiece from its roots; he kicked the fireplace apart; he
burst a hole in the brick wall--dragging the bulk of a man behind him as
he moved. "Remember that, Melcher. No one else on earth is like me--and
I will get you if you fail to stop. I'll come for you if you squeal
about this--and I leave it to you to imagine what will happen."

Hugo walked into the hall. "You're all done for--you cheap swindlers.
And I am doom." The door banged.

Melcher swayed on his feet, swallowed hard, and ran upstairs. "Pack," he
said to his valet.

He had gone; Hugo had removed the first of the public enemies. Yet Hugo
was not satisfied. His approach to Melcher had been dramatic,
terrifying, effective. There were rumours of that violent morning. The
rumours said that Melcher had been attacked, that he had been bought out
for bigger money, that something peculiar was occurring in Washington.
If ten, twenty men left and those rumours multiplied by geometrical
progression, sheer intimidation would work a vast good.

But other facts disconcerted Hugo. In the first place, his mind kept
reverting to Melcher's words: "Do you have the conceit to think that one
person can buck the will of millions?" No matter how powerful that
person, his logic added. Millions of dollars or people? the same logic
questioned. After all, did it matter? People could be perjured by
subtler influences than gold. Secondly, the parley over arms continued
to be an impasse despite the absence of Melcher. Perhaps, he argued, he
had not removed Melcher soon enough. A more carefully focused
consideration showed that, in spite of what Hatten had said. It was not
individuals against whom the struggle was made, but mass stupidity,
gigantic bulwarks of human incertitude. And a new man came in Melcher's
place--a man who employed different tactics. Hugo could not exorcise the
world.

A few days later Hugo learned that two radicals had been thrown into
jail on a charge of murder. The event had taken place in Newark, New
Jersey. A federal officer had attempted to break up a meeting. He had
been shot. The men arrested were blamed, although it was evident that
they were chance seizures, that their proved guilt could be at most only
a social resentfulness. At first no one gave the story much attention.
The slow wheels of Jersey justice--printed always in quotation marks by
the dailies--began to turn. The men were summarily tried and convicted
of murder in the first degree. A mob assaulted the jail where they were
confined--without success. Two of the mob were wounded by riot guns.

A meeting was held in Berlin, one in London, another in Paris. Moscow
was silent, but Moscow was reported to be in an uproar. The trial
assumed international proportions overnight. Embassies were stormed;
legations from America were forced to board cruisers. Strikes were
ordered; long queues of sullen men and women formed at camp kitchens.
The President delivered a message to Congress on the subject. Prominent
personages debated it in public halls, only to be acclaimed and booed
concomitantly. The sentence imposed on two Russian immigrants rocked the
world. In some cities it was not safe for American tourists to go abroad
in the streets. And all the time the two men drew nearer to the electric
chair.

It was then that Hugo met Skorvsky. Many people knew him; he was a
radical, a writer; he lived in Washington, he styled himself an
unofficial ambassador of the world. A small, dark man with a black
moustache who attended one of Hugo's informal afternoon discussions on a
vicarious invitation. "Come over and see Hugo Danner. He's something new
in Washington."

"Something new in Washington? I shall omit the obvious sarcasm. I shall
go." Skorvsky went.

Hugo listened to him talk about the two prisoners. He was lucid; he
made allowances for the American democracy, which in themselves were
burning criticism. Hugo asked him to dinner. They dined at Hugo's house.

"You have the French taste in wines," Skorvsky said, "but, as it is to
my mind the finest taste in the world, I can say only that."

Hugo tried to lead him back to the topic that interested both of them so
acutely. Skorvsky shrugged. "You are polite--or else you are curious. I
know you--an American business man in Washington with a purpose. Not an
apparent purpose--just now. No, no. Just now you are a host, cultivated
and genial, and retiring. But at the proper time--ah! A dam somewhere in
Arizona. A forest that you covet in Alaska. Is it not so?"

"What if it is not?"

Skorvsky stared at the ceiling. "What then? A secret? Yes, I thought
that about you while we were talking to the others to-day. There is
something deep about you, my new friend. You are a power. Possibly you
are not even really an American."

"That is wrong."

"You assure me that I am right. But I will agree with you. You are, let
us say, the very epitome of the man Mr. Mencken and Mr. Lewis tell us
about so charmingly. I am Russian and I cannot know all of America. You
might divulge your errand, perhaps?"

"Suppose I said it was to set the world aright?"

Skorvsky laughed lightly. "Then I should throw myself at your feet."

Both men were in deadly earnest, Hugo not quite willing to adopt the
Russian's almost effeminate delicacy, yet eager to talk to him, or to
someone like him--someone who was more than a great self-centred wheel
in the progress of the nation. Hugo yielded a little further. "Yet that
is my purpose. And I am not altogether impotent. There are things I can
do--" He got up from the table and stretched himself with a feline
grace.

"Such as?"

"I was thinking of your two compatriots who were recently given such
wretched justice. Suppose they were liberated by force. What then?"

"Ah! You are an independent communist?"

"Not even that. Just a friend of progress."

"So. A dreamer. One of the few who have wealth. And you have a plan to
free these men?"

Hugo shrugged. "I merely speculated on the possible outcome of such a
thing; assume that they were snatched from prison and hidden beyond the
law."

Skorvsky meditated. "It would be a great victory for the cause, of
course. A splendid lift to its morale."

"The cause of Bolshevism?"

"A higher and a different cause. I cannot explain it briefly. Perhaps I
cannot explain it at all. But the old world of empires is crumbled.
Democracy is at its farcical height. The new world is not yet manifest.
I shall be direct. What is your plan, Mr. Danner?"

"I couldn't tell you. Anyway, you would not believe it. But I could
guarantee to deliver those two men anywhere in the country within a few
days without leaving a trace of how it was done. What do you think of
that, Skorvsky?"

"I think you are a dangerous and a valuable man."

"Not many people do." Hugo's eyes were moody. "I have been thinking
about it for a long time. Nothing that I can remember has happened
during my life that gives me a greater feeling of understanding than the
imprisonment and sentencing of those men. I know poignantly the glances
that are given them, the stupidity of the police and the courts, the
horror-stricken attitude of those who condemn them without knowledge of
the truth or a desire for such knowledge." He buried his face in his
hands and then looked up quickly. "I know all that passionately and
intensely. I know the blind fury to which it all gives birth. I hate it.
I detest it. Selfishness, stupidity, malice. I know the fear it
engenders--a dreadful and a justified fear. I've felt it. Very little in
this world avails against it. You'll forgive so much sentiment,
Skorvsky?"

"It makes us brothers." The Russian spoke with force and simplicity.
"You, too--"

Hugo crossed the room restlessly. "I don't know. I am always losing my
grip. I came to Washington with a purpose and I cannot screw myself to
it unremittingly. These men seem--"

Skorvsky was thinking. "Your plan for them. What assistance would you
need?"

"None."

"None!"

"Why should I need help? I--never mind. I need none."

"You have your own organization?"

"There is no one but me."

Skorvsky shook his head. "I cannot--and yet--looking at you--I believe
you can. I shall tell you. You will come with me to-night and meet my
friends--those who are working earnestly for a new America, an America
ruled by intelligence alone. Few outsiders enter our councils. We are
all--nearly all--foreigners. Yet we are more American than the Maine
fisherman, the Minnesota farmer. Behind us is a party that grows apace.
This incident in New Jersey has added to it, as does every dense mumble
of Congress, every scandalous metropolitan investigation. I shall
telephone."

Hugo allowed himself to be conducted half-dubiously. But what he found
was superficially, at least, what he had dreamed for himself. The house
to which he was taken was pretentious; the people in its salon were
amiable and educated; there was no sign of the red flag, the ragged
reformer, the anarchist. The women were gracious; the men witty. As he
talked to them, one by one, he began to believe that here was the
nucleus around which he could construct his imaginary empire. He became
interested; he expanded.

It was late in the night when Skorvsky raised his voice slightly, so
that everyone would listen, and made an announcement: "Friends, I have
had the honour to introduce Mr. Danner to you. Now I have the greater
honour of telling you his purpose and pledge. To-morrow night he will go
to New Jersey"--the silence became absolute--"and two nights later he
will bring to us in person from their cells Davidoff and Pletzky."

A quick, pregnant pause was followed by excitement. They took Hugo by
the hand, some of them applauded, one or two cheered, they shouldered
near him, they asked questions and expressed doubts. It was broad
daylight before they dispersed. Hugo walked to his house, listening to a
long rhapsody from Skorvsky.

"We will make you a great man if you succeed," Skorvsky said.
"Good-night, comrade."

"Good-night." Hugo went into the hall and up to his bedroom. He sat on
his bed. A dullness overcame him. He had never been patronized quite in
the same way as he had that night; it exerted at once a corrosive and a
lethargic influence. He undressed slowly, dropping his shoes on the
floor. Splendid people they were, he thought. A smaller voice suggested
to him that he did not really care to go to New Jersey for the
prisoners. They would be hard to locate. There would be a sensation and
a mystery again. Still, he had found a purpose.

His telephone rang. He reached automatically from the bed. The room was
bright with sunshine, which meant that it was late in the day. His brain
took reluctant hold on consciousness. "Hello?"

"Hello? Danner, my friend--"

"Oh, hello, Skorvsky--"

"May I come up? It is important."

"Sure. I'm still in bed. But come on."

Hugo was under the shower bath when his visitor arrived. He invited
Skorvsky to share his breakfast, but was impatiently refused. "Things
have happened since last night, Comrade Danner. For one, I saw the
chief."

"Chief?"

"You have not met him as yet. We conferred about your scheme. He--I
regret to say--opposed it."

Hugo nodded. "I'm not surprised. I'll tell you what to do. You take me
to him--and I'll prove conclusively that it will be successful. Then,
perhaps, he will agree to sanction it. Every time I think of those two
poor devils--snatched from a mob--waiting there in the dark for the
electric chair--it makes my blood boil."

"Quite," Skorvsky agreed. "But you do not understand. It is not that he
doubts your ability--if you failed it would not be important. He fears
you might accomplish it. I assured him you would. I have faith in you."

"He's afraid I would do it? That doesn't make sense, Skorvsky."

"It does, I regret to say." His expressive face stirred with discomfort.
"We were too hasty, too precipitate. I see his reason now. We cannot
afford as a group to be branded as jail-breakers."

"That's--weak," Hugo said.

Skorvsky cleared his throat. "There are other matters. Since Davidoff
and Pletzky were jailed, the party has grown by leaps and bounds. Money
has poured in--"

"Ah," Hugo said softly, "money."

Skorvsky raged. "Go ahead. Be sarcastic. To free those men would cost us
a million dollars, perhaps."

"Too bad."

"With a million--the million their electrocution will bring from the
outraged--we can accomplish more than saving two paltry lives. We must
be hard, we must think ahead."

"In thinking ahead, Skorvsky, do you not think of the closing of a
switch and the burning of human flesh?"

"For every cause there must be martyrs. Their names will live
eternally."

"And they themselves--?"

"Bah! You are impractical."

"Perhaps." Hugo ate a slice of toast with outward calm. "I was hoping
for a government that--did not weigh people against dollars--"

"Nor do we!"

"No?"

Skorvsky leaped to his feet. "Fool! Dreamer! Preposterous idealist! I
must be going."

Hugo sighed. "Suppose I went ahead?"

"One thing!" The Russian turned with a livid face. "One thing the chief
bade me tell you. If those men escape--you die."

"Oh," Hugo said. He stared through the window. "And supposing I were to
offer your chief a million--or nearly a million--for the privilege of
freeing them?"

Skorvsky's face returned to its look of transfiguration, the look that
had accompanied his noblest words of the night before. "You would do
that, comrade?" he whispered. "You would give us--give the cause--a
million? Never since the days of our Saviour has a man like you walked
on this--"

Hugo stood up suddenly. "Get out of here!" His voice was a cosmic
menace. "Get out of here, you dirty swine. Get out of here before I
break you to matchwood, before I rip out your guts and stuff them back
through your filthy, lying throat. Get out, oh, God, get out!"



XXII


Hugo realized at last that there was no place in his world for him.
Tides and tempest, volcanoes and lightning, all other majestic
vehemences of the universe had a purpose, but he had none. Either
because he was all those forces unnaturally locked in the body of a man,
or because he was a giant compelled to stoop and pander to live at all
among his feeble fellows, his anachronism was complete.

That much he perceived calmly. His tragedy lay in the lie he had told to
his father: great deeds were always imminent and none of them could be
accomplished because they involved humanity, humanity protecting its
diseases, its pettiness, its miserable convictions and conventions, with
the essence of itself--life. Life not misty and fecund for the future,
but life clawing at the dollar in the hour, the security of platitudes,
the relief of visible facts, the hope in rationalization, the needs of
skin, belly, and womb.

Beyond that, he could see destiny by interpreting his limited career.
Through a sort of ontogenetic recapitulation he had survived his savage
childhood, his barbaric youth, and the Greeces, Romes, Egypts, and
Babylons of his early manhood, emerging into a present that was endowed
with as much aspiration and engaged with the same futility as was his
contemporary microcosm. No life span could observe anything but material
progress, for so mean and inalterable is the gauge of man that his races
topple before his soul expands, and the eventualities of his growth in
space and time must remain a problem for thousands and tens of thousands
of years.

Searching still further, he appreciated that no single man could force a
change upon his unwilling fellows. At most he might inculcate an idea in
a few and live to see its gradual spreading. Even then he could have no
assurance of its contortions to the desire for wealth and power or of
the consequences of those contortions.

Finally, to build, one must first destroy, and he questioned his right
to select unaided the objects for destruction. He looked at the Capitol
in Washington and pondered the effect of issuing an ultimatum and
thereafter bringing down the great dome like Samson. He thought of the
churches and their bewildering, stupefying effect on masses who were
mulcted by their own fellows, equally bewildered, equally stupefied.
Suppose through a thousand nights he ravaged the churches, wrecking
every structure in the land, laying waste property, making the loud,
unattended volume of worship an impossibility, taking away the
purple-robed gods of his forbears? Suppose he sank the navy, annihilated
the army, set up a despotism? No matter how efficiently and well he
ruled, the millions would hate him, plot against him, attempt his life;
and every essential agent would be a hypocritical sycophant seeking
selfish ends.

He reached the last of his conclusions sitting beside a river whither he
had walked to think. An immense loathing for the world rose up in him.
At its apex a locomotive whistled in the distance, thundered
inarticulately, and rounded a bend. It came very near the place where
Hugo reclined, black, smoking, and noisy, drivers churning along the
rails, a train of passenger cars behind. Hugo could see the dots that
were people's heads. People! Human beings! How he hated them! The train
was very near. Suddenly all his muscles were unsprung. He threw himself
to his feet and rushed toward the train, with a passionate desire to get
his fingers around the sliding piston, to up-end the locomotive and to
throw the ordered machinery into a blackened, blazing, bloody tangle of
ruin.

His lips uttered a wild cry; he jumped across the river and ran two
prodigious steps. Then he stopped. The train went on unharmed. Hugo
shuddered.

If the world did not want him, he would leave the world. Perhaps he was
a menace to it. Perhaps he should kill himself. But his burning,
sickened heart refused once more to give up. Frenzy departed, then
numbness. In its place came a fresh hope, new determination. Hugo Danner
would do his utmost until the end. Meanwhile, he would remove himself
some distance from the civilization that had tortured him. He would go
away and find a new dream.

The sound of the locomotive was dead in the distance. He crossed the
river on a bridge and went back to his house. He felt strong again and
glad--glad because he had won an obscure victory, glad because the farce
of his quest in political government had ended with no tragic
dénouement.

They were electrocuting Davidoff and Pletzky that day. The news scarcely
interested Hugo. The part he had very nearly played in the affair seemed
like the folly of a dimly remembered acquaintance. The relief of
resigning that impossible purpose overwhelmed him. He dismissed his
servants, closed his house, and boarded a train. When the locomotive
pounded through the station, he suffered a momentary pang. He sat in a
seat with people all around him. He was tranquil and almost content.



XXIII


Hugo had no friends. One single individual whom he loved, whom he could
have taken fully into his confidence, might, in a measure, have resolved
his whole life. Yet so intense was the pressure that had conditioned him
that he invariably retreated before the rare opportunities for such
confidences. He had known many persons well: his father and mother, Anna
Blake, Lefty Foresman, Charlotte, Iris, Tom Shayne, Roseanne, even
Skorvsky--but none of them had known him. His friendlessness was
responsible for a melancholy yearning to remain with his kind. Having
already determined to go away, he sought for a kind of compromise.

He did not want to be in New York, or Washington, or any other city; the
landscape of America was haunted for him. He would leave it, but he
would not open himself to the cruel longing for his own language, the
sight of familiar customs and manners. From his hotel in New York he
made excursions to various steamship agencies and travel bureaus. He
had seen many lands, and his _Wanderlust_ demanded novelty. For days he
was undecided.

It was a chance group of photographs in a Sunday newspaper that excited
his first real interest. One of the pictures was of a man--erect,
white-haired, tanned, clear-eyed--Professor Daniel Hardin--a procession
of letters--head of the new expedition to Yucatan. The other pictures
were of ruined temples, unpiled stone causeways, jungle. He thought
instantly that he would like to attach himself to the party.

Many factors combined to make the withdrawal offered by an expedition
ideal. The more Hugo thought about it, the more excited he became. The
very nascency of a fresh objective was accompanied by and crowded with
new hints for himself and his problems. The expedition would take him
away from his tribulations, and it would not entirely cut him off from
his kind: Professor Hardin had both the face and the fame of a
distinguished man.

A thought that had been in the archives of his mind for many months came
sharply into relief: of all human beings alive, the scientists were the
only ones who retained imagination, ideals, and a sincere interest in
the larger world. It was to them he should give his allegiance, not to
the statesmen, not to industry or commerce or war. Hugo felt that in one
quick glimpse he had made a long step forward.

Another concept, far more fantastic and in a way even more intriguing,
dawned in his mind as he read accounts of the Maya ruins which were to
be excavated. The world was cluttered with these great lumps of
incredible architecture. Walls had been builded by primitive man,
temples, hanging gardens, obelisks, pyramids, palaces, bridges,
terraces, roads--all of them gigantic and all of them defying the
penetration of archæology to find the manner of their creation. Was it
not possible--Hugo's heart skipped a beat when it occurred to him--that
in their strange combination of ignorance and brilliance the ancients
had stumbled upon the secret of human strength--his secret! Had not
those antique and migratory peoples carried with them the formula which
could be poured into the veins of slaves, making them stronger than
engines? And was it not conceivable that, as their civilizations
crumbled, the secret was lost, together with so many other formulæ of
knowledge?

He could imagine plumed and painted priests with prayer and sacrifice
cutting open the veins of prehistoric mothers and pouring in the magic
potion. When the babies grew, they could raise up the pyramids, walls,
and temples; they could do it rapidly and easily. A great enigma was
thus resolved. He set out immediately to locate Professor Hardin and
with difficulty arranged an interview with him.

Preparations for the expedition were being carried on in an ordinary New
York business office. A secretary announced Hugo and he was conducted
before the professor. Daniel Hardin was no dusty pedagogue. His
knowledge was profound and academic, his books were authoritative, but
in himself he belonged to the type of man certain to succeed, whatever
his choice of occupation. Much of his life had been spent in field
work--arduous toil in bizarre lands where life depended sometimes on
tact and sometimes on military strategy. He appraised Hugo shrewdly
before he spoke.

"What can I do for you, Mr. Danner?"

Hugo came directly to the point. "I should like to join your Yucatan
expedition."

Professor Hardin smiled. "I'm sorry. We're full up."

"I'd be glad to go in any capacity--"

"Have you special qualifications? Knowledge of the language? Of
archæology?"

"No."

The professor picked up a tray of letters. "These letters--more than
three hundred--are all from young men--and women--who would like to join
my expedition."

"I think I should be useful," Hugo said, and then he played his trump,
"and I should be willing to contribute, for the favour of being
included, a sum of fifty thousand dollars."

Professor Hardin whistled. Then his eyes narrowed. "What's your object,
young man? Treasure?"

"No. A life--let us say--with ample means at my disposal and no definite
purpose."

"Boredom, then." He smiled. "A lot of these other young men are
independently wealthy, and bored. I must say, I feel sorry for your
generation. But--no--I can't accept. We are already adequately
financed."

Hugo smiled in response. "Then--perhaps--I could organize my own party
and camp near you."

"That would hamper me."

"Then--a hundred thousand dollars."

"Good Lord. You are determined."

"I have decided. I am familiar with the jungle. I am an athlete. I speak
a little Spanish--enough to boss a labour gang. I propose to assist you
in that way, as well as financially. I will make any contract with you
that you desire--and attach no strings whatever to my money."

Professor Hardin pondered for a long time. His eyes twinkled when he
replied. "You won't believe it, but I don't give a damn for your money.
Not that it wouldn't assist us. But--the fact is--I could use a man like
you. Anybody could. I'll take you--and you can keep your money."

"There will be a check in the mail to-morrow," Hugo answered.

The professor stood. "We're hoping to get away in three weeks. You'll
leave your address with my secretary and I'll send a list of the things
you'll want for your kit." He held out his hand and Hugo shook it. When
he had gone, the professor looked over the roof-tops and swore gleefully
to himself.

Hugo discovered, after the ship sailed, that everyone called Professor
Hardin "Dan" and they used Hugo's first name from the second day out.
Dan Hardin was too busy to be very friendly with any of the members of
his party during the voyage, but they themselves fraternized
continually. There were deck games and card games; there were long and
erudite arguments about the people whom they were going to study. What
was the Mayan time cycle and did it correspond to the Egyptian Sothic
cycle or the Greek Metonic cycle. Where did the Mayans get their jade?
Did they come from Asia over Bering Strait or were they a colony of
Atlantis? When they knew so much about engineering, why did they not use
the keystone arch and the wheel? Why was their civilization decadent,
finished when the _conquistadores_ discovered it? How old were
they--four thousand years or twelve thousand years? There were
innumerable other debates to which Hugo listened like a man new-born.

The cold Atlantic winds were transformed overnight to the balm of the
Gulf stream. Presently they passed the West Indies, which lay on the
water like marine jewels. Ages turned back through the days of
buccaneering to the more remote times. In the port of Xantl a rickety
wharf, a single white man, a zinc bar, and a storehouse filled with
chicle blocks marked off the realm of the twentieth century. The ship
anchored. During the next year it would make two voyages back to the
homeland for supplies. But the explorers would not emerge from the
jungle in that time.

An antiquated, wood-burning locomotive, which rocked along over
treacherous rails, carried them inland. The scientists became silent and
pensive. In another car the Maya Indians who were to do the manual
labour chattered incessantly in their explosive tongue. At the last
sun-baked stop they disembarked, slept through an insect-droning night,
and entered the jungle. For three weeks they hacked and hewed their way
forward; the vegetation closed behind them, cutting off the universe as
completely as the submerging waves of the sea. It was hot, difficult
work, to which Hugo lent himself with an energy that astounded even
Hardin, who had judged him valuable.

One day, when the high mountains loomed into view, Hugo caught his first
glimpse of Uctotol, the Sacred City. A creeper on the hillside fell
before his machete, then another--a hole in the green wall--and there it
stood, shining white, huge, desolate, still as the grave. His arm hung
in mid-air. Over him passed the mystic feeling of familiarity, that
fugitive sense of recognition which springs so readily into a belief in
immortality. It seemed to him during that staggering instant that he
knew every contour of those great structures, that he had run in the
streets, lived, loved, died there--that he could almost remember the
names and faces of its inhabitants, dead for thousands of years--that he
could nearly recall the language and the music--that destiny itself had
arranged a home-coming. The vision died. He gave a great shout. The
others rushed to his side and found him trembling and pointing.

Tons of verdure were cut down and pushed aside. A hacienda was
constructed and a camp for the labourers. Then the shovels and picks
were broken from their boxes; the scientists arranged their
paraphernalia, and the work began, interrupted frequently by the
exultant shouts that marked a new finding. No one regretted Hugo. He
made his men work magically; his example was a challenge. He could do
more than any of them, and his hair and eyes, black as their own, his
granite face, stern and indefatigable, gave him a natural dominion over
them.

All this--the dark, starlit, plushy nights with their hypnotic silences,
the vivid days of toil, the patient and single-minded men--was respite
to Hugo. It salved his tribulations. It brought him to a gradual
assurance that any work with such men would be sufficient for him. He
was going backward into the world instead of forward; that did not
matter. He stood on the frontier of human knowledge. He was a factor in
its preparation, and if what they carried back with them was no more
than history, if it cast no new light on existing wants and
perplexities, it still served a splendid purpose. Months rolled by
unheeded; Hugo gathered friends among these men--and the greatest of
those friends was Daniel Hardin.

In their isolation and occasional loneliness each of them little by
little stripped his past for the others. Only Hugo remained silent about
himself until his reticence was conspicuous. He might never have spoken,
except for the accident.

It was, in itself, a little thing, which happened apart from the main
field of activity. Hugo and two Indians were at work on a small temple
at the city's fringe. Hardin came down to see. The great stone in the
roof, crumbled by ages, slipped and teetered. Underneath the professor
stood, unheeding. But Hugo saw. He caught the mass of rock in his arms
and lifted it to one side. And Dan Hardin turned in time to perceive the
full miracle.

When Hugo lifted his head, he knew. Yet, to his astonishment, there was
no look of fear in Hardin's blue eyes. Instead, they were moderately
surprised, vastly interested. He did not speak for some time. Then he
said: "Thanks, Danner. I believe you saved my life. Should you mind
picking up that rock again?"

Hugo dismissed the Indians with a few words. He glanced again at Hardin
to make sure of his composure. Then he lifted the square stone back to
its position.

Hardin was thinking aloud. "That stone must weigh four tons. No man
alive can handle four tons like that. How do you do it, Hugo?"

Hot, streaming sun. Tumbled débris. This profound question asked again,
asked mildly for the first time. "My father--was a biologist. A great
biologist. I was--an experiment."

"Good Lord! And--and that's why you've kept your past dark, Hugo?"

"Of course. Not many people--"

"Survive the shock? You forget that we--here--are all scientists. I
won't press you."

"Perhaps," Hugo heard himself saying, "I'd like to tell you."

"In that case--in my room--to-night. I should like to hear."

That night, after a day of indecision, Hugo sat in a dim light and
poured out the story of his life. Hardin never interrupted, never
commented, until the end. Then he said softly: "You poor devil. Oh, you
poor bastard." And Hugo saw that he was weeping. He tried to laugh.

"It isn't as bad as that--Dan."

"Son"--his voice choked with emotion--"this thing--this is my life-work.
This is why you came to my office last winter. This is--the most
important thing on earth. What a story! What a man you are!"

"On the contrary--"

"Don't be modest. I know. I feel. I understand."

Hugo's head shook sadly. "Perhaps not. You can see--I have tried
everything. In itself, it is great. I can see that. It is, objectively,
the most important thing on earth. But the other way--What can I do?
Tell me that. You cannot tell me. I can destroy. As nothing that ever
came before or will come again, I can destroy. But destruction--as I
believe, as you believe--is at best only a step toward re-creation. And
what can I make afterwards? Think. Think, man! Rack your brains! What?"
His hands clenched and unclenched. "I can build great halls and palaces.
Futile! I can make bridges. I can rip open mountains and take out the
gold. I am that strong. It is as if my metabolism was atomic instead of
molecular. But what of it? Stretch your imagination to its uttermost
limits--and what can I do that is more than an affair of petty profit to
myself? Mankind has already extended its senses and its muscles to their
tenth powers. He can already command engines to do what I can do. It is
not necessary that he become an engine himself. It is preposterous that
he should think of it--even to transcend his engines. I defy you, I defy
you with all my strength, to think of what I can do to justify myself!"

The words had been wrung from Hugo. Perspiration trickled down his face.
He bit his lips to check himself. The older man was grave. "All your
emotions, your reflections, your yearnings and passions, come--to that.
And yet--"

"Look at me in another light," Hugo went on. "I've tried to give you an
inkling of it. You were the first who saw what I could do--glimpsed a
fraction of it, rather--and into whose face did not come fear, loathing,
even hate. Try to live with a sense of that. I can remember almost back
to the cradle that same thing. First it was envy and jealousy. Then, as
I grew stronger, it was fear, alarm, and the thing that comes from
fear--hatred. That is another and perhaps a greater obstacle. If I found
something to do, the whole universe would be against me. These little
people! Can you imagine what it is to be me and to look at people? A
crowd at a ball game? A parade? Can you?"

"Great God," the scientist breathed.

"When I see them for what they are, and when they exert the tremendous
bulk of their united detestation and denial against me, when I feel rage
rising inside myself--can you conceive--?"

"That's enough. I don't want to try to think. Not of that. I--"

"Shall I walk to my grave afraid that I shall let go of myself,
searching everywhere for something to absorb my energy? Shall I?"

"No."

The professor spoke with a firm concentration. Hugo arrested himself.
"Then what?"

"Did it ever dawn on you that you had missed your purpose entirely?"

The words were like cold water to Hugo. He pulled himself together with
a physical effort and replied: "You mean--that I have not guessed it so
far?"

"Precisely."

"It never occurred to me. Not that I had missed it entirely."

"You have."

"Then, for the love of God, what is it?"

Hardin smiled a gentle, wise smile. "Easy there. I'll tell you. And
listen well, Hugo, because to-night I feel inspired. The reason you have
missed it is simple. You've tried to do everything single-handed--"

"On the contrary. Every kind of assistance I have enlisted has failed me
utterly."

"Except one kind."

"Science?"

"No. Your own kind, Hugo."

The words did not convey their meaning for several seconds. Then Hugo
gasped. "You mean--other men like me?"

"Exactly. Other men like you. Not one or two. Scores, hundreds. And
women. All picked with the utmost care. Eugenic offspring. Cultivated
and reared in secret by a society for the purpose. Not necessarily your
children, but the children of the best parents. Perfect bodies,
intellectual minds, your strength. Don't you see it, Hugo? You are not
the reformer of the old world. You are the beginning of the new. We
begin with a thousand of you. Living by yourselves and multiplying, you
produce your own arts and industries and ideals. The new Titans!
Then--slowly--you dominate the world. Conquer and stamp out all these
things to which you and I and all men of intelligence object. In the
end--you are alone and supreme."

Hugo groaned. "To make a thousand men live my life--"

"But they will not. Suppose you had been proud of your strength. Suppose
you had not been compelled to keep it a secret. Suppose you could have
found glorious uses for it from childhood--"

"In the mountains," Hugo whispered, his eyes bemused, "where the sun is
warm and the days long--these children growing. Even here, in this
place--"

"So I thought. Don't you see, Hugo?"

"Yes, I see. At last, thank God, I do see!"

For a long time their thoughts ran wild. When they cooled, it was to
formulate plans. A child taken here. Another there. A city in the
jungle--the jungle had harboured races before: not only these Mayas, but
the Incas, Khmers, and others. A modern city for dwellings, and these
tremendous ruins would be the blocks for the nursery. They would teach
them art and architecture--and science. Engineering, medicine--their
own, undiscovered medicine--the new Titans, the sons of dawn--so ran
their inspired imaginations.

When the night was far advanced and the camp was wrapped in slumber,
they made a truce with this divine fire. They shook each other's hands.

"Good-night, Hugo. And to-morrow we'll go over the notes."

"I'll bring them."

"Till evening, then."

Hugo lay on his bed, more ecstatic than he had ever been in his life. By
and by he slept. Then, as if the ghosts of Uctotol had risen, his mind
was troubled by a host, a pageant of dreams. He turned in his sleep,
rending his blankets. He moaned and mumbled. When he woke, he understood
that his soul had undergone another of its diametric inversions. The mad
fancies of the night before had died and memory could not rekindle them.
Little dreads had goaded away their brightness. Conscience was bickering
inside him. Humanity was content; it would hate his new race. And the
new race, being itself human, might grow top-heavy with power. If his
theory about the great builders of the past was true, then perhaps this
incubus would explain why the past was no more. If his Titans disagreed
and made war on each other--surely that would end the earth. He quailed.

Overcome by a desire to think more about this giants' scheme, he avoided
Hardin. In the siesta hour he went back to his tent and procured the
books wherein his father had written the second secret of life. He
crammed them into his pocket and broke through the jungle. When he was
beyond sight and sound, he dropped his machete and made his way as none
but he could do. With his body he cut a swath toward the mountains and
emerged from the green veil on to the bare rocks, panting and hot.
Upward he climbed until he had gained the summit. To the west were
strewn the frozen billows of the range. To the east a limitless sea of
verdure. At his feet the ruins in neat miniature, like a model. Above,
scalding sun and blue sky. Around him a wind, strangely chill. And
silence.

He sat with his head on his hands until his thoughts were disturbed. A
humid breath had risen sluggishly from the jungle floor. The sun was
dull. Looking toward the horizon, he could see a black cloud. For an
instant he was frightened, the transformation had been so gigantic and
so soundless. He knew a sudden, urgent impulse to go back to the valley.
He disobeyed it and watched the coming of the storm. The first rapier of
lightning through the bowels of the approaching cloud warned him again.
Staunchly he stood. He had come there to think.

"I must go back and begin this work," he told himself. "I have found a
friend!" The cloud was descending. Thunder ruminated in heaven's garret.
"It is folly," he repeated, "folly, folly, folly in the face of God."
Now the sun went out like an extinguished lamp, and the horizon crept
closer. A curtain of torrential rain was lowered in the north. "They
will make the earth beautiful," he said, and ever and again: "This thing
is not beautiful. It is wrong." His agitation increased rapidly. The
cloud was closing on the mountain like a huge hand. The muscles in his
legs quivered.

"If there were only a God," he whispered, "what a prayer I would make!"
Then the wind came like a visible thing, pushing its fingers over the
vegetation below, and whirling up the mountain, laden with dust. After
the wind, the rain--heavy, roaring rain that fell, not in separate
drops, but in thick streams. The lightning was incessant. It illuminated
remote, white-topped peaks, which, in the fury of the storm, appeared to
be swaying. It split clouds apart, and the hurricane healed the rents.
All light went out. The world was wrapped in darkness.

Hugo clutched his precious books in the remnants of his clothing and
braced himself on the bare rock. His voice roared back into the storm
the sounds it gave. He flung one hand upward.

"Now--God--oh, God--if there be a God--tell me! Can I defy You? Can I
defy Your world? Is this Your will? Or are You, like all mankind,
impotent? Oh, God!" He put his hand to his mouth and called God like a
name into the tumult above. Madness was upon him and the bitter irony
with which his blood ran black was within him.

A bolt of lightning stabbed earthward. It struck Hugo, outlining him in
fire. His hand slipped away from his mouth. His voice was quenched. He
fell to the ground.

After three days of frantic searching, Daniel Hardin came upon the
incredible passage through the jungle and followed it to the mountain
top. There he found the blackened body of Hugo Danner, lying face down.
His clothing was burned to ashes, and an accumulation of cinders was
all that remained of the notebooks. After discovering that, Professor
Hardin could not forbear to glance aloft at the sun and sky. His face
was saddened and perplexed.

"We will carry him yonder to Uctotol and bury him," he said at last;
"then--the work will go on."





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